Story: Cursing Miracles II
Storylink: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4497132/1/
Author: ElizabethAnn
Summary: Angst, MSR. Mulder and Scully are married and have moved to an undisclosed location. Scully can't adjust, believing that Mulder won't remain satisfied living a normal life for long. Appearances by AD Skinner, LGM, Margaret Scully, Agent Troy, & Krycek!

Author's Note:

This is the second part of the "Cursing Miracles" story. If you haven't read the first part, I would recommend it, so everything hangs together as I've intended.

Angst and MSR. Set after the close of "Cursing Miracles" part one, which takes place in season seven and an AU season eight. So, canon is blown to bits by now-although, it keeps sneaking in again. Mulder and Scully are now married and have left the X-Files. And it seems that Scully finds the adjustment more difficult than Mulder does.




*Chapter 1*: Chapter 1

Scully could hear William's cries from the other room, and she tried to arouse herself from her deep sleep. She could feel Mulder beside her, sleeping through William's cries, not quite as attuned to his needs yet as she was or perhaps just an incredibly heavy sleeper. She forced herself to sit up, unable to ignore the cries of her own child, despite the fact that he was now nine months old and quite large for his age. Her legs were tangled in the sheets, and in the process of pulling them out, she finally awakened Mulder, who was the one pinning down the sheets in the first place.

"What's wrong?" he asked, his voice thick with sleep.

"William's crying. I'm going to check on him."

"I'll go," he said without stirring.

"Go to sleep, Mulder," Scully said with a smirk, wishing for a moment that she had a slipper to hit him with, but she could not find her own in the darkness.

They had only bought the house four months ago, and she still was not accustomed to where things were, especially without the aid of daylight. So, she usually picked her way very carefully around at night, but William's cries always sprung her into rapid action and she hurried down the hallway. Forgetting about the table pressed against the wall for a phone and some pictures she had set up, she knocked into the corner and went sprawling on the hardwood floor.

Just as she was picking herself up, Mulder rushed into the hallway, flipping on the light, and bent over her to make sure she was all right.

"I fell," she lamely explained.

Mulder was sitting crouched on the floor giving her a bizarre look.

"Scully, your nose is bleeding," he said pulling off his T-shirt to hand it to her to stop the flow.

Scully pressed the shirt to her face before looking down at the white T-shirt now stained with dark red blood; her heart skipped a beat. William's cries had stopped with the clang, but Scully scrambled to get up and duck into his room anyway, trying to ignore the fact that she was having a nosebleed: she had had too many of those, and she decided to simply ignore this one.

Mulder entered the room and stood behind her as she looked into their baby's crib.

"Are you all right?" he asked quietly.

Scully licked her lips, which were salty with blood and the few tears that had trickled down her face before she had the good sense to stop them.

"I just fell on my face, Mulder," she said, turning around with the shirt pressed to her face. "How do I look?"

Mulder didn't crack a smile, terrified by the sight of the blood. "Do you want me to take you to the ER?"

"It's a nosebleed, Mulder," she said pushing past him and turning the nursery light off on him.

She went back into their bedroom and Mulder followed her, but stopped in the doorway, leaning on the doorjamb. She turned on the lamp next to the bed and slipped under the sheets all the while dabbing at her nose.

"They'd think we were insane if I showed up with a nosebleed at the ER."

"I don't care. I don't care what anyone thinks."

He finally came in the room and sat on the edge of the bed looking at her intently.

"Don't look at me like that. I'm not sick. I just fell on my face—that's all."

Mulder swallowed and rested his hand on her leg. "You're not the one who is supposed to be sick," he said in a strangled voice.

"Oh, for heaven's sake, I'm not sick! I'm fine, Mulder. And no one is getting sick."

Scully was beginning to panic herself, and she turned off the lamp with a decided motion in order to shut out Mulder's worried face.

He moved up next to her and whispered in her ear, "You're not getting rid of me that easily. I'm sorry if I scared you, but...seeing you like that..."

"I know, Mulder. It scared me too. And I'm still worried about you."

They held hands in the darkness.

"I know you feel fine. That everything has seemed okay. But I want you to schedule a check up just to be sure, Scully. I can't...please, do it for me."




Scully stood in front of the bathroom mirror gently fingering the bridge of her nose testing to see if it felt broken, but there wasn't any pain any longer, just the visual reminder of the bloody episode now lying in a heap on the floor of the bathroom. Mulder stepped out of the shower and wrapping a towel around his waist came to stand beside her in front of the mirror.

"How's the nose?"

"It's fine," she said reaching for the tube of toothpaste.

"Good," he said bending over to kiss the tip of her nose and then slipping by her out into the bedroom.

Fifteen minutes later, Scully emerged from the bathroom fully dressed and ready to meet the day. She was wearing a light blue suit with a white blouse underneath. It had taken her awhile to realize that she didn't need to wear black everyday anymore in order to demand the respect she deserved in her job.

She made her way down the stairs pushing a stray strand of red hair out of her line of sight. Mulder was already sitting at the small kitchen table in the part of the house the realtor had called a 'breakfast nook.' He was bent over a newspaper and drinking a cup of coffee. He also dressed more casually than when he had worked for the FBI: he now wore a new uniform of khaki pants and a fitted knit sweater or a polo. William was sitting in his high chair still dressed in his Sesame Street sleeper.

Scully poured herself a cup of coffee, and opened a cabinet door to get a bowl. Scully believed in some form of a healthy breakfast, while Mulder believed in coffee. William's plastic bowl was sitting washed and dried by the sink from the night before, and Scully grabbed that with her other hand, pulling the refrigerator open with her elbow. Finally setting everything down on the counter top, Scully noticed the yellow pages splayed open by the toaster. She was about to slam it closed and ask what he was doing with the yellow pages, when she glanced at the page to which it was opened. Mulder had underlined a name with a thick blue pen still lying next to the book. She moved her finger under the name as she read it: Cancer Research Center. She glanced back up at Mulder, who was watching her.

"You're about as subtle as a neon sign, Mulder," she said pouring the milk and grabbing William's tiny spoon.

"It's not one of my strong points," he agreed, smiling that devilish smile of his, which Scully always pretended had no effect on her, despite its real power.

She carried the two bowls over to the table, setting the one on William's highchair as he banged his little chubby fists.

"For me?" Mulder asked, since her own bowl had been momentarily set in front of him.

"Not a chance," she said pulling it back, sloshing a little of the milk onto the table.

"It doesn't have any sugar in it anyway. What is that stuff you eat?" he asked getting a spoonful for William and whirring it around his rosy face like a plane.

"Organic Healthy Fiber Multigrain Flakes. It's good for you," she said with her mouth full.

"Looks like it," he said, making a disgusted face.

"Anyway, I've got a meeting this morning, so I don't have time to make myself anything else," she said glancing at her silver bracelet watch.

Mulder paused in the feeding of William. "A meeting?"

Scully nodded her head.

"Who will stay with William?"

"You, Mulder," she said between mouthfuls.

"No, no, this is registration time, so I'm there all day every day this week."

"That's next week," Scully said with aggravation in her voice.

"No, afraid not. For once, I have the mundane details right. I have a meeting with one of my advisees in less than an hour."

Scully put her hand to her forehead and uttered a quiet, "damn."

"Just take him with you," Mulder said wiping some of the spilled cereal from the baby's chin.

"That would be completely unprofessional."

Scully had always fought for respect—being the consummate professional always seemed like her best defense. Taking a baby to a meeting did not rank high in that category.

"So was sleeping with your partner, but that didn't stop you," Mulder said with a smirk.

"You know, if you weren't feeding our child right now, I would slap you."

"I might like that," he said laughing.

"Typical, Mulder, typical."

"Well, I'm glad you're not surprised. I know, Miss Scully hates surprises," he said biting his lip to keep from smiling.

He inched his chair closer to William, assuming that the closer he was to the baby, the safer he was.

Scully stood up and grabbed his coffee cup, her own, and the cereal bowl off the table to dump them in the sink.

"Any other brilliant suggestions?" she asked hands on hips.

"Don't you know anyone who could watch him for a couple hours? Your lab is over at noon today, right?"

"No."

"You don't know anyone who could watch this perfect angel for four hours?" he asked in a 'give me a break' tone as William tried to make a grab for the cereal which he liked to ball in his hot little fists.

"You take him, Mulder."

"Nice try. I'm not going to submit everyone to his antics...that would be unprofessional. Call someone, Scully. You have to have a co-worker or some kid you teach that will watch him. Look, if you get it covered until 11 o'clock, I'll take off an hour to watch him until your class is over."

Scully walked over to the telephone and picked it up from its cradle, but stood there staring at her class list without dialing.

Mulder pulled William out of his chair and rested him against his shoulder. Scully looked back at Mulder.

"Mulder, I don't think I can."

He came over beside her and took her free hand with his own. "You know, one day he is going to have to go to school and then we won't be able to watch him every second of the day."

"I know."

"Every parent goes through this," he said taking the list from her hands and scanning it.

"No, not every parent," she said with a sigh.

"You mean we're different, that our situation is different...sure, yeah, it is. But, you know we can't raise him thinking about that constantly, because he'll end up one seriously messed up kid, you know that?"

Scully cocked her eyebrow at Mulder, but she knew he was right, despite his less than prosaic way of saying it.

"He'll end up like me," he added, grinning. He took the class list from her. "One of these girls here...they all baby-sit, right? This one—she likes microscopes, right?"

Scully laughed. Mulder loved it when she laughed: she had the best laugh and it was rarely bestowed.

"Okay. Hand it here," she said taking the list and punching the keypad on the black wireless telephone.

Mulder kissed her on the forehead and went upstairs to change William and get some of his things together.

Scully was waiting for him when he came down the stairs, and he handed her William, who was wearing a Winnie the Pooh jumpsuit and matching pacifier clip.

"Scully, this stuff is cute as hell, don't get me wrong, but I never thought my son would be a Winnie kind of guy."

"Marvin the Martian more your style?" she asked dryly.

Mulder winked at her with a smile. "Did you get someone?" he asked as he grabbed the car keys.

"Yeah, she's going to meet us outside of the library."

"God help the library," Mulder said as he unlocked the car, which was parked in their two-car garage, minus another car.




Mulder had been the first one hired by the university, which had been intrigued by his profiling abilities. Their next door neighbor was the vice president and knew that the university was looking for a new career counselor, and he thought Mulder's expertise could be applied in a new avenue. Mulder had been highly doubtful that he would be of any help. Moreover, he didn't think he would like telling a bunch of college students what to do, since they would probably all think he was old and therefore not listen to a word he said anyway. But, it had only been a week before Mulder decided that this was a dream job. Not only did he get to shoot the shit with college boys, whom he realized he still had a lot in common with—something Scully had no trouble believing—but he also got to advise college girls, who tended to be more than a little bit flattering.

"I didn't realize that Mr. Mulder was your husband," Katy said, leaning over Scully's shoulder as she scraped aside something with a razor under the microscope. "He's my roommate's adviser, but she never mentioned the connection."

Scully was surprised by her student's remark, assuming everyone knew that she and Mulder were married. "Well, I thought going by 'Dr. Mulder' would be confusing. I didn't realize that no one knew."

"Oh, maybe some people know."

That small comment set Scully's mental wheels to turning and it was these thoughts that were running through her head when she went to pick up William from Mulder's office. Scully's heels clicked on the tile floor of the counseling suite of offices and she smiled politely at the few people sitting at their desks as she walked by, headed for Mulder's office at the back of the building. She opened his office door without knocking, accustomed to sharing an office with her partner and not feeling the need to knock. As she swung the door open, she saw a young girl sitting on the corner of Mulder's desk. Scully merely arched her eyebrows, and the girl slid off standing up.

"Thanks, Mr. Mulder," she said slipping past the rigid Scully.

Mulder had a grin on his face and swiveled around in his chair to grab for William's car seat, where he was strapped in sucking on a bottle.

"Scully, you mustn't think that something untoward was going on."

"Can it, Mulder," Scully said reaching for the baby.

"So, are you going home now...or?"

"I have some things to do. I'll be here to pick you up though...what time?"

Her voice was icy, and Mulder thought she was being stricter than usual with him.

He glanced at his appointment calendar. "Say about five o'clock?"

"Fine," she answered curtly and shut the door behind her.

*Chapter 2*: Chapter 2

Without asking, Mulder decided to be the one to make dinner that night, because Scully was in such a foul mood, and he figured he had done something that had made her angry. She was upstairs as he put the finishing touches on what he could manage to throw together as dinner. Now it only had to bake for forty-five minutes and then everything would be ready. Whether it would be edible once he pulled it out of the oven was a different story.

He climbed the stairs, seeing the light from their office glowing in the hallway. Reaching the top, he leaned in the door frame.

"Mind if I come in?"

Scully looked up over her thin glasses, as she was grading exam papers. "I'm grading papers, but if you..."

"I think we need to talk," he said sitting down on top of the mahogany desk.

Scully sighed and pulled off her glasses. If Mulder wanted to talk, she might as well mark it on her calendar: there had been so many times in the past that she had wished he would be the one to broach a subject with her—give her the opportunity to tell him how she felt.

"What did I do to piss you off?" he asked, smiling crookedly.

"Nothing," she replied curtly, still looking at the papers in front of her.

"Okay. So, then what exactly is going on with us, Scully?"

Mulder sounded beaten and immediately Scully found it hard to feel as upset with him as she had all afternoon.

"I'm jealous. Is that what you want me to say, Mulder? How pathetic is that?"

She had been taught as a child that jealousy was a sin and it had plagued her as a sin she had trouble shaking. She had struggled with it her entire life: jealousy of her siblings, jealousy of her friends, jealousy with boyfriends, lovers. Jealousy had been a serious source of embarrassment when she couldn't help but do a slow burn over her partner's interactions with other females. 'He's just your partner, Dana,' she would chastise herself, still wanting to systematically delete all the numbers in his cell phone that she didn't approve of. Jealousy now felt not only embarrassing, but also miserably pathetic.

"You don't have anything to be jealous of, Scully. I'd never...you know that," he said, stumbling over the words.

"Maybe not...no, I know you wouldn't do anything like that. But you spend all day chatting with students, half of whom don't even know I exist."

"I wear a ring the same as you," he said holding up his left hand and wiggling his fingers.

'Yes, you've managed to pin down the consummate bachelor..., who preferred scanning the skies to female company,' Scully thought: it wasn't the first time that she had considered the absurdity of her present situation—she and Mulder were playing house.

"No, I don't really mean it like that, Mulder. It's just...we used to be a team: if someone knew you, then they knew me, and they knew we were a team."

"We're still a team," Mulder responded with furrowed brow.

Yes, true enough. Husband and wife should be enough partnership. Scully pushed her hair back out of her face wearily.

"Day to day is just very different," she hedged.

"I thought you were enjoying getting back to teaching."

"I am. Teaching is fine. But, generally something doesn't feel right."

What Scully was thinking, but what she couldn't bring herself to say was that she was the one who was supposed to have adjusted, not him. She kept waiting for him to wake up and realize that he'd abandoned the Truth for suburbia—the inevitability of that day hanging over her head was beginning to make her feel very tightly wound.




There was silence in the room except for the ticking of the silver round clock hanging on the wall, and Mulder watched the second hand move over Scully's shoulder, refusing to meet her gaze. While he had wanted to speak with her, he had not thought that their conversation was to be so serious. He typically avoided conversations that forced him to wade in emotionally deep waters: it was easier that way.

"What are you thinking, Mulder? Don't freeze up."

Mulder wrenched his eyes away from the clock to look back at Scully. He was better at showing his feelings through body language than with the spoken variety. He wished he could communicate to her his fears with a look, so he wouldn't have to voice them.

"What are you thinking, Scully? That we made a mistake? That we shouldn't be together?"

It stung Scully that Mulder jumped immediately to this conclusion.

"I don't know if it is us, per say. All I know is that something is wrong."

Is this what marriage did to Mulder? She couldn't help but wonder if he was playing a part—something he'd seen on TV as a child. Darrin to her Samantha.

Everything about the scenario was contributing to the strange feeling of make-believe. She was living with Fox Mulder. And he just went to work like every other Joe. He came home and watched basketball and football. He mowed the grass. He sat on the couch that came along with all the other furniture in their furnished display home. A home that neither reflected her style nor his. He never looked to the sky.

"Something is wrong. Scully, I'm not complaining, but...you've been acting distant."

She immediately knew what he meant, and she wished he would just complain about it. 'Make an innuendo—do something that I recognize as Mulder.' "Mulder, right now I just don't feel like I want much to do with..." Scully couldn't bring herself to say 'you', but they both felt it hanging there in the air.

She wanted to recall her words the minute they left her mouth. She had grown more than comfortable critiquing his theories over the years: she knew that he could take it, he even welcomed it. It kept him honest, made him work that much harder to prove what he believed. What she had just implied, however, was something she was sure he was not going to sit and discuss calmly. The look on his face told her she was right in her supposition. She hadn't even meant it the way it sounded. Mulder got up to leave the room.

"Mulder," she called after him, but he simply padded down the stairs and out the door.




The next morning Scully awoke early, having barely slept. At two in the morning she had relented and swallowed a pair of sleeping pills so that she could get some sleep before placing the baby monitor next to the bed where she would hear it even through her drugged haze. She didn't know where Mulder was or what he was doing. He hadn't taken the car and he had left his wallet on the kitchen counter. She couldn't find his cell phone, but if he had it, he wasn't answering her.

After checking on William and seeing that he was still blissfully asleep, Scully walked to the south side of the house to glance out the windows. She hadn't heard Mulder come home, but the drugs may have deadened her senses; that's what she was hoping at least. She was hoping she'd see him outside in the yard, swimming laps and working out whatever frustration she'd caused him.

Mulder had wanted this particular house, because of the pool. Scully had thought it was a ridiculous expenditure, but he'd whipped out the checkbook and promised he'd take care of all the maintenance. She hadn't believed him. Mulder didn't seem particularly handy or dedicated to chores of any kind, but she had been wrong on this one point. She'd admitted as much to him and he confessed that he'd been a pool guard at his parents' country club for several summers when he was in high school. He'd swum nearly every day since they'd moved in. And she had to agree with him that it had turned out to be a wise purchase.

She rarely got in, having a tendency to burn, but when she did, she liked taking William with her. She imagined that trapped in his clumsy little baby body, the support of the water must feel very freeing. But most of all, she enjoyed watching Mulder swim. She didn't usually make a great show of it by joining him on the pool deck; instead, she would glance out the windows at him periodically. He looked so graceful in the water. And it gave him the oblique muscles on his pelvis that she liked to run her hands over.

But, he wasn't there. The water was undisturbed, reflecting the low angle of the early morning light. She walked to the steps and headed downstairs. She glanced around, trying to find some sign that he'd come home. She spotted him in the living room face down on the sofa with a throw pillow over his head. He was wearing the same thing as the night before only decidedly more rumpled; he must have come back sometime during the night without Scully having heard him.

She eased herself down on the edge of the sofa and rested her hand on his back. In so many ways Mulder was emotionally nothing more than a child, and she knew she had dealt him an unfair blow the previous night. She'd verbalized half-truths and muddled feelings that were misleading and cruel. Mulder stirred slightly, but did not sit up or attempt to acknowledge her, so Scully gently pulled the pillow off of him.

"Don't ever leave like that again, Mulder. I've had my fill of you disappearing for a lifetime," she said softly resting her hand on his back once more. "Sit up, Mulder. I want to talk to you, and I need to apologize and explain myself."

Scully always had a hard time admitting she was wrong—she hated to apologize as much as the next person, but she knew the state of mind Mulder must be in, and she wanted to soothe him as much as possible. Mulder had been emotionally scarred by as many things as she had. His sister had been taken from him, his father had been killed, and his mother had committed suicide. Scully knew she never wanted to add her leaving him to his list of miseries.

Mulder turned his face into the back of the couch, seemingly ignoring her request.

"Mulder, come on," she pleaded, stroking his head.

Mulder sighed, before pulling himself upright. He sank back into the couch, resting his head against the wall, still avoiding her gaze.

"I made an appointment like you wanted me to," she began.

Mulder closed his eyes for a brief moment before looking at her. "Do you want me to come with you?" he asked softly.

She took his hand. "You're always there for me," she said squeezing his hand. She paused and tried to work up the courage to say what she had to say. "You like your job, don't you?"

"Yes, but if this is about that girl..." he said wearily.

"No, it isn't...not really. That just touched a nerve, I guess, and one I'm not proud of. I know you like your job: that's clear enough, and I'm jealous of that. And it isn't just the work. I'm jealous that you've adjusted. Adjusted to our new life."




Mulder swallowed and ran his fingers through his hair. "I thought you were happy."

He desperately wanted her to be happy: it would be the greatest failure of his life, if he couldn't make her happy.

He was so eager to make her happy that he'd maybe shut himself off to the signs that she wasn't. He'd taken comfort in their life together, because it had the air of permanence about it. For the first time, Mulder had begun to believe that Scully wasn't going to leave him. He'd trusted her with his life. But, he had always had trouble trusting that she would be able to hold on. At some point, he had always imagined that it would become too much. Even when they'd started sleeping together, he hadn't thought there was any guarantee. She would sometimes leave his apartment in the middle of the night, and when he'd wake up alone in the morning, it was a reminder that she wasn't truly his and he had no guarantee that she ever would be. Marriage should have been the ultimate guarantee, but Mulder had messed that up before. Instead, waking up every morning and turning to see her red hair spilled over the pillow had slowly taught him to believe in them.

That belief had brought him a measure of happiness that he hadn't known before. He had perhaps falsely imagined that she felt the same. He had misjudged her once again.

"I should be," she said, smoothing out the papers in front of her mindlessly. "This is something I'm suited for—I get to teach what I love. I have everything I should want. And yet I have all these thoughts that I can't seem to turn off and it's making me crazy."

Mulder could recognize the look on Scully's face: she had it all pulled together, emotionally walled off, but he knew her well enough to see the emotions lying behind her cool blue eyes. Mulder put his arm around her drawing her to his chest, forgetting his own pain in the face of hers.

"Craziness is an occupational risk attendant on being with me, I think," he said, trying to cheer her.

"No, I haven't been the best to live with, Mulder, and I'm sorry for that, because when we committed to each other, I should have committed to being tolerable."

Mulder stroked her hair: "you're too hard on yourself. I haven't had any complaints."

Scully smiled. "You're lying."

"Well, you've been no more difficult than normal," he teased.

Scully dug her knuckle into Mulder's side before continuing. "Fair enough. You just need to know why. I've been letting this all build up in my head, and if it doesn't come out...I just don't know. I should be happy: we have a normal life with a beautiful healthy baby, a lovely neighborhood, wonderful jobs, and each other, but I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. You've let it go, and I can't."

Mulder held her tighter.

"And if I can't let it go...then what? I'm the one pulling away, and I know it. I feel myself doing it by inches every day...out of fear."

"I haven't let it go, Scully. We can always talk about it."

But, what he knew he didn't really want to share with her.




Scully sat up brushing her hair out of her face. It made her feel somewhat better thinking that Mulder hadn't completely changed—surely he still thought about the lies, the hurt, his sister.

"Mulder, I know that I've hurt you, but please don't leave."

He grabbed her shoulders looking straight into her eyes, "Scully, you couldn't get rid of me that easily, even if you wanted to. Whatever it is you need, I'll be here for you. You can count on that, because I need you more than you'll ever need me."




*Chapter 3*: Chapter 3

"Dana, this scan shows something that I find...puzzling," the doctor said as he placed the brain scan on the lit board.

The scan showed the chip in the nape of Scully's neck, which she had discussed with Mulder prior to her initial appointment. How was she to explain it? She had hoped that by some miracle that it would go unnoticed. Clearly it had not. Her new doctor was annoyingly thorough, it would appear.

"It's from a surgery I had," Scully answered, shifting her weight in the orange plastic chair.

The doctor nodded, still looking at the sheet. "I'm sorry, Dana. It isn't that I want to cause you any unnecessary concern, but it was so unusual that I've done some digging around. When the results came back a few days ago, I took the liberty of calling your doctor listed here from the hospital in D.C. hoping he could shed some light on this, as I've never really seen anything like this."

Scully licked her lips, her mind racing. Who could provide the answer to that question? No one she wanted any contact with.

"My efforts were a failure, I'm afraid. From what I can tell, no one I spoke to could give me any valid information."

Scully raised her brows, acting as if she was surprised by this news.

"They said it was surgically implanted to reverse your cancer. I'm sure you know that this isn't typical treatment for cancer, Dana."

"No, it was...experimental."

"You didn't mention this treatment in your paperwork," he said flipping through her chart.

"No, I guess I didn't."

The doctor looked skeptical, but pulled the scan down and began straightening his papers.

"The good news, Dana, is that other than...your experimental treatment...I have found no irregularities in your scan or your blood work."

Scully sighed as her body flooded with endorphins. She had wanted to believe that she was healthy, but her beliefs had been crushed before.

"So, that is good news. Everything seems fine, and I don't think you need another appointment for another year. So, I'll tell the nurse to send you a notice. In the meantime, take good care of yourself and avoid stressful situations, if you possibly can. I want you to take some time for yourself, Dana. Why don't you take a look at this," he said, offering Scully a light blue pamphlet, which Scully quickly looked at and then folded neatly in half, pocketing it. "We've found that stress can be a real poison."

Scully was certain he didn't know the half of it.

"Thank you," Scully said, standing and tucking her hair behind her ears.

"Follow me to the desk," the doctor said as he held the door for Scully.

As the doctor gave the receptionist the necessary information for a yearly appointment, Scully leaned back slightly so that she could see out into the waiting room, where Mulder was sitting with his foot balanced on his knee flipping through a magazine. He didn't notice her and she turned back to the nurse who requested her payment preference. As the nurse stared at the computer entering Scully's payment information, Scully leaned back once more. This time she caught his eye and with one look let him know that everything was okay.

They walked through the parking garage, and Mulder slipped his arm around her waist.

"Thanks for humoring me, Scully. This certainly puts my mind at rest." As he spoke, he gave her a slight squeeze.

"It does me as well, actually."

They came to the car, and Mulder paused before opening her car door to kiss her on the forehead. Both inside, Scully let the passenger side window down and let out a sigh.

"I really threw him for a loop," she said looking out of the window as they pulled out of the clinic.

"How's that?" Mulder asked glancing over at her.

"It's like we discussed. My scans all had a rather odd object in them at the base of my neck."

Mulder raised his eyebrows, without saying a word for a few moments. Scully fingered the spot below her hairline absentmindedly.

"Well, what did you tell him?"

"I didn't have to tell him anything: he called the doctors in D.C., but he didn't seem to believe what they told him. Experimental cancer treatment..."

"Someone spoke to him about it?"

"Apparently so, but he didn't buy it. Thankfully I wasn't pressed. I just wonder who was on the other end of that conversation."

Mulder reached over and took the hand resting on her knee with his own.




Having returned from dropping by a neighbor's house, where a fellow professor had been watching William for a few hours, Mulder unlocked the door in their garage that led to the kitchen. Scully followed closely behind carrying William, who was blissfully asleep from the five minute car ride. Mulder swung open the door and stepped two feet in before stopping dead and reaching his hand out to keep Scully from coming inside.

"Mulder, what is it?" she asked, knitting her eyebrows together.

Mulder refused to answer or move aside. Instead, he stood looking around in shock. He was already beginning to calculate how someone could have gotten in and if the person could possibly still be inside.

The kitchen had not been destroyed, but it was evident that someone had wanted to make it known that they had been there. Cabinet doors and drawers were open. Towels, pots, and kitchen utensils were askew on the walls. Prominently taped to the refrigerator door was a brain scan, which Mulder could only assume was Scully's.

"Stay where you are," he said to Scully before cautiously entering the kitchen to examine the large note with red lettering attached the scan.




Scully gasped as she too saw what had occurred. She had felt this feeling before: the feeling of violation that stole over you when you knew that someone had been through your things. She pressed William to her and stepped back.

"Mulder, be careful."

Mulder responded to this by opening a drawer closest to him and pulling out a knife. Scully felt for her cross underneath her blouse with her free hand and quietly whispered something to herself. Mulder glanced around the corner into the living room before pulling the scribbled note off the refrigerator.

I wouldn't let something like this happen again, if I were you.

"I want you to stay right where you are," he repeated. "I'm going to check out the rest of the house."

"You don't have your gun," Scully responded, gripping William more tightly.

"It's upstairs in our bedroom, so I'm going to have to go up there to get it anyway. Just stay where you are."

Mulder walked slowly around the corner, and as she watched him disappear her heart began to beat loudly in her ears. It seemed like an hour had passed, but it could not have been more than fifteen minutes when Mulder finally came down the stairs carrying his gun.

"No one is here," he said hoarsely. "No sign of forced entry. I don't know how someone could have gotten in."

Scully methodically patted William's back, her own pressed against the kitchen wall. He walked towards her, stopping some three feet away, searching her face for something.




Scully swallowed and managed to whisper: "I can't stay here."

"No, I know. We'll get some things and get a room or something," he said looking down at the gun dangling at his side and then back at Scully and William.

Scully tried to will her feet to move, but it was as if she was rooted to the floor. Her breathing was shallow and her heart rate elevated. She felt as if she should do something—take action—but she was mystified as to what she could possibly do other than call the police. She had a feeling getting the local authorities involved would bring something much worse down upon their heads.

Mulder spun on his heel after a moment and she heard him going up the stairs once more. She listened to him upstairs, the sound of his footsteps deadened above her. Finally, Scully managed to inch towards a kitchen table chair and slip down into it while she waited for Mulder to reappear. Her mind was spinning.

Mulder was at her side for a few seconds before it registered, and when it did she jumped slightly, waking up William, who immediately made a grab for her hair with his small fist. Mulder was holding a duffle bag in one hand and a diaper bag in the other. Mulder was carrying a diaper bag, Scully realized, and even though she had seen this many times before, on this occasion it struck her as terribly amusing, and she laughed strangely.

'Mulder thinks I am losing it,' she realized as she looked up at him and read the concern in his eyes.

He put his hand on her shoulder and she stood up. With light pressure on her back he guided her back to the garage and took William from her as she eased into the passenger seat. He put William in his car seat and pulled out a toy for him to play with before coming around to the driver's side and starting the car. It was all part of the normality of their lives: pack up William's things, keep him entertained, run whatever errands for the day. Except, they weren't running errands: they were running away from some unknown threat.

They had been driving for ten minutes when Scully whispered the name that kept rising in her throat like bile: "Krycek."




Mulder was not sure if it was a question, and he looked at Scully briefly as he merged on to the highway.

She said it again, this time louder.

Mulder shook his head. "No, I don't think so, Scully."

"Why not?"

He was relieved that she was speaking. "Because, I would hope that son of a bitch is dead by now."

"You can't bet on that."

"No, but I want to believe it all the same. And I don't think he would be so heavy handed with so little purpose."

"He had a flare," Scully said snorting and looking out the window.

Mulder reached over and put one hand over her own.




Mulder sat on the edge of the motel bed, flipping through the channels. In the background was the sound of the shower running: Scully had been in there for at least thirty minutes. William was crawling on the ground, and Mulder was watching him, dividing his attention between the TV, William, and the clock on the wall. Finally the shower turned off, and Mulder leaned over to scoop William up: Scully probably would not want him crawling on a strange floor. Mulder rubbed the baby's chubby little hands on his white dress shirt, and William kicked his legs and made a string of nonsense sounds.

"Ba, ba, na, da, la, la, la..."

Scully said he would be saying simple words soon.

"Sure thing, but I've gotta go check on your mom, little buddy," Mulder responded, putting William into the small folding playpen that they always kept in the trunk of the car.

Mulder padded over to the bathroom door in his bare feet, his shirt un-tucked, hands in the pockets of his khakis. He paused before the door, listening for a moment before pulling one hand out and knocking softly on the door.

"Scully," he said drawing her name out.

"Door's open."

Mulder tried the door knob and slowly pushed it open, poking his head in. Scully was leaning with both hands on the sink wrapped up in the motel's small white rough towel, her hair dripping water onto her shoulders. The mirror was steamy, and she swiped her hand across it. Mulder pushed the door the rest of the way open and entered before shutting it behind him.

"What if William cries?"

"We can hear him. I don't want you to get cold."

Scully tucked a hank of dripping hair behind her ear, staring at herself in the mirror that was beginning to steam up again.

"So, I can never go to a doctor again, or what?" she asked, looking back down into the sink.

Mulder stepped behind her putting his hands on her wet shoulders and kissing the back of her head. "I don't know. I don't know, Scully." He slowly kneaded her shoulders, and they began to loosen somewhat. "I don't have any answers."

Scully let go of the sink and leaned back against Mulder, closing her eyes. Her hair immediately soaked the front of his shirt.

"We weren't bothering anyone. We've completely given in. Isn't that enough?"

Mulder shook his head as if to say 'who knows?'

"Did you lock the door?"

"Locked and bolted: no one is coming in without us hearing it," Mulder reassured her as he ran his hands down her arms and then back up through her hair soothingly. "Come here," he said turning her around and wiping a drop of water off her chin before tilting it upwards and softly pressing his lips to hers. Hers felt warmer than his, her body still warmed from her extended shower. He whispered into her mouth: "you want me to stop?"




Scully barely shook her head 'no,' before leaning forward to brush his lips with her own and sliding her hands under his shirt to feel the smooth warmth of his skin.

Scully knew that if she let herself go, Mulder had the ability to make her feel totally alive and completely connected. All she had to do was surrender herself. Right now, she wanted nothing more than to feel human and to be with Mulder. His left hand ran down her spine to the top of the towel, while the other one encircled her waist.

When his lips left hers to travel to her neck, Scully managed to whisper, "forgive me."

She knew he already had, but she had to say it, and he squeezed her tightly back in response, before lifting her onto the sink.




The room had grown dark, the only light coming from the TV, which flickered as Mulder quickly flipped through the fifteen some odd channels the motel provided for its patrons. Scully rolled off her own pillow onto her side, throwing an arm over Mulder's bare chest.

"It's no use. There's no porn, Mulder," she said dryly.

He smiled, turning his head to kiss her now dry hair.

"I hate motel beds," she said, sitting upright and peering into William's playpen, where he was laying asleep on his stomach.




Mulder yawned. "I like them," he said, relinquishing the remote, knowing full well that Scully had already had her fill of his attention deficit channel flipping.

"After all the motel beds you've slept in, you still don't mind?" Scully asked.

"My conquests have not been that numerous, Mrs. Mulder," Mulder said, using the name he knew made her squirm.

"Conquests? Honestly, Mulder."

Her tone was strict, as usual, but she lay back down alongside of him, resting her hand on his stomach, and Mulder could sense that she wasn't displeased with him.

Mulder put his arm around Scully, drawing her closer, and began to stroke her hair. "Do you want me to make some phone calls tomorrow?" he asked quietly.

Scully sighed and her breath was warm on his skin, raising small bumps along his arms.

After a hesitant pause, Scully answered him. "Skinner? The Lone Gunmen?"

"I don't know. Maybe."

"You said that what happened today in our home was without purpose. You don't really think that, do you?"

"I don't know what to think after everything that's happened. But, we'll get through this."

Scully had more questions, but for now, her mind was sinking, and she was thankful for the fact that she was going to be able to sleep at all, so she let her questions wait until morning.




*Chapter 4*: Chapter 4

Mulder walked down the metal steps of the motel into the parking lot. The day was already oppressively warm and he slipped his opaque sunglasses on as he walked towards the car. His white polo felt like it wasn't breathing at all. A figure in black approached him from the side, emerging from a black sedan. Mulder stopped—his hands were full of the bags they'd brought with them for the night, making it difficult to reach the SIG Sauer 226 he'd strapped to his ankle.

"God damn it," Mulder muttered under his breath, realizing that the man who approached was none other than Alex Krycek. "I thought you were dead, you son of a bitch."

"Lucky for you, I'm not."

"You want to give me a hand with these bags, so I can pull my weapon and shoot you?"

Krycek smiled. "Now don't be stupid. I've recently done you a favor."

"Favor? I suppose you were responsible for that stunt yesterday. Is that what you call a favor?"

"It is actually. You haven't been acting so smart—not the old Mulder I know. Lucky for you, I warned you, before They step in."

"And why would you do that?"

Krycek tilted his head. "I suppose I've always had a soft spot for that redhead of yours."

Mulder dropped the bags to the pavement, grabbing Krycek by the neck and shoving him against the nearest car. "You watch your damn mouth."

"Easy there," Krycek gasped, opening his jacket and displaying a gun.

Mulder glanced down at the gun without letting loose of Krycek's neck.

"Play nice, Mulder. I wouldn't want your family to see anything unpleasant."

Mulder was somewhat pleased to see that Krycek's face betrayed some anxiety. "You leave my family out of this," Mulder spat, releasing Krycek from his hold with a shove.

Krycek coughed and readjusted his black jacket, stepping forward to regain his balance.

"But that's why I've come."

"Who sent you?"

"No one. I'm working independently."

"Does the devil employ independent agents?"

"Yeah, but the pay's a bitch," Krycek sneered.

Krycek twisted his neck, rubbing where Mulder's red thumbprint was becoming evident.

"So, you better start talking fast, Krycek. Get to the fucking point."

Krycek dropped his good arm to his side. "During my line of work, I happened to catch wind of your location due to that ill-advised exam your missus had a few days back."

"We're not making any trouble."

"And you think that makes a damn difference? Have you forgotten who you're dealing with?"

"That's not remotely possible."

"So, you thought that by disappearing for a while that They would be content? That They don't assume you're going to decide to play the martyr sooner or later?"

"I've waved the white flag, Krycek. No one has anything to fear from me. Now would you care to explain to me why you came out here and trashed my home?"

"I told you—personal favor. I'm aware of Their...unease. You should be too, unless you want to end up food for worms."

"A postcard would have sufficed."

Kyrcek leaned forward, "and miss the chance to see the fallen hero living as if gray aliens don't walk this blue planet of ours...no, I wanted to see it for myself. Quite the picture, I must say. But, you see, I also have trouble believing that you're not going to wake up at some point and rejoin the game."

Mulder ignored Krycek's chatter, wanting him to say what he had come to say and then get out of his sight: "And why should I believe a rat like you?"

Krycek smiled, seemingly enjoying Mulder's thinly veiled rage. "Why not? We're playing for the same team."

"We'll never be on the same team, you piece of shit."

"Oh, I don't know. I could have killed you so many times, Mulder. It's got to prove something that I haven't."

"Yeah, that you're a poor excuse for an assassin."

Krycek shook his head. "Look, I put myself on the line coming to you like this, knowing that you're being watched."

"Much obliged, I'm sure. Are we done here?"

"I happen to know that you've seen what I've seen."

"Oh yeah? Just what have you seen?"

"The plans. They're in motion and you know it. And you're just sitting here."

"That's right."

"Well, They don't believe it. They're not going to let you live to screw everything up for Them."

"Mulder?"

Mulder turned to look over his shoulder towards the sound of Scully's voice. She was coming out of the motel, carrying William on her hip.

"Funny that you haven't seen fit to share this information with your partner. I'm sure she'd be interested in knowing."

Mulder turned his gaze back on Krycek. "I am still more than willing to wring your worthless neck, Krycek."

Krycek shrugged, pausing only to leer over Mulder's shoulder in the direction of Scully: "I got to hand it to you, Mulder. After all those years, I didn't think you had it in you."

Mulder clenched his fists ready to deck him, whether he had a gun or not, but Krycek only paused a moment before dashing around a car out of sight.

As Scully came upon Mulder, she gazed at the bags scattered at his feet just as the engine of a black sedan came to life and then peeled out of the parking lot.

"Mulder, what's going on here?"

Mulder thought for a split-second whether he should tell her. If he began now, he wouldn't be able to stop. But then, maybe keeping secrets from her was what was eating away at them.

"Who were you talking to?" she asked, as he had still not answered her first question.

"That was Alex Krycek, I'm afraid."

Scully paled. "What did he want?"

"He wanted to let me know that he'd forgotten to leave his calling card yesterday." Mulder reached down and began to gather up their things. "Sometimes I hate it when you're right, Scully," he added, straightening up.

"Are we in danger?"

"I don't know. Maybe. Let's get in the car."

Mulder unlocked the car, and as Scully placed William in his car seat, he could feel Scully's tension building exponentially. After joining him in the passenger seat, Scully fixed him with a look.

"Tell me what's going on."

"He said it was a warning."

"A warning?"

"That we're being watched...carefully."

"By whom?"

Mulder looked in the rearview mirror at William sitting in his car seat, blissfully unaware he hoped. "Them."

Scully sighed. "He was sent here to warn us?"

"Sent himself, he claims. He had the nerve to claim he was doing us a favor."

"I don't see why he tore up our house, if he was just dropping by with a message."

"Krycek wouldn't bother just dropping by—he isn't a humanitarian. He had to be doing more than that...he had to be after something. I just don't know what."

Mulder put the car in reverse.

"Where are we going?"

"Out for a drive. I need to talk this through with you."

Mulder put the car in park when they had driven outside of the city limits and no buildings were in sight. Scully had sat silently next to him in the interim, but he could tell that her patience was wearing thin. Mulder glanced at William once more in the rearview mirror before turning to face Scully.

"Krycek doesn't think that we're going to be left alone for much longer."

Scully breathed deeply. "Why is that?"

"Your information...medical information...reached him, and he was made aware of some displeasure in certain circles."

Scully nodded. "So, he warned us, because he thinks something worse is headed our way?"

Mulder rubbed the back of his neck, "yeah, apparently so."

Scully turned to look out her window. "You think we shouldn't go home."

"No, I don't think we should. I don't want to risk it."

"You believe him then?"

"I don't trust the bastard any further than I could throw him, but I have to believe the general content of his message. As far as I can figure, he doesn't stand to gain much from disrupting our lives. There was nothing in that house that he could have wanted anyway—if he thought he might find something, I'm sure he didn't."

"So, now what do we do?"

"I don't know. It's up to you, I guess."

Scully looked back at him, brows knit together. "Up to me?"

"This was my decision, Scully. I wanted us to disappear. My decision isn't exactly panning out. The next move is yours."

Scully shook her head: "who would want to bother us now? How could it possibly serve their purposes to get us involved again?"

"No one wants that. I think they would just put an end to it."

Scully rested her elbow on the console and rubbed her left temple with the tips of her ivory fingers. "Kill us, you mean."

Mulder looked out the windshield blankly: "yeah, something like that."

Scully reached forward, turning up the AC. "Mulder, did you think they would leave us alone?"

Mulder drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. "I thought maybe they would, yeah. Or, I wanted them to."

Scully dug in her purse, looking for her cell phone. "Do you get cellular service out here?" she asked, as she continued to dig.

Mulder sat forward, pulling his phone out of his pocket. "Yeah," he said looking at the bars on the display, "Why?"

"Don't you think we need to call in some favors here? I mean, we're sitting here, having had a run in with Alex Krycek and you think the men in black are due to arrive any minute." Mulder didn't respond, so she pressed him again: "Don't you think maybe we should be making some phone calls?"

"I'm not sure anyone can protect us," Mulder said flatly.




Scully had found her phone, but she stopped short of looking through her electronic phone book, when she heard Mulder's statement. She looked up at him sharply: "What does that mean?"

"Scully, I brought us here for a reason."

"Here?" Scully said gesturing to the remote location outside their car.

"No. I mean, I took us away from D.C., the FBI, the X-Files—for a reason."

Scully blinked quickly: she had never been comfortable with his reasons for leaving. "And what exactly was that reason?" she asked, trying to moderate her tone.

Mulder's inaction was uncharacteristic and maddening.

"I saw things while I was gone."

"Okay," she said adjusting in her seat.

Mulder seemingly refused to continue, staring blankly ahead. She wanted to scream—'care to continue?' Abruptly, Mulder unlocked the car and opened his door, slamming it behind him as he climbed out. Scully strained her neck to catch sight of where he was going, but he had bent over and she could no longer see him.




Standing outside in the heat, a wave of nausea washed over Mulder, and he bent over to empty the contents of his stomach in the road. Bent over with his arms wrapped around his waist, he thought repeatedly, 'this is it, this is when it happens.' He was going to have to tell her everything, and Scully would be furious. She would leave, she would take William, he would be alone. He would be more alone than he had ever been before. Mulder stood up, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth. Shimmering ripples of heat were rising off the blacktop and Mulder gazed into them. He looked to his left, seeing a large black man in a black suit standing just a few feet away from him.

"You're still nothing but a school boy, Mr. Mulder," the man said.

"Mulder?" Scully's voice called seemingly from a distance.

Mulder attempted to shake off the fog that had enveloped him and turned around to see Scully coming around the front of the vehicle. Mulder looked left again to glance at X once more: what would Scully think of his appearance?

Scully grabbed his arm. "Mulder?"

Still bent over he looked up at Scully. Clearly she wasn't seeing what he was seeing. "I'm seeing dead men, Scully," he confessed with a swallow.

"Mulder, get back in the car. It must be 100 degrees out here," she said concernedly.

Mulder looked back once more—no one was standing there—he knew no one would be.

"Okay, Mulder," Scully said, shutting her door, "what's going on here?"

Mulder scrubbed his face, reaching for a bottle of water that sat in the cup holder of the console. Unscrewing the lid, he took a large gulp. His mouth tasted of bile.

"December 22nd, 2012 will be the end of the world as we know it," he said, taking another swallow of the water. He couldn't look over at Scully. "Colonizing forces have been present on this earth for thousands of years, and after the last date of the Mayan calendar the main body of the gray alien force contaminated with the black oil virus will arrive. A shadow government—whatever remains of the consortium or a new group of men working for the aliens—will form operating out of the Mount Weather Complex in Bluemont, Virginia. The grays believe that this government will be working on their behalf, helping to take over the bodies of humans, creating a permanent race of slaves and hosts for the gestation of new grays. Whether they will work on behalf of the colonizers or not, I don't know, but any efforts they might launch against the aliens will likely be futile."

Scully took the bottle from Mulder's hand and entwined her fingers in his. "Mulder, look at me."

Mulder turned his gaze on her.

"You don't know that to be true."

He grimaced at her with evident disbelief. "You still don't believe?"

Scully tilted her head: "No. I do. You know I do, Mulder. But what you've just said...what kind of proof do you have?"

"Ah...proof," he chuckled.

"Yes, Mulder. Proof."

"I saw things—I told you."

"What kind of things?"

"I was shown the plans. The plans for colonization. They are already underway."

"Maybe they showed you these things to manipulate you. Maybe it's not the truth."

Mulder crashed his open palm down on the steering wheel. "They've created super soldiers, who cannot die. They have manipulated their DNA so that they have a regenerative metallic skeleton. They might be aliens that have replaced human bodies...I'm not sure, but I've seen them...seen what they can do. They will assist in the colonization efforts. One super soldier could host endless numbers of grays."

Scully let Mulder's other hand slip, pressing her hands to her eyes. "Mulder, this sounds like science fiction to me."

"I know. But, I saw it. I saw one regenerate from a single bone. Don't you see what that means? Scully, we've been chasing monsters with a butterfly net."

Scully shook her head, "Mulder, if they were performing tests on you, you could have been out of your mind. You could have made these things up in a delusional state of mind. Or...or...they could have implanted those things...visions of these things in your mind. I don't doubt that it seemed very real. After living with these visions for months, it probably seems all the more real."

"I saw it, Scully," he repeated firmly.

"We have to go back, Mulder."

"You want to go back to Washington?"

"Yes. I want proof, Mulder."

"Getting that proof might get us killed."

Scully sighed, "But, Mulder, based on what you're telling me, we're all going to die anyway."

He looked down at his lap.

"So, that's it? You've known for months that we're all going to end up alien slaves and we've been running errands, sleeping, mowing the lawn, taking the car in for oil changes?"

Mulder shrugged defeated, "We've been living a normal life. You always said that's what you wanted."

"Damn it, you only fail if you give up. Mulder, you just gave up! You believe this hideous insanity and yet you gave up!"

William began to whimper and fuss at the sound of Scully's raised voice, and she turned in her seat, stretching her arm back to pat his leg.

"The date's set. I can't change that. I can't change the future."

"What was the plan?" she continued, her voice shaking, "What were you planning to do? Just let them come for us? For your son?"

Mulder's inner dialogue began playing again: 'this is it, this is when it happens.' He looked at William in the rearview mirror. He didn't want to lose him. He didn't want to lose her. "Run away. Hide. I hadn't thought it through that far."

Scully sat forward in her seat, reaching once more for her purse and her phone. "I'd like to know how you sleep at night," she stated coolly.

He glanced over at her, watching her fingers shaking as she fidgeted with the items in her lap.

"I'm next to you," he answered softly.

Scully raised her head, tears beginning to shine in her eyes.

She was furious. Furious that he had continued to keep things from her. Furious that he had high-handedly made vital decisions about their lives without giving her what he considered to be the facts. Furious that they had taken his hope away from him.

"Okay, Mulder. I get it."

He sighed, squeezing his eyes shut.

She'd been waiting with no small amount of fear for the other shoe to drop, but she hadn't imagined it would be her to toss it down.

"But, you're going to have to start thinking about the future now. We've got calls to make."




*Chapter 5*: Chapter 5

They'd been driving for over twelve hours heading east, when Mulder pulled off the highway, stopping at a roadside motel. Scully awoke at the sound of the engine dying. She looked around sleepily.

"Where are we?"

"Home for the night," Mulder said, opening his car door.

Scully leaned forward, gathering up her purse, cell phone, and the map that had slipped from her lap while she slept. Mulder was already getting William out of the backseat, when Scully shook off the drowsiness left in her head and pulled on the car door handle. Scully's legs felt like Jell-O when they hit the pavement. She pushed her car door shut.

"Ugh...how long was I out?"

"A while...since the last pit stop," Mulder said, shouldering a bag and grasping William's car seat.

Scully wiped her eyes. "You should have woken me. We could have switched."

They walked towards the motel office.

"I would rather you got some rest," he said wearily.

He was worried there wouldn't be a lot of rest for anyone in a few hours. Besides, it gave him some comfort to watch her head bob around in the car, oblivious for the time being.

"Has William been okay?"

"Yeah, sleeps like a baby in the car...just like his mother," he said, managing a slight smile.

Scully locked the metal motel door behind them, yawning as she pulled the deadbolt. Mulder was busy unhooking William from his seat.

"No, it's okay, Mulder," she said patting his arm, "I'll take care of him. You go ahead and take a shower, if you want."

"Thanks," he replied, squeezing her shoulder before walking into the bathroom and shutting the door.

Scully lifted William from his seat, taking him in her arms and moving to the bed. He was only half-awake and she hoped that he would fall right back to sleep. He had been an incredibly good traveler. She pulled back the dark green comforter and sat down on the stiff mattress. She leaned back against the pillows, easing herself into the bed and laying the baby against her chest.

They'd spoken with both Skinner and the Lone Gunmen while they drove, arranging their arrival in D.C. They would be meeting with the Lone Gunmen and Skinner tomorrow afternoon if everything went according to plan. Of course, just what that plan was, Scully wasn't sure. More alarmingly, she knew Mulder had no better idea than she did. For once, she would have settled for Mulder having a plan and she being in the dark. Were they going to show up at some building, knock on the door, and ask if alien colonization was truly underway? And if so, would they please stop?

She wanted to call her mother as well and alert her to their return, but Mulder said it would be better to wait a while until they contacted anyone else. They had only briefly apprised her mother of their move from D.C., explaining that they had to essentially vanish. She'd sent her mother several postcards and a few photos of William, but otherwise Scully had had no contact with her family since the day they left. It had been difficult for her and she could only imagine how hard it must have been on her mother. She would have rather let her mother know they were coming back immediately, to put an end to whatever suffering her daughter's absence might have caused her, but she would acquiesce to Mulder's wishes for the time being. That was the only benefit to not having any family left, as in Mulder's case—there was no one left to mourn you when you had to disappear into the night.

The bathroom door reopened. Mulder strode back into the room.

"You're not going to take a shower?"

He shook his head 'no.' He sat down on the bed and put his head in his hands. He looked defeated and worn.

"Are you sure it wouldn't make you feel better?" she asked quietly.

He shook his head again.

"Mulder..."

He refused to look back at her.

"Mulder, come on. Let's just get some sleep."

He looked sideways at her. "You want me to get your bag and put William's pen together?"

They hadn't gone back to the house: all Scully possessed was in the bag Mulder had packed for her the previous afternoon in a fevered rush. They had built a life and now it was all left behind, as if it had never existed. She wondered what the university would think, what the neighbors would think, what the local authorities would think.

"You can get me my pajamas, but don't bother with his stuff. I want him to sleep with us tonight."

Mulder reached for her bag and dug around for the pair of pajamas he'd grabbed the other day.

"I thought you were against sleeping with babies. The chance of overlaying and all..."

"I am generally, but..." Scully shrugged, sitting upright and taking the satin pajamas Mulder handed her. She felt as if she wanted to keep William very close that evening.




Mulder lifted William from Scully's lap, so that she could change. He paced around the room as she pulled her t-shirt over her head and unhooked her bra. Mulder tried to avert his eyes as she slid the pajama top on and buttoned the pearly round buttons. She might be his wife, but years of schooling himself not to leer at his partner still left him feeling like a pervert if he watched her at moments like this. Being a pervert and feeling like one were entirely different things. When she was finished, he handed her back their child and pulled his polo over his head and unbuttoned his jeans, disrobing to his boxers. He walked around the room, shutting off the lights before joining them in bed.

They laid in silence for some time, motionless, except for William's small movements. Finally, Scully rolled onto her side to look at Mulder in the darkness.

"You're worried about William. Aren't you?"

He nodded 'yes.'

"So am I," she said reaching over and grasping the hand that rested on his bare chest. "We're taking a chance going back. But, without taking this chance..." Scully trailed off.

She knew that Mulder understood that returning to fight was their only chance...William's only chance for a future. He probably understood it better than her, if what he said was true and he'd seen the things that he'd described.




He was worried that Scully failed to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation. Returning. Seeking evidence. Fighting the good fight. He had wanted to shield her from this truth as long as possible. Now that she knew the truth, he realized that per usual, Scully didn't completely believe what he'd laid in front of her: she would need evidence, proof. Getting the proof would be problematic and potentially an exercise in futility. He worried that while she thought this was the wise good stalwart thing to do, it would end up in tragedy. If that tragedy included William, he felt certain that Scully would shatter. Yes, if they did nothing, there was no hope. But, Mulder was fairly sure there was no hope anyway.

"Mulder?"

"Yeah?" he answered resignedly.

"Your plan...for us...for William. Tell me what it was going to be like."

He turned his head to look at her, squinting. "What do you mean?"

"Your plan to be a normal family. What did you want for us...out of life?"

"I already have what I wanted. I guess what I always wanted was to have a family. Once we lost Samantha...we lost everything. But with you and William...I finally have a family."




Scully let his admission wash over her: she had always imagined that she was the one that desperately wanted a family, but it seemed that she had miscalculated Mulder's needs. For most of the years that Dana Scully had known Fox Mulder he had been trapped in the past: he was haunted by the loss of his sister, the role his father had played in a government conspiracy that had taken shape several decades earlier, and his own misguided sense that he too was somehow to blame for these past evils. For the past few months, however, Mulder had been a man of the present. He was resolutely planted in the present with her and their son without thought to the past or the terrifying future. Not fair, she admitted to herself—surely Mulder had given thought to those things, but he had chosen to focus on the present and on them. Apocalyptic visions of the near future had made Mulder a family man.

"You could have told me, you know," Scully whispered.

"Told you what?"

"Told me the truth."

"About what I saw?"

"Yeah."

"I wanted to protect you."

Of course he did. He always made the worst decisions in their partnership out of just such a desire. It was why there were sometimes problems with male-female partnerships: biology and years of evolution cannot be totally undone by the feminist movement, she conceded. She felt strongly that he had been wrong, but then, they had for a moment been a typical little family. That was worth something. That was something she could hold onto from here on out. She might need those memories.

"What were we going to do? I mean...what was our life going to be like?"

She'd been thinking about it in the car. Mulder had some plan for them—a plan for normalcy that he had wanted to give her, because he thought it would make her happy. It was the most loving thing anyone had ever tried to do for her. It was sad.

He rolled his head back, staring up at the ceiling. "Ah...William and I would be Indian Guides together...camp...hike...eat really bad campfire food."

"Like you did when you were a kid?"

"Yeah...I'd teach him how to hit a baseball..."

"Hips before hands," Scully whispered, running her thumb over the top of his hands.

"Hips before hands," Mulder echoed. "And shoot hoops with him...take him to a Knicks' game...maybe a Redskins' game."

"Mmm hmm..."

"I might take him to the Roswell UFO Celebration...or...Comicon."

"Comicon, Mulder?"

"Yeah, the world's largest comic book convention. Frohike and the boys always go."

Scully smiled in the darkness and ran her hand through his hair.

"You've got ten minutes to stop that," he said with a sigh.

"So...Comicon, huh?"

"Yeah, cause William is going to be a chip off the old block."

"Is he now?"

"Sure...does that scare you?"

"Not a bit," Scully assured him, as she continued to run her fingers through his hair.

"Well, unless you want to take him to some...medical convention?"

"Medical conventions are a waste of a doctor's time and therefore a waste of every patient's time. You're better off visiting the local ER for a lesson in medicine."

"Mmm...sounds like a good mother-son bonding experience."

Scully stopped her ministrations, pulling her hand away.

"Hey," Mulder protested.

She imagined he was pouting.

"Okay and what about us?"

"Us?"

"Yeah. You and me. What were we going to do?"

Mulder sniffed. Scully couldn't tell in the darkness whether he was laughing, crying, or just inhaling. He was quiet for a moment.

"Other than the norm?" he asked.

"Yeah."

"The norm is nice."

Scully grabbed his hand again and gave it a squeeze. "I know."

Waking up next to Mulder, lecturing him about the way he squeezed the toothpaste tube or left the toilet seat up, arguing over pizza toppings with him, watching bad infomercials together at one in the morning, and going to sleep together—that was the kind of normality that she could envision living out pleasantly for the rest of her life. Especially since she knew that wasn't going to happen. 'If only...'

"Well...if you would have wanted to do something special, I might have taken you on that honeymoon we never got to take. Someplace I've always wanted to share with you."

"Ah...and where's that?"

"Graceland. It's beautiful at any time of year. Very spiritual."

Scully chuckled. "That sounds...all of that sounds really nice," she said quietly without any hint of sarcasm. 'Really nice and not meant to be,' she thought to herself.

Life as they used to know it was spoiling his plans. Mulder's version of normal was charming really, and since she felt that way, she recognized that long ago she must have become as nutty as Mulder was.

"Maybe someday..." she said without finishing.

Mulder rolled over and leaned over William to kiss Scully softly on the forehead. "Yeah, maybe."




*Chapter 6*: Chapter 6

"Scully."

Scully flipped over the magazine in her lap that they'd picked up in the last moto-mart. "Mmm hmm?"

"I want you to look in your visor mirror."

Scully looked up from her magazine bemused. "Do I need a makeup check, Mulder?" she smiled, shaking her head.

"Look in the mirror, Scully," he repeated.

She saw that he was watching something in the rearview mirror. "Alright," she said, reaching up and pulling down the visor.

She flipped the cover for the vanity mirror, making the little yellow light come on. She adjusted the visor so that she could see out of the back windshield. There was a late model black sedan following several yards behind them.

"You see that car?"

Scully glanced back at Mulder. "Yeah."

"They've been following us since we passed into Virginia."

Scully tilted the mirror slightly, trying to get a better look at the car. She couldn't make out any details about the people in the car. "How do you know? There are lots of people on this highway."

"Yeah, but we're the only ones being followed."

Scully flipped the visor back up. "Okay then. How do you know they're following us?"

"I slow down...they slow down...I speed up...they speed up. Get the picture?"

Scully chewed her bottom lip. "I think so."

"It looks like someone knew we were coming home."

Mulder swung the car to the right, changing lanes at an alarming speed.

"Mulder, what are you doing?" Scully asked, her anxiety building.

"If we're followed into D.C. everything is blown. We can't bring this to the Lone Gunmen's doorstep."

Scully grabbed the handle on the door as they made another quick lane shift. "You didn't answer my question. Mulder, be careful! We have William in the car."

Mulder glanced over at her. "I'm well aware of that."

Scully looked back at William.

"Scully, get me my gun."

"Your gun! What are you doing?"

"Well, if our friends follow us at this next exit, I don't believe it will be to ask for Grey Poupon. Get me the gun," he said behind gritted teeth.

Scully opened the glove box, pulling Mulder's weapon out. "Mulder, for the love of God, be careful," she pleaded, looking back at William once more.

He took the gun from her, rolling down the window as he swung onto the off ramp. She scrambled in her purse for her gun, although it would have been nigh on impossible to get a clean shot off with Mulder blocking her view in the driver's seat. Scully pulled down the visor and peered into the vanity mirror once more as they moved up the ramp off the highway: she saw the black sedan growing ever larger and then disappear from view as it passed under the overpass and continued straight by them on the highway. Mulder had seen it too and pulled over to the side of the road, throwing the car in park as local traffic passed them by.

Nothing had happened, but Scully was having trouble slowing her pulse, so she stared ahead at the road. It had been a while since she had heard gun shots, but memories of the shots she had heard in the past rang in her ears; they seemed to be repeating endlessly in her mind. The sounds of those rounds reminded her of things she didn't enjoy recalling: dark rooms, labored breathing, cold sweats.

Mulder rolled the window back up. He took the wheel with one hand, handing Scully the gun with the other. "Back roads from here on out."

"What were you going to do...?"

Scully couldn't bring herself to finish the question. The reality of their situation was finally washing over her in horrendous wave after horrendous wave. What could have just happened with her child in the car...it was unthinkable. They were walking into the proverbial lion's den with a toddler in tow.

"Well, we don't need to worry about that for now. They're not following us for the moment, if they were indeed following us."

Scully sighed, only somewhat relieved.

"Maybe I'm just completely off my rocker with paranoia. That's been the case before," Mulder acknowledged.

"Mulder, we have to call my mother."

He looked over at her. He hadn't expected her to bring up her mother at this moment. "I thought we agreed..."

"I know, but what just happened...we can't drive around shooting at cars with William in the backseat. We have to call my mother. We have to make some kind of arrangements with her for William."

Mulder nodded, his jaw tensing: this is what he had tried to tell her. The game had changed—for them and for the other anonymous players. He didn't have the foggiest who they were dealing with anymore.

"Okay, then. After we meet with Larry, Moe, and Curly, we'll contact your mom. Alright?"

Scully nodded, reaching back to pat William's leg.




They entered the Lone Gunmen's haunt and Frohike rushed forward, throwing his arms around Mulder's waist. Mulder raised the car seat up that held William.

"Hey..." Mulder said, suppressing a chuckle.

"We didn't think you were ever coming back, dude," Langly said.

"Yeah, well, we almost didn't. Someone want to help me out here?" he asked, raising the car seat higher and nodding at Frohike, who was still hugging him.

Byers stepped forward, taking the car seat from Mulder. Byers set the car seat on the tall metal table and immediately began to make William smile by tickling his side and making faces. Scully watched him: she had originally been surprised at how good these three bachelors were with her baby.

Frohike, having finally released Mulder, stepped towards Scully, removing his hat. "And the lovely Agent Scully."

"Hey Frohike," she said reaching out to touch his arm. "Not an agent anymore," she added.

Langly had joined Byers in entertaining William, and he glanced over his shoulder at Scully: "I'm glad you brought the little man."

Mulder walked over to the table. "Yeah, well...like I said: we almost didn't come back. I thought perhaps we met up with a welcome wagon after reaching the state border. So, we have got to find some way to protect the little man."

"We'd be happy to help," Byers said enthusiastically.

"Yeeeeah, I don't think so," Mulder grimaced.

Scully put her hand on Frohike's back. "They're good with him, Mulder," she said with a shrug.

"Skinner's on his way?" Mulder asked, looking at his watch.

"Yeah, he called. Delayed with some FBI paper pushing baloney, I imagine," Frohike said walking over to the refrigerator. "Can I interest the scrumptious Scully in a beverage?"

"Water would be good."

"Oh, I'm fine, Melvin," Mulder said, putting up his hand sardonically as if to wave off Frohike's imagined question.

"Mulder...your chickadee is a real lady. First one you've ever had. I'm just treating her like the queen she is."

Scully turned her back to Frohike and smirked at Mulder.

"Just get me a water, will ya?" Mulder asked, shaking his head.

There was a knock at the door and Langly left Byers' side by William to look through the peephole. He began unlocking the many deadbolts and opened the door. Skinner walked through the door and Langly shut it behind him, immediately throwing the deadbolts once more.

"Afternoon, G-man," Frohike said, as he handed Scully and Mulder their waters.

Skinner put his hand out to greet Mulder, but Mulder grabbed him in a half-hug.

"My favorite bald Assistant Director," Mulder said patting him on the back.

Scully smiled and reached up to squeeze Skinner's arm as Mulder let him go.

"It's good to see you two. I didn't think I'd have the pleasure."

"You almost didn't," Langly supplied.

Mulder nodded in agreement. "As I was just telling the boys, we had a little run in with what I believe to be some men in black on our way here."

"Did you see who it was?"

"No. Didn't get much of a look at them. I was driving...and I'm a little rusty with the whole run and gun scene."

"You shot at an unidentified vehicle?" Skinner asked, staring down his nose.

Mulder shrugged, "As it turned out, no. But, trust me, they weren't friendly."

"You're going on gut instinct?"

"Don't I always?"

Skinner nodded: "I understand, although you might want to be more careful...it would be hard to explain to the local authorities why two civilians are shooting at cars along the interstate."

Scully looked down at her feet, biting her lip.

"But you're both okay?" Skinner asked.

"We're fine," Scully said mechanically.

Fine, except Mulder was certain that they'd been followed by sinister men, who no doubt would have taken no pity on her son, if things had come to a head.

"I insisted on coming back," Scully began, looking up from the floor, "because Mulder told me more about his abduction."

Skinner pulled up a stool next to the metal table. "I'm all ears, Mulder."

"Scully is referring to my knowledge of the imminent threat of colonization...alien colonization, supported by an underground government made up of men already working towards the enslavement of the human race. They have developed technology, including hybridization and super soldiers that will facilitate this colonization. The main force of aliens will arrive on December 22nd, 2012."

Mulder sounded as if he was repeating a well-worn speech.

"Yowzas," Frohike said, shaking his head in disbelief.

Skinner mindlessly touched the arm of his glasses. "You want to be more specific, Mulder?"

"From what I saw, there is little hope of resistance."

"Resistance is futile," Langly said in awe.

"That can't be the case," Scully countered tersely.

"So, Scully and I are back. I guess we're going to try to change the future."

Mulder sounded a little sarcastic, and Scully felt as if he was avoiding her gaze.

"I believe Mudler saw what he thinks he saw...but I need proof."

Mulder nodded slowly.

"We can get the proof," Langly said assuredly.

"Yeah. Where do we come in?" Frohike asked excitedly.

"We haven't quite worked that out yet," Mulder said with a shrug, "I'm going to need to figure out where to start first...without getting us immediately killed."

"Well, you're never going to get anywhere without some help from the FBI," Skinner said.

Mulder laughed. "The FBI? No, thanks. All that agency ever did for us was get in our way."

"No..." Scully said, tilting her head, "it got us access, it got us information, it provided us with research tools. All things we'll have to do without now."

"There are always other channels of information," Frohike inserted.

"That might be, but Scully is right. You're going to need someone working on your side from within," Skinner said.

"And just who would that be?" Mulder asked, placing his hands on his hips.

"Agent Troy is still assigned to the X-Files."

"They didn't close the X-Files?" Scully asked startled by this bit of information.

"I used whatever clout I have left to make sure that it would stay open. Agent Troy has been carrying out your work ever since you left."

"Agent Troy?" Mulder deadpanned.

Scully pursed her lips, staring at Mulder: "He does good work, actually."

"Really? I thought you had trouble trusting him."

The three Lone Gunmen looked in unison from Mulder to Scully with their collective eyebrows raised.

"Mulder...it wasn't an ideal pairing on my side, but Troy does good work. He's a good agent. A fairly good fit for the X-Files, actually."

"He doesn't believe," Mulder said dismissively.

"Neither did I."

"He can be trusted," Skinner added, "and he's got a new partner that's been working out pretty well. I'm sure he'd help out...getting information when you need it. I'll speak to him privately, if you want."

Scully was still holding Mulder's gaze. He looked displeased.

"Do that," Scully said.

"And I've got some ideas as to where to start," Skinner said.

Mulder raised his eyebrows in genuine surprise. "Really?"

"These...super soldiers?"

"Yeah?"

"It would seem that Agent Troy has encountered something that sounds suspiciously like a super soldier. There are issues killing these guys from what I've been told."

"You could say that," Mulder said, sticking his hands in his pockets, "Agent Troy is in deep if they're crossing his path."

"Did you happen to read our story on the superhuman military project?" Frohike asked.

"January issue of this year," Byers supplied.

"Must have missed that one, boys," Mulder said, shaking his head.

"We uncovered evidence that the government was working on a secret genetics program to build a race of super soldiers," Langly said proudly.

"You could be right. Or not...I'm not sure that the government is behind this particular development," Mulder said with a sigh.

"I'll get you two together with Agent Troy on the matter of these super soldiers," Skinner said, taking out his phone, which was vibrating in his pocket. "Excuse me," he said stepping away and pressing the phone to his ear.

"Otherwise the plan goes into action?" Langly asked Mulder.

"The plan?" Scully asked, turning her attention away from Mulder to focus on the three men, who merely looked at each other before jerking their heads in the direction of Mulder.

She thought they were woefully without a plan.

"Ahh...I've had a plan of sorts in place, in case we ever ran into...complications. The sort of thing that could help us get along if we needed to disappear off the radar...work independently."

"We knew Mulder amó Scully when he added you to the plan," Frohike said confidentially, leaning towards Scully.

Beyers cleared his throat, looking down at his shoes.

"When was it? Six years ago?" Langly asked, turning to Frohike.

Frohike knit his brow, counting on his fingers. "Seven at least," he affirmed.

Mulder cleared his throat: "Trusted Scully, boys. Trusted."

Frohike nodded, making a 'yeah right' face.

"Okay. So, what plan?" Scully asked once more.

"New identities, money, munitions, many many disposable cellular phones, etc," Byers said.

Scully looked from Mulder to Skinner.

"Sounds like a good idea," Skinner said, as he approached the table once more, tucking his phone in his pocket.

"New identities?" Scully asked.

"Passports, driver's licenses, credit cards," Frohike explained.

Scully turned to look at Mulder: "Oh lord, Mulder...if my name is Bambi..."

"You'll just have to wait and see," Mulder said waggling his eyebrows.

"They're all there, as requested—in the safety deposit box," Byers said.

Mulder pulled a small key from his pocket and held it up. "Time to go hit up the bank."




*Chapter 7*: Chapter 7

Mulder and Scully pulled up outside of Margaret Scully's house. The last time Scully had seen her mother's home they had been exchanging painful goodbyes. Only a few weeks previous to those hasty goodbyes they had been calling her mother to ask her to join them at the courthouse on the following Friday. Quite a morning she must have had, receiving a call from her daughter alerting her to the return of Fox Mulder, the father of her grandchild, and the upcoming marriage of her daughter to said man, who had been God knows where for a year. Scully had been somewhat self-absorbed during this brief period of time, and while she had been fearful to announce their imminent disappearance, she had largely been too engrossed in her own turbulent feelings of bewilderment and immense relief to actual consider anyone else's feelings. Now that she was walking up the walkway to her mother's house, she was more than a little afraid.

The door opened before they made it to the top step and Mrs. Scully appeared beaming behind it.

"Mom," Scully said, as Mrs. Scully enveloped her daughter and grandson in a hug.

Mrs. Scully pulled back and cupped William's cheek. "He just keeps getting more and more handsome," she said with a smile.




Mrs. Scully then turned to Mulder, pulling him down into her shoulders with a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek.

Mulder realized that he had been holding his breath up the walk. Scully's mother had always been very good to him. Very kind and very understanding. He had worried that taking her daughter away might have finally worn away any affection in which she held him. He was more than relieved to know that he had been wrong. He'd had a turbulent relationship with his mother; he didn't want a turbulent relationship with his mother-in-law.

"Come in, come in," she said pulling the door open wider.

Mulder glanced over at Scully and saw that she wore a familiar look—the Scully mask of composure. He could guess that she was holding back a well of emotion. He slipped his hand into the small of her back as they walked into the family room.

"I'm so happy to see how well you all look," Mrs. Scully continued as they arranged themselves on the sofa.

William immediately began to kick and fuss and Scully placed him on the ground so he could roam.

"Did you get the postcards and the pictures I sent?" Scully asked, her voice sounding a little strained.

"I did. They're on the frig, where I can always see them."

Mulder, while relieved, had no notion of what to say, so he sat silent. It seemed to him that Scully felt equally anxious.

Maggie sat forward, touching their knees. "Listen, I know that you did what you had to do. It's alright. I would rather have you safe than have you a block away. A mother worries, but I'm a military wife."

Scully let out an audible sigh and took her mother's hand in her own. "I hate causing you any worry, Mother."

"Tell me how you have been," Mrs. Scully urged sitting back into the sofa.

"We've been doing really well. William reaches all his developmental stages well ahead of time. Mulder and I have been..." Scully was interrupted by a whistle from the kitchen.

"Oh, that's the water for the tea," Mrs. Scully said.

Scully put out her hand, stopping her mother from getting up. "I'll get it. You stay put."

Scully left the room and Mulder was left alone with Mrs. Scully. He rubbed his chin nervously.

"Thank you, Fox."

He was baffled by her statement. Surely he had misheard her.

"Excuse me?" he asked, clearing his throat.

"Thank you. I can sleep at night, because I know you're with my daughter."

Mulder shifted awkwardly in his seat. He knew that he deserved to inspire no such confidence in her, seeing as horrible things had happened to Scully during their partnership. Maggie must have had an incredibly selective memory.

"I know that you'll do anything to protect her."

Well, that much was true.

"And I saw...I saw her when you came back. I saw the immediate change in her. Fox, Dana is rather proud and she might not have told you herself, but I was very concerned about her while you were gone. Dana was losing the particular strength that makes her so resilient. But I didn't have to worry anymore when you came back."

Mulder tried to think of something to say in response, but his mouth opened and closed without words forming.

"And I don't have to worry about you either," she finished with a tender smile.

"What was that?" Scully asked, carrying a tray into the room.

"I was just telling Fox that you didn't need to worry about William. I'm happy to get some time with him."

Scully sat the tray on the coffee table. Straightening up, Scully shook her head. "We are woefully unprepared. His bag is in the car, but you won't find much in it."

"William and I will just have to make a little run to the store," Mrs. Scully replied.

Mulder lifted a steaming mug off the tray, taking a tentative sip. "He doesn't even have enough clothes," he said regrettably over the mug.

It made him feel like a failure that they had left in the manner they had. Surely he could have done more for his family.

"All those things can be easily replaced," Mrs. Scully responded cheerfully.

Scully dug in her purse. They just happened to have a lot of cash on hand. "Let me give you some money for whatever you get."

"No, no," Mrs. Scully said shaking off the offer. "I haven't been able to spoil him in months, so you'll have to let me do this."

Mulder clenched and unclenched his jaw. Yes, he was definitely a failure.




Mrs. Scully scooped William up as he wandered by. "Hi there, big boy."

William's face broadened into a wide smile. Scully couldn't help but smile as well. Her son's smile reminded her of his father's.

"You'll just have to give me all your new contact information," Mrs. Scully said, looking over William's head and smoothing his soft hair with her hand.

"We don't exactly have that information," Scully hedged.

What they had was several cell phones that were not to be used more than once. She wasn't sure if all this secrecy was necessary. But Langly kept telling them that they had to stay 'off the grid.'

Mrs. Scully looked from her daughter to Mulder.

"We'll have to call you, I'm afraid," he said, setting down his mug.

"And we'll come by, as often as possible...every few days, when we can," Scully said, reaching out to stroke William's head as he sat in his grandmother's lap, inspecting the buttons on her dress.




"It's temporary," Mulder added tersely.

He wanted to keep his little family together, if he could.

"Of course, of course," Mrs. Scully nodded, giving the two tortured souls on her couch a sympathetic smile.

They pulled away in their rental car. Rented under false names and paid for with cash. Mulder stared ahead at the road as Scully turned to look out her window. He was fairly sure that she was trying to conceal tears from him. He was trying to bite down his own.

Abruptly she turned to face him, having hastily wiped away a stray tear. "When I asked you to help me with the IVF, what did you think?"

Mulder had imagined this topic of conversation closed more than a year ago. And Scully wasn't usually much for recollection for the sake of it. He cleared his throat. "Honestly?" he asked, glancing over at her briefly.

"Yeah, honestly."

"Mmm...surprised. Really surprised."

"You acted fairly calm about it."

"Well, I wasn't going to say 'no' to you...even if you bowled me over with the request."

Scully sniffed, "out of character?"

"You asking me to donate sperm? You could say that."

Scully half-smiled. "I trusted you."

"Much appreciated, but it had to be more than that. I mean, I didn't imagine that you considered me to be good genetic material. The whole insanity angle might have spooked you."

Scully snorted. "I don't think it's genetic."

"Good to know," Mulder said, turning the steering wheel.

He continued in a more serious tone, "I suppose I was surprised, because we had a very professional relationship."

Scully shrugged, "we had a very close friendship."

"Yeees," Mulder agreed, sounding somewhat unsure.

Scully fixed him with a look. "Is there anyone else that you were closer to?" Her tone was somewhat accusatory.

"Not at all, but you have to admit that we have had our problems in the communication department."

"Okay, yes," Scully conceded, "but still incredibly close."

Mulder snaked out one hand for a quick squeeze of Scully's knee. "No one closer."




"So, I asked because of our closeness...because of our friendship."

She could have gone with an anonymous donor, but she had really wanted to ask Mulder. Anonymity wasn't exactly what she'd imagined she'd be looking for when it came to a father for her child: medically it was an option, but emotionally she didn't want to pick the father out of a catalog. It still wasn't traditional, but she loved Mulder and she wanted it to be him. How she worked up the courage to ask him, however, she'd never quite know.

"I get it. I was flattered. I still am. Score one," Mulder said, making a mark in the air with his finger.

"I was really disappointed when nothing turned out," Scully said as she closed her eyes for the briefest of moments as the disappointment she had felt washed over her once more.

"I know. I was too."

"Really?"

She had wondered whether Mulder was as keen on the idea as he had pretended to be. Actually, other than being supportive, he had offered no opinion about the whole process, despite being a vital biological component. It was his strange behavior that had left her wondering when she actually became pregnant how he would respond to the news of being a father. Perhaps as a donor he thought the onus was largely on her, but since William was the result of an encounter more intimate than a manipulation within a test tube, he might feel duty bound to play a more fatherly role. She hadn't been one hundred percent sure he would welcome that. Men as driven as Mulder didn't necessarily want responsibilities keeping them from their real priorities.

"Yeah, I'd gotten sort of fond of the idea. It was a shock at first, but then I agreed and kind of...I don't know."

Scully was familiar enough with Mulder's body language to be able to see that he was shaking something off, something mildly unpleasant in his memory of the events that had taken place.

"Tell me, Mulder."

"I was shocked you asked me, because of your rather strict view of our relationship—don't take that the wrong way."

Scully shrugged.

"I was shocked," he continued "And then I was worried that you weren't afraid to ask me, because you only saw me as a means to an end. Not a partner in the process."

Scully's brow furrowed. "What do you mean? You came to every appointment, I couldn't have asked for more support."

"But then what? If it was a success: then what? I had no idea whether you would want me involved in...in our child's life...or whether you were going to go it alone." 'Leave me out of your emotional life like you always did,' Mulder added inwardly.

Scully reached up and rested her hand on Mulder's shoulder. "You never asked."

"And that's the crux of it, I guess. I never asked you to open up and you never offered," he said with a regretful smile.

He had been fond of the idea in an idealized way, but concerned that he would not only have to pretend to be Scully's platonic friend and colleague, but also deny the relationship with the child. Scully hadn't asked him to play the father. She hadn't asked him to play the lover. She had asked for a lot, but not enough—not for him, not when he loved her with every fiber of his being. Given the circumstances, Mulder wasn't sure he would have be able to handle it.

If she hadn't been so visibly crushed by the failure of the whole process, he would have felt relieved. Admittedly, he was somewhat thankful when Scully re-entrenched. If she'd spent more than a few unguarded moments in his arms mourning the loss of what could have been, he would have broken down and confessed everything to her...unburdened himself in the messiest of ways. He had been on the verge of it when she'd walked away and closed herself off. Yes, he had hated her reserve, but it had been the safety on his loaded psyche.




"You'd think we would have worked it all out before going forward," Scully said, shaking her head at what could potentially have been a terrible blunder.

"You'd think," he said with a chuckle.

She had worried about her job. She had worried about her long-standing partnership. But, being convinced that she wanted no one else but Mulder as the donor, she had shut out all possible complicating thoughts regarding their personal relationship. Whatever paltry relationship they had at the time, it was still the most important one in her life. Yet, she hadn't taken two minutes to consider what such a request might mean to Mulder or to them. Her actions had been very un-Dana like. Dana thought and rethought every possible emotional scenario, trying to achieve the least amount of damage to her armor. Dana did not rush headlong into situations that were the equivalent of a proverbial mine field. She hadn't even kissed him, but she'd expected him to father a child with her and then play along as if nothing had changed between them. It had been a ridiculous fantasy and she was happy that it had worked out as it had.

"Well, it all worked out," Scully said, pulling away her hand.

"I took care of it," Mulder said with a waggle of his eyebrows.

Scully rolled her eyes. "Such a manly man, Mulder."

"If you would have only known, I might have gotten lucky a lot sooner."

"Oh, no doubt," Scully sarcastically replied.




"Speaking of which..."

"Yes?"

"As charming as our spawn is, I imagine that we shouldn't engage in anymore...activities until we get ourselves some protection."

Scully's head whipped around, astonished by his statement.

"I'm just saying," he said, gesturing with his hands on the steering wheel.

Scully appeared to be dumbstruck.

"Now wouldn't be the time for us..." he stumbled, worrying that he had said something wrong.

"No, you're right, but I don't think that's a genuine concern."

"No?"

"No," she replied firmly, turning to look out her window again.

"It wasn't a real concern before, either."

Scully had refused to discuss the issue of her fertility after their brief discussion the day after his return. If she had any notion about what had allowed her to conceive a child, she hadn't shared them with him.

Silence reigned. Mulder glanced over at Scully; he thought perhaps that she was crying again.

Mulder felt the pain of driving away from his son acutely, but Mrs. Scully's words stayed with him—he had to be strong for Scully. She needed him.

"Scully...Scully I know how precious he is. I know he's a miracle."

Without looking back, Scully reached out her hand to him and he gripped it tightly.

"We'll see him soon," she said quietly.

It seemed like she said it to convince herself of the truth of the statement.

"I've missed enough time with him already," Mulder reassured her, "we'll see him very soon. I wouldn't have it any other way."




*Chapter 8*: Chapter 8

Author's Note:

"Thank you for meeting with us," Scully said, sticking out her hand to shake Agent Troy's outstretched hand.

"I'm just glad to have you back," he responded with a sincere smile.

Scully looked from Agent Troy to Mulder, whose hands were stuck deep in his pockets. Troy turned to Mulder and withdrew his hand when he was only greeted with a tight lipped smile.

"I'm sorry your new partner couldn't join us," Scully said, glancing around the wide expanses of green of the National Mall.

"Were you followed?" Mulder asked brusquely, finally breaking his rigid silence.

"No," Agent Troy responded quickly. "I took every precaution. I wouldn't put you in any danger," he added, turning to address Scully.

Mulder muttered something under his breath that sounded to Scully like: "Oh, brother."

"Your partner?" she prodded Agent Troy.

"Yes. Agent Mendoza won't be joining us today. She's cleaning up our latest case and it's more her specialty than mine."

"What is your specialty, Agent Troy?" Mulder asked dismissively.

"Mulder," Scully said, trying to scold him into behaving with the irritated intonation of his name. Now was not the time for alpha posturing. She turned her attention back to Agent Troy, who was looking somewhat stunned by Mulder's behavior. "I was surprised to hear that you were still working on the X-Files, Agent Troy."

"AD Skinner was adamant that it remain open and I was more than happy to continue my work there. I tell you though...things have gone from strange to really fucking terrifying since you left."

Troy's use of profanity was somewhat shocking. He was usually so even tempered.

"Skinner seemed to indicate that," Scully said.

"Yeah...I don't want to say too much about it...even here," Troy said glancing around. "But Skinner mentioned that Agent Mulder had seen something very similar to what Agent Mendoza and I had a while back."

"We're not agents," Mulder responded tersely.

"Sorry...Fox?" Troy said, seemingly trying to settle on the right taxonomy for the cross man in front of him.

Scully shook her head quickly her eyes wide, trying to indicate to Troy the mistake he had made.

"Mulder. Just Mulder," Mulder corrected. "You've encountered men who couldn't die?" he asked casually, as if this was the most normal question in the world.

"Yeah...like I said...terrifying. We've run into them twice. I mean...I say them, but I don't know if it's the same guy or..."

"Or what?" Scully asked, when it seemed like Troy wasn't going to continue.

"If it's the same guy, then I've shot him on both occasions with little effect. No effect really. He should be dead."

"When did you run into...Mulder calls them super soldiers?" Scully asked.

"That's what makes it so terrifying. It's like Mendoza and I have pissed this guy off and he's following us, because we don't see the connection between his appearances. The first time we saw him was on a case in Arizona. We were investigating a potential medical cover-up. A small community of melon farmers had contracted what was being called Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium."

"Say that three times fast," Mulder deadpanned.

"It's communicated by rats," Scully supplied.

"Yes. Except Agent Mendoza and I could find no evidence of a rat population problem."

"What do you think you were really dealing with?" Scully asked.

"Hard to say. Access to the bodies wasn't granted."

"Bodies? The farmers died?" she asked with obvious interest.

"Every last one of them according to what we were told."

"Only people with compromised immune systems die of that," she said with a shake of head.

"And while you were sniffing around you ran into your first super soldier?" Mulder asked, seemingly amused.

"Yes. Son of a bitch was testy. Shoot first and ask questions later, I guess. We didn't have the proper clearance, but I don't think it merited being shot at. We returned fire...with no luck. We were lucky to get out of that death trap."

"It wasn't a rat disease," Mulder said with great certainty. "He shot at you, because they're protecting whatever it was those people had been infected with."

"Protecting a disease?" Troy asked.

"Not a disease per say. For all you know they were busy making more super soldiers out of healthy Arizona farm stock."

"You think these men are created...by means of infection?" Troy asked with a look of horror.

"I don't think Mulder really knows," Scully said.

"And the second time?" Mulder asked.

"The second time we'd been called in to investigate the disappearance of a young man that had recently returned from military duty."

"That doesn't sound like an X-File," Scully said.

"Well...the young man had been reporting some unusual things before he disappeared."

"Unusual how?" Mulder asked leaning in slightly.

Scully knew this posture: Troy finally had Mulder's full attention.

"He told his family that he'd been abducted while he was serving in South Korea."

"And they believed him?" Scully asked.

"Not until he disappeared. They wanted to explore every avenue after that. That's why we got the call."



"And you met up with another super soldier?" Mulder asked.

"I think so. If that's what you call them. Same scenario—highly aggressive and seemingly impossible to stop. But, if they were protecting some secret medical experiment in Arizona, why were they also preventing us from doing our job in Alabama?"

"That US soldier probably was an abductee...maybe even part of the project. It's all related somehow," Mulder said assuredly before looking around once more. "Are you sure you weren't followed?"

"Why?" Troy asked, glancing around as well.

The day was warm and the sun was shining without any clouds in the sky to ruin its effort. The Mall was crowded with tourists, but no one seemed interested in this group of three discussing the impossible. No one seemed to hover for too long in their vicinity. Mulder knew that these people were the best, however: they had been watched before without their knowledge.

"Because, this is the kind of conversation that paints a target on your back," Mulder said, satisfied for the moment that no one was nearby.

"Do you have any notion of how we could find one of these super soldiers?" Scully asked.

"I can give you the information from those cases. That's the best place to start, I'd wager."

"We'd appreciate that," Scully said.

"And you can trust your partner?" Mulder asked.

Troy visibly bristled. "Agent Mendoza is my partner."

"We've established that," Mulder said in frustration.

"Then I'll have to ask you to stop questioning her."

"I wouldn't dare. I can tell how fond you are of your partners."



Troy took a step closer to Mulder and Scully watched horror as the two men stared each other down in front of her.

"May I remind you two that we're supposed to be helping each other?" she said in exasperation.

"Scully, everything is fine," Mulder said raising both hands as if to indicate surrender. "It's a legitimate question," he added with a slight sneer directed at Troy. "Anyone and everyone is suspect."

"Agent Mendoza has been of monumental help to me. She is an expert in parapsychology—I thought that would be right up your alley, Mulder."

"You're kidding. The FBI has an agent who specializes in parapsychology?" Mulder asked in bemusement.

"They have ever since she joined the force. I think they thought it was a farce, allowing Skinner to assign her to the X-Files, but she's a real pro."

Mulder shrugged. "They were low on their crazy quotient after I left, I guess."

"I think we're done here," Scully said, attempting to end their meeting before any more damage was done. "If you can get Skinner the case files we need, he'll handle the exchange."

"I'll turn them over immediately."




"That kind of behavior ends right now," Scully said in a stage whisper as they walked down the Mall away from Agent Troy.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Mulder replied innocently.

"What were you trying to accomplish by antagonizing him like that?"

"That wasn't even my good material," Mulder said with a shrug.

"I'm sure it wasn't, but the whole act stops now."

"What act?"

"The jeaousy, Mulder. You're acting jealous."

"You're one to talk," he snorted.

"We can talk about my flaws another time. I'm just trying to get you to realize that Agent Troy can only help us. He poses no threat. Not to you, not to me, not to us," she asserted.

"I'm not convinced he can help. He's sitting in my office and playing at a game he can't begin to comprehend."

"You quit the X-Files, Mulder."

Mulder stuffed his hands into his pockets. "And he gazes at you."

Scully shot Mulder a look. "Well, he also has gazed upon the super soldiers, Mulder."

"I want to see those reports. Then I'll decide whether your former partner is worth his salt."




Scully watched Mulder as he sat hunched on a cot; he was poring over the reports they'd received from Skinner earlier in the evening. He looked awkward and uncomfortable, and while she was watching him, he rolled his neck, cracking it with a wince.

"We can't stay here," she said in a hushed voice, not wanting any of the men in the next room to hear her.

He looked up from the pile of papers strewn across his lap. "You miss our private time?" he asked with a leer.

Scully sighed heavily, blowing a piece of hair out of her face. She also had a pile of papers in her lap, from which she had been trying to divine some greater insight. "A desk would be nice."

"No, you're right. We need to get our own digs. If we can't make anything out from these reports, we might have to jet off to Arizona pretty soon though...try to conduct our own investigation."

Scully flipped through the pages to Troy's deatiled account of the rat population in Arizona. "There was a rat population. Not a significant one, but they were there. The rats are drawn to the melons."

"Okay," he said warily. "What are you trying to say? It was a rat disease? I thought people didn't die from whatever it was."

"They don't...generally."

"So, let's say it was Mickey Mouse run amok. Why weren't the bodies made available to government agents? Why were Agent Troy and his eccentric partner shot at by a guy who knows how to take a bullet or...ten?" he asked, turning to the page he was apparently looking for. "Troy reports firing ten bullets."

Scully raised her brows and shook her head. "Because...because there was something there worth protecting."

She wasn't sure what that was though. Mulder was certain it had to do with the project, but she still needed evidence that there was a project. She glanced up at the clock on the wall: somehow it was already 11:21. She yawned, stretching. She hadn't slept well in a few days and it was beginning to catch up with her.

"Tired?" Mulder asked.

"Mmm..."

Mulder interrupted her, speaking quickly: "What was the name of the lab they were at?"

"Uh...BioFit."

"Frohike?" Mulder shouted.

There was a pause before Frohike's shadow fell across the doorway. "Everyone decent?" he asked.

"Get your ass in here," Mulder said.

Frohike entered the room that had been set up for Mulder and Scully—matching cots made up with faded Star Wars sheets in what served as the Lone Gunmen's laundry room. Scully just hoped no one got the urge to do a load of tighty-whities in the middle of the night. The potential threat, however unlikely, had made her sleep in her clothes.

"Frohike, I need you to look up something for me," Mulder said, passing him a sheet of paper from the pile. "BioFit. Medical lab. Anything you can find. Could be wicked cool," he promised with a smirk.

"Let's fire up the engines," Frohike said, quickly exiting the room.

"Shall we join them?" Mulder asked, gesturing towards the door.

"Sure...I can't sleep here anyway."

They both stood and shimmied past the cots towards the door. Mulder placed his hand on the small of her back and leaned down to whisper in her ear: "the tighty-whitie thing?"

"Yeah."




If it was possible to fall asleep on a metal stool, Scully was fairly certain she was about to. She rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands and arched her back in a futile attempt to stretch her strained lower back. She had heard Langley say some variation on—this thing's tighter than a steel drum—as he watched Frohike work at the computer maybe five times already. Langley was being good natured, she admitted, since they'd interrupted a chat he was having as Lord Manhammer before Mulder had stormed in with the idea of investigating BioFit.

"Why would a medical company need this level of security?" Frohike asked in aggravation.

The answer was seemingly obvious. There was something else there. It was late though, and Scully wasn't at all certain Frohike would find anything even if he could break through their security system. She was beginning to consider opting out of the spy game spectator sport for the evening and calling it a night.

She never liked to be the first person to quit. Of course Mulder was hanging on every key-stroke—he had the tenacity of a bull dog. Frohike was hard at work and Langley was eagerly watching him. And Byers was sitting to the side going over some text he'd pulled out of their library when Mulder had announced the name of the company he was determined to tap into. She wondered what mysteries were held in Byer's massive tome. Everyone else was gamely up and that would make her the quitter. She covered her mouth with the back of her hand, hiding a yawn.



Mulder caught Scully's attempt to suppress a yawn out of the corner of his eye and he turned to look at her. She looked tired. There was no point in all of them sitting around this computer screen. She might as well get some rest. If they did find something of interest, they'd all need some sleep in order to take this investigation to the next level.

"Why don't you go to sleep?" he suggested softly.

Nothing could escape his companions though, who all looked up at Scully. He knew she wouldn't want to be the first to walk away. He might end up having to bribe Langley into going to bed first.

"I'm fine."

"Whoa," Frohike said, having turned back to the screen.

"What?" Langley asked, peering over Frohike's shoulder.

"Have you got something?" Mulder asked.

"This baby's got a weakness after all," Frohike replied, leaning forward and typing quickly.

Scully slipped off her metal stool and came to join the group of huddled men.

"I'm in!" Frohike exclaimed.

"Dang..."Langley said in awe as files began to load on the screen.

"Print it," Mulder instructed.

"Which?" Frohike said, shaking his head in awe as the files continued to proliferate on the screen.

"All of it. Print all of it and get the hell out of there."

"Aye aye, captain," Frohike said, clicking on the print function.

The laser printer in the corner of the room began to hum as it heated up and began to spit out page after page in rapid succession. Mulder strode over to the paper tray and began to mull over the pages as they appeared in the tray in an ever increasing pile.

Scully walked over to him and took the pages as he wordlessly handed them to her.

"There's a lot of information to go through here," she said.

"It might be nothing, but we've got to start somewhere." He paused before holding a sheet that had just been spit out up in the air. "Hey, we've got something."

"You found something already?" she asked astonished.

He handed it to Scully. "Projet Impérissable," he said, watching Scully scan the page.



"You're the French expert," she said, still trying to make sense of the page that had so quickly struck Mulder as important. It didn't make sense. Why would a BioFit project be given a French title?

"Project...immortal...imperishable. Doesn't that sound a bit like a super soldier?" he asked.

"The froggies are metal men?" Langley asked.

"This could be a new international project...that would at least explain the use of French," Mulder said. "But then, maybe they just thought it added some much needed savoir-faire to their Home Ec. assignment."

"There are half a dozen addresses listed here...including the Arizona facility where Agents Troy and Mendoza were shot at," Scully said.

"So, either these facilities are researching immortality or they're constructing super soldiers?" Byers asked, coming forward to take the paper from Scully.

"We'll never know unless we check it out," Mulder said.

"There's an address in Maryland," Byers said.

"How thoughtful of them to keep their breeding grounds within an easy driving distance. Check the weather in Maryland boys, we're about to hit the road."




*Chapter 9*: Chapter 9

Mulder pulled the car into a gas station to refuel for their trip to Maryland and Scully got out of the car to buy them a couple of cold drinks inside the convenience store. What she needed was a stiff drink: the parting with her son for the third time since they'd first left him at her mother's had taken its toll and she didn't feel like she could keep mentioning the pain to Mulder. Not when she'd been the one to insist that they come back to D.C.

As she pulled two bottles out of the refrigerator units, the cold air from the unit made her eyes tingle as tears threatened to spill out. She blinked them back quickly and closed the airtight door before walking to the counter to pay for the drinks. She glanced over her shoulder as the teenaged clerk began to ring her up. Mulder was leaning against the car, seemingly having finished with the pump.

"We're pump number four," she said to the clerk.

She finished paying, took the plastic bag with their two drinks, and walked back towards the exit. A man in a black leather jacket was standing near the door almost blocking her way, but he must have heard her coming, because he held the door open for her as soon as she was upon him. As she brushed past him she saw his profile for the first time.

"Fancy meeting you here," he said with a wicked grin.

Scully stepped through the door and spun around, so as to avoid having her back to Krycek. She wasn't certain if he was carrying a weapon and she didn't want it to end up pointed at her back.

"Stop following us, you son of a bitch," she ordered through gritted teeth.

"I know where you're going."

"Is that right?"

Scully wanted to believe that he was bluffing, but she knew better. Krycek always seemed to be in the know.

"I thought you might appreciate being told that you're walking into a trap."

"And I'm supposed to believe you?"

"Get Mulder to talk to me," he said gesturing over Scully's shoulder towards their car. "I just want a chance to talk with you about this before you go off half-cocked."

Scully shifted on her feet, gripping the handle of the plastic bag tightly. "Why should I speak for you?"

"You ask a lot of questions. Let's just walk over to Mulder and get in the car, so we can talk like civilized people," Krycek said, taking a step forward and causing Scully to take one step backward.

Scully shook her head. Civilized—an interesting choice of words. "If Mulder turns around and sees you here with me, he won't think twice."

"You know, I'm getting a little tired of you two threatening me, when I'm just trying to help," he hissed.

Scully stood face to face with a man she considered to be a monster. He had taken more than his pound of flesh from both her and Mulder. He should be the last man either one of them would ever listen to, but they were back in Washington thanks to his stunt, and now they were walking into a situation they knew nothing about and with nothing more to go on than Troy's reports and Mulder's feverish recollections. If Krycek had anything worth sharing, it might behoove then to listen.

"Walk in front of me," she ordered.

She had to maintain control of the situation. If Krycek had the opportunity to pull a weapon on her, Mulder would cave. She knew this. She just hoped Krycek was less well informed on at least this one crucial point.

They came around the pump and Mulder was no longer propped against the car. He'd already gotten back into the driver's seat and she could see the back of his head looking forward oblivious to Scully's companion in tow. Scully opened the passenger side door and let Krycek slid in.

"What the hell?" Mulder said in startled exasperation.

Scully was already opening the back door before she could respond to Mulder's displeasure. She tossed the bag she'd been holding onto the bench seat and situated herself behind Krycek, pulling her gun and training it at his back.

"You've got five minutes, Krycek," she advised.

"You weren't just stopping for gas before a Sunday drive, I suppose," Mulder asked, eyeing him with clear disdain.

"No, I've been following you. Damn good thing too. You're walking into a trap."

"And you're here to save the day once again. When did you take up the superhero game?" Mulder sneered.

"Look, I knew you'd get back in. But, I'd rather you didn't die in the first weeks back. I could use people with half a brain working to subvert the plans."

"We're not working for you on any plans. I can tell you what my current plan is, however. Drive you a couple blocks and then kick your ass to the curb. You can walk back to your car before you start trailing us again."

"Didn't it occur to you that it was too easy to get the address for this facility? That the facts were all too clear?" Kyrcek asked, seemingly amused at their folly.

"It wasn't as easy as you think," Mulder grumbled.

"Then you've gone soft."

"Four minutes, Krycek," Scully said, glancing at her watch.

Krycek raised his good hand, begging their indulgence. "They're carrying a lot of plates right now. You could easily make them drop a few, but this isn't the way to go about it."

"You're wasting our time with meaningless metaphors," Scully replied, still watching the seconds tick away on her watch.

"Let me spell it out for you, then. The project is over extended. There are serious weaknesses. The one thing they've got going for them are these manipulated men. You go after one of their breeding facilities and you're going to end up lunchmeat."

"So what would you suggest we do, Krycek?" Scully asked.

"Turn around. Go home. Although, that little love nest you're cozying up in seems a little snug. I'd also suggest getting an apartment."

It made Scully's skin crawl that Krycek knew where they'd been staying. It was a never ending lack of privacy that she had hoped to leave behind when they left the X-Files.

"We're not turning around," Mulder said, turning the key in the ignition. "So, you can get out now, or I'll kick you out going fifty like I planned."

"Fine. If you won't listen to reason, then I'm coming with you," Krycek said as he reached for the seatbelt.

Mulder laughed. "Why would you want to walk into a trap, if that's what you think this is?"

"I'm hoping to save your asses."

"It's precious that you think I'd take your treacherous ass anywhere," Mulder said shaking his head in disbelief.

"Look, you're making a mistake. You should focus on the areas we can make a difference."

"What areas?" Scully asked, letting the gun drop somewhat.

"Like I said, they're off-balance and there are viable options. Snooping around this facility is nothing but a death trap. Whose stupid idea is this, anyway?"

It was hers. She had demanded evidence. Evidence pertaining directly to colonization was not immediately forthcoming, so they were going after another piece of the puzzle. Mulder insisted that it would end up in disaster. Krycek seemingly believed the same thing. She waited for Mulder to call her out, but he remained silent.

"I know this is your specialty, Mulder—running around like a chicken with its head cut off and calling it bravery. But this is madness. What exactly do you know about this facility? What do you know about these men they're creating?" Krycek pressed.

"Enough," Mulder answered.

"No need to act tough for the redhead, Mulder. I've been to this facility. I know what you're facing. You're going to need me. I can get you in. And if we're lucky, I can get you out."

Scully watched from the backseat as Mulder mulled over Krycek's words. He was trying to gauge the likelihood that Krycek was speaking some degree of the truth twisted for his own benefit no doubt. If he'd actually been to this facility and they could trust that he wasn't going to betray them, then his knowledge would be useful. It was more than they currently had—an address.

"Are you armed?" Mulder asked Krycek, sizing him up.

"Yes."

"Get out of the car," Mulder instructed coldly.

Krycek complied, and Scully watched as Mulder also stepped outside of the car and walked around to meet Krycek. He roughly pushed Krycek against the car and began to pat him down.

"It's strapped to my back," Krycek said with a laugh, seemingly amused by Mulder's precautions.

Mulder disarmed Krycek and continued his pat down. Satisfied, he opened the passenger side door again and pushed Krycek head first into the seat.

As Mulder walked around the front of the car, Krycek twisted in his seat to face Scully. "You're damn lucky I don't knock a couple of his teeth out."

"I'm only going to warn you once to drop the threats," Scully replied.

Krycek shrugged, "I'm just saying."




The sound of their shoes crunching in the gravel of the parking lot filled the otherwise silent surroundings. Theirs was the only car in the lot, as it was a Sunday. Mulder didn't really expect that they'd be alone once they got inside, however.

The facility was situated in a somewhat rural locale. Tall trees nearly obscured the expansive multi-storied white metal building from the road. The signage on the road was small and unassuming. Not BioFit this time, but Agro-Surplus. The kind of nondescript agricultural company you might expect amongst the trees and fields of rural Maryland. It was a pleasant place for the creation of monsters meant to play a part in a battle for the fate of the planet.

Krycek began to inspect the heavy metal door at the front of the building and the adjacent rectangular window.

"What's the security system here?" Mulder asked, also peering through the poorly cleaned window into the murky darkness of the building. He could only make out metal shelving. "Are we going to end up with some aggravated men in black breathing down our necks?"




"We should avoid that," Scully said, wishing she could take part in the visuals, but the window was too high for her without asking for a boost from one of her male companions.

Krycek sniffed, "The last time I was here, there wasn't a security system."

"No alarm system?" Scully asked in disbelief.

They'd let Krycek come along, counting on the fact that he might be able to help them in some way. Maybe he was just helping them get killed.

"The product protects itself," Krycek said in a low tone of voice.

"So we're counting on being caught by the super soldiers, instead of tripping alarms. It's nice to have options," Mulder said brightly before leaning down to examine the silver metal doorknob.

"A regular Sophie's choice," Scully grumbled. "Don't you have a better plan? I thought you were going to help us."

"I haven't been here in months," Krycek replied defensively. "I'm not eager to be discovered either," he said to Scully, as Mulder jiggled the doorknob. "Move," he ordered roughly.

Mulder glanced over his shoulder at Krycek before side-stepping out of the way. Krycek stepped forward and delivered a blow with his foot to the door. The door rattled, but otherwise remained intact. Mulder came to his aid, but after several attempts, there was still no visible change in the solidity of the door.

"You think with all this noise the metal men have woken up inside?" Mulder chuckled.

"Break the window. I'll crawl through and let you in from the other side," Scully said.

"No," Mulder said firmly. "I'm not going to let you do that."

"Neither of you can fit," she insisted.

Sometimes her size wasn't a disadvantage.

"We don't know what's waiting on the other side of that door," Krycek warned.

"I'm aware of that," Scully said with a carefully composed face.

Krycek shrugged. "The lady is willing," he said, before walking off to look for a rock sizable enough to break the window.

Mulder grabbed her arm and pulled her closer. "You don't have to do this."

"Maybe not, but we need to know what is going on in that building. Do you have any other ideas?"

He stood looking her in the eyes for a moment silently. She imagined that he was trying to read her. See if what she was saying matched what she felt.

Krycek returned and didn't wait for further discussion, smashing the window with a rock the size of a baseball. No alarms sounded. Perhaps Krycek had been right. It certainly seemed that the building was still unprotected by any electronic monitoring system.

"Ready?" Krycek asked, holding his hand out to Scully.

"I've got this," Mulder said, shouldering past Krycek.

"It's okay," Scully said, trying to assure him as he lifted her into the air.

"Watch the glass," Krycek advised as Scully latched onto the window frame and began to pull herself up.

Scully had scrambled in as far as her waist, when she looked down at the fall that awaited her. Head first into a scattering of shards of glass. She could end up breaking her neck. Mulder had his hands still firmly around her knees and she considered demanding to be pulled back out. She awkwardly craned her head up to see what was in front of her. There was a pair of metal shelves within arm's reach. She reached forward and got a grip on the slick surface. She had no assurance that they were secured to the wall, but it was the only solid thing within her grasp. She tugged on the shelving and wiggled further through the window. Mulder gave her a shove and her feet cleared the window. The weight of her body now completely depending on the strength of her grip, her body swung forward, crashing into the shelving. Her hands slipped and she dropped to the floor—on her feet. She was banged up and a little shaken, but it was a better landing than her face would have afforded her.

She pushed the hair out of her eyes and scanned the room. It was dark and the only light streamed in from the small broken window. There were rows of metal shelving and tables, but seemingly nothing of interest in the confined room that served as the entrance. She turned towards the door and began to throw the deadbolts. She turned the doorknob and pushed the door open, the sun and her male companions' faces greeting her.

"Let's go, gentlemen."




*Chapter 10*: Chapter 10

"We should split up," Krycek said in a hoarse whisper.

Mulder grabbed the back of Krycek's collar, bunching it up in his fist. "You're the only one who knows where he's going, and you want to split up? I don't think so."

"Look, if you're looking for evidence of something, we have to move fast. The more time we spend here the better the chance we're not getting out of here alive."

"He's right," Scully whispered back.

"So, which one of you wants to be my partner?" Krycek asked with a smirk.

"I'm not leaving you alone with Scully for two seconds," Mulder said, as he began to make his way through the metal shelving deeper into the room.

"You'd let your wife go by herself?"

"I can handle it," Scully affirmed.

"Whatever you want, but if you think I'd take this chance to put the moves on her, you don't know anything about timing with women," Krycek chuckled, indicating with a jerk of the head that they should go down the hallway to the left.

"That means I go right," she whispered.

Mulder looked at her for a half beat. "Meet back here in fifteen?"

She knew he was looking for assurance that this was the right thing to do and that she would be alright. There were never any guarantees, but she gave him a tight lipped smile before turning right down the darkened hallway.

She made her way briskly down the hallway, looking quickly to her left and right at the empty rooms that she passed. Finally she came upon a room full of computers and metal filing cabinets. The door to the room was closed and the lights were off inside, as was the case with every other room she had passed. She peered through the window on the door, but other than the darkened computer monitors and gray filing cabinets, the room appeared to be empty. She reached for the doorknob and found that it turned in her hand without any resistance. Either there was nothing worth protecting in this room or whoever ran the facility didn't imagine that anyone would ever make it this far without being detected.




"So what is it you were hoping to find?" Krycek asked as they entered a large space full of storage containers and crisscrossing metal gangways that stretched across the space above their heads.

"Some kind of documentation, I guess. I'd rather not actually meet up with anyone or any thing if that's what you mean."

"Well, you haven't completely lost your mind."

"I'm glad to have your approval," Mulder scoffed as he peered into one of the storage containers that appeared to be either awaiting its intended contents or already emptied of them. "You know what these are meant for?" he asked.

Krycek shrugged.

"You haven't been a whole helluva lot of help so far," Mulder said with irritation before walking deeper into the cavernous space. "Some of these things open from the top," he said tapping one of the metal crates as he walked by. "That must be what the gang planks are for."

"There's a ladder over there," Krycek said, pointing with his good hand at the left-hand wall with the metal ladder attaching to the first in a series of connecting gangplanks overhead.

"Well, let's get a look-see from above then," Mulder said as he walked over to the ladder. He turned back to face Krycek, glancing down at his fake arm: "Can you climb?"

Krycek raised his lip in a sneer, "it isn't my favorite pastime."

"I'll go first and give you a hand."




The computer screen lit up in bright blue as the processor began to boot up.

Scully had already pulled open a couple of file drawers, but it seemed that they contained nothing but print outs of series of coded numbers. She didn't have the ability to take them all, so she'd taken one set of files, rolled them up into a tight cylinder, and tucked them into the back of her pants. Maybe these pages would be enough to decode them later. Seeing as the files all seemingly contained the same kind of print outs, she had decided to try the computers.

The screen prompted her for a password. A password. What should she try? First she typed: super soldier. Access denied, password invalid—flashed on the screen. BioFit and AgroSurplus also had no effect. She wondered if Mulder was having any more luck than she was.

Scully tapped her foot nervously and glanced at the clock hanging on the wall. Ten minutes had already passed since they'd parted. They were supposed to meet back up soon. She hadn't heard anything in the building other than Mulder and Krycek's footsteps as they walked away from her; otherwise the place seemed completely silent. She wasn't going to take any chances, however: she had chosen a computer that faced the door so she could watch for anyone that might pass by.

Just then something occurred to her: Projet Impérissable. Her fingers moved quickly over the keys and she clicked the submit button with trepidation.

"Bingo!" she whispered.




Mulder made Krycek walk in front of him as they crossed the gang planks that hung over the large industrial looking storage containers. From this vantage point you could read a series of numbers painted on the tops of the containers. He couldn't make any sense of them, however.

"How does the missus feel about leaving behind the little prodigy?"

"Okay. Number one rule, Krycek: don't say a word about my son."

"He is a prodigy though, right?" Krycek continued unfazed. "Ahead of the curve or whatever bullshit."

"I don't know what the hell you're getting at."

"Special, Mulder. There's an interest in your son. An interest in what he might turn out to be."

Mulder stepped into Krycek's space and grabbed him by his good arm. "I'll throw you right over."

"Look, I'm not going to pretend that I'm concerned about the kid's welfare because of my softer side, Mulder. I've just heard rumblings at the top, and if he is special, I imagine he would be better off with us than with them. Catch my drift?"

"Us? Don't flatter yourself," Mulder said giving Krycek a shove so that he stumbled down the plank a few feet.

"Get that kid of yours some protection," Krycek said, regaining his footing and straightening up. "Grandmas don't qualify," he added with a smirk.




Scully was on her second file directory when she thought she heard several rounds of gunfire coming from somewhere else inside the facility.

"Shit!" she cursed under her breath, flicking off the computer monitor and dashing around the desks towards the door.




"Shit!" Mulder cursed, crouching down on the gangplank. "Where the hell is that coming from?"

"I don't know, but we're sitting ducks up here. Move!" Krycek ordered, pushing Mulder back towards the ladder they had come up.

The two men ran across the metal plank hunched over as another round of fire exploded in the room. In the vast space with the echoing metal and concrete Mulder couldn't determine where the gunman was positioned so as to even attempt to return fire.

And then there was the most incredibly shocking impact he had ever felt. He was thrown back cracking his head on the metal walkway as his body slumped backwards. His legs had given out and it felt as if a jackhammer was at work on his chest. Everything seemed to go into slow-motion. He was strangely aware of the high-speed camera like effect that the massive amount of adrenaline was having on his synapses, causing him to view Krycek peering over him in a dream-like state of separate moments in time.

"Mulder, get up!" Krycek shouted at him. "Fuck," Krycek shouted, glancing down at Mulder's chest.

Mulder's gaze followed Krycek's. Through his wavering vision he saw a large dark wet spot beginning to spread across his chest. There was another pop of gunfire and Mulder was dimly aware of Krycek turning to return fire.

"Mulder, get your ass up."

Mulder tried to speak, but he was beginning to feel a pain in his left lung and every breath felt like a knife twisting in his chest. Krycek leaned over him once more, slipping his arm under Mulder's and jerking him upright. Sitting upright, Mulder began to feel the hammering in his chest with renewed vigor.

Krycek awkwardly hooked his arm under Mulder's and heaved him onto his shoulder, stumbling the last couple of feet to the ladder. Mulder's vision began to go white in a progressive fade out from the right: he knew somewhere in his foggy recollection that this was due to low blood pressure. He would pass out soon. Krycek dumped him back down on the walkway just as another round of gun shots began to ring through the air.

"I can't carry you down this ladder," Krycek said as he got behind Mulder and began to push him towards the opening in the walkway.

Mulder knew he was about to be pushed through the opening. He wasn't sure why Krycek had bothered to carry him out of the line of fire, when he was going to throw him down a hole anyway. Krycek rolled Mulder onto his stomach so that his legs were dangling through the entrance to the walkway.

"Try to break your fall," Krycek warned. "Play dead when you hit bottom."

Mulder felt the hole in his chest rub against the metal of the ledge. He gasped and gripped the edge, while trying to gain a foothold with his last bit of strength. "I might not have to pretend," he croaked as he slipped through the hole and dangled from one of the last rungs on the ladder.

Krycek leaned down. "Play dead!" he reiterated with a hoarse whisper. "I'll draw fire."

Mulder began to slide down the ladder, his hands loosely holding onto each progressive rung as he started to slip more quickly to the floor below. He hit the ground faster than he would have liked and felt the blinding twist in his left lung once more.

He was beginning to lose consciousness as he heard the clatter of feet on the metal walkway above and the sound of gunfire echoing around him.




The sounds of intermittent gunfire drew Scully towards the large semi-darkened room that appeared to be some kind of storage facility. She stepped into the room, breathing heavily from the combination of her dash down darkened hallways and the terrifying possibility that something terrible had happened. She looked quickly to her right and then her left.

"Oh my God," she said, seeing Mulder slumped against the far wall.

Scully ran towards him. Reaching him, she crouched down to take his vitals. She felt for his pulse, pressing her fingers into his carotid artery: his pulse was thready but mercifully present. She didn't have to ask to understand what happened. Warm blood was bubbling out of his chest and pooling on the ground around him.

"God damn it! This is not happening!"

Scully had begun to dig in her pockets for her phone when she saw Mulder's eyes flicker open. She experienced a brief moment of relief that he was at least conscious.

"Mulder! Mulder look at me," she said grabbing his limp hand.

His eyes appeared unfocused.

"Mulder, you gotta stay awake. I'm calling the paramedics."

"No," he whispered weakly.

Scully thought she heard gurgling, which might indicate fluid buildup in his lungs.

"Yes," she said, pulling out her phone. "Where is that son of a bitch Krycek?" she asked angrily as she opened her phone and held it in the air, trying to receive a signal.

"We don't have a reason to be here," he whispered.

"You're worried about getting caught now?" she said as she continued to wave her phone in the air.

"I've got some...unpaid parking tickets," he said, choking with the effort.

Scully couldn't be bothered to acknowledge Mulder's gallows humor. "Damn it, I can't get a signal here," she said. "Can you walk?" she asked.

He shook his head in the negative.

"Mulder, you're going to bleed out here. I can't get you out of here myself. I have to call the paramedics."

He gave no response. Scully wasn't sure whether he had acquiesced or simply could no longer mount a protest.

"Don't move," she ordered, realizing the absurdity of the command.

She ran from the room, holding the phone in front of her and watching for bars to appear on the screen. She had almost reached the front of the building when one lone digital bar appeared on the LCD screen. See quickly dialed the emergency number and gave them the address and information regarding Mulder's condition. She didn't know where Krycek had disappeared to or whether someone else was in the building, so she ran back to Mulder as soon as she had given all of the necessary details to the dispatcher.

His eyes were closed once more as she slid down on the floor next to him, slipping in his blood. Scully wished she could rip his shirt open so she could assess the wound, but that might disturb whatever clotting was keeping him from completely bleeding out. She would have to wait for the paramedics to arrive. With her medical abilities rendered momentarily useless, she had only her emotions to guide her.

She reached up and caressed his cheek. "Mulder, I need you to stay awake for me. Until the paramedics get here."

He coughed a gurgled response that she couldn't make out.

"Just stay with me, okay?" she pleaded, taking up his hand.

"William," he whispered his eyes darting about seemingly agitated.

"He's okay. He's with my mom, remember?"

She rubbed her thumb over the back of his hand, but he made no response.

"Hey, if I tell you something, will you stay awake for me?" she asked as she slid closer to him on the floor so that her lips were nearer his ear. "I never told you something about William."

He let out a labored breath and Scully took his pulse once more, this time from the ulnar artery. Weaker than the last time.

"Remember that night in Los Angeles? The night of the movie premiere?"

Mulder groaned.

"I know, the movie was awful," she said smoothing the worry lines on his forehand with her touch. "But it was fun wasn't it? I had fun that evening. Just the two of us. No case, no monsters. Dinner and a bottle of wine."

He gave her hand a light squeeze, as if to agree or just to let her know that he was still with her.

"I like to think back on that night, Mulder. But not just for those reasons." She swallowed and squeezed his hand tightly in her own. "I'm pretty sure William was conceived that night."

Mulder's head rolled to his right and he fixed her with a glassy look.

"He's our little Hollywood production," she said with a weak smile.

Mulder swallowed and she heard the distinct sound of fluid once more.

"Scully..."

"Shhh...it's okay," she said, shaking her head. "You don't have to talk. Just stay with me."

She thought she could hear emergency sirens in the distance, and if it had been almost ten minutes since she placed the call, it wouldn't be unreasonable to hope she wasn't imagining them.

"Do you hear that, Mulder? Help is coming."

He knit his brow, swallowing with obvious effort. "I've loved you...forever."

She bit her lip, trying to smile through the tears that were beginning to run down her face. "S'okay, Mulder. I know."




*Chapter 11*: Chapter 11

"Thank God you're here," Scully said hurrying down the white hospital hallway towards the approaching AD Skinner.

Skinner looked her up and down with a furrowed brow. "Are you alright?" he asked concernedly.

Scully glanced down at herself. She was covered in blood that stained her pants and her shirt. "It isn't mine," she said with a shake of the head.

It was Mulder's. The abundance of the dark red wine stains were evidence—just not the evidence for which she had hoped.

"How is he?"

"In surgery. He's not good. I don't know what to do. I had to give his name as George Hale. The authorities will be here any minute to take my statement and I'll have to give them this," she said pulling out her wallet and producing her fake ID bearing the name of Mary Astor. "What do I tell them? We were trespassing and Mulder was shot."

Mulder was shot. It was a reality she had to keep reminding herself of. A painful silent chant she repeated endlessly to herself—Mulder was shot. If she didn't keep reminding herself, it didn't seem real. She had spent months wanting Mulder to come back to her. Now she was on the brink of losing him once again. Losing him to a reality that nothing could reverse: there was no coming back from death. Alien abduction maybe, but not death.

Skinner grasped her upper arm with his firm grip. "Dana, calm down."

She thought she was remaining composed. She had put on her mask of composure as soon as Mulder had slipped from her sight. Perhaps Skinner could see through her subterfuge.

"Mulder will be alright," he continued. "And don't worry about the police: I'll handle this."

"You think you can keep us from being booked on charges?" she asked incredulously.

"I've been protecting you two for years. I think I'm pretty damn adept at it by now." Skinner paused, knitting his brown in concern, "Sit down, you don't look good," he said gesturing to a blue plastic chair.

"I'm fine," she replied mechanically as she slumped into the chair with a loud sigh.

"Nurse?" Skinner said to the nurse in blue scrubs standing behind the nurses' station. "Can you get my agent a glass of water? She isn't feeling well."

"Certainly," the nurse replied, bustling over to the coffee and tea station and pouring Scully a glass of water.

"Thank you," Scully said, taking the glass of water from the woman and fixing Skinner with a look.

"Maybe there is something you could do about my agent's clothes as well? Something clean she could change into?" Skinner asked the nurse, who stood waiting by, obviously understanding that this man was a person vested with some kind of authority.

"I'm fine," Scully replied once more.

She didn't want to change. Not until she knew that Mulder would be alright. Until then she would wear her blood stained clothes like a emblem of their loss and sacrifice. She was literally covered in his DNA. She hoped it wouldn't be all she had left of him after the surgeons were finished.

"When the police get here, I'm going to need you to direct them to me," Skinner said to the nurse as he pulled out his badge. "I'm the director in charge of these agents."

The nurse glanced at the badge before quickly looking at Scully. "I'll tell them that you'd like to have a word with them," the nurse said with a nod before going back to her paperwork.

Skinner sat beside Scully and clutched his knees.

"What are you doing?" Scully asked quietly.

"Sitting."

"No, you know that's not what I mean. You told her I'm an agent."

"I'm keeping you out of trouble. And it looks like the men in blue have arrived," Skinner said, standing up and cutting her off. "Don't say anything," he advised her as he walked towards the police, who were speaking with the nurse on duty.

"Assistant Director Walter Skinner," he said producing his badge.

"I don't believe this case falls under FBI jurisdiction, sir," the young officer said bristling.

"I'm going to need you to step aside here for just a moment," Skinner said. "Let the nurses go about their work so we can talk privately."

Scully had kept a couple of paces behind Skinner and she followed the group of men as they advanced somewhat further down the hallway.

"That's my agent in there on that table," Skinner said in a lowered voice.

The officer flipped through the papers he was carrying. "Gerald Hale? He's FBI?"

The other officer pinned Scully with his stare. "Are you the woman who was at the scene with Mr. Hale?"

Scully opened her mouth to respond, but Skinner cleared his throat, interrupting her. "Yes, she was there."

"And your name is, ma'am?" the officer prodded.

Scully didn't attempt to respond this time.

"She's also my agent. And I can't give you either of their real names. I simply can't have you filing a report on this incident."

"Incident? A man was shot," the officer said with a shake of the head.

"Look, I don't want to step on your toes, but you can't step on ours either. The FBI has been conducting a substantial long term investigation and these agents are deep undercover. Just my being here is compromising their investigation."

The officers looked from the authoritarian Skinner to the disheveled looking Scully. She imagined they were contemplating whether she looked like the type of person the FBI would assign to such a dangerous task. Small, seemingly frail, and female. Not to mention a complete mess.

"So, I can have Mary Astor here tell you what happened to her and Gerald Hale this afternoon and you can poke around and put my agents in danger or you can go back to your jobs and pretend like this never happened," Skinner grimaced, adjusting his glasses as he waited for the officers' response.

The officer holding the paperwork shrugged and tucked his pen back into his breast pocket. "Less paperwork for me to file, I guess." Almost as an afterthought he paused before adding, "I hope your agent will be alright. You never like to see a fellow officer go down."

"The FBI appreciates your cooperation," Skinner said, offering his hand to each man in turn.

As the men walked away Scully turned to Skinner, "You just perjured yourself."

"Not if I get you two back with the FBI. In which case, I was merely demonstrating prescient abilities—it could be your first X-File back on the job," he said, placing his hand on Scully's shoulder with a half smile.

Scully shook her head dismissively.

"Just think about. I have a couple of favors I could pull in."

"I don't think Mulder will go for it. He thinks the FBI hampered his efforts more than it ever helped them." Scully stopped cold. "I don't even know if I'll get him back. It was...it was the kind of thing that could kill him."

Skinner nodded. "But, it won't. And maybe this latest adventure will change his tune about coming back to the FBI. I'd feel a lot better knowing you two were within my jurisdiction...legitimately."

Scully reached into the back of her pants and pulled out the crushed roll of files she had stuck there earlier. "Can you get these to Frohike? I would call, but I don't think I can tell anyone what happened until I know for sure that he's going to be okay."

Skinner took the papers from her and looked at the seemingly random array of numbers.

"Ask them to start working on decoding it. It's a computer printout I took from one of the files I found in the facility."

Skinner placed his hand on her shoulder once more. "He's going to be alright."

"We'll see."




When Scully saw her mother approaching with William in her arms, Scully felt as if she was finally going to break down. That is what mother's are for: shouldering your burdens when you're too weak to do it yourself. Scully didn't often indulge in that kind of comfort, but she was feeling decidedly weak at the moment.

She reached out for William and her mother passed him off before patting her daughter on the arm.

"Are you alright Dana?"

Scully swallowed, trying to regain her composure, "I will be when I can see him."

"What have the doctors said?"

"He's in recovery. They had to inflate his lung. But the bullet didn't do any permanent damage, as far as they can tell. He was incredibly lucky." Scully paused, smoothing back William's feathery hair. "Only, I can't convince myself that he's going to be alright unless I see him. The last time I saw him..." Scully closed her eyes as an image of Mulder being rolled from the ambulance flashed through her mind's eye.

She had felt so helpless seeing him disappear through the emergency bay doors. But, she wasn't Dana Scully, MD. She was Mary Astor. Mary Astor had no right to shout orders at paramedics and doctors. She couldn't demand to be let in the room, because she was his doctor. She couldn't even claim to be his wife.

"He'll be okay, Dana. He's been through worse, I wager."

"I suppose it's all in your definition of worse," Scully admitted. "Has William been okay?" she asked, adjusting his shirt.

Her mother knit her brow. "It hasn't been a good day for him. He started crying a couple of hours ago and I couldn't get him to stop."

Scully rested William on her hip and gave him an appraising look. He seemed perfectly calm now.

"He wouldn't stop crying?"

"No, not at all. And I couldn't tell that anything was wrong with him."

"That's not like him."

"He's fine now. He stopped right about when you called."

Scully had waited to call her mother until she had spoken with the surgeon who had operated on Mulder. She couldn't bear to call until she had some assurance that Mulder was going to be okay. The questions would have been too much.

"When did he start crying?" she asked, tightening her grip on her son.

Maggie considered for a moment. "About two o'clock or so."

Scully shook her head in disbelief. She was beginning to think that her son had something of a six sense. She didn't know what else to call it.

"That's when Mulder was shot."

"Sit down, Dana. You're as white as a ghost."

Scully obeyed, feeling somewhat lightheaded.

"Have you eaten anything?" her mother asked concernedly.

Had she? Not since the morning.

"No."

"Let me get you something from the cafeteria."

Scully placed her hand on her mother's arm, stopping her. "Just stay with me for a little while. They won't let me see him yet and I'm going crazy by myself. I can't fall apart—it would upset him to see me like that."

Maggie nodded.

"You'd think I'd learn, Mom."

"What's that, Dana?"

Scully leaned her head against the wall. "You'd think I'd learn to be a little more open. Less reserved."

"Well, Dana, you're like your father in that way," her mother said, patting Scully's knee in a gesture of reassurance.

"No, I'm worse. I've lost him...nearly lost him more than once and I still haven't told him everything."

"Dana, he's going to be alright. You will have years ahead of you. Besides," she said taking her daughter's hand. "I think Fox already knows the important things. You didn't have to say them for him to know."




In some of Mulder's more morbidly romantic moments, he had thought that the last thing he would like to look on this world would be Dana Scully. His feisty, stubborn, intelligent, beautiful partner and now wife. He certainly had a habit of waking from the dead to see her.

As he opened his eyes and felt a wave of pain course through his body, he wondered for a moment whether he was still slumped against the wall of the storage facility. Then his eyes focused on Scully. A blur of red hair and creamy skin sitting beside him. She leaned forward coming into better focus and he was able to read the concern evident on her delicate face. The face that belied the intensity and strength that lay behind her mask of striking composure.

"You were shot," she said as she placed her hand on his upper arm.

"Damn," he said with a painful cough. His throat felt rough and raw.

"Careful, they re-inflated your lung...scoped you," she said turning to get him the glass of water that sat on the bedside table.

He took in the details of the hospital room. He hadn't died. He was alive and sitting in a hospital room with Scully. He would have wished that this scenario didn't seem to keep playing itself out, if he wasn't happy to have the chance to be back from the dead once more.

"You're lucky to be alive," she said as she put down the plastic water pitcher.

"Mmm...I feel like hell," he said in a hoarse whisper, taking the proffered water from Scully.

"You're being pumped full of morphine otherwise it would be a lot worse."

He swallowed the cooling water before speaking once more, "S'plains why I feel so goofy."

He tried to clear the cobwebs from his brain, but his mental hand swats at the tangle in his mind weren't terribly successful. He couldn't remember exactly how he had ended up here.

"Goofy or not, I need you to remember that you're George Hale for the time being, Mulder," she said taking back the water glass from him.




Mulder's face registered the difficulty of their situation.

"It's okay. Skinner was here and he handled it."

"Yeah?"

Scully crossed her arms. "You might find this interesting. The price we might pay for Skinner's assistance is reassignment to the X-Files."

Mulder awkwardly tried to sit further up in his bed, and Scully grabbed the white remote that controlled the tilt of the bed, so he could adjust the setting.

"What are you talking about?" he asked with a wince as the bed tilted to a steeper incline.

"Skinner said he wants us back."

"They'd never take us, Scully. I was a menace—a thorn in their side. Besides, they've got those two new clowns assigned to the X-Files."

Scully pursed her lips. Agent Troy wasn't a clown. She would reserve judgment of Troy's partner for later review.

"Skinner says that he's got some leverage. I told him you wouldn't be interested." She watched his face as he digested the news. "Are you?"

"Fox Mulder, Special Agent, huh?" he said chewing his bottom lip.

"Sound familiar?" she asked, arching her brows.

He swallowed, but said nothing in response. Scully reached for his blanket and straightened it somewhat nervously.

"I don't know quite what to think myself," she confessed. "We can talk about it once you're out of here. But, you're George Hale for now," she reminded him once more before checking his monitor.

"And you're my disobedient secretary," he said with a weak smile.

She turned back to face him, cocking her head slightly. "Maybe some other time, Mulder."

"I'm going to hold you to that."

Scully manipulated his pillow, considering whether she should press him on the events that led up to his gunshot wound.

"Can I ask you if you remember anything that happened?"

"How I ended up with a hole in my chest?" he asked glancing down at his bandaged chest.

Scully gave a terse nod in response.

Mulder considered for a moment. "Krycek and I were in a storage room. We had climbed up onto a gangway. There were gunshots." He reached up a tentative hand to brush his chest. "I guess I ended up on the wrong end of that situation."

"Who shot you?"

"No idea."

Scully had other questions. As soon as she was able, she wanted to find out if Krycek had been involved: she couldn't help but think that he'd set them up after all. But, besides her suspicions regarding Krycek, she was primarily troubled by what she perceived to be her own culpability.

"This was my fault," Scully said, pressing her fingertips into Mulder's forearm.

Mulder shook his head. "Now you're sounding like me."

"I insisted that we investigate the existence of these super soldiers. I couldn't just...believe."

"The day you start believing without evidence is the day both of us are lost," he said with a sigh. "I'm useless without your rationality. And right now, I'm just useless," he said glancing down at the tubes in his arm.

"You've been shot and we have nothing to show for it."

"Another scar," he helpfully supplied.

"Well, of all your habits, surviving situations—that you reasonably shouldn't have—has to be my favorite," she said, allowing herself to smile for the first time in days.

"Not the sunflower seeds?" he asked in mock innocence.

"Definitely not the sunflower seeds." Scully paused, considering for a moment. "Actually, we might have something to show from our misadventure. I need to call them, but I had Skinner send the Lone Gunmen a printout that I took from the facility. Coded numbers, I think. It might be something of interest."

"Good work, Agent Scully," he said with a crooked smile.

"Not quite yet."

He shrugged awkwardly in his propped up position. "Do the boys now I'm down for the count?"

"Not yet. I'm sure they'll be here with Mylar balloons and adult magazines as soon as I call them. For the time being, I've only called Skinner and my mother."

"Is she here?"

He looked hopeful. Mulder's fondness for her mother—and vice versa—never ceased to amaze Scully and increasingly brought her peace. Life in general was anything but normal, but there were some mundane details that couldn't be more right.

"She was here before. She had William with her, and he needed to go home. I'll have her bring him back after you've rested."

A seeming cloud passed over Mulder's face and worry knit his brow. "We need to talk about William."

Scully thought back to the conversation she had shared with her mother hours earlier, when her mother had disclosed William's behavior during after Mulder had been shot and was undergoing emergency surgery. There were things she needed to tell Mulder. That she had experienced visions during her pregnancy. That William seemed to understand things that he couldn't possibly comprehend at his age. That she was beginning to think there was something different about him.

"Yes, we do," she agreed.

"He's not safe."

Not exactly what was on her mind in regards to their son, but not a surprising response given Mulder's evident panic after being shot over William. She reasoned that in his muddled state he was suffering under some misguided sense that William was in imminent danger.

Scully noticed that his heart rate was increasing on the monitor.

"Do you have pain, Mulder?"

He gripped the covers with his hands so forcefully that his knuckles began to turn white.

"Here, take this. The button administers your morphine," Scully said handing him the patient-controlled analgesia device.

He took it and pressed the button, squeezing his eyes shut tight.

She watched the digital monitor's screen in silence as his heart rate began to slow again to where it should be as the drip entered his bloodstream.

"Better?" she asked.

He opened his eyes, but remained silent.

"William is fine, Mulder. I just saw him. He's with my mom."

"That's not enough," he said tiredly.

"We can talk about it later," she said leaning over Mulder and smoothing her hand across his forehead. "I need you to rest. I need you to get better."

"You're staying?" he asked, his eyes closing.

"I'm never leaving," she whispered.

Not tonight. Not ever.




Author's Note:

Scully's alias is "Mary Astor" an Academy award winning actress most famous for her starring role alongside Humphrey Bogart in "Maltese Falcon"—a famous 1941 film noir about a detective and femme fatale. Mary Astor also played several iconic mothers, including Marmee in "Little Women" (1949) and the mother in "Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944). We've seen Mulder watch b&w romantic movies before ("all things"), so I think it is reasonable that he's as familiar with these movies as I am (and he's got more than a few years on me). I have a hunch he would like film noir and detective stories and would like to think of himself as a Sam Spade kind of character. Furthermore, Mulder, having a rather complicated relationship with his mother, may have preferred the uncomplicated mothers of celluloid.

So, this is the end of part two. Thank you to everyone who has hung in with me, read the chapters, added this story as their favorite, or sent me a review. I appreciate it so very much. There are still some issues hanging around in this fic arc: William, Scully's pregnancy, the X-Files, colonization. I could write part three, if anyone believes that would be worth while. If you think I should have wrapped everything up in a bow in this part, I appologize. I envision three parts of 11 chapters each. Nothing is yet written for part three, but I do know the answers to those pesky unresolved issues, if everyone is not yet completely bored with this universe.




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