Title: The Ones on the Other Side

Author: MJ

Author's e-mail: mjr91@aol.com

Author's URL: http://www.geocities.com/coffeeslash/mj/

Date: 10/29/02

Rating: PG

Pairings: Archer/Reed, Reed/Fox Mulder, Mulder/Skinner

CROSSOVER with X-Files to get those pairings.


Spoilers: Shockwave II, X-Files final episodes

Archive: Yes to EntSTslash, Archer's Enterprise, WWOMB; will send to the other places in about a week. This template is specifically geared to the Enterprise Slash lists, with reason.

Summary: Daniels finds a new temporal crisis with the Suliban. Malcolm Reed is his choice for fixing the problem.

Beta and test drive thanks: Kim, Kageygirl, Leah the Monkey from Hell, Drovar, Cinmbria. Also thanks to Sarah, who I know would have liked more Doggett. Apologies for any remaining typos—they'll be fixed before going to the other archives.

Author Notes: 1)This fic has been voted understandable by ENT fans with no XFbackground already, so don't let lack of prior XF knowledge scare you. 2) If you have a problem with CROSSOVER, you have a delete key. 3) I wrote this specifically because a number of ENT ficcers on these lists were so amazingly vocal about the evils of CROSSOVER fic. I've been on the XF and Pros lists for years and CROSSOVER has only been great for them—a bad fic is a bad fic regardless of genre. Decent CROSSOVER fics, and there are many, have never harmed any lists yet.

4) Any emails screaming that this is a CROSSOVER are pointless and will only prove you haven't read this template…


Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together.
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman—
But who is that on the other side of you?

—from "The Waste Land," T. S. Eliot

"This isn't how it was supposed to happen," the short man muttered. He drew a jacket around himself to keep out the chill desert breeze. "There were only two groups of them."

"Yeah," the taller, slender one agreed. "The shape shifters and the Grays. But you said these were shape shifters too?"

"Some of them are. They've had surgical genetic enhancements, though. All of them aren't shape shifters. Some of them have multiple pupils, some can climb walls and hang from ceilings overhead—it all depends what modifications they've had made."

"And now they've become players?"

"Right. Bad enough you had one group of aliens trying to take over the planet in 2012 before, but now you have two different groups trying."

"Why? That's what I don't get." The tall man hunkered down by a small fire to warm his hands.

"I'm not sure myself. The records don't explain it. But if we can't put the timeline back, you have to beat the Suliban as well as these others, or there isn't a future to deal with." The other man knelt down as well. "Other than that, I don't know much more than you do, Mulder."

"We need weapons. What we've got won't do anything against these—Suliban, you said?"

The small man thought for a moment. "I can get them for you. Only a few, though, but that's all you'll need. And you'll have to return them or destroy them afterwards."

"Why?" Fox Mulder shivered, his windbreaker not enough to keep the wind out, with only a thin T-shirt underneath it.

"Because keeping out the Suliban protects the time line. But these weapons won't be invented until 2151, and if they're found by anyone outside the Resistance and used, that will also change the timeline. So no one must ever know you used these guns I'll bring to defeat the Suliban and their cronies. Of course, if we protect the timeline, there will never be an official record that the invasions of 2012 ever occurred."

"Anything you can do, Daniels. Anything."


Jonathan Archer, captain of Enterprise, stirred, luxuriating in the warmth of the body curled against him. Malcolm Reed, his tactical officer, had a head full of unruly brown hair pillowed snugly against his chest and an arm thrown possessively across him. Reed was sound asleep; the motion failed to rouse him. That was just as well, Archer thought, since Reed had been well overworked of late with one of his team in sickbay for a week and another on limited duty. Reed could do with all the sleep he could get. He'd been so tired that night, he'd nearly fallen asleep during their lovemaking, and he'd crashed entirely within seconds afterwards.

Archer looked around his quarters in the dark. Porthos, his beagle, was asleep on his own pillow near the foot of the bed. The dog had resigned himself cheerfully to having no room in his master's bed when Reed was there, as he was most nights, since Reed always gave him enough attention to make up for it. If Archer had actually said, "Love me, love my dog," he couldn't have done better. Reed's enjoyment of Porthos was nearly as complete as his affection for the dog's owner. This relationship had begun tentatively, without some of the mad passion that had swept Archer off his feet a few times before in his life, but in those relationships the fire had gone out quickly. He was pushing middle age now, and Reed's quieter but unwavering devotion was far more likely to last. He was starting to need that kind of security, that stability, at this age and with this anchorless long-term exploration the center of his life.

He was nearly ready to drift into sleep again, listening to the sound of Reed's steady breathing, when everything was rudely interrupted.

"Sorry to bother you at this time of night, Captain Archer."

Archer opened his eyes wide, staring. "Daniels, what the hell are you—"

Daniels held up a hand as Reed began waking groggily. "Sorry, Captain, but I'm afraid there's a bit of an emergency."

Reed glowered through sleepy eyelids. "Do you habitually barge into people's bedrooms to announce your latest timeline crises, or are we privileged?"

The time traveler had the grace to look sheepish. "I'm sorry, gentlemen. I'd have waited a few hours if I didn't think this was absolutely necessary. But frankly, if the current problem isn't solved, I'm afraid none of us are ever going to exist, so I thought it was worth risking the intrusion."

Archer sat upright, Reed drawing himself up beside his lover. "I don't follow. You mean the problem's in the past?"

"Exactly." Daniels perched on the edge of Archer's desk, Porthos staring up at him warily, unsure of whether to bark. "Somehow or other, the past timeline's being disrupted. In 2012, back during the invasion of Earth—"

"What invasion?" Reed queried. "I've never heard of it."

"No, you haven't, because it was successfully repelled by an underground resistance movement that succeeded in fighting most of it off. Unfortunately, the remnants of the invasion were indirectly responsible, ultimately, for the Third Terran War, but even that was better than if the aliens involved had won. The Resistance was led by a young man named Gibson Praise and his followers. Many of them had been connected with the American FBI. Their organizer was a former FBI agent named Fox Mulder who'd uncovered the information about the invasions. But that was before the Suliban got involved. Someone's gotten the Suliban to participate in the invasions, and if the Suliban get a foothold on Earth in 2012, there will never be a Starfleet, or a Federation—"

"What Federation?" Reed asked.

"Something Captain Archer knows a bit about, but it won't happen for several more years. The thing is, we don't believe that the Resistance can fight the Suliban with the weapons they have. They need phase pistols, and they need training. I'm afraid, Captain, that I'll have to borrow half a dozen phase pistols and your good lieutenant here. I promise to return them intact."

"What if I tell you to pound sand," Archer muttered.

"You won't do that, Captain," Daniels replied evenly. "We both know that. And even if you did, I'd be able to take him and the weapons anyway. But I'd rather not. And if I don't take him with me, I'm afraid that none of us will be here to debate the point later. Would you care to get dressed, Lieutenant?"

Reed grumbled under his breath, but sat up and swung his feet over the edge of the bed. "Looks like I don't have any bloody choice, does it? This time travel business had better be safer than those frigging transporters, mate."


Daniels looked at his surroundings, waving his hand expansively. "Beautiful country here, the New Mexico desert. Just watch out, Lieutenant, the pollen from some of these desert flowers can be vicious."

"Now you tell me," Reed said, suppressing a sniffle. He set down the heavy metal carry case for the phase pistols and sat on it for a moment. "Where are these people we're to meet?"

The time traveler peered towards the sun. "There they are—look. They'll be here in a few minutes." Reed looked in the same direction and saw a small van driving up towards them. They sat together silently, waiting.

The van finally pulled up to the spot they were at, and three people clambered out—a tall, thin man with graying brown hair, a short, fading red-haired woman, and a stocky young man with thick glasses. "Mulder, Scully, Gibson," Daniels acknowledged. "This is Malcolm Reed, a friend of mine. We've got the weapons."

The stocky younger man looked Reed over thoughtfully, then held out his hand. "It's all right, Mulder," he stuttered, "he's not an alien." Praise peered a bit more. "I'm sorry Daniels woke you up to get you here, but you know, everything he told you is true. I know everything around here's going to seem a bit primitive to you, but there's over a century to go until we catch up to you."

Reed blinked. "Been having a chat about me?"

"No," the redhead replied, extending a hand to Reed. "I'm Dana Scully, Mr. Reed. Gibson is—well, I suppose psychic is the best term. Among his other talents, he can spot a shapeshifter or an occupied body. He's our front line. I'm a doctor, and I used to be a federal agent. Mulder here is our real leader." The tall, lanky man greeted Reed with a handshake and a nod. "Mulder and a few others of us need the weapons you brought. You *do* have them?"

"Oh, I've got them," Reed replied, patting the carry case. "They're right here."

"Good," Mulder replied, finally speaking. "Let's load up and get back down to camp." Reed took the carry case. "Would you like me to take that?"

"No, I'd best carry this myself until you've gotten acquainted with the contents, but thanks." Reed followed Mulder to the vehicle and carefully hoisted his cargo into the back, then climbed in with it. Daniels took a seat with Scully behind Mulder, who had driven, and Praise.

The van wound its way down an alleged road, more of a dirt path with rocks and ruts in it, truth to tell, and then onto a larger road that was covered in pebbles and gravel. Reed looked out the van's rear windows at the area around him; he'd never visited the American desert areas while he'd lived in the States, and he wondered if the area looked the same one hundred forty years later. The idea that he was in the beginning of the twenty-first century had barely sunk in; the vehicle was obsolete in his day, but clothing, at least the casual things these people were wearing, didn't seem to have undergone much change. If they had computers, however, those were going to be considerably more primitive than the ones he knew. He hoped that he wasn't going to be particularly reliant on 2012's idea of advanced technology for the brief period he was to be there.

The van pulled up at what appeared to be a roadside motel—an abandoned one, at that. Shutters were falling, windows were boarded; no cars were in the lot. Another van, on the other hand, and a newish-looking vehicle that was some sort of private-use jeep or military-style transport were parked in the back, behind a crumbling fence. "This is a ghost town," Mulder told Reed as he let Reed out of the back. "Died out totally when a big interstate highway went through about twenty miles over. There's an abandoned gas station down the road; we get our gasoline for the generator, when we need it, and for the cars from it. When we have to go too far to get food or gasoline, we move on to another abandoned town."

Reed looked around, nodding. "Then you're obviously hiding from someone besides alien invaders. You and Dr. Scully are both former federal agents—I take it that you're hiding from the government as well?"

"Right," Mulder agreed as he let Reed into the motel's lobby. "There have been too many infiltrators—in our agency and everywhere else—and they've come after us more than once because we found out the truth about what was happening. So we finally had to go into hiding."

Mulder grabbed a key—an old-fashioned metal one that went into a door lock—and handed it to Reed. "You've got a room beside Scully's and mine," he said. That answered one question in Reed's mind—the two agents *were* together. Knowing the ground rules your team was following made things easier. Mulder led him down the corridor until they were about half way down, near an old marked fire exit. "Here you go," Mulder told him. "The water's working—Doggett saw to that. It's not real hot, but it runs. We have a big stash of the motel's soap, shampoo, and towels, so you've got plenty in there. Reyes is making lunch today—we'll be eating in about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. So you've got time to clean up and take a nap if you want."

"Thanks." Reed opened the door and hauled the carry case inside.

"The clock-radio works," Mulder volunteered, "but it only gets two stations, and not very well. I doubt if it's any music you're used to—we think it's current, but it's probably so fossilized it isn't even 'oldies' to you." He stood in the doorway, examining his guest. "Twenty-second century. 2152. I guess that means this all works out, huh? The world's still here, it's not overrun by alien dictators using us for slave labor—"

Reed looked back, pale. "Oh, Lord. Is that what this is about?"

"In a nutshell. At least, it was until the Suliban showed up. Daniels says that never happened before, someone's changed the timeline on us. And we know how to fight these others, but we don't know how to fight the Suliban."

Reed sighed. "I've been in a few tussles with them. They're nothing you want to tangle with." He shuddered, remembering Phlox repairing teeth and ribs that had encountered the Suliban idea of trying to make their victims talk. Most of the crew had treated him like glass for weeks, until Archer had invited him to breakfast, and—Archer still swore that he hadn't planned to try seducing him over Eggs Benedict. But by the time Reed had been released from sickbay after the rest of that day's events, several days after a Romulan mine had injured his leg, and Archer had scheduled a makeup breakfast in his cabin, the event had turned, unexpectedly for both, into breakfast in bed. They had been lovers since then.

Mulder grimaced. "So Daniels says. Look, after lunch, we'll look over these weapons. We've got a few more people coming for dinner tonight; they're hiding in another town about eight miles down the road. You'll get to meet our whole cell, pretty much." He paused thoughtfully. "For this, I spent six years at Oxford."

Now Reed blinked. "Did you?" The man had seemed intelligent enough, but that was unexpected.

"Did my undergraduate and graduate work in psychology at Brasenose. I was an FBI profiler. Now I hide from the FBI and try to stop alien invaders on the doorstep. It's a long, ugly story." He paused again, as his eyes met Reed's. "Get some rest. Daniels tells me the time travel process is pretty fatiguing. I'll wake you for lunch."

"Fine." Reed smiled. "Knock me up about ten minutes ahead, if you would."

Mulder looked startled. "Oh—right. Right. It's been years since I heard that—they still say that in England in 2152? Thank God some things never change."

"Indeed." And the ability to shock an American with that expression hadn't changed, either, had it. He'd never forget the look on Trip Tucker's face the first time he'd said it within the Chief Engineer's earshot. An entire tray of food had landed on the mess hall floor. Of course, the man *had* been knocked up once, which made a difference. Now he became a bit hyperactive at anything remotely suggesting pregnancy. "I'll see you later."


Reed washed up quickly and lay down—the bed was more comfortable than the one in his cabin, that much was clear—and drifted off wondering just how close Mulder really was to the woman he shared his room with. The look Mulder had given him was enough to make him wonder.


Whoever had owned this motel had lived in it as well; there was an apartment for a resident manager. The residents now slept in the individual rooms of the motel, but used the kitchen and living areas of the manager's apartment as their communal center. A dark-haired woman was bustling with plates and with pots and pans; it smelled as if she had done some kind of Latin American cooking. She looked around as people entered. "Gibson," she called, "you've got cleanup detail today." Another pot went on a sideboard. "Hi, Mulder. Is this Daniels' friend with the weapons you brought with you?"

"Yep, Monica." Mulder walked Reed to Reyes' side. "Monica, Malcolm Reed. I understand he developed these things himself. Malcolm, this is Monica Reyes. Another former federal agent and the best cook we've got in this camp. Not to mention a mean shot."

Reed shook hands with the Hispanic agent. He liked her. Maybe it was just that she was carrying food, and he was hungry. Or maybe it was her aim. "Glad to hear it. I did my small arms training with a woman who could shoot anything that moved—and the further away it was, the better. At least as long as whatever she aimed at was in range of her weapon."

Reyes grinned. "I'm not that good, but I'm better than Mulder." She flashed another grin at Mulder. "He gets all the ideas, and then he gets into trouble. The rest of us dig him out of it, and sometimes we get a few aliens."

"He drops his gun a lot, too," said a gravelly voice entering the room. "Hi, I'm John Doggett."

"Another federal agent, I take it?" Reed extended a hand. "Malcolm Reed."

Doggett eyed him. "What branch of the service are you? I'm a Marine, or was one."

"Once a Marine, always a Marine," Reed replied. "I'm Starfleet, which if you know the story about why I'm here, won't exist for over a century. I'm a ship's weapons and tactical officer—and I do weapons design."

Doggett nodded, musing. "I know we need the weapons you brought, but as long as you're here—we only have two other men in the central organization with any military skills at all, including tactical. If you know anything about ground defense on air assault, I think we could use a refresher so we could try to train some other people. Like Mulder," he said pointedly. "The other two will be here tonight."

A shrug. "I promised Daniels I'd do whatever was needed. If I have to start lecturing on basic defense strategy, so be it."

The ex-Marine slapped Reed on the back. "Terrific. Glad to have you on board, even if it *is* temporary."

"I'm just glad I can help. I have some experience with these Suliban, so I'm happy to share what I know."

"Come on and eat, you two," Reyes said, tapping her foot. "I've got empanadas getting cold."


Mulder, Scully, Doggett, and Reyes were gathered around Reed in the living room of the apartment, looking in some amazement over the guns he had handed them. All of them had qualified with hand weapons—Doggett for the Marines as well as for the FBI—but none had seen anything like this. To them, it resembled nothing so much as a weapon out of a science fiction movie. But then, Mulder had proven what seemed to be science fiction to be factual so many times that none of them could refuse to believe anything they saw with their own eyes.

"For want of a better name, I call it a phase pistol," Reed said. "The 'pistol' designation is obvious to you. The 'phase' part requires some background. However, understand that this is not a ballistic weapon of the sort you're used to. Neither is it a laser weapon, though it emits an energy stream. It doesn't shoot a projectile, and it doesn't cut, though it can burn in some cases. It can generate more than enough heat to boil water. What it does do, primarily—and I'm skipping a lot to get to the basics—is short-circuit the body's electrical system. A lower-level burst provides enough disruption to cause unconsciousness, and a higher-level burst can cause death. As you'll see," he continued, pointing to the controls, "it has two settings, 'stun' and 'kill'. Whatever you do, do *not* confuse them."

He stood up and opened a window towards the back of the property. "The safety is reachable with your thumb—right, Dr. Scully. I don't think that grip's too large for you, is it? You've a rather small hand. You all see where the trigger mechanism is, correct? Good. Mr. Doggett, I'd like you to bring your weapon over here. I'd like the rest of you to watch. Now, Mr. Doggett—this is not ballistic, so there's no recoil, and while you *could* use two hands to fire, you should be perfectly comfortable with one-handed shooting, which is how I use them. I'd like you to take aim at the target I've set on the left."

Doggett thumbed off the safety and moved into a Weaver stance at the window. "You won't need a crouch," Reed advised; "no recoil, no balancing problem. But if it makes you more comfortable for your first round, go ahead." Doggett took aim, still in stance, and fired.

"Damn." Reed looked out the window again. The damage to the metal canister was apparent, and its previously pressurized contents were—well, the mess was what he'd expected, having hit a few pressurized items in his own time by accident, but the effect certainly had an impact on Doggett. "The effect's a little different on a live target, of course" Reed told him. "Try it again standing normally."

Another round. "Shit, this is fucking incredible."

"It *is* a little different from a service revolver," Reed acknowledged. "Miss Reyes, would you care to go next?"


Reed had packed the phase pistols back up and returned them to his room; he found Praise in there, at the desk. "Hi, Lieutenant," Praise said. "I didn't know if you could use this or not, but I thought I'd hook it up for you. It's a laptop computer. It's probably not much like what you're used to, but if you need to make any notes or anything, or if you want to write dow n instructions for people, it might help."

"Thanks; that's very kind of you." Reed spent half an hour acquainting himself with the antiquated technology, then, opening the word processing program—what was perfect about it, he puzzled; it seemed rather inconvenient—he began typing the material he'd covered for the four former government agents on the operation of the pistols.

The rest of the afternoon was spent making notes on the pistols, and trying to digest for the others everything he knew of the Suliban. Daniels was somewhere around, he supposed—he hadn't seen the man since he'd arrived—but he could just as easily have been in another time entirely, harassing Jonathan Archer about something else going on. Why some other ship couldn't have been saddled with saving the future, he didn't know.

There was some movement in the next room; apparently Mulder and Scully were both there. Apparently, as well, the walls here were thinner and less soundproofed than the cabins on Enterprise or the rooms in a better hotel. He worried vaguely about overhearing sounds he'd rather not know about, especially later that night. Maybe he should move the laptop to the other side of the room, and work on the bed, to give the couple more privacy.

"You got that stuff clean, Scully? Wow, I thought it'd never get that blood out of it."

"It wasn't that hard, Mulder. All your other stuff's on your bed."

*His* bed? That was something Reed didn't necessarily need, or want, to know. But it seemed odd that a presumptive couple didn't share a bed in their own room. Surely there were rooms besides his own in this motel that had sufficiently large beds for two people—the one in his own room could sleep four with no bother. He pushed the thought of what he and Archer could do with a bed that size—and possibly Trip Tucker along with them—out of his mind and tried to return to Suliban ship structure and design weaknesses.

"Thanks, Scully. Hey, Skinner says he has a line on another jeep if you want it."

"Does he? That's good."

"Are you sure you want to do it, though? To go off by yourself like that?"

"I have to, Mulder. Even if all of this *weren't* going on, I have to find William. And with what's happening, we *need* him. *I* need him. It's been ten years, and I still haven't given up on him. I can't."

"I know, Scully; I know."

Silence. Reed presumed that Mulder was comforting Scully over finding this William. An ex-husband? An ex-lover? It didn't matter; it wasn't Reed's concern, except so far as her departure, if it was soon, might weaken training. But no wonder the separate beds. A woman who was on a quest to find a man in her life from ten years before wasn't a bed partner but a friend.

That shouldn't matter—couldn't be allowed to matter. Fox Mulder was an attractive man, no doubt. But Reed had a lover. Even if he didn't, the thought of possibly tampering with the timeline—and this being a man he would definitely have no way of seeing again—the attraction was pointless. Like so many attractions one had on the occasional basis to attractive and highly unsuitable people, it would simply have to slide to the back of one's mind as an interesting fantasy. Forcing himself to tune out any other sounds that might come from the other side of the wall, he continued to work.



There were four guests at dinner, who had come up from the camp several miles away. They had brought food with them in an elderly dark van that had definitely seen better days. "Suzanne, Jimmy and Yves are back at the camp monitoring contacts," a long-haired graying-blond man in an open flannel shirt and a—what on earth were the "Dead Kennedys"?—T shirt explained to Mulder and Praise.

Mulder turned to Reed. "These three clowns," he said, indicating the three of the four who were clustered together, "used to be known as The Lone Gunmen. Malcolm Reed, meet Ringo Langly, John Byers, and Melvin Frohike." The blond in glasses was Langly. Byers was a respectable-looking man in a sweater and khakis, wearing a wedding band. Reed speculated from the way he'd blinked when Suzanne's name was mentioned that she might be Byers' wife. Frohike defied description; however, if a human being had cross-bred with one of Phlox's toads, the resulting offspring might have had some resemblance. The creature wore military surplus clothing and had a general air that suggested that despite his amazing appearance he might be one of the ex-military whom Doggett had mentioned.

The fourth man stood by the wall, his eyes on Mulder. Reed took a breath; Jonathan Archer had looked at him just that way, once, over a plate of Eggs Benedict. Unlike Reed, however, Mulder seemed unaware of the gaze. This man was tall, broad-shouldered, and rugged, in a flannel shirt, jeans, and work boots. He was bald and wore steel-rimmed glasses—people no longer wore eyewear back home, but on this man, at this time, the glasses were extremely impressive—and looked as strong as an ox. "This is former FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner," Mulder explained. "My old boss."

"Pleased to meet you," Skinner informed Reed, taking his hand in a spectacularly firm grip. This was definitely one of the ex-military men; there was no doubt of that. Reed would have been happy to have this man at his back any time, and he was happy to see him now. If any one of the people he'd met was a leader, this one was it. Praise's abilities might make him a focus, Mulder's knowledge and enthusiasm might make him the organizer, but this man could lead a fight.

"I'm very pleased to meet you as well, Mr. Skinner." It was the unequivocal truth.

Mulder looked at the two men placidly. It almost hurt Reed physically to see Mulder's lack of recognition of the other man's visible interest; Scully was clearly planning to leave him for this William; why was he investing time in her when someone like this seemed to be so attracted to him? Was this still in that ridiculous period he'd heard about in history classes when same-sex attachments were normally avoided? He'd thought that sort of thing had been done with by the century before his. Perhaps Mulder was really just that obtuse, blinded by his mission against the aliens to everything else happening around him—blinded to his own possibility of having a life. Reed trembled inwardly as he recognized much of the same problem in his own life; thank God he'd come to his senses at least to the point of letting Trip Tucker and Ensigns Sato and Mayweather into his life as friends, and then to allowing Jonathan Archer all the way into his existence. This man needed as much help as he did, and Mulder was older. So much life wasted on behalf of a cause. The cause was necessary of course; Reed was glad that he existed, after all, so the Resistance had to be successful. But having a cause wasn't a reason to give up living; had no one told the man that?

"Another ex-Marine like Mr. Doggett?"

"Yes. I was in Vietnam." Skinner looked at Reed thoughtfully. "You're really from a century ahead? Have they ever heard of Vietnam?"

Reed nodded slowly. "I don't know if everyone has, but the military have. Brutal." He shivered. "I'm glad you made it out in one piece."

Not to be outdone, Frohike trotted over. "I was there too," the small, frog-like man added in a surprisingly deep voice. "But Skinner saw more action there. Good man, Skinner."

Reed suspected as much. "Then you, Mr. Skinner, Mr. Doggett, and I will have a great deal to discuss. We have an incredible amount to accomplish, and not many days, I should think, to do it. I'll show you the phase pistols and their operation when there's light—you're staying overnight? Good. Tonight, I'd like to brief everyone on who the enemy is—the new one, anyway—and what little we know about them. Tomorrow, I want to hear what kind of fighting's gone on so far, and the three of us need to discuss some basic strategy for dealing with your new friends."

"Right," Skinner told him.

"I'm your man," Frohike added. Reed appreciated the sincerity, but he fervently hoped that Melvin Frohike would never be any such thing to him.


Reed sat with Skinner, Doggett, and Frohike in the old living room, sketching busily on sheets of notebook paper borrowed from Gibson Praise, who only used them to draw and to journal occasionally. Praise preferred computer games to writing. He had a brain, which he most liked employing in dealing with computers. From what Reed could gather, he'd been in the underground since he was young; he'd been educated on the run by Scully, Langly, and Byers. The young man knew science and computers in particular, and had a detailed, if somewhat skewed, knowledge of American history and politics, but not much else. If only Jane Austen had been made into a computer game, Reed thought, the boy might have acquired some literary familiarity. Mulder sat between Reed and Doggett, just slightly behind them—a leader of men, perhaps, but without the military knowledge to lead them into the battles at hand.

Nonetheless, Mulder was gamely trying to follow Reed's discussion with the other three. He seemed to have amazing familiarity with the oddest things—a World War Two battle in Russia here, a submarine incident there, but no coherent sense of how battle worked, of how men and arms were deployed. Apparently Mulder knew those incidents because of their real or perceived alien connections and not from a strategic standpoint. The other three were following carefully, with Frohike, astoundingly, showing the clearest understanding of theory. The man was strange-looking and quite odd, but not to be taken lightly.

"The question is," Reed asked, "do you have the manpower?"

"You'd be surprised," Frohike told him. "Langly's connected a lot of people out here. We've got followers. There's a lot we can do. But that's mostly with the first crowd of shapeshifters. It's easy to go after them. The icepick things, fires—there's more than one way to get them. It's these new Suliban ones we need to get out of the way. And if there's any way to do it with as few of our people as possible involved, that's the way to go."

Reed made notes. "That makes sense. I can assure you that you don't want anyone unprepared tangling with them. And keep your distance—they have a fine sense of violence about them that includes an exquisite enjoyment of torture." He could hear Mulder hissing behind him—he seemed to have struck a nerve mentioning torture. Had Skinner said something earlier about Mulder having been captured once? If so, it would explain a great deal. Reed remembered his own abuse by the Suliban, and hoped never to repeat it.


"Where's Malcolm?" Trip Tucker asked his best friend, Jonathan Archer, at lunch. "You chain him to your bed today, or what?"

Archer shook his head in an emphatic negative as he swallowed a sip of iced tea. "Daniels," he finally gulped. "Apparently the timeline needed another adjustment, and Daniels wants Malcolm to make it."

Tucker chuckled as he bit into a sandwich. "What century he hidin' your man in now—twenty-ninth? Thirtieth?"

"More like the last one. Back in 2012 or so."

A gulp. "Why's Daniels mucking around with the past?"

"Because apparently their friend from the future started it. The Suliban have just started going back there to invade Earth."

Tucker wiped his forehead with his hand. "And Malcolm's gonna charge in and save the day?"

"Something like that. Actually, apparently there were people preparing to fight an alien invasion back then anyway. He's teaching them how to fight the Suliban based on what we know about them. It's not my idea of a good time, either, but if Daniels is right—"

"Unfortunately, Cap'n, your buddy Daniels is pretty much always right. Except that as we all know, the Vulcan Science Directorate—"

"-says time travel is impossible," Archer finished, laughing. "I know. I'm just worried, that's all."

Tucker put down his sandwich and laid a hand on his friend's shoulder, "Look, Jon, if anyone can take care of themselves in a situation like that, it's Malcolm."

"I hope you're right."


Mulder walked over to Reed, who was sitting on the ground behind the motel reading a paperback copy of Eliot's "The Waste Land". A former occupant of the apartment had left it behind. "It's April," Mulder said quietly. "I suppose Eliot's appropriate, if Langly's calculations are right. Cruellest month, indeed."

Reed looked up at him, grimacing. "'For you know only a heap of broken images, where the sun beats, and the dead tree gives no shelter, the crickets no relief, and the dry stone no sound of water. Only there is shadow under this red rock—I will show you fear in a handful of dust.' Far too apt for my taste, as far as I can tell." He put the book down. "What can I do for you?"

"Nothing much. Would you like to go up into the mountains? It's where I go sometimes when I need to think. I could throw some sandwiches together, get some water, and we could go on a hike if you like. You might as well see the territory while you're here. And while it's still here."

"That's a thought." Reed eased himself to his feet and shoved the book in a pocket. "I'd be happy to go along, if I won't be in the way."

"Not at all. That's why I asked you. Doggett goes with me sometimes, but I'd rather he stayed down here today in case there's word from Langly. Or from Jeff and Marita's outpost in Taos." Jeffrey Spender, another former FBI agent, and Marita Covarrubias, who had worked at the United Nations, had been sucked first into the alien conspiracy by Spender's father and then into the underground as their only means of survival when they'd come too close to the truth. Both had been torture victims, from what Reed had gathered—Spender was supposed to have been permanently disfigured from his encounters with the aliens and with their human associates—including his own father.

"Splendid. I'm ready to roll myself."

Mulder pointed to Reed's pocket. "Taking the Eliot?"

"If you're going to sit and think up there, I may as well have something to do besides rock climbing. I have a good friend who had a nasty rock climbing accident once on a planet called Risa. Makes me a little bit leery."

"All right, we'll contemplate our navels together high on the hill." Mulder headed back into the motel to gather food, Reed following him.


The drive up the mountain was peaceful, if bumpy; the van's shock absorbers had seen better days. Malcolm was amused; he'd never thought to ride in vehicles like this in his life. Well, perhaps this wasn't really his life—this was, after all, a century before he'd been conceived. Still, he was there, wasn't he? He might as well enjoy himself amidst the historical technology; he'd certainly have something to share with Tucker when he returned to Enterprise. It was too bad he wouldn't be able to take any of these things back with him for Tucker to play with.

He looked out the window idly. "I never thought desert had so many plants in it. I don't know what I expected—nothing at all, perhaps."

"Waste land," Mulder said. "I never spent much time here before we had to come out here to hide. There's plant life, mountains, rocks; Indian tribes used to live in many of them. It's not exactly the Sahara. I grew up along the coast, however, so this still seems strange, even though I spent some time living in Arizona with some Navajo."

"I spent part of my life in England and the rest of it in the tropics. My father was stationed in Malaysia a few times and I went along once or twice. In and around being sent back to England for school."

"I went to a boys boarding school," Mulder volunteered. "It was better than being home. My family had problems."

"Funny, same here." Reed didn't elaborate. "No matter what I did, I was never what my father wanted me to be."

"That makes two of us." They fell into silence again as the van's engine ground its way up the slope. Reed looked about at the number of birds, surprised again by the amount of life in the midst of so much nothingness. Life, it seemed, could find some way to hang on anywhere, and to adapt to anything. He hoped that would continue to be true with the Suliban added into the equation.

Mulder finally came to a flat spot whose tire ruts proclaimed that he had parked there many times before. He pulled in and parked the van, and the men climbed out with the sandwiches, some coffee cake Reyes had made, and several bottles of water. "There's no red rock here to find shade," Mulder said, "but there's a pretty decent cave where I like to play hermit right around there." He pointed to a slight rise nearby. "Let's head there and eat."

Reed looked about and then down at the ground as they walked, glad he had brought his phase pistol. "I don't know what your crew eats other than what I've seen cooked, but there's some decent game out here. I don't suppose you want me to bring in tomorrow's dinner while we're at it?"

"You hunt?" Mulder seemed surprised. "I suppose you would, though."

"Actually, we don't hunt any more," Reed told him. "Not for sport, anyway. I've done some survival hunting a few times, though. It seems to me that your crew would be better served by doing some hunting than by risking as much time as Miss Reyes must going into town to get supplies."

"Maybe you're right. She and John and Suzanne Byers do most of the supply runs because they're the least conspicuous of us. Scully and I are too well-known to be safe, and Skinner and the other two Gunmen are hard to miss." They were at the cave; Mulder ushered Reed inside.

That Mulder came here regularly was clear. There were a few blankets, a lantern and fuel, and firewood, along with some containers of water and a few of what looked like old military ration packs. "We'll drink the older water first," Mulder said, stashing the bottles he'd brought near the other water bottles. He threw a blanket to Reed. "We'll need that to sit. The ground in here's a little damp."

"Right." Reed unfolded the blanket and laid it out, recalling his days of boy scout camping as he did so. He moved the bag of food to the blanket and stretched out, looking at the crevasses in the roof of the cave. It was surprising not to see some kind of aboriginal wall art; it looked as if this cave would have made a perfectly sound dwelling at some point in its history. The apparent age of the fire pit spoke to that as well; perhaps it had been used by hunters in the past. There was enough game outside to justify it.

Mulder came around with two bottles of water. He tossed one to Reed, opened the other, and sat down cross-legged on the other side of the blanket, staring into the empty fire pit. "I told you I spent some time living with the Navajo," he said. "I was practically dead when they found me. They did some kind of ceremony that was supposed to bring me back to life."

"Obviously, it worked," Reed replied dryly.

"Then I got taken by the aliens. What they did to me—I don't remember all of it, and I don't think I want to. When they left me, I was dead. I mean, clinically dead. Scully was ready to have me autopsied. And I—well, I'm back again. I don't know why. Either something or someone really wants me to live, or else I have so much unfinished business I'll never die."

"Could be either," Reed mused. "The only times anyone's gone after me, I know they meant to kill me, except when the Suliban just wanted to beat information out of me. They were being careful to do all the damage they could that *wouldn't* kill me. I don't think I have more than one life to me, so I try not to waste it unnecessarily—even in this line of work."

Mulder fished in the bag for sandwiches and pulled out two, offering one to Reed. "I don't know what my story is. Maybe I never will."

Reed took a breath. "And what's Dr. Scully's story? She's not the sort of person I would have pegged for running off into something like this."

"Scully? She's my fault," Mulder sighed. "Fast-tracked for a brilliant career, and I derailed her with aliens. Not that a brilliant career means much if aliens take over the planet. She's thinking of going off on her own for a bit, and I don't blame her."

"I—I heard something about that, I'm afraid," Reed confessed awkwardly. "She mentioned something about looking for—William, was it?"

Mulder nodded, unwrapping his sandwich. "William. Her son."

That was something Reed hadn't expected. "Her son?"

"He's part of this whole thing," Mulder explained. "Scully was abducted shortly after she started working with me. When they took her—they took all her ova. Then she was kidnapped by Spender's father, and she wound up pregnant. They'd artificially inseminated her. She was chased when she was pregnant, there were efforts to kidnap the baby, kill him—she had to put him up for adoption just to keep him alive. But he's special—he had gifts even Gibson doesn't have. Scully wants to find him; from what we've found, he seems to be a key to driving out these aliens. At least the ones who aren't Suliban. The Suliban just seem to have come along for the ride, to cash in on the fact we're being attacked in the first place," he added. "Scully hopes if she can find William, we'll have another tool for fighting the other aliens."

He paused to take a bite of the sandwich. "William—he's named for her father and mine. He might be my child too—we don't know. Lord knows they had plenty of chances to get samples from me if they wanted to." Another pause. "Scully—she always wanted a child. She tried getting pregnant once—she'd asked me to be her sperm donor. It wasn't going to happen any other way, she figured, with no eggs—somehow, I don't think this is exactly what she planned for."

"I'm prying," Reed said. "You and Dr. Scully—I presume you're together? But it doesn't quite seem that way."

Mulder shrugged. "Everyone's always thought we were. We tried it—it didn't work. But she's closer to me than anyone else has been in my life since I was a child. My sister was kidnapped when I was twelve; that was part of this whole thing, too. She's dead now. Scully and I—I thought I was in love with her once, but it turned out that she's the sister I never had."

Reed chewed at his own sandwich. Reyes had baked the bread herself; it was really very good. "I understand. No other women in your life, then?"

"No. Not for years. A girl at Oxford, another FBI agent, then Scully—really, nobody."

"No men?" The question seemed fair enough to Reed.

Mulder looked slightly taken aback. "Men? A few boys back in school, I guess that's pretty usual—" He drifted off, looking pained. "When Scully was abducted, I got a new partner. A guy named Alex. He was young, a brand-new agent—he was incredibly gorgeous. I fell for him like a ton of bricks. And he turned out to be one of them. Tried to kill me, repeatedly—I knew it, I kept going back to him anyway. I was fucking obsessed with him. He's dead now. Walt—Skinner—killed him. He had to—Alex was trying to kill me at the time." He put the sandwich down on the blanket, took a long drink of water. "There you go—the story of my exciting love life. You?"

Reed sighed. "Not much to tell, really. The usual boys in school. I fell in love at university, which was a disaster—it turned out he wasn't in love with me in the least. Half the women in San Francisco when I entered Starfleet, just because I could—and that wasn't an improvement at all. I'm with someone now, though."

"Male or female?"


"Serious?" "It certainly seems so."

"I'm sorry to hear it."

Reed looked up, surprised, to see Mulder eyeing him carefully, each trying to gauge the other's reaction. "I believe that's a compliment."

"It's more than that, I think." Mulder tore into the second half of his sandwich. "But I also think we need to talk about where we've got everyone spread out and how to handle supply lines if anything happens. And that's probably a safer conversation for both of us."

So—it was in the open now, between both of them. Scully wasn't Mulder's lover; Mulder was unattached, attracted to men, and was actively interested in him. Reed had been honest enough about himself for Mulder to know the chance was there—and Mulder's comment made him suspect that Mulder had observed more of his own glances in Mulder's direction than he'd thought. This was dangerous territory—far more dangerous than the Suliban threat, in its own way. "You're right, of course, about the need for supply lines. Your biggest problem is that you don't have enough people running supplies," Reed told him, moving immediately into the neutral territory Mulder had offered.


"Hello, Captain Archer."

Archer looked up from the desk in his ready room. "Don't you ever knock?"

Daniels shrugged apologetically. "I'm sorry, but as you've discovered yourself, those travel devices don't usually put you down right outside the door."

"What do you want now, Daniels? And where's Malcolm?"

"Believe it or not, Captain, I don't want anything. I wish I had your Lieutenant Reed for you, but they'll need him just a bit longer. Fortunately for the current timeline, I can assure you that you won't need him—other than personally, that is—while he's gone. This was a fairly uneventful travel period for Enterprise—he'd only be bored, which he isn't back there."

"Where *is* back there?" Archer fiddled with a padd as he watched the time traveler move back and forth.

"New Mexico, actually, 2012. Beautiful country. I'm glad the people I'm working with there trust us."


"Me, and your Mr. Reed. It's very unusual to work with anyone who believes me right away. You're a perfect example yourself. But these people—they've seen so much already, they know they have to believe me. And Mr. Reed is doing exactly what I was hoping he'd do. I have no doubt the past timeline will be worked out within the week. The time is longer from their end—by their count, he's been there for four weeks. I did warn him about that. It's rather disorienting."

"I want him back, Daniels."

"I know, Captain," Daniels replied. "There's only a bit more that needs to happen for the timeline to correct itself."



Skinner helped Scully into the navy blue van. It was smaller than the other vans, and rather less battered. Mulder and Doggett loaded in two sleeping bags, a duffle, and a tent. Bags of food were already in the back. A cellular phone sat on the dashboard.

Reed walked up to the driver's compartment. "It may be a mistake, but you'd better take this, love." He handed her one of the phase pistols. "If you meet anything unpleasant on a dark road, with your luck this'll do you more good than that .40 you're carrying. You *did* pack extra ammo?"

Scully smiled. "I hope four extra clips is enough. I'm sure you think I should take more."

"More? Personally, I'd pack a machine gun too—and a plasma rifle, but I didn't bring any of those, blast it. If what you're saying about your son is true, you need a machine gun, a plasma rifle, *and* a bodyguard."

A figure walked up behind Reed. "My thoughts exactly. I should go with you, Scully. We could split the driving—and you need someone riding shotgun." Frohike held a backpack in his hand. "I'm not as young as I used to be—this, at least, is something I'm in good enough shape to do."

"Frohike," Scully sighed. The small man's original crush on her years ago had mellowed considerably with time; it was down to a dull roar now. She was certainly safe enough with him, but his eccentricities, Reed had determined, made Phlox look like a rather average human, which was bad considering that he was Denobulan. "Are you sure?"

Reed made up her mind for her. Some people took direction far better than Jonathan Archer did when it came to security. "He's sure, and so are you." He moved around the van and opened the passenger door for Frohike. "I hope you're armed," Reed told the other man.

"Sure." Frohike opened his camo vest. Inside were two pistols, two knives, and one of the icepick-type weapons that Mulder had said were most effective at killing the other, larger band of shapeshifters. "Will that do?"

"Good man." Reed smiled and slapped Frohike's shoulder. "Take care of our girl for us, will you?"

Scully looked out her window as Reed came back around. "Will you be here when I get back?"

"I don't know. If the two of you drive in shifts, you may be able to get there in three days—assuming William's where Langly thinks he is. If you're back in a week, I'll probably still be here."

"Good. I'd like to be able to say goodbye to you. And to make sure you get at least one of your pistols back."

Reed gave her a half-smile. "Don't even worry about it. Just you two get there and back safely."

The van finally pulled out of the driveway behind the motel. Everyone looked at each other listlessly. Finally, Reyes spoke. "Let's all go inside. I made some iced tea, and there's a pot of stew John and I made. Mr. Reed was kind enough to bring in some game the other day," she told Skinner, whose face lit.

"What'd you bag?" he asked Reed, curious.

"A few jackrabbits large enough to drive a car," Reed chuckled. "One of them could feed you for a week." He looked at Skinner, amused. "If we have time—you wouldn't care to go up country and help me find out how phase pistols work on big game, would you? I won't be able to hunt any more when I go home, so this is my big chance."

Skinner grinned. "Haven't done any real hunting in years. I could be persuaded." The look of anticipation at the thought made even Skinner's usual expression at seeing Mulder pale in comparison. Reed knew that Skinner really wanted a chance to use the phase pistol just once in a non-combat setting. He couldn't blame the man. He was going to have to leave at least a few of the phase pistols behind, he feared. It wasn't the inconvenience of having the armory crew fabricate more that concerned him; it was worry that leaving the pistols behind wouldn't change the timeline. But he thought he could trust these people to understand not to let them out of their own group. Reed wondered momentarily if Daniels could pick them up for him and drop them off on the ship. The man seemed able to do everything else.

"Yeah, let's eat," Langly announced. "Then everyone can make those supply runs."

"Who's staying at camp?" Byers asked.

"Mulder and Reed are staying here, and Skinner, Yves and I are staying at ours," Langly told him. "Then Monica, Doggett and Skinner are running up to see Jeff Spender."

"You guys can hold down the fort overnight, right?" Doggett asked Reed.

"No problem." Reed let Suzanne Byers, a worn-looking blonde woman who had once been a biochemist, in front of him as he headed inside. The Byers had no children, but they did, very much, have each other. It amazed Reed that in the midst of the chaos in this Resistance leadership, those two had managed to keep themselves and each other together and sane. Scully and Mulder were unable to do it for each other. He thought that Skinner and Mulder had a chance of accomplishing the task, if Mulder would ever realize that Skinner bled the same as he did. But Mulder, other than his confession of interest in Reed—fascination with a stranger, perhaps?—seemed to have no interest in any relationship, or in sex, at all.


They sat in the living room of the motel's apartment. Reed was sketching out a backup communications plan for Langly, who needed help trying to keep in contact with his motley collection of sources and grassroots recruits. Gibson Praise was on his computer, chatting with Langly at the other camp. Mulder was standing at a back window, looking up at the stars. A century later, Reed thought, and the man would have been in Starfleet, not a government agency. Could Starfleet ever be as corrupt as the offices these people told him about were? How the history books had kept these stories out, he wasn't sure. From what Mulder, Scully, and their friends had shown him, he was surprised that the world had made it to 2012. Perhaps it was only their work that had permitted that.

Suddenly, Mulder turned. "Did you hear that?"

"What?" Reed put the laptop computer down.

"That thump outside. It wasn't very loud."

"No." Reed drew his phase pistol. "Gibson? Quit chatting with Langly and go downstairs immediately."

Praise typed a sentence into the computer as he said, "Okay. I think they're aliens. My head hurts from them."

"Then get down there and stay down there. Mulder, grab a phase pistol and toss me another one." Mulder complied, staring as Reed jammed the second phase pistol into the waistband of his pants on the left. "I'm not taking chances," Reed told him. "And I *can* handle both of them at once if I need to." Praise went into the kitchen and could be heard clanging down a set of steps into the basement.

"I'm better at dropping guns," Mulder told him. "But I think I'll hang on this time."

"You'd better." Reed dimmed the lights and motioned for Mulder to follow him. He peered out a front window. "Bloody hell. Look out there."

"What am I looking at?" Mulder asked.

"Those things that look like boulders? They're Suliban pods. Four of them—there could be eight Suliban here. Eight of them, one of me—the odds could be worse."

"For you or for them?" Mulder sighed.

"Very funny. Look, have you got any explosives? Cover me while I head across to those pods from around the back and set them to blow. If I place charges close enough to their plasma ducts, it won't take much at all to wreck them. Then I just have to kill eight Suliban." Reed paused for a moment. "I can do that. If they don't get to me first. And after what they did to me the last time they got to me first, it won't happen again. If you see one, kill it. Kill it very, very dead."

"Right. What am I shooting at?" Mulder asked as he dug some bricks of plastic explosive and detonator caps out of a large wooden box.

"Anything green, bald, lumpy, and vaguely humanoid in an ugly skintight leotard."

"But I *like* Frohike."

"Very funny, Mulder. Hand over that C-4." Reed took the explosives from Mulder's hands. "And let's stay outside. It makes you a visible target—but then, it makes them visible too. I don't relish checking every corner of every room in this building when we can keep them outside in the open instead." Mulder handed Reed a remote detonator, which Reed jammed in a back pocket.

Reed headed to the back door of the motel. "I'm cutting around that brush, and then over around the old grocery," he explained. "You see where I'll come out behind the Suliban vessels. Give me five minutes, and then come out front. Once those things are set to blow, I'm coming straight across the road as fast as I can." He exited quickly, pulling the door shut behind him.

The wind could have been worse; it wasn't cold enough to be uncomfortable. He held the plastic explosive close to his chest, hoping to warm it slightly. It had been some time since he'd worked with anything like this. But the C-4, with detonator caps, and a remote detonator—from what Travis Mayweather had told him of the Suliban pods' construction, it should work.

Simply put, it had to work. There wasn't much choice.

Movement—an animal? No, too high—up on the store's roof, too large for a bird—Reed pulled his phase pistol and fired. He ducked as fire was returned, and aimed back. He couldn't see, but there was a satisfying thud that suggested one Suliban was at least temporarily down.

More fire the other way—Mulder had to be shooting at one or more of the damned green bastards. Mulder was a competent shot, but could be better—Reed feared for Mulder's possible injury rather more than for his own. Don't drop the bloody gun, he implored silently.

Ah, the first pod. He knelt behind it, molding a glob of C-4 in his hands and wedging it near the duct. Even if it didn't ignite the plasma, damage at the duct area would incapacitate the small craft. And if the duct was blocked, any effort to fly it would cause a backup that *would* ignite the plasma at 3000 degrees.

There, there went the blasting cap. He switched it on, ready to respond to the remote's signal.

A flash of movement behind the brush—Reed fired again.

Poor coyote, he thought when he realized the mistake. That, he hadn't intended. No, wait—more sound behind the same brush. He fired again; a partly stunned Suliban came falling out from behind it. Another shot from a different angle told him that Mulder had taken down the alien. Two down, six to go.

He moved to the next vessel, jamming the explosive into the duct as quickly as possible. On went the blasting cap, as he fumbled for its activation switch. He crept across to the third pod. Knead the plasticine, mold it to shape—He wished his hands were warmer, to make the C-4 more malleable, but this would have to do. Even cold plastic explosive would go off when the blasting cap triggered it.

He heard a sound behind him. Dropping the plasticine, he drew his phase pistol again and fired at the very visible Suliban only a few yards away. Reed dropped to the ground as fire was returned—then rolled quickly, realizing that the alien had just struck the pod's plasma duct himself with the blast. He made it to his feet and started running, hoping to get a decent start before the inevitable, drawing up behind the grocery store and kneeling behind the far corner, trying to look.

The blast shook the ground where he knelt, the heat and sudden sparking, as he feared, setting off the C-4 on the first two pods.

Maybe the Suliban would learn not to park too close together someday.

It might have been Guy Fawkes' Day for the light and sparking, and for the thunder of the detonating C-4. It wasn't how he'd planned to send the damn things up, but it truly was quite a splendid sight.

And fuck it, that Suliban who'd set off three of the four ships was back after him. He returned fire, catching the Suliban square in the chest with a full "kill" blast.

Three down, five to go. He hadn't heard any more sound from over by the motel—was nothing happening, or was too much going wrong?

He headed back around the grocery, planning to cut over to the front of the motel, where Mulder should be, still. Back against the wall, phase pistol in hand, he moved slowly along the flat surface, practically hugging it, until he could see the motel's front porch.

He couldn't tell where the last two Suliban were, but he knew where three of them were.

Two of them had Mulder pinned, and the third didn't look happy to see him, either.

Reed flinched, recalling his own experience of personal contact with Suliban. He didn't count on this visit to be any friendlier, since Mulder had been shooting at them. The distance was too far for him to be fully accurate with the phase pistol, and the three were too close to Mulder for him to take any risks. And a warning shot was only likely to attract the attention of the other two Suliban.

The best option was to do nothing at all, and that wasn't an option.

He briefly considered moving into the open, hoping his presence would distract them from Mulder, then favored the overhead shot again.

He aimed for a sign overhanging the porch of the motel, and shot.

That got their attention all right, but it couldn't be what had just made two of them crumple and drop to the ground—

Praise was standing at the front door of the motel, brandishing a metal pipe he'd dragged from the basement.

Reed aimed at the third Suliban, winging him, and made a sprint across the road to the motel as he ducked the alien's return fire. The shot back missed, but Praise's aim over the Suliban's skull was good.

He reached the porch to find Praise holding up Mulder, who was sweating and shaking. There was a bruise on the side of his face, and finger marks were clear on his throat. "Good job, Gibson," Reed said. "But we told you to stay under cover."

"I couldn't," Praise explained. "I could hear Mulder in my head, yelling for help. So I came up the stairs with this pipe." He tossed the pipe in the corner.

"Get Mulder inside," Reed said. He discharged his phase pistol into the first Suliban Praise had clubbed. If a fractured skull didn't kill him, that would. "Now." As the young man helped Mulder into the building, Reed finished off the other two Suliban in the same fashion. Any other time, he might have felt at least minor guilt in doing what was nothing short of executions, but between his own history with the Suliban and the knowledge that a successful Suliban incursion at this time meant no future Enterprise, it was impossible to feel that concern now.

He looked around, trying to figure out where the other two Suliban would be. A sound overhead startled him; the two aliens jumped from the roof, but, rather than confronting him, they were running for the one undamaged Suliban craft—the one, he thought sadly, that he hadn't had a chance to set to detonate. It would have been so easy to take them out after launch, with plasma ducts heating up for a glorious midair explosion—

No, maybe it was best if the two aliens left. They might be able to report back to whatever bloody bastard was in charge of them that these humans had the means to take them out. Perhaps, rather than joining with the other invasion, the Suliban might decide not to bother with the effort.

Reed picked up Mulder's phase pistol and went inside. Praise was handing Mulder some painkillers and a glass of water.

"I'll take it from here," Reed told Praise. "I don't think we'll see any more of that tonight. You try to get some sleep—you can tell Langly about it in the morning; I think the bodies will still be here. I'll do the rest of this." He held a hand out to Mulder. "Let's get you to your room. I don't care what you think happened; I've been pummeled by those bastards before, and I want to get a look at the actual damage."

Mulder took advantage of Reed's arm and allowed Reed to help him to his room. "Sorry about what happened," he told the tactical officer.

"No need to apologize. You took one of them down pretty well. And it's not your fault they got you—as I said, they're particularly violent little sons of bitches." Reed peeled off Mulder's T shirt. There didn't appear to be much bruising. Still, one never knew. He ran his hands gently over Mulder's rib cage. "Any pain?"


Reed moved to look at Mulder's back. No visible bruising, but—"Does anything hurt here?" He ran his hands along Mulder's back.


"Good." Reed looked over Mulder again. "It looks like Gibson got them in time. I'm glad to see it. Although you'd have some rather dashing scars, I'm sure, if he'd been a moment or two later." He eased himself onto the bed beside Mulder.

"Which do you like better?" Mulder asked. "Scars or no scars?"

Reed looked at Mulder's chest. A bullet scar in his shoulder was quite visible in the light from the bedside lamp. "A good bullet wound is usually enough," he answered, touching the old injury. "Too many scars looks like you're trying to prove something. Terribly undignified."

"Mustn't be undignified," Mulder murmured. His eyes were ever so slightly unfocused—the painkillers, or merely exhaustion? Reed gave the other man a half-smile as he eyed him, wondering what the federal agent was about to do. Mulder answered that question quickly enough, however, with the expedient of sliding his hand into Reed's hair and kissing him thoroughly.

Ludicrous, Reed thought, for his body to respond this way; ridiculous to find himself surrendering so easily to Mulder's ever-tightening embrace, powerful arms taking him within them, pushing him down against the bed. Surely he should be fighting this moment, not giving in to it, yet he couldn't help but respond to the fierce, aching need Mulder was showing.

Easy to blame it on Mulder's monkishness suddenly cracking, or any number of other things, but Reed knew this for what it was—the adrenaline, the arousal, of a night spent fighting. He knew it, because he felt it himself after fighting; knew it, because he'd felt the arousal himself, mixed with the fear, when he'd been setting up the explosives on the Suliban vessels earlier. Archer didn't have it. He joked occasionally that Reed made love with him like a man possessed after their various military skirmishes. But Archer, though a brave man, was no fighter, didn't have the blood lust of a warrior.

Fox Mulder might be no soldier, but he was a fighter. He had the hunger; Reed should have known it, should have recognized it from Mulder's history. The man didn't fancy himself a killer, but he'd spent years living by the code; it was part of him now, and the fight with the Suliban earlier had been all he'd needed, just as it was all Reed had needed. Best, then, to give in to the moment, to give Mulder what he needed so badly just then, to take the comfort Mulder was offering him in exchange.

His last coherent thought, as Mulder began undoing his belt, was a vague idea that somehow he'd make it up to Archer later. Nothing else that night involved thought. Feeling, touching; a blur of hands and mouths over each other, trying to discharge the accumulated energy of the evening's events. Finally, release, and a sweaty collapse against a lean, hard body as Mulder also began sinking into sleep.


Daniels stood in the middle of a multi-dimensional wheel of information, trying to absorb the data stream flooding past him. He looked with grim satisfaction at 2012.

Malcolm Reed had accomplished exactly what Daniels had wanted to get the timeline back on track. Everything had been restored, as far as he could see. No one else could have done it; Daniels had been sure of that.

Using people was a dirty game, but not as bad as the one the man dictating to the Suliban was playing. Daniels had protected the timeline, and that was what was most important.


"What the hell—?" John Doggett clambered out of the SUV, holding a paper sack. "It looks like a war hit out front," he said, coming in through the back door to the motel apartment.

"Pretty close," Langly replied. He was at Praise's computer in the living room. "Gibson called me this morning—seems those new green aliens, those Suliban, decided to pay a visit. The ones piled up on the porch were trying to grab Mulder—Gibson says Reed killed all three of them."

"Where *is* Mulder?" Doggett asked, depositing the groceries in the kitchen, and finding Praise there assembling a peanut butter sandwich.

"He was kinda beat up," Praise said. "I gave him some of the pain pills and then Mr. Reed helped him to bed. I haven't seen him yet today, but Mr. Reed took him some food. He said Mulder's okay."

Reyes came in holding more bags. "God, that must have been some fight."

"Yeah, it *was*," Praise said eagerly. "Reed was really cool. It was like a movie or something."

"Be nice if it were a movie," Doggett sighed. "I better check on Mulder."


There was a knock on the bedroom door.

"Yes?" Reed looked up as the sound's meaning penetrated.

"That you, Reed? How's Mulder?"

He rose and opened the door to let Doggett in. Reed was dressed, and holding a paperback. Mulder was lying in his bed with the sheets drawn halfway up his chest, looking exhausted. "I've felt better," Mulder replied quietly. "Reed saved my neck and then he patched me up. I'll be fine."

"Good," Doggett said. Reed noticed that Doggett never used one word more than he had to; he approved entirely. Doggett's eyes flicked between the two men. "What'd you do," he asked Reed, motioning to the armchair Reed had just left, with dishes beside it, "sit up all night watching the patient?"

"Something like that." Reed might have been dressed since before getting breakfast, but Scully's bed was conspicuously unused. Mulder's bed was still a disaster area, all the pillows clearly used, the sheets on Reed's side still pushed back from when he'd gotten up that morning.

"You know, man," Doggett groused to Mulder, "you take one hell of a lot of watching. All these years and you're *still* a magnet for fucking injuries." He moved directly to Reed's side, leaning down to Reed's ear. "I wanna talk to you. *Now*." He motioned to the hallway, ushering Reed outside.

Doggett pushed the door shut. "Look, I don't care, all right? It's not my business. And it's not like I don't know about Mulder and Alex. But don't you *dare* hurt him. That's all anyone's done to that man in his whole damn life."

Reed met Doggett's eyes, nodding slowly. "So I've gathered. I don't intend to hurt him, all right? And you're right, you know—it *is* none of your business. Are we quite clear on this?"

Doggett backed down slightly, giving Reed grudging respect. "Yeah, we are. Good. Thing is," Doggett added, "there's Skinner."

"So I'd noticed," Reed answered wryly. "Which apparently our fair-haired child there hasn't. I've noted he's a bit too focused to notice human behavior—odd for a psychologist, no?—but has no one bothered to point the obvious out to him?"

"About Walt?" Doggett leaned against a wall. "Walt certainly hasn't. And the rest of us? I guess we—well, we've always let Mulder be Mulder."

"No guts, no glory. And you and Skinner both Marines? Shameful." Reed clucked his tongue. "He's still resting," Reed said, jerking a thumb towards the door. "He needs it. Can I give you a hand with the supplies?"

"Yeah, please." Doggett clamped a hand on Reed's shoulder. "And we've got s ome bodies to burn, once Monica and I get a look at them. Too bad we can't save one for Scully to carve up when she gets back. Let's roll."



Doggett and Skinner circled the bodies warily. "Ugly bastards, huh?" Doggett said.

Skinner slopped gasoline on the corpses and on the wood under them. "That's putting it mildly. From what Reed says, I'm glad I didn't meet any of them while they were breathing."

"With what—gills? Seems like these boys had some interesting DNA manipulation. Wonder what Mulder makes of that."

Skinner repositioned one of the bodies, shuddering as he grabbed hold of it, looking as if he were half-expecting sudden movement. With anything associated with Fox Mulder, you apparently could never be too sure, Reed was gathering. He crossed over to the burn site. "Need a hand, gentlemen?" He grabbed the feet of one Suliban that Skinner was still adjusting. "Phew, this gasoline."

"Not much of it around in your day?" Doggett asked him.

Reed thought for a second. "I really don't know what the gasoline supply is like, but we've so little demand for it. With the replacement of the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine by newer technology, the bottom fell out of the oil industry around 2095, I think it was."

"I knew it," Doggett said with a snort. "Frohike's water-powered engine theory works, damn it. Right, Reed?"

The tactical officer stepped back and considered the arrangement. "I wonder if there's enough wood there. Well, we'll know in a minute. Water powered engines? Well—perhaps." He contemplated the matter at hand again. This sort of thing required some nice calculation if one wanted it to be maximally effective. No one here might appreciate the nuances, but it was still incumbent upon him to do the thing properly if he was going to do it. The preparations—well, they'd do. "Would either of you like the honors here, or shall I light the Guys?"

"Guys?" Skinner asked, curious.

"Guy Fawkes Day," Doggett answered. "Nice pile of 'em here. If you want me to start up this Viking funeral I will, but don't let me spoil your fun."

Reed produced a barbecue lighter and a branch that Praise had somehow found, with gasoline-soaked rags at its end. "Get ready to move out, because this is *not* going to be the best smell in the neighborhood." He lit the rags, then reached the burning mass to the wood under the Suliban corpses. The boards and dried brush caught immediately, and the gas-soaked Suliban uniforms followed suit. "I suggest we get away from this cookout and head back to camp."

The return to the motel saw Langly, the Byers family, and Praise out in the back awaiting their arrival, clearly celebrating something that had little or nothing to do with their return. "What's up?" Skinner asked as they came over.

"Scully called!" Suzanne Modeski Byers was practically bouncing with the news. "They've got William. He was waiting for her—and how he knew she was going to come for him, I haven't a clue."

"*I* do," Praise said. "He's like me. We know things. He's been waiting for her for a long time." He turned towards the motel, heading for the kitchen. "I have to help Monica."

"We should get in there, too," Suzanne Byers told her husband. "It's time to start our spaghetti sauce." She looked back at Reed. "We're celebrating Scully's news. *And* you and Mulder getting those aliens. It's been quite a day, hasn't it?"

That was the least one could say about it, Reed thought. He nodded at the biochemist as the couple went inside with Doggett. Standing a few feet away from the door, he caught Skinner by the shoulder. "I think we need to talk."

Skinner shrugged and shoved his hands in his pockets. He leaned against an old heavy wooden lattice fence. "Sure. What is it?"

"One question. How long have you not been telling Mulder how you feel about him?"

A blink from behind wire-rimmed glasses. "What?"

"Come on, Skinner. It's obvious to anyone with eyes—except Mulder—that you're head over heels about the man. But he's never going to get it unless you paint it out for him in words of one syllable. Three of them strung together should do—the first and third are pronouns, if that gives you a clue. What part of 'tell the man you love him' doesn't make sense to you?"

Skinner shifted uneasily. "Why are you telling me my business?"

Reed squirmed. "Because if you don't, damn it, you're never going to get anywhere with him. And I'm not sure you want to lose the man before you've ever even had him."

"What are you talking about?"

Reed squared off at Skinner. The man might be huge—in fact, he made Jonathan Archer look small—but Reed didn't intimidate easily. "I'm going to make this simple, and I'm only going to say it once. First off, you know Mulder's obtuse and hasn't a clue that you're eating yourself alive over him. Second, while you're standing in the background wringing your hands, Mulder's mind's going everywhere else. Right down to trying to sustain a non-existent relationship with Dr. Scully, which he needs to get over because she'll have no time for that kind of thing once she's back here with her son. I was here alone with him last night. It was fairly well evident he could fall rather easily for the first man that gives him enough encouragement—which you're not doing. If you don't want to watch the man wind up with almost anyone other than you, or with no one at all, including you, get off your fucking ass and tell him."

Skinner pulled his hands from his pockets and rubbed them together before slumping against the fence. "Easy for you to say, but I can't." "Give me one reason why not."

"For Christ's sakes, Reed. I killed the man's lover in front of his face and you think I can tell him something like that?"

"Damn it, Skinner, Alex died over ten years ago. And Mulder may still be upset about it, but he thinks you were right."

The older man looked over at Reed in evident shock. "How do you know?"

"Because he's told me. We traded our sordid stories with each other several days ago. If he's never told you, or anyone else here, I'd say it's only because you all think you know him so well that none of you has ever had the sense to ask him." With that, Reed stood down and took a deep breath. "That's all I have to say. You can hit me later, but think it over first. Meanwhile, I suggest we go inside. I'm rather looking forward to the Byers' cooking."


Mulder was quite up to joining the whole crew for dinner and equally up to telling his part of the story of the previous night. Between Reed and Mulder, the whole story finally made its way to the rest of the crowd, most of whom were clinging to every word. Praise paid less attention, and Suzanne Byers was too chilled by it to take the ghoulish delight in it that the rest of those present did, but everyone else was absorbed by it. The evening ran late; the visitors would stay over. As the after-dinner conversation and story-telling drew to a close, Mulder asked Reed to stay up with him just a while longer, begging to hear Reed elaborate on aliens a century later. He was astonished that Reed had never heard of the Grays—perhaps they had lost to the others somewhere down the road, before the advent of Zefrem Cochrane's travels—and was more astonished by Reed's attempts to explain Vulcans.

Maybe one simply couldn't explain Vulcans. That was likely, when one thought about the problem. Vulcans were inexplicable.

Long after the rest of the crowd had retired, somewhere after the description of Klingon dietary habits by Reed and the even more repulsive description of Reticulan dining by Mulder—human livers? Disgusting!—Reed and Mulder sat in Mulder's room, beers in hand, amazed at the complexity of human interaction with the rest of the universe. They were silent, Reed in the chair, Mulder on the edge of his bed, cross-legged, musing on the mysteries of the universe and the highly unlikely probability of universal peace. Peace wasn't the best idea Reed had ever heard, he had to admit—it tended to be bad for his business. However, a slightly lower level of interplanetary animosity would be nice, especially when some populations, like the Kreetassans, tended to prepare for war at the sight of a misplaced yawn. Even to Reed, there was such a thing as too much.

And speaking of yawns—Reed covered his mouth, stifling the inopportune act. Mulder didn't miss it, however. "It's been a long day."

"That it has. I don't often get to build funereal pyres. One of the few things I must have missed back in Scouting. I'm sure there must have been a badge for it, but I never did have the chance to practice it."

Mulder smiled. "Then maybe you ought to get some rest." He paused, staring briefly at his beer can. "If you'd like to stay—"

"Thanks." Reed looked over at him carefully. "But no."

"What's wrong?"

Reed set down his beer and leaned forward. "About last night? Nothing. We both needed that then. But I'm not who or what you need beyond that, even if you think I'm what you want. Besides, I'll be leaving soon, you know that. Why waste your time on me when you're ignoring a perfectly fine man who's been in love with you for donkey's years?"

Mulder looked up blankly. "What?"

"Walter Skinner, you infernal dolt." Reed stood in exasperation. "The man's in love with you. He's told me as much himself. And apparently everyone who knows the man has figured it out except you, damn it. Wake up, man. He practically swoons every time you walk in the room. He makes calf's eyes at you. He stops breathing when you talk to him. What do you think he's doing—having seizures? Last night was one thing—fighting does that to some of us. But that's not a basis for a damn thing else. If there's anyone who ought to be in your bed with you, it's him."

Reed paused for breath. "And that means something else, Mulder. You're a middle-aged man who sleeps in the same room with a woman he's not involved with, because he thinks she's his long-lost sister—there's nothing in that for you but a way to put off getting on with your life. And you're doing her no favors either; you're not letting her get on with hers. She's coming back here with her son, Mulder—don't you think that's going to change things? She'll want to be spending her time taking care of him—not nursemaiding you. You need to let go of her as a human security blanket and open yourself up to the outside world—like a man who's in love with you while you're using Dr. Scully as a defense from having a real relationship with anyone, including him."

Another pause. "I'm leaving here any time, Mulder. I can tell you this because I don't have to get along with you for God knows how long. But your friends haven't done you any favors by coddling you about it all this time. It's high time someone told you how things stand, and there you have it." He drew a deep breath and flexed his hands. "And I'm all yours if you'd like to take a shot at me for telling you about it."

Mulder stared in awe, shaking his head slightly. "No. Jesus. And I'm supposed to have the psychology background." He swallowed. "Walt, huh?"

"Skinner. And he's afraid you'll reject him because of his shooting Alex."

A grimace. "No. That—that had to happen, I'm afraid. It was a long time coming, but it was going to happen. If it wasn't Walt, it would have been someone—and more than once, it was nearly me who did it." Mulder looked at his own hands for a minute. "I've got more blood on these than anyone thinks. Just as well they don't know." Another silence. "Walt. Geez. And I've missed this for how long? I wonder if Scully knew."

"Not much doubt of that." Reed relaxed, leaning against the wall. "She's quite observant."

"I guess she thought she was protecting me. You're right—I really have fucked things up with her, haven't I? I've taken my best friend and turned her into my sister *and* my mother. She hasn't had a life of her own in years. Damn. I know was responsible for a lot of other crap she's had handed to her, but I did this to her myself." Mulder sighed. "Look, I know I'm a mess. I just wonder if it isn't too late to unravel some of my knots."

Reed gave Mulder a half-smile and shook his head with amusement. "Dr. Scully will take care of herself now, I think, with her son here with her. Just be prepared for it to happen. And Mr. Skinner's been amazingly patient about waiting for you—I'm sure he'll cut you some slack now that you've finally gotten your eyes opened." He watched Mulder begin to relax. "And with that, I'm going to bed." He walked towards the door. "I'll see you in the morning."


Daniels stood within the three-dimensional wheel of pictures and events that made up the history he guarded. He turned slowly, scanning it for 2012 again.

There; yes, the picture was clear of Suliban. And there were Dana and William Scully, and—yes, their leaving with Gibson Praise to follow the trail of a gathering of the shapeshifters. Showing Scully how to use a phase pistol had certainly been wise. Leaving three of the pistols behind, including the one she had in her van, would be a sound investment in the timeline.

Getting Mulder back with Skinner had been the last cog in putting the timeline back in order. He'd known he could leave everything to Reed, even without directing him on what to do.

He'd have to borrow Reed again some time. He was so much more cooperative than Jonathan Archer, even if he didn't know it.


The time traveler smiled placidly at Captain Jonathan Archer. "I promised you I'd bring him back safely."

Reed embraced Archer with one arm; his other hand was on the phase pistol carry case. "I'm back, love—and so are three of the pistols, anyway."

"After some of the missions we've had, that may be a record for retrieval." Archer smiled at his lover. "How was it?"

Reed shrugged, but he was grinning. "Finally, a chance to give those scaly bastards a taste of their own medicine. Taking out a few of them and a couple of their ships did wonders for my morale."

"I thought *I* was supposed to do wonders for your morale."

A laugh. "Trust me, love, you do."

"So—what else happened back there?"

Reed paused. "I—well, rather a lot. Perhaps I should take a day or two to put my thoughts in order before I log it." There was certainly a great deal to log. Yet more to leave out—although Tucker might enjoy hearing about the technology he'd encountered, and everyone would enjoy the battle—particularly the explosions, he was sure—it was hardly likely that his lover would appreciate hearing about Mulder. But he hated to be dishonest, and lying by omission was as dishonest as a denial. How Jonathan Archer would take the news, on the other hand, was a very good question.

Archer nodded as he let go of Reed. "Of course. I understand."


Tucker and T'Pol had joined Archer and Reed for dinner. Still protesting the impossibility of time travel, the Vulcan had been, nonetheless, attentive to the story and had disagreed with none of it. At the end, she had pursed her lips. "He said the one group was gray? I am not aware of such a race. I shall have to check the database. But—Reticulans? I thought they were a fable among my people's children. That requires investigation."

Tucker had been less concerned about aliens, more intrigued about other aspects of Reed's trip. "*All* the vehicles were gasoline internal combustion? Lord—I can't imagine it." He shook his head. "And the computers—no kidding. Sounds like the Dark Ages."

"It was certainly very different." Reed smiled. "Daniels wouldn't let me bring any toys back for you. I apologize."

"That's okay," Tucker said. "I've seen a few of those old things in my time. But actually living around them—wow." . The chief engineer and science officer excused themselves. That T'Pol was intrigued by his details about the aliens was clear to Reed; he'd thought she might scoff, that she'd treat his whole discussion as fantasy, but she seemed more serious about this than she had about almost anything else that had come to her second-hand from an encounter with Daniels. Maybe the Reticulans had bothered her sleep as a child.

Reed refilled his wine glass, then rose. He turned to stare out the window and watch the stars as the ship moved. It had been nearly a week; he'd written the report, debriefed Archer formally, and had now given the details of pertinent interest to Tucker and T'Pol. Mulder still hung between himself and Archer like a gauze curtain—he could see everything, but the details were blurred. What Archer would say, what he'd do, Reed couldn't predict. He'd returned to Archer's bed as if everything were perfectly ordinary; they'd made love as if he'd been gone for a year. But he'd been conscious of the gulf between them that he'd created—Mulder part of it, and his own concern about the event an even larger part of it. He wondered if Archer had felt it, or if it was all on his own side, his own monster under the bed.

Archer was staring at him. "Penny for your thoughts?"

"What? Oh—nothing much, I'm afraid. Just—thinking."

Archer stood and walked over to the window, dropping his arm around Reed. "Something's been bothering you for days, Malcolm. What happened down there? It's not something you put in the report, I can tell that much. What did you leave out?"

He shivered. "Nothing significant, Jon."

"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?"

Reed froze, then turned to look up and meet Archer's eyes. "I can't."

"Okay, Malcolm—rape, arson, or murder, which was it?"

"Jon!" Reed was horrified. "How could you?"

Archer shrugged. "I didn't think it was any of the above. And since it wasn't—how bad can it be?"

"Bad enough." He gulped down half of his wine, hoping there was still more remaining on the table; he was going to need it.

"Should I tell Admiral Forrest you'd like a court martial?" Archer's tone was light; that hurt as much as anything else could. Darkness, thunder, doom, execution—those would have been more appropriate backdrops to confessing to a night in another man's bed, in Reed's book.

"No, Jon." Reed slumped against the window.

Archer slid his arm around Reed's waist and brought him back to the table to sit down, pulling his own chair beside Reed's. "Look, Malcolm—anything that has you this worked up, you'd better tell me."

Reed drained his glass and set it back on the table. "Jon, I—" He clutched Archer's fingers with his own. "While I was down there, I—"

Archer was suddenly quiet; Reed could feel the pressure of Archer's fingers against his own. "I think I know what you're trying not to tell me, Malcolm. It's—it's all right, I think. Who was it? Can you tell me that?"

He swallowed. Everything had been all right when it happened, or so it had seemed; why, then, did he feel that he didn't deserve this kind of understanding from Archer now? He choked back a sound of some sort—no, it couldn't have been a sob; he didn't do that, did he? "Mulder. It was—it was right after the shootout with the Suliban." The confession was exhausting.

Archer cocked an eyebrow. "That was the only time?"

Reed nodded. "He asked me, one time later—I told him he needed to realize that one of his people was in love with him and do something about that, not to keep looking to me for anything."

His lover looked at him, nearly—smiling? "Malcolm." A sigh. "I don't know what I'm going to do with you, other than give you a direct order that you're not to get into any combat situations when I'm not around. We both *know* how you get when that happens." A pause. "I'm going to forgive you, you know that. But next time you have to give any other stray men combat training, would you please stay out of the combat afterwards unless I'm in the vicinity?"

"I'll do my best."

"You'd better," Archer growled.

Reed finally allowed himself to relax. "I *am* sorry, Jon. It shouldn't have happened; God knows I knew better until all of it *did* happen. I've been dreading talking to you about it; I thought for sure you'd be ready to leave me."

"Don't even try that one." Archer kissed him gently. "I'm not thrilled about it, but I understand how it happened. But *don't* do it again." He slid his arms around Reed.

Reed leaned his head against Archer's shoulder. "You amaze me sometimes." An arm crept around Archer as Reed counted small miracles in his life. "I don't want anything to happen to us, love."

"Neither do I."


Daniels watched the timeline move along in its proper order. He had to agree with the two men in the Captain's Mess. Looking forward on the virtual timeline around him, at the meetings at the time of the Federation's origins, he began to browse. "A slightly lower level of interplanetary animosity would be nice" had a place in one of those discussions, he recalled. Ah, there it was. A quote of Archer's, no doubt given to him by Reed.

No, he didn't want anything happening to those two, either. The timeline didn't need any more repairs.

He glanced ahead yet again. Yes, there; he'd found it. Archer and Reed were certainly going to enjoy 2167, weren't they? He shut down his reader and put it away for the night, satisfied.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to the author.

Star Trek and Enterprise are copyrighted by Paramount. We don't own 'em—we just play with them. No money was made.
Please do not repost material without requesting permission directly from the author.
Archer's Enterprise is maintained by the Webmistress.