CHAPTER 2

Fox Mulder had never thrown anything away.

Part of it was given because of the way his near near-photographic memory worked. He'd always been able to make connections based on some of the most obscure findings possible. But in all the years he had worked on the X-Files - and that included a period when someone had practically burned the office to a crisp - he had always wanted to handle the minutiae that might somehow lead to connections.

When he and Scully had been forced to go on the run after that kangaroo court fourteen years ago, everything had been left behind. He was more interested in staying alive, being with the woman he loved, and possibly averting the colonization of our the planet by extra-terrestrial life.

For four years, they had been in hiding,. Living living the kind of lives thatof fugitives did. He had gotten rather good at it the year that he had disappeared, but Scully, who had family and had been forced to separated from them, it had been yet another sacrifice based on a future that had been full of them. A couple of times, he had honestly considered turning himself in, ifand only if they would offer Scully amnesty to Scully.

Then, in November of 2006, everything had changed. Using one of the remote channels that the Lone Gunmen had set up before they had died, he had received a very simple message from a backchannel from the man who had taken over their newspaper. It was short and to the point: "Manhunt has been officially called off."

He had suspected a trap. Then Mulder had considered the world that in which they were now living. The FBI was now focused almost entirely on terrorism. The military was in the middle of two operations that were draining manpower and public support. The man responsible for the conspiracy was 'presumed "presumed dead'dead". Even though he'd seen the helicopters fire missiles, Mulder wouldn't believe that until he saw a dead body and took the pulse himself. The actual 'government' "government" had far more important things to worry about than a fugitive who had only killed one soldier, who had, after all, gotten better.

Of course, There there was, of course, the possibility that this was yet another in a long line of fake-outs, but honestly both he and Scully were tired of living false lives. Tired of being another group of people ignorant to what the government was doing to them.

Tired of trying to not think about what William was doing.

So, because Mulder had wanted Scully to be close to their family, they had moved back to Richmond. Scully had gone back into medicine— - pediatric oncology, of all things— - and Mulder, had gone back to feathering the nest. Five years on the run had given him very little clue idea as to what one man could do to stop the end of the world. He would try to make connections with the men and women he had met on the run— - most notably through the now now-adult Gibson Praise and the Navajo that he had been connecting with— - but as to actual ideas clues as to how to stop what was coming closer every day, he still had no clear idea.

Then the next January, Agents Whitney and Drummy had reached out to him. With the possible exception Exceptingof Alvin Kersh showing up and raising a parade in his honor, he couldn't have been more surprised. It was one thing to call off the manhunt, but to ask him and Scully for help on a case? If that wasn't the proof of the paranormal he'd been seeking all those years, Mulder would've been hard hard-pressed to figure out what else could be.

The fact that they had attempted to reach him through Scully was very telling, though. Even given everything that had happened, and no matter how much the agents in question claimed to admire him, he was still 'Spooky' "Spooky" Mulder. He was reminded of what Skinner had told him, before he had returned on that fateful trip to Oregon: "You could bring home a flying saucer, and have an alien shake hands with the President. The fact was, they just don't like you." Despite everything that had happened he had rejoined the meeting with Father Joe.

It had not taken a lot of effort to not to return to the FBI after the mess that case had turned into. It had nothing to do with nearly dying yet again, either. At that point, he had been crossing the border into middle age, with fifty now closer than forty. Did he really want to spend what little time he had left, risking his ass for an agency that had proven, yet again, that it didn't give a shit about him? So, he and Scully had gone off to a tropical paradise, and tried to forget what was coming.

Then December 21, 2012 came and went. Much like many others who had suspected the actual apocalypse on that date, he was a little disappointed. If nothing else, it proved for the millionth time that he should never have trusted that black-lunged bastard. He knew that he should've been relieved that colonization had been yet another big lie, and that the human racehumanity was safe. Mulder could concentrate on the rest of his life, with Scully hopefully.

That resolved lasted until New Year's dayNew Year's Day, 2013. Then he realized that even though the final alien invasion had not happened, it didn't change the fact that he had failed. In every respect. He'd 'known' "known" about the truth for over a decade. The fact that the powers that be had no interest in hearing listening shouldn't have changed the fact that his efforts to try and save the world had been piss-poor. Granted, he had no resources, was on the run for most of the time, and had almost no one who was willing to listen to him, but the fact remained: Fox Mulder remained a piss piss-poor freedom fighter.

And the worst part was: he shouldn't have been. Distrust in any form of government or authority was at an all-time high. The world was willing to believe in just about any conspiracy theory that existed. If he'd just found a fairly fairly-decent mountain top, he might have been able to get the audience he wanted.

Then Tad O'Malley had shown up. Mulder had considered him just another in a long line of talking heads that had turned twenty-four hourtwenty-four-hour news media into a mountain of noise, making him more part of the problem then part of the solution. The fact that O'Malley had been offereding to help him and Scully did nothing to change that opinion.

But here they were, back in the FBI. Skinner was supervising, promising to be their blockade against the nonsense that might arise. And O'Malley had disappeared. Another casualty in their struggle against the shadow government, or had too many sponsors just withdrawn funding?

Despite all that, two things hadn't changed. They were still in the basement of the FBI, and Mulder never threw anything away. The fact that the X-Files had been shuttered for thirteen years had proven little no obstacle to him. Over the fifteen years he had been in exile, he had started a new set of files, dealing with more concrete examples of what he was chasing. And he still had his journals, his handwritten records that he had kept since joining the Bureau, describing in detail everything he saw in that decade.

Besides (though he'd never had admitted it to anyone other than Scully), he'd grown to like the office. It represented some of his greatest triumphs as well as tragedies. He'd met the mother of his child in this room. And now, he was going to do what it took to make this place feel like home again.

"I'm not the kind of person who believes this shit, and I'm still not sure I'm believing it now," John Doggett was telling him. "They're actually letting you run the X-Files again."

"I've told you three separate times, Agent Doggett."

"And its still not registering." Doggett told him. "Same way you're offering me a job is impossible to believe."

"You pretty much flushed your career down the shitter to keep the X-Files alive," Mulder reminded him. "I can't get you the Director's chair back, but at least I can bring you in from the cold."

Doggett considered this. "You do remember I consider that this alien stuff is a lot of crap." His tone of voice said he doubted Mulder's memory.

"This office has always needed somebody who was willing to be skeptical." Mulder countered. "Considering how open Scully's mind has become, we need somebody to fill that role."

"Are you ever going to call her by her first name?" Doggett asked, his tone as close to whimsy as it ever got.

"Only when I can't remember her last anymore," Mulder said cheerfully. "Which admittedly may be only a few years down the road. I couldn't remember where I left my car keys this morning."

"Somehow, I find that even harder to believe than alien abductions," Doggett told him. "Can you really get me out of Podunk?"

"Say the word and Skinner will sign the transfer order himself."

A pause on the other end. "You do remember how much of a picnic it wasn't the few times we worked together."

"Maybe we've mellowed in our old age." ," Mulder said.

"Maybe you have. Doing a shit detail has made me even harder to get along with." He sighed. "What the hell. Beats shielding a bunch of super geniuses in Silicon Valley."

Mulder blinked. "Say what?"

"Crazy idea Kersh had a few years back. Tell you about it when I see you next. Which I imagine will be sooner than I'd like."

"You'll always regret it, John," Mulder said with a smile crossing his face. Only part of that was because Doggett had accepted his otheroffer.

Because entering the office was his better half; the woman who was his significant other in every sense of the word save for the accepted one. Scully had turned fifty-one just a few weeks ago, but he could still see so much of the eager young rookie who had stepped into his office more than two decades earlier. He had made a lot of mistakes, and done more than a few things that he regretted over all the time they'd known each other, but he had never felt no guilt that they had been on this journey together, or that it was startinged up all over again.

"Doggett has signed on. Can I tell him that the rest of our barbershop quartet is reassembling?" he asked.

Scully gave a smile. "Monica probably required a lot less persuasion. Apparently, chasing serial killers in Boston isn't as exciting as you'd think it would be." She looked around. "You do know we're going to need a bigger office?"

"Scully, I promised, you'll get a desk this time around." Mulder assured her.

"It was pretty hard trying to have group meetings when -" she swallowed for a moment "there were only three of us in here. We'll probably we'll end up crawling over each other if we're all going to be in this together."

Scully had always been the logical one in this relationship. "You're not going to miss this place?"

"I lived half my life in this office," Scully reminded him. "I may not have enjoyed every moment of it, but there are far too many memories that are attached for me not to miss it." She took a looklooked at the poster that had been hanging there, in some one form or another, ever since she had been here. "You'd think they'd have discontinued that particular model by now."

"They had." The grin that had been playing across his face disappeared for a moment. "Jimmy Bond got it for me."

A sad memory, even though neither of them had been around for it. "I never saw it in the Gunmen's office."

"Byers had a copy. He never showed it to me." Mulder shook his head. "Apparently, he left it to both of us."

This was another sad moment of reflection among far too many. Scully tried to shake it off. "What are we going to be looking into first? And please tell me you haven't been trolling the Weekly World News."

"Skinner called half an hour ago. Bad news travels fast. Someone within the FBI wants our help on a consult. An Agent Robert Ressler said that he'd be bringing a guest."

Scully raised an eyebrow in that way that he'd always loved. "Anyone we know?"

"We've been out of the Bureau for fifteen years, Scully. Everybody who knew about our little division is either retired, dead, or on board already." Mulder reminded her. "But I must admit; I'm still at the age where I like surprises."

Just then, there was at the knock at the door. Scully spoke first. "Sorry. Nobody down here but the FBI's most unwanted."

A grin crossed Mulder's face again. "How long have you been waiting to say that?"

"At least twenty years."

Considering that Liz had effectively been drummed out of the Bureau in exchange for her freedom, the fact that she was walking in the front door of the Hoover Building little more than a month later would 've have raised eyebrows if the media hadn't moved on to the Presidential campaign a few days later. As it was, Liz felt that as if everybody in the building somehow not only knew, but and disapproved. And even though everybody's gaze was suitably neutral, Keene thought they all must consider her some kind ofa traitor, even as she put on her visitor's badge.

"What does AD Skinner know?" she asked as they had walked to the office.

"He doesn't know about the task Task force Force or anything else about what we've been working on the last three years," Ressler told her slowly. "But Skinner is neither a fool nor a bureaucrat. He knows about the manhunt; he knows about shadow conspiracies. He thinks that the only reason you're here is because you can shed light on something."

Liz almost laughed. "Reddington doesn't tell me anything unless he has too, and usually not even then. I didn't know the X-Files even existed when I was in the Bureau; they were a spook story. And this is about a man who he can't even give a name or a face to."

"Mulder can. Scully, too. According to Skinner, he was in their office all the time the first few years they were on the X-Files."

"So, he has connections here."

"He did. But then again, Skinner thought he'd been dead for the last fifteen years."

"How are we supposed to play this?"

"Try to be as honest as possible, but keep Reddington's name out of it." Ressler told Liz. "There's probably no surer way to guarantee he'll throw us out of his office."

It was then that Liz realized that they were in a part of the Bureau that probably not even the most devoted agents would be willing to come to. "Mulder spent more than a decade in a the Bureau. You'd think he'd rate a little more room than this," she couldn't help but say.

"I thought so, too." Ressler had an eyebrow raised. "According to Skinner, Mulder requested it."

Considering that the FBI badge had been at least fifteen years out of date when she had seen it, and all that had happened in the years between, Fox Mulder looked damn good. There were definitely more lines on his face then there had been, and his hair had a small smattering of gray, but Elizabeth Keen could imagine he still turned heads even now.

Dana Scully looked even better, even though she had turned fifty-one just a couple of monthsfew weeks earlier. There were streaks of blond in her hair, which somehow seemed longer than it had been in the pictures. But somehow, Liz thought that the last thing either of these agents cared about was how they looked to the opposite sex.

"It's an honor to meet you," Ressler told them as he shook both of their hands.

"That's interesting, because I get that none of the time," Mulder told them.

"So, who'd you piss off to learn about this detail?" Scully asked. Once again, the two exchanged a look that could only be a private joke.

Now came the tricky part. According to Cooper, Mulder and Scully had both been out of circulation for several years, and even when they'd been in the Bureau, they'd cared very little to learn about task forces like the one they in which Ressler and Liz were involved int. Cooper had gone to great lengths to avoid telling them about the that particular long-term project that Liz and Ressler were involved in.

However, Walter Skinner was a lifetime FBI man, and after more than a decade of being manipulating by higher forces, he had no intention of letting his favorite agents go in blind.

And until recently, Fox Mulder had had a lot of free time. on his hands, . and while iIn the past, he had spent it watching those movies than he had fervently denied he had, and now that he actually had someone to share it with, he watched a lot more of the news.

So As a result, he knew exactly who Elizabeth Keen was the moment she walked in the door. What Liz didn't know was that Mulder and Scully had spent so long hiding truths, keeping secrets, and often flat-out lying to the powers, that they could've could have won fortunes at the World Series of Poker. While Ressler was giving them their cover story, he spent a long time pretending not to look at Liz at all.

"You believe in poaching?" he said all at once.

Liz had gotten used to non-sequiteurssequiturs from three years with Reddington, but this was odd even for her. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"You know, the illegal hunting of wildlife. Lions, bears, elephants?" Mulder still wasn't looking at her.

"I think the people who do it are criminals. And they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law." Ressler said, apparently taking this more in stride than she was.

"That's a shame." Mulder told her. "Because the minute you entered the room, a huge elephant came in, and because this is a really very small office, I want to kill it before we all suffocate." Now he turned to Liz, and fixed a glare on her. "Did you really shoot him?"

Liz had spent the better part of three years keeping up a poker face of her own that had gotten her into a lot of doors. She thought she could resist even a man who had been one of the greatest profilers out of Quantico. What she hadn't taken into consideration was the fact that Fox Mulder had spent ten years staring down liver-eating mutants, demons in human form, the shadow government, and the occasional alien. So even though she'd spent three months on the run, and was determined to retain her position in front of anybody, for the first time in a long time, she actually considering considered confessing. It passed in less than five seconds, but it was the first instant of doubt in a very long time.

"I was cleared of all charges by the Justice Department," she said instead.

"And the Warren Commission said conclusively that Oswald acted alone," Mulder riposted. "I didn't take much stock in what the government said before I joined the FBI. Besides, that's not what I asked you, Mrs. Keen."

"This has nothing to do with why we're here," Ressler tried to intervene.

"I'm pretty sure it does. And I'm pretty sure Mrs. Keen is capable of speaking for herself." Mulder got very solemn. "So, unless you want me to throw your asses out of my our office, answer the goddamn question."

From what Ressler had told her, Scully had always been the one who was more diplomatic of the two. Liz had expected her to intervene out of civility, reason, or hell, she would've settled for female solidarity. Scully, however, was saying nothing.

"You have no right to be this hostile— -" Ressler started again.

"Yes, I shot him." Liz found herself saying, cutting off her partner's defense of her.

Mulder's next question was even more bizarre than his first one. "Did he deserve it?"

That, by comparison, was an easy one. "Absolutely."

Mulder considered this. "You must really have friends in high places, Mrs. Keen. I killed one soldier—- which I couldn't have done, by the way— - and for my troubles was imprisoned by the military, tortured, put on trial, sentenced to death, had to escape from prison, and was hunted by the Feds for four years. You are seen shooting the Attorney General in cold blood, and here we are, not four months later, and you're walking right into the FBI."

There was so much intel in all this that Liz Keen wasn't sure how to respond. Ressler, however, seemed to have focused on the key difference. "Why couldn't you have killed him?"

"Because he was an alien-human replacement who was impervious to the usual methods of being killed." ," Scully said simply. "He got killed three times before Mulder got to him, and we're still not sure if any of them stuck."

It was one thing to be told that Mulder and Scully investigated alien conspiracies; it was quite another to hear it being discussed as if Scully was talking about the relative humidity. For several long seconds, both Liz and Ressler were dumbstruck.

"You've got to be shitting me, " Scully told them, incredulous now. "Somehow, yYou found your way down to this office somehow, and you really didn't know what we investigated."

It was a statement, not a question. "I'd heard rumors, of course," Ressler said slowly. "But honestly, given what John Doggett told me—-"

"Yeah, John has had a hard time believing any of this stuff, too," Mulder told them slowly. "I imagine he still doesn't, and he ran this office for a year and a half."

Liz was instantly trying to figure out if Reddington really believed any of this. It was hard trying to figure out how omniscient Reddington really was, but in all the time she'd known him, he'd seemed to be a realist.

"So if you didn't know what our office did, why did you go to all this trouble to see what we wanted to know?" Mulder replied. "It's not like I'm hiding Hoffa's corpse down here."

Ressler decided to try and regain some level of control. "We were given to understand that one of the main things you investigated were government conspiracies," he said slowly.

Both Mulder and Scully maintained their poker faces, but Liz could tell that both were trying very hard to restrain laughter, of all things. "You might say that's a certain part of the job description," Scully said slowly, trying very hard to keep amusement out of her voice.

"Well, that's a large part of what we do in our task force." Ressler told them. "And it seems that an individual has come up who we were told was part of your work."

All laughter suddenly drained out of Mulder and Scully's faces. "What's their name?" Mulder asked.

No time like the present. "He's referred to as the Cigarette-Smoking Man."

A bizarre combination of expressions went through Mulder's and Scully's faces. Anger was there. , Despair despair was present, and what seemed to be resignation made an appearance, too.

Scully spoke first. "The man is dead."

"We've thought that before, Scully," Mulder countered.

"No one could've survived that blast, Mulder."

"No one could have lost as much blood as he did, and still lived," Mulder reminded her.

"He has to be ninety by now, Mulder. I don't care how close he is to being the devil—, no one survives that kind of cataclysm and still lives."

"I was in the ground for three months, Scully." Mulder said grimly. By now, it was clear they'd forgotten she Liz and Ressler were in the room. "And its not like we haven't seen this kind of thing before."

Whatever pretense they had at subtlety was gone, and they clearly had the answer to their question. Which brought them to their next obstacle. "I'm guessing that you know who he is," Ressler told them.

"Evil incarnate. The devil himself. And quite possibly my father." Mulder said matter-of-factly. "I never did get a clear answer on that last one."

Why did Reddington always give them so little to go on? "I'm assuming you thought he was dead."

"I should've known better," Mulder get resignedly. "You can't kill the devil, no matter how hard you try. Now, how do you know who he is?"

Their task force had to stay secret, no matter how many times it blew up. And at this point, it was pretty clear that Mulder and Scully knew who their highly highly-placed source was. Nevertheless, it was pretty clear that the second they told Mulder, he would raise sixteen types of holy hell. Best to proceed with caution.

"His name is on a list." Keene told them. "One that a very high high-level informant told us about. He also told us that your— - or more precisely, your division would be able to tell us all we needed to know. You would be doing us a great service if you tell us whatever you have on him."

Scully and Mulder considered this for a few moments. Scully opened her mouth first, but before she could say anything, Mulder interjected: "Absolutely not."

Scully was clearly taken aback by this. So were Ressler and Liz. "Agent Mulder, I think there's a way you can get the answers you've been seeking—-" Ressler started.

"As long as you get yours first." Mulder didn't even give him the chance to finish. "I've been in this position many times before. Long before you were even considering a career in law enforcement. I've been manipulated by the higher-ups and lower downs so many times, I lost count decades ago. So, unless you're willing to be a lot more candid, we're not going to give you a fucking thing."

This wasn't in the script. Almost every time Reddington had directed them to a source, the people involved had been willing, if not exactly eager, to help. Given what she had read in Mulder's file about seeking the truth with a capital T, she had figured all they'd have to do was mention the Smoking Man's name. Liz decided to try and play another card in her hand.

"Our source knows about the abductions."

That didn't even get a blink out of Mulder. Scully, however, reacted. "What kind of abductions?"

"The train cars, the biological experiments, the systematic killing of thousands of people." ," Keene told them. "According to our source, they've started again."

Scully was clearly angered by this news, though she was trying very hard not to show it. "How is that possible? The men responsible for those experiments were all killed?"!"

"Apparently not."

Scully looked at her partner. "Mulder, if this is true—-"

"It probably is. But if that's all you know, it's clear your 'highly- placed source' hasn't even given you a fraction of the story." ," Mulder told hersaid, directing the words had Ressler and Liz. "Which means you know less than we do. Which means you need our help more than we need yours."

And because this was incredibly true, Liz wasn't exactly certain what else to say to convince him. "Thousands of lives are being lost, Agent Mulder."

"Millions of lives were lost, Mrs. Keen. If people had been willing to listen to me then, those lives might have been saved." Mulder was speaking so bluntly, Liz had no doubt it was the truth. "I've had answers for years, but no one's ever given a goddamn about what I had to say. And the few people who said they wanted to help, were part of the same corrupt system. Many of them have even worked in this building. So you'll forgive me if I don't jump at the chance to blindly dive down another rabbit hole."

She Liz and Ressler had known the dry rot was deep. So did Ressler. A But a warning that Mulder had been so protective of his work would 've have been nice to have. For the first time in her life, she really hoped that Reddington had been telling the truth when he said that he hadn't known anything about the X-Files being active.

"What would it take to get you to believe us?" Ressler clearly wasn't going to go down without a fight.

"Who's your source?" Scully demanded.

It was pretty clear from From the way both agents were talking, that they had pretty good idea who that source was. In essence, they They were essentially calling Liz's and Ressler's bluff. And considering that neither knew exactly what Reddington's knowledge was, they held all the cards.

"We're not allowed to release that information," Ressler said slowly. "But I believe we could arrange a meeting."

"On his terms, no doubt." Mulder said dryly. "Like I said, I'm way too old to arrange for clandestine meetings in ill-lit garages. If your source is serious about this, he will meet on my terms. And in case you've forgotten, the FBI doesn't negotiate with terrorists, now matter how well meaning they may seem to be."

They know. No question. "We can relay a message," Liz cautiously ventured.

"You can tell him that Scully and I will be waiting outside the Washington Monument at high noon tomorrow." Mulder said calmly. "Since I don't know who your informant is, you will accompany him." He stared at Liz so hotly, it made his earlier glare look like one of affection. "I don't trust you" he barely glanced at Ressler, "too Marine. We'll be there for exactly one hour; you show up at 1:01, we're gone. We see anybody who even looks like their they're support of some kind of support, we will be gone."

Ressler didn't like this at all. "We're in the FBI."

"So were a lot of people we trusted, and they lied to our faces." Scully said just as coolly. "Mrs. Keen isn't in the Bureau any more. And somehow she's still part of your task force."

"So why me?" Liz asked

"Because the Bureau was hunting you down for three months," Mulder said bluntly. "That gets you a pass. I tend to trust people who the government wants to hunt down." He looked at her hard. "But I don't trust them for long.

"Convey this to your source. And tell him if he ever wants to see what I have on that chain-smoking son of a bitch, he'll do what I want."

"Our source can't meet in public." ," Ressler tried to say.

"You trying to make me see red?"

Now he's baiting us, Liz thought. I'd hate to have been against him in his fighting years.

"I have a feeling if he wants to make this meeting happen," Mulder continued, "he'll find a way. Or he'll never get access to the X-Files."

There was no way around this. They had to take this to Reddington, and find a way for the FBI's most wanted man to appear in D.C., at its most most-trafficked landmark. "We'll get back to you," was all Ressler could say.

"High noon. Tomorrow." Mulder was intractable. Scully seemed just as firm.

As they were leaving, Mulder said one more thing: "You were on the run for three months," he asked.

"Yes."

"Dead or alive."

"Yes."

"Government has sure lowered their standards in the years I was out of the Bureau."

The moment Keen and Ressler were out of the office, Scully whirled on him. "Mulder, are you sure that was the right play?"

"You do know that was Elizabeth Keen, known associate of Raymond Reddington?" Mulder reminded her. "He's the guy who gave her the intel. I may have been MIA from the FBI for fifteen years, but even I know better than to hand over our files to people someone on our most Most Wanted list."

Mulder was acting rationally. Someone should make sure hell hadn't hasn't frozen over. "Then why not throw them out of our office the minute you knew who they were?" she asked.

"I wanted to know what they came for. Now I do." A lot of the surety left Mulder. "I just can't believe the sonofabitch is still breathing. We saw him get barbecued."

"It has to be a lie of some kind, Mulder. A way for Reddington to find something he needs in the X-Files."

"I think you're right, Scully."

Hitler must be ice skating by now.

"But come on, if he's really got a pathway into the Bureau, there have to have been easier ways. We need to know what he knows."

Up came the eyebrow. "Mulder, I may not know those files backwards and forwards, but I'm pretty sure I'd know if Reddington was in them."

"They've been inactive for fourteen years. If Reddington was telling the truth, maybe they've started into business since then." ," Mulder reminded her. "And who knows? Maybe he's a zombie. They do seem to be more popular these days."

"Probably warm his blood up some," Scully muttered. "Are you serious about us going through with this meeting?"

"I am. But there's no way in hell Reddington will." Mulder Mulder's aid tone was dryly. "I want to see what Keen and Ressler do when he doesn't. "

"And on the off-chance he does show?" Scully asked.

"Last I checked, the reward was ten million dollars. You could finally pay off your med med-school loans." Off Scully's reaction: "We're also going to call Skinner. See how many chits we now have with the Bureau."

"You're not thinking of cashing them all in for Reddington, are you?

"Figure if we get him, we'll have some more."

"He's not going to go along with this. Not unless he can control everything." ," Ressler told Keen as soon as they were out of the Bureau.

"He wants whatever's in those files. Short of using a truckliftforklift, I don't see any other way that we can get them," Keen reminded him. "Reddington has to have known that, even if he didn't know that Mulder and Scully were back in the Bureau."

"He doesn't respond to threats, you know that better than anyone. He's not going to take this well."

Liz's cell rang. The caller was UNKNOWN, but by this point, Keen knew better than to think this was happening by chance. "Yes?"

"How did your visit back to the Bureau go?" Reddington saidasked.

"Did you know that the X-Files had been reopened?" Liz said with just as little introduction. "Or that Mulder and Scully had been reassigned to them?"

There was a three-second pause— - an eternity by Reddington's standards. "This may come as a shock to you, Elizabeth, but there are limits to my knowledge. I knew the manhunt for Agent Mulder had been called off, I knew that Agent Scully was working in children's oncology, and that Fox Mulder was now writing books, but I didn't think there was even a snowflake's chance in hell that the FBI would let them back in."

"Yeah, and they weren't wild about the company I keep." Liz gave him a summary of what had happened.

"Mulder always did have a flare from for the dramatic," ." A trace of humor appeared in Reddington's voice. "Well, this does make things a tad more difficult."

"How do we play this?" Keene asked.

"Mulder was many things in his first stint in the Bureau, but no one would ever accuse him of being a fool." ," Reddington admitted. "With the exception of Agent Scully, That that file cabinet means more to him than anything, with the exception of Agent Scully. And she was more than willing to piss away her career for him. Subterfuge won't work. So we'll have to be direct."

Liz wasn't sure she was hearing right. "You plan to make this meeting."

"Of course. But not the way Agent Mulder expects it will."