TITLE: Absalom, My Son
AUTHOR: Joyce McKibben (mckibben@cc.memphis.edu)
DATE: September 1997

DISTRIBUTION: Please post to ATXC and the archives. Thank you.


SUMMARY: A conspiracy within the Conspiracy is revealed and Fox
Mulder is at the heart of it.

DISCLAIMER: FM and CSM belong to CC and Fox Broadcasting and I am
only borrowing them for a moment and will return them.
No infringement is intended. Lord knows, I'm not
making any money off of this and have no intentions of
making any money from it.

FEEDBACK: Always welcome. Send to: mckibben@cc.memphis.edu

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: I would like to thank my patient editors,
Meredith and Miki whose encouragement and tough editing
skills keep me on the straight and narrow path.


Absalom My Son
by Joyce McKibben

"Remember, he is not to be harmed. Just retrieve the evidence."
The voice spoke from out of the smoke; a faint spark of passion
betrayed the cold indifference of the order.

"He knows too much. Even without the evidence, he threatens the
safety of the Project." The passion of a zealot tempered with a
grim weariness.

"What he knows, or thinks he knows, is of no consequence.
Without the documents, who will believe him?"

"Some will. Because of your orders, he is gaining allies." The
bite of cold steel; a challenge.

"He serves a purpose. The danger can be controlled." A
cigarette flared, a burning red eye in the dark, then the smoke
returned to eddy and flow around the old man. "Unless you feel
the task is beyond your capabilities?" Challenge met and

"Damn you. Listen you old dragon, the day I can't handle my
job..." Affection muted the rush of anger. "You can't protect
him forever, you know. The Others don't give a damn for your
promises." Pleading softened the cold reminder of reason.

The smoker stared at his trusted lieutenant; the commander of his
far-flung army of enforcers. Two battle-weary veterans of a
conspiracy that had consumed their innocence and left only the
ashes of power and belief in their place. The smoker reflected
that, with a single word from him, men died or vanished or were
driven mad. He felt a quiet satisfaction in his efficient
manipulation of the shadows which hid the conspiracy from public
view. His success was due, in no small part, to the man standing
rigidly in front of him arguing for a death sentence the smoker
had no heart to command

"They would be wise to trust my judgement on this matter."

"If you persist in protecting him beyond all reason, they may
decide your judgement is at fault." A warning; a plea for
release from a restriction which threatened them all.

"That would be unwise."

"Are you willing to bet your life on the premise that those men
are wise?" Sardonic amusement crackled amid the warning. A
smile lit up his cold eyes for an instant, inviting a shared
contempt of the men who controlled the conspiracy. The smoker's
lip twitched in what only someone who knew him well would
describe as a smile.

"I never bet."

"Well, you're sure as hell gambling with the devil for Bill
Mulder's son." Exasperation, affection blended with a hint of

"Just retrieve the documents, Jason. Neutralize the leak and
Mulder will be left with nothing but his usual wild
unsubstantiated claims. The Project can continue on schedule."
The command was emphasized with a vicious stab of the waning
cigarette into the crude clay ashtray on his desk. A child's
school-craft creation treasured amid the richer ornaments of

"Yes sir." Resigned obedience. A quick nod hid the sudden flare
of cold determination in Jason's eyes. "I'll do what has to be
done." Echoes of lamentations hovered in the air between them;
then the door closed behind him.

"Someone must play Joab to your David, old friend. I guess I'm
the only one who cares enough. Forgive me," Jason whispered to
the empty air.

The smoker watched Jason leave, confident that this latest
problem was in capable hands. As he wreathed himself in smoke
once more, he pondered the problem of applying the right amount
of pressure to bring Fox into the Project, to be at his side at


Alexandria, Virginia
11:00 p.m.

Jason watched his quarry running through the night, chasing and
being chased by his personal demons until the steam billowed off
his body and curled around him like smoke in the cold air. His
lean runner's body cut through the night like a stiletto,
piercing the shadows with his passion. Even at night Jason could
feel the fire that fed his quarry's endless quest, consuming its
host until nothing but fire was left behind like a nova burning
in the growing darkness of man's decline.

Seeing him wreathed in tendrils of steam, Jason wondered again at
the tenacious refusal of his old friend to deal summarily with
the problem this young man posed. Pity certainly did not stay
his hand nor did compassion. Entire families had perished at a
single word spoken amid the smoke. No, compassion was not a
fault the smoker could be accused of possessing.

There was no purpose to this young man's continued existence. He
threatened everything they had spent decades building. William
Mulder's son, the one rejected as prime material for the
project's ongoing genetic experiments, had no value, yet he was
not only permitted to live, but to continue in his simple-minded
pursuit of that most elusive of questing-beasts, the Truth.

Jason chuckled harshly, swallowing the sound before it could
drift across the handspan of distance and alert his quarry that
he was not alone.

It was only a suspicion. A hazy supposition born of random clues
harvested through the years he had spent watching his quarry grow
from a paralyzed frightened boy to a tormented driven man.
Suspicions that were as fragile as the smoke which hid the
smoker's subterfuge and misdirection which skillfully diverted
the Council's attention away from the threat Mulder presented.
He had watched in wondering silence as his friend threw his
shield over the boy's unheeding back, coughing out orders that
would stymie Mulder's search, while preserving his life.

Jason smiled at the irony of knowing that Mulder's greatest enemy
should also prove to be his greatest friend. The privilege of
this knowledge was his alone and carried with it obliteration for
himself and his friend if the Council even suspected the smoker
had his own agenda.

"Damn you my old friend," Jason breathed into the crisp air.
"The others may not have seen what I have seen, but they will not
remain blind forever. They will take you down and then carve up
this young Quixote of yours into ribbons of despairing flesh."

Jason continued to follow his quarry, certain of the route he
would follow. For three nights he had shadowed him, drifting
silently in his wake like a shark content to wait for the moment
to strike. Tonight there was a hunter's moon, lighting up the
dark heavens like a beacon. Tonight he would strike the blow
that would free his friend from the tyranny of obligation to this
infernal pest.

Tonight his quarry was alone. His partner was far away; too far
to sense the danger that threatened and intervene. Jason knew
from bitter experience the bond this man shared with his partner.
It grieved him to be the one to rend their shared soul apart.
He knew the pain, the agonizing grief the one left behind would
feel every second of every hour the other remained alive, but
there was no choice. He knew she would feel the biting guilt
that was slowly eating his own soul away.

An eternity ago in Jason's memory, three men whose souls were
bound together by a single dream stepped into hell to forge a
place for themselves among the mighty. The smoker, whose name
had been laid aside years ago, was the pragmatist, the master
web-spinner. He, Jason, was the soldier, the facilitator. The
third, Jonathan, was the visionary, who saw beyond the needs of
the moment to the truth behind their dreams of power. He was the
soul of their unholy trinity, the calm, clear voice that moored
the rest of them to sanity.

"Jonathan, was it worth it? Was it worth all our dreams - this
random act of sacrifice?" Jason whispered the question on the
frosted breath of air leaving his lungs to spiral up into the

A part of Jason had died the night the Council executed Jonathan
to remind them of their places in the scheme of things. He had
watched the smoker burn as his soul ignited with the pain of
loss, then grow cold as frozen fire.

They had conspired against the Council to save this damned young
man from the consequences of his interferring ways. The smoker
cast his web of shadows around Mulder, protecting while seeming
to obstruct and blind. Jonathan nurtured the young man's quest
while diverting him from truths too dangerous for him to learn.
Jason smiled as he recalled his own skillful twisting of orders
that allowed Mulder to survive contact with the enforcers of the
Council's will. Perhaps he could even claim the rightful title
of Mulder's guardian angel, he thought with an ironic smile; a
dark angel then who reeked more of sulpur than of incense, he
added in a wry jab at the thought that either heaven or hell
could be bothered to intervene in man's affairs.

They had sinned. Confident that the shadows they had created
would protect them, they moved too openly to protect Mulder from
his brush with the truth. Jonathan had died for their sins of
complacency. He had died for this young man running heedlessly
through the night.

Too many dead lay in Mulder's wake. Soon the Council would act
and he and the smoker would join Mulder in some forgotten slag
heap, buried under a mound of lies and earth. Jonathan's death
would be rendered meaningless. He would be a forgotten martyr to
their cause. The smoker trusted in lies and obfuscation to
protect his purpose. Fool, Jason thought with exasperated
affection. The Council grows more suspicious as the Day
approaches. Turning on each other like a rabid pack of dogs,
they would soon make a leap of assumption that would toll the end
of the smoker's lies.

"I promised Jonathan I would look after you. I promised him I
would protect you, even - and perhaps most especially - from
yourself. A martyr might not be so bad a thing, my old friend.
Better now, than to wait. Despite your hopes, Bill Mulder's son
would not be allowed to live. He could not be trusted. I have
seen the warrant that waits until the Day arrives to be executed.
Better now by the hand of a soldier than later by the hand of a
hired assassin."

Jason whispered this confession to the cat who sat priest-like
in a window. No absolution was forthcoming and Jason did not
wait for any sign that his chosen course of action was understood
by heaven.

There will be none to take his place, he thought. Let the
believers have the cold comfort of a martyr to revere. Soon, the
time would be past for martyrs or heroes or anyone beyond the few
who clung to what power was granted to them. Let him die
unblemished, in the full fury of his passion. Jason had seen
hope die in the eyes of the men in the Project as they realized
the extent of their betrayal. The death of the body was a
kindness compared to the death of the soul. His friend would
understand, eventually. Better that this man should die young,
than to live too long and lose his soul to the darkness his truth


Fox Mulder ran with the steady pace of a long-distance runner.
His over-heated lungs ached with each breath as the cold night
air stung and bit his throat. Steam trailed behind him as he
pushed harder against the wall of his second-wind. His mind
strained with the task of sorting through the papers his latest
gambit had garnered. Tantalizing flickers of the truth teased
him until he had stormed off into the night to run himself and
his churning mind into exhaustion.

Scully would have a fit when she came back from her conference to
find his newest assortment of scars, he thought with a rueful
chuckle. He remembered promising the nurse he would take it
easy. Hell, he would have promised her the moon to get out of
that damn hospital. It was just the usual, bruises, a battered
skull and assorted scrapes and cuts. Of course the nifty
stitched slice that decorated his leg would be a bit more
difficult to explain. Damn that barbed wire. By now his body
was almost used to the punishment. At least he had something to
show for his bruises this time. This time the data was real.
This time he could feel the Grail almost within reach.


11:30 p.m.

"Excuse me?"

Mulder pulled up short, startled by the interruption of a human
voice into his thoughts. Automatically he reached for his gun
before recalling that he had left it sitting on the coffee table.
Leaning back, breathing harsh puffs of steam into the night, he
flexed as if stretching out the muscles in his back. In another
fluid stretching motion Mulder swung down and forward, reaching
casually for the gun that nestled reassuringly against his leg in
the ankle holster.

"That really won't be necessary," Jason said quietly. The boy
had the spirit, if not the luck of a warrior. His quarry was
still dangerous and, like a good hunter, he was careful not to
give him any quarter.

Mulder rose up with the gun into the bright shining blade of a
knife that reflected the moonlight. He started, jerking his head
back as the light stabbed his dark-accustomed eyes. The blade
cut into his throat, leaving behind a searing cold streak of
lightning swallowed up by a rush of warm hot fire that bubbled up
and cascaded down his chest. The shock of the blade froze him in
mid-stride, the gun clenched in a fist that spasmed once, then
again then opened in a graceful surrender. The gun spiraled to
the ground to land with an apologetic splat in the icy slush of
the gutter.

Jason grabbed his quarry's collapsing form and gently eased it to
the ground. He cradled him in his arms as he watched the eyes
darken with understanding. A sudden shout and rushing feet
forced him to abandon his intent to stay with his quarry until
death arrived to take him by the hand. It was not right that he
should die alone in the dirty slush of the street, but Jason was
too old a soldier to risk being caught. With a swift motion he
lowered Mulder to the ground and, catching his eyes one last
time, gave him a solemn salute before vanishing into the


Mulder lay in the cold slush unable to breathe, feeling the warm
blood freezing as it poured out of the gaping wound in his
throat. Images of a fish more bold than wise which had somehow
leaped out of his tank to soar into the bright unknown world of
air only to land on the floor, its mouth opening and closing in a
desperate attempt to breathe the unknown substance its lungs
would not recognize. Mulder had managed to fight the fish's
panicked attempts to escape and fling it back into the tank where
it settled on the bottom as if to remove itself as far as
possible from the surface and the terror that lurked beyond its

Mulder felt his mouth working to breathe in the cold air his
desperate lungs demanded. The ragged whistling at his throat
spoke of that battle for air now fighting to breathe through a
severed trachea drowning in blood. His mind was surprisingly
clear, he felt the damp icy chill of the slush that surrounded
him, noted the complete absence of pain and smelled the dark,
sweet odor of his own blood.

I'm dying, his mind helpfully supplied, as if his body wasn't
already aware of that fact.

Scully, he screamed silently, trying to reach her across the
miles. Help me, his soul screamed as he felt the darkness close
in. His eyes fluttered and closed, refusing to focus on the dark
winged shadow that stood before him, silently, patiently waiting.

"It's OK, mister. Just lie still. I've called 911."

A voice, out of the darkness. He tried to to open his eyes, but
saw only the dark wings of his uninvited guest. The voice held
the shadow at bay, forcing it to retreat. Mulder clung to the
voice, desperate to escape the inexorable grasp of the shadow.

He felt the heavy pressure of cloth against his throat and his
body surged in protest as the cloth sealed off the little air his
lungs were managing to draw in through the gash in his throat.

"Don't try to move. You're hurt bad."

Silence, then Mulder felt the cloth move slightly and felt the
delicious agony of air tearing across the wound and spilling into
his lungs.

"Sorry, mister. They never told me what to do for something like
this. Just hold on. Please?"

The voice sounded scared while offering comfort. A young voice,
too young to meet death on an isolated street corner and fight it
for the life of a stranger.

Mulder's hand flailed as he tried to touch his savior. A child's
hand, easily swallowed up by his larger one, tucked itself within
his grasp. Mulder clung to the fragile promise of that tiny
fist with all the strength he had poured into his quest for over
twenty years.

A sharp hiss of pain, the fist shifted slightly within his grasp
nearly sending Mulder into a thrashing panic fearing that his
lifeline was abandoning him.

"I'm not going anywhere, mister. Listen to me, please."

Mulder tried to fight for calm and air at the same time,
succeeding at least in the first. His lungs were screaming that
the tiny bit of air being drawn into his open trachea was not

"You're bleeding bad, mister, but you're not gushing. I think
that's a good sign. Just hang on."

In the distance, like the wail of banshees, Mulder heard the
sirens. Reinforcements in this battle were coming, but too late.
He felt his life dwindle down to a candle sputtering in the wind
stirred up by the great dark wings reaching down to enfold him.
The angel of death reached out for him and he felt the icy rake
of its talons caress his chest. His heart, laboring and frantic,
skipped a beat, then another. Frantic, Mulder fought back,
clinging to life, refusing the peace death so kindly offered him.

His fist crushed the small hand that anchored his body to life.
Surrendering himself to faith in the simple grasp of a child's
hand in his, he threw himself outward to find the other half of
himself. Reaching out with his soul, Mulder plunged along the
sliver of silken steel of his bond with Scully in a last
desperate appeal for strength.

A surge of startled amazement and fear settled down into a flood
of strength that poured over Mulder's tired spirit like a shield.
He felt himself relax into the strong arms of her spirit. She
cradled him against her heart, laying her arms across his chest
barring death from taking him. Her hands rested above his heart
sheltering it, soothing his fear. No longer alone, Mulder rested
in her embrace, his spirit content to trust that she would not
relax her vigilance.

Tucked within the shelter of Scully's spirit, Mulder defied the
angel of death whose hands were closing around his heart. Death
drew back, startled, then amused before bowing in acknowledgement
of a temporary defeat. The last thing Mulder saw before he felt
the strong hands of the medics at his throat was death slipping
back into the shadows.

Mulder barely registered the medic's gruff voice as it boomed
over his head. It seemed to be assuring someone, himself
perhaps, that help was here. Mulder wished he could tell them
that help had arrived long before they did in the form of a small
hand that appeared out of the darkness. How could he explain
that a child's faith and Scully's indominable spirit had joined
to cheat death of his soul? His lips moved in a silent mantra,
making a prayer of her name.

Air, blessed air began pumping into his lungs. Mulder relaxed
into the pleasant euphoria of survival, again.


>From across the street Jason watched his theater of death
transform into survival. He didn't bother cursing. Mulder had
the luck of the angels on his side. Perhaps his survival all
this time was not entirely due to the machinations of his smoking

Apparently it was not his fate to be Joab this night. A pity,
but he took the sudden appearance of a boy on a deserted street
as a sign, whether from heaven or hell he did not presume to ask.
His quarry would live for now. The hunt was not over. Perhaps
enough damage was done to eliminate the threat. His friend might
appreciate the irony of killing the quest without killing the

Enough philosophy, he chastized himself as he left Mulder in the
hands of the medics. He had an apartment to trash and data to
retrieve. Another partial victory for the side of the angels,
but no conclusive proof. That was victory enough for his side of
this battle fought in darkness and shadows. His friend would not
lose whatever it was he felt he shared with Mulder. In turn,
Jason felt a weary gratitude that he would not lose more of his
own soul to balance the smoker's pain.


Atlanta, Georgia
12:02 p.m.

Special Agent Dana Scully woke up from the nightmare gasping for
breath and covered with sweat. Fear still raced through her
veins, freezing her blood. Her soul cried out in pain, as she
reached blindly for Mulder.

"It was only a dream," she whispered to reassure her thrashing

"It was only a dream," she pleaded with the intuition that tried
to tell her how close she had come to losing the other half of
her soul.

Feeling immensely foolish, yet desperate to prove to her jangled
nerves that it had been just a dream, she dialed a familiar
number and waited, heart pounding in renewed fear as she heard
his recorded voice suggesting that she leave a name and a number.

"It was only a dream," she told herself as she dialed the airport
and booked a seat on the next available flight back to

"It was only a dream," she whispered to the night breeze as she
hastened homeward, drawn by fear and a need beyond reason.


"Did you retrieve the data?" A calm, even tone, barely sheathing
the steel threat behind the words.


"He is alive?" The smoker let the smoke leave his lungs in a
slow spiraling tendril. His eyes burned through haze. He knew
the answer as he had known what his friend intended when last
they spoke.

"You knew?" Jason sounded surprised, then gave his friend a wary
smile. He shouldn't have been surprised. The smoker knew him
better than he knew himself.

"Of course. You worry too much my friend." The smoker paused to
inhale and slowly exhale languid smoky rings. "Joab was a fool.
You are not a fool. Fox is still useful to us, as Absalom could
have been useful to David. I believe that was the analogy you
were using?"

Jason quelled an urge to lower his gaze as he stood before the
unblinking stare of his friend. His soul trembled as he saw the
truth, or at least the truth as his friend saw it, in those eyes
for once not veiled by smoke. Jason fought down a sudden surge
of apprehension. Knowledge in this game of theirs could be a
fatal victory.

"We have no secrets you and I. Believe what and how you will.
Fox Mulder must survive. Jonathan knew that and paid for that
knowledge with his life. He did not tell me why, only that Fox
is vital to the end game."

"How?" Jason managed to find his voice, stunned into silence by
the sudden revelation that shifted his perception of the game.

"Jonathan liked his secrets," the smoker sighed in vexed
resignation. "Too many spy novels, perhaps." This time a sad
smile flickered across his eyes, softening them into a mirror
image of the eyes Jason had watched dim on a slushy sidewalk
seven hours ago.

"I only know that Jonathan was willing to die to keep the boy
alive. We have to trust in his vision, though I have no
intentions of repeating his mistake," the smoker paused for a
moment staring at the dancing flame of his lighter with distant
eyes darkened by painful memory. Touching flame to cigarette he
once again began wreathe himself in shadows of smoke.

"This rebellion of Fox's has gone on long enough. It is past
time Absalom listened to reason. We must bring him into our
kingdom to rule by our side." The smoker's voice turned stern
and Jason flinched.

"That is your task, my friend. I trust no other with this
burden. Remove his options, until he has no choice, can see no
other choice, but to join us. Do not fail me. I have no use for
martyrs. Fox Mulder is more useful to me alive. If the Council
cannot understand this then they are bigger fools than I ever

"You think it can be done?"

"All things are possible. Every man has a price. Find Fox's.
Bring him to me, Jason. Bring me Absalom and together we will
make him the heir to our kingdom." The smoker smiled as the
devil must have smiled upon lost souls stumbling into Hell.

Jason shuddered slightly then returned the smile. The Mulders
had been part of the Project for decades. Fox Mulder belonged by
rights to the Project and it was time the Project exerted its
right to him.

Jason poured out three fingers of whiskey each into two glasses
and, after handing one to his friend, raised the glass to the
grainy picture on the mantel. Three young faces shining with
ambition and an unlimited future stared back at him.

"A toast then, to the new heir?"

The smoker downed the whiskey then inclined his head and smiled
his ghost of a smile before returning to obscurity behind his
writhing cloud of smoke. Jason placed his empty glass beside the
picture and left the room. There was much to be done. There was
a soul to inveigle.


Author's Note: Absalom was the son of King David. When he
rebelled against his father, Joab, David's military commander,
was sent to crush the rebellion. Acting against David's express
order to spare his son, Joab killed Absalom to protect David
against further rebellion. David went into mourning for his son
and would not be comforted.

Feedback will be given a good home and a warm bowl of milk at the
following address: mckibben@cc.memphis.edu