Title: Priorities
Author: Anna Otto
Rating: NC-17
Classification: SA
Spoilers: Biogenesis
Archive: by permission - just ask
Disclaimer: not mine... but so much fun to play with.

Summary: The saga begins when CSM finally finds his match, and ruminates about human vices, perils of parenting, and fate. A compilation of five stories and one bonus.

A slight warning: this could get under your skin.

I. Priorities

"Why didn't you knock?"

I'm startled, though not by her question.

"The fact that you have a key to my apartment doesn't give you the right to enter without knocking."

I forgot. I simply forgot to knock. I'm preoccupied these days - the plans are being put into motion, the gears are churning again. But I have no desire to defend myself, so I simply stand and wait for her to face me. Eventually, she will forgive me, as she always does.

Or she will repress it, pretend to forget it, and go on as if nothing ever happened.

Diana Fowley and Dana Scully have a lot more in common than they could ever imagine.

When the silence draws out for too long, I sit down and light a cigarette. Given world enough and time, she will speak for she has no choice. I, on the other hand, always follow an old and true principle: never speak first. Diana learned a lot in my company, but this truth will die with me.

"You will not smoke in here." She comes up from behind soundlessly, and her fingers snatch the cigarette out of my hand.

I must say, perhaps she'd learned some other tricks while we were apart. I will have to play catch-up. "Are you trying to quit, or are you trying to punish me?"

I can feel her eyes on me.

"Neither," she answers, then repeats. "Neither."

"Agent Scully has discovered the surveillance cameras in the X-Files office," I change the subject. "Next time, try to be less obvious while installing them."

"I will take it under advisement," Diana replies matter-of-factly. A good soldier, as always, carrying out orders and giving the job all she has. She takes reprimands in stride and uses them as ways to improve. Such dedication is so rare, these days.

"We will have to follow her," I continue. "It will be curious to see what she does."

She finally comes to face me, and sits on the floor in front of my chair. "It's already done," she sounds bored. Her face is hard to read tonight, more so than usual, and I feel a small pang of disquiet. "Why don't you ask me something that really interests you?"

I have to use all of my strength not to betray my emotions. I wonder sometimes how there could be any emotions left, but time and time again I'm proven wrong. Adding to my discomfort is a wish for a cigarette that's not just a simple physical urge to be satisfied, but something more primal, more animal. More human.

"And what would it be, you think?" I'm proud of the way my voice doesn't shake.

"How did it go with Fox?" Diana inquires, and I have to give her credit for dramatic abilities. She even manages to imitate my voice.

I smile indulgently, though suddenly I find the situation less than amusing. "And how did it go with Fox?" I give her the prompt that she wants.

"Better than I imagined it would."

There is something in her tone that sets off the warning bells in my mind. I study her position, the peculiar way she holds herself tonight. The explanation is quite simple, really, but I'm more puzzled than disturbed by it: she looks and behaves as though she is younger. Perhaps a decade younger than she really is today. It's as if the young and ambitious FBI agent that I met eight years ago is back, now armed with wisdom and experience.

I will my eyes away, to the faraway wall of her luxurious apartment. As many times as I've been here, I've never truly appreciated the collection of paintings she has. But I whisper, "Do tell." It wouldn't do to forget the conversation, after all. Forgetfulness is a sign of senility, and I don't intend to grow this old.

"The night before he broke down, Fox Mulder was very ill. Dana Scully was very far away. And I was very, very available," Diana's words are playful, but she doesn't smile. "I took off my clothes and lay down in bed next to him. Then I made love to him. I thought it was even better than the last time with him I could remember, seven years ago. Sex just seems more delicious when your partner is less than conscious."

I'm repulsed. I can't bear to look again at this good soldier and a horrific woman. "That's more graphic detail than I required, Diana," I force the words out and hope that the conversation is over.

"Oh," she laughs softly. "I was talking to myself. You just have less presence these days, don't you find? It's easy to forget you're around."

"Perhaps your self-sacrifice would have been more of value if he was aware," I ignore her insolence and push logic in her face instead. "How are you planning to gain his trust if you're raping him?"

"I'm not wasting time on that," Diana leans close to me, and even in her dark eyes, I read laughter. "And I don't care about the value this may have for you."

Abruptly, she stands up and wonders into her bedroom. Her shadow moves about gracefully, plucking out suitcases and getting things out of the drawers. My lust awakens with a vengeance, and I remember one of the reasons why I came here tonight.

Sometimes, I pretend she's not just a subordinate. She is a woman, and one who has some power over this man. Enough power to make him forget what she'd just done to another, much more vulnerable man.

"Going somewhere?" I ask, getting a hold of myself. "I don't recall you asking for a vacation."

"I'm leaving," Diana replies from the bowels of her bedroom. I'm aching to go there and shake the truth out of her, but something restrains me. I've never stepped inside of that room without an invitation. I will not breach that rule even now. "You will hear from me soon, I imagine."

"Explain yourself, please."

She emerges, fully dressed and still much younger than she has any right to appear. "Fox Mulder is unfortunate enough to have picked up that peculiar virus that affects only select few. He can read the minds of others, and if he ever gets past the insanity bit, he could become a powerful man," she starts dreamily. "Whether you had anything to do with it, I will never know. But I'm grateful for this opportunity, either way."

My hands are on her shoulders, and I can't recall how it happened. "Tell me the rest," I demand. The warning bells had long ago become screaming alarms, and my fingers are white with the strain as I hold on to her.

"Let go of me," Diana demands. "You wouldn't want to hurt a precious commodity."

"You? Precious commodity?" I'd laugh if I had a heart.

"I'm not. But my child will be," she replies, self-assured. "Fox Mulder's child."

I let go of her more quickly than if she suddenly turned into a snake and bit me.

"I know it may be too soon of me to announce the wonderful news," Diana is thoughtful. "Too soon, hardly a couple days after. But it was perfect timing, and I just have that feeling...I never thought I could experience it," she sighs softly, wondrously. "But I'm certain that I'm pregnant."

"From that night," I finish, darkly. "You're sure."

"Yes," she smiles and her hand cups my cheek. The gesture could almost be interpreted as tender, but I know better. Now I know better. "Of course, I will do what's right when the child is born. You needn't worry about that."

"And what exactly is the right thing, Diana?" I inquire. I would be a fool to pretend I knew what was on her mind. This student had outgrown the teacher. Shouldn't I feel proud?

"Raising a child in the lab and monitoring his abilities," she explains to me as if I was dumb. "It's the perfect opportunity for us to study and analyze this phenomena we're dealing with. Of course," she continues, following the train of thought, "we did have an opportunity to study Gibson Praise, and now Fox Mulder, but a child... a child who belongs only to us, who no one will miss, who we can study from the very beginning... why, nothing could be better as a test subject."

I'm tired of reacting to her words tonight. Instead, for just a moment, I'm lost in contemplating whether it's possible that this woman carries my grandchild. Perhaps it's best if I never know.

The opportunity she talks about really is a perfect one.

"Take as much time as you need," I speak quickly. "You will have whatever you require for the next nine months and beyond. Just ask."

She leans in to place a kiss on my lips. "I knew you would see it my way." She steps back and I can't help admiring her fleeting second youth, and her ageless beauty.

I want this woman, still, even after all she'd told me tonight.

"Oh," Diana coos indulgently. I'm frightened that she's able to discern my lust. "I'm just not in the mood tonight. Carrying a child of someone who is that important changes my priorities, just a bit."

"I will go," I speak neutrally. "Please inform me of where you will be at."

She nods, business-like. "Everything will go as planned."

I'm struck by sudden jealousy, and I try to curb it as best I can. I was the one who suggested that Diana should try to assert her old influence over Mulder. I was the one who applauded her superior talents during the fiasco in El Rico. I was the one who admired her apparent power over him.

Now, reduced to an old man, and a rival of a younger one, I regret ever bringing her back into the game. But it's too late for all of us.

"Goodbye," Diana calls when I open the door. "I'm sorry I couldn't let you smoke in here, but the child..."

I stumble out on the street before I finally reach inside my inner pocket and procure a cigarette. My wrinkled fingers feel the burn of the lighter when I ignite it, and I wish that she didn't know me so well. Nervously, like a junkie craving a fix, I inhale once, then twice.

The smoke filters through my lungs, sweet and warm, and I take comfort in it.

I still need this more than her.

The End.

II. Foreboding

Walter Skinner leans against his desk, stiff as a board in a starched white shirt, reprove clear behind his glass frames. I sense that he has just told me something of importance, something that I clearly had to pay attention to, but I've missed it all.

I berate myself inwardly. Why did I come here today? The appearances are everything, but in my line of work I can't make mistakes. I can't spend the night tossing and turning and still hope to have enough energy in the morning.

I remain silent, wondering what meaningless non-truth I could offer that would satisfy him, and his face grows menacing. The Assistant Director should work on his anger issues. As skilled as he is in placating lesser men, he clearly cannot keep his emotions in check around me. It's almost amusing at times.

"I can't do anything about this situation," he tells me bitterly. "But I must know - for myself - if I'm to blame for Fox Mulder's current condition."

It always comes back to that name, I think wearily. I'm starting to hate the man who possesses it with an entirely new fire.

"And if you are?" I ask. "Would it change anything? Would it give you relief to know you're not to blame?"

For a fleeting moment, he looks anguished, and I'm somewhat ashamed of my words. Playing games is tiresome these days, especially when it comes to anything concerning a certain FBI agent.

He clenches his jaw, then meets my eyes. "Am I responsible."

"Neither of us are, Mr. Skinner," I answer. It is neither a truth nor a lie, and it falls easily off my tongue. He heaves a sigh of relief.

I can't bear to be around this man any longer.

I need distance and time. Just a few days away, I tell myself. Then, I will remember my purpose, and I will be able to forget what brought me to this office.

"How is he?" I ask finally. At any other time, I would get the answer I needed without my opponent ever realizing that it was indeed the only piece of information I'd wanted. Today, I only have the strength to ask a direct question and hope for an answer that is just as direct.

Walter Skinner stares at me suspiciously. "He is more himself, from what I hear," he says reluctantly. "I don't know any details."

"Mulder wouldn't want to see you," I whisper to myself, but he hears my words and pales visibly.

I hate being unable to approach the hospital where he has been for the last couple of months. I'm afraid that he would sense me, sense the secrets that I carry, discern the disease that grows within me, eating me faster than cancer. I'm not used to getting my information from second-hand sources, but I must learn to become content with it.

"Good day, Mr. Skinner." Spent, I step outside his claustrophobic office, and make my way down the corridor. My next errand will not wait any longer, and I pull out the piece of paper that is burning my pocket, skimming over the memorized phrases once again, like a masochist.

"You will be able to research the enclosed sample, and learn what I already know," Diana's confident handwriting leaps off the page, and each word is a sharp knife slashing through me. "I know you must be concerned about my health, and I assure you that I'm doing well. Or should I imagine that you're more worried about the child? Strange how certain I am that it will be a boy. California climate is positive for both of us."

I light a cigarette. Positive is not a word that a mother-to-be should use when describing her condition. It sounds clinical and detached - and I want her to feel something, no matter how terrible it would be in retrospect.

Considering the plans we have for this child, any affection that Diana may harbor towards it is dangerous - even lethal. Her current state of mind should be a blessing for everyone concerned.

"Clearly, it is none of my business," she concludes the letter tentatively. "But I would like to know how the father is - after all, it is by his courtesy that we have this miracle. Take care, Diana."

The more I recognize her coldness, the more I'm fascinated with her. The clearer it becomes that this woman doesn't need me, the more I wish for her presence. I loved Teena because she was all the goodness that I was leaving behind. I want Diana because she is all the evil that I will never be.

She is a corrosive factor that burrows its way deep inside my flesh.

I dial a number on the cell phone and interrupt an effusive greeting. Lately, the fear behind the courtesy of my subordinates is all too easy to read, and I crave that fear even as I despise them for it. "Doug, I need you to run a paternity test, " I request and listen indifferently to his meaningless reply. "Top priority."

I hang up and walk downstairs to hail a cab.

I poison California air with the smoke from my cigarette, then crush it on the ground before it's burnt halfway. I can only afford to take a few days off work, and I shouldn't be spending them here.

No one can ever know whose child she bears. No one should even realize that she is pregnant. Yet I feel that the reason for this enforced vacation is even deeper. Could it be that she shares my fear?

Does she suffer from insomnia?

"I want you to see a doctor. He would keep everything in strictest confidence."

"If it makes you feel safer," she nods.

It doesn't. Nothing possibly could, but this child is part of the job and as such must be taken care of. It's my turn to speak, but I can't summon the courage to verbalize one name that haunts me.

"He is better," I tell her sarcastically. "He would be touched that you were worried."

Diana's expression doesn't change. It's as if I hadn't spoken at all. Instead of replying, she takes my hand and massages it gently, circle after circle leaving invisible blisters on my skin. It's the answer I didn't want.

"Stop it," I say harshly.

"Do you want me to?" she asks, never interrupting the motion.

I snatch my hand away and almost reach for another cigarette before I remember that the last one I've had lies extinguished on the ground. This is the second conversation in as many days that I don't want to engage in.

Her hand runs up my chest and opens one button, then another. The touch of her linen dress is cool against my skin, and I shiver even as I grow warmer.

"Let's go inside," she whispers, and I allow her to lead me, relinquishing my control for today. I want to be silent. I want her mouth to be busy with something besides words.

Words are dangerous tonight.

Pregnancy makes her radiant, smoothing out the angled figure, filling in the curves. Her dress falls off her shoulders, and my suit follows in its tracks. We end up in a tangled heap on the bed, and the urgency in her eyes cannot be mistaken.

I grip her hands, pinning her down to the mattress, and push into her with all the grace of a caveman, loathing the vessel that I fill with each stroke. I needed this - I craved this for too many days.

I beg for her to fight me, but she lies pliant and soft under my body, obeying my every move.

I can't watch her face, and my eyes travel down to her full breasts, already growing heavier, then to her slightly curving stomach.

Inside this body, there grows a child of my enemy. And I'm suddenly certain that he can hear us. He can discern our thoughts and pry open the vaults of my mind that stood closed for years, exposing the wounds and warts that I strive to keep hidden.

I'm stripped naked. My skin is scorched under the freezing wind, and I try to cover myself uselessly. I hear the child's laughter and I know that it's his fault, all his doing, for an apple doesn't fall far from a tree.

I hate him. I hate the body that carries him. If I placed my hands on this uterus and pushed with extra strength, would he be destroyed? Would this small, unformed thing be crushed before it had a chance to develop?

I cry out in horror and roll off her, shaking.

Diana grabs my shoulder in anger. "What are you doing?"

I wipe the beads of sweat off my forehead and point wordlessly to the bulge in her stomach.

"Oh." There is underlying scorn in her whisper. "You don't have to be afraid. You won't hurt him - I'd think you knew..."

I laugh harshly. I'm not that uneducated in the matters of physiology. But to answer that I do want to hurt him, that I do want to seek a way to destroy the life that she carries, would be to overstep the boundaries between us, no matter how much I want to shock her. If this boy is ever born, I fear for him. I fear for myself.

Is it too late to suggest an abortion? How typically male of me.

Diana turns away from me, clearly frustrated. "You're not coming back here."

Hormones, I think detachedly. Pregnant women are so predictable. Of course she wouldn't want me back here - not when I can't give her what she needs.

I lie awake until I hear her breathing grow calmer. She's finally asleep. I spotted some sharp knives in the kitchen earlier. If I sliced her body open right now, she would never make a sound. And no one would find the perpetrator who committed this hideous crime.

I can almost see the anger in the eyes of policemen who would discover her. Such a pity, the coroner would say. A beautiful woman who carried a child, now dead.

My scream is wordless, but my ears grow deaf upon hearing it. Am I going mad?

Is this the fate of every man who comes in contact with her?

Unable to be beside Diana for a moment longer, I get out of bed and put on my clothes. Something falls out of my pants' pocket and I pray that it's a forgotten pack of cigarettes. Instead, it's a hand-written message from Doug. It's too early, much too early to know for sure. But she knew that she was pregnant. She told me the truth.

The paper shakes in my hand, and the words grow dim for a brief second.

"Inconclusive," Doug's messy hand writes.

But possible.

The End

III. Scythe

"So the struck eagle, stretch'd upon the plain,
No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
View'd his own feather on the fatal dart,
And wing'd the shaft that quiver'd in his heart."
- Line 826, Lord Byron

"Funny how secrets travel..."
- 'I'm Deranged,' David Bowie

A thick pane of one-way mirror separates me from the dark-haired boy who sits on the floor strewn with toys and books. The drawing he works on captivates his complete attention, undoubtedly to the relief of the staff. Keeping Kyle busy is a challenging task. Providing him with constant human contact sometimes proves to be even more difficult, but we've learned to satisfy this particular need. For his father, the flow of voices in his head was traumatic, at least initially.

For Kyle, the very absence of these voices seems abnormal.

Distracted, he raises his eyes and looks at the mirror, as if sensing my presence. Cautiously, I take two steps backward. How thick does the glass have to be?

"He doesn't bite," someone whispers in my ear.

I draw in a sharp breath. The familiar voice still possesses a deeply seductive quality, and I wait a few seconds before I can speak. "I haven't seen you in a while."

"Damage control. It took longer than I expected." Diana's spine is ramrod-straight, and it only serves to highlight the inescapable fact that the very foundations of our world are weakening.

More and more often, I come here to find safe haven. I'm certain that the location of this facility is unknown. For now.

My gaze strays to the child behind the mirror. The drawing is shaping up to be a sketch of some grand, colorful castle. Others would admire it. I merely wonder whose mind this picture came from.

"Do you think that his abilities will ever fade?" I ask. Do you think that I will ever be able to sleep at night? Do you think that there is a limit to how much damage can be wrought from the secrets that were kept safe behind the locks of people's minds, before Fox Mulder came knocking on their doors?

"Like father, like son?" Diana replies thoughtfully. "For Mulder, his gift was a burden. He was like a star that burned too brightly, too quickly. For Kyle, reading minds is as natural and simple as breathing. In other words," she smiles tiredly, "the answer is no."

Her eyes settle on the boy, and I search them for a trace of tenderness, failing. Sometimes, I want to tell her that she doesn't need to pretend indifference around me. Other times, on the days like this, I wish I hadn't known that she was this child's mother.

"I'm meeting with Mulder today," I whisper.

Her mouth tightens a notch as she silently waits for me to continue.

"We must let Kyle go."

I expect her to protest. I expect her to be irate at the decision made behind her back.

Instead, Diana leans closer to me, her lips parted slightly as if poised for a kiss. My entire body reacts to this unforeseen proximity, and my fingers strain with an impulse to touch her. "Do you think he will recognize you after all this time?" she breathes.

She walks away abruptly, into the room where Kyle's brown eyes light up as he sees his mother. The empty space where she used to stand makes my old body ache, and I'm grateful that there are no mirrors around for me to see my reflection in. These three years haven't been merciful to me.

Perhaps, today I will be able to put my anxiety to rest. Like a magician, I want to turn back time and undo all the harm we've done.

Behind the glass wall, the dark-haired woman sits on the floor and places Kyle in her lap. The comparison to Madonna and her child is blasphemous, but it's inevitable as I watch Diana smile quietly at the picture that he proudly shows to her.

I walk away slowly, mindful of my steps.

Some damage will last longer than this lifetime.

Fox Mulder has matured since the last time I've seen him. He has the air of a man who no longer needs to prove himself right. The expressive eyes that used to light with fury at the sight of me now reflect nothing but faint distaste. Perhaps most telling is his hand that doesn't automatically reach for the weapon.

We watch each other in silence for a few tense moments, as if re-establishing the rules of the decades-old game.

Curtly, Mulder motions me inside his apartment, and I walk in carefully, too aware that this is the enemy territory. I would have preferred to have this conversation in the basement office, but I don't want to involve Agent Scully in our discussion. She is a wild card, and I'm too cautious a player to risk her presence.

I catch him in the middle of the packing, and he glances at the watch pointedly. "I'll be late for my flight."

"Where to now, Agent Mulder?" I ask, lighting a cigarette. "What new crimes against people have you uncovered?"

He's clearly irritated at my gesture, but instead of asking me to put it out, he goes to find an ashtray and places it in front of me. I'm grateful. It makes my task easier.

"I assume you'll be informed of the results of my trip in due time," Mulder speaks distractedly as he struggles with his tie.

"You might want to take a moment to watch this," I place the videotape on the table.

He chuckles and turns on the VCR with the air of one who has no choice but to humor a senile relative. The TV screen projects an image of a two-year-old boy leafing through a picture book, his serious face a study in concentration. He flicks his eyes upward as a figure dressed in white enters the room and proceeds with the regular tests: blood analysis, temperature measurement, and on down the list. It's a series of actions that Kyle has never paid attention to.

But they seem to hold Fox Mulder in a state of trance.

"A charming boy, don't you think?" I take another drag on the cigarette and hit the pause button just as Kyle's face comes into focus. "And a resemblance to his father is remarkable."

The earlier nonchalance of my host is gone as he tears eyes from the screen for a brief second to ask the least intelligent question. "What do you mean?"

"I know you don't trust my word," I reply with the calmness of one who can't look back. "This is the paternity test done in the first week after his birth."

Mulder tugs nervously on the carefully arranged tie and takes the proffered papers. "Eighty nine percent probability," he ruffles a hand through his hair. "High enough to assume...how?" he finishes hoarsely. "How did this happen?"

I want to tell him the truth, but something holds me back. I'm not a gentleman, and it's not the desire to protect the woman whom I possessed once upon a time. But I don't want Mulder to hate the boy, and I can't offer him reasons to do so. I remain silent, and he understands that I'm not planning to give him an answer.

"Why the tests?" his gray lips form a new question.

"He is a born telepath," I explain patiently. "His abilities are stronger than that of anyone else we've had opportunity to study until now. It's a lucky chance that rarely comes our way."

Mulder walks up to the TV set and places a hand on the child's cheek. Long fingers trail down the cold surface of the screen, and I can practically hear his heart rip. I wanted him to fall in love with the boy. Now I see that my purpose has been accomplished.

I smile, satisfied. His eyes assail me with the flare of old hatred.

Finally, we've arrived at the familiar ground.

"I want him brought to me at once," he hisses. "Or I will..."

"What will you do?" I ask, confident now that I hold all the cards. "What can you do? You may have generated enough momentum to continue destruction of much that I've worked for, yet I'm still here. And this child is hidden well, Agent Mulder. You will not be able to find him."

He swallows apprehensively. "What do you want?" He sits in front of me, and I'm stunned by the sudden transformation in him. A few minutes ago, he was a confident officer of the law. Now, he is just a man with simple human needs.

All because of the boy whom he hasn't known before now.

"There must be a reason why you showed me this tape," Mulder repeats when I take too long to answer. "What do you want?"

"Resign from the FBI," I say simply. "Stop pursuing whatever leads you have. If you can, persuade Agent Scully to do the same."

Mulder contemplates it for less than a minute. I can't help but admire the speed of his decision, whatever it may be. "It will be done tomorrow morning," he promises. "Right after the child is placed in my hands, safe and sound."

His cell phone rings, and he snaps it open reluctantly. "Mulder," he listens attentively. "Scully...yes...no, I won't be at the airport today," he raises eyes at me, and I signal my approval. "Scully... no, I'm... I'll explain later."

"Thank you for putting off this trip," I light another cigarette as he punches the end button. "It would be unfortunate if you were out of town and Kyle was brought here."

He stares at the floor. "Scully has a mind of her own," he says with resignation. "If not me, then her. If not her, then someone else - someone who cares enough. They will continue the work I began."

I nod in acceptance. It's been years since I've understood the inevitability of the events that would transpire regardless of this man's involvement. "Let it die a natural death, Agent Mulder."

He watches me as I stand up and reach for the videotape. "No," he protests much too quickly. "Please leave this."

"Of course." I can't resist an impulse to laugh. "Kyle makes it very easy to decide, doesn't he, Agent Mulder?"

The younger man looks at me with something akin to pity. "He is my son."

The steel doors of the elevator part before me smoothly. The laboratory is unusually empty. Soon, there will be one less reason to keep it running, when Kyle finally disappears from my life - from my nightmares. It's a pity, really. This building is equipped with state-of-the-art machinery, and the scientists who work here are world-class.

The empire may be falling, but it is still grand.

A woman in white appears at the end of the corridor, and retreats upon seeing me. Strange apprehension settles over me, and I quicken my step, wishing wistfully for the agility of my youth.

I can't see Kyle through the one-way mirror, and I snap open the door to his quarters for the first time in two years. Perhaps one of the technicians or Diana took him for a walk in the garden -

"He's not here," Diana's metallic voice reverberates through the empty room.

I don't want to turn around. I came here to collect the boy, and I'm not changing my plans in the last moment. "Bring him back, then," I order her.

She walks a few feet between us and takes my hand gently. "Come," she says.

Please, Diana, I beg her inwardly. The secrets weigh heavily upon my shoulders.

Please. I can't walk.

Still, I follow her obediently through the maze of narrow halls, and she leads me up to another window. At first, I don't recognize the small pale face obscured by the white covers, and I can't understand why she brought me here. Surely, this child isn't Kyle.

"They operated on him last night," the woman beside me speaks. "It was decided after you left. We needed to learn as much as possible about him before he was given away and..."

I need to lean against the nearby wall. "What have you done?" I whisper.

The wind knocked out of her, she falls silent. "It wasn't my idea."

"You had to participate in this decision," I object. "How many votes did it take?"

Her lips tremble. For the first time I notice that she looks older - that her beauty is fading. Why haven't I seen all these wrinkles before? Why didn't I realize how the black color highlights the papery whiteness of her skin?

"How many, Diana?" I repeat louder.

"Nine out of nine," she replies.

I expected that answer. It would look suspicious if she had voted against the majority.

"The operation went well," Diana's voice is a horrific accompaniment to the picture behind the glass - and to the picture that my imagination paints for me. I can't return Kyle to his father in this condition. I can't not return him. Both options mean war.

Both options leave me trembling in fear.

"Do you realize that now we have no protection against Fox Mulder?" I ask.

"I'm sure you will make the right decision regarding Fox Mulder," Diana's lips curl grotesquely. "Just as I made the right decision regarding my son."

I stare at her blankly.

Her eyes narrow as she studies my expression. "Oh," she exhales as if surprised. "You didn't know?"

"Know what?" I snap. "Stop playing these games, Diana."

"Eighty-nine percent is a good figure. But it isn't the most convincing figure," she starts out with a supernatural calmness. "I ran another paternity test against the sample taken from you. The yield was sixty-seven percent. Obviously, you weren't Kyle's father. But these two numbers beg a question -"

The colors blend and shake in front of my eyes, as if the world had become a mad kaleidoscope. Through the glass, I can hardly see if Kyle is still breathing. The monitors surrounding him could well be lying. I have been justified in mistrusting people. I don't trust the machines, either.

"I mean, I assumed you had to at least suspect," Diana continues. "Isn't that the reason why you protected Fox all these years? Surely, you wouldn't hesitate to terminate him otherwise."

"He's all alone," I whisper. "Excuse me."

I brush past her, and walk inside the room where my grandchild sleeps, buried beneath the white covers.

Diana lingers in the doorway as I caress the bandages on Kyle's head. His little hand is pliant, and it's hard to imagine that these very fingers were busy perusing toys and drawing castles just yesterday. It's strange to see this animated boy so still.

"All alone?" she asks. Her eyes carefully avoid Kyle.

"He can't be left without human contact," I explain. "Don't you know?"

Diana nods silently, probably remembering, then closes the door softly.

I pull a chair closer to the bed. I will sit here until Kyle wakes up.

The End.

IV. Fever

"I'll decide, take your time,
Take my time, not my life,
Wait for signs, believe in lies,
To get by, it's divine."
- 'Tremor Christ,' Pearl Jam

I've never thought of myself as an all-powerful man, but the others have always treated me as one. Their deference elevated me to the status of a modern deity, and I didn't question it - for I knew that my life was dedicated to that which I believed in absolutely. I believe in it still.

But I no longer believe that I'm able to serve my faith.

A thin vein at my temple throbs and twinges, beating an incessant pulse, all too fast under my skin. I press against it, as if trying to still the flow of pain that it delivers to all my nerve endings - and lean against my desk tiredly, seeking relief that I know won't come.

During the last week, our organization had suffered more damage than it did in years. The hurricane that swept through left behind the wreckage that is visible even in the sterile, unpopulated corridors of this laboratory.

It is not the gradual, carefully planned destruction that shows the surprisingly rational man that Fox Mulder had become during the last two years. It is the random devastation brought on by the wounded animal, whose greatest strength is its pain. It is the pain of a father deprived of his son.

I only know that giving Kyle to him right now is not something I can bear. Every human and every deity has limits of endurance - and though mine are greater than that of most... this is more than I can and will ever do.

Diana knocks on the door, and I wait for her to enter. I recognize her manner - respectful yet purposeful. I brace myself for the dull ache that flares each time I see her. It is at once a longing for that which I no longer have and contempt born out of the same longing.

"You've always been a man of action," she begins without pre-amble. "I hope you still are."

"What do you want me to do?" I question.

"You know the answer already," Diana says matter-of-factly.

"Kyle still needs care of this facility," I reply. "I will not bring him to Mulder until he is better."

She had time to learn to keep her feelings down, and her face betrays no worry - no hurt. She is truly stronger than I am. "Then there is only one other choice left."

In the most passionate moments I'd had with her, I'd always known that these bright lips delivered death sentences with the same equanimity as each of her life-igniting kisses. The white mask on which they are painted is supremely appropriate for the moment, when she proclaims the verdict on the father of her son.

"Very well, Diana," I acknowledge her intentions. "You may rely on me."

She nods graciously and vacates the room. I wonder if she is brave enough to visit Kyle.

I'm not.

I've never felt this agony, but I recognize it instantly. It's the primitive, uncomplicated torment of one who knows that the worst is yet to come.

It's the pain of the father who will soon be deprived of his son.

It's a cold night, and I button my trench coat. She keeps late hours; the streets grow increasingly empty and streetlights ignite above me before I hear her heels resolutely clicking on the pavement. She appears lost in contemplation; her eyes are unfocused and she doesn't notice me when I step out of the shadows beside her house.

"It's been awhile, hasn't it, Agent Scully?" I ask.

Her expression immediately changes to barely concealed revulsion. I'm certain that it is only well bred manners that prevent her from committing any act of violence. My respect for this woman rises another notch.

"Shouldn't you be off somewhere, protecting your hide-outs and laboratories?" she inquires.

My eyes narrow as I release a circle of smoke lazily. "What if I'd come here to beg for mercy?"

"I'd say that you're asking the wrong person." She rummages through her purse for keys, already dismissing me.

"Agent Mulder just might shoot me on site - he is not as polite as you are," I call to her and her back stiffens. "I've come to help you."

"Where is Kyle?" she asks me dispassionately. "How abrupt, Agent Scully," I admonish her sarcastically.

"I have no time to waste."

I follow her up the stairs to her apartment and extend a manila folder. "It is extremely important that you and Agent Mulder use this information - tomorrow. Call him and book your tickets now for the first available flight out."

Scully looks over the photographs and names I provided. "This is a trap," she judges instantly.

I make no move to accept the rejected documents. "Any trap is preferable to staying in the city right now."

She shrugs. "Then you will warn them to close the shop."

Absently, I pass a hand over my burning forehead. Perhaps, I'm catching a cold - a most untimely obstacle. I disregard it for now - I'm used to ignoring personal inconveniences. "I won't warn anyone," I whisper, disbelieving the magnitude of my betrayal. "You will find the facility intact and personnel unprepared."

The steel-blue eyes that projected such hatred until now regard me with curiosity. Scully opens the door and ushers me inside. Now it is my turn to stare at her in surprise. Wordlessly, she grabs a hold of my wrist, and it is only my astonishment that prevents me from resisting her.

"A hundred beats per minute," her words are an accusation. "Sit down. I need to measure your temperature."

"Sometimes, it's quite all right to ignore your Hippocratic oath, Agent Scully," I inform her pedantically. "I will have to respectfully decline." I turn around, and walk a few steps to the sidewalk.

"Wait," she calls to me and I note an edge of fear in her voice. "I need to know...who is Kyle's mother?" It is the first point of vulnerability that she displayed during the entire encounter - and at another time, I would have scorned her for it. Yet, how can I condemn anyone else for being human? What special rights have I now?

And for the first time in my life, I wonder if perhaps it's the ability to admit weakness that is the greatest strength of any person. It seems a revelation, and I feel lighter when I give her the answer.

"He doesn't have one."

A human body is a complex organism in which every part serves a particular purpose. The smallest part excised, while not vitally important, will propel a chain reaction of pain and disease. The result will never be the same, turning one into an invalid of body and mind, no matter how the person may resist the transformation.

Even the beast of a thousand appendages will feel the same agony upon losing one seemingly insignificant part of its body.

My kingdom is bleeding. The legs of my throne are rotten, and it shatters under my weight. The crown has rusted, and it crumbles upon my touch.

I couldn't fight fire with fire. It is all I think of when two of the doctors who were treating Kyle are detained for questioning - the result of a chain reaction caused by the destruction of another facility. I know they will never come back here. I already recognize a frighteningly mundane pattern: questioning will result in the citation of formal charges, which will lead to an ultimately losing battle between the best-paid lawyers and the people of the state, which will lead to a jail cell from which only death could release the guilty.

The man who brought me the news stands erect in front of me - his face implacable in the wake of what he knows are the last steps toward the ultimate downfall. He is unimportant - the people of the state wouldn't trouble themselves with someone like that. I decide that if and when I have a chance, I will make sure that he goes down with the rest of us.

They shoot the messengers, don't they?

"Who is with the boy right now?" I ask coldly.

"No one, sir," his eyebrows fly up. "The doctors are gone, and there is little we can do..."

I make sure that my voice remains even. "Kyle requires constant supervision. Was that not made clear to you?"

His eyes shift back and forth. "But the boy... sir, I don't think he likes anyone to stay close..."

I dismiss him before he has a chance to finish. Incompetence is something I could never forgive.

I hardly examine my motivations or my fears when I walk into Kyle's room, but it is only when I see his bandaged head that I realize just how much of a coward I'd been. And I know, with a horrifying certainty, that I was always destined to fail.

His brown eyes, full of almost adult disconsolation, watch me for a brief moment. Then, the small hands return to their task and he chooses a new colored pen for a piece of paper resting in his lap. And as I come closer to the bed, I see that most of his drawing is painted in black.

Wouldn't what he reads in my mind add a few dark lines to this picture?

Who will make sure that he will be safe - not physically, but mentally?

"Who is Mulder?" Kyle asks suddenly, curiously.

I recover enough to give my voice a carefree attitude. "Someone who I will take you to tonight," I tell him. "He will take good care of you."

He doesn't seem to heed my answer as his sad gaze is drawn to the window of the room.

The white face of a ghost watches us with Diana's black eyes.

The night should be my co-conspirator, but right now, the red lights jump and traffic lines blur in front of my tired eyes. I wish I could forget my purpose, drop my head against the wheel, and sleep for just a few hours. I wish to be released from this strange possession of the soul that propelled me since the first moment that I laid eyes on this child - the child that now sits in the front seat with all the seriousness of a seasoned traveler.

He doesn't stir trouble, and he doesn't ask constantly whether we "got there yet." Ironically, I want him to.

I hope that my migraine will subside before too long.

Kyle's hand travels to my head, and he pats it gently, carefully. It doesn't help and, ruefully, I wish that the boy had the healing powers. But somehow, the pain is easier to bear - and my pulse slows down to a manageable rhythm.

He wriggles closer to my coat, as if seeking warmth.

"Almost there, Kyle," I say slowly. "Almost there."

I sincerely hope that my son changes his living quarters now that he has a child to take care of. The apartment building where he lives is, sadly, not a place for to bring up the kid, and even I realize that.

The path from the elevator to apartment number forty-two had never been this long. I knock, and the door opens, letting a streak of light into the darkened hallway.

"Who is it, Scully?"

The woman in the doorway surveys us with a mixture of mistrust and relief. "It's your son," she shouts back. When she takes Kyle from my hands, he goes willingly - and I step back, strangely comforted.

Mulder appears as if by magic and practically rips the boy from her embrace. I'm certain that for just this moment, he sees nothing else around him. I'm only an annoying object from the past. Kyle's obvious weakness is something to contend with in the future.

The present puts a foolish grin on Scully's face.

Kyle twists in his arms, suddenly restless, and Mulder's eyes turn in my direction - only instead of the expected antagonism, they project anxiety. My son's fingers reach out towards me, and I understand that there is something wrong - the boy must have heard a voice that felt out of place.

Quicker than I thought myself capable of being, I close the door, placing a barrier between us. The bullet hits from behind, like a cowardly butcher, and my migraine fades, now insignificant. I'm relieved.

I have a brief time to hear Scully's gasp and Mulder's swear. They pound on the door, and I realize that my body must obstruct their way. We're at odds even now.

Kyle begins to cry, and I'm somewhat surprised. My dear boy, I think somberly, this is a happy occasion. Your father will explain it to you later.

I keep my eyes stubbornly open, watching the blood streak across the dirty floor.

The king is dying.

There won't be a new ceremony of coronation.

The End.

V. Nostalgia

"I want to outrace the speed of pain
For another day."
- Marilyn Manson, "The Speed of Pain"

"When I am laid in earth, may my wrongs create No trouble in thy breast. Remember me, but ah! forget my fate!"
- Henry Purcell, "Dido and Aeneas"

Life doesn't end when the heart ceases to beat, or when the lungs interrupt their cycle. It ends when the body conquers the spirit - when its needs and frailties outweigh the man's passion and intellect. From the first step we take as children, we're instinctively afraid of death, but no one teaches us to fear the slow decline that accompanies old age, the infirm body that traps the mind inside.

Had the bullet hit a centimeter to the left, I would not be faced with a prospect of the inevitable descent of both body and mind. Death is merciful when it comes unexpectedly, but it takes revenge when cheated. I wonder what punishment awaits me, for now I have deceived it twice.

The pain streams outward from its epicenter, colliding with the walls of my organs, with the bones and skin, until it becomes indistinguishable from all that I am. I consciously push it away and ignore it, focusing instead on my surroundings.

The room is bare, devoid of accessories, permeated by the beeps of monitors and antiseptic smell. The man who sits on the plastic chair beside my bed is somewhat anxious, even if he hides it well. His posture is erect, almost military in bearing, and his face is calm, but he doesn't know what to do with his large hands, and his eyes roam the windowless chamber haphazardly until they come to rest on my face.

"Hello," he coughs to clear his throat. "I didn't know you were awake."

I wait for him to continue, finding no reason to speak just yet.

My silence appears to make him nervous. "You probably don't recognize me. I did some work for you a few years back - there was a man whom you found inconvenient, and..."

I peel away the layers of my memory, expecting to discover his visage, and fail.

He twists on the chair - it is too small for his big frame. "I needed the money very badly then, and you gave me the chance to earn it." His eyes drift toward his shoes, then face me again, reluctantly. He is guilty - all of us are - but I must still discover of what. "I didn't know it was you at first when I followed you upstairs."

Laughter elevates the pain level to the dizzying new heights, but the situation seems far too comical. I wonder if that is not the first sign of senility. I'm talking to the man who aimed the gun that almost killed me.

"You used to be a much better marksman," I tell him. "How much were you paid for this blunder?"

"Enough to repair the damage," he replies firmly. "Enough to repay you."

He is an honorable man. The concept of an honest killer-for-hire doesn't surprise me as it would others. But the notion disappoints me today - I could never ask him to finish the job he started, for he would never grant me my wish.

"Your funeral is in two days," he informs me casually. I wonder if he attends the funerals of his other victims, watching the proceedings from afar and paying the last respects to the ones he departed. "Friends and family have been notified."

The corner of my mouth lifts slightly. "And enemies?"

"Enemies are always the first to know."

The agony suddenly twists the blade in the wound on my back, but I refuse to surrender to darkness. Instead, I remind myself that my one act of martyrdom was worthwhile, that my grandson will now get better, and my son is safe - at least until he does something rash again. It works, until the man speaks again, and his words spear me with fear.

"I'm still the best sniper you could ever find."

I nod, conveying understanding with my eyes. We're both used to saying little, to reading between the lines, and he need not explain further.

I wasn't the one he was aiming for.

A well worn, blue Grand Am is waiting on the curb, and I don't realize at first that this is my ride.

"How conspicuous would you be in a black limo?"

I shrug. "It's a good getaway car."

My killer extends me a helpful hand. He doesn't trust my strength yet, and neither do I. The offer is tempting, but I refuse it stubbornly. No one must share my pain on this journey.

I slam the door behind me, and hide my hands in the coat pockets, ashamed of their trembling. There is a packet of cigarettes that I never had a chance to finish before I died. It is something to hold onto, a shadow of what I used to be. When I pull one out and search my other pockets for a lighter, the man at the wheel removes it from my fingers wordlessly.

I could kill him for this kindness. Instead, I crush the remaining cigarettes, grinding the tobacco inside the thin sticks.

Pale sun bleeds through the windshield, obscuring my view of the cemetery and a small crowd gathered around the fresh plot. It seems that this is the social function to be this season. I have betrayed them, and I'm about to do even more damage, but the funeral is obviously expensive and refined. Diana has always had good taste, and she didn't spare the money.

Mulder stands alone, separated from the others by more than physical distance. The mourning clothes fit him well, as if he is accustomed to wearing them - and I feel the sudden sorrow for causing some of the funerals he attended in the past. For one moment when he takes off his mirrored Ray-Bans, I catch a glimpse of his tired, darkened eyes. He is genuinely grieving.

Though, perhaps, it is only a trick of treacherous light.

I'm at once dismayed and relieved that he hadn't brought Kyle with him - I wish I could see him again, but the boy doesn't need to participate in this grotesque proceeding. I commend Mulder mentally for not using him as a tool to gaze in the minds of conspirators gathered around this coffin, knowing that he'd made the right choice.

It is hard to tear my gaze away from him.

The late afternoon sunrays couldn't warm Diana's pasty skin. She wears an expression of the stoic - she is a soldier who'd lost her captain. Tomorrow, she will be a queen who inherited the place of the king, unless I lay a last claim on it.

I train the muzzle of the revolver on her temple and wait for a clear shot. The succession of memories assails me, each one plunging me into agony that could never be eliminated by painkillers. Diana's generous mouth leaning in for a seductive, lazy kiss. Her elegant form buried among the blankets and pillows, her breathing even and deep. Her eyes calculating my limits, judging my weaknesses, preparing the deadly darts that would eventually destroy me.

In the absolute silence of the car, my wrist shakes when she cuts through the crowd, stopping in front of Mulder. I must remind myself that there is nothing she will do here - this is a time of temporary truce, a meeting on the neutral ground. I'm the only one who doesn't play by the rules.

The mounds of fresh earth fall in the grave. Diana and Mulder look away simultaneously, and walk a little further up the hill. The smell of blood is sickeningly sharp as my wound starts bleeding.

My eyes blur when I realize that my gun is trained on my son, and I change the position, desperately searching for a different view. He is a shield that protects her, and I don't trust myself to take the last fatal step.

"I could do this, sir," the man at the wheel suggests respectfully.

"No," I cut him off abruptly. "This is my duty." This is my cross to bear, my mistake to be made.

Mulder raises his eyes and focuses on the Grand Am, squinting against the sun's glare. Diana's eyes follow. The wheels screech, throwing me against the door, and the gun falls from my hand, useless as it was just a minute ago.

"I'm sorry," my killer apologizes softly.

I clench my teeth to contain the moan that threatens to escape. When a tear falls on the sleeve of my coat, I blink to clear my eyes. It is only a reaction to the physical pain. It has nothing to do with the image of my son clad in black, watching the fake funeral of the man who betrayed him most.

It has nothing to do with my failure to protect him and Kyle.

The clerk of the British Airlines flashes me a brilliant smile. "Would you like a wheelchair?" she inquires cheerfully.

The man beside me glances at my bloodless face, then at the hapless girl. "He will be fine," he responds firmly. I sign my gratitude and allow him to support me as I walk away from the counter, sagging under the weight of the one-way ticket in my hand.

I'm a man who long ago renounced the notion of home, yet I already feel nostalgic. It is an unfortunate side effect of my profession - loss of my name, of my life, of my country. Loss of the people inexplicably ingrained in my heart.

"There are other ways to dispose of unwanted people," my companion volunteers.

"It's no longer in my power." The admission doesn't come to me easily. Even if it wasn't my body buried today, it was most certainly my spirit - my hope, my strength.

The killer hangs his head, and at first I can barely hear his whisper. "The money you paid me three years ago was a price of my daughter's operation. She would have died without it - I would be scrambling to find the money for her funeral instead," his voice cracks, and there are tears running down his face. "I killed for her. If it helped, I would have died for her."

His eyes watch me, unashamed. I ignore the call of the flight attendants when they summon my row.

He inhales deeply and waits a few seconds to regain control. "I know the way a father looks at his child," he says, almost an accusation. "That's why you closed the door that night."

"You're mistaken," I reply evenly.

"I expected that answer," he smiles agreeably.

The doors of the airplane almost close before I find the courage to walk towards my bleak future. What awaits a dead man but a dead life?

I don't plan to stay in one city. Paris will follow London, Rome will follow Madrid. New York Times and Washington Post will keep me appraised of the events in D.C. And each day when I open the newspaper, I will scan the articles in apprehension, cowering at the possibility that the war had finished, and the adversary's life had been lost.

And each day, I will regret leaving the bloody field of the battle, and learn to accept my impotence.

My punishment had already begun.

The spring in Europe is breathtaking - the warmth melts the ice on the asphalt, and people move with exuberance through the busy city square. I seek out the bench warmed by sun, in the least crowded spot. The anonymity I have in this part of the world is surprisingly difficult to tolerate. My presence is no longer ominous. My face is not protected by the shadows. No one wants to know my name.

My only point of contact with home are the letters I receive with strange regularity from my killer. Stubbornly, he continues to give me whatever news he can find on Mulder and Kyle. "You should see how much the boy had grown up," he wrote in the last letter, unaccountably proud as if he were describing his own grandson. I used to tear these pages, burning them in the classic fashion of a true paranoiac.

I kept the last letter. I haven't received another for two months now, and the emptiness of my mailbox provokes dread.

Luckily, the newspapers still arrive with regularity. The second page of Washington Post presents me with a portrait of my long-lost lover. Black and white flatter Diana's aging face, smooth her sharp features into a somber mask.

The article informs me of her arrest two days ago, and of what is to become the final chapter in the war that had only recently come to the forefront of my former country's daily life. There is a mention of death of an anonymous federal witness in protective custody, and my fingers can't find the obituary notices quickly enough. When I see the name of my correspondent, I stand up on unsteady legs, paying him my last respects. He was my only remaining connection to the man I used to be.

I wonder if his execution was the last order that Diana gave as a queen. I wonder if across the ocean, people are celebrating the victory.

"We've lost," I whisper. "Congratulations, Fox."

I observe the colorful crowd, all of them unaware of the great and small tragedies that I just read about. My life's work is gone - and there is no one left to rebuild the tower. It would have been easier to die rather than to watch and participate in this destruction. But, only a lowly human, what could I do to circumvent the wishes of my heart? How could I prevent my own betrayal?

Two figures watch me from afar, vividly painted against the blue sky. The tall man releases the hand of a small boy, and he tears across the square, running towards me. There is an expression of a rapturous joy on his face, an emotion that can only be experienced in childhood, when nothing matters but the present moment, and each new day is a gift.

I embrace the dark-haired boy, holding him tightly until his happiness infiltrates my tired heart, as if by osmosis. "Kyle," I whisper into his soft cheek. "You really did grow up."

And when I dare to open my eyes and look at his father, I catch a glimpse of bewildered amusement in his face, open and relaxed. A self-deprecating smile graces his lips, and I feel that I've been forgiven - even if the words will never be spoken aloud.

The pages of the newspaper flutter away, and I can't remember why I was upset just minutes ago.

Perhaps, death and I had finally settled the score.

A four-year-old girl laughs, watching the papers float by in the gentle spring wind. She chases after them, picking a few up, still losing a few others. She brings them to an old gray-haired man sitting on the sunny bench in the square's corner, laying them respectfully nearby.

The man is smiling, although she soon realizes that the gesture is not meant for her. After receiving not even a nod for her efforts, the girl runs back to her mother, flustered.

"Mommy," she tugs the skirt of a lovely woman in her thirties. "Why didn't he thank me?"

Her mother frowns, watching the old man's frozen eyes, a smile seemingly painted on the wrinkled face. She gathers her child closer, wishing to protect her, yet knowing that she could never shield her from the tragedies of everyday life.

"He must be blind, honey," she lies to her daughter, not allowing even herself to think of the more likely possibility. "He just didn't see you."

The girl wants to smile back at the man on the bench, but something prevents her, something that she cannot understand yet. Years from now, she will think of this day again.

And only then will the tears flow.

The End.

Author's Notes: This compilation seemed to be necessary, mostly, to make me stop writing the sequels already. To think, it all started with one innocent (stop laughing!) post-episode vignette, and look what it made me do. Aside from resurrecting CSM only to kill him again, there are many other reasons for me to just wrap it up already, main one being that there *can* be too much of a good thing. It's been too much fun while it lasted.

Thank you's go to Mel, Rachel, Leigh, and Ashlea for beta-reading, as well as to many readers who didn't seem to understand the concept of "there is no sequel coming."Ashlea, extra-special thanks for making me write more and always reminding me that CSM is - well - the best damn character in existence. And just because I can kill him several times in different ways, that doesn't mean it should happen on the show (just thought I'd mention it).

For all the good boys and gals: here is something sweet to counteract the poison of the story above.

Get Me To The Church On Time (Or, As The Files Turn) By Anna Otto and Danielle Leigh

Parody on Priorities series

Rating: Hmmm...
Classification: Err...
Disclaimer: Umm...
Archive: really? You really want to? Are you sure? Think twice...

Summary: Maternal feelings are nothing to joke about, you hear?

Thanks go to Meredith for the second title, and to everyone else who suggested what exactly should happen in the sequel(s) to Priorities. This is to you.

It was her fifty-second attempt to get the baby.

Frankly, she was growing tired of it. But something, something deep and primal and human, spurred her on, and made her try over and over again. Her nails were broken from digging through the walls. Her hair was disheveled from the constant gusts of wind. But with energy that she never thought she possessed, she gritted her teeth and rolled herself onto the window ledge, her aching body screaming for rest. Her heart beating in her throat, she leaned against the frosted glass of the windowpane.

Illuminated by only a small lamp, she could see the tall gray-haired man holding her son, her dear child, in his arms. Diana cringed at the expression of tenderness on the Smoking Man's face. Somehow, kindness and love, emotions that became anyone else, seemed alien to him. A brush of an obscene artist painted his smile. His blue eyes watered visibly as he touched the baby's cheek.

She could smell the pale, dusty talcum powder on the child's cheek and she touched the cold glass. The man's long pale fingers brushed an excess of it away and she closed her eyes. The image of those hands on her child...

Ever since she noticed the little adorable horns sticking out of her son's tiny head, the smoldering black eyes in the pale face, and the bloody-red lips that smiled cruelly while he emitted a healthy baby scream, she knew that her heart was lost.

But apparently, Diana wasn't the only one who took the liking to the precious angelic gift that was brought to her by forces beyond this world.

The Smoking Man refused to let go of the baby.

She knew that there were no lengths to which she would not sink to get her child back. Be it blackmail, murder, or sex with psychotic FBI Agents. She would seduce the devil himself if she had to.

Diana smiled dreamily at the thought. Oh, but the Prince of Darkness would be mighty pleased when she finally presented the child to him. It would be her indictment into the world that she'd always longed to inhabit.

If only she had strength enough left to break through this glass pane.

If only the old sclerotic idiot would finally just forget this senile infatuation with the boy who he dreamed was his son.

If only she had remembered where she had put her lovely hunting rifle. Dammit! She had left it at Fox's. If he used it for shooting beer cans she was going to rip his pretty pointed head off. She took a deep breath and got herself under control. No matter, she told herself. It was time. Time for the reckoning...

"Yeeeyaw!!!" With a horrible screech, she dove through the window.

The Smoking Man screamed in fear, and Diana was gratified to hear it. Finally, finally he was afraid. Bloodied and dirty, she plunged for the baby in his arms - then gasped in horror.

"What have you done?" she cried. "What have you done to my lovely child? What is this abomination?"

From the bowels of gauze and silk, blue cerulean eyes stared at her, and perfect blonde curls framed a beautiful face of an angel. Pink lips revealed a smile, and a tiny nose was just as cute as a button. The thing even had wings, she was sure of it.

The Smoking Man watched, gasping painfully and clutching at his heart, as she frantically rubbed at the child's cheeks. It wasn't real. This monster wasn't her baby!

Diana tugged on a lock of hair, and the baby wailed brutally in her ear.

"Never underestimate the power of the Mulder family genome," the Smoking Man gargled, a bit of spit frothing from his lips.

"Where is my real baby?" she screamed, throwing this one away. The cute thing bounced off the floor like it was rubber.

And that's all it was to her - rubber. Plastic. A piece of human garbage to be disposed of. Where was her gorgeous little devil, the child with horns who she longed for all these long, long weeks?

The blue, fishy eyes of the man stared at her balefully, his chest rising and falling like a seesaw.

She walked over to him and slowly undid his tie, letting her long nails scrape the skin of his neck. He appreciatively didn't die on her, as she allowed for more comfortable breathing.

She even undid his top button of his dress shirt.

"I want my child," her voice rose like a banshee's. "You will tell me everything," she yanked his jacket off and ripped the shirt open. "You forgot your primary responsibilities. We had to fire you. Then you stole my angel from me. Now I will have to fry you."

Diana threw the Smoking Man on the bed and climbed on top of him, like an Amazon warrior goddess. With her bare hands and through power imbued to her by greater and darker forces than this sad sap bellow her, she allowed his flesh to sizzle from her touch.

The smell was something awful and she made a mental note to find out what dry cleaner Fox used.

Sobbing, the pale, useless wreck of a man beneath her screamed...and screamed and screamed, until Diana was forced to cover her ears.

"You know," she whispered, cringing, still trying to maintain the seductive atmosphere, "I would let you go and you would have to stop squirming if you just told me what you did to my son."

The Smoking Man stopped his wail for a moment and stared at her in rising fear. "Really?" he moaned weakly. "All right - he is being christened as we speak. Mulder and Scully adopted him."

"They what???" she cried in horror.

"Well, I will die soon. I'm old, tired, and useless." he wept. "At least they will be good parents who will live on and give him love and happiness."

"You don't know what you've just done," Diana cast a terrible look at him. "Don't move."

She tied him up and left him for dead. Surely, no one would come to visit him here anymore.

Not after she was done with those bastards who were going to hurt her baby.

Mulder tugged at his red bow tie, coughed and flushed when the priest and Scully shot him dirty looks. Scully just ignored him and returned her loving gaze to the child in her arms.

"Isn't he just the most precious thing you have ever seen? Aren't you? Aren't you precious?"

Mulder fought the rising tide of his breakfast and concentrated on the black bible in the priest's hands. Everything was going to be fine. So what if the kid had horns...he could overlook a little genetic blundering. And so what if his drool was sticky and red, ruining every article of clothing Mulder has ever had, forcing him to go grocery shopping in Bermuda shorts and a tie-die tee shirt. (Hence the borrowed red bow tie; Scully had insisted on formal wear.) And so what if they couldn't get cable with the kid around...something about his magnetic energy, Scully had cooed. Whatever.

Mulder would have sold his soul for porn at this moment. Even soft-core porn on Showtime. Wearily, he wondered would Scully ever put out? Didn't playing Daddy give him certain inalienable rights? Like the right to take Mommy, throw her down on the nearest sturdy object and resolve certain painful long-denied tensions?

He must not have been paying attention because Scully pinched him on the arm, *hard*.

"Ow," he whined. Not that pain was always bad...in fact between two (or more) consenting adults--

"Shut up, Mulder."


The priest raised his eyes upward and took on a beatific expression. The ceremony began, and the kid squirmed and smiled that nasty little smile of his that made Mulder feel as if he was undressing everyone in the room and having the time of his life which really couldn't be said for his father. His father. The moment he saw the baby, he just knew - instantly - that he was the one responsible for bringing that little pervert into the world. And Scully simply couldn't care less whose baby it was or why it suddenly fell into their arms. The adoption was surprisingly easy to arrange.

And every day, the Smoking Man phoned, offering his services as a baby-sitter at the reduced rate. When he came to visit, he appeared frighteningly subdued, and even made a show of throwing away his cigarettes. His visits were a rather terrifying procedure to endure. He watched Scully and the Smoking Man chat about the kid's charming idiosyncrasies, his diapers, what formula the little brat should have. Mustn't upset little precious' delicate little stomach. And he wasn't sure what was worse: watching Scully give junior a little peck on the ridged, black and brittle forehead or her thankful hug to the other man for his tireless service. He was even so kind as to lend Mulder a suit and tie for the occasion. That bastard of an adoption agent. Without whom none of this could have been possible. Something Mulder contemplated every time he cleaned his service weapon.

He wondered where the old thug was now. He would have thought that the Smoking Man would actually christen the baby himself if he were allowed to. Mulder shuddered at the thought. There were enough nightmares in his life already - he didn't need to imagine yet another one.

The baby gurgled happily and gave the priest an evil eye. The man, nonplused, reached for the holy water and prepared to pour it on the child, when there was a horrifying scream, and the crowd that collected in the church scattered in fear.

"Stop! Stop now!" the voice was hardly recognizable, but Mulder could feel the old tingle upon hearing it. Humbly, Mulder thanked God for the interruption. Discounting one negligible incident during a bout of sex in which he had thanked the great Good Lord for his infinite wisdom, it was the first time Mulder saw fit to believe in a higher authority.

Furious, Scully had whirled around, ready to put a serious hurt on anyone who dared disturb this momentous occasion.

"You bitch."

Mulder closed his eyes. Don't let it be Diana...don't let it be Diana. I will build several churches in your honor, I will give up the spice channel, I will follow Skinner's orders. Please, God? Are you hearing me? "Diana," Scully screeched.

Of course. He wondered why he kept trying.

Scully's face transformed horribly. Now, she looked like she actually gave birth to this little thing with horns in her arms. Crushing the boy to her chest, she squared off with the wild-looking woman who extended her claws, trying to rip the child away from her. "He is mine!" Diana squealed, looking tenderly at the baby.

"We have the official papers!" Scully reciprocated. Diana let a slow burning smile cross her face.

Mulder watched it and swallowed painfully.

"Scully," he whispered.

Scully ignored him. He had seen that smile before. Oh, yes indeedio, he had seen that smile before. "Really," Diana said, her eyes amused.

Scully's face grew redder. "Yes!"

Mulder coughed. "Uh, Scully?"

"Shut up, Mulder," she hissed.


Diana continued to smile as smoke started to flame from the inside of Scully's suit lapel. Horrified Scully dropped the baby on the floor with a terrible shriek and ripped a burning document from her suit.

Glumly, Mulder watched her stomp on the burning paper.

"I knew that was going to happen," he sighed.

Diana triumphantly retrieved her child from the floor, only slightly worse for wear. "My son," she said. "My precious boy."

Surprisingly (or not) a spark from the fire had caught on Scully's hair to keep her occupied while Diana made an escape. She flung the child over her shoulder, like a sack of grain and retreated. The baby smiled at Mulder, his red wolf-like eyes searing his soul. Mulder kept one eye on the child and one on Scully--er. Well, okay, he kept his eye on the cloud of smoke surrounding Scully.

He was almost sure the child winked at him. Mulder shuddered.

And returned his full attention to Scully.

"Stop, drop, and roll, Scully," he informed her in a helpful tone.

The End

P.S. From Anna: I love Kyle... this isn't about Kyle.

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