By Laura
Pairings: Skinner/Krycek
Rating: Adult
Warnings: mm sexual situations. Read notes for more comments.

Summary: Horses are being killed. Mulder, Scully, Skinner and Krycek investigate.

Archive: Let me know first.

Disclaimers: All of the characters are the properties of Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, Fox Broadcasting Company and their respective authors. No copyright infringement is intended nor implied. It is solely meant for entertainment purposes only.

Notes: Adapted from the Millennium Episode "Broken World". A lot of the facts and some dialogue are direct from the video and a copy of the script. Contains possible disturbing images, animal cruelty and extreme violence.

Notes Part Deux: Thanks to Ursula for the beta and her encouragement to write this. And to Bertina who always helps me fix my mistakes.

"Man is the cruelest animal." Nietzsche

Walter Skinner stirred the contents of his mug while watching the rain pour down outside his kitchen window. Even with the dark sky, the view was spectacular. Skinner loved the historic little town he had chosen to retire to. Manassas was far enough from DC to feel removed from the tension of the big city, yet close enough that he didn't feel like he had moved to the boon docks. The city was rich in heritage and friendly. Skinner had found a sense of peace he had never felt living in Crystal City.

It had rained for the last three days bringing with it a little melancholy and wishful thinking about his work with the Bureau. The quiet life suited him; he knew his neighbors on a first name basis and the local merchants already called him Walter. The only time he was referred to as 'Sir' was out of respect before he was properly introduced. His hot toddy was a welcome change from the coffee he used to consume all day. Now he only drank the dark beverage in the mornings with breakfast. His house wasn't cold, but something about the rain seemed to warrant a nice hot comfort drink. The honey was fresh; Walter bought it from Zach Taylor, a farmer a few miles down the road who raised bees along with various small crops.

His keen sense of hearing alerted him to someone on his front porch. Skinner was expecting no one, especially on a day like this. Retirement had come with a heavy price. He was no longer suffering from a chronic ulcer, but he was bored. He never expected to miss the suffocating world the FBI had become. When he left, he was glad to make an escape with his life somewhat intact.

But old habits die-hard. He quietly made his way into the foyer and pulled his gun from the top shelf of the coat closet. His well-oiled latch on the door stayed silent as he clicked the lock and took hold of the handle to swing the door open. His unexpected guest was as surprised as he was, but the surprise quickly turned to anger as a gun barrel was shoved in his face.

Skinner took a hesitant step back and the gun followed. Into the light stepped a ghost from his darkest nightmares. Krycek. Skinner knew he was seeing a ghost because he was the one who shot this man to death. No one could have survived the three bullets, especially not one right between the eyes. But here Krycek stood, looking like he had just arrived from hell.

The nightmares haunted Skinner from the incident in the garage. Incident, Skinner snorted. A nice euphemism for what he had been forced to do. In the nightmares, it wasn't the hardened criminal, consortium thug that he shot, but the fresh faced new agent that had stepped into his office so many years ago, it seemed more like a lifetime.

During the years, he had locked that image away in the back of his mind and replaced it with the image of what Krycek had become. The newer images never made an appearance in Skinner's nightmares. Not the leather jacket wearing Consortium thug that had beaten him in the stairwell. Not the dirty militant he had handcuffed to the balcony of his condo and not the smirking face of the one-armed man controlling the palm pilot. Those images had shattered with the first bullet he had fired, to be replaced by the image he had locked away hoping never to see again.

"What do you want, Krycek?" Frustrated more than angry at Krycek's sudden reappearance. He wondered for a fraction of a second if he had fallen asleep and this wraith standing before him was a new incarnation of his nightmares. The wind and rain blowing through the open door helped anchor the situation in reality. Skinner's peaceful world was crashing down around him as loud as the thunder outside.

" did this to me. It's your fault," Krycek raged. His normally husky voice sounded high and frantic. Skinner could see the anguish in the bloodshot green eyes despite the threatening words.

"You got what you deserved, you bastard," Skinned growled back. He hadn't lowered his gun. He wasn't afraid. At one time Krycek had held his life in his hands, but after Krycek's *death* the Lone Gunmen had found a way to eliminate the nanocytes in his blood stream. Shortly afterwards Skinner decided enough was enough and he had turned in his retirement papers and moved to Manassas leaving the politics and intrigue behind.

"No one deserves this," Krycek sobbed out just before his gun wavered and he dropped to his knees and clutched his head.



Sally Dumont laughed as the she headed back to the stables. The rain was not unexpected and felt good after the long ride. Jacine seemed to thrive on running through the open field in the rain and Sally would never think to deny her favorite mare of the pleasure. They arrived at the stables just as the sun started to dip below the horizon. The rain was starting to come down harder and thunder sounded in the distance. Sally was glad they had made it back before the rain became a full-blown storm. As she passed the corral, she shook her head; two of this year's foals were bucking and prancing in the rain instead of taking shelter in the stables. She decided to deal with them after she got Jacine settled in her stall.

She dismounted Jacine and started to lead her into the stable when the big white mare snorted and pulled back on the reins. Normally the gentlest of the horses, Jacine seemed nervous and more afraid to enter the barn than stay out in the oncoming thunderstorm.

"Shh, shh, girl. It's all right. Silly girl, jumping at shadows. Come on, let's get in before we really get soaked."

Sally's soothing tone only calmed Jacine a little, but she followed obediently as Sally lead her to her stall past the other horses, who seemed just as spooked. After entering Jacine's stall, Sally removed the bridle and saddle, placing it on the door stall before turning back and stroking Jacine's long neck.

"That's my girl. Good girl," Sally cooed softly, but Jacine was still edgy, shuffling around and snorting. "Hey, it's okay. Shh now."

Jacine backed to the furthest point in the stall at the same time Sally heard the sound behind her. She continued to try and calm the horse, thinking it was her husband Peter. When he said nothing, Sally called out his name. Patting Jacine's neck and continuing her litany of 'it's okay', Sally backed out of the stall.

"Peter?" she called out again as she closed the stall door, hanging the bridle on the hook outside. All the horses started making noise; their grunting and neighing getting louder. Sally walked over to the only stall that had remained quiet. She opened the door and found one of her horses lying on the ground, grunting and panting heavily. The straw was covered in blood around where the horse's head lay.

Sally rushed in, kneeling beside the fallen animal. "Sunny...Oh, my God! What happened?" Sally brushed her hand down Sunny's head to her neck, finding the large gash at her jugular. Out of the corner of her eye, Sally could see she was not alone. A pair of boots was all she could see in the adjoining stall, but she didn't recognize them. With a calm she didn't really feel, Sally rose to her feet and backed out of the stall.

Nervous but in control, Sally walked to the end of the barn where they had installed a phone. Sally punched in the extension to the main house and mentally chanted for Peter to answer. Sally didn't hear the man behind her as she prayed for Peter to answer, only barely catching a glimpse when she turned around and something hit her, knocking her out cold.

The man pocketed the stun gun and stood for a moment over the prone body of the woman that interrupted his fantasy. He looked between the knife in his hand and her body. This was different, so very different from the horse. More exciting. More of what he really wanted, but until now never realized he could have.


"Not again," Krycek moaned out as he rocked back and forth. His face was drained of all color and was contorted with pain. He stared off into the distance with wild eyes. Skinner could do nothing but watch as Krycek became lost in whatever he was seeing.

Blurry images flashed through his mind: a bright white light, a woman's face then the image of a horse. He could hear a mixture of horse screeches and human screams. He could feel the fear coming from both. He could feel the knife cutting the flesh and then the stun. Blackness. And then excitement and satisfaction.

Skinner caught Krycek as he collapsed, his eyes rolling backwards until only the whites remained. The once sturdy body seemed frail in his arms as Skinner gently lowered Krycek the rest of the way to the floor. He unwound the trembling fingers from the gun and sent it sliding across the wooden floor out of reach, not taking the chance of the man waking up and starting the threats again. No matter how harmless Krycek appeared, Skinner wasn't about to let his guard down around the man. Sitting back on his heels, Skinner took a moment to examine Krycek.

Krycek had both arms, the first clue something was definitely wrong, but Skinner could see a small trickle of red blood in the corner of the corner of the full lips putting to rest thoughts of Krycek being a replicant or shapeshifter. Reaching carefully around Krycek's neck, Skinner searched for the ridges that would tell him if the unconscious man was a supersoldier. He knew it was unlikely considering the man's condition, but he wasn't going to take the risk.

A small moan escaped the slack mouth, but Krycek didn't wake up. Skinner brushed the longish bangs from Krycek's forehead. The hair was wet and left a damp trail as Skinner moved the stray strands from Krycek's face. Even unconscious, Krycek seemed restless and agitated. The lines around his eyes didn't seem to be from age, although the man had to be pushing forty now. The dark hair was a rich brown except for the graying at the temples. Looking closer, Skinner noted that the gray was in actuality white, instead of the normal salt and pepper. He was still beautiful.

Skinner stood up and looked down at the limp body. Krycek started shivering and despite the cool air from the still open door, Skinner could see sweat beading up on his brow. He reached down and moved the booted feet from the doorway and shut the door. The house seemed unnaturally quiet with the noise from the storm raging outside muffled by the strong walls of the old farmhouse.

Despite what he knew it would do to his back, Skinner knelt back down and scooped Krycek up and carried him to his sofa. He made quick work in removing the boots and sodden clothing. Krycek remained unconscious, barely moaning occasionally as Skinner shifted him around to gain better access. Once he had Krycek down to his boxers, Skinner grabbed a few towels from the downstairs bathroom and went to work drying him off before covering the body with the afghan from the back of the sofa. He tossed another log in the fireplace to help bring the temperature of the room up from comfortably warm to toasty.

He walked calmly over to the bar and poured a highball glass of scotch. Downing it in one gulp, Skinner set the empty glass aside and picked up the phone. He hated to disturb Scully this late, but short of taking Krycek to the hospital, there was no one else to call. He only hoped she would be willing to lend a hand, considering it was Krycek they were dealing with.

"Scully," she answered after the first ring. Her voice brought back a wave of pleasant memories.

"Dana, it's Walter Skinner."

"Good evening, sir." There was a ring of puzzlement to her voice. Skinner realized suddenly he had stayed completely out of touch with his favorite duo since retirement.

"Dana, I'm no longer your superior. Do you think you could call me Walter?"

"Sir...Walter. What's wrong? Are you hurt?" It bothered Skinner even more to think Scully thought he would only call if there were trouble. Sad fact was she was entirely right. He made a mental note to remedy that from now on.

"Dana, I need you to come to my house. Do you remember how to get here? And bring your bag." He paused a moment and remembered he wasn't her boss and added, "Please."

"I'll be there in about forty-five minutes, unless you want me to wait for Mulder. He's checking out leads to a possible case we might need to investigate..."

"No, I need you as soon as possible. But Dana, about who it is. You may not want to come."

"Who is it?" she asked.

"Krycek." Skinner could hear a small intake of breath on the line. He waited for her refusal and was pleasantly surprised and relieved when she spoke again.

"I'll be there a quick as I can. Walter? I thought he was dead."

"So did I, Dana," Skinner felt as weary as his voice sounded. "So did I."


Mulder was vaguely aware of the gentle rain falling across the lush green countryside. If not for the windshield wipers, he wouldn't have noticed at all. The possible x-file he was headed for kept his mind occupied. There was no real evidence that anything supernatural or alien oriented was going on, but the mysterious mutilations of several horses added up to more than a stray predator coming down from the hills.

He followed the road leading out to Little Hollow Farms. He already missed Scully, but needed the time to do a little more research before he involved her and presented Kersh with the necessary 302's. The siren wailing and the flashing lights from the police cruiser behind him jolted Mulder from his musings. Mulder slowed down to see if the cop just needed to pass him and then pulled over to the side and stopped.

Mulder waited a few seconds for the officer to exit his cruiser before getting out. The rain was soft and cool against his skin, gentle enough not to truly need an umbrella unless he was worried about his hair. Another reason to miss Scully. She seemed always prepared for eventualities like rain.

"Good afternoon," Mulder squinted to read the badge as the officer approached his rental. "Sheriff."

"Agent Mulder? I'm Sheriff Faulkner,” the man said as he offered his hand.

"Oh, it's good to finally meet you." Mulder decided for once to try and stay on the good side of the locals. He shook the Sheriff's hand and smiled.

"Sorry to flag you down on the road like this. Did you not get my fax this morning?"

"I read your fax, Sheriff. I felt I should come anyway."

"Oh, Agent Mulder, this really doesn't warrant this kind of concern from the FBI. The woman is fine."

"I think the woman that was assaulted, Mrs. Dumont, I think she's lucky to be alive."

"Like I told you, she startled some freak. He knocked her down. He ran away. Now, granted, there have been a few other horse attacks in the area... "



"Five in this county, counting this one. Sixteen in the surrounding counties in the last two and a half years. I'd like to have a look at the crime scene."

"Agent Mulder, he killed an animal."

"This time. My work normally is with the paranormal, but I used to work in the Violent Crimes unit. This type of crime begins with bodies...multiples of dead bodies. This may not have anything to do with the paranormal but I came here because if it doesn't, I think we have a chance to stop this killing before it starts. You're witnessing the birth of a psychosexual killer."


Mulder and Faulkner met Peter Dumont outside the corral. Dumont was older. Much older than the report Mulder received about Sally Dumont. His face was tanned and lined with age and from hard work. The ranch was obviously a working one, and the Dumonts appeared to have money but were not wealthy. Mulder mentally discounted robbery for the attack. Stealing horses would not bring the perp much money and could easily be traced due to tattoos and microchips. And if it was money he had wanted, the house was a better target. Kidnapping also seemed unlikely, since the attacker had a small window of opportunity to make his escape with Mrs. Dumont before her husband had time to make it to the barn. Mulder was sure this was connected to the other horse killings.

The rain had slowed to a small drizzle and none of the men bothered with an umbrella. The men shook hands and sized each other up. They followed Dumont into the barn after the sheriff introduced Mulder.

"As soon as I got the call, I came running down," Dumont explained. "This is where I found Sally." He pointed to the area near the door, to a small table with a telephone on it sitting next to an enclave half-covered in hay. "She had a big bruise on her forehead where the man had hit her. I thought she was dead. It scared the hell out of me until she blinked her eyes."

"When I shut the door, I found this," Dumont continued and pointed to the back of the barn door. The word 'HELP' was scrawled on the door in blood. "She doesn't remember writing that."

"Because she didn't write it. What does she remember?" Mulder asked.

"She remembers seeing this bastard's boots in the next stall." Dumont answered pointed to the open stall next to the enclave.

"What kind of boots?" Mulder knelt down and picked up some of the scattered hay. He sniffed and put it back.

"Gum boots." Dumont wasn't sure where Mulder was headed. He had already explained all this to the sheriff.

Mulder turned to Faulkner and asked, "Did you check for blood?"

"It's being done now." Mulder nodded. Even if the sheriff was unwilling to believe something more was going on, at least he was following proper procedure.

"What else did your wife tell you, Mr. Dumont?"

"Uh... she, uh... she led her horse in. She put it in the stall. She unsaddled it and then she heard something. And this is where she found Sunny." Dumont pointed to another stall further down. "The horse wasn't dead yet."

Mulder walked over and looked in the stall. The horse's body had been removed along with most of the blood covered hay.

"This is where she saw him." Dumont moved up beside Mulder and directed him into the adjoining stall. Mulder looked around. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at first glance.

"Sheriff? Have you taken samples from here?"

"We're waiting for results," Faulkner replied.

"What kind of samples?" Dumont asked. He had spent the day with his wife at the hospital while the sheriff had done the investigation.

"Blood. Semen." Mulder was getting the old feeling back. The one he had when he worked in the Violent Crimes unit. This wasn't going where he had initially thought. The horse mutilations didn't have anything to do with aliens or the paranormal, but it was definitely something that was nagging at him to investigate.

"What the hell does that mean? What are you saying?" Dumont yelled.

"He killed the horse. It aroused him." Mulder tried to soften the blow, but he needed Dumont and Faulkner to understand what they were up against.

"Oh, my God!" Dumont looked like he was about to throw up.

"Now, take it easy, Pete. We don't know if that's true," Faulkner tried reassuring his old friend.

Mulder moved inside the stall, trying to get a feel for what the killer must have experienced. His time at the VCU had almost driven him to a breakdown and he was a little surprised at how quickly his mind switched into profiling. He had hoped he would never have to climb inside the mind of an insane killer again. The Consortium might be made up of evil old men trying to eliminate the human race, but he never considered them to be psychotic killers.

"The killer stood in here. He watched Sally attend to her horse. She saw him. You have a very brave wife, Mr. Dumont. She didn't panic," Mulder said to the two men staring at him like he was the one who was insane.

"She made herself walk from here to the phone." He pointed down to where the phone was. Dumont and Faulkner followed his motions like they had not already known.

"So, she's on the phone. He- he's standing there. He knows she's alone, helpless. He knocks her down and runs away. Eh, I mean, if this is the guy you think he is -- why didn't he do more?" Faulkner interjected.

"Maybe he was scared." Mulder paused letting his mind focus on the details. What was different? What would the man do as his fantasy became reality. Mulder turned back to Dumont, "Was anything missing? Stolen?"

Dumont thought for a moment and said, "There's a bridle missing. It was Jacine's. Sally's horse."

"Sheriff, when will the lab results be back?"

"Tomorrow afternoon."

"I'm going back to DC and get my partner. We will meet you at the office around one, if that's okay?"

"Sure thing, Agent Mulder."

"Now, you listen to me, mister!" A light finally going off in Dumont's head. "People may get up for that kind of thing in New York or San Francisco or wherever you come from, but not around here! Now, I don't care who the hell you are -- F.B.I. or whatever -- I'm telling you right now, I'm not going to let you talk to my wife!" Dumont turned and stormed out of the barn, leaving Mulder and Faulkner alone.

Mulder watched as Dumont headed towards the big house. He could see movement in one of the second story windows.

"We don't need to talk to her," Mulder said. Faulkner nodded his head in agreement but Mulder was already leaving the barn.

Thunder clapped overhead as Mulder headed towards his car. Another storm was building and the sky was getting darker despite it being only late afternoon. Nearby, he spotted another woman leading a horse into a trailer. As she tied the horse and began to stroke its mane, Mulder walked up to speak to her. The horse startled when Mulder went to introduce himself.

"Excuse me. Oh..." Mulder stumbled backwards as the horse stomped in agitation.

"Can I help you?" the woman asked, not bothering to turn around.

"I didn't mean to startle him. Agent Mulder," Mulder stated and offered his hand and a disarming smile. The woman barely turned her head to acknowledge him.

"I'm Claudia Vaughn. I, uh, I saw you before with the sheriff."

"You're the veterinarian? I'd like to ask you a few questions...about horses."

"Well, it's a pity you can't talk to the horses themselves, huh?"

"Well, maybe you can tell me...about the other attacks."

"You know about them?"

"Mm-hmm." Mulder nodded. This woman was a hard sell. His usual charm didn't seem to be working on her.

"Well, it's not barbed wire or some damn coyote like everybody around here wants to think."

"I know. He always attacks mares."

"No, not just attacks. It's at least a dozen horses that have been killed, that I know of."

"He kills here... " Mulder reached over and cupped the jugular vein of the horse and ran his hand along it in demonstration. " the jugular?"

"Yes. Do you want to catch him, Agent Mulder?" She was surprised. The agent actually seemed to be interested.

"I hope so."

"But if Sally Dumont hadn't been attacked, you wouldn't be here right now, would you?" Mulder hesitated before answering, wanting to explain the twenty one horse mutilations was why he was investigating at all but she didn't give him the chance. She stormed off leaving Mulder in the trailer with the horse. The horse looked at Mulder. Mulder could almost see the same anger and resentment in the large brown eyes. He reached out to caress the long face, but the horse backed away.

Mulder headed back to his car and climbed in pulling his cell phone out. He dialed Scully as soon as he was on the road. It would be dark by the time he got back to DC, but there was no use spending the night. He and Scully could return in the morning after they got Kersh to sign off on the 302's. It might not have turned out to be an x-file- he had thought it was, but Mulder knew he couldn't turn his back on this and let a new serial killer be born.


Scully answered Mulder's call by the third ring. He could tell from the roar in the background she was in her car.

"Scully, it's me."

"Mulder, where are you?"

"On my way back to DC. The case isn't an x-file, but I think we should investigate. I'm coming back to get you so we can head back to Williston in the morning. The horse mutilations have nothing to do with aliens or the paranormal, but they need investigating. I need your skills. We have the birth of a new psychosexual killer to stop. And you'd be proud of me, Scully. The local law enforcement doesn't hate me yet." Mulder smiled even though he knew Scully couldn't see.

"Mulder, I'm on my way to Skinner's in Manassas," Scully answered instead of commenting on what Mulder had said.

"What's going on?"

"Skinner called me. It seems Alex Krycek has dropped by for a visit."

"What! The bastard's dead. I watched Skinner kill him. Is Skinner sure it's really Krycek?" Mulder suddenly had a sinking feeling in his gut. It didn't matter what he remembered, what he wanted to believe, he knew this was the real Krycek. He turned his car around and headed back to the exit for Manassas. His car fishtailed in protest to his reckless u-turn on the rain swept highway.

"Mulder, Skinner says his blood is red and no signs that Krycek is a supersoldier. I'm glad you're headed back. Can you meet me at Skinner's?" Scully asked.

"I've already taken the exit. How soon will you be there?"

Scully looked at her watch. "About another fifteen minutes."

"Wait for me, Scully. You know how dangerous Krycek is. Are you sure this isn't a trap?"

"It's not a trap." Scully was warmed by Mulder's concern, but she still bristled a little that after all these years, he didn't accept the fact she could take care of herself. "Skinner says he is unconscious and disarmed."

"Please wait for me. I'm only about five minutes behind you."

"Okay, Mulder."


Scully pulled her car off to the shoulder outside of Skinner's property, right before the pull-in for the driveway. She left her car idling and watched in the rear-view mirror for Mulder's lights. It wasn't long before Mulder pulled behind her and blinked his lights. Scully put her car in gear and they both turned and headed up the driveway to Skinner's house. She killed her lights as soon as the house came into view. She reached in her purse and pulled out her Glock. Mulder was tapping on her window before she had time to turn off the ignition.

She nodded and grabbed her bag. The porch light was on and they could see movement behind the curtains, silhouetted by the interior lights. Cautiously they advanced on the door; Mulder stepped to the side and knocked while Scully announced who it was.

Skinner answered the door promptly, scowling when he saw Mulder. "Agent Mulder, I didn't expect you. Put the gun away, you won't need it," he said and motioned the two agents inside.

Mulder ignored Skinner and pushed his way inside. He glanced around the room and spotted the figure on the sofa. Cautiously moving over, he pointed the gun at the body. "Get up, Krycek."

"That won't do any good, Mulder," Skinner said tiredly. "The man's unconscious and running a fever. I don't think we're in any danger at the moment."

"What's wrong with him, Walter?" Scully asked as she put her weapon away and took off her coat. Skinner helped her and then hung the coat in the closet.

"He's not in top shape that's for sure. Fever, sweats. I don't know anymore. That's why I called you, Dana."

Scully pushed Mulder aside and knelt down by Krycek. She was a little surprised to find Skinner had stripped him down to his boxers. She raised a questioning eyebrow at Skinner. Skinner responded with a look she remembered well from his days at the Bureau. After a preliminary examination of Krycek's vitals, she announced her limited findings.

"He's running a slight fever and seems underweight. I can't find out anything more without a blood test. What do you want to do with him, Walter?" she asked.

"We should arrest him and take him back to question him," Mulder said before Skinner could answer Scully's question.

"We'll do nothing of the kind, Agent Mulder." Skinner glared at Mulder. "He's a dead man. There's nothing to charge him with."

"He has answers..." Mulder started to say.

"To what, Mulder." Skinner was growing tired. He pinched the bridge of his nose. Was it just hours ago he had been missing the Bureau? "The only answer I want from him is why he showed up here. Alive and threatening me. Saying I did this to him."

"Did what?" Scully asked while packing her medical equipment away. She withdrew a needle and prepped Krycek's arm to take a blood sample.

"I don't know. He passed out before he could explain."

Scully finished taking her blood sample and labeled and put it away. Withdrawing another needle and vial. "I'm going to give him a sedative and an antibiotic. He's not resting well. I'll take the blood sample back and push the lab for results. Do you have somewhere you can put him? No offense, Walter, but the couch can't be very comfortable."

"As a matter of fact, the couch is quite comfortable but when you're finished, I'll take him up to the guest room."

"Sir, it's not safe. At least handcuff him to the bed," Mulder whined. He was a little irritated at Skinner and Scully's nonchalant attitude towards Krycek. Sure the man was unconscious but for how long? An awake-Krycek was dangerous and the two of them seemed to have forgotten that.

"I'm not afraid of him. Something was seriously wrong with him. He seemed more afraid than threatening," Skinner stated. He bent down to make sure the afghan was securely around Krycek before gently picking him up. Krycek's head rolled over and rested against Skinner's shoulder. He turned back to Mulder and Scully. "I'm taking him upstairs now. There's coffee on in the kitchen. Have a seat and I'll be right back down."

Mulder started over to stop Skinner, but Scully placed her hand on his arm, stopping him in mid-stride. He looked down at her and she shook her head, and then nodded towards the kitchen. Mulder didn't follow immediately. He watched Skinner ascend the stairs and disappear around the corner before he made his way to the kitchen.

Scully had already poured two cups of coffee, leaving an empty one beside the pot and was sitting waiting for him. Mulder flopped down in a chair. Looking over at his partner, he asked what was going on.

"We should wait for Walter," she said.

"When did it become 'Walter'," Mulder replied with an amused smirk. Scully smiled back over the rim of her cup.

"He's not our superior anymore. Walter is now free to act as a friend. It was as a friend that he asked me for help. I think we should give him a chance to explain."

Skinner looked down at Krycek's restless form. The normally boyish face continued to distort and grimace in agony. His eyes were darting back and forth beneath the lids and Skinner watched as a small tear was squeezed out and hung momentarily on the thick lashes before making its way down the unshaven cheek. He reached over and wiped the wetness away before tucking the covers securely underneath Krycek's chin then went back downstairs.

He found Mulder and Scully sipping coffee in the kitchen. Mulder seemed to have calmed down and was ready to talk reasonably. Skinner poured himself a cup of coffee and reached into the cabinet and took out a small aged bottle of brandy. He splashed a little in his cup before offering the same to Scully and Mulder. Both declined so he set it down on the counter in case he wanted or needed more later.

Mulder broke the silence. Skinner knew it wouldn't last, he was slightly surprised Mulder had at least waited for him to be seated.

"What's going on, Walter?" Mulder asked, daring Skinner to say something about the use of his first name but also in effort to show his support as a friend. Skinner accepted the support and started to offer up what he knew.

"Mulder, what happened in Williston?" Scully asked Mulder, interrupting before Skinner could say anything. She looked at her watch. It was late and Mulder had mentioned something about going back there in the morning. Morning wasn't far away. She sighed. Life was never dull with Mulder as her partner. Mulder explained what he had found out earlier and what he thought was going on.

They heard a movement and turned to look. Krycek stood at the bottom of the stairs. He still had no color in his face and his eyes looked haunted. He put his hand over his eyes and started talking in a low quiet voice as he saw the images in his head. "He took the bridle."

Bridles, bits and harness inter cut with bright flashes of light. A blurred image of a horse's eyes up close and then a women's eye. He can hear the neighs and grunts of surrounding horses.

"He fantasizes about using it on the woman."

"What do you know about this, Krycek?" Mulder pushed back from the table, knocking the coffee cups and spilling them. He advanced towards Krycek, but Krycek just stood there and continued.

"He's killed before. He cuts their jugular." Krycek motioned to his throat. "He's never gone this far before. But it excites him." Krycek opened his eyes and looked straight into Mulder's. "He wants more."

Mulder lunged at Krycek, grabbing him by the large t-shirt and dragging him off the stairs. Mulder managed to slam Krycek a couple of times into the wall before Skinner pulled him off of Krycek.

"Stop it, Mulder. Get a hold of yourself." Skinner struggled with Mulder until he had managed to manhandle him to a safe distance. Krycek's face was blank, only his haunted eyes betraying that Mulder's words and actions had any affect.

Scully put a supporting hand on Krycek's arm. "Alex, are you okay?"

"Not you too, Scully," Mulder yelled and renewed his struggle to free himself from Skinner's arms.

"Come on, Mulder. Look at him; he couldn't have anything to do with this with the shape he is in."

"But he knows something. He always knows something. What is this? Another Consortium experiment gone wrong? Damn you, Krycek, what do you know?"

"I don't know anything but what I see. Horses. Death. I can feel this killer's excitement as he watches those pitiful animals die. Do you think I want this in my head? Do you think I enjoy hearing them scream?"


The next morning,

At the sheriff's office, Mulder went over the information about the horse attacks in the area for everyone present. Faulkner and two of his deputies were at the table listening intently as Mulder pointed to a large map of the area set up on a board. Mulder introduced Assistant Director Skinner and his partner Special Agent Dana Scully, but left out why Krycek was with them. Skinner scowled at Mulder but didn't expose his lie. It would serve no purpose but to cause distrust with the locals.

Faulkner kept glancing at Krycek. The man looked like he needed to be in a hospital or at least in bed but none of the agents seemed overly concerned. Well except for AD Skinner, he seemed rather protective of Krycek. Faulkner was brought out of his musings when Mulder spoke.

"The red dots represent reported attacks on horses over the past 29 months -- five in this county alone. We've tracked the attacks of the past two years." Mulder picked up an envelope and began removing its contents. He placed them on the table before the assembled group. He nodded at Skinner to take over.

"The photos were taken for insurance purposes, not for forensics but...the M.O. is identical on the kill," Skinner explained and passed the photos to Faulkner.

Faulkner stared at the two photos. There were close-up images of two different horses with huge gashes cut into the necks where the jugular was housed.

"Shouldn't the A.S.P.C.A. be dealing with this?" one of the deputies said, turning to his partner with a smirk. His partner chuckled.

"Stay with us, boys," Faulkner warned his men.

"No offense, Assistant Director, I mean, but...this is a hell of a fuss over a misdemeanor. And why is the FBI even involved," the deputy continued ignoring Faulkner.

"Would you prefer to wait until he's killed someone? The man we're looking in his early 20s to mid 30s. His work in the area makes him able to travel unnoticed." Skinner pinned the amused deputy with a glare. He was used to knocking the amusement out of disrespectful agents. The deputy wilted under the stern look.

"Well, you had a couple of things right. 'Help' was written in human blood. There was a fingerprint, no matches, but it definitely wasn't Sally Dumont's," Faulkner said as he read the forensics report. "And they found semen in the stall next to where the horse was killed."

"For a few brief moments, he'd had something he's never had before...not a horse, but a woman in his power. The possibility excited and terrified him. That's why he wrote word 'Help'...meaning 'Help me,' " Krycek whispered, but wouldn't look anyone in the eye. Mulder nodded his agreement of Krycek's assessment. He was surprised he no longer felt animosity towards Krycek. If he was seeing what the killer was doing as he did it, Mulder knew that could be frightening. He could crawl into the mind, imagine what a killer thought, but he didn't really 'experience' it.

"We've learned from past experience that an event like this, a close call, expands a killer's sexual fantasy," Skinner went on to explain.

"His only source of feeling alive is his urge for sexual pleasure. His paraphilia has now defined it. It intoxicates and terrifies him. He's standing at an abyss and he's hesitating," Mulder said as he gathered up the files and handed them to Scully.


"There will be another attack sooner than they think. He's vulnerable now," Scully stated as they all took their seats inside the car.

Mulder nodded in agreement. "He's unstable and in tremendous pain. He hasn't accepted that he enjoyed what he did."

"God help us when he does," Skinner said, shaking his head.

"There's only one thing to do. I have to talk to him; reach him on a personal level," Mulder explained to Skinner, meeting his eyes in the rearview mirror. Mulder glanced at Krycek's silent form. The man had so far been remarkably passive. Krycek still looked drawn and a bit shaky. Mulder felt a wave of sympathy for his old nemesis. He remembered all to well the uncontrollable thoughts that assaulted him after coming in contact with the artifact.

"It's risky. It could validate him; give him a sense of empowerment," Scully said, interrupting Mulder's musings.

"He's empowering himself as we speak. We can't sit back and wait for the escalation. We've got to make contact with him now. It's the precise moment. He's tormented. He feels revulsion toward himself and his acts."

Krycek leaned against the coolness of the car window. He could see the events unfold as Mulder spoke. He closed his eyes against the visions but they don't stop.

A shadow on a bloody wall. A meat hook slowly swinging. The shadow of a man, watching. Mesmerized.

"But the revulsion he's now feeling will diminish. The cooling-off stage will end. The killer will be thinking, rationalizing. He'll be learning to accept himself... and his need."

The man pulls on heavy large rubber gloves that stretch to his elbows.

"His anger and resentment will be building up again... until he has no choice but to act out his fantasies."

A flash of yellow. A yellow apron around the man. It's long, dropping almost to the top of the rubber boots. From beneath the apron, the man removes a plastic sheath that is clipped to a chain around his waist. He removes a knife and slowly begins to sharpen it.

"But by then, he will be much harder to catch."

Gum boots. Walking over a blood-splattered floor.

"Because he will have had time to refine not just how he kills...but also how he escapes detection."

A slaughterhouse. Meat hanging. Cold breath of the workers. The man walks slowly over to go to prepare for another day at work.

Krycek felt a large hand rest on his thigh. The thoughts still lingered but he felt some sense of comfort from Skinner's supporting touch.

"We should get some rooms," Scully suggested. "This isn't over and it would be a waste of time going back to DC tonight."

"Good idea," Skinner said. Scully turned in the seat and looked at Krycek. "How are you feeling, Alex?"

"Tired." Was his mumbled response.

"When we get the rooms, I want you to lie down awhile," Scully stated, turning back to the front.


Later that Night, inside Little Fats, a western bar

A man sat at the bar, vaguely aware of the country music blaring from the old jukebox and the multitude of patrons sitting around laughing and drinking. He silently read the Williston County ECHO. The front-page article detailed the events about the horse killer. Nearby another man sat reading the same article.

"You read about that horse freak? Says here the guy's feeling 'disgust and remorse.' It's even got an 800 number for him," Tom Holden said with a laugh. The waitress sauntered up and slammed a beer down on the rickety table. "Thanks, darling."

Willie listened to Tom and his friends' conversation, while he drank his beer and continued reading.

'...the thought of killing is torturing him. But it's not too late...he can get help. That's why I'm here. Fox Mulder'

"Yeah. 1-800-PONY-RIDE." Little Fats, the owner of the bar snorted. Tom and his friends laughed.

Willie tried to ignore the laughter as he continued to read:

"TALK TO ME" In fact, the Sheriff's department had set up a special toll free telephone line (1-800-555-0181) in the hopes that the perpetrator would attempt to make contact.

Willie chewed the side of his nail as he thought about it. Maybe, just maybe. He folded the newspaper, the headline 'Hunting the Horse Killer' blazoned across the top. Tucking the paper under his arm, he stood up. He would call. As he walked to the pay phone next to the bathroom, he could still hear Tom speaking.

"Man says he knows what he's going through."

"I know what he's going through...sheep, cows, horses." Little Fats interjected to the others renewed amusement.

"Sounds like this guy's got a lot of your qualities, Little Fats," Tom joked.

"Hey...son-of-a-bitch is just lonely, that's his problem," Little Fats stated in a syrupy tone. The table erupted with more laughter.

Little Fats noticed Willie at the phone and called out, "Hey, Willie! What do you reckon this guy's problem is?"

Willie punched in the number and listened for the phone to ring. Barely turning to acknowledge Little Fats and his friends, he replied, "Well, he's a perv, ain't he?"

"I guess you'd know, Willie!" Tom joined in. Even Willie laughed this time as he patiently waited for someone to answer the phone.

"Williston Sheriff's Office. Hello? Hello?"

Willie slammed down the phone without speaking. Glaring down at the newspaper, he crumbled it into a ball and tossed it on the dirty floor beneath the phone. He left the bar without saying anything and headed to his truck.

The sounds of grunting and squealing from a load of hogs distracted him. He stopped and thought a moment before continuing to his truck. He opened the door and moved an old blanket on the floor of the cab. He picked up the stun gun and walked back to the hog truck. He stared at the snouts sticking out of the air holes.

Willie inserted the stun gun it into an air hole and zapped one of the hogs. It screamed in pain. The others began to squeal loudly, out of fear. He inserted it again, this time into another air hole and zapped another hog. He stood back, listening to their screams.


The image is blurred by bright white light; something that is indistinguishable under a pig's snout; a large fat man laughing with his mouth full of food and wide open; a horse's mouth, teeth visible, seems almost as though it were smiling; another blurred image (a horse?); several images of a white horse, including close ups of the head and eye; another blurred image. A woman? Two blurred images of a woman or two different women; two close ups of a brown horse's head; another close up of the white horse's eye ending in a bright white light. The sound of the fat man laughing mixed with a horse's neighing throughout.

Krycek had gone pale and started shaking violently, the whole bed was rocking as violently as he was. Skinner rushed over to Krycek and pulled him into his arms. Scully ran to her room to get her bag.

The foursome had checked into their rooms earlier and as quick as they had opened the room, Krycek stumbled over and stretched out on the bed to try and get some sleep. They had called for room service but Krycek didn't get up to join them. Scully had tried to coax him into eating but he just rolled over and ignored her. Skinner had just finished clearing the table and Mulder had been spreading out the case files when Krycek had let the nearly silent moan.

"Alex, can you hear me? What's wrong?" Skinner asked. Scully returned to the room and sat down on the other side of the bed. She started to prepare a sedative when Mulder stopped her.

"What?" she snapped. Mulder glanced over at Skinner and Krycek. He watched as two fear filled green eyes watered and pleaded unspoken for Skinner to take whatever he was seeing away.

Mulder could see what was about to happen. He pulled Scully off the bed in time to prevent her from being knocked off as Krycek broke from Skinner's embrace and leaped toward the bathroom. Krycek yanked open the door and fell on his knees in front of the toilet. Skinner knelt down beside Krycek, as the younger man got violently ill. Mulder and Scully stood in the doorway and waited for Krycek to stop retching and regain his composure. Scully went to the sink and dampened a washcloth. She handed it to Skinner who started wiping Krycek's face.

Scully filled a glass with water and offered it to Krycek. He took it gratefully. He spit a couple of times and then took a deep drink. Skinner reached over with one hand and flushed the former contents of Krycek's stomach down the drain. Krycek handed the glass back to Scully with a wan smile before sinking further into Skinner's supportive arms.

Krycek was glad Skinner was there, a sturdy rock to hold onto and seek a little comfort from in face of his visions. He had never expected to find comfort from Skinner. When the alien healer had explained what had happened, he had immediately blamed Skinner. And for that matter, Skinner hated him. Didn't he? Skinner put his arm around Krycek's waist and gently lifted him to his feet. Krycek leaned heavily against the other man. He felt so tired, but sleep brought no solace from the tormenting visions in his mind.

"Alex, are you all right?" Scully asked as she reached out and felt his forehead for fever.

"He's killed again," Krycek whispered. He met Mulder's eyes squarely with his own as he spoke.

"How do you know?" Skinner asked, already fearing the answer.

Krycek turned haunted eyes up to Skinner's face, "I saw it."


"Hey! What the hell are you doing?" Bill Johnson yelled. He had heard the commotion outside. Anytime his hogs started squealing like that it meant trouble.

Willie watched Johnson approach the stun gun hanging limply by his side. Without saying a word, he raised the gun and zapped the old man directly in chest. Johnson dropped to the ground unconscious and the squeals of the hogs rose frantically. Willie looked around at the hogs and then back to the old man at his feet. He was momentarily stunned by his action and then looked for any signs someone had seen what he did.

When he realized no one had taken notice of what had happened, he returned to his truck, putting the stun gun away, he took out his gum boots. After putting them on, he opened his toolbox and picked up his knife and walked back over to Johnson. Grabbing the man's wrists, Willie dragged him off through the mud to the side of the bar.


Mulder pulled out his cell phone and dialed Faulkner's number. The phone rang a few times before anyone answered. The dispatcher connected Mulder to Faulkner who was already at Little Fats. A body had been discovered in the woods and most of the small town force had been called out to take care of it.

"Faulkner here," the sheriff barked into the phone.

"Sheriff, it's Agent Mulder," Mulder replied.

"Agent Mulder, I'm kinda busy right now. What is it?" Faulkner watched as two of his officers carried the body over to the coroner's wagon.

"Sheriff, there's been another killing," Mulder informed him.

"I know, Agent Mulder," the sheriff sighed. "I know."

"Where are you at?" Mulder asked.

Faulkner walked around his car and looked at the slaughter before him while he rattled off the address and directions to Little Fats. He motioned to the coroner to wait.

Mulder's group arrived a few minutes later. Mulder immediately jumped out of the car to ask the sheriff for more details. Scully decided to have a look at the body, while Skinner and Krycek followed behind Mulder. Sheriff Faulkner related what he believed happened to the dead man and his hogs.

"The driver of the hog hauler's been beaten to death. Couple of cowboys dragged him off into the woods over there..." Faulkner said as he pointed to the flashlights that could be seen searching the area. "That's where he was found. We're looking for the weapon and any evidence that the killers might have left."

"They kicked the life out of him and then took a knife to him. Hell, that's nothing new. Friday night at Little Fats...three or four times a year, this parking lot turns into a killing field." The sheriff walked off to where some of the other officers had started to drag out the dead hogs from the truck.

Faulkner looked up, seeing the three men had followed right behind him. "They're not satisfied with just killing the driver -- they attacked the hogs too."

"You said they used a knife?" Skinner asked.

"Yeah, they cut a bit of flesh out of him. Well, that's the only thing that doesn't figure. They got a knife but they beat the poor bastard to death?"

Skinner looked at the mud tracks between the hog truck and where Willie's truck was parked. "These tracks move back and forward between here, the truck and the woods where the driver was dragged."

"We got three sets: a pair of work boots that match the ones that the driver was wearing; a pair of cowboy boots; and a pair of something with a flatter sole, the tread all worn down," Faulkner pointed out.

Mulder looked at Skinner. "Sally Dumont said her attacker wore boots."

"Gum boots," added Krycek, much to everyone's surprise. His voice was still hoarse from vomiting.

"You think this is him?" Faulkner asked Mulder. "The tracks say we got two killers here."

"He could have incapacitated the driver and gone back to his truck to change," suggested Skinner.

Faulkner shook his head. "Now, with no disrespect here, gentlemen, it was a man that was killed, not a woman; these are hogs, not horses."

"I think it's the same man. He didn't plan this attack. He killed the driver out of rage, not sexual gratification. He's finally gone over the edge. He had a helpless human lying there...he didn't cut his throat...he kicked him to death. Why?" Mulder voiced his thoughts. He quickly started profiling the killer's next move. He looked up when he heard Skinner speak again.

"The driver wasn't a woman. He was the wrong gender."

"And something else is missing. No horses. It's part of the ritual; he just didn't know it until now. He's learned how to kill. He's still working on how to enjoy his kills. He's going to keep on trying." Mulder hoped Faulkner was starting to believe. They really needed the man's knowledge of the surrounding area.

Inside Little Fats, Skinner questioned the owner. Mulder listened as he looked around the bar from where he sat at the bar. He looked over at Krycek sitting alone in a booth at the back. Mulder stood up and walked over to the pay phone. He picked up the crumpled newspaper.

"The bar is used by both locals and long haulers on the highway," Skinner said. He had finished questioning the owner and had followed Mulder over to the pay phone.

"He was here. I think he was about to call or he did call." Mulder showed Skinner the newspaper.

"I'll ask the sheriff to have the phones checked for prints and calls made." Skinner looked over where Krycek was sitting in a booth on the other side of the bar. Krycek was resting with his head buried in his arms on the table.

"What do you think is going on with him?" Skinner asked Mulder.

"I think it's similar to what happened to me when I came in contact with the alien artifact," Mulder said. As he had slowly watched his former partner, betrayer and all around nemesis disintegrate mentally before his eyes, Mulder found himself filled with compassion. Krycek had been right. No one deserved to see what he was seeing in his visions.

"How do we stop it?" Skinner was worried. Krycek was hanging on by a thread. Each new vision seemed to zap more and more of the young man's strength. He had found that when he had held Krycek earlier during the aftermath of the vision, his feeling of concern was more than compassion for someone sick. Skinner had been attracted to the green young agent and then grew to hate the man he had become. Now those old feelings of attraction were back along with newer feelings of protectiveness.

Skinner made his way over to the booth and slid in beside Krycek. Two weary green eyes made brief contact before Krycek surprised Skinner by burying his head on Skinner's shoulder. Mulder joined them across the table and raised a quizzical eyebrow at Skinner.

Claudia Vaughn entered Little Fats and headed straight to the bar. Scully recognized her from Mulder's description and decided to introduce herself.

"Excuse me," Scully said. "Special Agent Dana Scully."


"Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" Scully asked. Without waiting for an answer, she went around the bar and poured two cups. It was nice that someone had started a pot brewing in anticipation of the long night. Settling on the barstool next to Claudia, Scully slid the second cup in front of her.

"Thanks," Claudia said. She emptied a packet of sugar and stirred for a moment. "I read that interview Agent Mulder did. It sounded like you felt sorry for him."

"I feel sorry for Sally Dumont and the man who died here tonight. We're just working to find out why he does it."

"Why he kills horses?" Claudia asked.

"Mulder says that normally they were used as a proxy for someone he hates- probably his mother or father, an abusive controlling figure... "

"Normally, huh?"

"He doesn't think that's the case here. I think the horses are an end to themselves. Why do you think he does it?"

"Well, for a lot of girls, their first love was a horse," Claudia replied.

Scully thought for a moment. "You're right. So what you're saying is he's jealous...that the horses cut him off from women...from sexual intimacy? Were any of the horses drugged?"

"No. Why?"

"They just stand there and let him do this to them. They could really damage him. They could kill him with a single kick. But they just stand there."

"It's because they're reared to trust in man. I've seen horses trapped in the killing box at the slaughterhouse. They can smell the blood and the death of the animal that was in that box before them. But despite that, they trust in man. Their executioner standing above them with a bolt gun and they look to him for help and he fires a steel bolt straight into their heads."

Scully stood up suddenly. She glanced over where the men were sitting. She grabbed her coat and gave Claudia a wan smile. "I know why they stand still for him."

Walking over to the booth, she sat down and explained what Claudia had said. "He's using a stun gun. That's how he incapacitates the horses he's going to kill. That's how he knocked out Sally and the driver."

"That's why he cut the slice out. He knew the stun would leave subcutaneous bruising. He's covering his tracks," Skinner added.

"He knows where the jugular vein is. He knows how to cut it. He works in a slaughterhouse. That's where we'll find him." Mulder agreed and the four of them put on their coats and left the bar.

Outside of Little Fats, Mulder and Scully walked over to the sheriff's truck.

"That slice of flesh he cut from the driver...what was it like?" Scully asked Faulkner.

"Doc said it was a deep cut, real precise."

"I would like to examine the body later."

"No problem. I'll tell the Doc to expect you."


Wheelock, Virginia

Mary Ann didn't normally ride so late, but it was a beautiful night. The moon was full and lit up the pastures enough for the short ride it would take her to get home. She rode at a leisurely gallop until she could see the barn and then slowed to a walk to cool down after the ride. Mary Ann stopped outside the barn to dismount before leading her horse into the barn.

Willie watched and listened while Mary Ann took care of the large mare. "Yeah, good girl. Good girl." She ran her hand down the powerful neck in a gentle caress. One last affectionate rub on the quivering nose and she moved along side to remove the saddle. After setting it on the rail in the barn, she lead the horse toward its stall, cooing softly the entire time.

Out of the corner of her eye, Mary Ann spotted Willie. She was momentarily startled but was relieved when she recognized him. "Oh! You scared me."

"I'm sorry. I was just dropping off some stuff." Willie shuffled his feet, appearing innocent.

"Mr. Burke around?" Mary Ann asked Willie.

"I haven't seen him."

Mary Ann nodded and then continued to the stall. "There you are," she said to the horse before she removed the bridle. Willie walked over and stood outside watching her.

"I was watching you ride. You looked happy."

"I'm always happy when I'm riding my girl," Mary Ann replied happily and then said to the horse, "Aren't I, girl?" and kissed the horse on the nose.

"You kissed her. You kissed the horse." Willie was angry and disturbed by her action.

"She's a great horse, isn't she?" Mary Ann replied, unaware of Willie's reaction.

He watched as the woman brushed down her horse, caressing it at each pass of the brush. Willie grew more excited, agitated, but tried to maintain control of himself.

"How you doing, Willie?" Mary Ann didn't mind Willie so much. He seemed harmless and Mr. Burke liked him.

"I'm holding on." Willie paused. He didn't know how to continue to talk to her. "I got to go."

"You take care," Mary Ann said. She didn't turn around, just continued to groom the mare.

Willie started to walk away but turned back and listened to the horse neigh and snort and the young woman speaking to it in a soft sweet tone. "Bet you're hungry, aren't you?"

Mary Ann turned around to see an angry and determined Willie just inside the stall. He was holding a bridle and chain in his right hand. He was breathing heavily as he said, "A man can't fight what he is, huh?"

A young woman screaming; a man covered in blood, sharpening his knife; gum boots soaked in blood; a man dancing around during his celebration; a young woman, screaming; the man screaming; the man dancing again; the woman screaming again, bathed in a bright white light. The large eye of a horse with the reflected image of a body hanging.

Faulkner, Mulder, Skinner and a few of the deputies studied the maps and files, trying to narrow down their search. It was getting late in the evening and one of the deputies yawned.

"Three- four- five slaughterhouses in the state, not counting the unlicensed backyard places. We're checking them out now. I called in help from Minot and Dickinson." Faulkner pointed out to the others. Mulder shook his head. There had to be an easier way.

Another deputy opened the door and signaled to the Sheriff. "Sheriff?"


"We did a check on the bar phone like you asked."

The deputy entered the room with a tape recorder and placed it on the table before the others and explained, "There was a call from the bar to the 800 number we put out. Caller hung up. There's something else. We got 16 other calls. 15 were loonies. And this one." He pressed the 'play' button on the recorder.

{"Williston County Hotline, Sheriff's Department."}

{"I want to talk to Agent Fox Mulder."}

{"Agent Mulder is not in right now. Would you like to leave a message?"}

{"You tell me to call and there's no one home?!"}

{"Is that my fault? If you're as smart as you say you are, if you know my mind, then tell me, Agent Mulder: Where to? What next?"}

They listened to the dial tone a moment, stunned until Skinner reached over and pressed 'stop'.

"He did it. He killed again," Mulder stated to the group.

"Where's Alex?"

"If you mean that quiet guy with you, he's in the bathroom down the hall. I saw him just before I brought the recordings in," the deputy explained.

Skinner pushed away from the table and stormed out the door. He started running as soon as the keening started. He found Krycek on the floor of the bathroom rocking back and forth, tears streaming down his face.

*The man is celebrating his kills with his shirt off, outside, on his knees and covered in blood. He grows smaller as the image moves to the barn. A woman. Naked. Suspended from one of the rafters in chains by her feet. The man on his knees in the blood covered ground. Panting and grunting like an animal, crawling around in circles.*

Skinner gathered the distraught Krycek in his arms and held on tight. The rocking soon quieted. Krycek reached around Skinner's waist and buried his head in the older man's chest. The images were fading but the fear and sick excitement lingered. He could feel Skinner rubbing circles on his back and soon the soothing litany of words penetrated the darkness.

"It's all right, Alex. I'm here. You're not alone."


The next morning, outside the Windy Knoll Farm in Wheelock. The driveway was filled with several sheriff's department vehicles and the coroner's wagon. Inside, the deputies were busy lifting Mary Ann into a body bag and onto a stretcher. The chains and rope pulleys were still swinging slightly casting an eerie shadow on the small stream of light from the open barn door.

Faulkner looked shaken, as he held a plastic evidence bag in his hands and tried to fill the group in on what they had found out so far.

"Her name is Mary Ann Wright. She had an arrangement with the farmer, Mr. Burke, to keep her horse here. He called it in an hour ago," Faulkner explained.

Scully knelt down and opened the plastic bag to look at the woman. Krycek staggered as it triggered a brief vision.

Close ups of a woman's eye; a white horse's head; several very blurred images; the white horse again; a brown horse's head; a woman's face, screaming, mouth wide open, resembling a horse's mouth. Sounds of a woman's scream and a horse neighing blended together throughout.

Skinner placed a steadying arm around Krycek and tried to make a connection to what Faulkner was showing them.

"We found this on her body." The Sheriff removed the contents from the bag he was holding. He showed Mulder. Scully walked up and gave Mulder a questioning look after seeing the blood-soaked apron.

"It's the kind that is used in a slaughterhouse," Mulder answered Scully's unspoken question.

"We'll get it tested." Faulkner said and folded it back up and returned it to the evidence bag.

"Doctor...Agent Scully," Claudia Vaughn called out as she entered the barn.

Mulder, Scully and Faulkner walked over to speak with the vet. Skinner helped Krycek to his feet and they passed the attendants strapping Mary Ann's body securely to the stretcher on their way to join the others.

Claudia stood just inside one of the stalls. She motioned them over to show them something she thought the killer might have left behind. On the wall of the stall, written in blood, was the words 'Thank you'. Beneath it on the ground was a dead horse.

"How was this horse killed?" Scully asked.

"Just like the others. Bled to death. No mutilation."

"He had *her* for that. Before he killed her, before he bled her...he strung her up. He wanted it to be like a slaughterhouse. He did to this woman what he does at work." No one said a word for a moment after Mulder finished.

"Then there's this," Faulkner said, breaking the silence. He gestured with his head for the others to follow him outside to where they have marked off with tape the area where Willie was the night before on his knees. The ground is covered with blood. "There are splashes of blood all around here. We found pieces of Mary Ann's clothing thrown about."

"Is this what you saw, Alex. Him celebrating." Skinner looked at Krycek. He didn't look much better even after the few hours of sleep he managed to get after another one of Scully's sedatives. Krycek glanced at the blood-filled footprints on the ground. Flashes of his visions replayed in his mind's eye.

A deputy walked up to Mulder and handed him a cell phone. "Agent Mulder? Call for you. I patched it through from the office."


{"Do you know how good I feel?"}

"Who is this?" Mulder asked even though he knew.

{"What next? Tell me, does it get any better than this?"}

"I know you feel rotten right now. Wish you could wake up and find this never happened."

"Whatever humanity kept you from doing this before...whatever good...better listen to it now."

{"All gone. All gone."}

"You wouldn't be calling me if it were." Mulder could hear Willie's breathing change when he started laughing. "You got the power to stop this."

{"I know I've got the power! It felt good what I did!"} Willie slammed the phone down in triumph.

Mulder shut off the cell phone and tossed it to Sheriff Faulkner. This was all his fault. He had been so sure he could stop Willie from 'becoming' more than a horse killer. But it was too late.

Faulkner turned to the deputy and asked, "We get anything?"

"First three digits."

"Damn it."


Mulder, Skinner and Krycek joined Faulkner to head back into town. Scully left with the rental to go with the coroner to examine Mary Ann. The Sheriff stopped the car at an intersection on the road as a truck with a load of hay passes before them followed by another truck with several young horses.

"Where are they headed?" Krycek asked from the back seat.


Young horses, foals, being killed by a bolt gun. The sound of the bolt gun can be heard along with some screams.

"Foals?" Skinner questioned further.

"Yeah. They're from the P.M.U. farms. We're the only state that still has them." Faulkner looked somewhat disgusted.

"P.M.U.?" Skinner looked at Mulder and then at Krycek.

"Pregnant Mares' Urine," Faulkner explained.

"It's rich in estrogen," Krycek continued for the sheriff. "Which is the main element in hormone replacement therapy. It's also the most prescribed pharmaceutical in the United States. In North America, up to 80,000 mares are kept pregnant and their urine collected so that women can stay healthier longer. But each time a mare gets pregnant, she has a foal and the quickest way to make money off of the 80,000 foals is to kill them and sell the meat to Japan and Europe."

"The horses that were attacked," Faulkner interjected, "they were usually mares."

"How many of these farms are in this state?" Skinner was appalled having grown up around horses; he had a healthy respect for the creatures and couldn't imagine a more horrific fate. Well except for the horse killer and his sick fantasies.

Mulder answered Skinner's question after they arrived back at the station by using the map of the attacks. And as Faulkner explained Skinner watched the pattern form across the map. Each farm labeled and tagged and is located near four of the red dots.

"As far as anybody can tell, we've got about 15 farms in the west end of the state. Many of them have shut down. There were four in our area. Haverly, July '94; Redner, October '95; Borgsen, December '94; and Sandberg, January '95."

"Forensics... on the apron, showed human sweat *and* horse urine and the urine was rich in estrogen." Faulkner passed the file to Scully. She had finished with examining Mary Ann's body and joined the men at the sheriff's office.

"The guy could have worked on any one of these farms," one of the deputies said with frustration.

Mulder thought for a moment and then said, "I think he *lived* on one of these farms. Part of the ritual is wearing the clothes that bring him back to that time."

"If he grew up on a P.M.U. farm, his earliest memories would have been of horses held captive, foals slaughtered," Skinner spoke his thoughts out loud to the group assembled. "He would have learned that that's how food was put on his table, clothes on his back."

"The farm closes, he loses his livelihood. He loses the *means* to gratify his impulses." Mulder surmised when Skinner finished.

"Agent Mulder, a lot of people work on these farms that are decent, ordinary people." Faulkner hated where the agents were headed. He loved his town and didn't want to think of one of his own doing such a horrendous thing.

"I'm not talking about decent, ordinary people. I'm talking about one man with a twisted mind. The first horse attack was in February '95. Which one closed nearest that?" Mulder stated.

Skinner walked over to the map. "Borgsen, December '94. Sandberg would have been the nearest -- January '95, one month before the first attack."

"The phone call to you, Agent Mulder, came from prefix 774. That's this area." He pointed to the tag labeled 'Borgsen December 94' on the map.


A long procession of police vehicles approach the Borgsen farm, no sirens but all had their lights flashing. Mulder and the others followed closely behind. When they arrived they all exited their vehicles and surrounded the house. Faulkner and his deputies entered and searched the premises. No one is at home.

They spread out and started searching the property. From behind the barn the sheriff called out for Mulder. They entered the barn and Faulkner gestured with his head for them to join him. Inside the barn was a pregnant white mare tied to a rail. She is nervous, uncomfortable and moving around in agitation.

"Pregnant," Scully stated. "Looks like she could drop a foal any day now."

Krycek moved closer to the mare. She neighed and tried to back away.

"Careful..." Skinner warned.

The mare finally allowed Krycek to get close to her. He reached out and caressed the horse's forehead.

"Get Claudia Vaughn over here." Scully ordered a nearby deputy.

The kitchen was a mess; the table was filled with bottles, plates of food and tools. Mulder wandered around opening cabinets looking for anything that might be a clue to where this was headed. He opened the pantry and found a bridle placed over a horse's hood.

"What was the name of Sally Dumont's horse?" Mulder asked Faulkner.

"Jacine." Mulder removed the bridle and handed it to Faulkner. The sheriff read the inscription and passed it on to Skinner.

"Here's her bridle. He's just started collecting trophies." Mulder looked around the room, meeting each person there in the eyes. The phone rang, breaking the silence. Faulkner reached to the phone on the wall above the sink.


Everyone waited patiently for the Sheriff's next words. "It's for you, Agent Mulder." He handed the phone to Mulder. The look on his face told Mulder exactly who it was.


{"Looks like I'm going to be needing a new mare, don't it?"}

"What do you want?" Mulder found it hard to keep a cap on his emotions. The man was feeling confident enough to start taunting them.

{"Well, I went through all that trouble and it wasn't good enough. I mean, don't get me wrong, she was better than the horses -- but it wasn't enough! Where to now? What's next?"}

"What's next is it's going to get worse."

{"I...I didn't say it was bad. It was damn good. It just wasn't enough."}

Mulder stayed silent. Waiting for Willie to continue.

{"Maybe... I need to see a doctor."} Willie hung up before saying anything else. Mulder stared at the receiver. Willie was up to something. But what?

*Horses. Screaming. Fear. A woman's face filled with compassion. Then fear. A slaughter house. Carcasses hanging from hooks. The woman, unconscious, hung beside the horses.*

Krycek looked at Mulder. He didn't feel the debilitating effects of the vision this time, but his hair had grown slightly whiter. Mulder didn't notice at first, until Skinner walked over and brushed back Krycek's bangs.

"He's got Claudia," Krycek said in a flat voice. Mulder didn't question him. He picked up the phone and dialed Vaughn's number. The line was busy. Mulder looked at Skinner and then Faulkner.


Claudia Vaughn removed her coat and draped it on the back of a chair. She was exhausted. She hoped the FBI group would catch the killer soon. Too many horses had died because of the bastard.

Willie walked out of the hallway closet, startling Claudia. She didn't have time to scream before he grabbed her around the waist and knocked her out. Willie took his time carrying her out to his truck. This was the one. What he had been wanting all along.


Mulder didn't wait for the sheriff; he kicked the door to Claudia Vaughn's house and entered quickly. Skinner was right on his heels as was Faulkner. They searched the house but found nothing. Krycek walked around the neat orderly house, stopping at a framed picture on the wall. He gestured to Skinner and Mulder to join him.

"A dog starved at his Master's Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.

A horse misused upon the Road
Calls to heaven for human blood."

Skinner read the inscription out loud. "'A horse misused upon the road calls to heaven for human blood.' The words are smeared with blood.

"Blake's 'Auguries of Innocence.' That's where he's taken her...his heaven, her hell." Mulder turned and headed for the door. Skinner stopped him.

"Any results on the slaughterhouses?" Skinner directed his question to Faulkner.

"No, we're still checking."

"Where do they slaughter horses?" Krycek asked. They all turned to look at him.


They pulled up outside the slaughterhouse. Faulkner waved his men to cover the exits while he and Mulder's group entered the front door. Several live horses were moving around in small pens. They could hear machinery being turned on somewhere.

Willie watched them. He focused in on Mulder until his eyes spotted Krycek. There was something about the young man that disturbed Willie. He crept back further into the shadows before going back to where he had Claudia Vaughn hanging with the rest of the meat.

"Where is that sound coming from?" Mulder asked the Sheriff.

"It's from in there." Faulkner pointed to a room in the back. They head towards it. Inside they find several carcasses hanging from hooks. Each man took off down different rows toward the sound.

Krycek crouched down to look beneath the hanging sides of meat. He could see a pair of gum boots and a yellow apron. The feet move to the right before taking off running. Krycek gestured to Skinner that he would go left. Skinner nodded and moved to the right.

Mulder and Faulkner continue to search. They found a white horse in a pen with several others. The horses were edgy. The sound of the grunting and neighing fill the room. Faulkner motioned to Mulder he was going to continue searching in another direction. Mulder continued around the pen and into another room.

He heard a muffled sound and headed towards it. Mulder found Claudia suspended on a hook. She was alive. He started to lift her off the hook when Willie stunned him from behind and knocked him out cold.

Willie checked for the others. No one else was near, so he took hold of Mulder's head in his left hand, the knife in his right. He positioned the knife at Mulder's throat, intent on slashing it when he heard the machinery stop. Willie dropped Mulder and moved back into the cover of the rows of meat.

Out of the corner of his eye, Krycek noticed some of the sides of meat swaying back and forth. It was just a glimpse but he spotted a pair of boots between the meat. Krycek ran down the row to find Claudia bound and gagged. On the floor near her, he found Mulder face down. He checked for a pulse and then for blood. Mulder was alive, only stunned. He rolled Mulder over and then dragged him out of the way to make room for Claudia.

"Hey!" he whispered as he lifted her off the hook and lowered her to the ground. He removed the gag and asked, "Are you all right?"

"Yeah," she responded. She sounded weak. Krycek hoped she would be able to walk out on her own.

As Krycek started to undo the leather strap binding her hands together, he noticed her staring wide-eyed over his shoulder. Willie was behind him - no doubt. Krycek had just enough time to duck out of the way as Willie thrust the stun gun at him.

"Alex!" Skinner shouted. He was too far away to help Krycek and Krycek knew this, but it was enough to make Willie hesitate for a moment before running off. Krycek followed after him. He knew he should wait for Skinner, but there wasn't time.

Skinner found Mulder unconscious next to Claudia. Faulkner and Scully emerged from different sides to the same scene.

"Call an ambulance!" Skinner ordered Faulkner as he ran off after Krycek.

Scully immediately checked Mulder for wounds. When she found none, she checked Claudia. The woman was all right. Willie hadn't had time to do any serious damage. Scully removed Claudia's bindings and helped her to her feet.

"Come on." Scully told the woman. Faulkner knelt down and lifted Mulder up. Mulder moaned and blinked his eyes.

"What happened?" he asked.

Krycek had lost sight of Willie, but Willie was still watching Krycek. He stood behind a slab of meat. Licking it. He moved silently away. Krycek caught sight of the movement and gave chase, but still could not find the killer.

He moved a plastic curtain covered with blood stains to enter an area where the live horses were kept. The horses were still agitated. Krycek looked down. He could see the killing box. Blood covered the walls of the very small box.

A hand holding a bolt gun; a brown horse's head, terror in its eye. Screaming. A bolt entering the horse's skull.

Krycek shook his head, trying to banish the vision. The horses seemed calm, quiet. Willie stunned Krycek from behind. He wasn't knocked out but hit the ground and rolled into the killing box. His grabbed hold of the rail but his grip was failing. Willie tried to stun Krycek's hand but missed.

"You, you see what I see." Willie stated flatly then grinned. "Ever see a bolt gun work?"

Willie removed a bolt gun from his pocket and reached over to use it on Krycek. Krycek moved in time to avoid being hit. The steel bolt bore a hole in the wooden wall of the killing box.

Krycek continued to move away, trying to avoid the stun gun and the bolt gun. Willie continued to taunt him. Skinner moved slowly toward Willie. His movement was enough to cause the horses to become restless and draw Willie's attention.

"What's one more horse, what's one more human being on the face of the earth?! It's all just meat!" He shouted as he fired the bolt gun at Skinner. He missed but Skinner stumbled backwards to avoid being hit and into the horses. The horses were stomping around and blocked Skinner from getting back to where Willie had Krycek pinned.

But Krycek took the opportunity of Skinner's distraction to climb out of the killing box. He rolled away into the same pen as Skinner. Willie continued after him, managing to partially stun him again. Krycek fell hard to the ground. The horses were stomping around him. He continued to roll around to avoid the hooves of the agitated animals.

Willie climbed in after Krycek, still taunting. "Once you figure that out, that's when you leave your mark on this world." He thrust the gun at Krycek again. Krycek tried to throw some hay in Willie's face but missed when Willie darted behind the white horse.

"You're not going to make any marks on this earth. You don't even rate a footnote," Krycek shouted back at the man. Willie lunged at Krycek but missed. "You're going to be a joke for a couple of weeks in Little Fats."

Willie finally zapped Krycek a second time in the stomach. Krycek fell backwards into the pen gate causing it to fall open. Willie followed Krycek to the ground and finally had the advantage. The struggle was brief. Krycek was still too stunned to put up a fight and wound up with the bolt gun placed directly at his forehead.

"You ain't gonna know 'cause you're going to be hanging from a hook!" Willie eyes were mad. He had lost all touch with reality. He was about to fire; a moment of hesitation allowed Skinner to kick the bolt gun from Willie's hand. Willie rolled over in pain and the white horse verged upon him.

Skinner reached down and grabbed Krycek by the arm and dragged him out of the way. All the horses were becoming frenzied. They didn't approach the corner where Skinner and Krycek were, but managed to bump Willie and knock him to the ground. The white horse reared up and landed on Willie. Its hooves stomped Willie, over and over. Skinner could hear his bones breaking.

The white horse stopped. The other horses became calm and moved aside. Skinner and Krycek could see the white horse as it stood over Willie's dead body. Skinner helped Krycek to his feet and hugged him to his chest. He had been so close to losing him. Krycek let himself be held a moment and then walked over to the white horse and caressed it.


Alex rolled over and felt the pillow beside his head. It was still warm so Walter had not been up long. He smiled and relaxed back into the warmth of the covers. Things had turned out all right. Skinner had been a pleasant and welcome surprise. It wasn't until after Willie had died, that he had realized how much strength he had unconsciously been drawing from Skinner.

When Skinner had walked up behind him while he stroked the large white horse and wrapped his arms around him, Krycek had finally realized the torment in his mind was gone. He had turned to Skinner and waited. Waited for things to change, but they didn't. Instead Skinner had leaned down and captured his lips. The kiss wasn't passionate but comforting and filled with promise.

The passion had come when they arrived home. It was his home now. Skinner had left the invitation unspoken, but it was clear what he wanted. Skinner had taken his hand and led Krycek upstairs to the master bedroom. Stripped him of his clothes and made gentle love to him.

Slowly as weeks past, clothes started appearing in the closet that were not Skinner's. New toiletries Krycek favored joined Skinner's in the bathroom. Krycek's favorite dishes were now in rotation on the dinner menu and each night Skinner would hold him, whether they made love or not.

Mulder and Scully had become regular visitors. Mulder had decided it was his responsibility to teach him how to channel his visions so they no longer crippled him mentally. It was slowly getting better. Mulder's theory was that the stress on Krycek's body was the reason his hair had started to turn white. And now that the visions were under control, it would stop.

A shallow grave. Fear. Soft cool dirt on his face. He's unable to move. Unable to tell them he is alive. To stop them. Soundless screams. Darkness.

Krycek drew in a deep breath. That one was intense but he didn't feel drained. He shuddered. It was a little too close to how he felt when Spender had left him the silo. He rested for a moment until the smells of coffee wafted up from the kitchen. He pulled on his sleep pants that had been tossed to the side before last night's activities. He winced a little. Skinner had really been on the mark, not that he was ever off, but Alex liked it when Walter really let go.

He walked into the kitchen and watched Walter bustle around making breakfast. He was breaking eggs in a bowl when he finally realized Alex was there. He turned around to give his lover a smile and dropped the eggs and bowl.

Alex stood in the doorway looking sleep rumpled and delicious, except his sable hair was completely white.

The End