Santa Rat

by Psi Fi

From: "Psi Fi" <psifi872@lexyweb.net>
Date: Wed, 31 Dec 2003 17:51:02 -0600
Subject: NEW - - Santa Rat 1/3
Source: xff

Title: Santa Rat 1/3

Author: Psi Fi

Email: psifi872@lexyweb.net

Distribution: Sure, you can borrow it.

Rating: Pg-13 for some language and violence

Classification: Crossover with The Santa Clause

Spoilers: Through The Truth

Summary: Krycek gets into some holly, jolly trouble!

Alex Krycek glared at Lars Van de Kamp, the man who had adopted William Mulder from Scully. They were standing in the Van de Kamp living room, "discussing" the boy.

"I didn't figure you for the fatherly type, Lars," Krycek commented, cooly, keeping his Glock level with the man's chest.

"We all follow orders, Krycek," Van de Kamp responded, his own weapon pointed at Krycek's midsection. "He wasn't supposed to be in my care for long."

"You're supposed to turn him over to the Smoker," Krycek guessed, angry.

Van de Kamp shrugged.

"Of course. Day after tomorrow, I'm supposed to drop him off at Fort Marlene," Van de Kamp stupidly informed him.

"How are you going to explain that to your wife?" Krycek wondered.

"My wife...discovered some things she shouldn't have. Our employer had her disposed of," Van de Kamp informed him sadly. "It's Christmas Eve, Krycek. What do you want?"

"I want William and the human race to survive," Krycek answered. "Bring me the boy."

Unnoticed by the men, the fireplace behind Van de Kamp grew taller and deeper, until a man could fit in it. Footsteps echoed from on top of the roof. Van de Kamp was too engrossed to notice the sudden increase of heat.

"We both know I can't do that," he countered, suddenly aiming higher and tightening on the trigger.

Krycek fired off his shot, before Van de Kamp could finish squeezing his round off. Van de Kamp was hit in the chest, but the bullet didn't stop. It travelled through him and on into the figure that had just appeared in the fireplace. Krycek stared in shock, noticing the extra body on the floor. Stepping over Van de Kamp, he pulled the second body further into the room...and began questioning his own sanity.

Lying at Krycek's feet was a fat old man dressed in a Santa suit, but not one of the cheap red felt and vinyl jobs sold for parties or worn by mall Santas. The red parts of this suit were made of soft suede leather, dyed a deep red--or perhaps that was the color of the animal it was made from. The white trim was genuine fur that Krycek suspected came from rabbits. The buttons, belt buckle, and shoe buckles were made of some dark metal, gilded with gold.

The man lying dead was either really Santa Claus or an extremely rich nut. Krycek reached into the man's jacket, searching for identification. Knowing who he had accidentally killed might tell him how much trouble he was in. There was no wallet, but Krycek did find a card. The first side read "Santa Claus: North Pole" in green lettering. The second side was also in green print and said, "If something should happen to me, put on my suit. The reindeer will know what to do."

"I don't think so," Krycek whispered.

Taking out a handkerchief, Krycek hurriedly wiped down any surfaces he might have touched. Walking briskly, he went to William's room and began throwing a bag together. Picking the sleeping boy up carefully, Krycek went back to the study. As he approached the window, he noticed that the body of the Santa was gone. Setting William and the bag down, Krycek re-examined the now-empty suit of clothes. The clothes were clean, free of the holes and blood from the gunshot wound.

"Damn," Krycek muttered, wondering what was happening.

To his horror, a siren sounded, getting closer. Grimacing, Krycek pulled on the suit. He figured the cops wouldn't suspect a man in a Santa suit, carrying a child, if he could get away from this building. Hoisting William, Krycek threw the bag out the window. He climbed out, then turned and shut the glass, wiping the areas his hands touched with his handkerchief. Bending, he picked up the diaper bag. As he stood, Krycek collided with something cold and thin. Turning quickly, he saw an ornate ladder leading up to the roof.

"Oh, you're kidding!" Krycek snarled, annoyed. "How do you expect me to climb a ladder?! I'm carrying a baby and I only have one arm!"

Numbly, Krycek watched as the ladder arms grew thicker and the steps joined until he was facing a mini-escalator. Taking a deep breath, he stepped up, more willing to face the roof, than the cops he heard approaching the house. Stepping off the ladder, he almost bumped into Rudolph. Santa's reindeer and sled were waiting patiently near the chimney, looking ready to go. Krycek took a deep breath and approached the sleigh.

"There's no baby seat," Krycek complained, voicing the first thing that came to mind. The nearest reindeer, whose nameplate read Blitzen, tossed its head, seeming to indicate the back of the sleigh. Looking in back, Krycek found and opened a bulging velvet sack, revealing a brand-new baby seat. Krycek knew instinctively that Scully would approve.

"Oh. Great. Thanks," Krycek told Blitzen, only slightly sarcastic, as he quickly strapped the baby inside.

Hearing shouts from the cops on the lawn, Krycek quickly climbed in and flicked the reins. The reindeer leapt into the air. The cops watched, baffled.

"I saw nothing," they said at the same time, before agreeing to say the noise came from a cat.

Rushing through the air, Krycek laughed.

"Hey this isn't bad! No wonder Santa does this! Hey, Rudolph? Let's take William home, okay?"

The reindeer neighed in reluctant agreement and soon they landed on the roof of a small, white house. Krycek grinned, imagining Scully and Mulder's surprise when they discovered little William...and the letter Krycek had for them, explaining just how bad the adoption idea was.

The reindeer landed gently on the roof and Krycek climbed out, then unbuckled William.

"Okay, I guess I need that ladder again."

Without warning, Krycek found himself floating towards the chimney.

"Hey, it's too small; put me down!" Krycek protested. "Careful of the kid!"

He was universally ignored as he was pulled to and down the small chimney, which seemed to give way to his and William's combined bulk. Krycek found himself standing in a moderate-sized living room, decorated in various shades of white, cream, and beige.

"Bluh," William coughed, sleepily, peering around.

"Shh, don't wake anyone yet, buddy," Krycek whispered.

"Hello, Krycek," a wry, flat voice greeted.

Krycek turned slowly, until the man behind him could see the child nestled in his arms.

"Hey, Mulder. Merry Christmas," Krycek offered, hiding his surprise at seeing the federal agent.

"Is that William? Give him to me!" Mulder demanded.

"Sure, Mulder, just take it easy," Krycek soothed, handing the infant to his father. "I thought you were off on some case, Mulder. Oh, congratulations on your reinstatement."

"Thanks. Wanna tell me what you're doing here...and with my son?"

"Um, I wanted to bring William back to you and Scully," Krycek half-explained, then tilted his head. "You don't seem too surprised to see me."

"Your ability to survive stopped surprising me after Tunguska. I assume an alien healer helped you...and I could say the same thing, Krycek."

Krycek snorted.

"Nothing you do surprises me, either. Besides, I've seen the photos. That was a neat trick, Mulder. Take a photo of Knowle Rohr, in front of a building that just went up. You cleared your name and obtained a nice bit of...leverage."

Mulder gave a tight sigh, still not happy about the tactics he was forced to use to protect himself and his family.

"Why did you bring William here, Krycek?"

"I thought you might like to have him home. Besides, the man who adopted him was Consortium."

Dismay stole over Mulder's features as he processed this. He studied Krycek, who kept his features bland. For the first time, Mulder noticed Krycek's attire.

"Why are you wearing a Santa costume?"

Krycek sighed.

"Let's just say I've had a weird night, okay?"

As if on signal, a slight pounding sounded on the ceiling. Mulder glanced up, then back to Krycek, quizzically.

"Start talking, Alex," Mulder demanded.

Krycek grimaced, then jerked his head, indicating Mulder to follow him outside. Stepping back from the house, Krycek pointed wordlessly to the sleigh and reindeer. Mulder gaped, then stared hard at Krycek.

"Alex...please tell me you didn't mug Santa Claus," Mulder urged.

Krycek glowered, looking away.

"Krycek?!" Mulder breathed, shocked and disgusted.

"I accidentally shot him," Krycek muttered.

Mulder blinked, not quite accepting this.

"You shot Santa Claus," Mulder repeated flatly.

"It was an accident!" Krycek shouted.

"Then you stole his suit and reindeer," Mulder continued.

Krycek sighed again, shrugging helplessly.

"There were cops coming. I climbed out a window and there was a ladder leading to the roof."

Mulder shook his head.

"Alex, this is low even for you. How could you murder the man that represents the spirit of giving? You've destroyed a centuries old Christmas icon!"

"I didn't murder him! I fired in self defense! Anyways, it was just bad timing. Besides, if he was the real Santa, how come he wasn't immortal?"

"I don't know. What are you going to do with the reindeer?"

Krycek shook his head. He and Mulder stared bewildered as the sack Alex had left behind drifted down, landing in his arms. Mulder stood back, amazed and intrigued, as Krycek opened the bag and pulled out a packet of papers. Mulder's name was on the envelope, so Krycek handed them over, shrugging. Mulder opened the packet carefully, finding inside all the official papers necessary to place William in his and Scully's custody. Krycek whistled.

"Damn. Merry Christmas, Mulder," Krycek offered, impressed.

Mulder swallowed.

"Krycek, I think you're in trouble."

Krycek shrugged again.

"Nothing new there," he acknowledged, just as he began floating up. "Oh, damn..."

Mulder tried to grab his foot, but stopped when he heard William begin crying. He stood, hesitating, before Krycek shooed him on.

"Go on, Mulder. I'll take care of this. Go enjoy some time with your kid."

Krycek watched Mulder rush back to the house, feeling rather satisfied with the way things had gone. He landed in the sleigh and grinned.

"Okay, Rudolph, old buddy. What say you give me a lift, okay?"

The reindeer obediently dived into the air, pulling up high. Instead of flying to Krycek's apartment, however, they flew two houses down and landed on the roof. Krycek groaned.

"What? You can't be serious!" he gasped. He lifted the bag and found himself floating. "Okay, fine! I'll finish the round, since you're in a tight spot! But once we're done, I expect to go right back home, you got that?!"

Krycek's last words echoed up from the fireplace he found himself in. The bag was suddenly heavy. Krycek growled softly, stalking into the room and heading for the Christmas tree. He began pulling out parcels, tossing them idly under the branches.

"Santa?" a small voice asked, sounding unsure and a little frightened.

Krycek turned slowly, knowing, at least vaguely, what he would see. Sure enough, a small child in warm pajamas stood gazing up at him with huge brown eyes. Little Danny's dark hair was mussed from sleeping and he rubbed idly at his eyes. Krycek bit back a groan, hoping the kid wouldn't be traumatized from this encounter.

"Shouldn't you be in bed?" he asked, keeping his voice low, hoping he sounded gentle and concerned, rather than just sneaky.

"I was. I had to go potty. I'm a big boy now!" the child announced proudly.

Krycek blinked, wondering exactly what he was supposed to say to that. Good job?

"That's fine, um, but you should go back to sleep now, okay?"

"Are you Santa?" Danny asked timidly.

"Well, um, yeah. This year at least," Krycek stammered, knowing he probably should just be quiet.

"Oh," Danny murmurred. "You sure look different. How come you're not fat?"

"It's bad for you," Krycek grumbled. "I'm setting a good example."

"Oh," Danny repeated sleepily. "Well, okay. Good night, Santa."

"Yeah, good night."

Krycek waited until the boy was gone, then dumped the rest of the sack's contents and fled for the chimney.

"Get me out of here!"

Krycek sighed as he climbed back into the sled. He'd just finished another house, this one in Mongolia. He had lost track hours ago of the houses he had been in. Here, the sun was just starting to rise.

"Can I go home, now?" he moaned, hoping the reindeer would be merciful. To his dismay, Rudolph headed due north, obviously not intending to go anywhere near North America. Krycek groaned, almost silently, and leaned back to get some rest before their next stop. To his surprise, the reindeer kept heading north, bypassing all human habitation. In a short while they landed, in the middle of a snow bank.

"Where are we?" Krycek demanded. He stood up in the sleigh and shouted, hoping someone was nearby to hear him. "It's too cold for this crap, Rudolph," he groused, "and I'm part Russian, so that's saying something!"

Krycek noticed with some amusement that a white and red pole was sticking out of the snow about twenty feet from them. To his horror, the reindeer got loose from the sleigh and went forward, disappearing.

"The North Pole, huh? So where are the damn elves?! HEY! I s anybody here?!"

A slight figure appeared amongst the white of their surroundings, dressed in green and wearing one of the floppy Christmas hats that abounded at this time of year.

"Hey, can you help me? I brought the reindeer, but I need to get home!"

To Krycek's frustration, the young man ignored him, pushing a musical sequence of buttons that appeared suddenly on the pole. The sleigh began to sink on some sort of platform. Krycek held on tight, resisting the urge to curse. Looking down, he saw a child's idea of a toy factory. Children in costume ran around, some looking up at him with huge grins. As soon as the sleigh stopped, Alex hopped out, shivering. He ran up to someone who looked like a young teen, her arms full of ribbons.

"Hey, I need to speak to your boss."

"That would be you," the girl responded a bit tartly.

"No," Krycek denied. "I mean whoever's in charge right now, the head elf, whatever."

"That would be you," the girl repeated, unsympathetically.

Krycek took a deep breath, breathing it out through his teeth.

"Look, just point out someone who can give me some answers, all right?"

"That would be him," the girl relented, pointing to an older boy with black hair, wearing a sloppy beret and a slightly more expensive elf costume.

"What's going on, Celia?" the boy demanded.

"Santa wants answers," Celia explained, before returning to her work.

"I'm not Santa!" Krycek protested, indignantly. "Look, uh..."

"Bernard," the boy interrupted, sharply.

"Yeah," Krycek acknowledged. "I just want to go home, Bernard."

"Did you read all of the card or just part of it?" Bernard asked caustically.

"The card? All the card said was that the reindeer would know what to do! Look, I finished this year's round and now, I want outta here!"

Bernard smirked and produced a large magnifying glass.

"Read the fine print," he suggested.

Peering through the glass, Alex read the Santa Clause: In putting on the suit and entering the sleigh, the wearer waives any and all rights to any previous identity, real or implied, and fully accepts the duties and responsibilities of Santa Claus in perpetuity until such time as wearer becomes unable to do so by either accident or design. He paled.

"So, I put on the suit and now I'm Santa?!!"

"You catch on quick," Bernard praised.

"That's stupid!" Krycek ranted. "Any lunatic can become Santa just by plugging the old one?!"

"Did you shoot him on purpose?" Bernard asked smugly.

"No!"

"In fact, you fired in self-defense...while protecting a child, right?"

"Well, yeah," Krycek admitted uncomfortably.

"That makes you more than eligible to be Santa," Bernard concluded triumphantly.

"But..."

"Look," Bernard snapped. "Someone has to do it. Accident or not, you killed the old Santa, you put on the suit, and you are the new Santa! Got it?"

Krycek swallowed.

"Does this happen often?" he demanded, wondering what the life expectancy was for a Santa Claus.

Bernard smirked.

"Actually, no. There have only been about five Santas since the first Christmas."

"Did they all die in accidents?" Krycek asked, puzzled by the whole situation.

"No, except for you and an incident with a roof, all of the previous Santas were killed saving the lives of children."

Krycek sighed, rubbing his eyes.

"So, what now?"

"I'll show you to your rooms. Get some sleep and tomorrow you'll go home. You have eleven months to get your affairs in order. You have to be back here for Thanksgiving."

"And there's no way out of this?" Krycek asked.

Bernard stiffened.

"Not unless you want to be responsible for disillusioning thousands of children and diminishing the spirit of giving."

"Nice guilt trip," Krycek congratulated sourly.

"Thanks," Bernard quipped cheerfully. "I've practiced. Your rooms are this way."

Krycek followed, forming a mental map of the place. Most of the rooms seemed to be devoted to either making or wrapping toys. Peeking through one door, Krycek was surprised to see what looked like a huge auditorium.

"Hey, Bernard, what's this?"

Bernard stopped, looking aggravated, then shrugged.

"That's the chapel," he informed Alex, as if it were obvious.

Krycek stared, panicking.

"You don't really expect me to give sermons?!"

Bernard laughed.

"You? Of course not. We have three reverends and a Catholic priest here. They take turns on Sunday. You'll meet them later."

Krycek breathed a sigh of relief. Bernard picked up the pace, obviously anxious to get back to his work. Bernard marched him down a few more corridors, before flinging open one side of some double doors.

"These are your rooms. I'll send Julie with your pajamas and some food."

Krycek eyed the rooms with some distaste. The furnishings were fine...almost elegant, but childish. A queen sized bed stood out from one wall. It was covered in pillows and thick blankets, but stuffed animals were scattered ludicrously across the head. At the foot of the bed, a huge stuffed bear loomed, surrounded by smaller dolls, trucks, and tin soldiers. A miniature train ran on a track around the room.

"Santa?" a new voice inquired.

Krycek turned and saw a female elf with dark hair, holding emerald green pajamas.

"Julie?"

She nodded, handing him the clothes.

"Can we get rid of these toys?" Alex complained. "I don't think I'll be able to sleep with all those eyes on me."

"Paranoia isn't a helpful trait in a Santa," Julie observed, amused.

Krycek smirked.

"I'm new to the job."

"You prefer the high tech toys, I suppose," she speculated. "A few game consoles, a pc, a stereo with lots of speakers."

Krycek grinned.

"I could handle that," he admitted, then leered, "and maybe some satin sheets."

Julie smirked.

"Don't worry. The room will be changed to match your personality. This is your home now, after all."

Krycek smiled, then frowned as Bernard stormed back in.

"Where do you want the list sent to?" the impatient elf demanded.

Krycek groaned, suspecting he knew what "the list" was.

"Um, 1212 Rawlings, in D.C.?"

Bernard glared.

"I am not sending the list to the Mulder residence. He isn't Santa, you are! And we don't need to show up in the X-files! Now, where will you be staying?"

Krycek gave him his apartment number in D.C. and Bernard hurried off again. Krycek sighed, more than ready for some sleep.

"Good night, Santa," Julie offered kindly.

"Thanks, Julie. Good night."

2/3

Krycek woke up in his small D.C. apartment and laughed, shivering a bit.

"Well, that dream was messed up."

He stretched and got up, then noticed his pajamas. They were the emerald ones from his dream. He sternly banished the frisson of unease that crept down his spine. Travelling as often as he did, he occasionally would buy supplies, then forget about them. It happened and this time it had played into his dreams.

Whistling, Krycek took a shower and dressed. Getting a plate of fresh breakfast rolls and some coffee, he stretched out on his couch and turned on the tv. Resolutely ignoring the faint twinges of loneliness, Alex flipped channels until he came to a rerun of the Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart. The phone ringing interrupted his lazy morning.

"What?" he demanded, annoyed.

"I'm sorry to interrupt your Christmas, Alex," Spender greeted, amused. "However, something important has occurred. Young William has been returned to the Mulders. Van de Kamp is dead."

Krycek stiffened, remembering his dream.

"Yeah? You want me to retrieve the kid?"

"No. A kidnapping would still draw far too much attention. I do, however, need you to find out who is responsible for these events."

"Fine," Krycek agreed. "I'll work on it."

"We need the information quickly, Alex," the smoker snapped.

"It's Christmas," Alex reminded him, cooly. "All clues are on vacation."

Krycek hung up and thought hard. He certainly had intended to confront Van de Kamp over William. The memory of going there was too sharp and clear for a dream, but the rest... sighing, he picked up the phone and dialed.

"Yeah?" Mulder answered.

"It's Krycek," Alex answered, then stopped, not knowing how to ask. "When I was over there last night..."

Mulder laughed.

"Trying to convince yourself the reindeer were a dream?" Mulder asked, amused.

Krycek sighed, "Yeah. It almost worked, too."

"How much trouble are you in?" Mulder asked, not bothering to hide his laughter.

"Lots, thanks," Krycek grumbled. "Evidently, I'm the new Santa Claus."

"Permanently?!" Mulder asked, after a stunned pause.

"Yep. If Santa dies and you put on the suit, you become the new Santa," Krycek explained.

Low gasps of laughter travelled down the phone line as Mulder lost control at the image of Krycek as Santa.

"You're enjoying this," Alex accused.

"Oh, immensely," Mulder agreed, chuckling. "Serves you right, Alex. All that violence and conspiring was bound to backfire on you sooner or later!"

"I saved your son's life," Krycek reminded him, sounding faintly hurt.

"Yes, you did, thanks," Mulder acknowledged, "and your becoming Santa just about makes up for everything else you've done."

"Thanks," Krycek groused. "C'mon, Mulder, you're a paranormal expert! Can't you find me a damn loophole?!"

Mulder burst into laughter again, making Krycek sigh.

"I'm sorry," the federal agent gasped. "I've never heard of anything like this before, much less how to get out of it. Maybe you should ask Rudolph!"

"I asked an elf named Bernard and he said no," Krycek admitted.

"Well, there you are, Alex," Mulder commisserated, grinning. "Sounds like you're stuck."

"I'm hanging up now, Mulder," Krycek warned.

"Merry Christmas, Alex."

"Yeah, you too."

Krycek scanned through the files and surveillance devices that tracked Van de Kamp's last few days. The need to present the impression of a thorough investigation allowed him a bit of leeway to snoop around. Van de Kamp hadn't been a major player, but sometimes even minor information could be useful.

Hearing a knock on his door, Krycek pulled his gun and peered out. A Fed Ex employee stood outside, clipboard in hand and surrounded by boxes. Krycek opened the door slowly, tucking the gun in his pants.

"Alex Krycek?" the employee asked.

"Yeah," Krycek acknowledged.

"Just sign here please and we'll bring your packages in," the man offered.

Krycek obliged and ten minutes later he stood in his living room, gaping at the red boxes with silver trim that nearly filled the room. The boxes covered the floor, except for pathways left by the deliverymen, and were hip deep. Pulling one open, Krycek found a long list of names written in fancy caligraphy, with a check box beside them. Krycek studied the single sheet of the alphabetical list, feeling a strange, warm glow of knowledge seeping into his mind.

Absentmindedly, he grabbed a pen from a nearby desk and studied the list of names. Krycek began making marks, a bit wary at how easy this was. How the hell did he know who was "naughty or nice?!" Still, he seemed to know instinctively where to mark. Eerily, in some cases he could almost picture the child.

A second knock barely registered in Krycek's mind. He was now surrounded by stacks of papers, all checked. Glancing at his watch, Alex noted that a couple of hours had passed. Groaning and stretching stiffened muscles, Krycek looked out the peephole. CGB Spender stood outside his door, puffing complacently. Krycek pulled open the door.

"Y'know, as close as you came to dying, you'd think you'd quit sucking on those damn things!" he snarled.

Spender took a long drag, finishing the cigarette.

"I'm touched by your concern, Alex. Fortunately, the Colonists are appreciative of my efforts on their behalf," he replied, smirking. "I trust you had a good New Year's?"

"What do you want?" Krycek grated.

"You haven't reported in for awhile," Spender explained. "I decided to check on your progress. Are you going to invite me in?"

Krycek sighed and opened the door. He didn't want Spender to see the list, but refusing him entrance would cause unwanted suspicion. Spender looked around smugly, raising his eyebrows at all of the boxes and papers.

"A side project, Alex?" Spender asked, cooly.

"No," Alex snapped. "It's...personal business."

"Men in our line can't afford personal lives, Alex," Spender scolded. "I'd have thought you would know that by now."

"Yeah? Remind me to retire," Alex responded calmly. "I'm not making much progress. I can't find anything unusual in Van de Kamp's movements or in the company he kept the weeks before his death," Krycek explained, shrugging. "There was no residual physical evidence, so the hit was professional. It could have been anyone."

"It could have been you," Spender pointed out, sounding amused.

"Yeah, it could have been," Krycek admitted, then smirked. "But it wasn't."

"No, I suppose not," Spender mused. "You have too much pride than to assist a man who allowed you to be gunned down in cold blood."

Krycek didn't deign to answer.

"I trust you'll be back to work soon, since your investigation has proven fruitless?" Spender continued.

"Why?" Krycek asked flatly. "Is there something specific you want me working on?"

"No. Not as such," Spender denied. "I'm sure your own projects keep you busy enough, since you've become so important to the group. However, time is running out and we have goals to meet."

"Our goals aren't always the same," Krycek reminded him coldly.

"Of course they are," Spender corrected, condescendingly. "We both intend to survive."

Krycek pulled himself out of bed with a groan. He was stiff and his limbs felt heavy and awkward. Between his efforts to distance himself from the new Consortium and working on the list, he had been working long hours. Fortunately, even though it was only early September, he'd pretty much finished the list.

Stumbling into the bathroom, he gazed blearily into the mirror, then drew back in shock. Overnight, his face had taken on a roundness that would have been babyish, if it weren't for the heavy stubble on his upper lip and chin. His hair, generally a dark brown that was almost black, had become an iron gray. Krycek looked down at the protrusion of his stomach and winced. Okay, he'd caught himself sneaking cookies as snacks lately, but this was absurd!

Hurriedly, he shaved, washed, and threw on his clothes, growling slightly, when he had trouble with the zipper. He drove to a Consortium lab, muttering angrily about elves, reindeer, and idiots who hung out in chimneys. Striding purposefully, he located an older doctor in one of the labs, who was peering into a microscope and making notes on a clipboard.

"Dr. Jordan," Krycek greeted.

"Mr. Krycek," the doctor responded, then blinked. "What the hell happened to you?"

"That's what I want you to tell me," Krycek growled.

The doctor paled.

"No tampering has been done on you, Mr. Krycek, I swear! I...I have your files and you'll recall we discussed..."

"I know!" Krycek snapped, then took a deep breath. "I just want you to figure out what is happening."

"Of course, um, come into the examination room and we'll take a look," the doctor assured him, relieved.

Krycek followed the doctor into the room and sighed impatiently as he was poked and prodded. He was relieved to find that he could maintain a good speed on the treadmill without feeling exhausted or overly winded. He sat back on the examination table. The doctor took his pulse, then shrugged.

"I don't know what to tell you, Mr. Krycek," the doctor informed him, nervously. "You're fit as a fiddle."

"Fit as a fiddle? Look at me!" Krycek demanded. "I'm a mess!"

"Weight fluctuates at times, Mr. Krycek, and you are approaching your middle years."

"I'm thirty-seven!" Krycek protested. "You're telling me it isn't uncommon for someone my age to gain thirty pounds in a week and a half?!"

"Well, that is unusual," the doctor admitted. "Have your eating habits changed?"

"Not really," Krycek hedged. "And what about my facial hair? I shaved this morning!"

"Uh, could be hormonal," the doctor speculated, dubiously, eyeing Krycek's full beard.

Krycek glared at him in disgust.

Seeing that the former assassin was losing patience, the doctor assured him, "Look, cut back on fatty foods, do some stomach crunches, and dye your hair. You'll feel like new in no time. I've taken blood samples and will run some tests, j-just to be sure."

Krycek sighed, nodding.

"All right, doctor, thanks."

Krycek grunted as he worked out on the rowing machine in the lab gyms. Despite his best efforts, Alex had only lost a few pounds since his physical. He'd given up trying to stay shaved. To his disgust, Krycek was beginning to look like a soft, cheerful old man. And he still found himself craving cookies! Sometimes he just couldn't stop thinking about the damn things! Krycek got up, deciding to allow himself a quick breather. A young assassin, Julia, pushed rudely past him, taking over the exercise machine. She looked at him and laughed.

"Something amusing?" Krycek inquired, his voice a soft, deadly rasp.

Julia just grinned, rowing with an easy grace.

"Just wondering how much longer you'll last," she responded with mocking sweetness.

Krycek stared hard, hiding his surprise.

"Really? Any particular reason why?"

Julia shrugged.

"You're obviously going soft. You're becoming worn out. It's only a matter of time before some young up and comer takes you out...and we all move up the food chain," she boasted, savoring the thought.

A tendril of dread wrapped around Krycek's spine, but he ignored it. With predatory speed, Krycek stepped forward and grabbed her throat in a crushing grip with his prosthesis.

"You really shouldn't advertise your plans that way, Julia," Krycek advised, kindly, watching her struggle for breath and claw uselessly at his fake arm. After a few moments, he released her, smirking. "Be a good girl and keep that in mind."

Julia nodded weakly, hiding her anger. She took a few moments to ease her throat with deep breaths, before resuming her rowing. She glared at the others in the room, determined to save as much face as possible, after having underestimated Krycek so badly. Finishing her rowing, she grabbed a swimming towel and swept from the room.

"That is one nasty woman," a man named Evans observed with amusement.

Krycek laughed, "Hopefully, now she'll be better behaved."

Evans snorted.

"Or at least smarter. What's up with the beard anyway, Krycek? You doing undercover work for Spender?"

"No and you know better than to ask," Krycek observed drily. "Damn thing just grows back so fast it isn't worth my time to shave it off! Doc said it might be a hormone imbalance."

"Yeah, I had a cousin with that problem. You might try just trimming it really close. My cousin swears that as long as he doesn't shave it completely off, his beard doesn't grow back as fast."

Krycek nodded, considering. Maybe it was time for a compromise.

"Thanks," he acknowledged, heading for the showers to get clean and dress.

Krycek hurried back to his apartment, making sure there were no new bugs or cameras in place.

"Okay, look," he said, addressing the Powers that Be. "I know Santa has an image to maintain; that's cool, but I am not comfortable being old and fat! The beard I can live with; white hair, fine. Just, please, let me stay in shape, okay?! No more cookie cravings, please!"

Hoping that his compromise would be allowed, Krycek went into his bathroom. Taking his trimmer, he cut the beard and mustache until they lay short and sleek around his mouth. He left the sideburns, letting them run from his beard to the thick of his hair. Putting the trimmer down, Alex stepped back, studying his image and waiting for the hair to grow back. To his delight, nothing happened.

"Not bad. Not traditional," Bernard noted, "but not bad."

Krycek whirled, glaring at the elf who was leaning casually against the door jam.

"How'd you get here? And why?"

Bernard shrugged.

"I go where I need to. We need to measure you for suits. You're taller than the last Santa and, evidently, aren't going to be as plump."

Krycek groaned, leading Bernard out into the living room, then stopped dead. The boxes holding the list were gone, except for two that were piled neatly next to his sofa.

"Good job on the list! You caught on to that pretty fast," Bernard encouraged him. He nodded to two elves standing nearby.

"This is Ronald and Matilda. They're your tailors. Anything you want to suggest, tell them. Personally, though, I wouldn't hold out for a shoulder holster. It just doesn't fit the image," Bernard smirked.

Krycek glared.

"Thanks for the tip," he growled.

"You're welcome," Bernard quipped cheerfully.

Krycek sighed, turning to the tailors.

"Actually, I would like to update the suit a bit. I have nothing against red leather and white trim, but can we update the cut a bit?"

"I think we can do that," Matilda assured him.

"We watched you for a bit and I've made some color drawings I think you might like," Ronald offered, enthusiastically.

Krycek took the drawings, flipping through them warily. One made him laugh. The leather of the outfit looked like vinyl. The fur at the collar and cuffs was so long it was practically a fringe and the coat fell to his knees, looking a bit like a trenchcoat. Most of them were boring - typical Santa suits with the coat a little bit longer or shorter. Krycek sighed.

"That's not exactly what I meant," he explained, looking at Matilda in hopes of support.

Taking the pictures, Matilda eyed the offered styles, critically.

"Oh, Ronald! These will never do! The young man wants something...cool! Something a lady will take notice of," Matilda clarified, winking saucily.

Krycek blushed, smiling slightly.

"How many young ladies is he going to meet delivering toys?" Ronald scoffed.

"Oh, hush!" Matilda scolded. "Santa, dear, go get your old jacket, go on," she encouraged.

Krycek complied, handing the battered leather jacket out to her.

"Put it on, dear," Matilda instructed, watching with a benign smile as he slipped the jacket on. "There now, isn't that handsome? We can use the same leather as the previous Santa and cut the suit pattern from the clothes he has on."

Ronald snorted.

"Fine, fine. It's no problem of mine, if you want the new Santa to look like a young hooligan!" Ronald huffed.

"Ronald!" Matilda screeched. "You apologize immediately!"

"No, that's okay," Krycek dismissed, cooly. "I'm sure there are others who feel the same way."

"Nonsense!" Matilda objected. "You're Santa now. Whatever you might have been before is no concern of ours. Right, Ronald?" she hissed.

"No, no concern at all," Ronald agreed, hanging his head in embarrassment. "I didn't mean anything, Santa. I'm just an old-fashioned elf is all. Let us borrow the jacket and a pair of your jeans and we'll have a new suit ready in no time."

Krycek handed over the required clothing, watching the elves disappear.

Krycek sat back on the park bench, stretching his long legs with a tired sigh. He was almost out of the Consortium and it surprised him how hard this life was to let go. He closed his eyes, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, thinking of the people and places that he wasn't likely to see again.

"Hello, Krycek."

Krycek cracked his eyes open and saw Evans standing in front of him, holding the hand of a small girl.

"Hello, Evans. Who's this?"

Evans smiled sadly.

"This is my daughter, Trixie."

"Hey, Trixie," Krycek greeted, smiling kindly.

The girl rested her head against her father's leg, but peeked at Alex out of the corner of her eyes, smiling shyly.

"Hi," she whispered.

Evans sighed.

"She has an appointment with Dr. Jordan."

Krycek gave a slight nod of sympathy, his face a mask. To the men's surprise, Trixie stepped away from her father and climbed into Krycek's lap. Krycek smiled kindly, hiding his discomfort.

"May I have the Care Bears movies for Christmas, please?" she inquired, her voice low and shy.

"Trixie!" Evans gasped, lifting her off Krycek's lap, blushing slightly. "Sorry about that, Krycek."

"That's not his name," Trixie claimed.

"Trixie, hush," Evans scolded gently. "You're being rude."

"No, it's okay, Evans," Krycek interrupted, trying to sound amused. "I'm sure she's just excited about Christmas."

Evans smiled, nodding.

"We have to go now. Say good-bye to Mr. Krycek, Trixie."

"Good-bye, Santa."

"Good-bye, Trixie," Krycek answered, ruefully.

Spender watched with smug approval as Dr. Jordan took a blood sample from Trixie. Evans stood close, stroking her hair.

"Your daughter is doing quite well, Evans. This series of tests is almost over," Spender congratulated.

"Will any more tests...be necessary?" Evans dared, hoping his daughter would be spared.

Spender dragged on his cigarette, keeping his employee waiting.

"No. According to Dr. Jordan, she won't need to be in any further test groups."

Evans concealed a sigh of relief, nodding his acknowledgement.

"I'm done," Dr. Jordan announced.

"There you are. All right, Trixie?" Spender asked patronizingly.

"I met Santa today!" Trixie declared excitedly.

"I assume you mean at the mall," Spender answered, not hiding his boredom.

"No," Trixie insisted. "The real Santa! He was at the park!"

Evans gave a nervous laugh, somehow dreading that Spender would see his daughter as foolish...or frivolous.

"We saw Krycek at the park. With that white beard and the extra weight he does look a bit like a Santa."

"Alex Krycek is hardly the type to spread good cheer," Spender sneered. "I hope your daughter's judgement improves."

Evans bit back an angry retort, knowing it wouldn't be tolerated.

"Yes, sir," he grated.

"You shouldn't talk bad about Santa," Trixie whispered. "You'll get coal."

Spender gave the oily chuckle that passed for his laugh.

"Yes, I'm sure he'd do that and worse, given the opportunity."

Evans helped his daughter from the examination table, keeping hold of her hand.

"I need to get Trixie home."

"By all means," Spender agreed, coldly. "Return the child to her mother."

Evans left quickly, wanting to get his only child as far from Spender as possible.

"Well, that was weird," Jordan noted.

"Children are foolish. I can't think of a least likely Santa Claus than Alex Krycek."

"Maybe, but...something is going on with him."

"Oh?"

Jordan retrieved a file and handed Spender an x-ray.

"I took this during a recent exam."

"Alex allowed you to examine him? Why?" Spender asked, surprised.

"He was worried about the facial hair and weight gain," Jordan explained. "See how irregular the bone is at the end of his stump? Those are calcium deposits. They weren't there before and I can't imagine what would cause it. Plus, the bone itself is longer than before."

"Then experiments have been done on him," Spender concluded.

"No," Jordan insisted. "We never had orders and I for one am not suicidal."

"Are you afraid of Alex Krycek?" Spender asked, pleasantly.

"I think he's a very dangerous man," Jordan confirmed.

"Was anything else revealed in your exam?"

Jordan shrugged.

"Not really. The bloodwork all came back normal."

"Keep me informed," Spender ordered.

3/3

Alex pulled his gun, as his apartment door swung open on it's own. Flattening himself against the hallway wall, he peered in cautiously. Entering slowly, Alex studied the intruders. Bernard stood with his back to the door, addressing a tall, black woman. The beautiful lady was dressed in a long, mult-colored gown and appeared unarmed. She looked up as he shut the door.

"Ah, Mr. Krycek," she greeted, "hello."

"Who are you?" Alex demanded, annoyed.

"I'm Mother Nature, of course," she replied, glaring at Bernard. "I had assumed the elves would have mentioned us by now."

"Us who?" Alex asked, confused.

"The Council of Imaginary Beings."

"I'm part of some council?!" Krycek hissed, turning on Bernard.

"Don't get your nose out of joint," Bernard scoffed. "It's not a big deal, really. You're not even required to be present this year."

"It is a big deal," Mother Nature disagreed. "Santa Claus plays a major role in the realm of imagination...which is a very strong part of the human psyche!"

"So, if I'm not a good Santa, the land of Fantasia will disappear?" Krycek mocked, becoming angry.

Mother Nature looked disgusted.

"Is he going to take this seriously or not?" she asked Bernard.

The elf shrugged, "He's been keeping up with things so far."

Alex growled, stepping into Mother Nature's personal space.

"I can handle any responsibility you care to dish out!"

"Hey, pal, don't mess with Mother Nature," the woman warned.

"Look! Let's all calm down," Bernard urged, impatiently. "The last thing we need is two council members brawling."

"Okay, look," Mother Nature sighed. "I don't care about your past, Mr. Krycek. You think I don't know what you've been fighting, with that oilien gunk infesting half the world's oil deposits? But, you're a triple agent, you're single, and you don't have a great history with children. All of the previous Santas were priests, toymakers, or at the least fathers. Do you see the problem?"

Krycek winced, remembering the boy, Dmitri. He nodded angrily.

Bernard sighed, "Look, he's Santa. The process is almost done and he's finished the list!"

"And I and most of the Council are provisionally prepared to accept that..."

"What provisions?" Alex demanded, warily.

"The provision that you don't do anything to disgrace your new position, Mr. Krycek," Mother Nature retorted.

Krycek glared, but remained silent.

"Look, he's due at the North Pole in less than a month. Once he's there, Curtis will coach him on his role as Santa, okay? There's nothing to worry about."

"Let's hope not," Mother Nature prayed. "Well, I do wish you luck, Mr. Krycek."

"Thanks," Krycek acknowledged, cooly.

"If you don't have plans for Thanksgiving, you're welcome to feast with the rest of the Council. It'll give you a chance to meet the others."

Krycek nodded, sighing silently. Mother Nature nodded back, disappearing in a shower of sparkling light.

"Don't say that went well," Krycek ordered.

"It could have been worse," Bernard countered with black humor. Krycek scowled.

"Were you just here to do introductions or was there something else?"

"Just checking on you," Bernard offered, shrugging. "You're not exactly brimming with Christmas spirit," he observed.

Krycek grimaced.

"I'm about to run off and become a toymaker, leaving Spender unchecked within the Consortium, and Mulder without a source."

"I think saving the world from aliens and the conspiracy is Mulder's job. If he makes the nice list, you could always slip him information under his tree."

Krycek gave a short laugh.

"Yeah, he'd love that!"

Krycek stormed into Dr. Jordan's lab, his gun drawn.

"Jordan!! Get out here!" he roared.

Dr. Jordan entered the lab, staring in shock at the furious agent and finding a gun in his face.

"What is it, Mr. Krycek?"

"You lied to me, doctor," Krycek accused, his voice dropping to an enraged whisper, now that his target was in view. "I was experimented on!"

"N-no! That isn't true, Mr. Krycek!"

Krycek moved his left arm into view...flexing his very real fingers.

"Then how do you explain my new arm?" he challenged.

Dr. Jordan gulped, taking a huge breath.

"Please. Stay calm. I can't explain how you...got your arm back. I do know that we aren't responsible. No attempts have been made in that area!"

"So, this just appeared overnight? For no reason."

"Well, there were some indications...during the exam I gave you I discovered calcium deposits on the end of your stump...and the bone did appear somewhat longer..."

"You noticed something and you didn't tell me?!" Krycek growled.

"Well, you...you never came back for the results..."

"The Consortium has extensive files on me...I'm sure my phone number is in there somewhere!"

"Well...this is an interesting little scene," Spender's cool voice chuckled.

Krycek whirled.

"Stay out of this!" he growled.

Spender took a deep drag on his cigarette.

"Your arm is just the latest of many changes for you, Alex. Isn't it?"

"What do you want?" Krycek asked warily.

"To borrow a phrase," Spender smirked, "I'd like the truth. I want to know what happened to your arm as well. I believe you already have the answer."

"Fine," Krycek agreed sarcastically. "I accidentally killed the old Santa, so now I have to fill the position."

Spender took his time lighting a new cigarette, studying Alex through narrowed eyes.

"So, it's your intention to just give up on the Project? To retire?"

Krycek glared.

"Yeah. So?"

"You and I both know the aliens are going to be the new masters of this world. The ancient beliefs are dying. Your...position will no longer be valid. Unless, of course, you make it a tool for the Project."

"What possible use could you have for an elf that delivers toys once a year?" Dr. Jordan asked. "Let me have him as a test subject. His arm..."

"Had to grow back. Santa has two arms, of course," Spender interrupted. "And Alex's abilities are too valuable to be wasted in the lab."

"I couldn't spy for you if I wanted to, Spender," Krycek claimed firmly. "I only perceive the wishes of children!

"Really? Well, perhaps the stories do exaggerate a bit. Still, anyone who can deliver toys to all the children in one night and can tell who has been "naughty or nice" must wield some fairly strong powers. Powers that can and should be used to further our ends."

"I don't think so, Spender. I didn't ask for this job, but that doesn't mean I'm going to run it into the ground for you."

"You should reconsider, Alex. This is too great an opportunity for me to let you just walk away."

Krycek sneered.

"That's too bad, old man. I don't see that you have much choice."

"Really? The north pole is basically a wasteland. It'd be a shame if your new home became a site for nuclear testing."

Krycek glared.

"If you really believe the position of Santa holds power, don't you think you might be a bit more careful about making threats?"

Krycek frowned, turning on Dr. Jordan.

"Keep me informed of anything else that comes up. Understand me, doctor?" Krycek threatened.

Jordan paled, remembering his request to Spender and nodded, promptly.

Krycek smirked, turning and walking away, hiding the sick feeling roiling deep in his belly. He should have known! Spender was a sick bastard who twisted everything around him into something base and evil. And now he knew that Santa was real...and that there were powers out there stronger than most humans could understand. Krycek cursed, realizing how badly he wanted to protect his position, and the children, from the monster he once served willingly.

"Mr. Krycek," an almost familiar voice interrupted his musings.

Turning, he saw Mother Nature, standing to the side, looking disappointed.

"Mother Nature...what is it?"

"What is it? You just threatened an innocent man at gunpoint! The Council is very...disturbed by these recent turns of events."

Krycek glared.

"You've been spying on me."

"We've been monitoring you and your progress certainly!" Mother Nature confirmed sharply.

"Dr. Jordan is anything but innocent," Krycek defended. "I mean, you heard his comment about turning me into a lab specimen, right? I thought he'd been tampering with me!"

"When in fact, the restoration of your arm was a special gift, done for you as Santa. Right?"

Krycek looked down, nodding.

"Yeah, all right. Maybe, I should have thought of that. Still, it wouldn't be surprising to find they had experimented on me. And he betrayed me by telling Spender, but not me!"

Mother Nature sighed.

"And now, Spender is aware of the existence of the North Pole. Even if you acted innocently, you've brought danger to the elves and to the Council."

"I can protect my elves," Krycek snarled.

"I'm to bring you to the Council. Some decisions are going to have to be made."

Curtis looked around the lab, fascinated, but puzzled. The locator at the North Pole had told him that Santa was here, but no one was about. A deep stench of smoke suddenly appeared in the room. Turning, Curtis saw two men. One of them wore a long white smock. The other was smoking.

"Um, hi," Curtis offered, trying to hide his nervousness.

"And you are?" the Smoker inquired, his voice polite, but far from soothing.

"Um, I'm Curtis. I was looking for San...um, for Alex Krycek. I'm a friend of his," Curtis bluffed.

The Smoker smirked, inhaling deeply.

"He's not here. He should be very interested to find that you are here, however. You're going to be a guest of ours, Mr. Curtis."

Curtis gulped, suddenly very afraid.

Krycek stood in the Easter Bunny's living room. The decor was all done in pastel...for which the overgrown rabbit had half-apologized, explaining that his wife had done the decorating. It seemed to Krycek like a silly place to hold a meeting that was almost a trial, but then, the North Pole wouldn't have been much better. Krycek looked at the other members of the council, fuming.

"Look, it's not that we have anything against you, personally, Mr. Krycek, really," the Easter Bunny explained. "But, well, Santa and I hold unique positions...being emblems of religious holidays and all. We can't just go around shooting and threatening people. It sets a bad example, y'know?"

"Not to mention that you have some rather powerful enemies...enemies who could draw the wrong sort of attention to us," Father Time agreed.

"Aw, you guys aren't being fair," the Tooth Fairy objected. "You mean you wouldn't freak, if someone tried to use you as a lab animal, Easter? Huh? And as for his enemies, hey! Evil is always looking to attack good! How is this any different? Huh?"

"Tooth has a point," Cupid concurred. "Isn't God always fighting evil, Easter? And now you want to kick this guy out, 'cause he stood up to some of the bad guys? That don't seem right to me."

"It's trouble we don't need," Father Time objected.

"It's trouble you'll have anyway, if Spender and the aliens aren't stopped," Krycek snapped angrily.

Mother Nature sighed.

"We seem pretty evenly divided. Personally, I sympathize with Mr. Krycek. He didn't ask for any of this and he isn't an evil man. Yet, it is our job to protect and further the interests of his position...a position he might not be suited for."

Krycek started to respond, when Bernard burst into the room.

"Have you seen Curtis?" he demanded, then nodded at the Council. "Hey, there. Santa, Curtis is missing."

"Who's Curtis? What do you mean he's missing?" Krycek inquired, puzzled.

"Curtis!" Bernard repeated, impatiently. "The keeper of the Santa handbook! He came to see you this morning!"

Krycek shook his head.

"I wasn't home this morning."

Bernard frowned, "Yeah, but he should have shown up, wherever you were."

Krycek blinked.

"I was at the Consortium labs this morning."

Bernard paled.

"Oh, no! Those goons can not be allowed to examine Curtis!"

Krycek grimaced.

"Sorry, lynching me will have to wait. Come on, Bernard!"

"Now, wait," Mother Nature began.

Krycek whirled, eyes blazing.

"One of my elves is being held hostage and possibly tortured. I do not have time for your squabbling!" Krycek scolded.

"We'll help, if you want, Santa," Tooth Fairy offered, but Alex shook his head.

"No, thanks. I'll handle this," Krycek assured him.

"Our E.L.F. squad is ready. They're some of our toughest fighters!" Bernard informed him.

"I know you want to help, but no. This is my problem; my enemy. I'll get Curtis back."

"There has to be something I can do," Bernard protested quietly.

"Finish moving my stuff from my old apartment to home. I won't need to go back after today," Krycek told him grimly.

"No problem," Bernard assured him, glaring defiantly at the Council. "Where do you want me to send you? The labs?"

Krycek nodded, grimly.

Krycek burst into Jordan's office and found the doctor busy stuffing papers into a briefcase. Spying Krycek, the doctor grabbed for a gun laying openly on the desk. Krycek managed to grab the doctor before he could aim, wrenching the gun from him. Krycek then shoved the doctor into a chair, smirking coldly. He turned and closed the door, allowing them some privacy.

"We need to have a talk, Dr. Jordan."

"I...I can't! You know I can't."

Krycek shrugged.

"I know the price of betrayal," he admitted.

Jordan sighed, "What do you want from me?"

"Where is he taking my elf? You're obviously preparing to join him."

"I don't know! He...he said to be ready and he'd send some men for me, when he had a place for the creature!"

"Curtis!" Krycek snapped, furious. "My elf has a name! You really are a psychopath, aren't you?"

Jordan straightened, indignant.

"I am a doctor, who has devoted his entire life to a noble cause!"

Krycek sneered.

"Yeah. Right. So, when are you expecting these men?"

"Tonight," Jordan admitted.

Krycek grinned.

"Well, we'll just wait for these men."

Jordan shrugged, relaxing, confident that the men would be able to handle Krycek...especially if Jordan was able to warn them quickly enough.

"Jordan," Krycek warned. "Don't even think of betraying me. It wouldn't take much to convince me to kill you."

"You...you can't kill me!" Jordan argued.

Krycek blinked, surprised.

"I can't? Why not?"

"Because you're Santa Claus!" the doctor shouted, outraged.

Krycek laughed.

"Well, that's true. But, I was Alex Krycek first, for a long time. You might keep that in mind."

Dr. Jordan paled, realizing that Santa or no, this was still the fierce man he'd always heard about.

A knock on his door made Jordan flinch. Krycek nodded at him, eyes narrowed.

"Come in," Jordan called, trying to keep his voice steady, while tensing to dive beneath his desk, if there was gunfire.

Evans and another agent, Marlow, entered the room, finding themselves at gunpoint.

"Krycek?" Evans asked, puzzled. "What's going on?"

"I need to know where Spender is going, Evans," Krycek told him calmly.

"Why?" Evans inquired.

"It doesn't matter why," Marlow sneered. "Get out of the way, Krycek."

"Evans, I'm responsible for the person Spender has," Krycek cajoled. "I know you understand that. Please."

Marlow reached for his gun, but Krycek was faster, knocking him to the floor. Marlow glared.

"Don't tell him anything, Evans! Spender will kill us!"

"Don't worry, Marlow," Krycek assured him. "I'll make it easy on you."

Krycek brought the butt of the gun down hard on Marlow's temple, knocking him out. Evans sighed tiredly.

"He's taking him to the labs in Vermont," Evans offered. "I'm supposed to take the doctor to the trainyards."

Krycek nodded, gratefully, then frowned at Jordan.

"You have two choices. You can die right now or you can go with Evans and pretend you never saw me tonight."

"No," Jordan argued, reaching quickly for his ankle holster.

Evans pulled his gun and shot Jordan.

"Scum," Evans spat, thinking of his daughter.

Krycek nodded.

"Tell Spender you arrived late and found Jordan dead and Marlow unconcious."

"How long should I wait?" Evans asked.

"Give me twenty minutes. Evans...I'm not coming back. Mulder could use an informant."

"The Colonists..."

"Will lose. I gave the Rebels a copy of the Russian vaccine. We can fight the future," Krycek argued, gravely.

Evans considered this, then nodded, holding out his hand, which Krycek took. The men shook hands solemnly.

"Wherever you're going...good luck."

"You, too, Evans," Krycek responded.

Krycek parked a few blocks from the trainyard and stealthily made his way over the tracks. He spotted Spender outside one of the cars. Stepping out a couple of cars away, Krycek approached, gun drawn.

"Hello, Alex. I just received a call from Evans about you. Murder is an odd trait for Santa, don't you think?"

"It was self-defense. He shouldn't have gone for his gun."

"True enough. Well, what now?"

"Take me to Curtis."

"Certainly," Spender agreed, finishing his cigarette in one long drag.

Spender led Krycek into one of the cars. At the back, they came to a locked partition of safety glass. Curtis sat hunched behind it, tears streaking his cheeks. Iron chains bound him, hand and foot. Krycek glared murderously at Spender.

"You can't kill me, Alex, not without alerting the others. And I'm not likely to just hand over the key," Spender smirked. "I believe you'll find it is in yours and Curtis' best interests to cooperate."

"Spender, you're a twisted snake...and as always, you're only seeing part of the truth. I am Santa now! I serve someone higher than you can comprehend!" Krycek sneered.

Krycek raised his fist and light appeared in his hand. Opening his fist, Krycek revealed a keycard, identical to the one in Spender's pocket. Spender hid his brief surprise, lighting another cigarette. Krycek reached behind him, opening the cell.

"Come out, Curtis. It's okay."

Curtis approached warily, glaring at Spender. Krycek put his hand on Curtis' shoulder, giving it a brief squeeze. Keeping the gun on his enemy, Krycek edged Curtis to the door of the car. As they stepped out the door, slamming it shut, Spender spoke into a walkie, trying to alert the other agents present.

Krycek and Curtis ran for Krycek's car as they heard footsteps heading for them. Before anyone could reach them, Bernard appeared in Santa's sleigh.

"Get in!" the head elf urged.

Krycek hoisted Curtis up, leaping up into the sleigh after him.

"Stay low!" Krycek ordered, hearing gunshots, as Bernard guided the reindeer into the sky. A portal to the North Pole appeared and Bernard headed for it. Krycek sighed with relief. Climbing up, he joined Bernard in front.

"Thanks, Bernard. How did you find us?"

"Well...the Council sorta wanted to see what was happening. There's a magic mirror at the North Pole...we used it to watch you."

"A magic...? Why didn't you tell me? I could have used it to find Curtis!"

Bernard shook his head.

"It can only find you...it isn't attuned to other elves."

Krycek sighed.

"This magic crap is too complicated...so the Council is at the Pole?"

Bernard nodded, grimly.

"They're waiting for us."

"Great," Krycek muttered.

The other Council members stood as Krycek entered the room. Bernard had left them in the chapel.

"Mr. Krycek," Mother Nature greeted solemnly.

"That's Santa," Bernard snapped.

"Really? After what we witnessed...you think he's qualified?" Father Time asked.

"What exactly do you think you witnessed?" Krycek asked.

"You assaulted one man and aided in the murder of another!" Mother Nature complained.

"Evans killed Jordan in self-defense!"

"It didn't seem to bother him, much," The Easter Bunny sniffed.

"No," Krycek agreed. "Jordan was running tests on Evan's child. The doctor was far from innocent."

"So are you!" Mother Nature retorted. "At the first sign of trouble, you resort to threats, violence, and subterfuge!"

"You think I should have abandoned Curtis?" Krycek asked coldly.

"There were other options..." Father Time began.

"That Curtis didn't have time for us to dither about!" Tooth Fairy scoffed.

"Yeah, besides, it's not like Santa killed Jordan. He left that Marlow jerk alive! You're being unfair!" Cupid agreed.

"They're being asinine!" a voice boomed from the doorway.

Everyone turned in surprise. A tall man, with a full beard of black streaked with white, towered in the doorway, glaring at the Council. He was wearing long, red robes, tied at the waist with a gold belt. Wintry blue eyes blazed above round cheeks and a generally humorous mouth.

"Do you know who I am?" he asked Krycek.

"St. Nicholas," the Russian-American responded promptly.

"Good lad," St. Nicholas praised, then thundered, "When was this Council given the final say on MY successors?!"

"These are special circumstances, St. Nick," Mother Nature protested. "The world has changed..."

"The world hasn't changed," St. Nicholas scoffed. "People haven't changed. Everything has simply gotten bigger, louder, and faster! Well, spit it out then! What, exactly, have you got against the young man, eh?"

"P-people are dead because of him!" Father Time protested.

St. Nicholas looked incredulous.

"You see everyone dead sooner or later yourself, Old Man Time! And you!" he scolded, turning on Mother Nature, "How many people have died this year alone of drought, earthquake, flood, fire!! Should I go on?"

"No, you've made your point," Mother Nature conceded, exasperatedly.

"I have? Good! Then I'll expect everyone to mind their own business. By our LORD, you're legendary figures, representing some of the most powerful forces on Earth! Quit acting like a bunch of witless bureacrats and crotchety old women!"

"But...he doesn't know how to be Santa!" Easter Bunny protested.

"What of it?" St. Nicholas roared. "He'll learn, won't he? Nothing says he has to be ready-made for the part! Life is about learning! And redemption! Any other comments?" he asked sardonically.

Sandman started to speak, but St. Nicholas interrupted with a rude, "Oh, blow it out your ear!"

"Very well," Mother Nature concluded. "You've made the choice. Mr. Krycek, once again, I wish you luck," she offered kindly, blinking away, with Father Time and the Easter Bunny following her.

"Don't take it personally, man," Tooth Fairy advised. "This'll all have blown over by Spring!"

"Later, pal," Cupid agreed, smiling.

St. Nicholas watched the Council leave with mixed feelings.

"They didn't use to be so namby-pamby," he complained.

"Um, thank you," Krycek offered. "I..."

"Feel clueless? Not sure of what you've gotten into?"

Krycek nodded.

"Eh, don't worry. We all felt that way at first! Curtis will help you. Well...don't let him make things too serious! Anything else?"

"No, no thank you," Krycek responded, smiling.

"Good lad!" St. Nicholas boomed, fading out.

Krycek gave a tired sigh of relief and Bernard touched his shoulder.

"You've had a hard day. Get some rest and we'll start showing you the ropes in the morning," he offered.

"Yeah," Curtis agreed. "Um, thanks, Santa."

"You're welcome."

Mulder and Scully sat cuddling in front of their fireplace. William was sleeping soundly upstairs; the stockings on the fireplace and the area beneath the tree were stuffed with presents. Mulder and Scully were taking advantage of the rare quiet to quietly make out, touching and kissing.

The happy parents both jumped in surprise, when their fireplace grew suddenly tall and deep and the figure of a man landed in front of the burning wood with a thud.

"Alex?" Mulder asked, exasperated. "You're a bit early!"

"Yeah, sorry for the interruption," Alex apologized, his green eyes glowing with good humor, making him seem very young, despite his white hair.

"Oh my God, Mulder!" Scully breathed. "I thought you were joking!"

"Nope," Mulder chuckled, wryly.

Krycek smiled, shooting Mulder a dry look. Opening his sack, he placed more presents under the tree and in William's stocking.

"Aw, don't we get anything?" Mulder whined, grinning boyishly.

Krycek smiled gently.

"You do, actually. My gift to you, Mulder, is a reminder. When you underwent the blessing way ceremony in Arizona, you saw your father. He told you that your sister wasn't with him. He was telling the truth. Your sister is alive."

Mulder hesitated, afraid to believe.

"The walk-in..."

"Was a human clone. Before experimenting with clones combining human and alien DNA, they made several that were purely human...so they could do various tests. The clone you saw died of those tests, but the sister you knew is still alive."

"Do you know where?" Mulder asked, his voice rough.

"No," Krycek responded sadly. "I can't see that much. But, I don't think I would be allowed to tell you this, if you weren't going to see her again, someday."

Mulder nodded, taking a slow breath. Scully hugged him, looking doubtfully at Krycek.

"Scully," Krycek said, softly. "Come here."

Scully looked at Mulder, who nodded, shrugging. She walked a bit closer to Krycek, staring at him challengingly. Krycek grinned, impressed as always with her bravery.

"My gift to you is freedom," he informed her.

Turning her back to Mulder, he placed a hand on the back of her neck. A soft glow formed around his hand.

"What?" she asked, feeling energized.

"The cancer and the chip placed in your neck are both gone. The Consortium's tie to you is broken. You're free," Alex said simply.

Tears welled in Scully's eyes, as she returned to Mulder's embrace.

"Thanks, Alex," Mulder whispered, genuinely moved by his former enemy's generosity.

Krycek shrugged, a bit embarrassed. Mulder grinned.

"Actually, I have something for you too. I figured you might like it better than milk and cookies."

Reaching under the tree, Mulder grabbed a bottle of expensive vodka, wrapped in green and red ribbon. He handed it to Krycek, who grinned. Krycek remembered the couple of times he had ordered it, when he and Mulder were partners.

"Thanks, Mulder," Krycek said, as a pounding sounded on the roof. "I have to go now."

"Merry Christmas, Alex."

"Merry Christmas!"

The End.


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