D.L. Witherspoon


If he hadn't seen the glowing end of the cigarette, he would have
thought he was alone. He didn't know what it was about the old
bastard, but he could just blend in with the shadows at will. Creepy as
hell. "Hey, I'm not late, am I?"

"Do you have what I requested?"

"Yeah, got the videos right here." A small box was raised into view.

"And you were careful. He didn't notice you?"

"Uh...I don't think so."

"Knowing your limits, I will never pay you to think, so don't work
overtime. Did he or did he not know he was being monitored?"

"He seemed to get edgy when I was around, so he might have
suspected something. Once or twice, he actually came looking, but I
managed to get away cleanly."

"I thought you were supposed to be able to do this without his
knowledge. I had heard you were the best."

"I am! But this guy, he's like not normal or something. I swear at times
it was like he was sniffing me out like a dog or something."

"I don't like failure."

"Whoa! Let's not freak here! Everything went off according to plan.
Check the tapes. I think you'll be happy with the merchandise."

"There you go, thinking again. That's something you should watch."

"Yes, sir. If there's anything else you need, just--"

He was alone. Just that quick, he was alone. With a shiver, he fingered
the envelope he'd found on the ground where his companion had
stood. Maybe it was time to retire.....

Chapter One

Agent Fox Mulder rode the elevator down to the secured parking
garage beneath the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in the heart of
Washington, D.C. The hour was late, and the garage contained only a
handful of cars. A few belonged to the nightowls/workaholics like
himself, and the others were those of the souls who were paid to work
the hours of darkness.

After a quick fumble of his keys, Mulder got into his car and headed
home to his apartment in Alexandria. It was at the first stoplight that
he noticed the battered envelope resting in the passenger's seat. How
observant of you, Mr. FBI-man. If it had been a bomb, your ass would
have been just so many pieces, and Scully would be ID'ing your body
for the nth time. Oh, she would just love that. Agent Dana Scully was
his partner, friend, and cohort in investigating the strange, bizarre, and
seemingly unexplainable. These were the FBI's "X" files, meaning they
couldn't be placed in normal categories, or neatly filed. Mulder's and
Scully's bailiwick covered a wide array of incidents, most involving
nature or science "gone bad". But there was also another area of key
investigation, and that was the part that had him thinking about

People would be wrong to label Mulder a conspiracy theorist. For him, it
was no longer a theory. He had proof that there was a conspiracy going
on, one perpetuated by a group known as the Consortium, a cadre of
powerful men who had discovered there was life "out there" and decided
to use the aliens for their own less-than-philanthropic plans. But,
recently it had come to light that it wasn't clear who was using whom,
and things were getting messy and nasty. Hence, he really should have
noticed the package in his car before he buckled up.

Well, hindsight and $1.25 would get him a cup of coffee, and since he
hadn't been atomized yet, he was betting it wasn't a bomb. Taking a
pen from his pocket, he poked at the envelope, noting it was one of
those gusseted, padded affairs. Hmm, protecting what? He patted his
pockets for a pair of latex gloves. Then he remembered Scully
reminding him to pick up a handful...but since he was planning on
bugging her for a pair the next time he needed them, he had
disregarded her polite reminder. Of course the thought that she might
not be around the next time he needed them had never crossed his
mind. Okay, so that was two things he needed to work on: being
observant and prepared.

"Fuck it," he growled softly and reached for the envelope bare-handed.
Surely if someone had gone to the trouble of sneaking the thing into
his car, they were bright enough to not leave fingerprints. A car horn
alerted him to the fact he was still sitting at the stoplight, had probably
sat through a number of changes, so he waved apologetically and set
the envelope aside. He thought about pulling over beneath a streetlight
and opening the package, but his sense of self-preservation wasn't
going to be ignored like the rest of his instincts. It sent to his frontal
lobe an image of a target, which he would be under a streetlight. With a
sigh, he continued home without stopping.

He had the package open by the time he entered his hallway. A musty
odor had seeped out, and the corridor lights allowed him to see that
the contents were yellowed letters. Who the hell was sending him old
letters? Did he have another mysterious informant? Considering the
fate of the others, he figured the days of clandestine messages and
phone calls were over. By the time he reached his door, he had one of
the letters out and unfolded. His hand trembled as he recognized the
handwriting. The letter had been penned by his father, the late William

The feelings he had for his father were mixed at best. Bill Mulder had
been a part of the Consortium at one time. When the Consortium had
made a devil's pact with the extraterrestrials, Bill Mulder had sacrificed
his daughter--Fox's younger sister--to the cause. That Bill had
denounced the Consortium and was killed for that act, didn't lessen his
betrayal in Fox's eyes; Samantha was still gone, and he still searched
for the truth of her disappearance.

"So to whom are you writing, Dad? And why the hell does anyone think
I care?" He stabbed his key into the lock.

Inside, he upended the envelope on the coffee table, looking for a note
from his anonymous benefactor. Aha. More familiar scribble. This was a
message from "beyond the grave", so to speak, since the author of the
note was dead. Agent Jeffrey Spender had been Mulder's replacement
on the X-files for a brief period of time. That was only one of the
reason's Mulder had despised the overbearing, pompous jackass, who
had inflated his self-opinion to the point of being the smuggest dumb
bastard to grace the halls of the FBI building. The actual list had been
incredibly long, but he had let it go when Spender had been shot and

Mulder, the note read. Found these in my dad's stuff. Must be
important. --J.S.

His dad. Discovering that his arch-rival, known only as Cancer Man,
Cigarette-Smoking Man, or merely CSM, was actually C.G.B. Spender,
husband to Cassandra and father to Jeffrey, had been mind-blowing.
Arch-rival. Maybe that was a bit too dramatic. It was just that the two
of them were at cross purposes: Mulder wanted to expose the truth,
and Cancer Man wanted to keep it hidden. In fact, he'd been so
desperate to keep it secret that the craggy-faced man had destroyed
his own son. It had been kind of pathetic watching Cancer Man strip
Jeffrey of his innocence...sorta like watching the rape of a virgin.

But that was neither here nor there. C.G.B. Spender, if that was truly
his name, and not some alias, had held onto Bill Mulder's letters, and
there had to be a reason for that. The wily bastard always had a
reason. Mulder shuffled through the pile of letters, noting none of them
had envelopes. So, no postmarks or dates. He also noticed not all were
written by his father. Who was he corresponding with? The elder
Spender, perhaps?

They were undated, so he randomly picked up one of his father's
missives and began to read.


Please re-think your actions. To renege at this late
date is not advisable. My associates are apt to
consider this a betrayal and.... I do not want your
blood, as well as that of your sons', on my head.


From Bill to Billy? Okay, Dad. Now, I'm really confused. But that's
typical with you, isn't it? He picked up another.


Do you know how much I already hate myself for
getting you involved in the Project? God, I thought I
was saving my family. But now I realize I was
merely condemning you to my hell. I'm not going to
bother to ask for your forgiveness. Just know that
this was not done in spite, but in good faith--faith
which has now left me. I will make every effort to
keep you and your boys alive. I promise you this.

Your cousin,


Mulder frowned. Your cousin, Bill. His dad had a cousin? Who was also
named William? The world certainly got enough milage out of that
name. Even Scully had a William in her family--a brother who loathed
her partner. But that was okay; he wouldn't be asking Bill Scully to
sneak out behind the woodshed with him, either...unless he had a
muzzle and a baseball bat waiting.

With a sigh, he let the delightful picture fade from his mind and
refocused on the letters.


Average-sized (she hated the word petite) Dana Scully was a force to
be reckoned with when she was angry, which, considering who her
partner was, was a majority of the time...when she wasn't intrigued,
puzzled, or just plain confused, that is. But, yeah, angry was the
correct word at the moment. Mulder hadn't shown up for work. He
wasn't answering his cell phone, and his hard-wired phone was,
according to the operator, off the hook. In a normal partnership, she
would be a bit worried by now, but there was nothing normal about
Mulder. Sure, he could be dead, injured, or kidnapped, but there was an
equal chance that he'd merely gotten involved in something and lost
track of time. That was why she had headed out to his apartment by
herself, without backup, and without notifying their superior, Assistant
Director Walter Skinner. She did, however, as she approached Mulder's
door, unbutton her jacket to give herself full access to her weapon.

"Mulder! Open up! It's Scully!" she yelled as she banged on the door,
ignoring the feeling of relief that spread through her system when the
tall, unkempt form stood in front of her.

"Scully? What's going on?" Mulder asked, confusion obvious on the
stubble-covered face.

"No, Mulder, that's my question," she stated firmly as she marched past
him. "Do you know what time it is?" He stared at her blankly. She went
over to the window and pulled up a shade. "It's morning, Mulder."

His eyes narrowed in the light, then he rubbed his hands down his face.
"When the hell did that happen?"

"A couple seconds earlier than it did yesterday," Scully pointed out
dryly. She took a good look at her partner. Same clothes as yesterday.
"Mulder, take a shower, put on clean clothes, and go to work."

"Yes, Mom." He grinned at the glare he received. "I'll meet you back at
the office."

She shook her head, noting the scatter of papers on the low table. "I
leave and you'll just go back to whatever this is you're doing. Is this a
new case?"

He shrugged. "Take a look and tell me...unless you'd rather follow me
into the bathroom to make sure I wash behind my ears?"

Although the smile didn't make it to her lips, it definitely shone in her
eyes. "Well, that is a lot of territory, but I'll trust you to handle it on
your own."

"No fair," he whined at the quick retort. "You've had your morning

"That's because I knew it was morning, Mulder. Now, quit dawdling."
She shook her head as he continued to mutter on his way to the
shower. Then she focused on the papers before her. Letters. Hmm....

"Where did you get these?" she asked, when he returned to his room
to begin getting dressed.

"They were a gift from a secret admirer--Jeffrey Spender."

"Secret is right," she murmured, recalling the antipathy Spender had for
her partner. "I'm assuming one of these Bills is your father. Who is the

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Genealogy your undergraduate

"You're wrong."

"Ah. Now that you have that out of your system, I'm assured it's

"Mulder," she said impatiently.

"I don't know who the other William is. I didn't know Dad had any
cousins, or that I did for that matter. I guess it should be easy enough
to check it out." He adjusted his tie, and joined her in the living room.
"What else did you get out of the letters?"

"That your father got his cousin involved in the Consortium, then for
some reason the cousin backed out."

"Not just some reason-- something about one of the sons, the one he
was supposed to sacrifice... like Samantha was sacrificed. There was a
problem, but the details are never given. I'm guessing, though, if we
find this cousin, we will find the answer."

"That's assuming this side of your family is still alive."

"Oh, you are just full of good cheer, aren't you?"

"I'm sorry, Mulder--" she began.

"But you just wanted to point out the possibility that Bill, the second,
and his offspring were purged for the sake of the Consortium and their
unholy grail? I considered that, but if that were the case, why has
Cancer Man been holding on to these letters? I think he is looking for
the same thing we are-- what was it about this kid that not only made
his father pull back, but started my father to doubting the group's

"If the man lives, why hasn't the group gotten the answer yet?"

"Maybe he won't tell them."

"And if he won't tell them, why do you think he'll tell you?"

Mulder smiled and slipped into his jacket. "Of course he'll tell me, Scully.
We're cousins."

Chapter Two

Blair Sandburg squirmed anxiously in one of the plastic seats located in
the emergency room of Cascade General Hospital. He knew there was
no way in hell the doctors would be out to tell him anything soon, but
that didn't stop him from looking around every time he heard
footsteps. His best friend, Jim Ellison, had been rushed behind the
double doors only twenty minutes ago, and the actions they would
have to take to save his life would take much longer. And that's all he
wanted to hear from the medical staff--that Jim was alive and would
remain so.


For once he had ignored the footsteps. He looked up into the dark face
of Captain Simon Banks. "Oh, hi, Simon. Someone called you?"

The police captain, superior officer to Detective Jim Ellison and his
unofficial partner, police observer Blair Sandburg, resisted the urge to
throttle the man gazing at him so innocently. Although Sandburg was
thirty-years-old, his long brown curls and enthusiastic nature often
made him seem much younger. Around the bullpen he was often
affectionately referred to as "the kid." The anthropology grad student
was extremely intelligent...and just as exasperating. "Yeah, Sandburg,
someone called me. What I want to know is why you weren't that

Blair sighed, his eyes dropping to his hands. In addition to being their
boss, Simon was a friend, and usually the first person called when one
of the partners got into trouble. He was also the only other person who
knew how special Jim was. But.... "I didn't want to hear you say it,
Simon. I could ignore the responding officers, the paramedics, even the
staff here. But hearing you say it would make me think about it. And
even thinking about it is a betrayal of Jim."

"Sandburg," Simon began, sinking into the seat next to him, minimizing
the over-a-half-foot difference in height between the two of them.
"Blair, the uniforms told me you found Jim sprawled on the floor,
unconscious from pills. What do you think happened?" he asked

"I don't know, man. But I know what didn't happen. I know Jim did not
try to take his own life."

"He's been depressed all week."

"No, he's been pissed all week. There's a big difference, Captain."

Simon sighed. He, too, was having trouble accepting this. "He's been
suspended from the force. I took his badge and weapon. You know he
was hurting. He just hides it well." That was an understatement. Jim
could give that Star Trek guy, Spock, a run for his money in stoicism.

Blair's blue eyes gazed into his captain's brown ones. "Yeah, he was
hurting, but his anger was greater than his pain. You know Jim, Simon.
He always puts his desires after those of his tribe."

Tribe. Jim was the Sentinel of his tribe--the city of Cascade,
Washington. As Sentinel, he kept watch, protecting them from the
various dangers that life offered. In the jungle, where Sentinels
originated, that would mean natural disasters, wildlife, and warring
tribesmen. In Cascade, it more or less meant criminals. To aid the
Sentinel in his duties, he was genetically provided with five heightened
senses, and was matched with a Guide--a member of the tribe whose
duty it was to protect the Sentinel and hone his skills. Of course, all of
this was according to Sandburg, but since Simon had proof of Jim's
extraordinary senses, he had no reason to doubt Sandburg on the rest
of it. Especially since Sandburg was Jim's Guide. 

"But what if he...what if he, however unintentionally, hurt the tribe?"
the captain asked hesitantly.

That was the problem around which all others problems revolved. Jim
had supposedly killed a man, a boy, really, and that was why he was
depressed, and why they thought he'd deliberately taken the pills. Blair
felt a flare of anger that Simon was buying into all the crap. "Listen to
me, Simon, because this is the last time I'm going to say it. Jim did not
kill Jerome Johnson, nor did he try to kill himself. Neither Jim nor I know
who's behind this campaign to destroy him, but you, of all people,
should know he would never give up until the truth comes to light."


"If you're going to stay, just be quiet, Captain. I don't feel like talking
to you at the moment," Blair said, turning his head to silently review the
moment their lives had gone wrong....

It had been a typical day for them, except for the fact the Sentinel was
sure someone was tailing him. It had been happening off and on for a
week, and it worried the detective a great deal. The tail was good
enough that he couldn't catch him, but not good enough that he
couldn't sense his presence. The expertise it took to stay just out of
Jim's reach meant only one thing to the former soldier: whoever was
on him worked for the government. As scary as that thought would be
for the average citizen, it was triply so for Jim and Blair. Both knew
there was a possibility that the government would find out about Jim's
abilities and try to study him--with or without his permission.

But Jim had pushed his fears aside and had gone on doing his job, his
Guide sticking to him like glue. There had been a rash of robberies at a
strip mall, and since the perp seemed to know the best time of day to
hit each store, Jim had concluded that the thief was probably a former
employee of one of the businesses. He and Blair had driven out to the
mall to get the employee records of the stores that hadn't been hit
yet, since they already had those of the burglarized businesses. Just as
they got into Jim's truck to head back to the department, Jim had
spied a purse-snatching in progress. He'd yelled for Blair to stay in the
vehicle and ran after the suspect, who had fled when he saw Jim
staring at him. Blair had long ago translated "stay in the truck" into
"stay in the truck only until you call for backup", so a few minutes
later, he was running in the direction he'd last seen Jim and the

A few twists and turns into an alley, then he stopped. Before him was a
tableau that made his heart nearly pound out of his chest. Jim was on
his knees, the suspect's head seemingly cradled in his arms, the limp
body draped along the dark asphalt. Closer inspection revealed that
the suspect was dead, and Jim was zoned. A "zone out" in Sentinel
lingo meant that Jim had focused so tightly on one particular sense
that he lost himself within that sense, within his own mind. Thankfully,
Sentinel and Guide were so closely connected that a Guide's voice
and/or touch would eventually bring the Sentinel out of the zone,
which Blair did--just as backup arrived. Jim had gasped at the
appropriate moment to look seriously guilty, and when it was
confirmed that the suspect had died of a broken neck, he had been put
immediately on suspension.

From that point, things had gone from bad to worse. The dead suspect
turned out to be Jerome Johnson, an eighteen-year-old
African-American without a record. Suddenly, this was being called a
racial crime, that Jim had just seen a black kid running and had
assumed he was the purse snatcher. He had killed him because he was
a bigot, and he would get away with it because he was a cop.
Everywhere Jim and Blair turned, there were reporters pushing
cameras into their faces, asking questions about whether Jim had any
ties to militia groups and if he was a member of the NRA.

The reporters had dogged them until yesterday. That was when Jim
had had enough. They had gone to the station to have another
interview with Internal Affairs. Since parking privileges in the station's
underground lot had disappeared with his badge, the truck had been
parked on the street where it was noticed by every reporter who had a
brain, not to mention the growing group of demonstrators who
marched in front of the station. When one of the reporters asked him
if he had anything he wanted to say, Jim had answered yes, ignoring
Simon's subtle, "Don't do this, Ellison."

"Did you kill Jerome Johnson?"


"If you didn't, who did?"

"I don't know, but I plan to find out. I grieve along with Mr. and Mrs.
Johnson, as well as the rest of Jerome's family and friends. Snatching a
purse should not be penalized by death."

"So, you're saying Jerome Johnson was indeed the purse snatcher."


"Even the victim wasn't able to positively identify him. Why are you so

"I saw him."

"You saw a black guy."

"I saw Jerome Johnson."

"Is it true you're a racist, Detective Ellison?"

"No. I was a soldier, and now I'm a cop. When your life has been on
the line as much as mine has, you learn to appreciate anyone who
gives you a helping hand--regardless of race, creed, color, sex, or
national origin. I challenge anyone listening that if you've ever heard
me make a racial remark, to come forward. I'm sure you reporters
would be glad to flash your number up on the screen to make it easier
for them. But if you don't get any calls, I challenge you, the press, to
admit that you've been intentionally mislead, and have been fed false

"By whom?"

"As soon as I find out, I'll let you know. Now, I suggest you get back
to your stations to wait for your phone calls. No need to follow me
around; you know where I live, and that's where I plan to be."

With that Jim had gotten into his truck and driven home. The six
o'clock news had aired his "press conference" and reported no one had
called. The eleven o'clock news had repeated the same. By morning,
the reporters were investigating their sources. Blair had gone to the
university without the usual journalistic entourage. It seemed that
everything was settling down. Then he had returned to the loft he and
Jim shared, and found out that the peace had just been an illusion.

He'd let himself inside, eager to tell his roommate how reporter-free
his day had been. Then he had spotted Jim's body in the center of the
loft, sprawled on the floor as if he'd been dragging himself toward the
bathroom. A circle of vomit had haloed his head. His skin was gray and
clammy, his lips tinged blue. The first thing Blair had done was check
for a pulse. Weak, but there. He'd called 911, then carefully moved Jim
out of the spittle before covering him with an afghan.

The paramedics had put Jim on oxygen, but he coded once in the
ambulance. CPR had revived him and then the E.R. staff had taken
over, shoving Blair to the waiting room, where he could think about
the faces of everyone when they had discovered the empty bottle of
Percodan beneath the sofa. He knew what they thought, but as he told
Simon, they were wrong.

"Mr. Sandburg." The appearance of a doctor brought Blair to the
present. "We've performed gastric lavage and are giving him Naloxone
to counteract any of the Percodan still in his system. He was fortunate
that his stomach automatically dispelled several grams of the
substance. Do you know how he managed to get his hands on the

Blair looked at him squarely. "It was mine. I had some dental work done
a few months ago. My dentist prescribed the pills, but I only took one
that first day. I'm not into unnaturals, you know?"

"Once he's stabilized, we'll be moving him upstairs for the required
psychological evaluation."

"Waste of time," Blair muttered. "He didn't try to commit suicide. And
don't give him any more Naloxone. His body can metabolize the rest of
the Percodan on its own."

The doctor glared at him. "Sir, I understand that you are listed as the
detective's next of kin, and he has strongly indicated that you are to be
consulted about his treatment in every instance he is under medical
supervision. But you aren't a physician--"

"I don't have to be a physician to read, doctor. If you look carefully at
his medical history, you will note he has minimal tolerance for

The doctor paled. "That was not listed on the two pages of known
allergens," he stuttered.

"Because it's not an allergen!" Blair yelled, suddenly frightened for his
Sentinel. "Good God, how much of it have you given him?"

Before the doctor could answer, he was being paged and Blair knew
with certainty that it was to Jim's side. Although Simon remained silent,
he stayed with Blair as he waited for the doctor's return. But it was
another, older, doctor who came to them later. "My name is Dr.
Simpson. I'm handling Det. Ellison's care now."

A shudder went through Blair's body. "What did the other one do to
him?" he asked, grateful for Simon's hand which folded over his
shoulder and lent him strength.

"Someone from the administrative offices will be down to see you in a
few minutes," Simpson hedged.

Blair closed his eyes. "Just tell me, Doctor."

"An overdose of Naloxone, combined with other factors, sent your
partner into severe convulsions, Mr. Sandburg. Although we were able
to stabilize him rather quickly, the damage had already occurred. Det.
Ellison is currently comatose."

Chapter Three

"I know who your cousin is, Mulder," Scully said as her partner entered
the basement office which housed the X Files. She had done the
research while he had been debriefed about a recent case.

"I knew your degree in Genealogy would come in handy, Scully."

"Do you want the information or not?" she asked steely.

He humbly bowed and gestured for her to continue. "Your
great-grandfather's name was William Endicott. He was a wealthy
businessman who had two children, both daughters. One daughter,
Hannah, married Frank Mulder. They had a son whom they named
William. The other daughter, Rachel, married Martin Ellison. They, too,
had a son named William."

"Both of them wanting the old man's money, huh?" Mulder speculated.
"So, Billy is William Ellison? We know anything about him yet?"

She nodded. "He's a retired businessman in Cascade, Washington."

"Cascade? Why does that name sound familiar?"

"Because a year or so ago, we met a detective from Cascade...."

"Named Jim Ellison," Mulder completed. "Coincidence?"

"He's William's eldest son," Scully said quietly.

"It figures. Who else, but a relative of mine, could profile me in a day?
Greatness must run in the family, huh, Scully?"

"There's more, Mulder." He looked at her worriedly, recognizing her
serious tone. "Four days ago, Jim Ellison was accused of murdering a
purse snatcher. The term 'racially motivated' is being bandied about."

"That has to be a lie," he replied firmly. He hadn't profiled Ellison, but he
knew racism didn't fit the image he had of the man. His cousin.

"Two days ago, the detective attempted to commit suicide. He was
revived, but a screw up at the hospital has left him comatose."

Mulder shook his head. "Something's starting to stink, Scully, and it
isn't my cologne. I think I'm going to take some personal leave time,
and go look up some lost relatives. Wanna tag along? As I recall, you
and Jim got along quite well."

Scully smiled as she remembered the muscular man with sky blue eyes.
When she'd first seen him, he'd just been a suspect in another bizarre
case. He'd been in the wrong place, knew information he shouldn't have
known, and was acting as squirrelly as the case was. The next time
she'd seen him, he had radiated pain, pain generated by the death of a
child he hadn't even known. That had told her more about the kind of
man he was than any interview, interrogation, or profile. Compassion
like that didn't stop at color lines. So, if that part was a lie, the rest of it
probably was, too. She agreed with her partner's assessment;
someone was targeting Jim. Was it because of what he was? A former
FBI profiler had called him a psychic. But what she had seen Jim do in a
small town in Wyoming had nothing to do with contacting spirits. No,
he had confronted the inhabitants of another dimension and convinced
them to leave this one alone. What had the locals called him? The
guardian. Surely, that kind of gift could attract certain fringe elements,
elements she and Mulder had gone up against many times. Damn. Was
this the reason William Ellison had backed out of the Consortium? Was
Jim the one who was supposed to go the way of Samantha Mulder? 

"I think it would be nice seeing Jim again, and his partner, Blair
Sandburg. I think they could both use friends right now."

"I just hope we're not too late," he muttered, wishing he still had his file
on the two men. But it had succumbed to the fire which had destroyed
the office many months ago.

"Jim has been in comas before. Remember, Mulder? He'd just come out
of one when we met him. Maybe he's just 'dreaming' again. As soon as
we get to Cascade, I'll have a look at his medical chart and--"


"Yes, Mulder?"

"You're supposed to be the skeptic, remember?"

"Are you going to make the reservations or am I?"

He picked up the phone. "Jeez, Scully, can't you do something about
that drool on your chin? Am I going to spend this vacation defending
my cousin's honor?"

"He's a grown--very grown--man, Mulder. I'm sure if he wants
something defended, he can do it himself," she nearly purred. After
having to put up with his constant defense of his old girlfriend, Diana
Fowley, it felt good to be able to throw her past--okay, one short
conversation on the hood of a car--in his face.

"But he doesn't know how shameless you get around big, dumb cops,"
he pointed out, and she knew he was referring to a certain case in
Texas involving a wanna-be vampire, and a very nice-looking sheriff.

"Then Jim should be perfectly safe. The last thing he is, is dumb. My
feminine wiles won't stand a chance with him," she sulked.

"It's nice you're being so realistic, Scully."

"Guess I'll just have to use my body instead."

His jaw was still on the floor when she sauntered out of the

"Jim, man, it's been two days. The Percodan is out of your system, and
so is the Naloxone. It's time to wake up," Blair pleaded from the chair
beside Jim's hospital bed. He'd let his instincts guide him through Jim's
illness. Although he had sat with his friend, talked to him, he hadn't
tried to wake him, content to know this was the Sentinel's way of
dealing with the abuses to his body. But now it was time for him to face
the world again. "Come on, Jim. Follow my voice. You can do it. I know
you can. Listen to me, man. The tribe needs you." He squeezed the still
hand beneath his. "I need you."

Parched lips moved. "Need you, too," Jim whispered. Then he opened
his eyes, glad his partner had turned off most of the lights in the room.
His ability to adjust his sight was sluggish. "Chief?"

"I'm here, Jim."

His eyes continued to adjust. "Cascade General," he murmured, taking
in his surroundings. "What happened?"

Blair took a couple of the ice chips he had requested earlier and slipped
them into Jim's mouth. "What do you remember, Jim?"

"Thanks," he said, closing his eyes as the ice quenched his thirst. "My
chest hurts."

"CPR and paddles."

"My heart stopped?"



"You tell me."

He searched his injuries again. "My stomach's been pumped. I was

"That's not the prevailing theory." Blair hated leaving his partner in such
confusion, but he wanted his honest reaction, not one he was led to

Jim opened his eyes, searching his partner's. "Overdose?"

"My Percodan."

"I didn't."

Yes! "Never thought you did. But whoever did it, did a good job. You're
on the psych floor." He figured it was easier to give him the bad news
all at once. "The press has taken this as proof of your guilt."

"Probably the intention." He moved to sit up, and Blair fingered the
controls to raise the head of the bed. "Where's Simon?"

Blair shrugged. "Around."

Jim knew that tone. "What happened?"

"He bought into the suicide scenario."

"Simon?" Jim was shocked...and hurt. How could the captain possibly
think that he'd kill himself....? Unless...unless he truly thought Jim was
guilty of killing Johnson.

A nurse came in to check his I.V. She drew back when she saw him
sitting up. "Mr. Ellison, you're awake! We should have been notified
immediately." She shot Blair a stern look.

"It's a recent event," Jim said coldly, in defense of his Guide. "Go tell
your doctors that I'm awake, functioning, and quite happy to be alive."
Blair pointedly smirked as she left the room. "I am, you know," Jim
continued softly.


"Happy to be alive. I take it that it was touch and go for a while?" He
pressed on his sternum for emphasis. "How long have I been here?"

"I...I found you Monday when I came in from classes. It's now eight
o'clock Wednesday night."

"You found me?" Shit. No wonder it looked like his partner hadn't slept
in days; he hadn't. Couldn't.

Blair cringed as the images bombarded his brain again. Focus on finding
the pulse. He didn't notice as his hand encircled Jim's wrist, mimicking
his past movement."You were passed out on the floor. I think you had
some idea of what was happening because you made yourself throw up.
That's what saved your life."

Jim shook his head. He gently uncurled Blair's hand from his wrist, then
laid it open-palmed against his chest just above the steadily beating
heart "You saved my life. Again. Thanks, Chief."

Blair closed his eyes, letting the gentle thumping find its usual place in
his soul. Minutes later, he mentally chastised himself for letting it go on
too long, and he cracked his eyes open to gauge Jim's reaction to his
preoccupation. But Jim's eyes were closed, too, and that was when he
remembered Jim didn't need to touch him to feel, to experience, his
heartbeat. Jim just had to listen.

"'He restoreth my soul,'" Blair quoted softly.

"'For thou art with me,'" Jim replied, absorbing the moment and tucking
it away for future contemplation. "This particular part of the nightmare
is over, Chief. Go home. Sleep."

Blair withdrew his hand, and rolled his eyes. "You're a fine one to talk,
Jim. You're the one who needs to rest before the doctors descend
upon you, man. You can fake it through the psych tests, right?"

Jim tried to laugh, but his chest would have none of it. "You sound as if
you doubt the ability of my own sanity to pass this review."

Blair laughed for him. "Well, we already know your ego is blown way out
of proportion...."

"And yours isn't, Mr. Grad Student of the Year?"

"So, I can only guess your id and superego are just as inflated," Blair
continued impishly. "'Why no, Doctor, I don't think the world revolves
around me, the great Jim Ellison. I know it does.'" He had lowered his
voice to a commanding growl and thrown his chest out pompously.

Jim grinned, accepting his partner's teasing. "Fine, I'll just lie, and say
that only the western hemisphere revolves around me. Will that make
you feel better?"

"Immensely. You need to be out on the street, man, figuring out what
the hell is going on, not stuck in here." You need to be at home so I
can watch your back.

Jim read the thought on his face. "I'm back on watch now, Chief. I know
that there's danger, and I won't be caught off-guard again. Tell Simon
I'm awake, and that I want to talk to him in the morning about what
happened. What really happened. Then lock up the loft real tight and
get some sleep."

Blair relaxed. Jim was giving him orders. All was right with the world.
"Okay, man. But you behave yourself. I don't want to come back here
to find they've locked you up in a padded cell."

"You got it, Chief."

Blair stepped out into the hall and leaned back against the wall,
suddenly exhausted. For two days he had been the only one to believe
in Jim. He hadn't realized how much he had come to rely on Simon as
backup for whatever went wrong, or right, with Jim. The support had
always been there without his asking. It had been there this time, too,
but for all the wrong reasons. However, that was for Jim and the
captain to straighten out between themselves.

And he didn't want to be anywhere nearby when they did.

Chapter Four

"You look better than the last time I saw you," Simon said awkwardly,
as the man in the bed gestured him into a chair.

"Not much of a compliment, Captain, considering I was nearly dead at
that point," Jim replied coolly.

Simon cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Sandburg called and said you
wanted to talk to me."

"This was not a suicide attempt."

"Jim, I--"

"And I resent the hell out of it that you thought it was."

"I'm a cop," Simon said stubbornly. "I look at the evidence and--"

"I thought you were a friend."

The captain leaned forward in his chair. "I am, Jim. That's why I know
you were depressed over recent events." He flinched as blue eyes drilled
into him.

"It's true, isn't it?" Jim asked softly. "You think I murdered Jerome
Johnson. You think I'm a racist."

"No!" Simon shouted, tensing when he realized how loud the sound
was. When no one came to the door in the next few seconds, he
continued. "Don't do this, Jim."

"Do what, sir? Wonder who my friends are?"

"Question my faith in you."

"Then tell me what this is all about, Simon. There are only two things I
count on in this world: that Blair will be there when I need him, and that
you will be there for Blair when I can't be. Do you know this is the first
time I awakened in a hospital and didn't smell your tobacco somewhere
nearby? So, tell me what this is all about. I want, I need, my
foundations solid again."

Simon steepled his fingers and rested his chin on them. "First, let's get
this out of the way: we're close friends, Jim. I think I would know if you
hated my guts because I'm black. I'm probably more of a racist than
you are. Second, I know you saw Jerome Johnson steal the purse. I
also know you did not murder him."

"But you do think I killed him, don't you?"

"You zoned, Jim. Even you don't know what happened."

"I didn't kill him, Simon."

The captain nodded. "Who are you trying to convince, Jim--me or
yourself? I know how much you hate the lack of control you have when
you zone. I know you sometimes worry about what you are capable of
during these periods. My doubts are just your own, Jim."

"A lot of what you're saying is true, Simon, but if I had any doubts,
they're gone now because I didn't take Blair's pills. Of that, I am
certain. I'm a cop, a soldier. I wouldn't resort to pills."

Simon smiled at him sheepishly. "I did sorta have trouble with that part.
You getting up close and personal with your backup piece would have
been a better scenario."

"A tactical error."


"Maybe we're about to find out." 

Jim looked toward the door, and Simon turned in time to see Blair
enter, followed by two people. The man and woman were both dressed
professionally, and the captain wondered if they were part of the
hospital's legal team. There was still the matter of malpractice. But, no,
his speculations fled as Jim smiled at the couple.

"Dana, Agent Mulder! I knew Cascade was the most dangerous city in
the world, but I didn't think it had gotten so bad that it rated an X-file,"
Jim quipped.

"If it does, we picked the wrong city to vacation in," Mulder replied. He
looked inquiringly at Simon.

"Blame my lack of manners on the Prozac they're giving me," Jim said,
then hastened to continue as he heard Blair's pulse spike. "I'm joking,
Chief. Nothing but saline and sucrose is being piped in." He thumped
the I.V. for clarification. "Agents Scully and Mulder, this is Captain
Simon Banks, Cascade P.D."

"Federal agents?" Simon questioned with a frown. "Is something going
on I should know about?"

"They're friends," Blair said pointedly.

"So is Simon," Jim said meaningfully.

Blair grinned. "Oh, good. It's kind of hard to hold a grudge when you're
wide awake and well, Jim."

"Pity about that," Mulder said dryly. "I know Scully here was hoping you
were still unconscious so she could pull one of those 'Princess
Charming' routines."

Jim flashed Scully one of his best smiles, distracting her from her
thoughts of murder. "I'm sure something can be arranged." He closed
his eyes and lay limply against the mattress. "I definitely believe in the
power of a woman."

She stepped over to the bed and kissed him lightly, then gasped when
his arms snaked around her and pulled her close. "Just think of the
paperwork if you kill him," he whispered in her ear.

"Why do you think he's still alive?" she whispered back with a wicked

"Break it up, Scully," Mulder called. "The man's recovering."

"Which means I need all the love and attention I can get," Jim replied,
grabbing Scully's hand and tugging her down to perch on the bed
beside him. "Dana's just what the doctor ordered."

Mulder looked at Blair and Simon. "I just can't take her anywhere."

Blair patted his back sympathetically. "It's not all her fault, you know.
She's a redhead, and, well, Jim just can't help himself. Isn't that right,

"Redheads and anthropologists are his weakness, I'm afraid," Simon

"Mustn't forget tall, loud captains, as well," Jim rejoined. "Guess I'm
just easy like that, Dana."

"That's okay, Jim. I promise to respect you in the morning, anyway,"
she said with a grin, liking the easy camaraderie among the group. The
tension she'd felt when they walked into the room had quickly
dissipated, which was kind of a unique experience for her; most of the
time the presence of two federal officers had the opposite effect.

Blair glanced at the two agents speculatively. "Are you guys really here
on vacation, or did something else bring you to Cascade?" He had
walked into the hospital just in time to hear the Feds ask for Jim's room
number, so there hadn't been much time for questions.

Jim saw Mulder glance at the captain, and spoke. "You can talk freely in
front of Simon. He's a great keeper of secrets."

Mulder nodded. "This murder rap and suicide.... We think it's a set-up."

"We concur," Jim stated flatly. "What do you know about a surveillance
team on me?"

Mulder and Scully shared a startled look. "Nothing," Mulder replied. "But
we'll see what we can find out."

"If you don't know anything about the surveillance, what makes you
think it was a set-up?" Blair inquired before Jim could.

Mulder looked at his partner, confident that she could find the words to
accurately define the intangible motivations for this trip. "The whole
thing felt wrong," Scully said simply.

"How did you hear about what happened in the first place?"

Scully frowned at the anthropologist, expecting to hear these questions
come from the detective, or even the captain. Then she remembered
what the old shaman in Wyoming had said: Those who stand in the
guardian's way will be moved by the guardian's powerful companion.
"Mr. Sandburg--"


"Blair, we are not a threat to Jim. We're here to help, if we can," she
explained carefully.

Simon watched the proceedings closely, not sure he liked how well
these two agents seemed to know his men. Why had they seen the
set-up and he hadn't? How had the woman known that to have access
to Jim, you had to go through Blair first? That had taken him weeks,
maybe months to learn. As far as he knew, the only contact Jim and
Blair had had with the agents had been that weird time they had taken
off to prevent the destruction of the world--no, he hadn't inquired as
to the details; it was enough to know that the world had continued, so
therefore they must have succeeded. What he did know, however, was
that his detective had been returned harmed. Despite Blair having
introduced the agents as friends, he was going to make damn well sure
his people were going to remain safe this time. 

"You still haven't answered the question, ma'am," the captain pointed
out politely.

Mulder sighed, having already determined it was easier to have a
conversation with the President than it was his own cousin. "My partner
and I have recently been handed information which involves Det.

"What kind of information?" Jim demanded.

"About your past."

Mulder figured he could have pulled out an uzi, and the air wouldn't
have grown as tense as it had. The three Cascade men glanced at each
other, and some kind of decision was made in that instant. 

"This has been fascinating," Blair said quickly. "But Jim needs his rest.
I'm sure this can wait a few more hours. When's your psych evaluation
scheduled, Jim?"

"In two hours."

"Time enough for a nap, then, huh, buddy? If you'll all just wait for me
in the lounge, I'll just take a minute to make sure Jim's comfortable,"
Blair continued, shoving them out as he talked. Simon nodded, knowing
it was his job to keep an eye on the Feds.

"You didn't have to kick them out so abruptly, Sandburg. I won't flub
the evaluation because they merely mentioned they wanted to discuss
something about my past," Jim said.

"Jim, your past is a minefield, and you know it! Let's just get through
one crisis at a time. For me, okay?" Blair pleaded.

Jim sighed. Just how fragile did everyone think he was? Simon thought
he could commit suicide. Blair was scared he was going to lose it just
because someone had mentioned the words 'your past'. Hell, it was
enough to make him lose what little sanity he had left! He rolled his
eyes. Now, he too, was belittling his own sanity. Guess it was
unanimous. "I'm just going to lie here, and think good thoughts."

"That's good, man. Nice plan. You need anything? Can I fluff your
pillow? Get you some ice?"

"Go play nice with our friends. And get me some clothes. I plan on
being released later today."

"I'll make that my personal mantra, man," Blair said, smiling despite the
fleeting thought that this was the only section of the hospital where Jim
didn't have the right to be released AMA--Against Medical Advice. He
just had to have faith in his Sentinel's sanity.

That wasn't asking too much...was it?


"Why am I always the one who utters the sentence of death?" Mulder
complained as they walked to the waiting lounge. He shot his partner a
look. "Don't answer that. Captain Banks, would you please help me? I
now know that I shouldn't mention Tony Bozeman and Ellison's past.
Are there any other catchphrases I should avoid? Maybe his ex-wife's
name for instance?"

Simon thought about the question for a moment, reviewing his history
with Jim. "Nah. Jim and Carolyn parted amicably. Actually, you're
probably pretty safe now...except for his father."

The agents stiffened. "His father?" Scully inquired for clarification.

Simon nodded. "William Ellison is a very sore subject." He looked at his
watch. "I need to call in. Be right back."

Scully watched the tall man cross to the phones. "I hope you bought
round-trip tickets, Mulder."

"Super Saver Fares, Scully. That means we have to stay over the

She sighed, crossing her arms in resignation. "I saw an ad in the hotel
for a sightseeing tour of Cascade."

"If it was winter, the skiing would be nice."

"We're on the West Coast. Could catch a flight to San Diego and visit
my brother," Scully offered.

Mulder looked back toward the room they had just left. "One pissed off
guardian coming up," he said, assuring his partner he'd rather face a
furious Ellison and his "companion" than Bill Scully any day of the
week...and twice on Sundays.

"You bring such enjoyment to my life, Mulder," she groused familiarly.

"The reason for my existence, Scully."

Chapter Five

"Admit it, Sandburg," Jim said as he walked into the loft, his partner
behind him, both blatantly ignoring the pack of reporters they had
picked up upon leaving the hospital. Suicidal, child-murdering, racist pig
Jim Ellison being released without being held over for at least the
seventy-two hour period that the state had a right to--with or without
Ellison's consent? There was definitely a story brewing in their opinion.
"You were shocked when you walked into my hospital room and saw me
waiting for you, my discharge papers in hand."

"Forgive me for thinking it would take a little while for them to judge
your sanity. I mean, look, we've been living together for three years
and at times I have my doubts, okay?" Blair wasn't sure whether he
was teasing or not. Jim was a complicated human being, not just from
being a Sentinel, but because of the way he was raised, and the things
the Army had trained him to do.

"I'm going to remember that comment, Sandburg. The next time you
start going off on some weird rant about something that makes no
sense whatsoever, I'm going to haul your ass down to Cascade General
and tell them I have doubts about your sanity," Jim threatened.

"Fine. So tell me how you fooled them. I might have to use the same

"I told the truth."

"You did what?"

Jim sat gingerly on the sofa, his bruised ribs still protesting most
movement. "The psychiatrist came in. We exchanged names and small
talk. Guess he was trying to get me to feel comfortable with him--"

"Like that was ever going to happen," Blair snorted.

"You telling this story or me?"

Blair handed him a bottle of cold water. "Forgive my interruption, Great

"Anyway, we play the game for a few minutes--yes, the Jags stink this
year and, yes, I blame it on the strike, blah, blah, blah.... Finally, I get
tired of it--"

"Good ol' short fuse Ellison," Blair muttered.

"And it's getting shorter all the time," Jim warned, shooting his partner
a dark glance. "So, I tell the good doctor that we can do this the long
way or the short way. He says his daughter's in a play tonight, so short
is good. I say that our professions are similar: I investigate people to
see if they're guilty; he investigates to see if they're sane. To do our
jobs, we both must look at the evidence."

"So, finding you on the floor of your apartment with a stomach full of
pills isn't evidence?"

"Evidence, yes. But of what?"

"Suicide?" the psychiatrist offers, warming to the case.

"On first thought, maybe. But factor in that I'm a cop. We like a more
direct approach to suicide."

"Your gun was confiscated," he argues.

"Ever known a cop to have just one gun?" I counter. "Besides, have
you looked at my medical records?"

"Yes. What does that--"

"I don't always react to medicines as I should. Sometimes they affect
me adversely, and sometimes they don't affect me at all. Why would I
attempt suicide using such an unreliable method?"

"It wasn't suicide, but a cry for help?"

I shake my head. "Doesn't wash. Having never used Percodan, one or
two pills could have just as easily killed me, or turned me into a

"So, this wasn't suicide, but...."

"A dangerous game by an unknown enemy."

"To what end?"

"Discredit my claims of innocence in the Johnson affair."

"So, you didn't kill Johnson?"

"No, and that's another compelling reason why this was not a suicide

"Enlighten me."

"Someone killed Jerome Johnson, and I have no intention of pursuing
heaven or hell until I find the person responsible. It's bad enough I'm
being set up, but to kill a kid just to get to me.... Oh, I might be
planning to send someone to the morgue, but definitely not myself."

"That was a little too much information, wasn't it?" Blair asked,
interrupting the narrative again.

"Yeah, I worried about that, too," Jim admitted. "The doctor sat there,
just staring at me for the longest time. Abruptly, he closed the portfolio
he was carrying and sighed. He told me he would have my discharge
papers ready within the hour. Then he touched my shoulder and told
me that I would probably be a lot better off if I were merely paranoid."

"There's no probably about it. So, what do you think Mulder and Scully
know about this? And what do they know about your past, man?"

Jim shrugged worriedly. "You called them, didn't you?"

"Yeah, they'll be over in a little while, along with Simon. He's unofficially
letting them look over the reports of the incident. Something weird is
up, Jim. It's like they know exactly what they're looking for. A particular
pattern, you know?"

"Great. In other words, I'm being set up by someone known to the FBI.
And it has to do with my past.... It's is starting to look uglier than I
first imagined, Chief."

"This isn't going to get classified, and I'm going to end up being left out
of the loop, is it?" Blair fretted. 

"If it does, we'll just have to work around it. I'm going to need you on
this one."

Blair peered at Jim intently. There was something screaming at him,
telling him to keep close to Jim. Maybe it was the Sentinel/Guide
connection...or maybe it was something else. "You feel it, too?"

"That my life is about to be shot to hell, and if I don't have you to cling
to, I'm going to get so lost that I'll never find my way back?"

"Er.... I wouldn't exactly put it that way," Blair said, shocked at Jim's
open admission of need.

"Well, it's the way I'm putting it," Jim said flatly. He looked at his hands,
not even surprised to find them shaking. At times, he was given the gift
of insight, if not specific details, then at least an emotional reading of
what was to come.

"Did you dream of your spirit guide?"

He shook his head. "That's why I'm not sure whether this is
Sentinel-related, or just one of my own personal boogeymen coming to
screw me. The panther and your wolf haven't made an appearance. So,
I guess you're pretty safe," he added with a relieved smile.

"I'm only safe if you are, Jim."

Jim closed his eyes, and absently rubbed his chest. "Think it's too late
for us to pack up and flee the country?"

"Then everyone would truly believe you are guilty. Could you live with


Blair shrugged. "Then we stay, and fight for the truth."

"Just remember I'm counting on that 'we', Tonto."

"I won't forget, Kemosabe."


"Do you know if a tox screen was done when you were brought to the
hospital?" Scully asked Jim, as he and Blair put the finishing touches on
dinner. She had been surprised that they were cooking. When she and
Mulder had been invited to the loft for dinner and "conversation," she
had assumed take-out would be the menu.

"I told them to do one," Blair piped in, "but whether they actually did it,
is anyone's guess."

"I'll call tomorrow and tell them to release my medical records to you,
Dana, if you think that'll help," Jim offered.

"It'll give us some idea of how they managed to get you to ingest the
pills. Captain, did they do a screen on Jerome Johnson? I don't
remember seeing reference to one in the files."

"Homicide probably didn't request it, but if I know our M.E., Dan Wolf,
he did one, anyway. I'll give him a call," Simon said, reaching for the
phone, then shaking his head. It was after hours and a non-emergency.
"I'll call him tomorrow," he corrected.

"Ellison, you didn't happen to be watching television, or were around an
electronic device before either the fake suicide attempt or the Johnson
incident, did you?" Mulder asked.

"You think?" Scully said.

"It's possible," Mulder replied.

"But it seems so controlled."

"Three years of refinement, Scully."

Simon groaned. "It's bad enough I go through this with these two," he
said, stabbing an unlit cigar in Jim and Blair's direction. "Would
someone like to talk in complete sentences so that the clueless superior
can get a clue?"

"One of our cases involved mind control through television," Mulder
answered, noting that his partner was reluctant to field these
questions. Since he knew why, he took over.

"Hell, I thought that was the purpose of the damn thing," Simon

"We're not talking about buying Nikes, sir. In the course of our
investigation, several people were murdered."

"Because of TV?" Blair asked in disbelief.

"Yes. A device was attached to the cable lines. It changed the normal
feed, placing other frames between the aired ones, frames which
stimulated electrical impulses in the brain."

"Subliminal images?" the anthropologist guessed, deeply fascinated.

"Yes, but at that time, they weren't capable of coercing a certain action.
Instead, they heightened suggestibility by manipulating the photic
driving response. In this case, anxieties were magnified, even played
out in hallucinations. Just think of it as having your own worst
nightmare come to life." Mulder glanced at his frozen partner. "The
person under this influence is not responsible for the actions that
follow. If the detective here was watching the television...."

"It was off when I came in," Blair said, "But.... Jim had the remote in his
hand when I found him. Could he have somehow known what was
happening, and tried to stop it?"

"Unlikely," Scully finally spoke. "It's virtually undetectable, except with
the right video equipment."

"Do you know where your cable lines are?" Mulder asked.

Jim headed for the door. "What am I looking for?"

"A small box attached to the line somewhere near the pole leading into
the apartment. You might have to climb the pole in order to see it."

"Back in a sec."

"He likes to climb, does he?" Mulder commented. "Damn. We forgot
about the reporters. If they see him--"

"They won't," Blair said confidently. He motioned for Simon to set the

Jim was back before the plates were in place. "Nope. No foreign boxes."

"You couldn't have--" Mulder began.

"Trust me. No boxes," Jim reiterated.

"It has been three days, Mulder," Scully pointed out. "If they did use
this technique, the box was probably removed within an hour of the

"'They'?" Simon questioned. "Who are 'they'?"

"We believe the system was developed by the government."

"And is being used by?" Jim urged, hearing the unsaid in Scully's

"That's a long answer, Jim."

"Then it can wait until after dinner," Blair said firmly. Since the incident
with Johnson, Jim hadn't been eating properly. That, combined with
three days of hospitalization, had Jim underweight. Most people
probably couldn't tell it, but then again, most people weren't Jim's
Guide--charged with the responsibility of making sure his Sentinel was
always in superb form. 

Blair refused to let the topic go back to the case as dinner was
consumed, but as they cleared the table, Jim looked at him. "Chief,
could we?"

"You sure?"

"No. But when has that ever stopped us?"

Mulder looked at Simon. "I see what you mean. It's quite annoying, isn't

"Very. Guys, you're being rude," Simon cautioned his friends.

"Oh, sorry, sir," Jim said sheepishly. "It's just that I need to know if I
was influenced by this 'box', so I'm going to go under and see what I

"Go under? Are you talking about hypnosis, Jim?" Scully asked
worriedly. The technique could end up being more dangerous than

"He doesn't go deep," Blair eagerly explained. "It's more like a
meditative state instead of a trance. In fact, most of the time he can do
it by himself, but with an audience, I'm probably going to have to help
him a little bit. Go have a seat, Jim, and start your breathing. I'll just
put these in the sink to soak."

Once he dried his hands, he looked around at all the nervous people in
the loft. "It'll be okay, guys. You're going to be amazed at his level of
recall. You'll see," he soothed. Everything that occurred to Jim left an
impression on his enhanced senses. With a little urging, the details
could be recalled with startling clarity. He walked over to the chair where
Jim sat.

"How close are you?"

"Almost, but not quite."

Blair stood behind him and clasped his shoulders. "Listen to my voice,
Jim. Feel my hands on your shoulders and relax. It's okay to let go." He
felt the muscles go limp. "Are you there, Jim?" A slow nod. "You're here
in the loft three days ago. Can you picture it?"

"Finally convinced you to go to class."

"Yes, you did. What did you do after I left?"

"Changed sheets. Did laundry."

"This guy is supposed to be my kinsman?" Mulder whispered to Scully.

"It's nice to know there's hope for you yet," she whispered back.

"What did you do after the laundry, Jim?" Blair prompted.

"Turned on the TV."

"What did you watch?"

"Nothing. The screen looked funny. Made me thirsty. Went to the
bathroom and got some water."

Blair glanced at Simon. This was atypical behavior. Jim only drank
bottled or filtered water, if at all possible. It limited his exposure to
unknown chemicals. "Why did you go to the bathroom, and not to the
kitchen, Jim?"

"Water's in the bathroom. Put it in a little brown plastic glass." The
shoulders shuddered beneath Blair's hands. "That's not right, is it?"

"It's okay, big guy. What happened after that?"

"Came back to the sofa. TV still not acting right. Cut it off because it
was giving me a headache. I feel funny." His respiration increased.

"Jim, you felt funny. That was long ago, okay? At the moment you feel

Jim sighed. "I feel fine. But I was sick, right? The water. Something is
wrong with the water. Powdery. Hard. Need to throw up. Need to call
Blair. Blair!"

"Jim! Listen to my voice and follow it back, man. Come on," he coaxed,
none of his anxiety coloring his tone.

Jim blinked, then ran his hand across his face. "I did it, didn't I, Chief? I
took the fucking pills."

"Jim...." Blair said, wanting to comfort his friend.

"No, Chief. I took the pills...which means I could have...killed Johnson."
He jerked to his feet, suddenly feeling very claustrophobic in the open
loft. "I need air." 

He disappeared out the door before anyone could stop him.

Chapter Six

"Excuse us," Blair said belatedly as he took off after his partner. He
couldn't hear him on the steps, knew he wouldn't have taken the
elevator, so he headed up...and found Jim standing on the roof. A
statue would have been more animated. The previous episodes had just
been practice; this was the time for them to fear a depression. He knew
of only one way to keep Jim from sinking into himself. 

"You do this deliberately? To punish me because you knew I'd come
after you?" He forced himself to concentrate on how high up they far away the ground was. His pulse spiked obediently.

"Damn it, Chief," Jim said as he hurried to his friend's side. "You know
you shouldn't be up here with your fear of heights."

"When has that ever stopped me when I thought you needed me, Jim?
I jumped out of a plane in Peru behind you, remember?"

Whatever frown Jim had been wearing disappeared. "I remember. Go on
back inside," he prodded.

"No. If you need air, I can do this. Just don't walk too far away. Deal?"

"Deal. And, no, I wasn't trying to punish you. It's just that the street is
still reporter-polluted."

"I never thought you had ulterior motives, Jim. I just wanted to get
your attention."

"You mean you wanted me to think about something other than the
fact I snapped Jerome Johnson's neck. God, I've been fooling myself all
along, haven't I? I knew I was capable of doing it. I just thought I
would never use--"

"You didn't, Jim! You were manipulated by some kind of mind control
contraption that belongs in a sci-fi movie. The people who did this to
you are the ones responsible for that guy's death. You were just--"

"Following orders, Chief? Let me tell you...that gets old pretty quick.
Trust me on that one."

Damn the Army. "I can't presume to know how you're feeling, Jim, but
what I do know is that we have to find the people who did this and stop
it. This technology is too dangerous to be allowed to exist in the wrong

"And who would be the right hands?"

"Not our decision, Jim. We are, after all, being aided by the FBI. For
now, let's just concentrate on getting this crap out of
Cascade...something we can't do from this rooftop."

Jim laughed. "I love it when you get all gung-ho, Chief."

"I'm glad you're so easily amused, man. If you would stay true to type,
I wouldn't have to assume all the roles I'm not equipped to handle," he
griped good-naturedly.

"I've come to the conclusion you can play any role given, Mr.

Blair bowed. "Why, thank you. Maybe I'll change my major to drama."

"No way I'm going to live with an actor. Putting up with Vince Deal for a
few days was bad enough," Jim pointed out.

"But the lighting in the bathroom is perfect for applying makeup," Blair
lied as he and Jim made their way down the stairs.

"Keep this up and you'll need makeup, Chief."


By the time they reached the loft's door, all smiles had been packed
away. "Why were you so sure this was a set-up?" Jim demanded as
they stepped inside.

"Because of these." Mulder walked over to where his jacket was draped
on the coatrack. He reached into a pocket and pulled out two packets of
letters, each bound by a rubber band. He took the top one off of one
stack and handed it to Jim. "This was written by my father, the late
William Mulder." He lifted the upper one from the other stack. "This was
written by--"

"My father, William Ellison," Jim murmured, instantly recognizing the
handwriting. "This is the information you have on my past?"

"Yes. Why don't you read them? Then we'll try to help each other make
sense of them." Jim nodded. He and Blair joined Simon on the sofa,
while Scully and Mulder perched on the loveseat. "If you start with my
dad's, then go to yours, working your way through the stacks, they
should be in order."

Jim extended the letters the length of his arms, allowing both Blair and
Simon to read them at the same time he did, after they had adjusted
their glasses. Minutes passed in silence as they perused the
correspondence, a grunt or two here and there as something in
particular caught their attention. 

"Cousins?" Jim asked, reading a closing.

"Yes. Their mothers were sisters. We share a great-grandfather, William

"Enough Williams in this family."

"Hey, at least you didn't get stuck with it as a middle name," Mulder

"Guess I'm the lucky one." Jim went back to reading.

More silence. Mulder got up to pace. "Try the balcony," Jim offered
distractedly. "The scenery change is a plus."

Scully followed him outside. "This isn't going to be easy," she wagered.

"Getting them to believe? No, it won't be. After all, I'm not even sure
you believe, and you've actually experienced much of it."

She shrugged. "You're not dealing with scientists here. Perhaps
quantitative evidence won't matter as much to them. Besides, I have a
feeling that their experiences might rival our own."

"What makes you think that?" She just stared at him. "Other than what
went on in Wyoming?"

She angled her head toward the interior. "There's an ease in there,
Mulder, that shouldn't exist given what they're reading. Where's the
initial shock that both you and I had? Where's the 'what the hell are
they talking about' reaction? You're the profiler. What do you think?"

"That you're absolutely right. They might have problems with what I'm
going to tell them, but it seems as if there's little surprise about what's
in the letters. Ellison said the captain was a great keeper of secrets.
Just how many secrets is he privy to?"

"Well, it will be one more--or is that several more?--by the time this
night is over," Scully murmured.

"He can take it," Jim said softly, coming up behind her. Neither of the
agents had heard his approach. "We all can. I want to apologize for
running out earlier. It's a bad habit I'm trying to wean myself of."

Scully smiled. "You may run out, but I bet you rarely run from."

He grinned. "Sure I can't lure you from Cousin Fox's--"

"That's Cousin Mulder," said party corrected.

"Sure I can't lure you from Cousin Mulder's side?" Jim amended easily.
He doubted he would want to be called Fox, either. "The pay sucks, the
hours are bad, and the insurance premiums are outrageous--"

"Sounds like the job I already have," she interrupted.

"But you could split the danger difference with Sandburg, have
unlimited access to the loft, and I've been told my backrubs are to die
for," Jim added, hearing his new cousin snort behind them.

"I thought learning about your past was supposed to be upsetting,"
Mulder said dryly.

"We all cope in different ways, cuz," Jim replied, just to see Scully's
smile again. "But the man's right, Dana. We do have some questions
about the letters. We can finish our discussion later."

"Later," she promised.

They all went back into the loft. "Let's hear your questions, gentlemen,"
Mulder began.

"What is the Project?"

Start with the hard one, huh? "Roswell, New Mexico, 1947," he blurted
out suddenly, then quickly took the "temperature" of the room in order
to gauge their initial reactions. Amazingly normal. No laughter. No
chilled, disgusted, or pitying looks. No whispered snide remarks. There
was no way they could not know to what he was referring. Everyone on
the entire planet had heard about the rumored alien landings in that
town, and all the late night shows had tons of alien jokes a couple of
years ago during the fiftieth anniversary. "All three of you are
believers?" he asked hopefully.

Simon shrugged. "We believe in saving our comments until we've heard
the full story."

"Oh." Okay. So, it wasn't going to be that easy. Oh, well. "A cadre of
wealthy businessmen, and a few key members of the government,
made contact with the extraterrestrials that landed that night. They call
themselves the Consortium, the businessmen, that is, not the aliens.
My father, being a member of the State Department, was part of that
group. I believe William Ellison was also brought into the Consortium."

"He was, and still is, I think, on the board of several aeronautics
companies based in this area," Jim supplied.

"Then he not only had the wealth, but necessary contacts as well,"
Mulder said, filing away the information for further study. "Okay, where
were we?"

"The Consortium," Scully prompted. 

"The Consortium found out that the aliens were planning to colonize
the planet, and made an alliance with them...actually more of a deal."

"What kind of deal?" Jim asked.

"The process by which they colonize would kill every human on earth.
The Consortium promised to help them create a human/alien hybrid
which could survive the colonization. When they did so, then the aliens
would convert the Consortium and their family members to hybrids,
thereby insuring their survival. The Consortium calls this research the

"And what exactly are the aliens getting out of the deal?" Simon

"Slave labor." The loft was silent for a few seconds.

"When you say 'aliens,' are you talking about greys?" Blair asked.

"What the hell is a grey, Sandburg?" Simon barked.

Blair got up and jogged to his room, coming out with a stuffed,
big-eyed, big-headed "alien". Simon nodded in understanding. He'd
seen the things everywhere. "My date won this for me at the last
Cascade Days Celebration."

"I thought that was supposed to go the other way, Chief. You're
supposed to win her the toys," Jim pointed out with a grin.

"She's a member of Cascade's semi-pro softball team."

Jim shook his head. "You always go for the big ones, Chief."

"Gentlemen, we were discussing aliens from outer space, not the ones
that date Sandburg," the captain reminded them.

"Oh, yeah. So, are they, Agent Mulder? Are the aliens like this

"Yes and no." Mulder glanced at Scully before continuing. "We've seen
greys, but we don't think they are the Colonists. So far, we think the
greys have two purposes. They seem to be useful for research." He
shuddered, thinking of how many greys he'd seen dismembered and
mutilated over the past several years. "Whether this has anything to do
with the Consortium's Project, I'm not sure. I do know that the second
purpose has Consortium written all over it. The usually harmless greys
have been used as scapegoats to cover up the truth. Alien sightings,
autopsies, etc. of greys have been manufactured to appear amateurish
and silly, so that anyone stumbling on the truth will be instantly

"Keep your lies close enough to the truth, so if the truth is discovered,
it will automatically be considered a lie. Smooth," Blair replied

"I like the way your partner put it to me back in Wyoming," Mulder said.
"Ellison, you told me, 'The greatest of lies must rest on the greatest of
truths; nothing else could support its weight.' That's what the
Consortium does best: tangling the truth up into so many lies until you
are totally confused about what you know, or what you thought you

"So, if the greys aren't the Colonists, who are?" Blair pressed.

"We don't think the greys are the Colonists, but we aren't sure. For all
we know, the greys could be a life stage of the Colonists--like the
caterpillar and the butterfly," Mulder clarified.

"But you've run into other aliens, or at least, other forms of aliens?"
The anthropologist was fascinated by the entire conversation.

"Yes. Some are clones and others are shape-shifters."

"Cool. How do you know they're aliens?"

"They bleed green."

"Like Vulcans?"

"More like antifreeze. It's a corrosive material that dissolves the aliens
into goo, and sometimes gives off toxic fumes which can asphyxiate

"This just gets better and better, doesn't it," Simon muttered.

"So, whoever these Colonists are," Jim said firmly, getting to the
discussion back on topic, "want the Consortium to develop a hybrid,
right? And in return, the Consortium and their families get to survive.
Our fathers were part of the Consortium. They took part in this

"Yes, but apparently both became reluctant at some point. You see,
each Consortium member was supposed to give up a 'hostage' to the
Colonists. That way the Consortium could be controlled and the
hostages would be among the first to be transformed into hybrids. In a
way, giving the loved one up, was also saving him or her."

Jim waved his hand over the stacks of letters. "My dad was supposed
to give me to them?"

"Yes, but apparently he learned something about you that made him
reconsider. You don't have any idea what that was, do you?"

"I have never been able to follow my father's thoughts," Jim replied

"Anyway, he decided not to give up you, nor your brother, and my
father was afraid you all would be killed for your disobedience."

Blair nodded, having read that in the letters. "But they weren't. Why?
Did anyone else dissent?"

"One other father," Mulder answered.

"But?" Jim asked carefully.

"But they took her, anyway."

"Her who?"

"My sister."

Chapter Seven

"They took your sister?" Blair asked hollowly.

"When?" Jim demanded.

"November 27, 1973. She had just turned eight. I was twelve and
babysitting her."

"Damn. What happened?" Jim asked, with a sympathetic grimace.

Mulder shrugged a lean shoulder. "Our parents were at the neighbors.
Samantha and I were playing Stratego, and fighting about what to
watch on TV. Then she was taken."

"As in kidnapped?"

The agent frowned. "My memories get a little fuzzy."

"Then you're definitely kin," Blair mumbled.

"He said fuzzy, Chief. Not completely repressed."

Mulder lifted a questioning eyebrow toward his cousin. "Anyway, I have
memories of her being floated out on this wave of light."

"An abduction?"

Jim turned sharply from Blair, who had made the comment, to Scully,
who had immediately reacted to it. The scent of fear roiled off her,
matching her shallow breathing and spiked pulse. Apparently, Blair had
stumbled into her personal Danger Zone. "So, if they took your sister
because your father wouldn't cooperate," he said to steer the
conversation away from whatever was scaring the shit out of Dana,
"why didn't they take me or Stephen?"

"That's the question that I've crossed the country to ask," Mulder said,
his hazel eyes boring into Jim's blue ones. "Why did they take
Samantha, and not you?"

Jim met the gaze calmly. "I have no idea, but perhaps my dad does. I'll
call him tomorrow and set up a visit."

"You set up visits to your father?" Scully asked, then remembered they
were supposed to tread carefully around the subject. But it just felt so
wrong to her. Most people who wanted to see their parents just went

"I'm not proud of it, but Dad and I are not close. We...we never were,"
Jim admitted. "But this won't be the first time I've had to confront him
for answers, so don't worry about it." He looked at his watch. "I'm
about this close to information overload, guys. Why don't we call it a
wrap on this part of the evening and start again tomorrow? You know
what? I want ice cream. That place near the school still deliver, Chief?"

"Sure, Jim. What kind can we get for you?" he politely asked their

Scully shook her head. "Although the idea sounds heavenly, we should
be leaving. We started the day on East Coast time, and I'm afraid it's
starting to show. Besides, you were just released from the hospital
today, Jim. You're still recuperating."

"I'm fine," Jim protested.

"She's right, Jim," Blair said, looking over his friend. He was slightly
pale, and there were exhaustion lines around his eyes. Why hadn't he
noticed? "We could all use some rest. You guys said you were on
vacation. That means you'll be around at least a couple days, right?"

"At least across the weekend," Scully mumbled.

Blair smiled. "Ah, Super Saver Fares. So, we have plenty of time to
figure all of this out. Let me walk you down." He gently herded their
guests toward the door, turning when he felt Jim's presence behind
him. "Where do you think you're going?"

"They're my guests, too."

"Who have already pointed out that you just got home from the
hospital. Say goodbye, then go back to the sofa," Blair ordered.

Jim rolled his eyes. "You would think he'd leave me some illusion of
power, wouldn't you?"

"Yes, considering you look like such a weakling," Scully teased,
squeezing one of the hard muscles in his upper arms as she stood on
her tiptoes to kiss him. "Get some rest, Jim."

"Yes, ma'am," he replied, his eyes twinkling as they walked out the
door. "We'll meet here about noon tomorrow?"

"Why so late?" Mulder asked, eager to start finding answers.

"Because a certain someone has classes in the morning."

"I can get notes from--"

Jim shook his head. "One of us still has a close-to-normal life, Chief.
Let's keep it that way for as long as possible."

"We'll talk," Blair hedged.

"Not about this."

Blair sighed, and ushered his charges out the door. "Is stubbornness a
family trait?"

"Yes," Scully answered without hesitation. "Jim seemed a bit drawn near
the end," she added casually.

"Don't worry about Jim, Agent Scully. In non-emergency situations,
he's pretty cognizant of his limitations. I think that's why he cut off this
session of ours so abruptly," Blair explained, escorting the two down
the stairs. The elevator just operated too slowly for casual use. He and
Jim always saved it for grocery days, or the more familiar trip home
from the hospital. It was sort of discombobulating to realize the
number of hospital visits was on par with the number of shopping trips.

"Please, call me Scully or Dana," she offered.

"I think I'll leave the Dana to Jim, but thanks. It isn't often we actually
like the Feds we work with."

"You work a lot with agents?" Mulder asked.

Blair chuckled lightly. "I'm sure you have the answer to that in your
files. No doubt we left you with quite an impression last year."

"Do you and Jim have experiences like that often?" Scully asked.

"That was definitely a first," Blair said. "But we've learned questioning
what happens just gets in the way. So, Jim does what he has to, and I
hang around to pick up the pieces afterward."

"Is that the way it always happens? Jim gets 'called', and you tag

"More often than not. But Jim's done his share of tagging along, too.
Always the protector."

"Do you think that's the reason why his father reneged on the deal with
the aliens? Because Jim is a guardian--whatever that is?" Mulder asked.

Blair made his face blank. "Jim was right; we have discussed this
enough for one night. Come hungry tomorrow."

"You don't have to keep feeding us," Scully argued.

Blair shrugged. "Jim needs to eat, and having a beautiful woman at the
table distracts him from his current problems. So, you're really doing
both of us a favor. Hope you both have a good night."

"The same to you, Blair."

He watched them drive away, then jogged upstairs. "You guys make
any decisions while I was gone?"

"Simon decided on Rocky Road, didn't you, sir?"

If he hadn't thought hitting Jim with a pillow would knock the exhausted
man over, he would have bopped his roommate. "I was thinking along
the lines of deciding what we're going to tell the agents. If we go see
your father tomorrow...."

"How much do you trust them, Jim?" Simon asked anxiously.

"They kept quiet about what went on before," he said hesitantly.

"But that was so utterly fantastic," Simon pointed out. "This Sentinel
stuff.... Although Richard Burton's documentation is often disregarded,
it exists, and I'm sure people other than Sandburg have read it.
Anybody remember Lee Brackett?" The rogue CIA agent had gone to
extreme lengths to force Jim to use his Sentinel abilities to help steal an
experimental plane.

"But the incredible is their forte, Simon. They deal with it on a weekly
basis. Maybe finding a Sentinel won't be a big deal to them."

"It's not them I'm worried about, Sandburg. I'm worried about the
people who could read their report."

"Like this Consortium?"

"Exactly. William Ellison kept you from them all those years ago, but
what happens if they find out about you now?"

"Maybe they already know," Jim said quietly. "Maybe that's why I was
under surveillance."

"Then we need to get you the hell out of here, Jim," Simon replied.

Jim laughed bitterly. "I can't even legally leave the city limits, Captain."

"Shit!" Simon collapsed onto the sofa. "Is this what they wanted, why
they had you kill Johnson? Was it all so that they could box you in?"

"Maybe you had Mulder and Scully leave too soon, Jim," Blair

"No. We were all pretty much fried at that point. Mulder's pulse was
racing from talking about his sister, and Dana got really freaked when
you mentioned abductions. And the three of us, well, I think we'd had
about as much as we could take in one night."

"Ain't that the truth," Simon groaned. "My God, you think he really
believes all that crap? And what the hell was that you were talking
about, Sandburg? What do you know about... greys?"

Blair shrugged. "Hey, when the checkout line is long, I flip through the
Weekly Weird News, okay?"

"So, you don't....?"

"I don't know."

"They kept waiting for us to react, you know?" Jim pointed out, having
sensed the tension in their visitors. "What I want to know is, why didn't

Blair looked down at his feet. "I kept remembering you having
conversations with ghosts, man."

Jim nodded. "I kept flashing back to being in contact with that other
dimension. What about you, Simon? What kept you from calling Mulder
a flake?"

Simon looked at both of them, his eyes glittering strangely. "I saw you
lying beside the fountain, Sandburg, and Jim bringing you back to life."

The loft fell silent as all minds went back to that point. Finally, Jim shook
himself and headed toward the phone. "That was Rocky Road, right,
Simon? Strawberry Cheesecake for you, Chief?"

Who said only women turned to ice cream in times of stress?


"So, Scully, what do you say we pack up and move out here? The air is
clean, the water's unpolluted, and the people don't laugh at us," Mulder
said as they walked toward their rooms on the fifth floor of Hotel

"And give up our lovely, sunless basement office, tripping over the
tourists that invade D.C. on a seasonal basis, not to mention the
lovely, long, hot, sweltering summers? I think you're jet-lagged, Mulder.
Go to bed."

"Well, we can at least vacation here again, right?"

"Will you go to your room, and not call me on the phone to talk all night
if I say yes?"

"Uh...okay," he sighed.

"Then yes. Goodnight, Mulder."

"Goodnight, Scully."

Chapter Eight

"Hey, guys," Blair said as he opened the door and ushered the agents
into the loft. "Lunch will be ready in a few." He grimaced as he glanced
toward the balcony.

They followed his gaze, and saw Jim and Simon apparently having a
doozy of an argument behind the closed glass doors. "What's that

"Territorial dispute." 

"Oh," Scully said. "Does that happen often? I mean, it's obvious they
are both alpha males."

Blair smiled. "Jim and Simon? Yeah, they're both alphas, but that rarely
comes into play. Simon lets Jim work on his own mostly, so they don't
clash often. When they do, Jim usually backs off first. I think a lot of
that comes from being in the military--superior officer respect, you
know? But there are times when Jim has to be in control, and Simon
steps back. I don't pretend to know the dynamics of how the two of
them work out who leads when, but, hey, it works."

"Except it doesn't seem to be working today," Mulder pointed out.

"This has nothing to do with that. Simon's in a territorial dispute with
William Ellison, and Jim is trying to get it settled before we visit his

"I'm confused," Scully admitted.

Blair shrugged. "It's simple, really. Simon has, like, adopted Jim and me.
Therefore, William is infringing upon his territory when he's with Jim.
Well, Jim knows how Simon feels, so he's trying to talk Simon out of
going with us this afternoon. But Simon's not having any of it. He's not
going to let Jim go to the house without him."

"Does he feel Jim is in danger in his father's house?"

"He is, to some extent, Scully," Blair hesitantly replied. 

"William is an abuser?" Mulder demanded to know.

"There are ways to hurt a child without leaving a mark on him," Blair
said softly. "But enough of this. It's time to get on with lunch." He
marched over to the balcony and flung back the door. "Jim! Get your
butt in here and finish making lunch. You know you're not going to win,
anyway. Simon will be coming with us."

An icy glare stabbed at him. "You know, I remember a time when this
was my loft and my life, and I could do whatever I wanted with both!"

"Yeah, and I remember when Smashing Pumpkins was just something
you did on Halloween night. Get over it, Jim. Simon outranks you,
outweighs you, and he has me on his side this time. Give up the fight,
man," Blair said pleasantly.

In deference to their female guest, Jim muttered something vile under
his breath and stalked past them. In the kitchen, he began chopping
vegetables for stir-fry, ignoring the four people who were now out on
the balcony looking over the city.

A few minutes later, Scully felt brave enough to go in and ask if he
needed help. He handed her a knife and a green pepper.

"I hope you realize," he said with a sheepish grin, "that 99% of the
time, I'm a rational, functional adult, capable of higher thought
processes, self-protection, and tying my own shoelaces--all without a
single temper tantrum."

"And then there are times when you're with your family, and suddenly
you're four years old." She grinned at him. "I come from a large family,
and I swear that I regress the moment one of them walks into a room."

"Yes! Someone who understands." He held out a bite-sized piece of
celery as a reward for her brilliance. "So, you and Mulder, carnivores or


He pointed to the package of chicken strips he'd removed from the
refrigerator, then to the two pans on the stove. "Sandburg only does
the meat thing on occasion, so I've learned to adapt. I just need to
know which I should make more of."

"We're carnivorous."

He nodded, and pulled out a second package of meat. "This must seem
strange to you--the way I'm letting them push me around."

"I have to admit I wouldn't have pegged you as a push over."

"I'm usually not, as the neighbors could probably tell you after Blair and
I have had an argument," he said smiling. "But the suicide thing
frightened them, and they need to...hover, I guess. They know it
wasn't a deliberate action on my part, but still...."

"But still they could have lost you," she completed. "Friendships like
that are rare."

"You and Mulder seem fairly close."

"But it's not as easy as what you, Blair, and the captain seem to have.
Not once last night did you treat the captain as a guest here, so I'm
assuming he's here often." Jim nodded. "Mulder and I don't socialize.
We're partners, and often that carries over into off-hours, but it's
usually about work. I trust him and he trusts me, and if we think about
it hard enough, we'll both agree that we are each other's best
friends.... When I was dying--"

"You were dying?"

She nodded, and focused on her chopping. "Cancer."

"Shit," he whispered, and wrapped his arms around her.

"I'm in remission. But when I was in that hospital bed, wondering if I
closed my eyes would they ever open again...having the priest there
was nice, and Mom, and my brother.... But Mulder was the one I
wanted with me. He was the one I was worried about leaving. It was his
grief which was breaking my heart. It's at that point that you realize
what really matters, you know?"

"I know," Jim agreed quietly.

"Despite that, however, we're not best buddies. I'm not even sure we
have best buddies. That worries me. If something happens to me, who
will take care of Mulder? He's a brilliant man, but he takes
risks--sometimes because he believes they are necessary, but mostly
because he doesn't stop to consider all the possibilities before plunging
headlong into whatever thought that pops into his brain. He needs
someone to tug on his sleeve and say, 'whoa'. Hell, he needs someone
to make him sit down and eat a decent meal every now and again. I
think my mother tried once, but Mulder was too much for her to handle,
despite having raised four little Scullys."

"What about your superior?"

"I admire Assistant Director Skinner. He's stood up for us, and has
taken more crap because of us than any one man should have to do.
He's strong, he's capable...but he's no match for Mulder. Perhaps if the
Bureau had the comradery I sensed at your police department
yesterday, the situation might be different. Even though you are on
suspension, everyone inquired about you. Even the African-American

"Major Crime is a tight-knit group. Not all of the department is the
same way. The flack we received when Blair first came onboard was
vicious and cruel," Jim said, frowning as he remembered.

"He is a little unorthodox, isn't he? And I don't mean just in
appearance. He's not a cop, Jim, yet you treat him like one. We scanned
some of your files. He's always at your side, no matter how serious the
crime. I know he's supposedly there to study a closed society, but that
could be done in the office, or at the local cop bar. Why is he your
partner, despite the flack, and the headache of paperwork that has to
be juggled to keep him with you?"

He deftly stirred both pans at the same time. "Patience, Dana. I know
you and Mulder have more to reveal to us, and we have a few things to
tell you, too."

"You're in luck, Jim. Patience I have in abundance. If I didn't, I would
have plucked myself bald by now." He looked at her. "What?"

"I don't think you'd look too bad bald."

She laughed. "You are definitely a balm to my ego."

He shrugged. "That's what best buds are for. I've been thinking about
that, you know? You need a best bud, and I'm applying for the job."



"But we barely know each other."

"So? We like each other."


"We're both committed to our jobs, despite high amounts of crap and
large doses of incredulity. I'll understand if you can't go into specifics.
Just call me up and whine if you need to. I can do the comfort stuff
without the details. You can even yell at me if you want. As I told you,
I'm usually a tough guy. I can take it."

"Do I have to be your best bud?"

"Only if you want to be. I can always yell at Sandburg."

"So what would you get out of this relationship?"

"The knowledge that a friend isn't going to self-explode one day."

"Is that the impression I give?" she asked anxiously.

"Not to the casual observer. But as I said, I like you, Dana, and I've
been where you are--closed off because of what I do and what I know.
We get caught up in protecting ourselves and our colleagues, partners,
so much so, we become isolated, not just from outsiders, but
ourselves as well. Because of national security, it might be
necessary...but it's also very dangerous," he cautioned.

"This is about more than what you do here, isn't it? There are parts of
your file that Mulder and I can't access."

"I wouldn't trust what you would find, anyway," Jim warned. His
occasional forages into the world of black ops were dutifully listed
somewhere, but he doubted the facts put to paper. He put a smile back
on his face. "But, hey, I'm just auditioning for the role of Dana's best
bud. No decision has to be made immediately. So, go outside and tell
the chickens out there that you have calmed this savage beast, and
that it's safe to come in for lunch."

She crossed her arms and glared toward the glass doors. "They better
not say a word. No one calls my potential best bud names around me." 

"Oh, Dana, before you bring them inside, can I ask you something?"

"Anything, Jim."

"Do you have any idea what Sandburg meant with that smashing
pumpkins comment?"

"Smashing Pumpkins is a band," she replied with a grin. His eyes
narrowed as if he was trying to determine whether or not she was
pulling his leg. She laughed. "Trust me. I have nephews."

"And they talked about the bands of the 70's," he muttered as he went
back to his cooking.


"You were right about your M.E., Captain Banks," Mulder said as he
swallowed the excellent lunch his cousin had prepared. Maybe he would
call for a recipe when he tired of pizza and Chinese. Yeah, right. "His
tests were more thorough than I would have expected. Autopsy of
Johnson's brain showed high levels of serotonin, which indicates he,
too, was subjected to the mind control technique used on you, Ellison.
I suspect that's why you caught a kid with no criminal background
snatching a purse."

Jim let his fork clatter to his plate. "Great, a kid is dead, and his family is
left with all this pain because of me. We're doing well on finding out the
little 'why's, but what about the big one? Why did someone go to all
this trouble to frame me?"

"I think that has a lot to do with why your father didn't send you
away," Mulder said firmly.

Jim closed his eyes as he felt Blair and Simon tense. "I'm a Sentinel."

Mulder stared at him, then laughed. "This is payback for what I told you
last night, right? Your way of saying you can come up with your own
tale of unbelievable fiction?"

"Sentinels are a fairy tale Sir Richard Burton came up with because his
one trip to South America turned out to be an incredible waste of time
and money," Scully said. "The myth has been discarded and discredited
for nearly a century."

Jim sighed. "I guess it's time for our performing bear routine, Chief."

"You'd think they would have the grace not to laugh in our faces,
considering how kind we were to them," Blair muttered dryly. He got up
and grabbed a notepad. "Agent Mulder, write down something on this
pad that Jim couldn't possibly know. Then separate the pad in two, and
give Jim the bottom half."

Mulder shrugged, and did as asked. He passed Scully the half where his
words were written, and Jim the rest.

Jim ran his fingers across the indentations which were only evident to
his sensitive digits. "Cerulean blue? What does that mean?"

Mulder and Scully glanced at each other quickly. "Your sense of touch is
heightened?" Mulder demanded to know.


"And the other four as well?"

"If everyone is finished, we can move this to the roof," Blair said, then
disappeared into his room for a minute to grab his backpack. "We could
do a better presentation if it wasn't for the press camped outside, so
this will have to do. You're a doctor, Agent Scully. You might be
interested in my latest data on Jim's skills." He handed her a notebook.

"Your dissertation? It's on Jim, not closed societies?"

"Correct. Everyone ready to go?"

She opened the notebook, and scanned some of the notes. "If this
information is accurate...." Scully began.

"It is," Blair replied sharply. "I may not be a federal agent, but I do
know how to conduct competent research.

"I didn't mean to imply--"

"Of course you did. You're a scientist. You need fact, empirical data,
hard evidence... proof. That's what you're about to get. Come on, Jim.
Let's get you prepared." He escorted his Sentinel out the door, then
looked back. "If you get lost on the way to the roof, Simon will gladly
give you directions."

Simon just laughed as he grabbed his jacket, never one to show off his
gun in public. "You've stepped into it now, my friends. I had my doubts
in the beginning, too, you know? But then again, I hadn't been regaling
them the night before with tales of little grey men, either. By the way,"
he said, the smile leaving his face. "What you are about to learn is
privileged information. If I find out you've told someone else, I will have
to kill you. And, please, don't think that because you are government
officials, it can't be done. I assure you, it's possible. Very possible."

Mulder checked to see if the captain was joking, and discovered he
wasn't. With a shiver, he and his partner headed to the roof.

Chapter Nine

"We will start with sight," Blair declared when the group trooped onto
the roof. He handed Mulder a pair of binoculars. "Find something you
think Jim can't see."

Mulder stood on the edge of the roof and looked around. "There's
some graffiti on the wall two buildings over," he said.

"Too easy," Blair protested. "Try harder."

The agent shrugged. "The license plate of the car parked in front of the
yard with the pink flamingo."

Blair nodded. That had to be Mrs. Ruffalo's house which was a couple
blocks away. He supposed it would have to do; after all, the binoculars
were only so powerful. 

Jim focused his sight. "Washington State; Charles David Peter, 401," he
recited easily.

Mulder looked over at Scully and nodded. She glanced down at the
notebook and realized Jim hadn't even had to push to see that short of
a distance. "This is incredible. In here, you indicate his hearing is the
strongest of all his senses?"

"So far. If you compare this data to earlier results, you will note as his
control strengthens, all boundaries are pushed outward. Now, if you
would please whisper something in my ear, we can conclude the hearing
portion of today's entertainment."

"I'm sorry if--"

"Whisper it," he demanded.

She leaned close to his ear. "I'm sorry if we offended you. It is the
nature of my job to be skeptical of such claims. The reason I was paired
with Mulder to work on the X-files was because my scientific
background was supposed to balance his fanciful findings. I've been
doing it so long, that I automatically denounce, then explore."

"That sounds like an apology, Chief," Jim yelled from the other end of
the roof. "I accept it. How about you?"

"I see you already have him wrapped around your little finger," he said
softly, grinning at the woman beside him.

"He's auditioning to be my best bud. Automatic forgiveness is probably
part of that."

"Oh, it's a major qualification. Isn't that right, Jim?" Blair smiled at his
approaching friend.

"It's gotten me through some serious foot-in-mouth action," Jim

"Hey, Ellison?" Mulder called, still on the edge of the roof with the
binoculars. "Your neighbors just ordered in a pizza. What kind?"

Jim took a deep breath and analyzed the smells in the area. "Green
peppers, onions, and pepperoni. The sauce is tangy, yet slightly salty.
That has to be a Mama Rossini pizza."

Mulder shook his head. "I knew this man was an X-file, Scully. Even you
can't deny it now."

"We're not finished yet," Blair said. "We still have to prove taste to

Jim groaned and Scully decided to let him off the hook. "We have proof
of four enhanced senses. I am willing to concede that--"

"I am not," Blair said firmly. "Until he proves all five, he is just
somebody with heightened senses. When you have proof of all five, you
will know he is a Sentinel. Jim, you and Simon stay here. Mulder, Scully,
you're with me."

Simon watched them disappear down the stairs, the two agents meekly
following the anthropologist. "Does he get these Napoleonic tendencies

"He's alive, isn't he?"

Taking that to mean Jim would have murdered him by now if he gave
into these urgings on a regular basis, Simon concluded this must be an
isolated event. "Do you know the trigger?"

"Doubting me."

"Remind me never to do that."



Blair took out three tall glasses and filled them with bottled water. He
set the first one aside and handed the second one to Scully. "Add one
granule of salt to this." He placed the second in front of Mulder. "Add
two granules to this one." While they completed their assigned tasks,
he took out six juice glasses, and when the agents were done, he split
the contents of each glass into two smaller ones. Then he called Simon
and Jim in by merely saying Jim's name at normal volume.

He gave them each a juice glass. "Taste."

Simon did so quickly, Jim a little more hesitantly. He hated taste tests.
But this was.... "Our usual water." Simon nodded. They were handed
two more glasses.

Simon frowned. "The same stuff."

Jim shook his head. "Higher salt content." Blair smiled, and gave them
the final two glasses.

Simon shrugged. "I still don't taste a difference."

Jim eyed the glass cautiously. "How much salt does this contain,
Sandburg?" he asked, hoping his Guide hadn't gone overboard in his

"Taste it and tell me."

Jim barely wet his tongue. "It has twice as much as the other."

"Hot damn!" Mulder exclaimed. "He is a Sentinel! Be sure to add that to
your daily journal, Scully."

"I'd prefer she didn't," Simon said softly, reminding them of his earlier

Mulder cleared his throat. "Of course, Captain. So, who knows you're a
Sentinel?" He figured it was a safe question, and would help keep him
out of trouble later. Captain Banks appeared to be a law and order kind
of guy. But the agent personally knew that when it came to protecting
a friend, sometimes law and order took a backseat to loyalty.

"The five of us in this room, an Australian inspector who is on loan to
the Cascade P.D., a criminal named Alex Barnes--who is currently
locked up in a facility for the criminally insane, a rogue CIA agent named
Lee Brackett, and the Chopec Tribe of Peru."

Scully was diligently taking notes. The CIA agent sounded like a good
possibility.... "And your family?"

"No. My father knows that I have certain abilities, but he doesn't know
what they make me."

"Your brother?" Mulder asked. "The two of you grew up together."
Samantha may have been a brat, but surely he would have noticed if
she was hypersensitive.

"He might have suspicions, but by the time he was old enough to ask
questions, I had managed to suppress what I could do."

"When did you regain the senses?" Mulder inquired.

"They kicked in after the crash in Peru." His Army helicopter had been
shot down by a drug cartel. The seven men with him, his men since he
was their captain, all died. By the time he buried them, and nearly died
from his own injuries, he hadn't had the strength to suppress a cough,
much less five senses. "I'm not even sure I remember using them when
I was in the jungle. The Chopec just accepted them as part of who I
was, and my own agile mind concluded that my senses were sharper
due to the lack of noise and air pollution. There were no planes, cars, or
factories to drown out background sounds, or trigger smog and ozone

"What happened after you were rescued?"

"I suppressed them again, until I was isolated during an extended
stakeout. Suddenly, they came back and nearly drove me insane.
Everything the jungle didn't have, Cascade did. Automobiles, sirens,
televisions, jets.... The sounds alone were overwhelming. Add to that,
camera flashes, stoplights, fluorescent lighting, hundreds of
restaurants, thousands of dumpsters.... I took my ex-wife out to
dinner, and I accused the restaurant of trying to poison me," he said
with a bitter laugh. "I'm surprised she didn't haul me off to a psych
ward after that. But she, and the captain, graciously allowed me to see
a doctor on my own."

"The doctor's diagnosis?"

"Stress, Dana. He couldn't find anything physically wrong, so he labeled
my problems as stress-related. If it hadn't been for a certain inquisitive
and forward anthropologist, I would either be dead or in a rubber room
by now."

"Where do you fit into this equation, Sandburg?" Mulder asked

"He's my Guide," Jim answered.

"Burton wasn't very clear on exactly what that term meant. Can you
clarify your position?" Scully looked up from her notes to ask.

"I help Jim focus. He's like a supercomputer. At any given time, he's
processing a myriad of data, multi-tasking, if we keep to the metaphor.
Take now, for instance. He is currently analyzing the light from each
window, each electric light, and the light which is reflected, refracted, or
absorbed by the items around us. He is not only smelling the scents in
the ambient air, but also those which cling to the upholstery, the rugs,
and us. His mind knows our shampoo, deodorants, toothpaste, body
oils...." He stopped, seeing the faint looks of horror. "If you think that's
scary, try living with him. Better yet, try living as him. Because not only
is he dealing with these outside distractions, but he also senses the
dust in the air falling on his skin, the individual threads of the clothing
he's wearing. An insect bite merely annoys us; with his sensitivity, one
bite would feel like a million. That's why he had to learn how to filter out
the everyday sensations before he permanently fried his brain."

"So, you modified his behavior, retrained his mind?" Scully asked
skeptically. It would take a team of psychiatrists to do that.

"I didn't; Jim did. I merely provided him with suggestions, talked him
through a few tests, did what I was supposed to do--guide him. You
saw it for yourselves yesterday. When he wanted to recall the memories
of what happened to him on Monday, I had to guide him into the right
state of relaxation to remember. You see, his senses never shut down.
He can ignore what he needs to, but his mind processes the data,
regardless of whether he's conscious of it or not, and stores it away."

"You said his senses never shut down, but Burton alluded to 'spells of
inattentiveness' in Sentinels," Mulder pointed out.

Blair nodded. "I call them zone outs. It happens when Jim concentrates
too hard on one particular sense. He gets caught up in the sensation
and loses his connection to what's happening around him."

"That sounds dangerous."

"Very dangerous in a cop," Simon agreed with a shudder.

"But Jim has it under control now," Blair said quickly. "He rarely zones

"But doesn't that lack of concentration hamper you when you're on a

Jim shrugged at his cousin's question. "If I have to go deep, I just
make sure Blair is with me. He sort of simplified what he does for me,
making it sound as if anyone could be my Guide. But the truth of it is
that Blair and I are connected on some weird level. His voice, his touch,
hell, just his mere presence, anchors me. He can keep me from zoning,
and pull me out of one if it happens accidentally."

"That's why he's your partner," Mulder stated.


"He is the only one who can pull you back from one of these zones?"
Scully asked.

"It depends on how deep I go. I have pulled myself out of brief ones,
and so has Simon."

"It's not easy," the captain muttered. "Especially when you run into the
ones where he forgets to breathe."

"These fugue states on file in your medical records? Zone outs?"

"Yes, the big ones. They're usually caused by the introduction of
something new in Jim's treasury of recognized sensations. For instance,
he took one whiff of an opiate ball and, wham, the guy was out. The
good thing about it, however, is that with a few lessons, he can train
his mind to handle what we regular humans can't. Opiates in that form
will no longer affect him," Blair explained.

"This is incredible," Mulder murmured. "And no one else in the
department knows?"

Simon shrugged. "I'm sure they suspect something, but Burton's work
isn't exactly casual reading, so they have no idea of what Jim is doing
or how. In fact, we were stunned when both of you indicated knowledge
of it."

Mulder laughed. "Archaic texts are the foundation of the X-files. You'd
be amazed at the number of obscure references I have explored."

"These two amaze me enough, thank you very much. That's about all I
can handle," Simon admitted wearily.

"The occurrence in Wyoming? Was it Sentinel-related?" Mulder asked.

"Yes and no. In my dream, I was told that I had to stop what was
happening because I was the Sentinel. But it wasn't those senses I
used to make contact with the other dimension."

"The local medicine man called you the guardian. He apparently knew
who you were," Mulder pointed out.

"Shamans walk on a higher plane than most," Blair said. "It's possible
that he was aware of Jim's abilities."

"I hate to cut this Q and A short, but I have a meeting at four o'clock,"
Simon interrupted. "If we're going to meet with Mr. Ellison, I suggest
we leave now. And no comments from you, Detective," he added

"Not a word, Captain. I know when I'm licked."

"Since when?"

"As Blair said, sir, Smashing Pumpkins used to be something you did on
Halloween. In other words, things change. People change."

Blair elbowed his partner as they headed for the door. "As if you got
the Smashing Pumpkins reference," he muttered.

"What? You don't like their music?" Jim asked innocently, secretly
smiling when Blair's jaw dropped. "Hmm. You must be getting old,
Chief. Better check your head for gray hairs."

"At least I have hair to check," he said grumpily. 

Jim just laughed and winked at Dana, who winked back.

Chapter Ten


"Yes, Mulder," she replied obediently, her eyes never straying from
Captain Bank's sedan, which they were following to the Ellison house.
She insisted that she drive, because if they lost the captain in traffic,
Jim had drawn a map, and Mulder--Oxford grad that he may
be--couldn't read a map worth a damn.

"My cousin is a Sentinel."

"I was present for the conversation, Mulder."

He glanced over at her. "You don't find it ironic that after all the weird
occurrences, odd events, and strange people we have investigated, that
the one thing I had deemed improbable was not only probable, but
existed in my very own bloodline?"

"Yes, I think it's ironic from your point of view. But I also think it's a hell
of a burden from Jim's point of view. Sometimes the world gets to me,
Mulder, and I just have normal senses. Sometimes I reach the point
that if I hear one more telephone ring, one more car horn honk, one
more beeper going off, then I'm going to go off. If I had the ability to
hear those things happening in a one mile radius around me, I would
totally lose it. You would, too."

"Maybe. But he has Sandburg."

"One man to protect him from constant sensory bombardment. I have
no doubt that Blair is the reason why he has adjusted as well as he
has, but doesn't that make both of them vulnerable?"

"What do you mean?"

"Someone is after Jim, Mulder, and we have a good idea who that is,
don't we? Those letters were in the possession of one of the most
ruthless men we know. He has no conscience, no morals, no loyalties
except to himself. If this is the man after Jim, and he knows or realizes
how much your cousin depends on Blair, then both men are in a hell of
a lot of trouble. And we both know there isn't much we can do to save
either of them."

Mulder focused on the car ahead of them. Time and time again, he and
his partner had gone up against Cancer Man, and the few times they
had triumphed had been because he had let them "win". Allowing their
victories had furthered his own agenda in some horrible way, without
tipping his hand to the people who thought they held his loyalty.... "The
only thing we can do, Scully, is arm them with knowledge and hope they
have better luck than we've had."

She nodded, but kept her mouth closed. There was nothing left to say.


Jim smiled and leaned down to embrace the diminutive Asian woman
who opened the door. "Hey, Sally. It's good to see you. How have you
been?" he asked fondly.

She returned the gesture and patted his back. "I'm fine, Jimmy. It's
good to see you, too." She stepped aside to allow everyone inside.
"He's waiting for you in the library."

"Thanks." Jim led the group through the house to where William Ellison
stood waiting in a room that had changed very little over the years.
"Dad," he said stiffly, holding out his hand.

"Jimmy." He awkwardly shook his son's hand. "I've been reading about
your situation."

Scully frowned. His son had been accused of murder, suspended from
his job, and was hospitalized due to an apparent attempt at suicide,
and all he could say was that he had been reading about the situation?
She glanced at Captain Banks to get his reaction. His face revealed he
was as appalled as she was.

Jim seemed unfazed by it all. "Dad, you should remember my partner,
Blair Sandburg, and Captain Banks." William nodded. "These are federal
agents Dana Scully, and Fox Mulder." He smiled grimly when he heard
his father's heartbeat change rhythm at the mention of the final name.

"Federal agents? Are you in more serious trouble than the papers
allowed me to believe, Jimmy?"

"Maybe my cousin just came to visit me, Dad."

William recovered so quickly that if Jim hadn't had his senses, he would
have never known how upset his father truly was. "So, you've found
each other. That's good. I can see your father in you, Fox. He was a
good man. I was sorry when I heard about his death."

"Who told you?"

"Teena called, of course. She knew Bill and I had been close before....
Your mother knew I would want to know."

"Did she tell you what happened to him? That he was killed because of
the secrets you two shared?"

"I don't understand--"

Mulder took the letters out of his pocket and handed them to the older
man, who unfolded the top one, then gestured for everyone to have a
seat. "Billy. Only he and Grandfather got away with calling me that.
Three Williams in one household...." the elder Ellison murmured
wistfully. "Back in the days these were written, it was safer to write
than use the phone. Everyone had party lines and wire-tapping laws
weren't in existence.... How much do you know, Fox?"

"I know about the Project, the deal between the Colonists and the

William's hand shook as his fingers trailed across the pages he held.
"The Consortium.... I felt so honored to be one of the chosen. The
power that group wielded was an aphrodisiac to most of the
members--probably why we pledged body and soul to them."

"Not to mention family," Mulder said dryly. 

"Yes, but it was for their own good. These beings were going to
colonize the planet with or without us." He stopped, looking around in
horror when he realized how much he had revealed.

"We know, Dad," Jim explained. "We all know. About the aliens and
their plans. About the Consortium and the plans they made."

"Then why are you here?"

"That's the question we need the answer to, Dad. Why am I here? Why
didn't I spend my life in some alien research facility, being transformed
from human to hybrid? You and your cousin both backed out of the
deal. But while Stephen and I were left alone, Fox's sister, Samantha,
was taken--against her will, and her father's. Why wasn't I?" Jim
demanded to know.

" know why I thought it best not to turn you over to them."

"Because of what I could do." His father shot him a look. "They know
that, too. But don't worry, we plan to keep it within the family. Anyway,
why didn't you switch and hand Stephen over?"

"I couldn't be sure if Stephen wasn't...afflicted like you were. It was only
accidental that I knew about you. Your mother covered for you well. I
didn't know why at the time...."

"Why was Mom covering for me? What did she have to do with all of
this!" Jim felt just the lightest of touches and realized Blair had come to
sit next to him, perching on the arm of the chair. He started to
automatically scold him for abusing the furniture, then figured he didn't
care. "Dad, was Mom a Sentinel like me?"

"A what?"

"A Sentinel," Jim calmly explained. "That's what I am, that's what a
person with five heightened senses is called."

"A Sentinel...." William murmured. "No, Jimmy, your mother wasn't a
Sentinel. In fact, she was probably the least sensitive person on the

"Don't start, Dad. I've heard all of that. What I need to know is why
she was protecting me."

William sighed. "I met Grace through the Project. She was the daughter
of one of the other members. In the early days, the group held 'family'
picnics and socials, ways of getting together without arousing
suspicion. Everyone declared we were perfect for each other, so we got
married. I was so full of myself back in those days.... I had a beautiful
wife, then one son, followed by another. I didn't notice how she
watched you, Jimmy, how you were tested, how your check-ups were
more often and lasted longer than Stephen's...."

"Just spit it out, Dad!" Jim yelled impatiently.

"She let them use you as some kind of guinea pig! They experimented
on you, turned you into some kind of freak, and by the time I learned
about it, it was too late to help you, Jimmy. I'm sorry, son. She--"

"Stop!" Jim ground out. He took a deep breath, nodding as Blair
frantically whispered to him. The hands which had become tight fists as
his father talked, relaxed fractionally. "That still doesn't answer the
question of why I wasn't taken. It seems to me that if I was already
part of the experiment...."

"But not part of that experiment. Externally, the Consortium appeared
as this solid group. Internally, however, there were serious divisions.
Although all reluctantly agreed to the deal with the Colonists, most did
so with the idea of buying time--time to figure out a way to defeat
them. Some thought technology--weapons development and the
like--was the best way to attack the problem. Others started working
on ways of getting around the Colonists' plan of infecting humans with
some kind of virus or something to cleanse the planet of us. A faction
started working on a vaccine. Another bloc, the one Grace was involved
in, thought that a vaccine was a great idea, but might be too long in
coming. So, they focused on saving future generations by creating
resistant offspring."

"A different kind of hybrid," Scully said softly.

"Hybrid, mutant, whatever," William replied sharply. "She played
Frankenstein with my son--" He stopped as Jim abruptly stood and left
the room. A second later, Blair and Simon followed. The older man
looked at his two remaining visitors. "I didn't mean to.... It was a shock
to find out what she had done."

"How did you find out?" Mulder asked, angry on behalf of his newfound
cousin, but determined to get the answers he sought.

"I had decided that Jim was to be the one we sent away. He was a
strong boy, sturdy, more practical than his brother. I was confident
that he would adapt to being without his parents. Grace said no. When
I pushed the issue, she finally had to tell me what was going on...that if
we gave Jim to the Colonists, they would know we had no intention of
submitting to them." William sighed and ran his fingers through his
hair. "I was furious and I kicked her out of the house. I had no wife,
one son who was a monster, and another that I was going to have to
give away."

"But you didn't give him away."

"No. A man came to the house. He told me that if I could keep Jimmy's
talents a secret, then he could work it out where I didn't have to give
up either of the boys. I don't know what he did, but the day came and
went when we were supposed to give over a family member...and no
one came for my boys. Since he had kept his part of the bargain, I kept
mine. I eventually convinced Jimmy to forget all that unnatural stuff he
could do, and he became a normal kid. I--I didn't know he was doing it
again, until that killer came after me last year."

"This man with whom you made the deal. Do you know who it was?"
Mulder asked, with a sinking feeling.

"I never knew his name, but I had seen him at most of the Consortium
functions. He was a tall, thin man. Oh, yeah. He always had a cigarette
in his hand."

Although Mulder had been expecting it, the confirmation that his
nemesis was not only responsible for the destruction of his family, but
that of his extended family as well, was a bit hard to swallow all at once.
He looked at Scully, and nodded. She stood and smiled politely at
William. "Thank you for taking time to answer our questions, Mr. Ellison.
If you think of anything else we should know, we would appreciate it if
you would contact us." She handed him a card. "If it would be all right
with you, we may need to contact you again as well."

"That's fine. I really don't know any more than I've told you. But I have
a question for you."


"Does this have anything to do with the trouble Jimmy's in now, killing
that young man?"

"We're not at liberty to say anything about that, sir."

William appealed to Mulder. "Fox, your father and I, well, we were as
close as brothers at one time. Although that relationship changed and
we grew apart, we were always family.... Whatever help you could give
my Jimmy, I would appreciate it."

"I'll do my best, sir," Mulder replied gravely.

William nodded, and escorted them to the hallway, startled to see his
son leaning against the wall, his friends flanking him on each side. "I
thought you had left, Jimmy."

Jim shrugged. "I gave up running, Dad. It doesn't help, because the
problems just follow. Something you should think about, sir. You have
what you need?" he asked the agents.

"Enough," Scully replied.

"Good. Then we're out of here. Take care, Dad."


"Don't," Jim warned, his jaw quivering as he suppressed his anger.
"Just don't. Not today. Maybe not ever. I'll let you know."

"I love you, Jimmy," William got in stubbornly.

"Even if I've reverted back to the monster I once was?" he said, his
mouth quirking bitterly. He eyed the interior of the house, committing it
to memory since he doubted he would ever see it again. "I love you,
too, Dad. I'm just having trouble liking you." He gathered his friends
with a tilt of his head and walked out.

Chapter Eleven

Just as Simon started down the walk beside Jim, his cell phone rang.
With a muttered curse, he whipped out the object and clicked it on.
"Banks!" he yelled, wishing he could grip William Ellison as tightly as he
was gripping the phone. Preferably somewhere in the neck region. "I'm
on my way," he said a few seconds later. He looked at his friends.
"Brown and Rafe brought in a suspect.... The mall robberies you were

Jim nodded. "You need to be there for the interrogation. Guess we'll
have to bum a ride home. Going our way, cuz?"

Mulder shrugged. "I'm just a passenger. Have to ask the driver."

Scully smiled. "Sure, Jim. I can take you and Blair home. We'll make
Mulder ride in the trunk."

"Just as long as you remember to make air holes this time," her partner

"Well, if you're going to get picky...." Scully turned to the captain. "We'll
make sure they get home, sir."

Simon gave a nod of thanks. "You good, Jim?"

"I'm maintaining, Simon. The old man's still alive, isn't he?"

"You couldn't kill him, Jim." Me, on the other hand....

"Yeah, but there was a time I could actually think about it. Now, I can't
even summon up the energy to do that. Guess I'm mellowing, huh? Or
maybe I'm starting to realize where he's been coming from all these
years, why he--"

"Jim, if you're about to justify that man's behavior, I'm going to deck
you right here, right now," Simon warned.

"And while you're on the ground, I'm going to get in some licks, too,"
Blair promised. "So, if you don't want to give the neighbors a free
show, I think you should just get in the car, Jim."

"I'll stop by later," the captain said, pausing at his car. "And, Jim, from
what we learned, maybe you should turn those senses up a bit for a
while. I don't like that story your father told about some sinister
character with a cigarette."

"We'll be careful, Simon. But that was nearly thirty years ago. He's
probably died of lung cancer by now," Jim pointed out with cheerful

"We wish," Mulder muttered.

Jim shot him a curious glance, but kept his focus on Simon. "Go to
work, sir. We'll be fine. After all, we're in the care of federal agents."

Simon harumphed. "If you're trying to make me feel better, you're
failing, Jim. See you back at the loft."

They watched him drive away, a cigar appearing in his mouth before the
car rolled two feet.

"Mulder, you drive. Jim, you sit up front," Scully ordered briskly as they
approached the rental car.

"My legs thank you," Jim said graciously.

Scully smiled, refraining from saying she thought he could use a little
kindness. His father's attitude had bothered her. Sure, her father had
been strict--what the Navy had taught him about discipline, he had
passed along to his children--but he had never been deliberately cruel.
And despite the fact that she had disappointed him by going into the
FBI instead of becoming a practicing physician, she had always known
he'd loved her. That his ghost had appeared to her to reassure her of
that fact immediately after his death, well...even if it had been a dream,
it had confirmed what she already knew. She wasn't sure what to make
of William Ellison's parting words.

"So, this smoking character Dad mentioned? I sensed you recognized
the description," Jim commented as they piled into the car.

Mulder snorted. "Oh, we recognize him. C.G.B. Spender is an amoral,
sadistic, murdering son of a bitch, and if he protected you, it was for
his own selfish motives."

"He isn't part of the Consortium?"

Another snort. "From their point of view, he was their number one
henchman. From his point of view, they were 'his' people, and he
manipulated and played them with ease. When he became a liability,
they tried to have him killed, but he slipped away, and went into exile.
As he'd known they would, the Consortium eventually realized how
much they needed him. Then he was welcomed back with open arms,
and more power than ever."

"You mentioned he was a murderer. You couldn't find any evidence to
link him to these murders?" Jim asked.

"No. And believe me, we tried...considering two of his victims were my
father and Scully's sister."

"Damn," Blair whispered.

"Not that he was the trigger man," Mulder continued. "No, he had his
boy, Alex Krycek, do his dirty work. That's another bastard you need to
be on the look out for. I'll get some pictures for you."

"Mulder," Blair began, "when you were speaking of this cigarette guy's
relationship to the Consortium, you used the past tense. Why? Has he
branched out on his own?"

"The Consortium, at least a major part of it, is dead," Scully informed
them. "They were murdered as they waited for the Colonists to collect
them for hybridization."

Blair gasped. "They've reached that stage?"

"They had," Scully corrected. "Our scientists had created the perfect
hybrid. Her name was Cassandra Spender."

"Any relation to the smoking Spender?" Jim asked.

"His wife. For twenty-five years he allowed, no, he oversaw her
conversion to a human/alien hybrid. The experiments were painful,
brutal, and her body was abused to the point that she was confined to
a wheelchair. At first, she believed the aliens were sent to help injured
people like herself. After her last abduction, however--"

"Abduction?" Blair asked, paling at the thought. "Are we talking about
the tabloid articles I laugh at as I wait for my groceries to be totaled?"
He shivered uncomfortably. Had he unknowingly laughed at people who
had been tortured? Shit.

Jim sympathized with his partner, but was also aware that the panic
he'd sensed in Scully the first time the word 'abduction' was used, had
returned. "Breathe, Dana," he instructed gently. "We don't have to
discuss this."

"The important part of the discussion," Mulder said quickly, "is that
Cassandra Spender and the technique used to create her, were
destroyed by the Rebels."

"Who the hell are the Rebels?" Jim bellowed in confusion. 

"Aliens who oppose colonization."

"Alien aliens or Colonist aliens who aren't really colonists?" Blair
inquired, eager to sort the players in this "intergalactic" drama.

"We're not sure," Mulder said with a shrug.

Jim had wondered where his breaking point was, and wasn't too
surprised to find he'd reached it. "You know, Slick, I'm getting pretty
damned tired of this 'we're not sure' shit. There was a Consortium, but
you're 'not sure' if it's still in existence. There are Colonists, greys,
shape-shifters, clones, and now Rebels, but you're 'not sure' if they are
the same aliens or different ones. Just what the fuck are you sure of?"

"I'm pretty fucking sure the world as we know it will come to an end if
these aliens aren't stopped. And I'm pretty fucking sure that somehow
you are key to ending this shit one way or another," Mulder snarled

"Well, hell, why didn't you just say so, Cousin Mulder?" Jim drawled
sarcastically. "You can stop all this worrying. Keeping the world from
ending is my forte, isn't that right, Chief? Just as long as it doesn't
involve me holding on to my gun. Damn thing gets slippery at times.
But saving the world? I can do that. After all, I'm a Sentinel, right?
Sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell...everything every good world-saving
hero needs. Did you remember to get my spare cape from the cleaners,
Sandburg? The other one is getting kind of rank."

"Hear that, Scully? We can go home now. Super Jim is on the job,"
Mulder said acridly. "Just think of all the pain we could have been spared
if we had just known who to call. No lost family members, no lost jobs,
no lost you--"

"What does that mean?" Jim demanded to know. "You lost your

"She was taken, just like Samantha--" Mulder realized what he was
revealing and stopped, his eyes going to the rearview mirror to seek

"Go on, Mulder," she said quietly. "You're the one who said that we
need to arm them with the truth. Well, the truth of the matter is that I
was abducted and for three months, I was poked, prodded, and...."

"You don't have to say anything else, Scully," her partner urged.

She gave a half shrug. "Full disclosure time, Mulder. There was a device
which extracted my ova so that they could be used for experimental
purposes as well. As a result, I can't have children."

"Where the hell were you while this was going on?" Jim asked Mulder

"Doing everything in my power to get her back," Mulder spat out in
reply. Then he just sighed. "Admittedly, that boiled down to the
equivalence of beating my head against a stone wall."

"You found her," Jim said, realizing he had no right to be angry. Not
when he'd let his own partner be killed by another Sentinel. "Obviously
the pounding caused a crack somewhere."

"I didn't find her. She was 'returned to me' because, according to
him--the unofficial spokesman for the tobacco industry--he liked me. I
did nothing."

"You gave me the strength of your belief, Mulder," Scully said gently.
"That was what brought me back, not just my body."

Jim cleared his throat noisily. "When we were in Wyoming, you
understood when the child's death shook me. Did it have something to
do with what was done to you?" Jim asked, remembering seeing
something painful in her eyes.

"A few months before we met, I discovered a three-year-old child that I
thought belonged to my late sister. Instead, she belonged to
of my eggs. Her name was Emily, and she died due to a tumor which
leaked a green secretion."

Jim closed his eyes. "I'm sorry," he mumbled. "I'm sorry about your
daughter. And I'm sorry for acting like an ass. You have both sacrificed
a lot for this cause...and I'm just sitting here, bitching and feeling sorry
for myself. Whatever I can do to help you find answers, to help you end
this threat, just let me know."

"That goes for me as soon as I go get his cape from the
cleaners, that is. I knew there was something I kept forgetting to do,"
Blair added, planting his tongue firmly in his cheek.

"A good sidekick is so hard to find," Jim said, shaking his head in
amused disgust.

"Hey, Scully?" Blair asked with a conspiratorial grin. "Do you know why
we're called sidekicks?"

"Tell me," she said, glad for the mood lightener. She had noticed they
were good at this; injecting humor before the discussion got too bleak.
Sort of reminded her of Mulder's wisecracks...which she often felt
herself waiting on.

"Because that's where we stand to give them that swift kick in the butt
when they need it."

"So, why don't we stand behind them? The target would be much
bigger that way," Scully observed, like a good straight man.

"Where would be the skill in that? We have to have something more to
do, my fellow 'faithful companion,' than pick up dropped guns, take out
the bad guys they don't seem to notice, and apologize for the mess
they leave in their wake."

She stared at him. "Are you sure you've never worked with Mulder?"

"Nah. But they're family. Probably in the blood." 

Scully nodded in concurrence.

"I think, Cousin Jim, that we have been insulted," came the comment
from the front seat.

"I think, Cousin Mulder, that I don't have to be a Sentinel to figure that
one out."

The rental car pulled up at the back of the loft in case a reporter or two
hadn't gotten bored yet. "You guys want to come up?" Blair asked as
he slid out of the car.

"We have some leads we want to check out," Scully said as she moved
from the back seat to the front.

"That's cool. Drop by if you want to do dinner. Probably take-out this

"Oh, you mean Mulder's version of home cooking," Scully teased.

"Listen to the Julia Child of TV dinners," Mulder smirked. "First, you
remove the plastic wrap. Then you insert the container in the microwave
very carefully," he said in a shaky falsetto voice.

"Picture this, Mulder. Washington, D.C. Skinner's office. Him raking you
over the coals. You in desperate need of backup." She gave him an evil

"I'm sure if Scully had the time, she would be an excellent cook," he
amended quickly.

Blair patted her hand. "I'll give you a few foolproof five-minute recipes
before you leave. Jim and I have quick-cooking down to an art form
since we never know when Simon is going to call, sending us out on an

"That's something we don't have to worry about at the moment, Chief,"
Jim remarked sardonically.

"No, your worries are much worse," Mulder said. "In the spirit of this full
disclosure pact we've made, I think you should know that the letters
were given to me by a fellow agent posthumously. His name was Jeffrey

"Another relative of you-know-who?" Blair asked hollowly.

"His son. He found the letters in his father's things and somehow
arranged for them to be delivered to me."

"Posthumous? How did he die?"

"He was found shot to death in his office at the Bureau."

"So you have the shooter." The FBI building had to be one of the most
heavily-secured facilities in the country.

"No," Mulder said, speaking volumes with that single word.

"His own son?" Blair questioned with a dry throat.

"He is extremely dangerous. The words, 'Stop, police!' have no meaning
for him. Don't waste your breath."

"Why is this man still alive?" Jim asked, staring directly into his cousin's
hazel eyes.

"Because I think he would be more dangerous dead."

Understanding flared between the two men. 

"We'll be careful," Jim vowed. He shut the car door as Scully settled into
the passenger seat. "You two do the same."

"We will."

Chapter Twelve

"You okay?" Mulder asked softly as they headed back to their hotel.

"Yes. I was just thinking about what William Ellison told us. It's hard to
believe scientists were engaging in genetic engineering that many years
ago. It's even harder to believe that they could have succeeded so well.
Their technique, their equipment, had to be quite crude."

"Perhaps not. Remember, the aliens probably supplied them with the
technology in order to hasten their own hybridization plan. Even so,
their success with Ellison.... I believe it was a fluke. If it hadn't been,
then there should be several more of him out there and so far, he's the
only Sentinel we've stumbled upon."

"According to Blair's research, he's had contact with dozens of people
having one or two heightened senses, but only two who have had all
five. Perhaps the others are 'failed' experiments."

"Two with five? Who is the other one?"

"That woman they mentioned when they listed who knew Jim was a

"The one in the nuthouse?"

"I'm sure the Association of Psychology and Psychiatry would take you
to task for using such terminology, but for expediency's sake, yes,
Mulder, the one in the nuthouse."

"Hmm. Think you can get a look at her records?"

"It is a correctional facility. My badge number should allow me access."
So, she knew how she was going to spend her afternoon. "What about
you? What are you planning to do?"

"Pass on what we've learned to Frohike, Byers and Langley. See if they
have anything on early genetic experiments in their databanks." The
three men, known as the Lone Gunmen, were experts on government
conspiracies, cover-ups and corruption. It was their life's work.

"Why? Isn't Jim proof that the experiments occurred?"

"We're missing something here, Scully. Ellison is a Sentinel. We know
that. Cancer Man knows that. The knowledge explains why he protected
the family. But it doesn't explain why Ellison has been left alone until
now. Why have there been no additional tests done on him? Why
hasn't he been taken to a facility to complete his hybridization? Why
hasn't he been taken to have his DNA extracted and examined? Okay,
he wasn't part of the experiments that the Colonists knew about, but
we know the Consortium has its own labs, its own people. Why isn't my
cousin locked away somewhere and strapped to a table? Cancer Man is
protecting him from more than the Colonists, Scully. I need to know

"Then what?" she asked.

"As my cousin fondly pointed out, I'm not fucking sure of anything,
Scully. All I can do is keep on digging and hope the pit doesn't get too


After returning a call to a fellow grad student, Blair found Jim on the
balcony. He knew the Sentinel often went out there to look over his
city, commune with his tribe. Although he had tested all of Jim's
senses, the anthropologist often wondered just how much Jim saw and
heard when he stood there, so focused, so alert.... "How's the tribe?"
he asked as he joined his partner.

"Nothing out of the ordinary. Which is good, considering their Sentinel
is incapable of helping them."

"They merely took away your gun, Jim. It's never been your best
weapon, anyway."

"They also took away my badge. I have no authority."

"Your authority has nothing to do with a badge. It is part of who you
are," Blair protested.

"No. Not who I am, but what I was created to be." He looked at his
partner in horror. "God, Blair, what does this mean for your
dissertation? You certainly can't put into your paper that my DNA was
manipulated by alien technology. Hell, am I even an anthropology
project anymore? I'm not some prehistoric throwback, but a product of
a lab."

Blair shook his head. "Man, with all the shit that has been thrown your
way this week, all you can worry about is my dissertation?"

"It matters, doesn't it?"

"Your survival matters, Jim. We have way more important things to
discuss than my diss, man. Your mind was tampered with. You nearly
died twice--first because of the overdose, then the mix-up at the
hospital, which I'm starting to believe was no mix-up at all. Has
someone started investigating that E.R. doctor?"

"Simon has Rafe doing a discreet background check."

"Discreet? Why?" Rafe was a good detective, but even the best would
be hampered by that term.

"Because it's not really a case, Chief. As far as everyone is concerned, it
was a simple medical mishap. They happen; that's why doctors have
malpractice insurance."

"This wasn't malpractice, Jim. I'm convinced someone tried to murder
you, and if I hadn't been there to--"

"But you were there, Chief. You were there, in their way, at every turn.
Who knows what else I would have done if you hadn't arrived right
after I killed Johnson. For all we know, I could have been programmed
to go on some wild shooting rampage. But there's no way their
programming could ever undo the power of yours."

"Mine? You make it sound as if I've brainwashed you or something,
man," Blair said, laughing, but concerned at the same time.

"Whatever, Chief."

"No, no, Jim. You can't say stuff like that, then wave it away. Are you
accusing me of something?"

"It's not an accusation. It's just a statement of the way things are. I
listen to you. My mind listens to you. You say, 'filter this or that out,' I
filter it out. You say, 'dial it down,' I dial it down. If I zone, you call me
back. You've conditioned me to respond to your voice. It's nothing to
get upset over."

Shit. Jim was right. For three years, he had been steadily programming
the Sentinel. He punished Jim when he disobeyed him, praised him
when he did as told. His technique had been classic, simple but
effective. You have a problem with your senses? Come to me, Jim. I'll
make everything better. I'm the only one who can make things better.
I can make the pain go away.... God, had that conditioning made Jim
even more susceptible to the mind control device? "I have brainwashed
you," he said hollowly.

"For my own good."

How many people caught up in cults used that statement as a mantra?
"I think I'm going to be sick."

Jim sighed. Sometimes Blair was so naive. "Listen, Chief, whatever
you've done, whatever you think you've done, it was with my full
consent. That's more than I can say about the other things that have
been done to me."

It was at times like this that he was most aware of the differences
between them. It wasn't about generational gaps, educational pursuits,
or body types. It was about life experiences...and sociological
expectations. "The idea that the government, or some faction thereof,
has the ability to control someone's mind doesn't shock you in the
least, does it?"

"It has always been a desired goal of those in power."

"Tell me what does shock you about all this, Jim? That extraterrestrials
actually exist? That these aliens are planning to colonize the planet?
That you were part of secret experiments to thwart this colonization?
That your mother allowed--hell, volunteered you for--these
experiments?" Blair questioned. "Or does none of this shock you? This
is all okey-dokey from your point of view?"

Jim closed his eyes and took stock of himself. "None of it is okay, Chief.
But I can't say it's a shock. I've known I wasn't normal for a long time.
That my abilities come from medical manipulation is just as plausible as
your genetic explanation. That my mother allowed this to be done to
me? I never knew her well enough to have an opinion on her one way or
the other. That there are indeed E.T.s? I've seen enough to believe
almost anything. That they want to colonize the planet? I kinda like the
earth, Chief. I can see why they would like it, too."

Blair laughed. "You are such a piece of work, man. Nothing fazes you,
does it? I don't think I've ever been as wrong as I was when I first met
you. Here you were, what I suspected was the answer to my dreams,
and I remember thinking it was going to be a bitch to get you to believe
me. You were so ultra-right wing, so stiff, so close-minded. I told
myself you accepted my story because you were scared, because you
were desperate. Hell, even you allowing me to move in here was, in my
opinion, your way of maintaining control over the situation. But it was
none of those things, was it? I, who have haunted a thousand
libraries--picked up books no one has read for years, and blown off
dust two inches thick--I judged a book by its cover. I took in your buzz
cut and badge, and missed everything else."

"You missed nothing, Chief. I am a hard ass, anal-minded, control
freak. Don't let distance color your memories."

"The man you are describing would have either cracked up, or closed
himself off completely by now. He would not be living with a long-haired
roommate and having rational discussions about aliens."

"You changed him."

Blair shook his head. "He never would have let me close enough to
change him."

Jim shrugged. "Even Frankenstein's monster saw the beauty in the
flower, Chief. Maybe all monsters can."

"Jim, remember when you came to my office for that first meeting and
you jacked me up against the wall?" Blair asked softly. 

Jim nodded, his face flushed with embarrassment. He had been so out
of control that day.

"Call yourself a monster again and it'll be you pressed up against the
wall. Do you understand?"

"My father--"

"Your father is an asshole. I honestly thought it would be better for you
to get to know him, to work out the unresolved anger you have toward
him. But I was wrong. He doesn't deserve you."

"But look where he's coming from, Chief. My mom had me
experimented on without his knowledge. No wonder he distanced
himself from me."

"You're forgetting the fact that he had planned to give you away before
he even found out about that," Blair said flatly, before he thought
through his statement. The pain that flared briefly in his partner's eyes
made him curse himself. "Of course, from the Consortium's point of
view, it was an honor to be chosen," he said quickly, trying to make up
for his blunder.

"Yeah, I guess I was Dad's prize horse," Jim said dryly. "How did he put
it? I was a strong, sturdy, practical boy...."


"Yeah, Chief?"

"I would never choose to give you up."

Jim clasped his shoulder gratefully. "I know, but," he cocked his head to
one side, listening to the street below, "you're going to have to...for a
little while, anyway."

"What are you talking about, Jim?" Blair asked anxiously.

Jim just gave him a sad smile. "Let's go answer the door."

"Who's there?"

"Detectives Wallace and Milligan."

Blair paled. The two homicide detectives working the Johnson case.
"Why are they here?"

"You know why, Chief."


Jim patted his shoulder. "Call Simon. Tell him what's happening. He has
the number of the union representative who sat in on my last
questioning session."

"Is this what's going on, Jim? Are you being taken in for questioning
again?" Blair asked hopefully.

Jim shook his head and opened the door. The two men took a step
back from where they were preparing to knock. "Hey, guys. Come on
in," Jim invited.

"Uh, Ellison...we're sorry about this," Milligan mumbled.

"It's okay. Let's just get it over with."

Wallace nodded. "Jim Ellison, you are under arrest for the murder of
Jerome Johnson. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right
to an attorney. If you cannot afford one...."

Blair blanked out the rest as he numbly reached for the phone. Just as
Simon answered, Blair saw Jim extend his wrists. "No," he cried. "You
don't need the cuffs. He's not resisting."

Jim shook his head. "It's okay, Chief. Everything has to be by the book.
It's okay. Be careful, all right? If you feel at all spooked, go to Simon, or
to Mulder and Scully. This is the worst part about all this--leaving you

"Don't worry about me, Jim. I've learned a thing or two about watching
my back," he said reassuringly.

"Then I'll worry about Simon, then. If you don't answer him, he's going
to have a stroke. Let's get this show on the road, detectives."

"Sandburg, what's going on! If you don't--"

Blair put the phone up to his ear as the door closed. "Simon, they've
just arrested Jim. We need your help."

Chapter Thirteen

Scully recognized the knock, but looked out the peephole, anyway.
"Come on in, Mulder," she said, and went back to her paper-strewn
bed. "I received the information on the other Sentinel, Alex Barnes."
She organized a set of pages, and handed them to him.

He flipped through them as he plopped onto the bed and adjusted the

"Make yourself comfortable, why don't you?" she murmured dryly.

"Add a little more perkiness and a string of pearls, and maybe I'll
nominate you for the June Cleaver Good Hostess Award," he offered as
he kicked off his shoes and crossed his feet. 

"It's truly sad how cable has corrupted impressionable minds."

"I'm a Nick at Nite man, Scully, and proud of it." He frowned as he
scanned. "This says Ellison and Sandburg were the ones to bring her
down. What happened to that full disclosure clause we had going with

"Blair let me have his notes, so I doubt if they were trying to keep
anything from us. I think it's a subject they're uncomfortable discussing



He did. "This Barnes woman is aggressive in sort of a Xena-type way,
huh?" he observed as he flipped to the next page.

"Mulder, if you're expecting me to question you about your knowledge
of Xena: Warrior Woman, you are sadly mistaken. Whatever exotic,
erotic, and definitely perverted fantasies you and your friends have
concocted about Xena, Gabrielle, molded breastplates, and weird
metallic skirts are safe from my prying mind."

"Princess," he muttered sullenly. He had been looking forward to
sharing with her. "It's Xena: Warrior Princess," he corrected, focusing
on the paper in front of him. Then suddenly he looked up and grinned.
"Hey, Scully? How do you know so much about those metallic skirts?"

She grabbed another file, the one on Grace Ellison. "Shut up and read."

With a chuckle, he perused further. "She tried to drown Sandburg?"

"She did drown him. He was revived at the scene."

"Traumatic, but no more so than what we've divulged," he argued, still
miffed by the omission.

"And if we had thought to bring our files, at least the ones which
survived the fire, would we have told our experiences, or let them read
about them for themselves?"

He shrugged, hating when she was right. "You sidekicks are certainly a
plucky lot, aren't you?" he observed, deftly changing topics.
"Sandburg's barely 'undrowned' before he joins Ellison and Banks in
Mexico on the trail of Barnes. Wait a minute. Where's the rest of the
report? There are no details here, Scully. This just says she was
apprehended and the nerve gas she'd stolen--nerve gas? What a
gal!--had been safely confiscated. But how did they get her? This was
Sentinel versus Sentinel. Did Ellison have an advantage because of his
Guide? Why was Barnes catatonic when the local officials arrived? Why
is she still barely functional?"

"That's all the official information there is. We'll have to ask the rest
personally." She scribbled down the questions. "There was something I
was planning to ask Jim, anyway."

"Isn't it too soon to ask him to wear your pin? He might think you too
forward," he commented gravely.

She counted to ten, then ignored him. "I'd like to get a tissue sample,
try for a DNA comparison between him and Barnes."

"It really bothers you, doesn't it, that they were able to affect their DNA
thirty odd years ago?"

"Yes. Even with the technology available now, creating a specialized
individual such as a Sentinel should be decades away. Look how long it
took them to perfect Cassandra Spender. Something's just not right,

His hazel eyes grew determined. "We came to Cascade for answers,
Scully. I don't plan on leaving until we get them."

Scully nodded, wondering if she should go ahead and have her mail


"You know they made it a rule that an officer can't be processed at his
own precinct," Milligan said apologetically as they pulled up in front of
the Western District station.

"I read the memo," Jim said. The procedure was part of the new
anti-corruption laws the city had implemented. Processing an officer in
his/her own precinct could lead to a) deferential treatment by friends
and colleagues or b) vengeful treatment by the above mentioned,
depending on the nature of the crime committed. 

"Um, right. I guess you did, Detective," the young man mumbled in

"He's got a bad case of hero worship," Wallace whispered to Jim as his
partner approached the front desk. "He just got transferred to
Homicide, and now his dream is to make it to the Major Crime Unit."

"Looks like they might have an opening soon," Jim joked grimly.

Wallace stared at him in consternation. He'd heard that among all the
prima donnas in Major Crime, Ellison was the queen. But he had seen
no evidence of that during the previous interrogations, and even now,
at a time when a hissy fit wouldn't be out of order, Ellison was
accepting his situation with grace. He shook his head. Rumors weren't
worth the breath spent spreading them. "For what it's worth, Ellison,
we were strong-armed into making an arrest. Our boss dumped on us
because his boss dumped on him, and so on, and so on...." Brown
eyes twinkled. "So, you been sleeping with the mayor and piss her off,
or what?"

"Told her that her husband had better legs than she did," Jim

Wallace howled with laughter. "Maybe I should try to get transferred to
Major Crime myself. You guys are a hoot. Come on, let's get you to

Jim reached out with his cuffed hands to tug on Wallace's sleeve. "Hey,
Wallace, do me a favor?" he asked softly.

The detective looked around nervously. "If I can."

"Don't let them make this too easy."

Wallace narrowed his eyes. "Are you withholding evidence?"

Jim gave a bitter chuckle. "I wish I had evidence to withhold. Just be
careful about what you discount as irrelevant.... And just be careful in
general, okay? I'm not sure if the powers involved recognize or respect
police authority."

Wallace paled and led his prisoner to an alcove off the main hall.
Everyone knew Ellison had been some kind of commando in the military.
If some of that shit was following him.... "I have a daughter graduating
from college in May. Is there a chance I won't be at her graduation?"

Jim looked at him, his blue eyes filled with knowledge, old and sad. "If
someone else wants this case, let them have it."

"You think--"

"I don't know."

"Shit. Milligan isn't going to want to let it go.... I don't think I want to
let it go," he admitted reluctantly. He'd gone into police work to help
people, but that enthusiasm had faded away after his ninth or tenth
child homicide case. For the past fifteen years, he had reported to work
and solved cases because that was what he was paid to do. The cases
had become as automatic as his bi-weekly fucks with his wife...basically
doing what came naturally without any extra bells and whistles. There
had been a prick of anticipation when this murder was dropped onto his
desk, but he had attributed that to his new, young, gung-ho partner.
But, no, it was more than that, wasn't it? It had something to do with a
cop being accused...and knowing in his gut that the man was innocent.
When was the last time he'd cared about innocence or guilt? Just as
long as it looked good in the reports....

Jim read the look in Wallace's eyes, and shook his head. "Nah, man.
This isn't the case to rekindle your fires on. I'm sure some serial killer
will come to town--knowing Cascade, that will be sooner rather than
later--and then you can catch the fever again," he urged.

The detective sighed, knowing it was too late to turn back. He signaled
for his partner. "Milligan, let's go. We have cases to solve." He glanced
at Jim speculatively. "This is the way you feel every time you go out on
a case, isn't it?"

"Pretty much."

Wallace nodded toward his partner. "The kid may make the Major Crime
Unit after all."

Jim thought about the pair of Homicide detectives as he waited to be
booked. Was that the way he and Blair appeared to outsiders? The
senior partner gruff and resigned, the junior partner anxious and
eager? Maybe. Maybe not. There were the subtle differences that
Wallace had noticed. Like Jim still believing in the good of what he was
doing. He couldn't picture coming to work without that belief. He
wouldn't go to work without it. Hell, if that point ever came, he would
simply quit, and find some other way to protect the tribe....

Was that what everything in his life came down to? Protecting the tribe?
That was Blair's theory, but that was when he thought Jim had been
born a Sentinel, not created in some la-bor-a-tory...cackling scientist
and lightning included.... Geesh, Ellison. Get a grip. You told the kid it
didn't matter how you came to be. But it does, doesn't it? A recessive
gene turning on is one thing; somebody fooling around with your DNA,
the essence of what you are, is another.... God, Mom. It would help to
know what you were thinking. Were you honestly trying to save my
life, or did you just conveniently have a baby that you let them
borrow? When did the experimenting start? When I was born? In
utero? In vitro? No! I wasn't a test tube baby...was I? No wonder Dad
didn't want anything to do with me.

He leaned his head back against the wall and tried to direct his thoughts
elsewhere. That was the problem with boredom--it led to wild,
unfettered bouts of thinking, which generally wasn't a good thing, in his
opinion. An idle mind was even worse than idle hands.... He sent his
senses out and discovered that his fellow prisoners, three of them
seated in the row of bolted down chairs he occupied, were just as
bored as he was. Maybe that was the reason criminals were inclined to
talk after they had been booked...not because they were scared, or
that the booking made the experience "real" to them (the
psychologists' favorite explanation), but simply because they were
bored out of their minds, and talking to anyone was a relief. He'd have
to remember this the next time he had an interrogation. He'd just
threaten to send the perp back down to booking and--wham!--instant

Jim smiled, picturing Blair's face when he passed along that little insight.
Blair. He was certainly missing his partner at the moment. Right about
now, the anthropologist would be in the middle of his third story about
some tongue-twister of a tribe, which lived in some back corner of
some tongue-twister of a country.... Jim had been casually cataloging
the stories during stakeouts, and had yet to find any repeats. It was
truly amazing. But that was true of everything about Blair--

"I said on your feet!" A hand reached out and roughly pulled him
upright. "You aren't in your ivory tower now, Detective!" the officer
said, loud enough that the other prisoners looked suspiciously at Jim.
"Down here you're just another maggot we have to process. You got

Jim fought not to pull away from the harsh grip bruising his arm as he
was led into the next room. He wasn't going to be pushed into
anything physical. He had expected that someone was going to
challenge him, challenge a Major Crime detective. Some officers,
especially those at the other precincts who had no direct contact with
the men and women of Major Crime, considered the unit to be a bunch
of elitist snobs because they got to pick and choose their own
assignments (well, at least Simon got to choose). That the "chosen"
cases were usually horrific in nature didn't appease the disgruntled few,
so he was quite familiar with the attitudes, rumors, and innuendoes.
But since all he wanted to do was get through the booking, and into an
isolated cell (he was a cop, which everyone now knew) where he could
just turn everything down until his friends got him out on bail or
whatever, he swallowed his anger at the rough handling.

A miniature white board was shoved into his cuffed hands, and he
obediently displayed his booking number as he faced right, then left. He
was ordered to face the camera, and prepared himself for the flash. But
his eyes couldn't adjust quickly enough as the bulb exploded, sending
out a sharp flare of intense light.

Jim Ellison's world went white. 

He reacted automatically, one hand flying up to cover his eyes, the
other reaching out to steady himself in his new world. But his hands
were cuffed together and the conflicting signals, plus the panic of not
being able to see, caused him to stumble forward drunkenly. People
started yelling and he tried to tell them he couldn't see, but his senses
danced out of control, his hearing coming and going erratically. He
couldn't tell if he was talking, or if anyone was listening.

Something contacted painfully against his wrist, and oddly enough, the
pain gave him back his focus. Before he could explain the situation
coherently, he was hit behind his knees. He crashed to the floor, his
cuffed wrists unable to break the fall. He fell on his side, then was
slammed onto his back. Still blinded, he sensed a blow coming and tried
to roll away from it, but he was held steady. Gasping as the strike
landed, he felt something in his chest give way. 

His self-defenses kicked in and he fought back, despite the wrist
restraints. But it was a battle he was destined to lose. The blows
continued to fall until he was in too much pain to do anything more
than put his arms out to protect his head. Even that much was lost to
him as an object pressed against his throat. He struggled against the
pressure weakly, but he knew the fight was over.

Jim Ellison's white world...went black.

Chapter Fourteen

"What do you mean you can't find any record? According to the
arresting officers, my client was brought to this precinct to be booked
and processed," Robert Cagney said firmly. "You have five minutes to
produce that paperwork and him, or I won't be responsible for what
happens next!"

"You threatening me, Counselor?" the desk sergeant sneered.

Cagney sighed. He had hoped that what sounded like a problem over
the phone would be cleared up easily in person. However, being an ever
practical man, he had brought back up just in case. He glanced over at
the group by the door, and shook his head. Who was he kidding? He
hadn't invited them along; they had told him they were coming. "With
me is a police captain, two federal officers, and my client's partner. They
don't have much patience left."

"Partner?" the sergeant said disgustedly. If the lawyer had meant the
chick in the tailored suit, he would have said girlfriend or wife. That

"Partner," Cagney said. "Detectives have them," he reminded the
uniformed idiot.

"Detective?" The man paled. He hadn't been on duty when the missing
man had been brought in. He didn't know this was about a fellow cop....
Shit. Where the hell was that blotter?

"Are we still having a problem?" Blair asked as he impatiently crossed
the room.

"The officer can't find the paperwork on Detective Ellison," Cagney

"Then just find Detective Ellison. You can solve your paperwork
problems later," Blair said crisply.

"You have no right--" the sergeant began distractedly as he looked
around for the forms. Suddenly, he found himself nose-to-nose with a
man who had chestnut curls and fierce blue eyes.

"Detective Ellison has the right to see his attorney, his captain, the
federal agents who are working his case, and me, his partner and legal
next of kin. He also has the right to due process, which appears to be
sorely lacking in this pitiful excuse of a police department. So, forget
talking about that which you have no knowledge of, and produce the
whereabouts of Jim Ellison!" Blair tugged on the handful of shirt
clutched in his fist, just to let the sergeant know he meant business.

"I couldn't have said it better myself, Mr. Sandburg," a voice said, and
he and Cagney turned to see Judge Mary Lessane standing behind

Cagney was impressed. When he had subtly suggested that Sandburg
and Banks might want to call in a few favors, just in case, he hadn't
known they had this much influence. Judge "Insane" Lessane was a
legend in Cascade. A stickler for procedure and protocol, she was the
cause of many a nightmare for the cops and prosecutors throughout
the district.

"I...I'll call down to Booking and see what the problem is," the sergeant
stammered nervously.

"I already know what the problem is," the judge said coolly. She looked
at Blair fondly as the sergeant made his call. "As soon as this imbecile
finds the detective, we'll start working on getting him out of here. I see
just cause for rescinding this arrest."

"Thank you, Judge Lessane," Blair said gratefully. "I truly hated calling
you at this hour, but...."

She patted his shoulder. "Think nothing of it. Your partner is an
exemplary detective. He has never come into my courtroom less than
one-hundred percent prepared, regardless of the acrobatics of certain
defense attorneys. If we had more policemen like him, the judicial
system would be greatly served."

"Uh, ma'am," the desk sergeant interrupted anxiously. "There was an
incident during Booking procedures and uh, the prisoner had to be

"Subdued? What the hell does that mean?" Blair demanded.

"What kind of incident?" the judge asked.

"Apparently the officers thought he was trying to go for a weapon

"Preposterous!"Judge Lessane shouted.

"Bullshit!" Blair yelled at the same time.

"What's going on, Sandburg!" Simon bellowed, hearing the panic and
anger in the observer's voice.

"They're claiming Jim went for an officer's gun!"

Simon glared at the sergeant through his glasses. "Where is my man?"

The sergeant visibly quaked. "Lock-up."

"He's with the general population?" Simon asked, his voice rising in

"Ye...yes, sir. The paperwork was lost in the mayhem and--"

"Shit," Cagney muttered and started down the corridor, which was
familiar to anyone who worked for the defense. The others were close
on his heels. The desk sergeant, desperate to keep his job, called
ahead, so that they weren't stopped.

Blair pushed past the attorney and scanned the large cell. Thankfully, it
had been a slow night at the precinct. Only five prisoners lounged in the
cell. No Jim. He turned to question the accompanying officer, but saw a
dark lump out of the corner of his eye. He looked closer, and
recognized a certain pair of white socks. But the man himself, huddled
against the bars on the left side of the cell, had a shirt or something
tossed over him. "Jim?" he whispered. The figure shifted. That was all
the confirmation he needed. "Open the cell," he demanded.

"I--" the officer began.

"Do it!" Lessane and Simon ordered together.

Blair fell to his knees before the figure and reached for the shirt. "He
said the light was hurting his eyes, man," one of the other prisoners
told him. "I had a pet bird once and we used to cover his cage, so I

Blair nodded. "You did all right, man," he called, then focused
completely on Jim. "Jim, it's Blair. Can you hear me?" he asked softly.

"Chief?" The sounds were sibilant, as if he was straining to say them.

"Yeah, it's me, man. You got a problem with your eyes?"


Blair cursed. "I need you to dial it way down, so I can check them. Can
you do that?" The figure nodded. Carefully, Blair removed the shirt,
tossing it toward the prisoner who had spoken. Jim sat before him, his
head bowed and his eyes closed.

"Can I help, Blair?" Scully asked, squatting down next to him.

"A flashbulb exploded." He looked at the slim figure. "He's very
'sensitive' to light," he reminded her.

She nodded. "Jim, can you open your eyes?"

"Way down, partner," Blair coached.

Jim batted his eyes several times, then managed to keep them open for
a few seconds.

"What do you see?" Scully asked.

"Whiteness. Some dark shadows," Jim rasped. His eyes closed. "Hurts."

"We'll make them feel better soon," Scully promised. His hoarseness
bothered her. "Jim, can you raise your head for a minute?"

Blair gasped at the bruised throat Jim displayed. His eyes grazed the
cell accusingly.

"Don't look at us," the outspoken prisoner said. "They dumped him in
here in that condition."

"Exigent circumstances being what they are," Judge Lessane said,
startling them with her closeness, "I hereby release this prisoner. Get
him to a hospital." 

She stepped back as Simon joined them. "He's still in cuffs," the big
man said in disbelief, reaching for his own keys.

"I'm a Major Crime detective," Jim whispered bitterly. "That makes me a
dangerous criminal." He winced as the handcuffs were carefully
removed. He suspected that his wrist, as well as a rib, had been

"Oh, they haven't seen dangerous," Simon warned. "Where else are you
hurt, Jim? Is it okay to move you?"

"Just be gentle with me," Jim quipped, feeling better now that the
cavalry had arrived.

"It's apparent someone wasn't," the captain said fiercely.

"Don't worry about that, Captain Banks," Judge Lessane said, her
admiration for the detective growing as he was helped to his feet
without so much as a grunt passing his lips, although she could tell he
was in considerable pain. "Lady Justice carries a huge sword, and I
guarantee you that heads will roll tonight."

"Thank you, ma'am," Jim croaked in her direction.

"Concentrate on getting well, Detective. That's an order."

Despite the pain, Jim had to smile. He truly liked the judge. Others
considered her to be a pain in the ass, but he admired her dedication to
order and control. Blair said they were both cut from the same cloth,
and that was the reason the judge always treated him like a son. Of
course, after what he'd learned earlier in the day, he wished she had
been his mother.

"I'm going to stay here and help Judge Lessane," Cagney informed
them. "She may want heads, but I want asses."

"They have enough of them around here," Blair observed angrily. He,
too, wanted a piece of the officers who had done this to Jim, but his
first duty was to his Sentinel. "Jim, I want you to take my arm. It'll be
easier to lead you that way."

Jim reached out until his hand settled firmly on his partner. Blair was
right; everything was easier now.


"This is unacceptable." He took a bored drag of his cigarette, then
tapped the ashes to the floor.

"You wanted him arrested."

"But I specifically said he was not to be injured."

"There were complications." The explanation was accompanied by a
shrug. He knew it was probably a mistake to be so cocky in this man's
presence, but he had already been paid. Their deal was concluded.

"In your business, there shouldn't be any complications. In my opinion,
I have not received the services I paid for."

Laughter. "Well, if you're looking for a refund, you came to the wrong
place. I have done everything I was ordered to do. Just because I failed
to meet every one of your specifications--"

"Meeting specifications is intrinsic in this business. I'm surprised you
have lasted this long without that knowledge. That will now change."

"You threatening me, man? I have contacts, you know."

"So do I. In fact, I have one here now. Mr. Krycek?"

A shadow detached itself from the ones clinging to the walls. It stuck
out its hand. "Hi. My name is Alex Krycek."

There was something boyishly charming about the man...until the light
hit his eyes, and was instantly absorbed by their dark depths.

One man dropped a cigarette butt, and walked away. Another smiled as
if he had received a new toy. The third shivered, and realized the first
man had been right; specifications really should have been met.

Chapter Fifteen

William Ellison poured himself another scotch, and made a mental note
to replenish his alcohol supply as soon as the stores opened the next
day. He had been quietly drinking since his son and his friends,
including the long-lost cousin, had left. It had been a shock to see Bill's
son standing in his home. He and his cousin had parted on less than
congenial terms. No. That wasn't true. They had parted because it was
necessary. It was the only way for both men to protect their own.

That was what their grandfather had taught them during the long
summers when he demanded his grandsons be brought to him. The old
man had gone to great lengths to make sure they understood the
principle of looking out for Number One, pitting them against each other
in order to strengthen their sense of self-worth. He'd even made them
compete for his fortune. That was why the Ellison branch of the family
had gotten the bulk of the Endicott estate, while the Mulder branch had
received just enough that they couldn't bring suit. It had truly worked
out for the best; he had been a far better business man than Bill.

He'd tried to use the technique on his own sons...but it hadn't worked
the way it should have. Stephen played the game willingly enough, but
Jimmy had a distinct distaste for it--which was probably why the older
boy hadn't gone into business. How ironic. Business had been too
cutthroat for Jimmy, so he'd joined the Army--only to be sucked into
some of their darkest dealings. William smiled. Must have taught him
something after all.... Still, it had been a bitter pill to swallow, that his
son had eschewed all the advantages he had given him and run away to
the Army. Even harder to take was the fifteen years of silence between
them. He still believed all of his eldest son's peculiarities stemmed from
what his mother did to him, and although Grace was long dead, he still
couldn't forgive her for her actions.

"What do you mean we can't give Jimmy to the Group? He's the one
best suited for that kind of life," he argued.

Grace crossed her arms stubbornly. "Jimmy can't go."

"Why? Because you've spoiled the child rotten? That's the best reason
to send him away. You have those apron strings tied so tight--"

"If we give Jimmy to the aliens, we'll tip our hand."

William sighed. Not following his wife's thought processes was nothing
unusual. Instead of studying something practical in college, she had
double majored in biology and chemistry. That would have been fine
for a man, but what could a woman do with all that knowledge--except
confuse her husband? "Grace, honey, you're not making any sense."

"Jimmy is a special child, Bill. The researchers at the lab--"

"The lab?" He frowned. What did the lab have to do with Jimmy? Some
in the Consortium were so desperate to find a way around the Project,
they weren't adverse to working with women, and Grace had begged
him to let her put in a few hours a week at a special laboratory where
they were doing what...? Deciphering genetic code, then rewriting it?
Something like that.... No! They hadn't-- She hadn't-- 

"What have you done to my son?" he asked angrily.

"Your son?" she questioned bitterly. Once again she wondered why she
had married this man, and took some comfort in realizing she hadn't
had much choice. Her father had threatened to cut her off, limiting
her access to Consortium research. In the real world, degrees in
biology and chemistry were useless to a woman, unless she became a
doctor--a female doctor, that is. The Consortium allowed her to
actually be a scientist. "You don't even see the child enough to notice
he's different, yet suddenly, he's your son?"

He reached out and clamped his hand around her arm. "Different?
What have you done to him, Grace? What kind of freak have you
turned your own child into? Does he howl at the moon...glow in the

"No glowing, but he can see in the dark," she said excitedly. "And hear
a whisper across a crowded room. He can smell my movements
through a maze, and feel the difference between seventy degrees and
seventy-point-two degrees with just a brush of his fingertips. He's been
pretty stubborn with the taste tests, but we're reasonably sure all his
senses are heightened. With additional testing--"

"Stop!" William shouted. "There will be no more testing."

"Don't you see, Bill," she continued, ignoring his outburst, her eyes
bright with anticipation. "By using Jimmy, we can--"

"Get out," he said softly, releasing her arm and stepping back.


"Get out," he ordered louder. "My lawyer will be in contact about the
divorce, and visitation arrangements for the boys."

Grace shook her head. "You can't do this, Bill."

"Watch me."

"Kicking your wife and children out.... How's that going to play with
your business buddies?" she sneered. "Just think of the gossip, your
loss of status."

"My sons and I can handle it. We are Ellisons. You are not. And you are
the only one that will be leaving."

Something ached in her stomach. Bill Ellison meant nothing to her,
but her boys.... "You can't do this," she said again. "You wouldn't

"I'll dare to do even worse, Grace. If you oppose me on this, I will
expose the whole goddamned resistance to the Colonists!"


"I'm serious, Grace. You took something precious, a child, and
perverted him. Just tell me you didn't do anything to the baby.
Stevie's normal, isn't he? You didn't ruin both of them, did you?" he
asked belatedly, steeling himself to hear she had altered both children.

"Stevie has tested normal. You don't understand. Jim is not perverted,
or ruined. He's enhanced nat--"

"He isn't what he's supposed to be!"

"He's exactly what he's supposed to be, and more!"

He walked to the door and held it open. "Go. Let me know where to
send your things."

After that, he had started paying attention to his eldest child, and had
seen, with his own eyes, what they had done to the boy. Jimmy not
only had the senses that Grace had mentioned, but he also had a
preternatural awareness that went beyond the physical. When the boy
looked at him, it was as if he could see straight through to the heart of
him. Lies, deceptions, natural defenses...all gone, all useless in the
presence of his child. It was eerie, creepy, sick, and potentially
dangerous. He began corresponding with his cousin, trying to find a
way out of the mess Grace had "created." Being on the East Coast, Bill
was closer to the heart of the Consortium, closer to the power players.
Then the man he'd seen at the Consortium functions had appeared,
and by agreeing to do what he wanted to do anyway--forget, and force
Jim to forget, the quirks his mother's "coven" had endowed him
with--he could keep both his children, his sons, with him. Without an
ounce of regret, he had followed the man's orders, and severed his
contact with William Mulder, and the Consortium.

"You should watch the eleven o'clock news."

The voice of his housekeeper startled him. Briefly, he wondered what
Jimmy would say if he found out she was part of this, too. The day
after he'd made the deal, Sally had appeared at the door with a letter
that smelled suspiciously of cigarette smoke. The letter said she was
the new housekeeper and told him how much to pay her. She had
quietly taken care of the children, never interfering with the way he
raised them, but adding a woman's touch when she thought it
necessary. The boys liked and respected her. He was free to do
whatever he wanted to do, despite being a single father. It had been a
satisfactory arrangement all around.

He had expected her to disappear after Jimmy left, and his surprise had
doubled when she hung around even after Stevie moved out. She never
left, and in the tradition of their relationship, he never asked. Every
morning, she made him coffee. Every evening, dinner was on the table.
The only deviation in their routine had come the night he had awakened
to find her standing over his bed. After he had nervously turned on the
nightstand lamp, he'd seen wet tracks on her face. But that had been
the only evidence of her emotions as she informed him of Jimmy's
helicopter crash, and his MIA/presumed dead status. How she had
known before he'd been officially informed.... She had also been the one
to tell him of Jim's rescue, as well, an announcement which had
accompanied his morning coffee.

"What's happened?" he asked as he reached for the remote control
which lay upon a thick scrapbook on the coffee table. His hand brushed
against the album deliberately. Inside was his son's life--as he knew it,
anyway. Pictures and articles cut out of magazines and newspapers....
For the longest time, it had been the only way to involve himself in Jim's
life. Then a recent murder had been linked to an old murder--with Jim
as the connection--and it had forced his son to speak to him. Although
they hadn't become instant friends, a bit of the father/son bond had
resurfaced, and he'd had hopes of something stronger building...until
today's developments.

"This late-breaking news just in," the anchorman was saying. "Detective
James Ellison, who was arrested earlier this evening for the murder of
Jerome Johnson, has been rushed from his cell to Cascade General
Hospital. According to our sources, the detective is suffering from
injuries due to an altercation while being booked." The reporter blinked
as new information came up on the teleprompter. "We have also heard
that his arrest will be rescinded due to what Judge Mary Lessane refers
to as 'gross rights violations.' Stay tuned for further updates."

William clicked the television off, and turned to Sally. "How is he?"

"He will recover. Tonight, he is being held for observation."

"What happened? The criminals decide to pick on him because he's a
cop?" It was bad enough Jim had enlisted in the Army, but when he
finally came to his senses and resigned his commission, he'd become a
cop. Where was the profit in that?

Sally shook her head. "It was the cops who decided to pick on him," she
replied quietly, leaving the room as silently as she'd entered.

He slumped back against the sofa, clutching the scrapbook in one hand,
and the glass of scotch in the other. Both were small comfort when all
he wanted to do was hold his son.

"Damn you, Grace," he muttered as he drained the glass. "I hope your
soul is rotting in hell."


"Does the Cascade Police Department have a history of excessive
force?" Mulder asked Captain Banks as they sat beside each other in
the waiting room. Scully had flashed her credentials and disappeared
into the nether regions of the emergency room, dragging Blair along
with her to make sure the Sentinel was cared for properly.

"Not really," Simon answered, thinking the question through. "There
have been a few hotheads over the years, but a reputation for strong
discipline in such matters, has acted as a deterrent within the
department. I'm hoping this incident is a case of one officer
overreacting, and the others covering for him. Not that the department
won't lose the same number of officers, but it would be a relief to know
my detectives aren't the targets of their colleagues." That was the most
disturbing part of all of it; once he got past the reality of Jim's injuries,
he was left with the bitter knowledge that those who carried the same
badge as he did, were the ones responsible for inflicting those injuries.

"Could the violence have been aimed at Jim specifically?"

"Possibly. The man is good at stepping on toes. But from what little Jim
told me, he believes it was a direct attack against Major Crime. There's
always been some jealousy of the unit since its creation. We have the
biggest operating budget, even bigger than S.W.A.T.'s. We also have
first choice of the best detectives, and we receive a lot of media
attention. Quite frankly, the other squads can have the latter," he said

"When I asked if the violence could have been directed specifically, I was
pondering the possibility that this could have been another attempt on
Jim's life," Mulder clarified carefully.

Simon looked at him in horror. That concept spoke of corruption inside
the department; cops being bought and paid for. The idea made him
sick. Before he could get his dry throat to utter a reply, they heard the
tapping of Agent Scully's heels against the tiled E.R. floor.

"We're transferring him to a regular room," she said, reading the
questions in their faces. "His injuries include a badly bruised larynx and
trachea, a fractured wrist, and a fractured rib. Normally, he would
probably be released tonight, but we're treating him with steroids to
reduce the swelling in his throat, and I want to monitor his reactions to
the medication. Blair says his reactions can be highly unpredictable."

"Blair is still with Jim?" Simon asked, then wondered why he had
bothered to waste his breath. Of course that was where Blair was.

"He is currently guiding Jim into 'turning down his pain dial'? He advised
against using painkillers, saying they would inhibit Jim's natural ability to

Simon nodded. "Jim's a quick healer on his own. In a day or two, you'll
be hard-pressed to tell that anything was wrong with him."

Scully and Mulder exchanged glances, then she focused on the captain.
"Jim asked me to give you a message, sir. He said, and I quote, 'Tell
Simon to take Sandburg home with him. And tell him that I've found
handcuffs work particularly well.' I hope you understand that, sir."

Simon smiled. "I do. Sometimes Sandburg has to be restrained for his
own good."

Mulder chuckled. "I would probably argue with that if I hadn't seen him
at the police station. He was impressive in his handling of the desk

"He has the makings of a very fine cop," Simon said proudly.

"I had thought he was the non-violent type."

Simon shrugged. "Sandburg has very few buttons, and they're all
labeled Jim Ellison."

"He protects as fiercely as the Sentinel," Scully observed.

Simon shook his head. "He's worse. At least I can predict how Jim is
going to react in a given situation. Blair's reactions are always a total

"He wouldn't have physically harmed the sergeant, would he?" Mulder

Again Simon lifted his shoulders. "I have no idea. But I think he was
just borrowing a page from the 'Ellison Book of Intimidation'.
Sometimes they can mimic each other so well.... I'll let him get Jim
settled into his new room, then I'll haul his butt home and hogtie him to
the bed."

Mulder laughed. "Sounds like this is routine for you, sir."

Chapter Sixteen

Most seeing people, upon awakening blind, would panic. The Sentinel
merely sent out his other powerful senses in order to know whether
panic was necessary. It wasn't, because his senses instantly latched
onto the familiar presence of his Guide.

"Shouldn't you be home with Simon?" He raised a hand to trace the
bandages over his eyes.

Blair grinned. "Good morning to you, too, Jim. And don't mess with the

It was morning. "What time is it?"


Jim grunted, then winced. He'd forgotten the condition of his throat.
"So, shouldn't you be home with Simon?" he repeated.

"We made a deal. He wouldn't have to use the handcuffs, and I'd get to
come back here in time to be with you when you awakened. Considering
that you are a creature of habit to the extreme, I knew you would wake
up between 6:00 and 6:15. As usual, your timing was perfect."

"I'll take that as a compliment, although I'm pretty sure it was a dig at
my anal retentiveness," Jim said dryly, knowing his partner quite well.
"When can I go home?" He fingered the splint supporting his left wrist.
No cast? Further exploration revealed abrasions from the handcuffs.
Oh. Couldn't put on a cast and risk infection.

"Don't," Blair ordered gently.

"Don't what?"

"Don't use your fingers to catalog your injuries. Your skin is one big
sensory map. Use it to determine what's wrong with you."

Jim would have rolled his eyes if he could have. "Only you, Chief, would
take advantage of this to run tests on me."

"When opportunity knocks...." Blair said, not the least bit repentant.
"Concentrate, Jim. Tell me your injuries." He knew this might seem
callous, but learning how to automatically 'sense' his injuries could help
Jim in the future, possibly cut down on wasted time in the E.R.

"If I get lost, I'm going to blame you," Jim warned. Often, inner focusing
led to a zone out.

"You're not going to get lost, Jim. Listen to my heartbeat as you
concentrate on your body. What do you feel?"

"A broken rib? Untaped."

"Good. Go on," Blair urged.

"Fractured left wrist. Uh, both wrists have abrasions due to the cuffs.
They are wrapped in gauze and taped. A splint is around the broken
one. My throat is...bruised...and colorful?"

Blair cocked his head his surprise. "How do you know that, man?"

"Spotty heat patterns. It wasn't a hand which did this to me. It was...a
long object? Hard. Oh, a nightstick?" Blair nodded excitedly, and Jim
laughed. "Good thing I can hear your curls shake, Chief."

His partner smiled sheepishly, then jumped on the new fact the Sentinel
had just let slip. "You can hear my hair, man? That's so cool."

"If you say so, Sandburg."

"How about your eyes?" Even he didn't know the answer to this one.
Jim had said his vision had gone all white, so he had assumed the light
had shocked his retinas. When Scully had asked him what the best
course of action was, he'd told her to have Jim's eyes bathed in a
cooling solution, then bandaged.

"Better than last night. Less pain."

"Do you think you'll be able to see when the bandages are removed?"

"How am I supposed to know?" Jim snarled.

"Because they're your eyes!" Blair took a deep breath before
continuing. "It hit me that we've been focusing on your hearing and
sight too much, man. Yes, those are the primary senses, but you have
a lot more to work with! We've only scratched the surface of your
potential, Jim."

"Does it really make any difference now, Chief? I mean, I'm not what we
thought I was. Hell, why should we bother with tests at all?"

"Because these skills help you survive. You are a Sentinel, Jim. It
doesn't matter how you came to be one. That changes nothing about
you. Do you understand?"

"No, not really. Fine. I am an artificially-created Sentinel. But for what
purpose? How is this supposed to save the tribe from aliens? Wouldn't
a death ray be more appropriate?"

"Maybe you're supposed to fight them like you fight all the other evils
you've gone up against."

"That's back to the death ray reference, Sancho Panza."

"No. Your best weapon has always been you, Jim. Your quick mind,
your agile body, your strong sense of justice...."

"Pretty words, but I doubt if any of that will be useful against whatever
the Colonists' dish out," Jim sighed.

"That's what we need to know--what the Colonists' plans are. What is
this process Mulder and Scully mentioned? How will they colonize? Your
dad intimated that it will be some kind of biological weapon, perhaps a
virus or toxin engineered to attack humans specifically."

"A smart weapon, leaving buildings and other biological entities intact?
Modern warfare in one easy lesson. But that still doesn't explain my

"Maybe you're resistant to the weapon."

Jim's fist balled up against the blanket. "Great. I live, and the rest of the
world dies... except for those who are part-alien? Not a future to be
contemplating, Chief."

"Cut me some slack, man. I'm operating on pure speculation and only
one cup of coffee."

"Oh, the horror," Jim teased. "Why don't you go down to the cafeteria?
It opened at six and their coffee is better than the machine's--especially
on this floor."

Blair shook his head. "It's scary how well we know this hospital, Jim.
Which coffee machines are better, what time the cafeteria opens, which
elevator is less likely to stop on every floor--"

"Three," Jim said with a grin. "I've been scared ever since I realized I
knew the housekeeping staff by name, Chief...and they knew ours."

Blair stood, and Jim could hear his spine pop into position as his friend
stretched. "Maybe Gretchen's on duty. She makes a pretty good
omelet. Should go well with my coffee."

"Don't tease a man who's on a liquid diet for a while," Jim threatened
lightly. Actually, the thought of food didn't appeal to him one way or
the other.

Blair frowned. Just what his Sentinel needed--to lose more weight. His
Sentinel... always. Maybe a bunch of scientists and tinkerers had
manipulated Jim's genes, but he, Blair Sandburg--Anthropology grad
student, had created the Sentinel. He had named Jim, taught him,
tested him, gave him the confidence he needed to do the extraordinary
things he could do. The Sentinel was his, and damn anyone who dared
to say otherwise! "Listen to me, Jim. This is us. All the shit we've been
through, everything we have shared, everything that we have
become.... They can't change that. How you came to be can't change
that. Do you understand what I'm saying, man?"

Jim nodded. "I warned you in the beginning, Chief, that I was going to
cling to you in order to save myself. Since it's been proven I'm not a
suicidal person, I'm still hanging on. Sometimes only by the tips of my
fingers...." The revelations from William, the knowledge that his mind
had been controlled by others, the assault by his fellow officers....
Yesterday had been a hell of a day.

Blair reached out to touch him, hesitating when he couldn't find a spot
that wasn't bandaged or bruised. Finally, he settled for a finger along
the jawbone. Funny how it had been avoided, considering how
prominent it must have been. "Don't worry about slipping, Jim. I have a
good grip. When you can't hang on, I will."

"And if you slip?"

"We've yet to run across anything that can bring us both down, and if
we do, well, we'll just slip together."

Jim laughed. "Who or what could take both of us?"

"Exactly why we haven't been challenged to that point yet," Blair
agreed. "Wonder if the man with the cigarette has figured that out

"If he hasn't, I think he will, Chief. Now, go get your coffee. Bring a cup
back with you. Maybe I can get high off the fumes until the doctor
clears me for caffeine consumption."

"You don't have to tell me twice. Back in a sec."

"Take your time. I'm not going anywhere."

"You sure about that?"

"Positive, Chief."


"Good morning, Scully!" Mulder said cheerfully as he joined her in the
hotel's café.

His enthusiastic greeting surprised her. "The Bureau is not going to pay
an outrageous pay-per-view charge," she reminded him, in case his
ebullience was movie-inspired.

"Oh, this is from more than celluloid gratification, Scully." He tossed a
file onto the table. "I think I have one of the answers to our questions."

She looked at the name on the file: PRAISE, GIBSON. The boy was a
twelve-year-old psychic whom they were supposed to protect.
"Supposed to" were the operative words because they hadn't. He had
been stolen right from under her nose at a hospital. Of course, that
was after the Consortium had stolen him from Diana Fowley,
grievously--but non-fatally--wounding her in the process. Gibson had
reappeared in the back of their car one night, his head bleeding and
scarred from the numerous explorations the Consortium had taken
inside his cranium. The wounds had become infected, and she had
insisted on taking him to the hospital. There, she had managed to run a
few tests before "losing" him. Afterwards, she'd found that the tests
revealed the boy's special talents had come from a genetic remnant.
Everyone had it and in most, it was inactive junk DNA. In Gibson, it was

"You think Jim's DNA remnant has been turned on, like in Gibson?"

Mulder nodded. "Think about it. Instead of being able to read minds,
Jim's senses are heightened. I think it was an accident, that the
scientists messing with his DNA did something that caused this material
to activate."

"But Gibson was pursued, and basically dissected alive. This still doesn't
explain why Jim has been left alone."

"One problem at a time, Scully. Have you talked to him about the DNA
testing yet? You could have gotten a sample last night."

"The man had almost been beaten to death, Mulder. I didn't think it was
the time, nor the place to request samples."

"Sorry. Forgot he was a sensitive subject to you."

Her blue eyes flashed dangerously. "Mulder, think back to what Gibson's
head looked like when he escaped from them and found us. Is that
what you want for your cousin? Do you want me to treat him like they
treated that little boy? As a lab rat instead of a human being?"

Mulder had the grace to look sheepish. "No, that's not what I want. But
I think it's in Ellison's best interest if we discover what's going on as
soon as possible."

"I agree, and I will try to get the appropriate samples before he leaves
the hospital. But that will give us another problem, Mulder. Where do
we send the samples to be analyzed? Who can we trust? We know the
Bureau labs have been compromised before."

"Can you run the analysis yourself?"

"With the appropriate equipment."

"I'll see what I can arrange. How is he this morning, by the way?"

"The nurse who checked him was quite surprised at how much better
he'd gotten overnight. Blair was correct about him being a quick

"Cassandra Spender healed immediately."

"I know, Mulder."

"Nothing green leaked out of him last night, did it?"

She shook her head. "Everything appeared perfectly normal."

"Just like Gibson."

Her eyes closed in remembrance of the little boy. She'd probably never
know what happened to him. Would that be Jim one day? Just one
more disappearance into the dark unknown? Frightened and hurting?
Or even worse, he could be abducted as she had been. With his
sensitivities so high, the simplest experiment would be torture. And the
most invasive...would kill him, or drive him insane.

She shivered, and fingered the gold cross that she wore around her
neck, sending a silent prayer to whoever was listening to protect Jim

Chapter Seventeen

"The whole exchange was...surreal," Jim was explaining to Blair as he
dressed in the clothes his friend had brought him. "For the past week,
I've been talking to IA as a suspect. Now, I'm being interviewed as a

"This whole situation has been surreal, Jim. The day before yesterday,
we were doing the same thing we are now--checking you out of the
hospital. That has to be a record, even for us," Blair commented dryly.
"How's the vision?"

"Still a little washed out, but the shades are helping." The bandages had
been removed, and he had been relieved that he could make out the
dark shape of his partner. Now, hours later, and with the help of the
sunglasses, he could see details of Blair--what he was wearing, that his
hair was loose.

"When we get you home, I want you in the sleep mask. Those peepers
need more rest. I let you fool the doctors, but you're not going to fool

"As long as I get to go home, I'll do anything you say, Chief."

"Yeah, I've heard that promise before." The disbelief was evident in his
voice. "I'll go get the nurse and the wheelchair."

"I hate that thing."

"You're not home yet," Blair warned.

"Yes, sir," Jim sighed.

"Good soldier," Blair praised with a grin as he walked out. The Army
may have warped Jim's mind, but it had also made him manageable--at

Jim listened to Blair's trek down the hall and around the corner to the
nurses' station. He finished packing his stuff into the gym bag that had
contained his fresh clothing, then decided to meet his ride in the
corridor. Perhaps he was being a bit overeager, but in the past five
nights, only one had been spent in his own bed. He wanted to go

He stepped out into the hallway, and was about to turn back to check
the room one final time, when he felt eyes on him. He swiveled slowly
until he saw a figure standing at the far end of the corridor. His sight,
still not quite at full Sentinel strength, struggled into focus until he
could make out the dark, intense eyes raking over him. He wasn't
surprised when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. The
challenge was there--in the man's look, in his stance. Jim felt his own
stance alter into a mirroring position. Full strength or not, the Sentinel
was ready.

"Jim, what's happening?"

He turned to acknowledge his partner, and when he looked back, the
man was gone. "There was a guy watching me."

"Reporter?" Blair asked uselessly. Jim was almost in full warrior mode,
something that occurred only when he sensed an equal
adversary--which reporters weren't.


"Here comes the nurse with your chariot. Should we call for backup?"

Jim shook his head. "He was only scouting."

"For whom or what?" Blair was glad the man was gone. Jim was in no
condition to take someone on. Just one shot at that damaged throat
would disable him.

Jim's nostrils flared at a faint scent. "Remind me to ask Mulder if his
'friend' likes Morleys."


"Dana and Mulder just pulled up," Jim announced from his bed, where
he had obediently been lying with his eyes covered by the ruffled mask
he used when long stakeouts left him sleeping during the day. "Keep
talking to your mom. I'll let them in."

Blair looked up to the loft from the floor, the phone in one hand. "Don't
raise your voice. You'll only hurt your throat. And, Jim, you take that
mask off, and I'm going to beat you," he warned. He pressed his ear up
against the receiver. "What's that, Mom? Yeah, we indulge in domestic
discipline. No, not regularly. I only beat Jim when he needs it."

"Sandburg!" Jim hissed as he made his way cautiously down the stairs.

"Well, someone has to insure rules are kept, Naomi. I mean, can you
imagine what the loft would look like if I just let him run around doing
whatever it is he wants to do?" He grinned at the man carefully making
his way across the room. "Yeah, Ma, I'm careful. Besides, he's tougher
than he looks."

"Sandburg, I'm going to hurt you."

Blair laughed and rolled his eyes. "Call 911, big guy. See if I care." He
focused on the telephone again. "Of course we're kidding, Mom. Can
you imagine either of us letting the other get away with something like
that? And don't forget, I live with Handcuff Boy--" He stopped
suddenly, remembering what had happened last night. "I'm sorry, Jim,"
he said in a Sentinel-only whisper.

Jim waved away the apology with his good wrist. There was no use in
getting sensitive about the abuse he had suffered. He fumbled for the
doorknob and had to dodge a fist as Mulder raised his hand to knock.

"Sorry," Mulder said quickly. "I guess you heard us coming?"

Jim nodded. "Sandburg's on the phone to his mother, so I have to do
all the domestic work around here."

"Did you also hear Mulder's hand?" Scully asked, taking in the eye
mask. "You dodged it nicely."

"Actually, I'm operating on the principle of air displacement at the
moment. The other time I was blind, I used my hearing to get around.
But my master here says I'm relying too much on hearing and sight, so
I'm concentrating on feeling the air bounce off and around objects."

"You were blinded before?"

"Yeah. Got a designer drug, Golden, into my eyes. Couldn't see
anything but golden flares."

"When Simon arrives, ask him about a blind Jim driving his car," Blair
called out. "It was a real 'enlightening' experience. Costly, too."

"But I caught the perps, didn't I?" Jim argued.

"You were on an assignment, although you had been blinded?" Mulder
asked in amazement.

"I'm real good at Blind Man's Bluff," Jim said dryly, and proceeded to
make it to the sofa without incident. "Speaking of eyesight, someone
was watching me today. Not old enough to be the guy who contacted
my father, but it could have been the other one you mentioned--"

"Alex Krycek?" Mulder asked quickly. He reached for the leather attache
Scully had brought. Taking out a stack of folders, he fanned them out
on the coffee table until he found the one he sought. "Is this the man?"
He held a photo in front of Jim, belatedly remembering the mask.

"I've been threatened with a beating if I ditch the mask," Jim explained

"One minute," Blair called firmly. "And take it slow."

Jim tugged the mask off quickly, wincing at the sudden brightness. He
heard a whispered, "I told you so, man," which he ignored. As his eyes
adjusted, he took the photo and looked at it. "Yeah, this is the man. He
looks younger here, though, and less menacing."

"This is his official Bureau photo," Scully said.

"You mean he was--"

"A fellow agent, before he was subverted to the 'Dark Side'," Mulder
muttered flatly.

Jim's eyes skimmed the folders on the table, determined to see as
much as he could before he had to re-don the mask. A name caught his
attention, and he grabbed the file curiously. Ignoring Blair's burning
glares, he read. Then he stood up, and walked out onto the balcony.

"Listen, Mom, I have to go," Blair said quickly, clicking off the portable
phone and tossing it aside as he stood. "What happened?" he asked,
even as he was reaching for the file Jim had dropped. He read it, and
paled. "Oh, shit."

"Blair?" Scully asked in concern. "It's just the information we have on
Grace Ellison. No autopsy reports or anything. Just the news clippings
of her unsolved murder."

"Jim and Stephen were told their mom died in an automobile accident.
Nothing was ever said about her being shot in the head in the doorway
of her Seattle apartment."

"We didn't know," Scully hurried to explain, looking out at Jim guiltily.

Blair looked, too, and frowned at the brightness of the sun. Today of all
days, Cascade decided to be sunny. He ran up the stairs and picked up
Jim's shades from the table near his bed. He started to head to the
balcony with them, but instead, turned and handed them to Scully.
"He's had enough of my nagging."

"I don't know...."

Blair smiled. "Just give off sympathetic vibes. He'll fill in the rest."

"Sure he doesn't want to be left alone?" Mulder questioned as Scully
closed the door behind her.

"Nah. He's had to bear too much crap alone already." He looked closely
at the agent. "You know how that is."

"I do?" Mulder challenged.

Blair nodded solemnly. "You and he are a lot alike."

The Fed chuckled. "I don't see the resemblance. I think the Mulder side
of the family got the hair, and the Ellison family got the body. Even
trade off, I suppose."

Blair knew an obfuscation when he heard one. "I was thinking more
along the lines of your matching abilities to focus. You are both seeking
validation for your existence with a single-mindedness that borders on
the obsessive."

Hazel eyes widened. "Why would we need such validation?"

"Because your sister was abducted and you weren't, and Jim because
he was the only survivor when his helicopter crashed in the jungle." He
frowned. "I could be wrong about that, though. Jim's need to prove
himself worthy might have begun earlier than that. There are some
serious gaps in his past we haven't explored yet."

"Do you often make snap judgments about people you don't know?"

Blair shrugged. "You and Scully don't seem like strangers. Perhaps it's
because I see the parallels in our relationships. Jim called me Sancho
Panza--his literary nicknames are so cool... and accurate. Jim is my poor
Don Quixote, chivalrously fighting his windmills, with me at his side
giving him advice, encouragement, and a dose of the truth when he
needs it. I think Scully does the same thing for you."

"So, Ellison and I are fighting for validation. Why are you and Scully in
the ring?"

"Our motives are less pure. Your battles seem noble to us, yet we fight
them not for ourselves, but for you. It's not our belief in the war, but
our faith in you, which keeps us in the fray."

"That seems a little self-sacrificing," Mulder observed, astounded by the
entire conversation. The insight Sandburg had into the essence of his
life was disturbing.

"Not really. There's a lot of selfishness in our actions. Your successes
become our successes. We revel in the occasions where you succumb
to our desires. We are secretly pleased when you come to us because
you have no one else to turn to. We feed off of you."

"What about your own lives? You're a grad student. Scully is not only a
doctor, but an FBI agent. Is it fair that you both have to lose your own
path to go down ours?"

"We haven't lost our own paths; we've just merged them with yours,"
Blair argued. "I've always had a strong sense of fair play and justice.
I've been involved in protests, voted in every election since I was
eighteen, served on jury duty whenever I was called. But by being with
Jim, I'm no longer a passive participant. I actively seek justice when I
ride with Jim, when I back him up on a case. That's a good thing."

"And when you die, or almost die?"

"Then there is, or will be, a purpose to my death, which I hadn't had
before. We all are going to die, but by being with Jim, I know that I
have made a difference while I was here. Somewhere, someone is alive
because Jim was there, and I was with him...." He grinned at the
profound statement. "Something I learned while enrolled in College
Fountain 101."

"Ah. The Alex Barnes Affair." Mulder searched through the folders
again. "The details are very sketchy."


"Were you the reason Jim defeated her?"

"Jim defeated her because he was better."

"Better as in stronger, more skilled?"

"Better as in possessing a soul, Agent Mulder." Blair picked up the
phone he had discarded. "What kind of Chinese do you prefer?"

"I was dead once, too," Mulder admitted softly. Blair looked at him,
startled. "A shaman brought me back." Blue eyes widened even further.
"You don't believe in shamans?"

"That would mean I didn't believe in myself."

Mulder found himself less surprised than he'd expected. It was true he
linked shamans with indigenous peoples, but, hell, who were more
indigenous than Jews? No wonder Blair could see his soul so well. "You
brought yourself back?"

Blair's eyes flickered toward the balcony. "He brought me back."

"Ellison is a shaman, too?"

"Jim is the Sentinel. He is all that he needs to be."

Yeah, the kid sounds like a shaman. "Alex Barnes is a Sentinel as well."

"Alex Barnes has--had--five heightened senses. That made her a
menace, not a Sentinel. Fried rice or white?" he asked as he dialed.

Mulder, whose vast profiling skills were known throughout the Bureau,
realized the subject of Alex Barnes had been efficiently dismissed. With
a sigh, he put in an order for him and his partner.

Chapter Eighteen

Jim had accepted the shades without a word, but there had been
nothing in his demeanor which told her to go away, so Scully stood
beside him and watched the city like he did. Well, not exactly like he did.
She had no idea what he was experiencing. At least, not with his
senses. But she did understand part of what he was going through.

"When I was exposed to the mind control device," she began slowly, "it
was in a crude, early stage. All it could do was make you live out your
deepest fear. I thought--no, I knew--Mulder had betrayed me to the
Cigarette Smoking Man. I saw them sitting in the car together. I knew
they monitored my phone calls. I knew they were trying to kill me. I
used everything I had learned from the Bureau, everything I'd learned
from Mulder, to make it home without detection. I knew my mom would
protect me." She stopped, smiling wryly at the thought. Even as a
competent adult, she had run to her mother. Sad, Scully. But also
comforting. "Mulder figured out where I was, of course. He knew I had
been affected, knew how violent the other victims had become, but he
came protect me, I suppose. I told Mom he was sent there to
kill me, and I pulled a gun on him. If Mom hadn't been there to get
through to me...."

"You didn't shoot him."

Scully laughed. "No. I didn't shoot him...that time."

"You've shot your partner?" Gee, maybe he hadn't treated Blair as
badly as he'd thought. Sure, he'd left him vulnerable to their worst
enemy, but he hadn't done the deed himself.

She nodded. "And I was even in my right mind when I did it. Of course,
he wasn't. The enemy had tainted the water in his apartment building
with a psychotic drug. Several of his neighbors had had violent
episodes as well."

"He tried to kill you?"

"No, he was getting ready to shoot the time he was a fellow
agent. Maybe if I had known then what I know now.... No. I had to stop
Mulder from using the gun he'd taken away from Krycek because it
could have been the weapon used to murder Mulder's father."

"How did you know it wasn't Mulder's gun?"

"Because I'd taken his gun to be make sure he hadn't
shot his father. The drug had made him highly unstable. He had even
assaulted our assistant director. I had to be sure...not just for my
sake, but his as well. Of course, two days later I was told he had been
killed in New Mexico. Then after I find out he's alive, I learn that my
sister has been shot because she let herself into my apartment, and
they thought it was me coming home...." Scully stopped and took a
deep breath. "And I have no idea why I'm telling you this."

"To let me know others have had worse weeks than I have?" He
reached out a hand to stroke the nape of her neck soothingly. He
paused when he felt something strange.

"You can feel it, can't you?" she said, knowing why he froze. "It's a
metallic implant. They put it into me when I was abducted."

"Can't you have it removed?"

"I did. That's when I developed cancer. When it was replaced, I went
into remission."

"Dana?" Jim asked hesitantly, after a moment of silence.

"Yes, Jim?"

"Can I hold you?"

She wrapped her arms around his waist in reply, leaning against the
muscled chest to absorb the comfort he exuded. She felt his arms
around her, the light touch of his lips on the top of her head, and
reveled in the safety of the moment. This was a good place to be, even
temporarily. No looking for assassins behind her back. No looking for
kidnappers from up above. No looking beside her to make sure Mulder
wasn't in trouble. Just a time to float and rest. Jim would let her know
when danger reared its ugly head, when the "Theys" and the "Thems"
would continue their chase and slow torture. "This is better than a long,
hot soak," she mumbled.

He laughed, the sound rumbling against her ear as the muscles carried
the vibrations. "Yeah, and you don't have to worry about those pesky
wrinkles if you fall asleep."

"No, I'd just have to worry about the hard concrete."

"I'm hurt. Do you actually think I would let you fall?"

She pulled back until she could see into the dark lenses covering his
eyes. "No. I don't think that. I think you would do anything within your
power to keep me or anyone else from falling, ever again. Not very

"I know."

"But I appreciate the concept. And I thank you for the attempt. I think
I'm now better able to face whatever else the day, the week, the year,
holds for me. Of course I may need further treatments along the

"You make me sound like some kind of medicine."

"Well, you increase my blood flow, ease my tensions, and generally give
me a feeling of euphoria.... Sounds like a drug to me. Wonder what
your street value is?" Scully teased.

"Selling human flesh is a felony."

"Only in some cultures."

"Good thing dinner is here. Or else, I would be in danger of finding
myself on a street corner dressed in leather and little else."

"I don't think I want to know what the rest of this conversation was
about," Blair said as he stood in the doorway with a grin. "The food is

"She says I'm a drug, Chief. And she wants to know my street value,"
Jim informed him, his hand resting against Scully's back as he guided
her inside.

"Just as long as I get a cut of the proceeds," Blair said nonchalantly.
"I've played a big part in the development, you know."

"If that's the case, I'll have to up the profit margin. Forget the leather,
Jim. Extra wrapping would just get in the way of advertising." Scully's
face lit up as she realized Jim was blushing. "That's adorable!" she
exclaimed, causing him to flush even brighter.

"Never suspected he was a blusher, did you?" Blair observed eagerly.
"It's a nice bonus on those slow days when you're looking for
something to do. Think that will increase the price we can get?"

"It is a specialty," she mused.

Jim looked around the room for sympathy. "Cousin?" he appealed in a
put-upon voice.

Mulder smiled warmly. "Of course, the family will be demanding its share
of the profits."

"That's right," Jim said, his voice hardening when he realized he was on
his own. "Pick on the visually impaired guy."

"He's right," Scully said gently, placing her hand on his upper arm. "He
looks damn sexy in those shades. The bidding needs to start higher."

"Yes!" Blair chortled.

Jim stomped over to the door and yanked it open. "Arrest them for
pandering!" he told the startled Simon.

"Who are they trying to sell?"


"The product is a little old, isn't it?" Simon sniffed the air. Oh, goody.
Moogoo pork.

"Slightly aged, but well-preserved," Scully said, a bit offended on behalf
of her merchandise.

"It's a good thing my self-perception comes from within," Jim huffed as
he reached for the plates.

"Shouldn't you get rid of the white socks before you market him,
though?" Mulder questioned, opening the Chinese food containers with
expertise. "Rather declassé, wouldn't you say?"

"Actually, retro is in," Blair told him.

"I thought we were going for natural, gentlemen? Nothing but the
shades," Scully reminded them.

"What I want to know is why, when we have these little
tension-breakers, I'm always the one at the butt of the jokes?" Jim
complained, tapping the back of Simon's hand with a chopstick when he
wouldn't give up the pork container.

"Because yours is so cute," Scully said easily.

Rice spewed from several directions, and Jim was silent for the rest of
the meal.

"Earlier, Jim and I were trying to figure out where he fits into this
Project equation, and we realized we were missing parts of the picture,"
Blair said as they all retired to the living room.

"We were discussing the same thing," Mulder said. "This file might help."
He handed them the Gibson Praise documents.

"So, you're suggesting that what was done to this child, was also done
to Jim?" Blair asked when the Cascade trio finished.

"Not exactly the same, but similar," Mulder answered.

"So, I'm already a hybrid?" Jim questioned uncomfortably.

"These DNA remnants are present in us all," Scully replied. "If, and quite
frankly, it is still a big 'if' in my opinion, these remnants are alien in
origin, then we are all hybrids--just not as successful a mix as the
Colonists would like for us to be."

Mulder shook his head. "How can you still have doubts, Scully? You saw
the DNA results for yourself. The genetic material was the same in
Gibson, the alien virus, and the claw we found."

"What claw?" Simon demanded.

"The virus's DNA and proteins were of this world, Mulder. Unknown is
not automatically synonymous with extraterrestrial."

"What claw?" Simon boomed again.

"The alien virus, also known as Black Oil, also known as Purity, can
gestate within a human body, producing a living, viable creature in as
little as twelve hours. This creature then uses its sharp claws to burst
from its human host, leaving behind a bloody mess," Mulder spat out
sharply, not wanting to be distracted from his argument with Scully.

"Oh," Simon said weakly, sorry he'd asked.

"I know my doubts disgust you, Mulder, but you can't expect me to

"Why can't I expect that, Scully? You've seen things with your own
eyes, experienced more than even I have. How can you not--"

"If I totally agree with everything, then what good am I to you, Mulder?
Don't you see? One of us has to be the practical one."

"The truth is not practical?"

"The truth is not always an absolute...not in the universe we currently
inhabit. What we perceive as the truth is altered on a daily basis."

Blair waggled his hand until they noticed him. With an embarrassed
glance, they realized they were arguing in front of an audience. It
wasn't often that they felt comfortable enough to argue while others
were present. 

"We're sorry," Scully said quickly.

The grad student waved away the apology. Disagreements in the loft
were considered standard behavior. "I just needed a clarification on this
virus. Is this the same one Mr. Ellison hinted at? The one that will be
used to colonize earth?" They nodded. "Then are we talking
hybridization, or true colonization? Are they after slaves, or

"We're not sure," Mulder said hesitantly, flashing Jim a warning not to
say anything. His cousin just shrugged. They'd had that discussion; he
wasn't into beating dead horses. "Neither is the Consortium. The
Colonists might have pulled one over on them."

"But what about a vaccine? They've been working on this for nearly half
a century. Haven't they come up with anything yet?" Blair questioned.

"There is a weak vaccine, so far," Mulder said.

"How weak?"

"It has protected me, and it saved Scully, but I think we both were
exposed to mild, non-aggressive forms of the virus. I know it has failed
to work on other occasions."

"I have a question," Jim said.

"What's that, Jim?" Scully offered.

"Is there any part of this that you, singular or plural, haven't
experienced firsthand? And if the answer to that is no, why are you still
here? How do you survive all this? How did you get the vaccine? Why
haven't you been silenced? Why are you protected? "

Mulder shrugged. "I could say it was because we are the 'good guys',
which is partially true, if you look at this as a game. Our continued
existence provides balance, a way of keeping the game going without
either side winning. Some believe I, we, would be more dangerous dead
than alive. Others are convinced that if they fail, maybe I won't. Still
others contend that in the end, the only thing to save humanity will be
the truth, and Scully and I will be the messengers of that."

"And somehow I'm part of that truth?"

Mulder quirked an eyebrow. "Welcome to the club, cuz."

Chapter Nineteen

"I just don't see my part in this great conspiracy you've plotted out,"
Jim said stubbornly. "There are other hybrids out there, apparently
closer to the ideal than I am. Hell, they've even created the ideal, the
Spender woman, correct? I'm sure there have to be detailed records
somewhere that survived the Rebels' attack. So, the Colonists don't
need me, and the resistors already have a form of the vaccine. What
possible use could anyone have for me?"

"We're stumped on that one, too, Ellison," Mulder said frankly. "We're
hoping an examination of your DNA will give us some clue."

"Examination of my DNA?" Jim parroted uneasily.

"A small tissue sample," Scully said, in explanation.

A shudder ran through Jim. "I'm going to have to think about that,

"What's to think about?" Mulder asked. "It's a simple procedure that
Scully can do right here--"

"I said I would think about it," Jim interrupted firmly.

Mulder looked at the others, searching for a reason for the sudden
skittishness on the part of his cousin. Scully indicated she had no idea
what was going on, so he focused on Blair, certain the Guide could help
him. Which he tried to do.

"What's your greatest fear, Agent Mulder?" He went on, not expecting
an answer. "Jim's greatest fear is that someone will find out about him,
and whisk him away to a facility, a lab.... What you are proposing will
basically make that fear a reality."

"We're not talking about an abduction. We merely want to--"

"Run tests on him? And what happens after the sample runs out?
You're going to ask for more. Then you'll want to know how he reacts if
you change this or increase that," Blair continued to argue. "Next thing,
you'll have him behind a glass wall, monitoring his behavior."

"How is that any different from what you do?" Mulder retaliated. "You
don't even bother with the illusion of a glass wall."

"Because his research, his testing, has been to my benefit," Jim
answered, pissed on behalf of his best friend. How dare Mulder compare
Sandburg's work to their morbid curiosity? "What proof do I have that
your research is for my good, not just yours?"

"You're all forgetting," Simon reminded them calmly, "that if you don't
figure out some way to prove Jim was under someone else's control
when he killed Johnson, it won't be his permission you have to get, but
the state's." He looked directly at Scully and Mulder. "Perhaps that
would give Jim the proof he needs that you're not just salivating for his
flesh as a way of furthering your own cause."

"Some friends of mine are working on that," Mulder said. "In fact,
Frohike should be--"

"Frohike?" Jim and Blair said in tandem.

Mulder did a doubletake. "Another verboten topic?"

Blair smiled. "My mom dated a guy named Frohike. He hung out with
two other guys. What were their names?"

"Langley and Byers," Jim supplied.

Scully looked at them in amazement. "You both know the Lone

"Naomi dated Frohike?" Jim asked with a grimace. The man reminded
him of a frog. Of course, Naomi wouldn't be so shallow as to date
someone for his looks.

Blair read his thoughts. "According to her, she liked his mind. But it was
one of her shorter relationships. How do you know them, Jim?"

"They were useful, once or twice, when I was in the service."

The Lone Gunmen had provided intel for Ellison? Mulder certainly had
some questions for his friends when he got back to the hotel. Such as
why they hadn't bothered to mention this when he'd asked them for a
dossier on the man when he first met him. "Then you know they have
certain skills and informational accesses which could be useful in getting
us the proof we need to clear you."

"Yes, I know how help--" He stopped, his nose wrinkling for a second,
before he headed for the balcony.

"What is it, Jim?" Blair asked, following before the others even realized
Jim was moving.

"Peeping Tom."

"Alex Krycek," Blair interpreted for those who weren't fluent in Jimspeak
yet. "Where is he? Piggyback your sight on to the smell."

Jim scanned the area, stopping when he reached an abandoned building
near the docks. "There."

Mulder blinked at the distance. He barely saw the building, much less a
person in it. But he trusted that the Sentinel did, even though he was
still wearing the shades.

"Should I call it in, Jim?" Simon asked.

The detective shook his head. "He's just looking with a pair of
binoculars. I can't smell any gun oil, so I doubt if he's armed. Another
scouting expedition, I suppose."

"Creepy," Blair commented. "But if he's not doing anything, come on
back inside before you give yourself a headache. He knows that you
know that he's watching. The challenge has been met."

"Not yet, Chief. But if he keeps this up, it will be."

The session soon disintegrated after that, the agents leaving to do
whatever it was they thought they had to do. Left with only his captain
and his best friend, Jim asked the question he was most anxious to
hear the answer to. "How's the investigation going?"

"Which investigation?" Simon asked, slumping back against the sofa. He
never relaxed fully around the agents. He hadn't figured out if it was an
authority thing, or an anxiety one. "The one with you as a killer, or the
one with you as a victim? Damn it, man. Can't you do like everyone
else, and have your crises one at a time?"

"He's a unique and talented individual," Blair replied with a smirk.

"You're a fine one to talk, Sandburg. He never got into stuff like this
until you came along," Simon commented with a glare. "Okay. The
investigation down at the Western Precinct revealed that there was a
prevailing anger and distrust of the Major Crime Unit. Why it was so
strong there, no one can determine. There was also a large degree of
incompetence, which compounded the entire episode. As far as IA can
tell, it was an accident that you were placed with the general

"But it wasn't an accident that I got the crap beat out of me?"

"The officers in question are arguing that you reached out toward them
in a menacing way."

"I couldn't see!"

"IA knows that. The camera guy said he heard you yell, and was about
to apologize when everything escalated. It's a clear case of excessive
force. Badges have already been confiscated." Simon eyed his detective
speculatively. "According to your fellow prisoners, whose curiosity was
aroused by the noise, you barely made a move to defend yourself,
much less do anything aggressive."

"Were your eyes bothering you that much?" Blair asked anxiously. Jim
was known for giving as good as he got.

Jim shook his head. "I'd just been arrested for murder, guys. I thought
that fighting back would only hurt me in the end." They looked at him,
disbelief coloring their faces. "And they were fellow cops."

Simon groaned. He often railed against Sandburg's way of thinking, and
being confused by it, but his partner could be just as confusing. If the
officers had been beating up on Blair, or any innocent, Jim would have
been all over them in a heartbeat. But because he was the target.... I
hate you, William Ellison. 

"Jim, this is from me to you, man to man: if someone, badge-carrying
or otherwise, starts to attack you, you have my permission to beat the
shit out of them--and I'll help you deal with the fallout afterwards."

"Ditto," Blair added. "Sometimes the only tribe you need to worry about
is yourself."

"Yes, sirs!" Jim saluted, amused that they thought he was being
selfless. On the contrary, he had been in so much pain that he knew if
he retaliated, he'd have more than one murder charge to his name.
"Wallace and Milligan have anything new?"

"No, but they sure are motivated, and they were highly pissed when
they found out what had happened to you."

"How are the other officers taking it? Has this increased or decreased
the tensions about Major Crime?" Jim knew that officers didn't look
fondly upon officers accusing other officers. Filing assault charges
against the Western Precinct probably had not won him any hearts.

"There's been some grumbling, but overall, I think they're shocked
more by your assault, than your charges." The three sat in comfortable
silence for a while, putting thoughts in some semblance of order. Simon
stretched, sighing as bones creaked into place. "I miss anything before
dinner tonight?"

"I found out my mother was murdered," Jim said softly.


"Shot and killed in Seattle. Dad told Stevie and me that it was a car
accident." He stood and unconsciously rubbed his throat. "I don't know
why it never dawned on me to look into it after I was old
enough...especially after I became a cop."

"You had no idea--" Blair began.

"But I knew my dad had a habit of altering the truth to suit his needs.
You would think morbid curiosity--"

"Morbid curiosity is in your job description, Jim. Why would you need to
indulge in it in your free time?" Blair argued. "You really need to cut
yourself some slack, man. You were a kid when all this was going on.
You were not responsible for what your mother did, or what got her
killed. You couldn't have saved her."

Jim looked at him in surprise. How had he known what he was thinking?
He shook his head. "Am I that predictable?"

"Yes," Blair and Simon answered together.

"You know, we've been doing that too much lately," Simon commented

"Nothing to get nervous over, Captain. We're not getting psychic or
anything. It's just that we're in agreement when it comes to Jim," Blair
explained, having already worried and found suitable reasoning.

"I guess I'll buy that, Sandburg. Well, gentlemen, it's been another long
day," Simon said, as he stood. "I suggest we all go to bed, and refresh
ourselves for another long one tomorrow. Thanks for dinner, and be
careful. I don't like it that you're under surveillance by that creep." They
had explained Alex Krycek to him following the episode on the balcony.

"Don't worry, Simon. I have him on file," Jim said, tapping his nose.

Simon glanced at Jim, taking in the array of bandages and injuries, then
turned to Blair. "Take care of him."

"That's my job, Simon." He closed the door behind the captain and
faced his partner. "Let's get you wrapped up in plastic for a quick
shower, and then to bed." He reached up and removed the shades from
Jim's face. "You look tired."

Jim rolled a sore shoulder and headed toward the bathroom. "I'll be

Blair nodded. Of course, he would be fine. He'd make sure of it.

"By the way, Chief, you were wrong," Jim called calmly as he heard his
partner gathering a supply of plastic bags.

"Won't be the first time. About what?" he asked, curiosity getting the
better of him.

"Ending up as a lab rat isn't my greatest fear."

Blair started to ask what was, but when he walked into the bathroom,
Jim's expression was as open and vulnerable as he'd ever seen it. Oh.
The Sentinel's greatest fear had already come true once. Blair hoped it
wouldn't happen again; not just because he didn't relish the idea of
dying, but because he shuddered to think what would happen to Jim if
the next time proved more permanent. "Listen to me, Jim. I honestly
plan on dying of old age, either calmly in my sleep, or maybe in the
middle of a movie so bad, that not making it to the end of it wouldn't
be much of a tragedy. Okay?" He started to smile, but Jim's gaze was
so intense that he was powerless to do anything other than hold it.

Finally, Jim blinked, and held out his arm for wrapping. "Okay."

Chapter Twenty

"What do you think?" Mulder asked as he and his partner drove to the
hotel. Unnerved by Krycek's sudden fascination with Ellison, he thought
it prudent they figure things out as soon as possible. That meant
getting the report from the Lone Gunmen, getting Jim out of trouble,
then getting the tissue sample.

"About what?" Scully asked. Trying to second guess Mulder was always
an act of futility.

"About Ellison's reluctance."

She shrugged. "The more I work with you, the more I sympathize with
the animals I dissected in med school."

"So, you sympathize with him? I don't know if we have time for that.
Krycek has been called to Cascade for a reason. He's a walking death
machine, Scully. People die in his wake. At the very least, Jim could
disappear just as he fears."

"That leads us back to the mystery of why now, Mulder. If we look at
everything we know about the Consortium, Jim should have at least
been a multiple abductee, if not confined permanently, to be studied
objectively and invasively. They took all my ova. Surely, they would
have wanted his sperm--just to see the genetic implications, if not to
grow their own replicas."

"He was left alone...for a reason."


"But that reason has ceased to be a concern. Is it because they no
longer have Cassandra?" Mulder speculated.

"Or is it because we have the letters?" she countered.

"The harassment started before I received them," he reminded her.
"Ellison was already in the hospital from the staged suicide attempt
when I read the letters."

"But Jeffrey Spender was killed weeks ago. Perhaps it was not so much
us having them, as it was the fact that they were missing."

Mulder contended that she had a valid point. "And the purpose behind
discrediting Ellison, or having him imprisoned?"

"Questions his credibility. Limits access to him. Hinders the use of his
senses. Lessens the chance of exposure, or accidental exposure of his
abilities," she ticked off.

"Wouldn't they be taking a chance that he would reveal his abilities as a
way of getting out of this situation? He could prove he saw Johnson
commit the purse-snatching."

"No risk if they had prior knowledge of his fear of exposure. Jim would
rather serve time than reveal what he is."

"The thought of DNA testing certainly spooked him. However, I'm
positive that Sandburg will be able to convince him to go along with us,
if we can convince him that this is for Ellison's own good. He's a
shaman, by the way," Mulder said as they walked through the lobby.

"Who? Blair?"

Mulder nodded. "According to him, Ellison and I are alike in that the two
of us are 'seeking validation for our existence with a single-mindedness
that borders on the obsessive.' What do you say to that, Scully?"

"I'd say he's learned a lot being an observer."

"Want to know what he said about you?"


He shrugged. "It'll sound better over breakfast, anyway." He paused
when they reached her door. "Night, Scully," he said before crossing the
hall to his room.

The smell hit him even before the door was completely opened. "I could
have sworn I asked for a non-smoking room," he commented dryly,
tossing the keycard onto the dresser, then turning to face the man
sitting at the table in the corner.

"Good evening, Agent Mulder."

Mulder removed his coat and tugged at his tie. He knew there was no
use drawing his weapon; he had had the opportunity to shoot the man
on several occasions, and had never been able to pull the trigger. The
gesture would have been empty, the threat hollow. "Haven't you heard
about the patch yet?"

"Have you had a nice family reunion?"

"Sure. We bobbed for apples earlier in the day, then had a cookout
where everyone gathered around the table and told what they were
most thankful for. You should try it sometime. Oops. Forgot you did
away with your family."

"You think I'm an unfeeling man, Agent Mulder. You are so wrong. If I
was as uncaring as you portray me, you certainly would not be here in
Cascade spending time with your cousin. Without my protection, James
Ellison would be nothing but a faded memory by now."

"So, why Ellison's sudden fall from grace? The devil's pact you made
with his father have a time limit?"

"Detective Ellison is permanently in my good graces," he informed his

"Is that why you turned your bag of tricks loose on him? Is that why
you had him kill a young man, swallow a bottle of pills, overdose in the
E.R., and almost die at the hands of his fellow officers? If that's the
case, then please, keep your love to yourself."

"I admit there have been unexpected glitches, Agent Mulder. I erred in
attempting to use local talent. Trust me, Cascade has no talent. Your
cousin was supposed to be participating in a simple test. Some of the
variables became more varied than I had ordered. The problem has
been taken care of," he said, with a dismissing wave of his cigarette.

"A test? He could have died several times over," Mulder spat out.

"The Percodan was a controlled incident. If his roommate had not come
home on time, a neighbor would have 'accidentally' discovered the
stricken detective and called 911."

"And the Naloxone?"


"I suppose one of your people was responsible for removing the
nightstick from Ellison's neck before his throat was crushed, too?"

The man snubbed out the butt of his cigarette, and shook the pack for
a new one. "Actually, that was one of those nasty variables. Detective
Ellison should have been quite safe in a private cell until that part of the
test was over. Those officers truly didn't like him. No one could have
predicted their violent reaction to having a Major Crime detective within
their grasps."

"Variables," Mulder muttered. "What kind of test was this? How did this
affect his senses?"

"Those I didn't have to test. He is quite remarkable, isn't he?" he
questioned with a proprietary smile. "I am more and more impressed
each time I check on his progress."

Progress? "If this wasn't about his senses, what was it about?"

"It was about who he is, Agent Mulder, and who he knows. With the
eradication of so many among my ranks, I am forced to rearrange
certain aspects of my life for a time. I needed to know if the detective
would suffer from my inattentiveness."


"And he passed with flying colors. He has a great deal of unseen power
at his beck and call. Do you know there have been inquiries into this
matter by the Pentagon? Certain members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
have privately offered to come forward to testify on his behalf. I think it
is more out of a desire to keep him here, and happy, than it is genuine
fondness for the man. He knows so much, and has kept so quiet. An
interesting, but effective, way to acquire power. I had thought to
undermine his base of support by the addition of the racial angle, but it
had no effect. There have been quiet international calls, senatorial
interest.... He could be quite the puppet master if he were so inclined."
It was truly a cosmic joke that William Mulder and William Ellison had
been endowed with sons who could make them proud...and he'd been
stuck with Jeffrey.

"If all you're interested in is making sure Ellison is protected, why is
Krycek sniffing around him?"

The cigarette jerked in his hand. "I don't know what you're talking

"Krycek was hanging around the hospital as Ellison checked out. Then
Ellison caught him watching the loft just before we left tonight."

The man was startled, but tried to cover. "Idle curiosity."

"Yeah, with so many of his handlers dead, I'm sure Krycek has a lot of
time on his hands," Mulder said dryly. "But you've apparently put a lot
of time, energy, and effort into keeping my cousin alive. You wouldn't
want Krycek to get careless...."

"I will remind Mr. Krycek that the detective is off-limits."

Mulder appreciated the promise, but it gave him no answers. "Why?" he
asked, too frustrated to play word games with his opponent. "Why
have you protected this man more than you protected your wife? You
let them take her time and time again, cripple her even, and when she
begged you to kill her, you gave her over to the Colonists. Yet, Ellison,
a child you didn't even know, you have kept hidden and shrouded in
your care...." Mulder stopped as a sudden thought came to him. "The
Consortium doesn't know of his existence, do they?"

"William Ellison made the deal with me, not the Consortium," the man
admitted proudly. "A child named James Ellison reported to the site in
1973. He was found to have a weak heart and did not survive the initial
testing. A pity, but not an isolated incident. Others did not survive, as

Mulder refused to concentrate on the number of lives sacrificed to this
'cause'. "Why all this skullduggery? You accidentally create this child in
one of your secret labs, and immediately you know he's key to the
future. I get that. But after Cassandra was created, Ellison should have
been obsolete."

"You get nothing, Agent Mulder," he said with a patient look. "My dear
Cassandra was a triumph of technology. Your Detective Ellison is a
triumph of nature."

Mulder pulled out a chair and sat down. "What are you saying? His

"The lovely Grace merely let us examine her extraordinary child. I
thought it best to let William continue to think the boy was tainted by
our science. His disgust was instrumental in his going along with my
plan. Pity that Grace wasn't so easily controlled. She thought to base
her scientific reputation on her child. I could not allow that to happen."

"You have experimented with him, haven't you?"

"There was an early instance of using his genetic matrix to create
another. The copy, however, proved to be unstable--violent and
unreliable even as a child."

"Alex Barnes."

"That was what she called herself, yes. She was no match for the real

"You pitted the two against each other."

"I wanted her out of the way. I knew Ellison would solve the problem for

"She killed his partner."

"That was unfortunate. That Sandburg fellow has been quite helpful to
the detective."

"So, you're telling me Ellison truly is a Sentinel?"

He shrugged. "Labels mean nothing to me. Ellison is what he is--not
just the key to our future, Agent Mulder, but the future itself."

"I don't understand," the Fed admitted. "He is resistant to the virus?"


"Then you've made a vaccine from him." At least now he realized why
the aliens didn't frighten this man as much as they did the others.

"Much better than the stuff you were given."

"If you have the vaccine, why is he still alive...and still protected?"

"Do not take what I said earlier lightly, Agent Mulder."

What had he said earlier? Ellison was a natural Sentinel. Ellison was
naturally resistant. Ellison was not just the key to the future, but the
future itself. What the hell did that mean? The future of earth? The
future of man? "Ellison is a natural hybrid?" Shit. All that experimenting,
cloning, growing babies in labs and vats...unnecessary because a little
boy possessed all the answers.

"We are all hybrids. Surely, your learned partner informed you that we
all have the remnant?"

"Yes. When we watched what was done to Gibson Praise. Why didn't
you protect him?"

"Young Mr. Praise was carefully bred to be what he was."

"Gibson Praise frightened you. Jim Ellison does not. Why?"

"When things are done unnaturally, there are always...consequences.
Intermediate steps, that are necessary but considered time-consuming
by scientists and their backers, are often skipped. We should not be
surprised when a reversion, or a melt-down of some type occurs."

"You mentioned checking Ellison's progress. He has experienced, or is
experiencing, these intermediate steps? That is why he is still

"The detective is in the process of evolving--one polypeptide at a time."

"Evolving into what?" Mulder asked worriedly. "Will he eventually be like
Gibson Praise? Able to read minds?"

"That will be the least of it," the man said proudly. "Ask him what
happened to his partner at the fountain."

"He was revived by the paramedics."

"The paramedics called time of death and packed up their equipment."

Aw, hell. "He's like Jeremiah Smith." The shape-shifting clone had been
able to heal with a touch.

There was laughter. "He is so beyond Mr. Smith. He is beyond all that
we know. That's why I've kept him a secret, Agent Mulder. In the wrong
hands, he would be too much of a temptation. I am content to let him
proceed to his logical conclusion. I have no need for his intermediate

"And what would this logical conclusion be? A better hybrid?"

"No, Agent Mulder. You're not thinking large enough. We're talking
about a new species."

"Smith mentioned something about the origin of a new species. Was
this what he was talking about?" Mulder asked curiously.

Hard eyes sought his and held them. "That was the musing, the desire,
of sentient mass without substance. You've seen what they become
when the facade of life is stripped from them, Agent Mulder. Jello with a
brain, is still Jello. Mr. Smith and his band of make-believe humans will
still be dreaming, long after the detective has achieved his ultimate
exalted state."

Mulder wondered if the man would let him bum a smoke. He figured he
could use a cigarette right about now. "Why are you telling me all of
this? Because I have the letters?"

"Ah. Jeffrey was worth something after all. I wanted you to
case all went well with the Colonists. You were to be my backup. You
still are. I hand to you, willingly, my most closely guarded secret. I know
you will treat it with the love and respect it deserves." He stood,
pocketing his silver lighter. "Good night, Agent Mulder." He crossed the
room and opened the door.

"How do you know I won't expose your secret?" Mulder threw out.

"Because I know you, Fox. I always have."

The door closed softly behind him.

Chapter Twenty-one

Jim stood out on the balcony, smiling as a few fleeting signs of dawn
teased the edges of the sky. It was a worn, familiar joke between
Sandburg and Simon that whenever he came out here to the balcony,
the shit had either already hit the fan, or was on a direct course and
contact was imminent. He guessed being the truth made the joke no
less humorous. He did find comfort in the ability to look out over his
city, to be able to stretch his senses to encompass what was his. But it
wasn't. His, that is. He wasn't a Sentinel. He wasn't Blair's holy grail. He
wasn't....well, he wasn't anything. Not anything he, nor anyone else,
thought he was. How many times in one life did a person have to define
himself? He'd tried being William Ellison's son, and failed. He'd tried
being the Army's best soldier...and failed. He thought he was Blair's
Sentinel, and that was a lie. He thought he was a pretty good cop...only
to have now killed a suspect. Back to the drawing board again, Jimmy

A light breeze got beneath the edges of his navy silk robe, causing it to
flutter open and exposing the matching boxers. He didn't bother to
adjust the ties. He didn't exist so he couldn't be accused of indecent

You're losing it, Ellison. 

Don't I have a right to?

Because you were lied to, played, manipulated? Big deal. It's not the
first time it's happened in your life. And knowing you, it won't be the

That's a cheerful thought.

Hey, sometimes the truth stinks. So, turn down your olfactory dial and
go on.

To where? For what?

To wherever the future takes you, and because you have people
depending on you.

Simon doesn't need a cop without a badge, and Blair doesn't need a
Sentinel with a manufacturing date stamped on his ass.

Maybe they need a friend.

Friendship is greatly overrated.

Said by the man who would willingly lay down his life for any of his

Good thing I only have a few.

You have more than you think. And each one of them is counting on
you to see this through. You can't fold. You've anted up. Now call.

And if I'm wiped out?

Call in markers. Borrow against the house. Play again.

You sound like an addict.

There's no high like life. You know that. You felt it in Peru. You cried
for the men you buried. Then you cried for yourself, because nothing
had felt as good as that moment when you realized you were alive.

Be quiet. That's a secret, you know.

Damn stupid one if you ask me. Death is an acknowledged downer.
You won't lose points for enjoying being alive.

"Jim? What's up? You zoning?"

"Nah. Just having an inspirational conversation with myself."

"While flashing the neighbors? Sounds kinky, man," Blair said, even as
he padded out in nothing but his Elmer Fudd boxers. "You should be
resting, Jim."

"Tell that to my mind."

"Any pain?"

Jim shook his head. "Just confusion, a heavy dose of self-pity, and the
question of who the hell I am."

"Ah. The bi-annual review, huh?"

Jim laughed. "Yeah. One of these days I'm going to have the same
answer both times."

"How boring. Everyone should learn something new about themselves
at least twice a year," Blair declared.

"And to that, I reply, 'take my life, please!'"

"Jim, you making bad jokes before the sun comes up?"

"I guess I am, Chief."

"Then everything's back to normal." The phone rang. "Okay. Maybe I
spoke too soon," he muttered, as Jim went inside. Realizing his bare
feet were slightly chilled, he hastily followed his partner.

"Okay, Simon. We'll be there as soon as we get dressed," Jim said, and
hung up the phone. "Simon wants us at the station, Chief, A.S.A.P."

"What's going on?"

"He didn't say."

"What's your reading?"

Jim shrugged. "He sounded...excited."

"Good news, then."

"I'm afraid to speculate," Jim said truthfully. He looked at his partner.
"How good of a grip do you have?"

"You could go into a freefall and I'd still have you, Jim," Blair replied,
even though he knew the time for his close support was over. It was
painfully true that Jim didn't accept personal upheaval gracefully in the
beginning. But give him a day or two to "process," and, hah, it was a
whole new ballgame. The knees locked in place, the head unbowed, the
sharp profile was proudly displayed, and the world could push all it
wanted to, the winds of evil could buffet from all sides... and Jim Ellison
would not be moved. If Simon's news was good, that was excellent. If it
was bad, or something else occurred, that was okay, too. His Sentinel
had found his footing now; he would ride out the storm with a dignity
and elegance which belonged to an era long past.

Jim smiled. "That answer wins you the first shower, Chief. But if you
use all the hot water, they'll be adding more charges to my rapsheet."

"Bad jokes and threats," Blair muttered. "Yeah, everything's back on


"The door's open, Scully," Mulder called as he curled the tie around his
neck. Sometimes he wondered why everyone disdained the clip-on.
Darn convenient, he thought.

Scully stepped in and immediately took a deep sniff. "You've had a

"Sorry, I forgot to call you for the verbal orgy. Some pretty amazing
orgasms were had by all."


He reached for the remote control and turned up the volume on the
television. A reporter was talking. "We're coming to you live from the
Central Precinct where Homicide detectives Milligan and Wallace,
assigned to the Johnson murder, have just confirmed that a video
camera found adjacent to the crime scene, contained evidence which
clears Detective Jim Ellison of murder charges. A full news conference is
scheduled in the next fifteen minutes. Back to you in the studio until
then, Jane."

Jane adjusted the receiver in her ear, then looked at the audience. "As
you know, this murder investigation has been...." 

Mulder reduced the sound. "I guess the test is over."

"Test? What test? What's going on, Mulder? Jim has been cleared?

"Seems that particular alley was the usual assignation place for an
unnamed pimp's stable. He wanted to keep an eye on his workers, so
he installed a videocam--stole it from the convenience store down the
street, they think. The detectives were re-canvassing the scene,
stumbled across the camera, found the pimp, and raided his tapes. In
living, fuzzy, no audio, black-and-white, Jerome Johnson was killed....
He and Ellison run into the alley. Something happens, apparently a
sound of some kind because Ellison grabs his ears a full five seconds
before Johnson does. Both men freeze, Johnson dropping the purse
he'd stolen. A man steps into view, kills Johnson, then drags the body
to where Ellison has fallen to his knees in pain. The murderer, after
securing the purse, then steps out of the picture and the sound fades
because Ellison takes his hands down, and instinctively reaches out for
the body resting against him. Then Sandburg arrives...and the rest is
already on file."

"You know this because...."

"I called the station when I heard of the miracle."

"I take it he had something to do with this?" she asked, her head
indicating the cigarette butt squashed on the table.

"He started it. He finished it. He's a happy little camper now."

Scully slowly lowered herself to the bed. "He told you this?"

" Of course. Didn't you know I was his bosom buddy? He told me
things he'd never told anyone, including the Consortium. I feel so
special," he said, slipping on his watch.

"What kind of things?"

"Family secrets."


He nodded. "You know, we both should avoid any appearances on
game shows. We're lousy guessers."

"Which parts did we get wrong?"

"All of them. No, wait. You were the one who couldn't believe they'd
altered Ellison's genes, right? Scully shoots, she scores!"

"Was it accidental? Like you theorized?"

"Remind me not to do theories anymore. They mess with my ego when
I'm wrong."

"You're confusing me, Mulder. What did you learn last night?" she
demanded firmly.

"That man proposes, but God disposes. In other words, Scully, if you
like your sweetener artificial, Jim's not the right dispenser for you."

In clear testimony of their long partnership, Scully didn't even blink as
she translated the non sequitur. "Jim's abilities are not the product of
genetic engineering."

"Got it in one. Jim Ellison is the real deal. One hundred percent natural.
No additives. Not made from concentrate," he quipped.

She looked at him in mild shock. "Sentinels exist."

"Finally, something has made a believer out of you," he told her
gleefully, before sobering. "Pity that I'm going to have to ruin it for

"What do you mean?" she asked sharply.

"Your boyfriend is not just a Sentinel, but the future of man. How's
that for a resume?" There was a knock at the door, and he went to
accept the pot of coffee he'd ordered. "Grab a cup, Scully. Believe me.
You're going to need it."

Chapter Twenty-two

"Earth to Jim," Blair called softly to his partner, relaxing in his chair at
his desk in Major Crime. Where he belonged. 

"Jim's not in. Please leave a message after the beep. Beeeep."

Blair laughed at the playful reply. "Simon wants to know if you can help
Wallace and Milligan get a name for the man on the tape. Bringing him
in will get you cleared a lot faster."

"I don't recognize him, Chief. Why a perfect stranger allowed Mulder's
'friends' to use him in a plot against me--"

"So, you still believe they're involved?"

"Our friendly neighborhood peeper is a reality. And I don't see an
ordinary citizen having access to the sophisticated equipment used, to
not only brainwash Johnson and me, but to also stop us in our tracks
in that alley."

"Why this sudden 'get out of jail free' stunt, then? Was it merely
because you told Wallace and Milligan to be on the lookout for the
unusual that they spotted the camera? Or were conditions altered to
make the discovery possible?"

"I'd bet on the second scenario. Whatever these people had planned for
me was over, so they unleashed the fix. The tape was made specifically
as a way to clear me at their discretion."


"That's the way the game is played."

"What about the man in the video?"

"If he's directly involved, we'll never I.D. him. If he's just a sap, he's
probably dead--with a convenient suicide note in his hand," Jim

"And I thought police work was scary," Blair said wonderingly.

"Stick with me, kid, and you'll find out the true meaning of the word

"You know, I really wish you were teasing, Jim. But, I'm afraid you're
not, are you?"

Jim shook his head. "Be afwaid, Bwair, be vewy, vewy afwaid," he said,
mimicking Elmer Fudd as his Sentinel brain finally remembered Blair's
early morning boxers.

Blair couldn't believe how much he'd laughed in the past few hours.
"Come on, man. We're gonna use Simon's office to run the mugshots
past you. With those eyes of yours, you can go through the entire
databank before Homicide finds the computer's 'On' button."

"That wasn't very nice, Chief. Not every department has an
anthropology grad student to walk them through the arduous task of
button pushing."

"Well, gee, Jim, you think the pay, or lack thereof, might have
something to do with that?" he questioned, pushing Jim toward the
captain's office. The bullpen was empty since Major Crime was pulling
night duty for the weekend.

"Uh, you expect to be paid? Education is payment unto itself, right?" He
paused when they reached the door. "You still have me in shades,
Chief. Don't you think this might damage my poor eyes?" Jim hated
running mugs. It usually took him at least an hour to get over the
motion sickness the speeding pictures caused.

"If you'd do the accu-pressure I taught you, you wouldn't get vertigo,"
Blair said unsympathetically. Jim still balked. "I'll hold your hand the
entire time, okay?" he offered, and the older man obediently followed
him into the office. He shook his head as he set up the program on the
computer, then took Jim's hand and pressed, having learned the skill as
a small boy who got bus sick on occasion. Sometimes Jim reminded him
of a spoiled child, and secretly, that pleased him, because he firmly
believed someone as special as Jim should be spoiled. In his opinion, it
should have happened a lot earlier in the Sentinel's life.

"Thanks, Chief," Jim said gratefully, as the pictures started blurring by.

Okay, a spoiled, but well-mannered child. "Any time, Jim."

Less than an hour later, they had a match. The Homicide officers went
out to serve the warrant on a John Collins. Jim and Blair stayed at the
station in hopes of getting a chance to listen in on the interrogation,
but that was not to be. Simon came charging into his office forty-five
minutes later, shredding an unlit cigar, and telling them about the
hostage situation that was occurring. Somehow, some way, Collins had
gotten the drop on the detectives, and was holding Milligan at gunpoint.

"Collins wants you in exchange for Milligan, Jim," Simon added, fishing
his weapon out of his drawer. "You sure you don't know this man?"

"His face isn't familiar, and a name like John Collins is so common. I'm in
the dark on this one, sir. Guess I'll just go to the scene and ask."

"You can't be serious, Jim," Blair blurted out before Simon could. "You
just can't charge in there without knowing his motivation."

"Milligan went out of his way to be nice to me, Chief. I can't let his life
just swing in the wind while we try to piecemeal my memory. Knowing
me, Collins is probably another blank spot in the corner of my brain."

"Simon?" Blair appealed.

"We'll discuss it on our way to the scene. And, Ellison? Pick up kevlar on
your way out."


The scene was a madhouse by the time Jim pulled the blue and white
truck in behind Simon's sedan. Television vans kept them from getting
close to the area, their antennae raised in order to keep the public
informed and their ratings climbing. S.W.A.T. was already in position,
the sharp shooters perched in various spots. Uniforms were milling
about, trying to keep back the growing hordes of sightseers; crime was
rapidly rivaling skiing as a tourist attraction. Detectives were standing
around, worried about one of their own, and speculating on his chances
of survival.

A car pulled up behind the truck, and Mulder and Scully climbed out.
"Perfect weather for a luau," Mulder called as they approached.

"Just as long as Milligan isn't the fatted pig," Simon replied grimly, as
the radio in his hand crackled.

Jim took a deep sniff in their direction. "You've been colluding with the
enemy. Are you responsible for my sudden good fortune, cuz?"

"You can smell--" Mulder stopped, still unused to working with a
Sentinel. "Of course you can smell.... He was waiting in my room when I
got back last night. As much as I would like to take credit for the
occurrences of this morning, I can't. The director had already yelled
'cut' before last night's consult."

Jim gave a sharp nod. "I thought this had the appearance of a wrap
party. I suppose John Collins is the cake he wants to feed to the
adoring public, to give them the illusion that nothing important has
been left on the cutting room floor."

"Editing has always been his forte."

"Wonder how he's going to take a last-minute revision?" Jim snarled.

"Don't," Mulder told him.

"Don't what?"

"Don't do a re-write. Let it play as is."

Jim cocked an eyebrow at his cousin, wondering what the agent was up
to. "Why should I let this man continue to call the shots?"

"Because we've been reviewing the wrong movie."

Simon threw up a hand in disgust. "When you two decide to stop
conversing in metaphors, let me know. I'm going to see what's
happening in real life."

Jim reached out and stopped him. "What's happening is that the hero is
about to make his final stand."

"Ellison," Mulder warned.

Jim shook his head. "That's a cop, and a friend, he's using as an
unwilling extra. If he was expecting a pat ending, he should have picked
someone else." He plucked the radio out of the captain's hand. "What
frequency is S.W.A.T. using?" 

Simon told him because he recognized Jim's tone. 

"Jim?" Blair whispered worriedly. It was one thing for his Sentinel to be
firmly anchored; it was another for him to go all John Wayne in a
seriously dangerous situation.

His concern was rewarded with a slight smile and a brief, "I know what
I'm doing, Chief." He punched in the correct frequency, and his call went
out to all the S.W.A.T. team. "When Milligan is clear, take your shot."
He hit the off button before the team's commander could voice his
objections. He looked at his own commander, expecting disapproval
there as well.

"You need my weapon?" Simon asked, unsnapping his holster in

"No. For once, I'm going to be intentionally weaponless. Just keep the
rest of the department from shooting me, okay?" Before anyone could
answer, he was walking forward determinedly.

"Shouldn't someone be stopping him?" Scully asked in confusion.

"He's wearing kevlar," Blair offered. He patted her arm comfortingly
when he noticed how concerned she appeared. "This is what he does,

"You were right; it does run in the family," she murmured, glancing at
her own partner to make sure he hadn't gone charging off on his own.
Surprisingly, he remained at her side.

"It's his show," Mulder explained, easily reading her mind. She looked at
him in disbelief. "It's a hero thing."

The other men just nodded in agreement. With a sigh, she decided to
pick up a copy of Women Are From Venus; Men Are From Mars.
Apparently, one did not have to go to New Mexico to find real aliens.


"Mr. Krycek, a word with you."

Krycek grinned at the television screen. "Everything seems to be on

"Yes, no thanks to you."

The grin faded. "What? I did everything you told me to do."

"Really? I don't recall telling you to stalk Detective Ellison."

"I just wanted to check him out. He doesn't seem like much. A typical
Boy Scout."

"There is nothing typical about the detective. You would be quite foolish
to underestimate him."

Krycek arrogantly rolled a shoulder. "I could take him; he would play by
the rules, and I never do."

"He would play by his rules. You might find yourself out of your league."

The former agent crossed his arms angrily. He hated being in the dark.
The old creep kept hinting at things about this Ellison, yet he'd told his
henchman nothing about him. He had decided to do his own detective
work and had come up with less than he would have liked. Whatever
secrets the black-lunged son of a bitch had about this man, he held
onto more tightly than he had any other secret. But he knew
knowledge was power, and he planned to be the one with the power in
the end.

Shrewd eyes watched him. "Don't underestimate me, either, Mr.
Krycek," he warned casually. "You've seen me make mistakes. You've
seen me exiled. You've seen Mulder destroy some of my most brilliant
schemes. Yes, I've been careless...but only with someone else's
enterprise. Detective Ellison is mine. It would do you well to remember

Krycek made a mental note of it. 

Chapter Twenty-three

Jim expanded his senses as he approached the house in which Collins
held Milligan. The lawn was carefully tended, a flower garden obediently
budding in the warmth of Cascade's spring. Didn't look like the home of
a killer. Didn't smell like one, either. No odor of stale alcohol, nor
lingering traces of marijuana or other drugs, tweaked his nostrils. But
there was the twang of gun oil, and the air was rank with a mixture of
perspiration and fear. Milligan.

"Collins!" he yelled, as he stood on the walk leading to the door. "It's
Ellison! You wanted to see me?"

The door opened a crack. Through the clear storm door, Jim saw
Milligan being pushed in front of someone else. "I wanted you broken
before you died, Ellison," a voice called out. "Guess I'll just have to
settle for killing you!"

"That sounds personal, Collins. But I have no idea why. Wanna clue me
in before you off me?" His eyes focused on the gloomy interior, easily
seeing the gun being held against Milligan's neck.

"You killed my son, you bastard!"

"You're going to have to be more specific," Jim said, flinching at how
that sounded. But he had been a warrior most of his life; sometimes he
had to mortally wound the enemy.

"Sgt. Robert Boyd."

Blair gasped sharply. Boyd was one of Jim's men who had been killed in
Peru. Damn. Why did it seem that everything always came down to that
single incident. It had already altered Jim's life inexorably. How many
more times would it appear to once again wring pain from his partner?

He didn't even realize he was moving forward until Simon's arm blocked
his path. "He's handling it, Sandburg," the captain said sotto voce.

"That son of a bitch better hope he is," the Guide said, staring
pointedly at Mulder, and Simon realized that Blair's threat was aimed at
that Spender fellow--the one with the cigarettes. Briefly, the captain
wondered if the man was savvy enough to know Sandburg was not as
helpless as he looked.

Jim was aware of his partner's indignant anger, but kept himself
focused on the situation in front of him. He knew exactly what was
going on. By using someone connected to the crash, C.G.B. Spender
was going to force the public into seeing him as Captain Ellison--hero.
It would be a reminder of the good that Jim Ellison had done, and the
supposed bad would be quickly forgotten.

Although he didn't mind the intentional character repair, he did mind
that his dead comrade was being used as the catalyst. Especially in the
face of such an obvious lie. "I met Boyd's parents at his funeral. You
weren't there." He had attended each of the re-interments. It was a
duty even his extensive debriefing hadn't interfered with.

"Robbie was my son, not Mack Boyd's," Collins replied righteously.
"Just because I didn't want him in the beginning, didn't necessarily
mean I would never want him."

And just because you were the sperm donor doesn't mean you were
his father, either, Jim wanted to shout. But he didn't, because all he
wanted to do was get Milligan to safety. "I didn't kill Robbie or the
others, Mr. Collins," Jim said politely, using the nickname Collins had
used for his son. Play him, Ellison. You can do it. "Blame those who
shot down the helo."

"You survived!" Collins charged angrily.

"And if you think I deserve to be punished for that, then by all means,
let's get on with it. But I'm tired of innocents dying in my stead, Mr.
Collins," Jim said, keeping his tone conciliatory. He assumed the
standard surrender position--hands raised, a slow turn to show
nothing was concealed behind his back. "It's me you want. Let the
detective go." He continued up the walk toward the door.

"What are you up to?" Collins asked suspiciously.

"Your son died because he was working with me. You wouldn't want
Detective Milligan to suffer the same fate, would you?" He kept walking.
"You let him go, then you do what you think you have to do. That
sounds like a good plan to me, Mr. Collins. Don't you agree?"

Jim's manner was confusing the man. He wished the other man was
here to tell him what to do. He'd been so helpful before. Collins sighed,
as Jim stepped onto the porch. "I don't know what to do," he admitted.

"Open the door, and let Milligan walk out," Jim supplied. "Then I'll walk
in, and your revenge will be complete."

The glass door opened, and Milligan stepped out. As soon as he cleared
the door, Jim tackled him, both hitting the cement porch hard. Popping
noises soon followed, accompanied by the shattering of glass, and to
Sentinel ears, the cessation of one beating heart. He raised his head
when the popping sounds stopped. Through the jagged remains of the
door, he could see the jagged remains of John Collins. He felt no relief;
only a weary sadness.

"Thank you," Milligan whispered, and Jim turned to see the detective
sitting up and staring at the body as well.

"I'm sorry you got involved in my mess. You okay?"

Milligan nodded, then paled. "You've been cut."

Jim looked down at the long laceration on his arm, and shrugged. That
was what usually happened when you ended up on the wrong side of
broken glass. "It'll heal." He listened as the police department
approached en masse. "You did good, keeping your cool. If you want in
Major Crime, I'll give you a recommendation when there's an opening."

Milligan shook his head. "I don't think I'm quite ready for that yet. I'll let
you know, okay?" He scrambled to his feet as his partner yelled his
name. "I think I'm going to be happy in Homicide for a while."

"Scared another one away, have you, Jim?" Simon asked, overhearing
the comment, relieved to see his detective on his feet.

"Don't worry, you still have me, sir," Blair quipped as he pressed a
handkerchief against Jim's arm, and searched for other damage to his
Sentinel. "Is this finally over?" he asked softly.

"I think so, Chief."


"May I have a look?" Blair turned to see Scully beside him, and Mulder
bending over the body of John Collins, Simon discussing something
with him. He nodded, and she lifted the handkerchief. "I think it's going
to need stitches," she diagnosed.

Jim looked out and saw a couple of familiar paramedics. "Albert will do it
onsite," he said with relief. He didn't want to visit the E.R. again. He
started across the yard. An intrepid reporter somehow skirted around
all the cops, and came up to him, jamming a microphone into his face.

"Detective Ellison, this must be a great moment of triumph for you," he
gushed, hoping his cameraman was getting a decent picture.

Jim looked at the man bewilderedly. "Triumph? Jerome Johnson is dead.
John Collins is dead. The people of Cascade not only have lost
confidence in their police department, but the city has three less officers
to protect her. A dedicated detective was held at gunpoint, and could
have easily been killed. Too much blood--figuratively and literally--has
been shed, including my own, for this to be called anything less than a
tragedy. So, no, I really wouldn't call this a triumph."

The reporter stared at him in shock, or perhaps in mortification of his
own insensitivity. Blair just shook his head in disdain, and carefully
prodded his partner toward the care he needed.


"Come on in, Simon," Blair called softly, seeing the captain in the
doorway. "Jim's sleeping, so keep it down to a dull roar," he said,
angling his head toward the loft. "Speaking of sleeping, shouldn't you
be in bed? Major Crime works tonight, doesn't it?"

Simon shrugged. "I'll have all day tomorrow to catch up on my missed
sleep. I came by to give Jim his shield and weapon back."

"That was quick."

"The brass wants to put all this behind them." He reached for the beer
Blair handed him, then followed the grad student out to the balcony.
"The department is taking most of the flack for this situation, and you
know how they hate the spotlight. By expediting Jim's reinstatement,
they're hoping to get on the public's good side again. Whoever this guy
is, he did a hell of a job of restoring Jim's reputation."

"He destroyed it. It's only right he correct his own crap."

Well, Sandburg was obviously in no mood to cut anyone any slack.
"Jim's doing okay, isn't he?"

"For a man who's been tortured for over a week, yeah, he's doing fine.
The various cuts, bruises, and broken bones will heal. The emotional
upheavals have been dealt with, for the most part. The re-surfacing of
the helicopter crash is probably going to be good for a nightmare or
two, but we'll handle it like we always do," he replied bitterly. 

"You still have no idea why all this occurred?"

"Mulder and Scully are supposed to come over and tell us. But, at the
moment, they have their own troubles. Their boss got suspicious of
their 'vacation' plans, especially since the two aren't known for going off
together for mere fun, and decided to see what the attraction was to
Cascade. A news search cleared up everything for him, so now they're
trying to explain how they got involved, and why they felt they needed
to get involved. In other words, they've been called to the captain's
office, and they both have my sympathy. Not a very pleasant way to
spend a Sunday afternoon."

"Why, Sandburg, I'm hurt by your implication that you don't enjoy
every moment you spend in my company," Simon said drolly, hoping to
lighten the moment. In his opinion, both of his men had been battered
and bruised during this incident.

"You'll get over it," Blair replied, with a spark in his eyes. 

Simon nodded. He'd gotten over everything else the two had challenged
him with. "You know, I thought finding out about Jim's abilities was
going to be the biggest shock of my life. Then he just had to have you
as a partner, and I started reading the stress management books my
divorce attorney presented to me--at the same time he presented his
bill. When you moved in here, and the idea didn't make me
hyperventilate, I said to myself, 'Simon, son, you are one
psychologically sound man.'"

"You say stuff like that to yourself?" Blair interrupted with a grin.

"Shut up, Sandburg. I'm expressing myself here. Now, where was I?"

"'Simon, son, you are one psychologically sound man'," the
anthropologist replied obediently.

"Yeah. Well, I was wrong. There's no way anyone could be
psychologically sound around the two of you. The most peculiar shit
happens to you. Spirit animals, and South American Indians shooting
arrows and throwing spears in downtown Cascade.... You know the
weekly captains' meetings I have to attend? Well, the other captains
have started bringing popcorn to eat when its my turn, because they
know I'm going to have some entertaining tale to tell. The regular
officers might be jealous of Major Crime, but the brass know the real

Major Crime was a laughingstock? "I'm sorry, sir. We never meant to
make the unit a joke."

Simon smiled. "Don't worry about it. I get to laugh at them when they
see our numbers. Arrests, convictions, solve-rates, open case ratios....
None of the other divisions are in the running when it comes to
numbers, Sandburg. I get such sweet satisfaction out of throwing that
up in their faces...."

"I hope you have some numbers to show them this week, then."

Simon shook his head and sighed. "This is definitely a popcorn week."

Blair gave him a sympathetic pout. "Speaking of popcorn, I'm curious
about what Mulder meant when he said we'd been reviewing the wrong

"The whole movie riff went over my head," Simon admitted.

"Actually, I was quite proud of Jim. At least I know now why my
Movieline magazines are always showing up in the bathroom."

"You know, Sandburg, there are some things you shouldn't discuss
with your boss."

Blair grinned. "Then it's a good thing you're a friend, too."

"Lord knows, you and Jim can use all you can get," Simon sighed.

"Can I add an amen to that?" Jim asked, joining them on the balcony.

"What're you doing up, man?" Blair asked. "You've only been out an

"Dana and Mulder are here."

"You were listening instead of sleeping?"

He shook his head. "I was sorta doing both."

"Your multi-tasking skills are improving," Blair said approvingly.

"This doesn't mean more tests, does it?" Jim asked warily.

Blair patted his shoulder as he went past him toward the door. "There
will always be tests, Jim. But I'll give you a few days to recuperate."

"Oh, thank you, sahib," Jim groused, executing a shallow, but
recognizable bow. His broken rib wouldn't allow a grander gesture.

Blair just grinned. "You're welcome."

Chapter Twenty-four

"Cascade averages three sunny days a year, and this is the fifth one in
a row, so we're out on the balcony, worshipping the oddly glowing ball
of light, and wondering what it is," Blair said conversationally, as he
ushered the Federal agents through the loft.

"Want me to ask the Consortium what it is?" Mulder inquired.

"Nah. They might make it go away. We'll take our chances. Everything
copacetic in Washington?"

"Guess we'll know when we get there tonight."

"You're heading back to D.C. tonight?" Jim asked his cousin, as he
awkwardly opened one of the folding patio chairs he'd bought last fall
when they went on sale.

"We're on our way to the airport. Duty calls...and the Bureau will
reimburse me for the tickets," Mulder explained with an amused smile.
"So, how are you doing, Ellison? Any new body holes since I last saw

"Fifteen stitches closed up the last one. You know, since they created it,
you would think they would help me keep it in one piece a little better,"
Jim observed dryly.

"Uh, about that...." Mulder began, then looked to his partner for help.

She took the seat beside Jim's. "We were wrong," she explained gently.
"The gifts you have are natural."

"Yes!" Blair yelled. "I knew he was a real Sentinel. Maybe they could
have jiggled the DNA around enough to create the senses, but it has
always been more than just hypersensitivity. It's also his instincts, his
need to protect others more than himself. That kind of thing can't be
bottled in a lab and sold over-the-counter."

"They found that out, Blair, when they created Alex Barnes."

"So, the bitch was perpetratin' from the beginning. I should have
known she was a faker."

"What does this mean?" Simon asked. "What about the story William
Ellison told us?"

"Apparently Grace Ellison realized her son was special, and she took him
to the lab to be studied, not altered. Cancer Man let William continue to
think his son was a science project because his anger made him more
malleable to his machinations."

"And you know this because...?" Simon demanded.

"Because the man told me."

"Did he happen to tell you why the hell Jim was put through all this
Johnson crap?"

"It was a test. He wanted to know how connected he was."


"And he found his answer."

"Jim has friends," Blair said, daring anyone to contradict him.

"Yes. More than C.G.B. Spender expected, I believe." Mulder looked at
his cousin, who hadn't spoken since Scully told him the truth. "You
apparently have in your possession a number of powerful secrets. That
turns even enemies into allies."

Jim shrugged. "I've never held them over anyone."

"Yeah, and they want to keep it that way," Mulder replied with a grin. "I
go back to D.C. with the knowledge that you're well-protected, cousin."

"Isn't that still the question? I know nothing on Spender. Why has he
invested nearly forty years in protecting me?"

"Because you are unique."

"Until they pin me down, and extract all my vital parts to mete out on
an assembly line?"


"No?" Blair asked with a frown. "Because Alex turned out so badly, Jim's
of no value?"

"According to my source, it's too soon to be thinking about making
more Jims."

"Too soon?" Blair repeated curiously.

"Apparently, Jim," Scully began, "you are experiencing an evolutionary

"Aren't we all?" Blair pointed out.

"But not at the rate Jim is. We can assume from what Mulder was told,
we won't have to wait millions of years to see what Jim will become. He
has already taken great leaps up the evolutionary ladder, and several
more are still in the works. Blair, when you first met him, he had
rudimentary control of his senses, correct?"

"You read my notes."

"Now, his control is effortless."

"Mostly," Jim agreed. "But that's because of Sandburg."

"Did Blair have anything to do with contacting another dimension?"

"That was an isolated incident."

"After your first violent confrontation with Alex Barnes, you indicated
you could pick up impressions from objects she had handled."

"Yes." That had been a little unnerving.

"You solved a murder by talking to the ghost of the victim?"

Jim glared at Blair. "You put that in your notes, too?"

Blair shrugged. "I write down everything in my notes. All of it won't
make the final cut."

Scully looked at Blair. "You drowned in the fountain." He nodded. "Jim
made you live again."

"That was personal," Jim said hollowly.

She shook her head, and laid a hand on his knee. "Maybe it was the
personal angle which made it work. Maybe it was because at that
particular moment, you had the faith in yourself, but the power, the
gift, came from inside you."

"I don't want this," he said, his blue eyes haunted. "I think I was better
off being the lab freak."

"It'll be okay, Jim," Blair said soothingly, his hand clasping the Sentinel's
shoulder. "You don't have to go through these changes alone. You
have friends, real friends, and we're not going anywhere."

"I think Simon wants to go," Jim replied, catching the grayness beneath
Simon's dark skin.

"If something like this was going to scare me away, Jim, I would have
been long gone," the captain said gently. "Just don't give me any grief
over my cigars."

"And quite frankly, cuz, this is rather tame when it comes to the stuff
Scully and I usually find ourselves knee-deep in, so we're going to be
around, too. In fact, there are some cases I'd like to run by you--"

"Give him some time to orient himself, Mulder," Scully chastised. "You're
not going to bully my best bud like you do me."

"Best bud? When did this happen?" Mulder questioned sharply.

"I wasn't under the impression that I had to share my social calendar
with you, Mulder."

"But.... What does best bud mean?"

"Anything we want it to," Jim replied easily. "Perhaps the next time
you're visiting, Dana, I'll be well enough to explore the possibilities."

"You know, planes go both ways. Maybe when you're well, you'll come
visit me," she purred.

"Speaking of planes," Mulder said, glancing pointedly at his watch,"we
better be leaving, Scully."

"Just when it was about to get interesting," she muttered. "I'll try to
work on his timing before your visit, Jim."

He smiled, and walked with her to the door. "Then it's a date, Dana. Call
me, okay? Anytime."

She laughed. "You'll probably get tired of hearing my voice."

"Never," he vowed.

Cupping his face gently, she tugged his head down, then kissed him,
only releasing him when she heard Mulder coughing, and Blair trying
hard not to laugh. "Research, gentlemen," she said smugly.

"Research?" Mulder repeated indignantly.

"Yeah. I'll take this kiss and compare it with the next see if he's
evolved any further." She reached up and wiped a lipstick smudge from
Jim's face. "You won't let me down, will you, Jim?"

"No, ma'am," he replied obediently.

Blair gave up on suppressing his laughter, and just let the sound spill
out. "Let me tell you, Scully, Jim is always a man of his word."

"I'm counting on that," she said, and actually batted her eyes at her
'research' subject. It was so much fun to be able to flirt, and know that
no one would respect her less for doing so. Coming to Cascade had
done her a world of good. She had all three Cascadians to thank for
that. "Thank you," she told them, as they walked them to the car. "I've
gone back to D.C. after a case feeling confused, disgusted,
introspective, satisfied that justice has been served, or just plain
relieved that Mulder and I survived. I think, however, this is the first
time I've ever gone back feeling...good--about myself, about the

"She's so easy," Mulder complained with a shake of his head.

"You wish," she retorted, startling him. Oh, yes. It would be a while
before she allowed Diana Fowley to get under her skin again. "Take care
of each other," she said, slipping into the driver's seat.

"Ditto," Blair said for all of them.


"You're looking...introspective, Mulder," Scully said as the plane leveled
off to cruising altitude.

"I'm capable of it on occasion, Scully."

"I didn't mean it that way, and you know it. What's troubling you? I
thought you would be on cloud nine. We went to Cascade, and we got
answers--answers which further your suppositions and suspicions. I
would think you would be crowing your achievements, not brooding

"It bothers me that Cancer Man was so forthcoming. Why? He says he
wants me to help protect my cousin."

"You don't believe him?"

"The problem is that I do. I believe everything he says about Ellison,
and I believe he wants to keep him safe."

She sighed. "Why is that a problem?"

"Because that man has never told a whole truth in his life. If what he's
confided about Jim Ellison is just part of the truth, what the hell is the

Scully leaned back against her seat, and closed her eyes. The next time
her partner was brooding silently--she would let him.


"You're not planning on spending the night out here, are you?" Blair
asked, not surprised to find Jim on the balcony hours later.

"No, Chief. I'll be turning in soon."

"Need all this room for the thoughts going around in your head?" his
partner asked knowingly.

"It's been a hell of a ride, hasn't it? Last Sunday I was sure I hadn't
killed Jerome Johnson, that I wouldn't swallow pills, that I was a
Sentinel.... In the course of the week, all that changed. Now, I'm back
to where I started. A full circle, Chief."

"That's life, Jim. We all run around in circles, and if we're lucky, those
circles just keep expanding. If we're unlucky, we just keep going around
the same circle over and over again."

"Then we must be two of the luckiest people in the world. The scenery
is always changing around here."

"More beautiful every day," he agreed.

"Thanks for agreeing to travel with me."

"Thanks for letting me. It's more than the dissertation, you know."

"I know. Sometimes I act like I don't know, but I know."

"Yeah. Sometimes we like to fool ourselves, when in actuality, we're not
fooling anyone," Blair sighed.

"You mean, like me ignoring everything Dana and Mulder said about me
zooming along the evolutionary track?"

"Ignoring or repressing?"

"Ignoring. A very conscious decision to shove it into the nether regions
of my brain."

Blair shrugged. "Cool. I'll hang onto it for you."

"Why did I know you were going to say that?"

Blair grinned up at him. "It's just so exciting, man. Possibly all Sentinels
could have had this ability, you know. But back in those days, how
many Sentinels lived past the age of thirty? Hell, not many people
anywhere lived much longer than that. Disease, warring tribes,
accidents.... Life was the ultimate crapshoot back in those days. I
remember one story about...."

Jim smiled, and let his Guide weave a cocoon of words around his
battered body and soul. Maybe tomorrow, he would emerge with a
fresh set of wings and the desire to flit off into the unknown. Tonight,
however, he would rest in the safe, warm place his partner created for
him, and heal.


Agent Dana Scully trailed her fingers across the small glass screen,
wishing she could actually touch the figure who paced the padded cell.
Did he know she was there? That they wouldn't let her see him? "Hang
on, Mulder. I'm going to be leaving the country for a while, so I might
seem far away. But I'm leaving in order to get the answers we need. Do
you understand? I'm not abandoning you. No matter what they might
tell you. Look into your heart, and you'll know the truth."

She had left him once already, to go to New Mexico to find out more
about an artifact which was inscribed with Navajo "code talk". Mulder's
reaction to not even the object, but just a tracing of its inscription, had
been bewildering…and extreme. He'd started hearing voices in his head,
voices which casused him physical pain. Then he'd had psychic episodes
which had led him to the actual artifact and a hidden, mutilated body,
and had caused him to accuse Skinner of being in league with their
enemies. At the time she'd left, she had been the only one physically,
and mentally, capable of continuing the investigation.

In her absence, things had gone from bad to worse. The Navajo
shaman, who she had hoped could translate the artifact for her, had
been near death-- comatose due to cancer, and therefore unable to
help her. Then Skinner had called and told her she that she needed to
get back to D.C. because her partner was in serious condition. She had
rushed back to find Mulder confined, and she had been forbidden to go
to him, to let him know he wasn't alone. 

So, she was going to do what she thought he'd want her to do-- find
the truth. The artifact had originated in the Ivory Coast. She was going
to go there, find its secrets, learn how to cure her partner, then come
back here and rescue him from this hell. And no one was going to get in
her way again.

"I'll be back, Mulder. Believe in me; believe in us."

"Excuse me? Did you say something?" Diana Fowley asked, also
watching the prowling figure on the screen.

"I was talking to my partner," Scully said.

"Oh, Dana. He wouldn't be able to hear you even if you were there with
him. His mind is completely gone. My poor Fox," the woman moaned.

"Mulder's mind is not gone," Scully replied, digging her nails into her
palms to keep from slapping the agent beside her. Whatever had gone
wrong with Mulder, this witch had something to do with it. But she
really didn't have time to deal with assault charges, so she would do
what she had to do to save Mulder and then...then she would deal with
the bitch once and for all. "And he hears me, Diana. He always will."

She walked out of the mental facility, tapping a number into her cell
phone. Once again, she got a busy signal. Jim's line had been busy for
the past two days. Apparently, he was a very popular man at the
moment. She would try again when she got back. The good feeling
she'd gotten three months ago, was beginning to slip away.

Aware she was being watched, Scully boarded the plane, and mentally
dared anyone to stop her. She was going to the Ivory Coast for
answers, and Mulder's truth, and if anyone had a problem with that,
they would find out just how much she had learned from her partner.


The young man on the television screen was nearly in tears, as he
admitted to the fraudulent facts he had compiled in his dissertation.
Then Blair Sandburg walked from the room, and never looked back.

"And they say there's nothing good on television these days." He
reached for his ever-present pack of cigarettes. "Did you complete the
transfer of funds to that publisher's account?"

"Yeah. He's already 'retired' to the country to write his own bestseller."
Alex Krycek pointed at the TV. "Guess I won't be going to Cascade,

"No. It would probably be healthier if you stayed away from that city."

The warning was noted. "Tell me something. That was all real, wasn't it?
The advance, the offers that Sandburg guy had?"

"Yes, Mr. Krycek. Where would be the fun in tempting an animal with a
fake carrot?"

"So, he willingly gave up all that to protect the cop? I don't get it. I bet
even Ellison's mother would have thought twice about turning down all
that dough and fame."

"You are correct, and that was her downfall. It would have been Mr.
Sandburg's as well, if he had not had the strength of character I
thought he had." It would have been a pity, too. He'd spent
considerable time and effort finding his Sentinel a suitable Guide. "What
is that old saying? 'Fate makes our relatives, but choice makes our
friends.' It seems that Detective Ellison chose well, Mr. Krycek. Very well
indeed." He smiled and deftly lit another cigarette, then went on to
other business. 

"So, how is the lovely Agent Scully enjoying the warm waters of Africa?"