It was late June when my brother came to visit. As I recall, it was a cool day and a light breeze was blowing, but Alexei was sweating profusely as he sank down on the short grass across from where I was seated.
"I'm sorry, Irina. I'm sorry it took so long to find you." He fell silent then, his head sinking to his chest. I wanted to reach out, to tell him that I didn't blame him but, of course, I couldn't.
I don't know how much time passed before he spoke again, but when he did, his voice cracked with emotion and he seemed nearer to tears than I'd seen him since the night I was taken away.
When he finally pulled up his head, I noticed his eyes looked glassy. I also noted that his prosthetic was missing, the sleeve of his leather jacket hanging empty. "It hurts, Irina," he said as if he could hear my thoughts. "I thought... never mind." He fell back into silence, his head drooping back down. For a moment I thought he'd fallen asleep, but then he spoke again, whispering "I wish they'd taken me, not you."
I didn't share the sentiment. Although it's true that as the organization's desperation increased, the less focused they became on my personal well-being. And that, by the end, I was little more than a human guinea pig. But I love my brother and I knew he had a different role to play.
Alexei took a bandanna from his pocket and wiped his forehead. "I don't know what's wrong with me," he said. "I don't think I have much longer."
He fell back into silence. I got up and paced, trying to think of something I could do to help. No ideas presented themselves.
His next words caught my attention. "I spent years looking for you, you know." No, I hadn't known. "I'm sorry it took me so long. And," he said fiercely, "I'm really sorry I couldn't avenge you. Once I found out what was really going on, I tried. But," he sighed, "it seems I'd burnt the wrong bridges."
I bit my lip, much the way he does, and resumed pacing.
I stopped in my tracks.
"... I'd gone to Skinner when I had the chance."
"Skinner, huh?" I resumed pacing. I knew who he meant. I'd seen the man a few times when I'd been able to watch Alex going about his work. I'd even met the man's wife. And that gave me an idea. "Hang in there, Alyosha. I'm going to try to get you the help you need."
Walter Skinner, comfortably ensconced in his leather chair, tried to focus on the investigation report Mulder had condescended to prepare. As usual, it gave an accounting of Mulder and Scully's activities that presented them in the best light, while diverting attention away from the incredible amount of money Mulder had spent trapping the so-called ghoul.
"Only Mulder," he thought, shaking his head. As he did so, a red blur caught his eye. His blood ran cold as the old crone, the one that used to haunt his dreams, came into focus. He tried reasoning with himself, claiming that she was just a figment of his imagination, brought on by Mulder's report. The crone, however, refused to cooperate. She looked at him disapprovingly.
Skinner struggled to find his voice, finally managing a hoarse whisper. "What do you want?"
The crone stared into his eyes.
In response, Skinner closed his. He thought back to the first time they'd met, when she'd tried to strangle him. Although now, looking back, he wondered if maybe that had been her way of goading him to fight. Without her intervention, he'd probably still be as dead as the rest of his platoon.
Or, he thought, framed for murder.
A sudden thought shook him. What if the timing of the crone's appearance wasn't coincidental with Mulder's report? Was someone disturbing Sharon's grave? He considered sending an agent to the cemetery, but then thought better of it. He'd go himself.
The crone was gone by the time he reopened his eyes.
Sharon's grave appeared normal when Skinner arrived at the graveyard. Other than a quick stop for fuel, and the purchase of a small bouquet of roses from a young woman selling flowers by the side of the road, he'd come directly from the Hoover, not even taking the time to explain to his PA where he was going or why he was postponing his afternoon appointments.
Walter smiled grimly at the grave. He was pleased to see the groundskeepers were doing their job, keeping the grass mowed and the weeds at bay.
He focused on the headstone and thought of the many trips to the cemetery he'd made with his parents when he was a child. His mother had made it a point to pay regular visits to her own mother's grave. She'd inevitably say a prayer or two, asking the younger Walter and his father to join in. And then she'd talk to the grave, telling her mother about happenings in the family. Walter would inevitably go exploring then, killing time until his mother was ready to go home.
Walter wondered if he should say something. He hadn't prayed since his first firefight in Vietnam. And he'd never known what to say to Sharon, not even while she was alive. That, he knew, had been the biggest problem with their marriage. Sharon wanted to know his every thought, and Walter, Walter was forever thankful that Sharon wasn't a mind reader. He knew she's be repulsed if she were. The things he'd seen and done as a Marine — to say nothing of the horrors he'd witnessed as a special agent or the compromises he'd been forced to make as he rose through the ranks of the FBI...
Walter shook his head and knelt down to unscrew the bronze circle from Sharon's grave marker. He inverted it, revealing a bronze vase which he then twisted back into the mount. He arranged the roses and looked for something he could use to fetch water for the flowers.
Remembering there was a carryout coffee container in his car, he retrieved it and went to look for a faucet. He had a vague memory of there being an old-fashioned water pump around one of the larger headstones to his left and back towards the oldest part of the cemetery. He had no difficulty locating the pump or in forcing water up from the well into his cup, but tripped on a sunken headstone on the way back to Sharon's grave. Nearly half the water sloshed out before Walter could regain his balance. Paying greater attention to the ground, Walter managed to deliver the remaining water to the vase.
He debated getting another cup. The flowers probably wouldn't last any longer if he did. But then again, they might. And pink roses had been Sharon's favorite. He smiled at the memory and patted Sharon's headstone. "You deserved more," he said, before standing back up.
On his way back to the hand-pump, Skinner thought he heard a voice. He looked around, but didn't see any cars other than his own and he appeared to have the place to himself. He continued moving toward the pump, stopping only when he heard the voice again.
"I wish..." the voice said, and then once again grew faint. Skinner momentarily believed he heard the voice saying his name, but immediately quashed the thought, arguing that it was nothing more than the workings of an overwrought imagination.
He resumed his task, lecturing himself about the danger of allowing delusional ideas to influence behavior, when he heard a low, pain-filled moan. The sound, fortunately, bore no relation to anything out of Hollywood. It did, however, bear a striking resemblance to the cries Skinner remembered hearing during his stay in the field hospital.
"Hey!" Skinner shouted. He decided to focus on the important thing — finding the source of the sound. Why, who — and hopefully not what — he could deal with later. "Where are you?"
"Here," came the faint response. "Over here."
Skinner ran toward the sound, trying to keep one eye on the uneven ground and the other on the course he was charting through the graveyard. Seeing a flash of red to his right, he veered toward it, thus narrowly averting a fall into an open grave. "Shit, that was close," he thought, but didn't slow down.
A hundred yards or so ahead, and now to his left, he saw another flash of color. Skinner corrected his course, running as fast as he could. The red thing, whoever — or perhaps whatever — it was, kept disappearing. Sometimes because it was hidden behind the larger monuments, sometimes for no reason at all. But at least it didn't appear to be moving farther away. Skinner skirted around an obelisk and saw a dark, unmoving, shape laying on the ground. He covered the few remaining yards at a heart-pounding rate, and dropped to his knees at the figure's side.
"Tell me what's wrong," Skinner gasped.
"Don't know." Glassy eyes turned toward Skinner, but didn't appear to see him.
Skinner had no such problem. "KRYCEK!" he growled. "I don't fucking believe it."
"Skinner?" Alex responded, sounding completely bewildered. "Is that you? Are you here to help me?"
Skinner grumbled wordlessly, examining Krycek without touching him. It was obvious the man was deathly ill. With black humor, the thought that the graveyard was a fitting place for his enemy flitted through his mind, and he momentarily considered leaving Krycek exactly where he'd found him.
"Can't believe you're here," Krycek mumbled.
"I can't believe it myself," Skinner responded with asperity.
"Have to thank Irina," Krycek slurred. And promptly passed out.
Skinner gave him a look that would have frightened ten years off the life of any agent other than Fox Mulder. It was hard not to want to slug the man. Even unconscious, Walter felt the urge to hit him. A flapping sound caught his ears and he looked up. He felt a strong wind in his face and realized the wind was coming up and a storm was quickly approaching. And there, whipping in the wind, was a red and black banner, hung from a small flagstaff mounted at the head of someone's grave.
As it moved across itself, the material seemed to be whispering to him. "Shame," he thought he heard it say. "Shame."
"Oh forever more," Skinner complained. He was far past trying to remain objective. "I'm not going to leave him here." And with that, Skinner scooped the unresisting body of Alex Krycek into his arms and carried him to his car.
Behind him, the banner waved gaily, and the ghostly form of a woman began to take shape. Irina Krycek, looking remarkably alive and self-satisfied, perched on top of her headstone and called out to her co-conspirator. "You can come out now. They're gone."
Sharon Skinner ducked out from behind a neighboring crypt and grinned at her friend. "That was the most fun I've had in ages."
"Do you think they'll need our help again in the future?" Irina wondered aloud.
Sharon rolled her eyes. "They're men, dear. Of course they will."
- TAFN -
Title: Hostage to the Past
Website: Haven's Slash Archive
Feedback: Yes, please!
Rating: G (Again? What is it with me and G-rated birthday fics?)
Spoilers: Assume everything until S.R. 819.
Archive: Full House, RatB, DitB, WWOMB
Disclaimer: All X-Files characters belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made. All original characters belong to Haven.
Summary: Alex finds his sister. Walter pays his respects to his late wife.
Author's Notes: First and foremost, Happy Birthday, Maddie! Second, the events in this story take place several months after Terma.
Beta: Betagoddess and Amazon X — Many thanks for your generous help and advice.
First Published: June 26, 2004
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Haven.