Leaving Traveling Running Settling Epilogue

Abandoned 1: Leaving

Author: ML
Email: msnsc21@aol.com
Feedback: always welcome
Distribution: Ephemeral, Gossamer, Enigmatic Dr., or if you've archived me before, yes; if you haven't, please just let me know and leave headers, email addy, etc. attached. Thanks!
Spoilers: through Trust_No1
Rating: PG-13
Classification: SRA

Summary: It's time to go.

Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully aren't mine. They mostly belong to David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, but Chris Carter created them, and Ten Thirteen and Fox own the rights. I mean no infringement, and I'm not making any profit from them.

There are a few original characters in this story, and I claim ownership of them.

Author's notes: This is the first of a five-part series. More notes and acknowledgments at the end of Part Five.

One day, the Gunmen just disappeared.

It wasn't that she hadn't expected it, but Scully had dreaded and feared this day. She knew it meant her turn was coming, and she wasn't ready.

She stood at the open door of their former headquarters. The Magic Bullet was the only place she'd felt safe for a long time. Even though the Gunmen's Warehouse had been broken into in the past, its security compromised, Scully felt better there than in her own Apartment, or at work. Maybe because Byers, Frohike, and Langly were that last real connection she had with Mulder.

Besides William, of course.

She walked through the empty Warehouse, on the lookout for clues, anything that might indicate the how and the why. But there was nothing more than a few pieces of junk, and some scraps of paper. She wished once again for Mulder's presence and his ability to pull evidence out of thin air. He always seemed to find something.

It didn't really matter that she couldn't find anything. She knew what she had to do. Now that they were gone, it was only a matter of time.

It meant she had to go, too.

She'd known the day was coming since Byers first mentioned the possibility that the Gunmen might have to disappear.

It was after the almost-meeting with Mulder at the train station that Byers brought up leaving for the first time.

Scully had started spending more time with Byers, Langly, and Frohike after Mulder left. In the past, the Gunmen had made regular visits to her apartment; more recently, she'd been going to see them instead. Somehow, she felt closer to Mulder when she was around them. They spoke of him in the present tense, not like the people at the FBI (including Skinner sometimes), who, if they spoke of him at all, spoke of him as someone long gone, almost forgotten. For Scully, Mulder wasn't just her past, but her present, and her hope for the future. Possibly the hope for all humankind's future, not that most of humankind knew or cared. The Gunmen still cared.

Though she knew that the Gunmen sometimes had contact with Mulder, she never asked them about it, and they seldom volunteered any information. It seemed safer that way. For Scully, coming to the Gunmen had been a refuge from the realities of her life, and William seemed to enjoy them, too.

The Gunmen had been shy around William at first. But William, who obviously inherited charm from his father, won them over in no time. They played with him, and fed him, and told Scully about the more unusual baby-care tips they found on the Internet.

Scully could actually relax around them in a way she couldn't anywhere else.

So when Byers mentioned casually one day that they thought it wouldn't be long before they'd have to take their operations deeper underground, Scully was taken by surprise.

"Why now?" she asked.

"It's probably a good time, before anything happens," Byers explained. "The one assailant has been flushed out of the woodwork, and They now know that you're aware of the surveillance. There's nothing more that we can do here. If we left now, it wouldn't cause even a ripple."

"What makes you think that They won't be watching your every move? That They aren't doing it right now? That They aren't perfectly aware of everything you're doing?"

"They think we're boobs," Frohike said succinctly. "Especially after our last exploit. So if we disappear off the face of the Earth, it won't mean anything to them. Especially since to all appearances, we've gone bankrupt, and done a midnight flit."

Scully raised an eyebrow and Langly explained. "We've been putting money away offshore for some time from various sources, for just such an event."

"I'm almost afraid to ask from where," Scully said. The Gunmen usually didn't volunteer much about their activities.

Frohike chimed in. "The latest was royalties from First Person Shooter, which in the end, netted quite a nice nest egg."

Scully said, "I thought the game tanked."

Byers blushed. "Tell her, Frohike."

Frohike shrugged. "They developed a new game, which was a runaway success. Sales went through the roof. It's already in its third version. We cleaned up, and so did you."

"What do you mean, Frohike?" Scully asked. "I had nothing to do with the game."

Byers said again, "Tell her, Frohike."

"I was getting to it," Frohike said. "You're part of the reason for the its success, Scully. You're the heroine in the game."

"What?" Scully remembered Matreya, and she knew that the construct looked nothing like her, and never would.

Langly added, "They mapped you somehow when you were in the game saving Mulder's ass. We found out about it, and made them pay."

Scully shook her head. "I still don't know what that means."

She hoped Mulder didn't know about this. She'd never live it down. She suspected, however, that the Gunmen not only told him, but probably secured a copy of the game for him.

"That when you need to leave, you won't have to worry about money. You'll be taken care of," Byers said. "We've got the accounts set up, the fake IDs, everything."

At those words, Scully felt a surge of longing so strong it almost swamped her. Her brain went fuzzy as Byers expressed the wish she'd never spoken aloud, that she'd barely allowed herself to think about. She felt hope and desire like a physical thing, flooding her body with warmth and trembling.

Then, just as quickly, the feelings receded as her brain took over once again, asserting itself over her traitorous body. There was no point in allowing herself to hope.

"I can't," Scully said abruptly. "I'm sorry, I just can't," she said her good-byes and left before anyone could say anything else.

On the drive home, Scully couldn't stop the tears from forming. She knew Byers meant well, but he was offering her something she couldn't have. She'd always known it. Even as Mulder was preparing to leave and they discussed the possibility, she'd known it. Mulder knew it too, though he took an optimistic line, much as he had over the failed IVF.

"It'll happen, Scully," he said as he held her close the night before he left. "Give it time. We'll work something out."

The words had been reassuring, but she couldn't see how it could ever come about. There were too many dangers involved, too many unknowns. The attempt at a reunion had shown her that, as if she hadn't already known it.

She hadn't heard from Mulder since that night, though she continued to email him faithfully. She hoped and prayed that her messages got through. She didn't say everything she wanted to say in them.

Now she was always aware that anything she did or said could be overheard. If she'd been lonely before, it was even worse now, without even Mulder's words to comfort her.

Scully avoided going to the Gunmen for some days after that. It wasn't their fault, and she didn't blame them for bringing up the possibility of leaving. They weren't aware of some of the things that made leaving impossible. Things she avoided thinking about, let alone talking about.

Her biggest fear was that her movements were tracked not just externally, but by the chip in her neck. Mulder had suggested it years ago. She hadn't wanted to face it then, but with Mulder gone, she had to.

If she left, They would follow her. They would find Mulder, and kill him. And They would kill her, too, and take William away.

She could still try to spirit William away herself. Not to go to Mulder, but to take William out of reach of their enemies. So that neither she nor William could be used against Mulder. They might still track her, but if she stayed away from Mulder, maybe They'd leave her alone.

That was probably a stupid idea. How long would she be able to elude them on her own? If They found her, how could she keep Them from taking William?

But what if she stayed, and They took William anyway? What if They kidnapped him, and used him as a lure to bring Mulder out of hiding?

Stay or leave? The conversation at the Gunmen made her think of things she hadn't been ready to face. But she had to do something.

If she left, she also left what little support system and protection she had. The thought of being alone, totally vulnerable, with no backups at all, was too frightening to contemplate.

Stay or leave? What was the more dangerous course? Fear for both Mulder and William froze her.

Scully felt like another piece of her life had been taken away when she stopped visiting the Gunmen. Still she dragged her feet, and it was Frohike who finally got in touch with her.

"Agent Scully, we've missed you," he said.

"I've been busy," Scully hedged.

Frohike didn't challenge her. "Well, Langly's got a new toy that he's been dying to show off and we're tired of hearing about it. Can you come by and help us out?"

"I'm not usually the one to appreciate Langly's inventions," Scully pointed out. "That would be Mulder." She was proud of herself for being able to say his name so calmly.

"Well, come anyway," Frohike urged. "You'd be doing us a huge favor."

To tell the truth, being away from the Gunmen made Mulder seem even more distant. If they brought up the subject of her leaving again, she'd just have to deal with it. Reluctantly, Scully agreed to stop by on her way home the next day, and to bring William, too.

Frohike greeted Scully in his usual manner and took William from her. William squealed with delight as Langly and Frohike carried him off to the kitchen. Byers led Scully to sit by the terminal where Langly usually sat.

"Agent Scully," Byers said. I know we took you by surprise the last time you were here, talking about going away. We didn't mean to upset you."

"It's okay," Scully said. "I don't want you to think that I haven't considered what you said." She looked away, still not sure she could keep her voice steady. "It's not about the money. There are other...considerations. It just doesn't seem possible."

Byers put his hand over hers very briefly. "There may be a way."

Scully shook her head. There was no way. She didn't want to have to explain it to them, but it looked like she was going to have to.

"John," she finally said to Byers, "I would have gone with Mulder from the start if I could have. But when we talked about it, we agreed that it wouldn't work. One obvious reason, is that William was only a few days old when Mulder had to go. And, at the time, it seemed like a good idea that one of us stay behind and try to keep informed as much as possible."

Frohike sauntered back out from the kitchen with William during this exchange. "Hasn't worked out all that well, though, has it? All They've done is try to use you to flush Mulder out."

"I don't want to make it easier for Them to do that," Scully said.

"And if I go to Mulder, They may be able to track him down. As much as I want to go, I can't." She indicated the back of her neck. "I'm pretty sure that I can be tracked because of this."

Now it was Frohike's turn to hiss to Byers, "Tell her!"

"Agent Scully," Byers said somewhat diffidently. I didn't want you to feel we'd invaded your privacy, that's been done enough. But we know about the chip, and your fears about it." He smiled. "Mulder was concerned, too. We may have the solution to that. Mulder asked us to see what we could do, not long after the incident at Ruskin Dam. We've been working on it ever since."

Byers went over to a cabinet and took down a small box. Nestled inside was a small vial. He handed it to Scully. It contained, suspended in clear liquid, a very small chip. Not as small as the one implanted in her neck, but almost.

"Where did you get this?" Scully asked incredulously.

As usual, Byers was the spokesman, outlining for Scully in his usual formal style the research that they did, the sites they'd hacked into, the software they'd pirated. Langly interjected information about what he did, but computer jargon was not something Scully understood in the way she knew medical terMs.

In a daze, she asked the questions she had to ask. How did they test the technology? How sure were they that it would work? What about other side effects?

The Gunmen answered her questions as fully as they could. They, along with a network of MUFON members, had been working in secret on a countermeasure for the chip. Not one that would destroy it entirely, but that would blank certain signals.

The technology, of course, couldn't be tested on another human; they knew of no one they could have used as a test subject. But they tested it on computer models, based on the information they had about Scully's chip. Even though Pendrell had destroyed the original, they'd obtained the fragments. They understood radiowaves, microwaves, electronic transmissions, frequencies and interference. They knew about computer chips, and firewalls, and blocking devices. They applied everything they knew and everything they could find out.

"We know it's a long shot, Agent Scully," Byers said apologetically. "But we think it might be worth a try."

"Everything's a long shot," Scully muttered.

"The only way to really test it," Byers continued, "is to have you go into hiding. And see if your watchers try to find you."

"How long?" Scully asked, though she didn't expect they'd know the answer.

"Until we get a chance to test the range and ability of our countermeasure," Langly replied, "it's hard to say. Maybe weeks, maybe months."

Maybe years, Scully thought. But the alternative was never to see Mulder again.

"We don't think it will be that long, Agent Scully," Byers said reassuringly. "I don't want to be over-confident, but I think we will be able to slip under Their radar, and if we can, we'll be able to start monitoring within a week."

Scully lay awake for a long time that night. Could she do that? Just up and leave? Would she be able to somehow slip out from under their all-seeing, all-knowing scrutiny?

She wasn't even sure she could make herself do it. Abandon her life, everything she knew? Her mother, her siblings, her work, everything that made her who she was? Just walk away?

She'd felt this fear before, when her partnership with Mulder was still relatively new. She'd wanted reassurances from him that she wasn't throwing her career, her life away. Mulder couldn't do it, and in the end she followed him anyway, despite the consequences.

It was only the first of many times she'd done so.

This was by far the biggest leap of faith shed ever contemplated.

Mulder had done it. She could argue to herself that he had less to leave behind. He'd already lost mother, father, sister. He'd been summarily fired from the FBI.

Scully and William were all he had, and he'd had to leave them behind. No one had been waiting for him, out there.

But she had someone waiting for her. Mulder was waiting for her. She wouldn't be leaving alone, heading toward more loneliness. Her decision was made for her in that moment; though she still had doubts and fears, she knew she had to go.

Mulder was waiting for her. What other argument could there be?

The next day, she went to the Gunmen. "Tell me what I have to do," she told them.

By outward appearances, she did nothing any different than she'd been doing since Mulder left. She took William to her mother's, she went to work, she picked William up. She went grocery shopping. She took William to the park on the weekend. She visited the Gunmen, and once in a while they visited her.

But all the time now, deep in her heart, she felt the metronome that both cautioned her to keep still, and to keep watch.

Mulder had told her what an informant had told him once about the invasion. "The timetable is set," the luckless Kurtzweil had told Mulder. It was to take place over a holiday weekend, when people were away from their homes. A national emergency would be declared. There would be confusion, and panic, and it would be too late to do anything.

How far into the future this was to be, he hadn't said. Recent events indicated it would be sooner rather than later, but there was no way of knowing for sure.

Scully wouldn't wait for a holiday. She would pick her own day, a day like any other. In the meantime, she went about her business. Nothing must seem out of the ordinary.

"We won't be able to warn you when we leave," Byers cautioned her. "We'll just have to go. But that will be your cue. You should leave as soon after that as it feels safe."

Scully gave a mirthless laugh at that. "Safe" was a relative term; and it wasn't something she'd felt for a long time.

There were no real preparations she could make, and that in itself made her restless. They'd decided that she should travel light; leave everything behind, and start fresh. The less she took with her, the less likely it would be that she could be tracked. Byers had shown her the trick with the strip in the twenty-dollar bill the first time she'd met the Gunmen; was that when he'd told her, "No matter how paranoid you are, it isn't paranoid enough?" Or was it just that she'd heard Mulder quote it so often?

She trusted no one. It was better not to say anything to anyone.

What her friends and family didn't know couldn't harm them, and could not disrupt her plans. As far as she knew, chip or no chip, They still couldn't read her thoughts.

One overcast day in spring, several weeks after the Gunmen left, Scully got ready for work, put William in the car, and headed toward her mother's. She took the usual exit, stopping briefly on a street just short of her mom's, and then kept on driving.

She drove aimlessly, not thinking about where she was going, taking any road that appealed to her. She drove at a normal speed, glancing in the rear view mirror often, looking for anything out of place or too familiar.

She'd left her cell phone at home. She'd left a package for her mother in her safety deposit box, her insurance policies, William's birth certificate, a letter. She hadn't dared to say much, except Don't look for me. Don't worry about me. I'll be in touch some day.

She didn't really believe the last part, but she hoped her mother would.

She also left a letter for Skinner in the safety deposit box, counting on her mother to deliver it. She'd leave it to him to decide how much to tell Doggett and Reyes, and when. Her thorough nature wanted to leave letters for everyone, but common sense told her it was dangerous to indulge in such a gesture.

The fewer people who knew anything, the better, and the less anyone knew was better still.

During that first day, she abandoned her car, leaving it in a long-term parking lot. If it was bugged, it wouldn't matter where she left it; if it wasn't, this would slow the search down. Long enough, she hoped. Long enough so that she could disappear entirely.

She took a cab to the bus station, and in the restroom there she changed both her clothes and William's completely, from the skin out. She put their old clothes in a Salvation Army donation bin.

Then she took a cab again to a used car lot, and bought a car, using the first of her fake IDs. But by far, the most important change she'd made that day was to apply a small patch on the nape of her neck, just below the implant scar. She offered up a small prayer as she did so.

She hoped that the Gunmen's optimistic predictions for this technology were accurate.

Late that night, she stopped at a nondescript motel, much like many she'd stayed in over the years with Mulder. Maybe they'd even stayed in this one. Mulder would remember. They all looked the same to her after a while. All that mattered tonight was that she had a safe place to rest her head, and care for William.

Once William's needs were seen to, Scully took a quick shower and bundled herself up in sweats, and climbed into bed. It was the first chance she'd had to actually think about what she'd done.

She wondered who had noticed her disappearance first. She really only had until her first lecture at Quantico before someone started wondering, and checking. She imagined the restlessness of the students when the usually punctual Dr. Scully didn't appear. How soon would it be before someone thought to call Skinner, or her mother?

She felt a sob well up as she thought of her mother. She'd be receiving yet another phone call with bad news.

::Mrs. Scully, have you heard from your daughter today? Did she say anything to you? Do you know any place she might have gone? Can you think of any reason why she might disappear on her own? Did she have any enemies? Did she express any fears to you?::

Forgive me, Mom, she said silently. I love you. I'm okay. Please believe that everything I'm doing is for the best.

She felt in her pocket for the worn piece of paper she'd been carrying around with her for so long. She knew the words by heart, but it had comforted her to look at it, just the same.

It wasn't there, and then she knew what she'd done, and how far she'd gone.

She'd debated about whether to destroy any of her personal papers before she left. In the end, she burned a few things in her fireplace that she didn't want falling into other hands.

Notes to her in Mulder's handwriting, mostly. Not that he'd ever written anything very sentimental to her, but they were no one else's business.

The last item she burned was the last thing she'd received from him.

"Dearest Dana..." with great reluctance she'd finally burned the paper with Mulder's email message on it. Even though she knew it by heart, there was something about holding the paper while imagining him speaking those words to her...

..."Hey," Mulder's voice had called to her from the edge of consciousness.

"Mmmm?" she'd responded drowsily, burying her nose into his neck. She liked the sound of his voice vibrating against her cheek.

"D'you mind if I call you Dana sometimes?"

The unexpectedness of the question woke her up completely. She almost laughed. "You make it sound like we just met. Like this is a one-night stand or something. Jeez, Mulder."

"At this point, a several-night stand," he responded. "Not that I'm counting. It's just -- I just thought it would be nice to call you Dana once in a while."

Scully pulled a little away to look Mulder in the eye. "I'm not the one who told you to call me Scully," she said. Funny how, after all these years, that still rankled a little. <'I even made my parents call me Mulder.' Like hell he did.>

Mulder had the grace to look a little sheepish, and he said bravely, "Do you want to call me Fox?"

She shook her head. "I can't think of you as anything but Mulder now. But you can call me Dana, if you want to."

"Only sometimes. Only in private," Mulder said. "I used to say it to myself, once in a while. I haven't had the guts to say it out loud for years."

"Afraid I'd shoot you, Mulder?" Scully asked.

Mulder grinned. "No, afraid I'd give myself away...Dana," he whispered it to her. "Dana. Dana Scully. Dana Katherine Scully. Dana Katherine Scully-M..." he closed his mouth abruptly before the next word could come out.

"Mulder?" It was both a question and a completion.

Mulder looked at her and nodded slightly. "I know, it doesn't sound like something I'd care about. But when you asked for my help with the IVF, I figured if I knocked you up, I'd better make an honest woman of you."

Scully snorted. "Now *that* sounds like the Mulder I know."

"And love?" he said in a hopeful tone.

"Stop fishing, Mulder." She smacked him playfully and he grabbed her wrist. Sleep was forgotten in the ensuing tussle, as was the conversation. Until now.

Had they really been that light-hearted? Even once? At this distance, it seemed impossible to believe, even though she'd been a participant.

Yet there had been times. Granted, they seemed to occur at widely-spaced intervals, but they had occurred. Dancing at a Cher concert. Batting practice. A night out in Hollywood. Even just watching a silly movie and drinking beer. They'd had moments of freedom from fear, even normalcy.

Scully smiled to herself, remembering. Her expectations weren't what they once were. She turned out the light and tried to sleep.

The next morning, she completed her transformation.

She'd purchased some clothes at a thrift store before they'd stopped for the night. She dressed William in girl's clothes, and put a silly hat on his head. He was young enough to be mistaken for a child of either sex, though she could hear Mulder's derisive voice in her head about her choice of disguise for him.

He'd probably be even less thrilled about Scully. She'd given herself a haphazard haircut, and dyed the tips black. She wore jeans that were threadbare at the butt and the knees, and a wrinkled, faded tee shirt. She cut her fingernails off and left them unpolished. Other than too-dark lipstick and heavy eye makeup, she went bare-faced. Her mole was visible for the first time in years. She felt like she was stripping away the old Dana, making way for something not yet fully realized.

She missed her cross. It had been a part of her for so long, but she'd been firm with herself. No reminders of her past. Nothing that could give her away. She'd put it in the safety deposit box, in the letter to her mother. She hoped her mother would understand her reasons. Not just for the cross, but for everything.

She'd have to wear a high-necked shirt until her hair got long enough again to cover the small patch. It itched slightly once in a while, just enough to remind her it was there.

She looked in the mirror and saw a stranger looking back. She hoped it would fool any watchers. She certainly couldn't look any different than Special Agent Dana Scully. She wondered if Mulder would recognize her like this. She thought he would probably recognize her no matter what, just as she would recognize him.

Mulder might even be turned on by this look. You never knew with Mulder.

On the other hand, she might look entirely different again when she finally saw him. If she ever did.

Her head rang with unanswered questions. These same questions that she'd asked herself since deciding on this course.

Would the Gunmen's invention work? If it didn't, how would she know, one way or the other? How much time should she wait? They'd tried to think of every angle. They worked out codes and signals and contingency plans, but what if? What if?

What kind of patience did They have? Would They wait until William was grown to make a move? Or would They try to kill Mulder as soon as she got in touch? And how could she possibly know, or prepare, for either?

Was this a risk she was willing to take?

There was no going back now. She'd truly burned her bridges.

She'd never felt so alone.


Abandoned 2: Traveling

It didn't take long for Scully and William to develop a routine. Scully took roads at random. They drove all morning, stopping briefly for necessaries such as feeding William and bathroom breaks. They stopped for an hour or two at lunchtime. After lunch, she drove all afternoon. Before dark, she found a nondescript motel and they stopped for the night.

Scully tried not to be more paranoid than usual. She was watchful, but did nothing overt to arouse suspicion. She and William ate in cafes and chain restaurants, and stayed in decent, if modest, motels. She wasn't overly friendly, but she schooled herself not to freak out if someone approached to admire William.

William was a good traveler. He was rarely fussy, and he still slept a good deal of the day. Sometimes Scully would have conversations with him, catching his eyes in the rear-view mirror and trying to make him smile at her.

She missed having Mulder along. She'd even have let him do the driving without a protest. She missed his conversation, the crack of his sunflower seeds, his constant fiddling with the radio.

It was the nights that were the loneliest. Once William was bedded down for the night, Scully had too much time on her hands, with nothing to do but think, and remember.

Despite what the "super soldier" said (if indeed, that was what he was), Scully hadn't been feeling particularly lonely the first time she'd asked Mulder to stay. Mulder had come over for dinner, and they'd discussed their current case while eating. After, Mulder helped her clean up the kitchen.

It had been a pleasant evening. They'd argued, but in the usual way: taking opposing theories and working them out on each other. These evenings had been occurring with increasing frequency. Neither of them questioned this new need to spend even more time with each other. Scully wasn't sure how it started, but they both found reasons to have dinner together nearly every night during the week, case or no case.

For some reason, she'd felt more at ease with Mulder since the IVF attempt. Even though it had been unsuccessful, Mulder's unwavering support and his unexpected tenderness made her see a side to him that she could no longer ignore.

When Mulder had agreed to help her have a child, Scully knew he'd say yes. She didn't think about his motivations for agreeing. She told herself that he was doing it out of his love for her as a dear friend. He made it easy for her to believe that, playing as always to what he read as her wishes. "I just don't want this to come between us," he'd told her when he agreed to be her donor.

Now she knew that he must have feared that any chance for true intimacy would be destroyed by the success of the IVF. She realized that he was afraid that the connection they had would be due only to the child they shared, and not the deeper bond that had existed between them almost from the beginning.

It was odd to think that performing such a personal, private favor could somehow distance them. And yet, she thought now that it could have, by changing their relationship through the most artificial of means. It would have been, in essence, an arranged marriage.

When he'd come back from abduction and death to find her pregnant, that very thing had almost happened. But before that, before her pregnancy and his death, Mulder'd had other things on his mind.

In some ways, Mulder had seemed so uncomplicated. He had a goal, long before he'd met Scully, and he pursued it single-mindedly. For years, Scully thought finding Samantha was Mulder's only goal.

His hidden agenda manifested itself in unguarded moments: a touch, a look, a heartfelt hug. A drug-induced "I love you." Their rarity and subtlety didn't make them less true, but it did make them easier for Scully to ignore.

It wasn't that she didn't have feelings for Mulder, but she could always come up with reasons why getting involved with him was a bad idea. And, despite the hints he dropped from time to time, Scully knew that he would never force her hand. She told herself he relied on her good judgment. She had moments of doubt, but consoled herself that keeping apart was the wisest course.

What had finally tipped the balance in Mulder's favor was a second birth announcement from Holman and Sheila Hardt in Kroner, Kansas. They both seemed to think that Scully and Mulder were responsible for their happiness, and Sheila wrote a personal note to Scully in the card, asking if she and Mulder were still "together."

Scully thought of the conversation she'd had with Sheila that night in Kroner. "...one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere..."

She looked at Mulder with new eyes that night, and she stopped kidding herself. As Mulder went to the door, she took his hand for courage. He squeezed her fingers and smiled at her. She tilted her head up and leaned toward him, and the smile was no longer just on his mouth, but in his eyes as well. She closed her own eyes but could still see him smiling, and then felt it too as his lips touched hers. Their mouths smiled against each other, and their arms found each other, and what had seemed impossible before suddenly became inevitable.

Her memory of their first time together was more a matter of moments and impressions. The warmth and strength of his arms around her. The feel of his mouth on hers. His endearing uncertainty that she really wanted him to stay. Hearing words she'd never expected to hear from him, or anyone else, ever again. The surprising softness of his skin against hers. His gentleness. The feel of him moving inside her, at once electric and comforting.

She lay awake afterward, thinking. Mulder had whispered to her as he held her close, "Do you know how happy you've made me?" He stroked her hair softly until he dropped off to sleep, but Scully couldn't sleep. She wished Mulder were two people: the man she loved, sleeping in her bed, and her friend, Mulder, whom she could call and talk to about what just happened.

Scully felt that way now. She wished she could call Mulder up, and tell him where she was, and discuss her options. Am I doing the right thing? Should I give up and go home, and take the consequences?

She could almost hear Mulder in her head. Don't give up, Scully. If you quit now, They win. I can't do this alone.

I miss you, Dana.

She kept on.

The second day, Scully had sent post cards. Each went to "Alec Walker" in a different city, and each contained the same message: "Hi! Just wanted to let you know I moved. Hope to catch up some time when things settle down. Here's my number:

Fondly, Alice."

Langly and Frohike had devised a code. It looked like a phone number, but it was actually coordinates for the town she'd chosen, the first stop on her tour: Des Moines, Iowa. The cards were to let the Gunmen know she was on the move. She then had five days to get to her destination. She hoped that they had escaped undetected, and that their part of the plan was working.

The Gunmen couldn't tell her exactly what would happen when she arrived there. They'd told her to check General Delivery at the post office when she got to her destination, and there should be something waiting for her if all went well. They told her to wait at least a week at her destination town. It might take that long for them to contact her, depending on where they were.

"The less we know of each other's movements beforehand, the safer it will be," Byers reassured her. "We've got some parameters we're working within, but if we're too specific, the information could be more easily compromised."

Scully couldn't fault that. She remembered all too well how badly the rendezvous at the train station had gone.

She nodded seriously but said, "I think you guys watched too many spy movies growing up."

"Nah, it was 'Dungeons and Dragons' that taught us all this strategy," Langly said.

"Speak for yourself, Beastmaster," Frohike said.

It did seem like a giant board game to Scully, and it would be amusing if it weren't so deadly serious. She'd pored over maps with the Gunmen, learning how to send and how to decipher the codes they'd worked out.

They had to have a starting point, however, and she had to smile at the towns they'd chosen. Independence, Missouri, Liberty, Kansas, and Fort Defiance, Arizona.

She'd raised her eyebrows at the last one, and Langly blushed and said, "That's my choice."

The safety of this method was in its randomness, she told herself. That was also why it could take a while before she and Mulder finally found each other.

The hard part was that she would have to stay put for a while after getting to her destination, hoping that at least one of the cards ended up in the city where either Mulder or the Gunmen were, that they'd gotten her message, that he'd find her. That it was safe for him to find her.

But what if she wasn't doing it right? What if the Gunmen hadn't told Mulder this part of the plan? What if they hadn't hooked up with Mulder yet? What if he was moving around as much as she was, and they never ended up in the same part of the country?

Another day, another Denny's. It was past lunchtime when she stopped that day but she shared the restaurant with a busload of tourists, all women, all grandmotherly looking types. Her table was near the restrooms, and it seemed like every person who passed her table had to coo over William. She smiled and thanked the well-meaning women and did her best not to slap their hands away when they touched his soft cheek.

For his part, William took it all in stride, gazing at these women with wide eyes and waving his fists, but not upset at all.

"What's her name?" A group of three women stood at William's high chair. They looked enough alike to be sisters, though maybe it was the identical sweatshirts each wore that said, "I'm a Lollie" on the front.

"W-Willa," Scully said. She could have kicked herself; William was still dressed in girl's clothes and she hadn't thought of a name for his alter ego.

"What an unusual name! And what beautiful eyes she has! She must take after her father. Does she?"

"I wouldn't know," Scully said evenly. "I don't know who her father is."

"Oh," one of the women said. "Well, have a nice day, dear," she said, and chucked William under his drooly chin. All three walked quickly away.

William had gone very quiet when their visitors left the table. Scully looked up from her salad to see him staring at her, sucking fiercely on his fist. Except for the fist, he looked just like Mulder when he was annoyed with her for some reason.

Maybe that was why she felt he was reproaching her for the lie she'd told. "Don't worry," she said softly. "You know and I know the truth."

William kept on sucking, but he blinked, and the little wrinkle on his forehead smoothed out.

That night, she had a hard time falling asleep. She still felt a pang of guilt for her repudiation of Mulder, however facetious it was. It reminded her of the argument she and Mulder had over that very subject.

Right after he'd been revived and miraculously cured of all that had ailed him, Mulder had withdrawn from her. She'd done her best to give him space, give him time. As much as she'd wanted to talk about what he was feeling, and what she had gone through, she held back after the first fumbling attempt when he'd seemed unwilling or unable to respond to her overtures.

She remembered her own reluctance to talk or even think about her own missing time, and how she tried to immerse herself back in the work.

His, "I don't know where I fit in," comment should have been a clue to her about what he was thinking. But she couldn't bring herself to ask him, any more than he could ask her.

It wasn't until after the visit to the Federal Statistics Bureau that it all came to a head. Everyone else had gone home, but Mulder was still at Scully's. He was restless; he paced the floor in Scully's living room while she made tea.

"So close, Scully," he'd said when she came back in. "We were so damned close, and we might have made it if Doggett hadn't interfered."

Scully had grown tired of Mulder's little digs at Doggett. Was he jealous? Did he think that she hadn't been watching out for his interests? Why didn't he come out and say what he meant?

But instead of saying any of these things herself, she asked, "Mulder, are you determined to get yourself killed?"

He stared at her for a minute, then looked away. "What difference would it make?" he muttered, just loud enough for her to hear. "You've done okay without me."

That was so unfair that it nearly took her breath away. "How can you say that, Mulder? All I wanted was to have you back. I didn't ask for a new partner, and I sure as hell didn't expect that I'd be raising our child alone."

Mulder looked up at that, and started to say something, but Scully was on a roll now, and cut him off. She'd been spoiling for a fight ever since he'd returned, and she was going to have one.

"Not to mention that even before you were abducted, you were keeping things from me," she said heatedly. "Why didn't you tell me about your illness?"

Mulder countered with, "Why didn't you tell me?" He gestured at her belly.

"Do you think I knew before you left? It's not the same thing, Mulder. You knew about your brain disease MONTHS before you were abducted, and you never said a word!"

Mulder slumped into the sofa. "There was nothing you could have done," he said. "All I could tell was that it had to have been caused by what Cancerman did to me. There was no cure, as near as anyone could determine."

She sat in the armchair across from the sofa. "I don't understand how I could have missed it," she whispered. "You were hospitalized more than once after Spender had you. How could I not have seen it?"

"I don't think you could have, if you didn't know where to look," Mulder said. "It was more a feeling. I had some memory lapses, a few dizzy spells. Headaches, sometimes really bad ones. The neurologist I went to said that there was something going on, but nothing so obvious as a tumor. He didn't even have a good description of it. He said it seemed -- elusive. But that I showed a marked decline in certain brain functions."

"And he couldn't treat you?"

Mulder shook his head. "He wanted me to come back regularly, promising me he was working on it. But I think he just wanted to study me. I guess you could say we used each other. He could track the progress -- or decline -- of the disease, and I could get a sense of how much time I had left."

"Like Robert Patrick Modell?" Scully asked. "When were you going to tell me? When you were on your deathbed?" She spoke quietly now, but she knew Mulder could hear the hurt and anger behind her words.

"There was nothing you could have done, Scully," Mulder said again.

"But you wouldn't even let me try," Scully whispered. She caught Mulder's agitation and paced awkwardly, holding her belly, feeling the movements within. "How would you have felt if I'd kept my cancer from you?"

"You did your best to keep it from me, Scully," he accused in turn. "All you'd ever say was that you were fine. I had to watch you every day, fading away from me, and I couldn't do anything. I didn't want to put you through that."

"I went through it anyway," she said. "We were more than partners, Mulder. I always expected to take the bad with the good. Maybe I could have done something." She sat down heavily again.

"Maybe you'd have been better off if I hadn't come back at all," he said tiredly, rubbing his face.

"Damn it, Mulder! Stop saying that!" Scully said, trying to get up quickly and almost overbalancing. In a flash, Mulder was at her side, holding her steady. She shook him off. "If you think I'm going to sit here and listen to your little subtle digs about how well I've done in your absence, and your sniping at John Doggett --"

"Oh, so it's 'John,' is it? How nice for you that you have a partner who lets you use his first name," Mulder taunted her. He sounded for all the world like a twelve-year-old.

"Knock it off, Mulder. If you're going to act like that, you should just go home. If you want to ask me a legitimate question, ask. I'm not rising to the bait."

Mulder towered over her as he stood beside the armchair but she wasn't intimidated. She met his stare with one of her own.

Ask me, Mulder. Go ahead. I won't answer until you do.

"What is Doggett to you?" he said.

This was the question she expected. "My partner," she said flatly. "My work partner." She stared him down, waiting for the next question.

This one she didn't anticipate. "Your child ... am I the father?"

She should have just said yes. But the question took her by surprise, and she was still angry with him. "What do you think?"

His belligerent look disappeared. He sank onto his knees beside her. "God, I hope so, Scully. Ever since I saw you in the hospital, I've hoped so." He lay his head on the armrest and tentatively put his hand on her arm.

She nodded, though he couldn't see her. "It's what I always hoped for too, Mulder." She stroked his hair.

"Everybody seems to think I am anyway," he said. "Like what Langly said this afternoon..."

"People have made assumptions about us for years, Mulder," she said. "Just because this time they made a lucky guess..."

"I think maybe I'm the one who got lucky," Mulder said, and he moved so that his head now rested against her thigh, and he put his arm around her belly.

It was so typical of them. No actual apologies were exchanged, but each had let the other know all was forgiven, nonetheless.

Things had gotten easier between them after that, though nothing more was said directly on the subject. Scully had always suspected that Mulder made his grand gesture of farewell to the X-Files and the FBI when he'd realized what a toll his activities were taking on her. "Tell the kid I went down swinging" seemed to have more than one meaning. He'd had no intention of going down on that oil rig. Whatever happened, he'd be fighting. Not just for the truth, but for her, and for their child. It was also his tacit acknowledgment that he believed he was the father of her child. As frightened as she was for him, she knew it meant he would find his way back.

She hadn't realized that he still had doubts about his place in their lives until she told him what she'd named their child. For a brief period after that, everything seemed clear, and they'd been happy. ::"The comfort and safety that we enjoyed for so brief a time..."::

And then, he'd had to go.

Now it was her turn to find her way back to him.

The day before they were due to arrive at their first destination, Scully decided it was time William became a boy again.

She also decided she'd had enough of the grunge look. It seemed to draw attention of a kind she wasn't used to. When she went into a store or a restaurant, she was watched. Like she might run off without paying the check. Or maybe like she might panhandle if anyone looked her in the eye. That might be a good thing as far as traveling incognito, but she'd rather try for anonymity than suspicion, of any kind.

That was the reason she told herself, anyway. It had nothing to do with the idea that maybe by this time tomorrow, or the next day, she might see Mulder. She didn't want to tell herself that. If it didn't happen, the disappointment would be devastating.

She lingered in the hair care section of Walmart for a while, looking at the choices. It had been a long, long time since she'd worn her natural hair color ::"I know your true hair color,":: the super soldier had said.

She'd been born blonde, but when she applied to medical school, she'd dyed her hair a darker shade. She thought it would help her to be taken more seriously.

She knew her academic record was excellent. She could hold her own against anyone in that area. But she feared the "blonde backlash" that at least one of her fellow students had suffered. She already knew she was going to have a tough time in medical school, and possibly her whole career. Her small stature and her coloring were two strikes against her in what was still largely a man's world. She couldn't do much about her height, but she could dye her hair.

Her medical school application contained a photograph of a very serious young woman with wire-rimmed glasses and medium-brown hair, pulled back from her face.

She'd kept her hair the same shade throughout medical school, and when she entered the FBI Academy. She'd had a reputation for being a serious, somewhat humorless, grind. That was fine with her. Whatever it took to get ahead.

Not long after she was assigned to the X-Files, she celebrated by changing her hair style and dyeing it red. Ethan, her boyfriend at the time, wasn't pleased. But then, he wasn't pleased with much she was doing. He didn't like her new job, and the traveling it entailed. He didn't like her smartass partner. However, Scully acknowledged to herself that she hadn't done it for Ethan. It was a milestone, and she'd wanted to mark it in some way. Another blow for independence.

She didn't admit it even to herself for a long time, but she also did it to elicit a reaction from Mulder. He never said a word about it. It wasn't for some years that she found out he was red-green colorblind. By then, she'd known for a long time that he rarely made personal comments. It wasn't that he didn't notice things, he just didn't comment on them. It was frustrating as well as intriguing.

She wondered if Mulder would care if she went blonde. She wondered if she'd care if Mulder went blonde. Maybe he had. The thought gave her pause.

With what they'd seen, it was a wonder that they didn't both have white hair. Maybe under the color, she did.

In the end, she settled for the medium brown, close to the shade she'd had when she first started on the X-Files. She didn't try to analyze why she'd spent so much time agonizing over it. She'd never had so much trouble making a decision before. Everything now seemed to carry so much import, such weight. She was tired of the burden.

Much as she wanted to, Scully didn't head for the main post office as soon as she got into town. Instead, she found a coffee shop and sat for a while. She was anxious, wanting to prolong the suspense rather than know disappointment. She got herself a latte, and William got some warmed milk. Instead of thinking about the post office, she thought about Mulder.

Eventually, she couldn't delay any longer; the post office would be closing at five. She gathered William up and headed for the main post office.

With held breath she waited while the postal clerk rummaged around in the bins for anything addressed to "Alice Adams." She smiled when she returned with a large Priority Mail envelope. It looked very businesslike and professional. Scully showed her fake ID to the mail clerk, who barely glanced at it before handing the package over.

Scully waited until she was back in the car before she opened it. The envelope contained a smaller legal-sized envelope with a printed letter and a cashier's check made out to "Terry Randall." In another small brown envelope was her new identity in the form of a driver's license apparently issued in Michigan, and a birth certificate for Douglas William Randall.

The check was drawn on something called "LS Holdings Inc.," with a box number in Golden, Colorado.

"Dear Ms. Randall," the letter read, "Enclosed please find your first annuity payment. As agreed, you will receive these payments twice monthly, the nearest business day to the 5th and the 20th. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at the above-referenced address."

It was signed very illegibly by someone claiming to be Peter Joshua, which made her smile.

Interestingly enough, though the picture on the license showed her with reddish hair, the written description showed her hair as "brown." Her height was correct, and her weight was a bit low.

So Alice Adams was no more, and Terry Randall was the new Dana Scully. She wondered if Mulder picked out the names, or if one of the Gunmen had a secret yen for Katharine Hepburn. It was probably not Mulder. He probably would have chosen Donna Reed or Samantha Stevens. Whatever, she was just glad whoever it was hadn't chosen Lara Croft.

There were no other instructions in the packet. When Scully and William got to their motel, she pulled everything out again and inspected it carefully. Nothing at all to indicate who sent it, or what her next move should be.

Considering the work that went into all this, they must have had everything ready to mail as soon as they got her postcard.

Maybe they'd even had some of these things in place before they'd left Washington. She was beginning to realize that maybe she didn't know the Gunmen very well at all.

It appeared from the letter that they would be communicating with her regularly, but she knew that she wasn't to contact them unless it was an emergency. She had no way to contact them quickly until now. Byers had told her they'd find a way to get her a number, cautioning her at the same time not to use it unless in extreme emergency.

When she and the Gunmen made their original plans, Byers suggested that they not set any kind of a pattern. "We need to figure it out as we go along," he said. "If we know what the next move is, chances are the enemy will know, too."

It amazed her, what good strategizers the guys were. She'd underestimated them, had thought of them as amiable conspiracy nuts, and never realized just how intelligent and committed they could be. She was grateful once again that they were on Mulder's side. And hers.

She had to trust that this packet was from them, and that they did have her best interests at heart. She would follow their instructions, and try to be as patient as possible.

The new identity was the beginning of the next phase, and the most dangerous one. Scully had agreed that once she settled in a place, she would start using her identity to open a bank account, rent an apartment, try to live a normal life. This was to see if she flushed any watchers out of the woodwork.

She tried not think what might happen if the whole thing backfired. Trust, she told herself. I've got to trust someone.

She looked over at William, who was gnawing on an arrowroot biscuit. He seemed oblivious of the turmoil his mother was experiencing. There were times when he seemed so in tune with what she was thinking, and other times when he seemed off in his own baby world, thinking his baby thoughts. She was grateful that he seemed more baby than "more human than human." Krycek's words haunted her.

William gurgled at her and waved his biscuit at her, drool coursing down his chin. She smiled at him, and he gave her an open-mouthed grin, once again looking so much like Mulder in one of his rare light moments that her eyes teared up.

"Well, baby boy," she said. "I guess we'll just have to wait and see what comes next."

William gurgled his agreement.


Abandoned 3: Running

Scully stood in a shaft of light so dazzling she couldn't see beyond it.

"You can trust all of us," a man's melodious voice floated out of the darkness. Smoke drifted into the circle of light, wreathing his features. He looked as he had the first time she'd laid eyes on him, in Blevins' office.

"Yes, all of us," Krycek stepped out of the shadows. He held his hand out to her. It was alive, and human, no longer a plastic replacement.

There were other faces, circling her, watching her, like the replicants had as she gave birth to William. Watching her, waiting for her next move, her next word.

Diana Fowley stepped up. "We'll take care of William, and you. Fox would want it that way."

"What have you done with him?" Scully asked in terror. "Where is he?"

"Don't worry, Miss Scully," said the English gentleman. "It will all become clear to you." He held out his hand, much as Krycek had. "Just come with us."

She heard a cry. William. She turned to seek him out, and to turn away from all these people. "William?" she called.

"William, Mommy's here." She couldn't see him; all was dark around her.

Out of that darkness she heard footsteps.

The Bounty Hunter approached her, carrying a squalling William in his arms. "It's time to go now," he said.

Scully woke up trembling, the darkness and silence thick around her. She got up on shaky legs and went to William's crib. He was there, sleeping peacefully.

"Mulder," she whispered to herself. "Where are you?"

Six weeks, Scully mused. The longest six weeks she could remember.

Staying in one place for so long was making her nervous and restless. She spent a lot of time in public, as the Gunmen suggested. So far, she'd noticed nothing out of the ordinary, but she never relaxed her guard.

The old Dana Scully was entirely gone now. The woman who once took such care with her appearance that even her nightclothes were tailored now hardly wore anything other than jeans and tee shirts. Her hair was already growing out from its chopped off cut; soon it would reach her collar again.

She sat in the sun outside her favorite coffee shop, writing in her journal. She'd decided to start keeping one again, mostly to record William's progress, a record to show Mulder one day. She wrote in her own version of shorthand, a method she'd taught herself in medical school. It would be difficult for an outsider to decipher, should she get careless, or if someone should look over her shoulder.

She also bought a Polaroid camera. She took pictures of William and tucked them into the pages of her journal, another piece of their life to share with Mulder when they were together again.

She'd been afraid to bring even one picture from home, and she'd burned all the pictures of William and Mulder she'd had, except for a couple she put in the safety-deposit box. Of course, her watchers probably had all the pictures they needed, but she wouldn't give them any extra ammunition. She now understood why Mrs. Mulder had burned everything before she committed suicide.

She'd gone to the public library a couple of times and did a little checking of certain websites and newsgroups that Mulder used to frequent, to see if she recognized any of the usernames. She didn't try to access her email account. Though she'd been tempted, she hadn't used the phone number. There was no reason to, except that she was lonely and wanted to hear a familiar voice. So far, the only communication had been the initial package with her new ID and the regular "annuity checks" which she duly deposited in the bank. They were more than enough to live comfortably on.

She could afford a nicer place than she got, but she didn't see any reason to waste money. She found a small furnished Apartment, got a crib for William, and a few kitchen supplies. She'd thought optimistically that she'd only be there a few weeks.

She was no longer sure.

It seemed to her that they would really have no way of knowing if the danger existed until something happened. Nothing happening proved nothing, except perhaps that their enemies had a lot of patience.

"I don't want to be the subject of an unending X-File," Scully had protested to Mulder once. She still didn't, but here she was, living smack dab in the middle of one.

It was so hard, never knowing if a friendly stranger might actually be an enemy. Scully tried to behave in a normal manner, but she worried that her fears stuck out all over. Even if the chip was truly disabled, They'd find their way to her simply from her fear.

Out of old habit, she looked carefully at everyone. She was always on the lookout for someone who looked familiar, who made overtures that were just a bit too friendly.

Their enemies were faceless now. Maybe the most dangerous ones had always hidden in the shadows. They seemed to know how to use those closest to Mulder and her, as well. Skinner had done his best, but had been compromised, again and again. Doggett was willing, but had been naive enough to trust the wrong people, time after time, realizing only when it was almost too late that he'd believed when he should have doubted, and doubted when he should have believed. Even her own mother had been used against her, charmed by a complete stranger into endangering her daughter.

Even Scully had been fooled once or twice. Even Mulder had been fooled ::"What happened to 'trust no one, Mulder?"

"I changed it to 'trust everyone.' Didn't I tell you?":: They were right to trust no one but themselves, and each other.

The only enemies with faces were the ones she saw in her dreams. They're dead, she told herself when she woke up drenched in sweat, heart nearly leaping from her chest. They can't get to you.

But they were getting to her, through her dreaMs.

She needed Mulder. She didn't know how much longer she could live like this.

She'd felt violated by the super soldier's words. Yes, it was a cliché, but that's what best described the feeling she had as he recited what he knew about her. She wouldn't allow herself to be ruled by her anger and fear, however. She'd had to go on living her life, doing what needed to be done, even with the knowledge that someone probably still watched her. She could forget about it, from time to time, but the awareness was always in the back of her mind.

While they were still in DC, she'd discussed disabling the devices in her home with the Gunmen, but she knew they'd likely be replaced immediately. Instead, she tried to make note of where they were, where the possible blind spots might be. And she went on with her life.

Even having left that world behind, she didn't feel in control. She waited at the whim of the Gunmen, or Mulder, to know what her next move should be. Her life was still not her own. The thought of the Gunmen tracking her moves was far from reassuring. Not because she didn't trust them, but it annoyed her to think they were watching her, that maybe even Mulder was watching her, but she wasn't allowed any contact in return. She told herself it was safer for them all, and necessary, but she didn't like it.

The fear never really went away. Or the loneliness. William was a great comfort, and she was so glad to have him with her, but she missed adult conversation. More specifically, she missed Mulder's conversation. Sure, sometimes she'd rolled her eyes at his quips, and they certainly didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things, but nobody gave better conversation than Mulder.

Now, she never did more but exchange the necessary words with people she met. She smiled if someone smiled at her, but barely spoke. She couldn't overcome her fears.

She found herself talking to William quite a lot. She told him what they'd do with their day, and all during the day, she pointed things out, at night when she put him to bed she told him about his daddy.

Usually William just absorbed it all but once in a while she got a look or a smile from him that seemed to say that he understood everything. She didn't know whether to be glad, or more afraid.

There had been no repeat of the moving mobile incident and Scully frankly didn't want to face what it might mean. William was her miracle. Whatever else he might be was not something she could think about right now. She had to protect him, and she would do anything to keep him safe.

On a more practical level, that meant that Scully had William with her twenty-four hours a day. She rarely left his side for anything longer than a quick shower. She was grateful that he was such a good baby, rarely fussy, but the constant vigilance was one more thing that wore her down. Coupled with the sleep too frequently broken by nightmares, she was afraid she'd lose her edge, become less alert, and that would spell danger for both of them.

It was taking its toll.

Scully's eyes flew open. She could see nothing in the darkness but a flicker of movement just out of her line of sight. "Who's there?" she said, feeling under her pillow for her gun. It wasn't there.

"Agent Scully," the voice was familiar, but it wasn't a good memory.

She could make out the outline of a person.

"Who's there?" she said more sharply, trying to think of a weapon she could get to.

The shadow resolved itself into Billy Miles. "Agent Scully," he said again, in the voice that was and wasn't his.

"What do you want, Billy?" Scully tried for calmness. If he meant her or William harm, there was nothing she could do but try to escape.

"You've got to go," he said. "You can't stay here any more." He took a step closer.

Scully rolled over and off the far side of the bed, still facing Billy. She stood between him and William's crib.

Suddenly Billy was much closer. "Get back!" she warned him, and put her arms up in a futile attempt to ward him off. Though she felt no blow, she felt herself falling backward...

...and sat up abruptly, back in bed, the aftereffects of the nightmare constricting her throat. She took a couple of big gulps of air, and turned instinctively toward William's crib.

He was standing up, gripping the side rails, staring at her.

Scully didn't even stop to think. She stuffed a few things into a backpack, grabbed her purse and William, wrapped him in his coat and blanket. She slowly went to the door to her Apartment, opening it very quietly and looking around.

Everything was still; she had a clear view to her car in the parking lot. She made her way down to it, quickly and quietly. As soon as she got William settled, she put the car in gear and drove away slowly, not wanting to excite any attention.

It was two o'clock in the morning and she had no idea where she was heading. All she could hear in her head was, it's not safe, it's not safe, it's not safe...

Whether Billy's appearance was actually a dream, or a true warning, she couldn't take the chance. This was the first time William had seemed disturbed by her restlessness, and she wasn't sure what to make of that, either. She obeyed the voice inside her that said to go.

Every time she glanced in the rear view mirror, she could see William, not sleeping, just sitting quietly, looking at Scully's reflection, sucking on his pacifier.

"It's okay, Will," she said in a cheerful tone. "We're just going on a little side trip." Sure, that was believable.

She stopped shortly after dawn in a small town somewhere. She wasn't even sure she was still in Iowa. The cafe was a bright, crowded place, filled with farmers. No one really seemed to pay attention to her as she came in with William, still wrapped in his blanket, and slid into a booth as far away from the door as she could.

A waitress came by and poured her coffee, and Scully ordered dry toast for herself, and a banana for William.

"No eggs?" The waitress asked. "No bacon? You could use a little feeding up."

Even this careless kindness was enough to make Scully feel weepy. "Just the toast for now," she managed to get out.

"Thank you."

"Sure thing, hon," the waitress said with a smile, and she turned away.

She must look pretty bad, to elicit concern from a stranger. She tried to tuck her hair behind her ears, thought briefly of going into the restroom to wash up, but she didn't think her legs would carry her.

She'd driven cautiously and not particularly fast, keeping an eye in her rear view mirror almost as much as she watched the road ahead. She had been well away from Des Moines before the morning traffic started. She'd changed directions frequently, heading more or less east so that she wouldn't just be driving in a circle. It didn't look like anyone had followed her.

Unless somehow they knew where she was heading anyway. How could they, when she wasn't sure herself? She just started driving, thinking only that she needed to get away.

If only she could just stay here for a little while. Just long enough to rest, to get a decent night's sleep. She leaned her head back against the upholstery of the booth and shut her eyes briefly.

"You okay, honey?"

Scully's eyes flew open to see the waitress was back with her toast. "Just tired," she said with a wan smile. "I haven't been sleeping well."

The waitress nodded sagely. "You just rest and have your breakfast. You're safe here."

Her choice of words made Scully tense up. She looked sharply back at the waitress, who stood there calmly. "What do you mean?" she asked with an edge to her voice.

"Just what I said. Anyone can see that you're running from something, and this is a good place to stay for a while, if you want to. My name's Brenda, by the way," she said, indicating her name badge.

"I'm -- Terry," Scully said. She'd hardly said that name out loud and it sounded strange even to her ears.

"That's okay, you don't have to tell me any more," Brenda said. "I bet you don't have any place to go, do you?"

Scully considered for a moment, and then shook her head.

"Well, take your time over your breakfast. This place'll clear out in an hour or so, and I'll be done with my shift. If you like, I can show you someplace where you can stay a while."

Scully glanced over at William, whose face was messy with mashed banana. He looked back with his impassive baby face, and sucked on his fingers. She wasn't sure what she was looking for, but she took comfort in his calmness.

Scully followed Brenda's car to a two-story house on the outskirts of town. Toys were scattered around the big front yard enclosed by a cyclone fence.

A small woman with short gray hair, dressed in jeans and a long sleeved tee shirt came to the door as Scully got out of the car. "Hi, Brenda," the woman called as she came down the steps.

"Hi, hon," Brenda said. "This is Terry, and her little boy. Just got into town."

"Hi Terry," she said, holding out her hand. "I'm Georgine. I run this place, such as it is."

"What is it?" Scully asked. Georgine's grasp was gentle, but warm and strong. Her expression was compassionate, her eyes kind. Scully hadn't felt so much comfort from someone for a long time.

"Well, some call it the shelter," Georgine said. "But I just call it home."

"Scully," she heard a voice whisper in her ear. "Scully, are you awake?"

She felt warm and comfortable, safe.

"Just barely," she said. "Time's it?"

"I've got to go soon," Mulder said. "But I need to tell you something first..."

Scully woke up slowly, with tears on her cheeks, surprised to see that it was light outside.

Georgine had welcomed Scully and William into her home, shown her around, and showed her the room she'd share with William. She'd set up the crib for William, and he went down right away. Georgine had encouraged Scully to take a nap as well. "We'll wake you up for dinner," she said.

Scully couldn't deny that she was tired. She looked over at William, already asleep. She'd sat down on her bed for just a moment, and the next thing she knew, she was waking up to sunshine.

It couldn't be possible that she'd slept the night through, but it looked like it. Someone had taken her shoes off and put a blanket over her. She stretched a little. It was the longest she'd slept in quite a while. She wondered what time it was; she'd left Des Moines in such a hurry, she'd left her watch behind.

And that wasn't all. Her journal, the pictures she'd taken of William, and most of her meager possessions. She didn't know if she'd ever have the courage to go back.

The letter. The letter with the phone number was tucked inside her journal. She was sure of it.

Those thoughts brought her fully awake. Had she left anything behind that could identify her? If she'd left the letter, anyone might be able to trace her through her name.

She began to rummage through her backpack, glancing over to the crib to see if William was still asleep. He wasn't there.

Panic rose in Scully's throat. She looked around wildly, not sure what she was looking for. Evidence of another presence? Billy Miles? There was no one else in the room. She slipped on her shoes and nearly ran down the stairs.

She found a number of people in the dining room, finishing breakfast. William was there, sitting in a high chair, getting all the attention from a couple of other women and two little girls.

"Oh hi," one of the women said. "You must be Terry. What's your little boy's name?"

Instead of answering, Scully said, "Did you bring him down here?"

"No, Terry, I did," Georgine explained. She was coming through the kitchen door. "Just a few minutes ago. I figured you'd be out for a while, so I thought I'd bring him down for breakfast."

Deep breath, Dana. Nothing's wrong. Deep breath.

"Are you okay, Terry?" Georgine asked. "I'm sorry I didn't wake either of you for dinner last night, but you were both sound asleep and I figured rest was better than food."

Scully nodded shortly, still feeling disoriented. William seemed fine, happy even, being the center of attention. Maybe he was tired of having just Mom around.

"What do you call him?" one of the little girls asked.

"Buddy," Scully said, taking the nickname Mulder called him exactly once before he left. "I call him Buddy."

The first couple of days at Georgine's, all Scully did was sleep. Georgine woke her for meals and to tend to William's needs, but everything else was a blur. When she was awake, she felt like she was sleepwalking. When she was asleep, it was so deep that she didn't even dream.

On the third morning, Scully woke up feeling alert for the first time in quite a while. She got up and stretched, arms above her head. William was awake, too, and he smiled as she leaned over and picked him up.

"Hi, Buddy," she said softly, nuzzling against his soft cheek. "Doing okay? I'm hungry, what about you?"

"M-mm-mmuh," William agreed.

The smell of coffee and eggs drifted up to them as they started downstairs. Scully could hear the muted sounds of conversation. She saw the sun streaming in from the windows on either side of the front door.

It wasn't home, at least not hers, but she felt safer than she had in her own home.

Everyone staying at Georgine's had chores to do. Scully started out with kitchen duty. She helped Georgine prepare the meals and cleaned up afterward. Later Scully saw that helping Georgine was always a newcomer's first job, for obvious reasons.

Women came and went. Some stayed overnight, some stayed a few days or a week. After a while, Scully felt like she'd become the "senior resident," helping Georgine when someone new arrived.

One night a woman arrived with a bad gash on her forehead, still bleeding slightly. Without thinking twice, Scully took the first aid kit from Georgine's hands and talked to the woman calmly as she tended to the cut. After that, she was in charge of first aid for everyone.

It made her feel good to put some of her skills to use. She enjoyed helping out in any way. The regular routine of chores was soothing and kept her busy.

William seemed to be thriving. He'd always been a quiet baby, but he smiled and laughed more now. Scully still watched him closely for signs of anything unusual, but he seemed entirely normal. His growth and development continued at a normal pace. He had a growing vocabulary of sounds and almost-words. He was beginning to crawl. The first time he did so, Scully watched with tears in her eyes as she realized afresh that Mulder had missed another milestone in their son's life. She scooped him up and nuzzled his neck, which always made him squeal. "Your daddy would be so proud," she told him. William looked pretty proud of himself.

Georgine was the calm center of the house. The children seemed naturally drawn to her, and their mothers followed their children's lead. Scully found herself drawn to the quiet strength of the older woman, but though she did everything she was asked to do, she kept silent when the other residents of the house talked.

It wasn't formal counseling, but each afternoon during the children's nap time, the women staying at Georgine's gathered in the living room, or on the back porch if it was warm enough, and talked.

Often the conversation centered around what had brought them to Georgine's. Scully didn't join in, and if she chose not to answer a direct question no one challenged her on it. There was always someone else willing to share her experiences.

Scully couldn't tell the truth about herself, and she had no intention of making up a story similar to what the other women had endured. It seemed disrespectful of them. Each of them had suffered at the hands of another, by someone close to her.

She kept quiet, and listened with sympathy, and offered the support of a clasped hand or a hug. The stories these women related about the terrors they'd escaped amazed and horrified her.

No one she loved had ever shoved her head into the toilet, or burned her repeatedly with a cigarette, burned up all her clothes, or thrown her out into the back yard in the snow. No one had called her names, told her over and over again how stupid she was, or how worthless she was.

It wasn't that she'd never heard stories like this before; after all, she'd been in law enforcement for a long time. But they seemed to have a more personal resonance, somehow. She didn't have the professional separation she'd always been able to use in the past.

Scully knew that she had survived terrors that these women couldn't even imagine, but she had one thing that they didn't have: she'd never been harmed, physically or mentally, by the person she loved.

The abuse had come from other sources, sources she could hate unequivocally. But as real and as horrible as it was, she couldn't bring it up in front of these women.

She felt almost guilty that these women were so kind to her, so welcoming. So unquestioning of her presence among them.

Most nights after she'd put William down for the night, Scully sat on the back porch alone. She relished a little time to herself. She wasn't used to communal living, and sometimes craved a little quiet and privacy.

At the end of the day, she just needed to be alone with her thoughts. During the day, she kept busy enough with the chores, but always in the back of her mind was the nagging worry that she could be traced from Des Moines somehow. That she might be endangering not only herself, but these kind people who took her in without asking questions. She rubbed at the patch at the back of her neck. Still there, still presumably doing the job it was supposed to be doing. She wondered idly what adhesive they'd used. Super glue?

She worried about what she had left behind in Des Moines. She knew that if the Gunmen were keeping an eye on her, they'd be panicked about her sudden disappearance. This was the emergency the number they'd given her was intended for, she felt certain. But she wasn't sure she should risk going back to Des Moines for it. But she couldn't stay here forever, though part of her would have liked to. But the biggest part of her wanted to find Mulder.

The screen door opened and shut behind her and she heard Georgine say, "Mind if I join you?"

Scully shook her head. Georgine sat down and handed Scully a mug of tea. "It's getting chilly out here."

"Mmm," Scully said noncommittally, feeling a bit tense. Georgine hadn't pressed her for any information, but maybe she'd decided it was time to. Scully held her mug in both hands, letting its warmth soak into her, the fragrance of the tea soothe her.

Georgine said nothing. Scully sneaked looks at her. She sat looking out over the yard, a serene expression on her face.

Scully finally broke the silence. "I don't think I've thanked you," she said softly. "For taking me and my son in."

Georgine turned and smiled at her. "You're welcome," she said simply. "It's what I do."

"Why do you do it?" Scully asked.

Georgine sipped at her tea before replying. "The short answer is that I saw a need."

"But there's more to it than that?" Scully asked.

"I haven't always been here," Georgine went on. "I started out as a social worker in New York City. I wanted to make a difference. But eventually, I began to burn out. Not from the people, but from the bureaucracy. So I thought I'd work on a smaller scale."

"How do you avoid the bureaucracy?" This was certainly close to home; battling bureaucracy took up a lot of her time too.

"By not going to them for any help," Georgine said. "The women who come here weren't helped by being put into the system; the system failed them long ago. What I have is a stop on a sort of underground railroad, if you will. The people who need help find us. Or we find them."

"Brenda," Scully said.

Georgine nodded. "She stayed here, like you, ten years or so ago. She's part of it, and there are others like her, in other towns."

"Are there others like you in other towns?"

Georgine smiled. "I wouldn't doubt it. There's nothing official or formal about it. We don't have an organization, we don't hold meetings, we don't even know each other. But word gets around."

For years, Scully had seen evidence of the undercurrent of evil that seemed to thrive and grow and appear everywhere. She hadn't realized that there was also a current of goodness, just as hidden, just as strong. Maybe stronger. She hoped stronger, for all their sakes.

Scully felt reassured by this thought. It gave her courage. "Georgine," she started to say, "I - I'm not like the other women here. I'm not running from an abusive relationship --"

"But you're running away from something. And it's clear that you've suffered abuse -- whatever the cause. So, you were led here." She held Scully's gaze with her own. "Maybe you were brought here for yourself, and maybe for another reason. But you'll know when it's time for you to continue."

That night she awoke from her most frequently recurring dream.

-Scully, are you awake? -Mmmm, just barely. Time's it? -It's almost time to go, but I have to tell you something first...

She always woke up at that point. She knew what he was going to say, but she never got to hear it. She always woke up too soon.

On this night, she got up and pulled her sweatshirt on. She checked on William, sleeping soundly in his crib. Reassured, Scully crept out the door and tiptoed quietly downstairs.

She opened the back door and sat on the porch steps. ::Imagine a place where I can walk outside in the middle of the night and feel safe. Imagine feeling safe.::

A month ago, she thought she'd never feel safe again.

She looked up at the stars. So many, so bright. She remembered the nights of looking up there, wondering if Mulder was up there somewhere too, concentrating on sending him thoughts. He'd told her he thought he felt her presence sometimes. She knew she'd felt his.

She hoped now that wherever he was, he was looking up at the stars, and thinking of her. Believing that she was seeing the same thing, and thinking of him. She closed her eyes and concentrated.

"Is this seat taken?" came a soft voice from behind her.

Scully jumped and instinctively reached behind her for her weapon, which wasn't there.

Georgine sat at the other end of the step and leaned against the railing. "Can't sleep? Nightmares?"

Scully shook her head. "More memories than nightmares."

"Do you want to talk about them?"

Scully shook her head. "Not really. I would, but it really isn't safe."

"Not safe for whom?" Georgine asked softly.

"For me, or for the people I'm thinking about," Scully replied. "Or for you. Georgine, I appreciate everything you've done for me, and I'm sorry I haven't been able to share anything with you, but I'm afraid by doing so, I will endanger the people I care about. And that includes you."

"I understand," Georgine said. "I don't know why you've had to go into hiding, but I won't pry, either."

Scully slumped against her side of the railing. "You don't know how much I'd like to tell someone, but I can't."

They were both silent for a while. Then Georgine said, "It's time, isn't it?"

Scully nodded, fighting back tears. "I have to go. All I'm doing is delaying the inevitable."

"I know you must be involved in something important," Georgine said. "You were in some sort of law enforcement, weren't you?"

Scully laughed disbelievingly. "Is it that obvious?"

"Remember, I haven't always been in the sticks," Georgine said. "I've had some experience with New York's Finest. I know what to look for."

Scully imagined Georgine standing up to someone like John Doggett. She had no doubt that she could.

"You need to get back in the fight, whatever it is," Georgine said.

Scully nodded. "I do."

"Not to mention, getting back to that baby's father."

Scully didn't reply; she couldn't reply.

"I've been around, remember?" Georgine said. "Enough to know he's not the cause of your problems. But maybe he's part of the solution."

"I think so," Scully muttered. "He might disagree."

"When are you going?" Georgine asked.

"First thing in the morning," Scully said. Now that she'd made up her mind, there was no sense in delaying any longer.


Abandoned 4: Settling

On the road once again, Scully felt freer than she had for a long time.

She'd left Georgine's just as the sun was rising, hugging her goodbye with a fierceness that surprised them both.

"Be careful, Terry," was all Georgine said.

"I will, Scully replied. "I know the danger may never go away. But I won't be facing it alone, any more."

She'd stopped briefly at the cafe to say goodbye to Brenda, and then it was back on the road to Des Moines.

She looked back in the rear view at William, still asleep in his car seat, a little string of drool spooling from his plump lower lip.

::I think you drooled on me, Scully.::

Scully smiled at the memory. At least she knew that Mulder wasn't put off by a little drool.

She made plans as she drove along. The best thing, she thought, would be to go back to the apartment in broad daylight. She didn't even know if she still had an apartment; at least she hoped the manager had kept her things. She'd pay whatever back rent or penalty she had to, to get what she needed.

It was still early when Scully reached Des Moines. It hadn't taken as long to return; she'd taken a more direct route than the morning she'd fled in terror. Instead of going directly to the apartment, Scully went to the coffee place she used to frequent.

"Hello," the girl with blue stars tattooed on her arms greeted her. "Haven't seen you in here for a while."

"I've been out of town," Scully said. A month ago, being recognized by someone would have seriously freaked her out.

"You want your usual?" The girl asked. "And a biscotti for you-know-who?" William the drool factory grinned at her. "Oh look, he's got a new tooth."

"A couple of them," said Scully. "Yes to both, please, and no nuts in the biscotti."

The girl smiled. "I remember."

It was actually kind of nice, to be remembered.

Scully made herself stay there for almost an hour, steeling herself for the next step. She took her gun out of the lock box in her trunk and stuck it in the waistband of her jeans. Just in case, she told herself.

The apartment manager was in her office when Scully got there. "Oh, Ms. Randall! I'm glad to see you back. Does your brother know?"

"My *brother*?" Scully asked. "Which one?"

"Let's see -- older, I guess? Short, wears glasses ... what was his name?" She muttered to herself. "Oh yes, Brian."

"Brian." Sounded like it might have been Frohike, from the sketchy description. It sure as hell wasn't either Bill or Charlie.

"Yes. He came by a few weeks ago, said you'd been called out of town on a family emergency. He paid your rent, in case you couldn't get back. He comes by and checks on your apartment once in a while."

"I'll call him right away," Scully said in a daze. "When did he last come by?"

"A couple of days ago," the manager said. "He said he'd be by with next month's rent if necessary."

"It won't be," Scully said. "In fact, I'm afraid I'll have to give notice."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Still having some trouble?" the manager asked sympathetically.

"I'm afraid so," Scully said. "I don't see an end to it any time soon."

She left William locked in the car and cautiously approached her apartment door. She pushed the door open and stepped back and to the side.

The door swung silently inward. The apartment was equally silent, and empty. Everything looked the same as she stepped inside. She breathed a sigh of relief and went to get William.

Scully continued her inspection once she had William inside. There was a film of dust on everything, though she could see some less dense areas where it looked like fingers had touched the top of her bureau and her nightstand. The bed was made up, rather messily. She was sure she hadn't taken the time to even do that when she'd left.

The nightstand drawer was open a little. That was where she'd kept her journal, and her gun. She'd grabbed her gun that night, and left the journal behind.

It wasn't there, which meant the telephone number she wanted wasn't there, either. She hoped it was Frohike who'd taken it. She'd like to hurt him for taking it anyway, but better him than anyone else. Unless, of course, Mulder had it.

She'd just have to wait to find out. Presumably, he'd be getting in touch again before long. Then she thought of something.

First things first, however. She put William down for a nap, and took a shower. She checked to make sure that William was still asleep, and went back down to the manager's office.

"Did my brother leave an emergency number? I can't reach him."

The manager rummaged around in her desk. "Here it is."

Scully took the piece of paper. "Brian Cruikshank," it read, with an 800 number.

Since she had no phone in the apartment, Scully would have to wait until William woke up before she could go find a pay phone and give the number a call. She tried to take a nap herself, but was too restless to sleep. She did a little quiet cleaning, dusting off the surfaces and putting to rights anything disturbed by Frohike's search of the apartment. He'd evidently looked through everything for clues to her whereabouts.

The only drawer that was suspiciously neat was her underwear drawer. Everything was folded just so. Even Scully wasn't that neat.

The thought of Frohike being so careful with her delicates both amused and embarrassed her. If she hadn't been so glad that it was him searching and not their enemies, she'd have to kick his ass. Maybe she would, anyway.

"LS Holdings," said an unfamiliar voice.

"Brian Cruikshank, please," Scully tried not to let her voice shake.

"He's not available. Can I take a message?"

Scully chewed on her lip. She hadn't expected that. Finally, she decided that simple was best.

"This is Terry Randall. Could you just tell him I'm back from my trip, and waiting to hear from him?"

"Yes, ma'am, I'll see he gets the message," the voice said.

Now all she could do is wait. Again.

-Scully, are you awake? -Mmmm, just barely. Time's it? -It's almost time to go, but I have to tell you something first...

Someone was banging on her door. She glanced over at William, but he was still asleep. She got out her gun and went to the door. She looked out the peephole but couldn't see anything at first. Then, a figure stepped back from the door and peered up at the peephole.

The glasses didn't look the same, and he was clean-shaven. But the kind, intelligent eyes were ones she knew.

She fumbled with the chain and flung open the door. "Brian?" she squeaked out the unfamiliar name.

"Hi Sis. I got your call, welcome back."

"Come in, come in. I'll make some coffee. What time is it?"

"Kind of early, actually, but it made more sense to come back than to keep going, so I came back."

That didn't make any sense to Scully, but it didn't matter.

As the coffee brewed, Scully went to get William. Frohike whistled when he saw him.

"He's really grown, Sis," he said.

William gave a squeal of recognition and began bouncing in Scully's arms. She handed him over.

"You're a fine looking boy, Kiddo," Frohike said, carefully avoiding his name. "He definitely takes after his dad."

"Thank you," Scully replied. "How is -- his dad?"

Frohike smiled. "He's good, and very anxious to see you."

She felt like singing, like laughing, like grabbing Frohike by the ears and kissing him senseless. They were going home, at last.

When she found out that Frohike had driven all night to get there, she insisted that he take a nap before they left.

It's not that long a trip, Sis. Maybe four or five hours," Frohike said.

"All the more reason to rest up now," she said. "Once we're on the road, I won't want to stop."

Frohike rolled his eyes, but he obeyed.

Scully spent the time packing the few things she wanted to take with her. She'd been traveling light, so it didn't take long. She made sandwiches with the groceries she'd bought the day before, and took the rest down to the apartment manager. She was glad to expend a little nervous energy in this way.

After a couple of hours, she woke Frohike up. He helped her take her things down to the car, which was actually more like a small delivery van; it only took one trip for her things. William had more stuff than she had.

"No more bags?" Frohike asked.

Scully shook her head. "I've got everything I need for now."

They headed east, stopping only for food and a little exercise. Frohike drove the whole way. "I've made this trip a couple of times lately," he said.

"Where are we going?" Scully asked early on. She wasn't worried as much as curious.

"Home," was all Frohike said.

"Tell me what you guys have been up to," Scully said. "Has there been any trouble? When did you find M-mulder?"

It was the first time she'd said his name aloud in months. It felt strange and a little scary, as if someone could still overhear her.

"We hooked up with Mulder only a few weeks ago. Not long after you disappeared, in fact."

Too much irony, Scully thought. Wouldn't you know it would happen that way.

"We wouldn't have been able to bring you in yet, anyway, we weren't ready," Frohike said. "Yves agreed to keep any eye on you and she was the one who told us that you'd disappeared."

"Yves?" Scully was puzzled. The name was vaguely familiar, but she wasn't sure from where.

"Yeah, I forgot, you never met her. She's sort of a friend of ours. Well, she helps us out sometimes. If it suits her. She's a master of disguise."

"But she didn't follow me to -- where I went?" She'd have to have had an invisibility cloak to do that, Scully thought.

"She, uh, didn't exactly see you leave. She noticed the next day when you didn't come out of the apartment at your usual time. Jeez, Scully, you gave us a good scare, though," Frohike said. "Where did you go?"

But Scully wasn't ready to share this information just yet. Maybe never. "Let's talk about it later, okay?"

They made one stop mid-day, so Scully could feed and change William. The poor baby hadn't had much of a regular routine. What Scully hoped for most of all was some stability for William. No more being awakened in the middle of the night, no more running ... and two parents to love him, and watch out for him.

"I have a lot to make up to you, Sweetie," she whispered to him. She kissed him as she strapped him back into his seat.

"Time for you to wake me up in the middle of the night. That's the way it's supposed to work."

William smiled and reached for her hair. She let him pull it gently, nuzzling against his cheek for a long moment before returning to the front seat.

Scully started seeing the signs for Minneapolis/St. Paul. "Is that where we're going?" she asked.

"Ever been to St. Paul, Scully?"

"I've been to Minneapolis. Mulder and I had a case there, a long time ago." Donnie Pfaster, to be exact, but she didn't say that to Frohike. Instead, she said, "We almost went to a Vikings game there."

::and I actually let my guard down in front of Mulder for the first time:: she added to herself. It was better to remember the comfort of his touch, than what led up to it.

Besides, since then, she'd experienced much worse than Pfaster. He didn't have the power over her he once did.

"We're on the St. Paul side, and sort of away from the city," Frohike was saying. "You'll see."

Traffic got heavier as they approached the metropolitan area. Soon they had taken a secondary road, past the industrial areas, past the rail yards, docks, and Warehouses. Then they were traveling through a greenbelt. Large, modern buildings dotted the landscape, surrounded by parks with mature trees and protected by tall fences topped with razor wire.

"Where's home?" It looked like they were far away from any residential areas to her. She wondered if the Gunmen had holed up in another seedy Warehouse. It might be safest, but the thought depressed her.

"You'll see," was all Frohike would say.

Finally they turned down a narrow paved road which ended at an electronic gate. A small metal sign on the gate announced, "Lodestone, Inc. No admittance without prior permission." Next to it was a post with a camera and a speaker. Frohike pushed a button and said something into the speaker. She heard an equally indistinct reply and after a moment the gate slid open.

Frohike turned and grinned at her again. "Failed dot-com," he said. "Picked it up for a song."

"Very high-tech," said Scully, since he seemed to expect a comment from her.

They topped a small rise and rounded a bend, and a large, low building, much like those they'd passed, came into view. It was windowless, except for a pyramid-shaped glass entryway in the middle. There were no cars parked in front, but the road wound beyond the entrance.

Frohike pulled right up to the entrance and came around to open the door, helping Scully out and handing William to her. "I'll take your things around back," he said. "They'll be waiting for you in your quarters." He grinned again, gunned the engine, and drove out of sight.

Scully stood at the front door and watched them slide silently open, feeling like Dorothy at the gates of Oz.

Byers stood waiting just inside the door. He looked as dapper as ever in his three-piece suit and neatly trimmed beard. "Welcome, Agent Scully," he said.

"John, it's just Dana now," Scully said, unable to keep a few tears from welling in her eyes. William squirmed a little in her arms.

Byers smiled and nodded. "We're so glad you're here. You had us worried for a bit."

Scully smiled, when all the while all she wanted to do is say, cut the small talk crap. Where is Mulder? Take me to Mulder.

Byers walked across the lobby to the reception desk, unoccupied on a Saturday. It was surrounded by banks of monitors. Scully shuddered at the sight. Byers leaned over and picked up a phone. "I'm just letting Mulder know you're here," Byers said. "Let me take you through the building. I'm sure he'll meet us on the way."

Byers led the way to a small door, almost invisible until he palmed a spot where the doorknob should be. It slid open quietly. They went down a short hallway and turned a corner, walking into a vast work area, filled with cubicles of varying sizes and configurations. There were a few people working intently, ears covered with headphones, eyes on monitors.

No one looked up. "This is the business," Byers said. "The main labs are upstairs. I think you'll like the set-up. We consulted the best."

"What do you do here?" Scully asked. She held William a little tighter. He'd been very quiet since they'd entered the building, looking all around with wide eyes, sucking on his fist.

"It's a software company. We do security, infiltration detection, firewall protection, virus detection, among other things. It's doing quite well, for having been in business less than a year, and in a recession at that. But the important work is what's being done upstairs, and in our other facility."

As they moved out of the work area, Frohike approached them, Langly in tow. "Glad you made it," Langly said laconically. "We thought you were gone for good."

"You want me to hold the kid for you?" Frohike offered, but William was clutching her shoulder tightly and Scully shook her head.

::Where's Mulder? Take me to Mulder. Please.:: Scully wouldn't say it out loud, but it was all she could think.

They moved past the main work area and went into a windowless conference room. It was empty.

"I thought he'd be here by now," Byers commented as they entered. He turned to Scully again. "We're sorry you had to go through this," he said, "but we had to be sure that we had the facilities ready, and that they were secure, before we could risk bringing you here."

"It's good that you disappeared," Frohike chimed in. "It was the best test so far. We really *couldn't* locate you."

"Of course, it made Mulder nuts," Langly added. "He practically went apeshit when we told him you were missing."

"We all did, in our own ways," Byers said. "We put out the call to all the MUFON cells -- quietly, of course -- to look out for you, but not to contact you if they located you. If you hadn't come back, there's no telling how long it would have been before we found you. You're pretty good at this."

"Thanks, I guess," Scully said. It was somewhat comforting that she escaped their notice for so long, but it didn't prove anything. It was something she -- *they* -- would have to live with.

"By the way, you should be able to take that patch off now," Langly said. "We've got this place rigged. Sort of like the dead spots in cell phone service."

"It helps that it's built practically on top of a very large seam of iron ore," Byers said.

"Hence the name Lodestone," Frohike said.

"We've made such headway, Scully," Byers went on. "There are so many people interested in our cause."

"And we're not talking nutcases, either," Frohike said. We've got folks who graduated MIT, Cal Tech, some who worked for certain government agencies..." he waggled his eyebrows.

"Hey, just 'cause you're nuts doesn't mean you're not smart," Langly said. "Look at John Nash."

Scully raised her eyebrow. "Oh, is he here, too?"

"Don't be silly, Scully." Mulder came up behind her. "He's too high-profile now. We had to turn him down."

She turned to see him smiling at her. She'd never forgotten how good he looked, but he looked even better standing before her. She drank him in, eyes wide. He looked well, except for his eyes. Scully could tell by the redness of his eyes he hadn't been sleeping much. His hair was rumpled from running his hands through it. He had a day's growth of beard. He wore jeans, and a black tee shirt under a flannel shirt, sleeves rolled up to the elbows. He looked wonderful.

She wished she looked better for his first sight of her. She knew she was rumpled, and travel-stained, as was William.

But Mulder was looking at her as if she was the most precious thing in the world, devouring her with his eyes. Neither of them spoke.

William chose that moment to stop sucking on his fist and break the silence with a very loud, "DA!"

Everyone stared at William for a moment.

"Did he say what I thought he said?" Langly asked.

William was bouncing in her arms now, his fingers flexing as he tried to reach for Mulder.

Then both Scully and William were engulfed in Mulder's arms. She was surrounded by his warmth, his scent, the beat of his heart in time with her own.

"Oh God, Scully," Mulder whispered against her cheek. "Oh God. You're here. You're really here."

She nodded against his chest, unable to speak.

She was vaguely aware of the door clicking shut behind them.

They stayed where they were, in each other's arms, William snug between them. Scully never wanted to move.

It was William who once again precipitated what happened next. He began to wriggle, perhaps in protest at being held so tightly.

Mulder pulled away a little and took William in his arms. "I love you, Buddy," he said, kissing William's cheek. "I really do. I promise I'll spend a lot of time with you later. But do you mind waiting your turn? I knew your mom first."

William looked agreeable, but there really was no place to safely put him. Mulder handed him back to Scully and looked around the room. Just a table, and some very comfortable looking chairs, but nothing for a baby. Finally, he yanked open the door.

All three of the Gunmen were still standing there.

"Guys," Mulder said, "I'm gonna take Scully over to my place. William needs a nap, and Scully and I have things to, uh, discuss." He looked over at Scully. "That okay with you?"

Scully nodded. She had no idea where they were going, but as long as it was with Mulder and William, she was okay with it.

But before Mulder led her away, she gave Byers, Frohike, and Langly each a kiss. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you for everything."

That certainly shut them up. She'd never seen them look so dumbfounded.

Mulder took William from her again, and grabbed her hand. "C'mon, Scully."

He kept up a rapid pace, leading her out of that building and into another. She barely had time to look around with Mulder tugging on her hand.

"I'll give you the grand tour later," he said. He got to the door he wanted and used a key card to let them in. "Welcome home, Dana and William," Mulder said softly, and pushed the door open.

"Home?" Scully asked. She looked around. This was obviously Mulder's living quarters, very comfortably furnished. She saw a fish tank in one corner, and a computer desk nearby.

"If you want," Mulder said diffidently. "There's plenty of room for you both." He showed Scully into another room where a crib was already set up. William's things were there, too.

Cooperative as always, William let out a huge yawn at the sight of his crib. Scully smiled. If he weren't just a baby, she'd suspect him of collusion with his father. She got him ready for his nap, with Mulder hovering over them both, tracing a finger down William's face, or touching Scully's hand as she worked. Once he was settled, they stood for a while, looking down on him.

Mulder's arm tightened around Scully's waist. "I can hardly believe it," he whispered. "Even after all this time. Even after seeing the pictures. It seemed like a dream until now."

He tugged her hand to lead her back out of the room. She went willingly, but she couldn't help looking back at William.

Mulder shut the door part of the way. "Is that okay?" he asked.

Scully nodded. "I'm just not used to feeling safe," she said.

"It's probably good never to feel too safe or complacent," Mulder said, "but I think you can relax a little. You're not alone any more."

He stood in the middle of the room, waiting. Scully went to him and he put his hands on her shoulders. He leaned down to kiss her forehead, softly, tentatively, waiting for her to come to him all the way.

"You did this for me," he whispered. "You left behind your whole life, everything you had, for me."

"I didn't leave everything behind," she said. "You were ahead of me. You were waiting for me."

"You've made so many sacrifices for me, Scully," Mulder said. "I wouldn't have asked you to make this one."

"That's why I had to do it," she told him. "Because you wouldn't ask me." She wrapped her arms around his waist and he pulled her close.

"There aren't any cameras in here, are there, Mulder?" she asked.

Mulder shook his head and smiled down into her eyes. "Nope. I don't believe in 'em."

Scully smiled and raised her face to his. And finally, at last, she once again felt his lips against her own and knew at last that she was truly home.


Abandoned 5: Epilogue

6 Months Later

"Hey Scully, are you awake?"

Mmmmm," she said. "Not really. Time's it?" She felt warm, and safe. She felt an arm wrap around her waist and a large, warm hand begin to caress her stomach.

"Too late to go back to sleep, and too early to get up," he said. "How are you feeling?"

"Better this morning," she said. "Sometimes it doesn't hit until later."

Mulder kissed the back of her neck and let his hand drift a little higher, and then a little lower. "I bet I know something that would make you feel better." He pulled her back against him. There was no mistaking his meaning.

Scully turned in his arms and gave him a hard kiss. "How do you think I got this way in the first place?"

"Are you implying I make you sick, Miz Scully?"

"On the contrary, Mister Mulder. You make me feel a little *too* good sometimes," she said, and kissed him again.

"Maybe it's just those pregnancy hormones I keep reading about," he said, pulling her up tight against him.

"Ma-ma-ma-ma!" William's cry came from the other room.

Mulder groaned his disappointment into Scully's neck. "I'm never gonna get to find out, though, am I?"

Scully laughed. "Maybe you'll get lucky later."

"Promises, promises," he muttered.

Scully slid out of bed and put on her robe. No dizziness or nausea so far. It had been lessening in the past week. She hoped she was past it. Mulder got so concerned. She tried to remember that he hadn't been around for her first pregnancy, and he was probably overcompensating a little bit as a result.

It was really rather sweet.

She went into William's room, which was beginning to resemble a toy Warehouse. William had a large surrogate family, and they all seemed determined to spoil him.

She was grateful for every single one of them, and for being here.

It was amazing, how quickly she'd gotten used to her new life. In the past six months, they'd become a family. It was something that she'd always hoped for, but never expected would happen.

She tried to dwell on the goodness of it, and not to think of the things that she couldn't have. She still missed her mother, every day. She couldn't even get word to her that she was okay. She prayed all the time that her mother was okay, and that someday they'd see each other again.

There were other difficulties, too. She was, for all intents and purposes, restricted to the compound for the foreseeable future. Mulder was, too, and she knew how restless it made him.

It was a source of tension between them, sometimes. He wanted to be active, to be out there.

On the other hand, she could think of worse places to be. The property was extensive and well-landscaped. Their living quarters were comfortable and spacious. They had all the modern conveniences. And the biggest plus was, of course, being with Mulder.

She felt more secure here than any place she'd been for a long time, except for the brief time she'd spent at Georgine's. She still didn't quite understand how she ended up there just when she needed it, or how she'd gotten her courage back just by being there.

She'd told Mulder about Georgine. They'd spent long hours talking to each other about their experiences while they were apart.

"The guys could learn something about underground networks from Georgine and her compatriots," Scully said. "Very low-tech, but it seems to work. Georgine told me in the ten years she'd been running that place, no one has ever come looking for a runaway wife or girl friend there. And a lot of the women end up doing okay on their own. That's how she's able to keep it running. She gets donations from women who spent time with her. Sometimes it's only a couple of days, yet they remember. I wish you could meet her."

"I wish I could, too, Scully," Mulder said sincerely. "I'd like to thank her."

"I wonder if we could send her an anonymous grant of some kind," Scully mused. "I'm sure she could always use the money."

"What about your Terry Randall account? Anything left of it?"

"I didn't take the money out when we left Des Moines," she said. "I was in kind of a hurry, and I didn't think we'd need it." She kissed Mulder gratefully. "I'll talk to Byers about it. He'll know how to get it to her in some roundabout way."

She wished everything could be solved so easily. But at least, they were working on it.

She changed William's diaper and took him out to the kitchen. Mulder was already there, warming a bottle. He looked so good, standing there in just his flannel PJ bottoms, pillow hair and all. "Hey Buddy," he said. "Come and get it!"

William squirmed in Scully's arms and she set him on his feet. He took a few staggering steps and fell on his well-padded behind. His look was comical; he never seemed to expect it. Scully leaned down and helped him back up; she held his hand as he took a few more steps toward the kitchen.

"What's on the agenda for today, Scully?" Mulder asked as he got William in his high chair.

"More of the same, Mulder. I don't expect a breakthrough any time soon, unfortunately." With Langly's help, they'd set up a screen saver program similar to the SETI@Home project, where all the screensavers on the premises, as well as those of MUFON members around the world, were helping analyze data that might be the key to destroying the super soldiers -- or to finding a vaccine for the alien virus.

It was Scully's job, along with some of the other scientists, to decide what to look for and to further analyze the data they got back from all of their resources. It was exacting, grueling work, and results would be a long time in coming. But Scully was pleased to be doing something, anything, in the fight.

"Scully --" Mulder came over to her and held her close. "You know, I'm going to have to make a little reconnaissance mission again some time soon."

Scully nodded. Mulder hadn't gone anywhere since she and William arrived, and she was grateful. But she understood his need, and at least for now, he was the only one who had the training and could go. But she didn't want him to go without back up.

"I wish you'd wait until Skinner could be here, too." They'd discussed this at length. Skinner's plan had been to retire from the FBI and join them. So far, he hadn't made contact, and they'd left it to him to do so. Mulder was getting restless.

"I want to go to DC, Scully," he said. "I want to see Skinner in person, see if he's still in the game. I think it's worth the risk."

"Wait just a little longer," Scully urged. "Please."

"I'm not going today, Scully, or even tomorrow," Mulder said. "But I can't put it off forever."

"I know." She laid her head on his chest. "I just can't bear to think of the possibility of losing you."

"Hey, Scully, you know I always turn up again. Like the bad penny," he did his best to tease her out of her fears."

"I'd want to go with you," Scully said.

Mulder put her away from him for a moment and looked seriously at her. "Not a good idea right now, Scully, and you know it. And I know why you want to go. I know partly it's to watch my back, and there's no one I'd want more. But I know you want to see your mom, too, and it's just not worth the risk."

Scully hung her head. "I know, Mulder," she whispered. "There are other things, too. Patti -- the wife of the man who first approached me about the informant who was the super soldier -- she has a child, too. One who might be in as much danger as William. And I'd like to get to her, and make sure she's safe." She thought of Patti frequently, and wondered what had become of her. If anyone needed someone like Georgine to help her, it was Patti and her baby. Maybe there was still a way.

"Scully, we can't save everyone. You know that. We're gonna try to be the saviors of the whole damn world, but we can't do it in the open."

"I was just going to say the same thing to you, Mulder," she said softly. "You can't go out there, and you can't do it alone."

Mulder looked at her a moment in mid-harangue, and then smiled ruefully. "Hoist by my own petard," he said. "You win, Scully. For now, anyway."

"At least until after the baby is born?" she asked hopefully. "At least until I can come with you?"

"We'll see, Scully. We'll see." He took her back in his arms again. "See you at lunch time?"

"You see me at lunch time every day, Mulder. I don't guess today will be any different."

"Well, maybe we could pick up where we left off when Shorty here interrupted us," Mulder said. He bent his head and kissed her deeply.

Scully returned the kiss with enthusiasm. "Maybe we could skip movie night tonight," she whispered after a long pause.

"But it's 'Sneakers'! Practically required viewing!" Mulder said with mock seriousness.

"You just like to listen to Langly nit-pick the technical inaccuracies," Scully said. "They've shown that movie at least twice since I've been here."

"I think Langly is a Robert Redford wannabe," Mulder said.

"I thought that was Frohike," Scully said. "Or is he Cary Grant?"

"Don't change the subject, Scully," Mulder said. "I'm trying to seduce you."

"Oh." Scully looked down at the tiny bulge of her abdomen. "I thought you already had."

Mulder smiled. "Get over here, Scully."

She went, gladly.

William's bottle dropped on the floor. Mulder and Scully jumped apart. William grinned at them.

"Kid, you've got a thing or two to learn about timing," said Mulder. He picked him up out of the high chair and wrapped his arm around Scully.

"Just be glad he's not yet old enough to say "eeewww" when the old folks smooch, Mulder," replied Scully. She kissed William and laid her head on Mulder's chest.

Maybe their world wasn't perfect, but at least they were in it together. If she'd been offered perfect safety, but no Mulder, she knew what she'd choose. If he'd been given a similar choice, Scully knew what Mulder would choose, too.

There was never any doubt, really.


Author's notes:
This began as a post-ep for Trust_No1, and then things got out of hand. I credit Brandon Ray for the inspiration for this piece, as he posted a challenge on IWTB to write how we'd like to see the show end.

This is a resolution, of sorts, leaving the door open for Mulder and Scully (and William) to continue the fight. But at least, they'll be continuing it together. I hope that CC will come up with something similar. I don't want things all tied up in a neat little package; I just want something that will leave the door open to more adventures in the future.

Acknowledgments go to: Kimpa, for creating and maintaining a lovely place for my stories to live, and to the members of IWTB, both readers and writers, for continuing encouragement and inspiration when sometimes it's hard to come by.

In case you were wondering at all about Georgine: in my description, I had in mind that she looked like Jeremiah Smith, a little. I hope people caught the similarities. As to whether she truly *is* like Jeremiah Smith, I'll leave that open to conjecture.

The aliases for Scully and the guys came from both Katharine Hepburn films and Cary Grant films, especially those which either hint at assumed names or different identities in them. Just a bit of fun for me as I looked for names to use.

I figured that William was about 6 months old when Scully left DC with him. I used an excellent site for some additional information about the developmental stages of babies: The National Network for Child Care. http://www.nncc.org

Also, to my mom, who did a little emergency atlas checking for me. I used Mapquest.com for some info on directions and drive times between locations.

As for the reasons why Scully goes where she goes and the Gunmen settled where they did: I did the old stick-a-pin in the map method for Scully, to make it a random selection. For the Gunmen, because the largest source for hematite (an iron ore) used to be the Mesabi Range near Lake Superior and I wanted them to be somewhere near that locality. Their company was name for a form of magnetite, also an iron ore. I figured that part of the reason iron might destroy the super soldiers is the magnetic quality. Just a thought, perhaps worth exploring more. I owe the foregoing information to the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, through Infoplease.com.

If you'd like to know more about SETI@home, go to: http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu

There are similar programs for cancer research and anthrax research. Information about those are available at NPR.org.

And, Phil Farrand's "Nitpicker's Guide for X-Philes," which has long been one of my favorite resources for quick references to the first four seasons.

Any errors or omissions in the story are my own.

Thanks so much for reading. I'd love to know what you think of this story.msnsc21@aol.com
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