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Crossroads by bardsmaid
Summary: A knock on the door. A missed phone call. Five moments that changed everything...or might have, if they'd happened this way.

TITLE: Crossroads (Five Moments)
AUTHOR: bardsmaid
FEEDBACK: brings the story experience full-circle.
Welcomed like family at bardsmaid@imagesmithstudio.com
DISTRIBUTION: Yes, but please keep my headers attached
and let me know where
SPOILERS: Mytharc through Season 5
CLASSIFICATION: Vignettes--five of them
KEYWORDS: Teena, Mulder, Scully, Krycek and several
consortium types
DISCLAIMER: The X-files characters are the creations
of Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No infringement
is intended.
THANKS: to Spica and Lakticia for beta above and
beyond the call of duty
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This began as a response to the 'Five
Moments that Never Happened' challenge... though as
they evolved, they became five small but crucial
points that proved pivotal in the characters' lives.
SUMMARY: A knock on the door. A missed phone call.
Five moments that changed everything... or might have,
if they'd happened this way.


MOMENT 1: A Knock at the Door

She remembers her hands trembling so badly she could
barely work the latch on the front door. She knew
already what she would find; she'd had twenty-six
sleepless hours to try to prepare herself. The house
was deathly quiet and when she found Fox, he was
curled up asleep in the corner of his room beside the
closet. She was so numb she didn't even think to put
him to bed.

She remembers the torture of being at the Galbrands',
attempting to play a passable game of cards and make
small talk while visions filled with shadows, dark men
and spacecraft roamed her mind like angry ghosts.
When Samantha flitted through the lens of this
nightmare camera, she forced herself to look away.
How else could she have gotten through the evening?

The afternoon of that day has become a series of
black-and-white snapshots in her mind, frayed, now, at
the edges: Samantha playing hopscotch with two
neighbor girls; a snack plate that broke, spilling
cake; hanging out laundry she knew already would never
be worn again. Fox is strangely absent from these
scenes. Ironically, he's become the reason she cannot
forget this day.

Sleep had been impossible the night before. She
recalls distinctly the frozen minutes and hours of
deep night, the terror-residue of her ex-lover's visit
mixing crazily with thoughts of her daughter's
imminent departure like melting ice cubes in bourbon.
Could she run--gather Samantha and Fox into the car,
take the packet of money from Bill's desk drawer and a
few changes of clothes for them all and go... where?
Could she keep them hidden? How would she support

Did their safety from an apocalypse really depend on

She'd spent the dark hours following the awful
pronouncement curled into a corner of the bed as far
from Bill's side as possible. Bill had remained in
the study; in the morning she found him passed out at
his desk, a bottle still in his hand. When Fox stuck
his head in, she'd barked at him angrily. How dare he
act as if everything were normal when the world was
crumbling around them?

Remembering, she shakes her head. How could he
possibly have understood?

It had all started early the previous evening with an
unexpected knocking on the front door, Spender come as
Satan's officer to call them to judgment. For
conspiracy, for treachery against the human race, for
duplicity... and for unnamed sins of her own; surely
there were sins of her own involved... the penalty to
be paid was one daughter. She thinks now that he had
the gleam of Rumpelstiltskin in his eye when he told

She remembers that there was so little time.

She remembers a foghorn moaning in the night.

She remembers lying in the empty darkness afterward,
too fatigued to sleep, thinking *it's over, it's over,
it's over* while another, darker voice whispered, *No,
it's just beginning*.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

MOMENT 2: Behind Closed Doors

Krycek stands on the platform joking it up with the
man he hates, sympathizing with his gripes about how
hard it is to get reliable help these days, how nobody
understands the responsibilities he bears, carrying
this project and as many wretched human lives as he
does. When the bald man lifts a fresh cigarette to
his lips, Krycek is right there, reaching out with a
lighter like any good brown-nose.

Inside, though, his heart is running like a trip-
hammer, his mind in half a dozen places at once:
hoping the son of a bitch hasn't suspected; running
through the details of this little project one mental
blueprint at a time; wondering if and when Mulder will
catch on to who's actually running this charade.
Hoping that if he does, he won't do something stupid
that will blow it for both of them. God knows it's
been a ball-buster to stage this scenario and there
are half a dozen points where it could still go to

A gust of air moves through the camp's courtyard,
Siberia's icy breath whispering down collars and
reaching between jacket buttons like a cruel lover.
Krycek shivers once and rejoins the conversation.

In the planning stages he'd told himself it was a
worthwhile gamble for a critical strategic payoff down
the road, but every few minutes now, when he catches
another skeptical look about his cover story, Krycek
catches himself with that 'down the first drop' roller
coaster feeling, because under the klieg lights of
gritty reality, his payoff has 'pie in the sky'
written all over it. How clearly had he been
thinking? Maybe his logic had gotten infected by
those little pipe dreams that lurk in the corners of
your mind like bacteria, waiting for just the right
conditions to fester and multiply.

Too late now. Nothing to do but ride it out.

Turning, he sees the *zeks* begin to file out of the
buildings: long, sorry lines of trudging figures in
ghostly gray. Krycek scans the seeming clones, though
there should be no need; the guards have orders to
leave the *amerikanets* in his cell, where hopefully
he won't get into any trouble. Mulder needs to be in
one piece when this little vacation from hell is over.

*If* it plays out, a shadowy pessimist in the back of
his head reminds him. Krycek swallows carefully,
hoping Lev Antonovich won't notice, but the bald man
is laughing again at something said by one of the
guards. Sunlight reflects off his glasses, a
momentary flash of empty brightness.

A guard hurries up, whispers discreetly to the
commandant and places a long, thin, cloth-wrapped
object into his hand. Lev frowns but composes himself
and continues to watch until the assembly yard is
nothing more than a vacant, pockmarked expanse of
muddy brown. After the guards have been sent to their
posts, he holds the wrapped object out to Krycek.

"Your *amerikanets* has been busy," he says, frowning,
just as Krycek opens the cloth to reveal a homemade
knife. "A guard opened the cell door in time to see
the prisoner slip something behind him."

Krycek's heart skips a single long, asphyxiating beat,
then thuds to life again. Sweat blooms on his
forehead. "Lucky catch," he replies, clearing his
throat against a sudden dryness. "I told you he was
trouble." Inside, his heart is pounding out
*stupidmulderstupidmulderstupidmulderstupid* like a
piston in a perfectly tuned engine, but he manages to
spit out, "Good thing I'm taking him off your hands
tomorrow, eh? An international incident would mean
exposure this program can't afford."

Lev's reply, if he makes one, is lost in the rush of
blood pounding through Krycek's ears. Count on Mulder
to give you a phone in the face no matter what you try
to do for him, he thinks. You should've known better,
Aleksei, you dreamer.

It is only that night, lying awake in his tiny camp
room, that Krycek's mind returns to the unexpected
blip of the morning and he realizes the incident may
not have been one of Mulder's typical shotgun bursts
of protest. After all, Mulder's smart enough to
realize that knifing a guard--or threatening one--
isn't going to get him out of a place like this.

Something inside Krycek goes cold and one hand wanders
down to the soft of his belly, feeling the sudden,
sharp entry of a crudely made knife. Internal
injuries, complications... getting shanked in the
thigh, maybe severing an artery... a wild stab to an
upper arm...

Krycek swallows, sits up in bed and massages the bicep
that's escaped injury through a guard's vigilance...
or sheer chance. It's nothing, he tells himself like
someone trying to settle a boy after a nightmare. No
point in losing sleep.

Nothing happened.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

MOMENT 3: Push the Buzzer and Run

As her plane hurtles its way westward, she decides it
will be the Christmas tree that will prove her
undoing: colorful lights; a handful of old familiar
ornaments waiting in ambush among the new; Bill and
blossoming Tara and her mother gathered around the
base. No Ahab. No Missy.

The fact that Bill's house is an exact duplicate of
the one they grew up in proves to be the kill shot.
Even the hugs and warm greetings are no defense
against the invisible shroud that descends around her,
a garment seemingly tailor-made and waiting. Bill and
Tara, all smiles and luggage, begin the climb to the
second floor and her mother, after speaking the names
of the absent, gifts Scully with a smile that carries
all the brave strength of a winter sun and then

*You're not responsible for Ahab*, a voice in Scully's
head offers as she turns from the festive evergreen
and heads for the stairs.

If only it were enough.

As she sets her foot on the first step and reaches for
the banister, the phone rings.

"Bill?" She hesitates.

The second ringing makes her fingers reach
instinctively but she reminds herself that this is her
brother's home.

By the third ring, Bill appears at the top of the
stairs and comes bounding down. Scully flattens
herself against the wall to let him pass. The sound
of laughter drifts from the receiver. When his
repeated greetings go unreturned, Bill shakes his head
and hangs up.

Scully raises an eyebrow. "Prank call?"

"Yeah. Sounded like a couple of kids with too much
time on their hands."

Unexpectedly, she smiles. "Were you a kid with too
much time on your hands, Bill?"

Bill scowls momentarily but his expression quickly
relaxes into a grin. "Too late to tell Mom now, Dana.
I'm too big to turn over her knee. Besides, I only
did that a few times."

Somehow a spell has been broken. Or cast.

She thinks about it as she sits in front of an open
file folder in the basement office a week later,
waiting for Mulder to finish typing an e-mail.

"... Scully?"

She looks up abruptly.

"You seem miles away."

"I was just thinking," she replies, and begins to
gather the folder's contents into a single pile.

"Want to share with the class?"

And his voice is neutral enough, beguiling enough that
she forgets to apply the brakes.

"I think the song was right, Mulder--you really don't
know what you've got 'til it's gone." She pauses
momentarily, captured by an image of gift-opening and
laughter. "Christmas went very well. Remarkably
well, in fact."

"Even with Bill?" Mulder's eyebrows rise; there's
mild mischief in his eyes.

"Surprisingly, yes. Even with Bill. Somehow we fell
into talking about crazy things we'd done as kids
and..." She trails off. Eventually realizes she's

"How's your sister-in-law? Has the UberScully arrived

"Soon. Bill called this morning to say Tara's gone
into labor." She shifts a few more papers. When she
thinks to glance up, she finds him unexpectedly
pensive, the end of a pencil tapping softly against
his lips.

"Maybe," he says when he notices she's watching, "it's
broader than that, Scully. I mean, it's not just that
we don't know what we've got until it's no longer with
us--" He shoots her a sympathetic glance; after all,
he knows this territory by heart. "Think about it:
there's a whole world of things we'll never feel or
understand because they won't have happened to us. We
assume we're on a more or less straight path, headed
toward a concrete goal when in reality, every moment
of our lives we're at a crossroads, liable to turn in
any one of a thousand different directions depending
on some small decision we make, some outside factor
that comes into play." After a pause, he shakes his


"I went to this family gathering while you were gone,"
he says. "My cousin Bernie showed up with a wife and
four-month-old son."

"You have a cousin Bernie?"

"Yeah, a second cousin on my dad's side. Hadn't seen
him in a dozen years." He stares momentarily into an
inner distance. "Anyway, he's the last person I would
ever have pegged as a settled guy, or a dad-type." He
leans toward her. "It made me realize that parenthood
is one of those things I've never seriously
envisioned--you know, the possibility of having a
living, breathing child clinging to your shoulder,
needing to be fed and clothed and--" He shrugs and
raises an eyebrow. "What about you, Scully?"

She purses her lips. "No, not to that extent. I
mean, with this career and... and everything that's
gone on in the past year--" She shakes her head.

For a moment she finds herself as she did at Bill's
front door, an unnameable tension low in her stomach.
She busies herself so deliberately with organizing the
paperwork in front of her that Mulder's glancing touch
on her shoulder a moment later makes her jump.

"Hey, G-woman," he says softly and then he's past her
and standing at the filing cabinet, starting to take
down the projector.

She thinks of keeping vigil beside a bed that did not
contain her sister. She thinks of waking from a dream
convinced, in spite of overwhelming evidence, that her
partner was still alive.

After a moment she stands, pushes back her chair and
moves it into position facing the white screen on the

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Moment 4: A Key Poised in the Lock

Two gray-haired men in a room: one in a bed, asleep
open-mouthed; the other watching from a nearby chair.
Thin wisps of memory float through the sleeping man's
mind: a house he knew as a child; a tryst with a woman
not his wife; a friend turned foe, scowling; a night
sky bright with points of light.

The man in the chair tilts his head and considers the
dreamer. Until now he hasn't noticed the thin lines,
like parentheses, that accentuate the droop of the
man's mouth. He thinks of the way he looked ten years
ago, and fifteen, and twenty-five--the way all of them
looked, young and full of vigor. Full of purpose.

The observer's eyes close briefly, then refocus on the
bed. His companion's breathing is even now, not
labored the way it was during the preceding week.
Unconscious, he seems completely unremarkable. Almost
harmless, the observer thinks, and suddenly sits up

A knock comes on the door and a woman in a white lab
coat enters. She approaches the bed, lifts the
blanket that covers her patient and carefully peels
the tape from a bandage on the man's chest. After
replacing it she checks the readouts on the machines
beside the bed and shakes her head.

"It appears he's going to make it," she says, glancing
at the visitor. "He's surprisingly tenacious."

The seated man grunts in reply and watches the doctor
turn and leave. He frowns, remembering an incident as
a boy where he baited a snake, prodding at it with a
stick until, without warning, it shot out at him.

With the closing of the door, he looks back at the
bed. The sleeper's eyes move under closed lids and
eventually one of them opens slightly. He watches the
lid draw gradually back, the eyeball wander the room.
Finally it rests on him. The face in the bed
gradually settles into recognition. The mouth opens,
pauses, attempts a sound that emerges like wind
rustling through paper.

"Our associates decided you were a greater danger than
a benefit," the seated man begins, his voice
unexpectedly loud in the sterile room.

The patient draws a hand up from his side and weakly
moves it toward his chest. His fingertips stop at the
edge of the bandage.

"It's been three weeks," his companion continues.
"Two in a private facility in Montgomery County, then
one here. We're in Quebec. I have a place near here,
out in the countryside, somewhere you can stay for the
time being."

The pale man nods slightly. His eyes close
momentarily and then open again, glassy with moisture.

"I'm not doing this out of the goodness of my heart,"
the sitting man says, leaning closer, his eyes
suddenly sharp and crystalline. "Were there no
compelling reason, I'd as soon have left you there.
But you have a secret, a key--something you haven't
shared with the others."

When the other offers no arrogance or whispered
retort, the visitor rises from his chair. "I'll
return in a few days," he says, civil as before, and
takes his leave.

The bedridden man stares up at the ceiling and begins
to take stock of his body inch by inch--fingers,
forearms, torso, legs. Ankles and toes. He remembers
the carpet pressed brush-like into his cheek, a broken
picture frame clutched in his hand as if by someone
else's strength.

He thinks of his visitor, with his perennial British
propriety, leaning close like the pent-up fury of God.
Yes, he muses, there will be a reprieve. Yes, you
will serve your purpose. But when your usefulness is
past, I won't make the mistake you just have.

His lips come together grimly and gradually his
eyelids close. What he wouldn't give for a cigarette.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

MOMENT 5: Shut and Open

The door closes. Mulder remains where he is on the
floor, listening to the sound of Krycek's boots fade
in the direction of the elevator. Five steps, six
steps, seven, eight, nine, pause...

Mulder's head tilts and he listens--pure instinct,
like breathing. Nothing like the Everest it will be
to make sense of what just happened, of what Krycek
just told him. He *will* have to do that. Yet again.
Find a handhold in this funhouse world and figure out
which end is up, who's lying, who's telling the truth.

What they want from him.

The steps in the hallway begin again: one, two, three,
pause. Four, five. Another pause.

Mulder eases himself into an upright position, wincing
at a growing bruise on his hip. The residue of
Krycek's aftershave lingers in the air.

The footsteps begin again but this time they're coming
closer. Mulder thinks that he should get up; he
should stand or brace himself or aim Krycek's gun at
the doorway, ready, but his arms and legs, like his
mind, are still tangled in the shock of Krycek's
visit. Aliens. Crashed spaceships and rebel
factions. Resist or serve.

Now the shadows of Krycek's shoes are visible below
the front door. The handle turns and Krycek steps
inside. He walks straight into the living room and
looks down at Mulder. There's no smirk on his face,
no about-to-burst intensity, no 'poor sucker'll never
figure this out' shake of the head. He just stands

"You're protected, Mulder--from the oil," he says, his
tone even. "That little jaunt we took to Tunguska--"

"That you tricked me into taking." Somehow his own
fire is missing, too, as if they're both boxers too
exhausted from sparring to begin again.

"That's what it was for," Krycek says quietly, and
pauses. "I just figured you should know."

Mulder's mouth opens but nothing comes out. Krycek
turns and starts toward the door.

"You hauled me halfway around the world and had me
thrown into a prison camp to--?"

"Yeah." Krycek turns back. "What? Is it too much
to believe?"

"Why, Krycek? Why'd you do it?"

For a long moment the other man is silent. Finally he
shakes his head. A hint of something Mulder can't
decipher--a smile? regret?--flits across his face.
"You're not ready for that, Mulder. Maybe someday."
Then he turns and leaves.

Mulder closes his eyes briefly, then looks up, as if
the ceiling could provide answers. In the room
beyond, a glow from the hallway creates a partial halo
around the slightly open door.