Title: Darkness Ascending
Author: Hillary
Rating: each part is rated individually: at best, a PG-13...at worst ( or maybe best again, ) NC-17
Classification: S/XF,T : A, DAL
Spoilers: General, Widespread TXF mythology is refferenced thru season seven. Not any future eps though past " Orision"
Distribution: Anywhere, just please keep my name on it and let me know where it is gonna be, It's already at Spookys.
Disclaimer: Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are the property of Chris Carter, 1013 and Fox. I am not making any money off of this! I would appreciate not being sued, because all you'd get out of me is the money I spent on my abnormal psych book...
Feedback: Please! This is my first story: negative, positive, I wanna know! Or, if you are totally anti-feedback, pressing the little recommend button is a completely other and equally rewarding praise. email at phree11@mydeja.com or phriendly11@yahoo.com

Summary: It's a post colonization story!~Lots of new and orignal characters with reocurring favourites! All the goodies you'd expect out of a tale of the worlds demise, complete with thrills, chills, and death - defying plot twists.

Part one: Guarded

Joan was worried.

Mr. Mulder was pale, too pale maybe but they would not have a doctor come to care for him. The Doctor could not, under any circumstances, see him.

Joan knew this;they told her everyday. Don't forget, the men said, and even if she could find a doctor to somehow help him, it wouldn't make a difference.

Maybe there was no doctor.

She sat here, every day. A silent vigil, by his side. "Be there when he wakes up," they had told her, and she was reminded every day.

Every morning, it was the same. Three hundred days he had slept away. Since the Beginning, the Beginning that had a middle and now, was nearly at an end.

"He is our salvation" Whose voice told her that? Why did she sometimes hear it, a voice full of kindness and compassion,"he will help us all..."

Would he?

She looked at his form, thin, gaunt and haggard, draped in a beige blanket.

Does he remember in his dreams? While he sleeps, does he recall what had happened and re-live it in full splendor? Does he even know what has become of the world above?

He slept fitfully, often casting the blanket onto the floor and she would bend to pick it up. The floor was shiny and black, with little flecks in it.

Tiles. Sometimes she counted the tiles to pass the time in between picking up his blanket and thinking of what went on in his dreams.

Someone had told her that his body was fighting the virus. No one had known how long the virus would stay contagious inside a human host. They were worried and they wore white suits with plastic hoods in his room, if they came in at all.

"Is it still contagious?" she had asked, because people had died. People were still dying, and she had heard of this. In broken, stilted whispers in the hallways, people talked of the Earth above, what they had seen...

She had known that she would never see the surface then, the day they had all arrived and started talking about where they had come from.

"Oh no, you are Immune," They had told her,which she knew meant that she could not contract the virus. The virus could not and would not harm her.

"Joan, you are immune and you are special. Remember that, Joan, you are here to help him."

They told her she could not let them down.

She could not see their faces anymore. They had faded away into the back of her mind. It was so long ago, and everything here was dark, anyway. She did know that he was important, though. He knew the answers to secrets and he knew how to find answers to the secrets he didn't know, and that was enough. She knew this in her heart and she wanted so badly to unlock the door that would set him free. She wanted him to be able to live again and save the world and let her see the sun.

"Oh, Mr. Mulder - Wake up!" Her voice was reedy, small. Childlike. They had whispered about that, too, with disappointment in such an imperfection.

When she asked why they were displeased with her they said that no, They could never be displeased, because she was quite an "accomplishment." Dr. Daniel's had been her favorite, then. He had told her that she would be the bringer of light to the world and it wasn't until she was born that he believed in destiny.That had made her feel wonderful then, almost "loved."

She stopped thinking,and turned to look at him, her priority, her sleeping charge.

He would whisper names into the darkness in the beginning of his sleep, and she imagined that the dreams were tinged with death and desolation. He would cry out into the night and sometimes it worried her. Joan would imagine all the people that had owned those names, and would repeat them quietly into the silence.

"Mom, Sculleee, Samantha, Sculeeeeeeee"

The most beautiful names.

They were not real names, because the people that had had those names were gone now, dead and maybe buried but GONE. The men told her to remember that too, because if her woke and asked for any of them, he had to know that they were gone.

If he woke up.

Joan spoke to him in the darkness when he screamed. No one heard him because the room was soundproof, the men had told her that a thousand times since she emerged one night shaken and refusing to sit alongside him in the darkness any longer. As if it made it easier, knowing the room was soundproof. A woman had winked at her then, and added

"No one's listening, anyway."

Scully walked away from her desk, looking at the microscope with a combination of distaste and discouragement. Some days the two were one and the same, and this was one of those days.

She was beginning to give up on the concept of a miracle. The serum never changed, no matter what she could think of to catylismically motivate it to reform: to become the harbinger that it had been to her Earth for its new inhabitants above. But another day and nothing.

She was especially depressed because outside, above ground in D.C. it was April. The Cherry Blossom Trees would be blooming and littering the ground with their flowers . The days of Winter were melting into Spring...

She sighed.

There was no use musing over what is and what will never be again. Or at best, not in her lifetime.

She sat at her computer and heard the familiar "ding" as the port connected. She had an e-mail awaiting her in her in box, from a Doctor Brauchman.

She clicked the mouse to open the attachment along with it and rose to grab a cup of coffee. At least there was still coffee. That little bit of normalcy sometimes made the rest not so horribly bad. Even though coffee was in high demand, they were sure to get it for her; whatever she needed, or wanted, was hers.

In the Beginning she'd protested that this work was too far from the sphere of her training. That she was severely disqualified for the task ahead of her. She now realized that she was one of the very few that could possibly *do* anything.

She might be able to find the key in the original virus, she might find some ellusive answer. Everyone supported her.

It depressed her.

'Here I am,' she thought to herself, 'saving the world and doing it completely solo . How fitting, right Mulder?'

She had done the right thing. Letting him go when she had to had given him an oblivion she didn't - wouldn't know.

Sadness flashed in her eyes.

She *had* done the right thing,and yet no matter how often she told herself this,it didn't get easier.

She never quite believed it.

She had always wanted recognition for her skills, the purity of her science. With Mulder, sometimes that rationale had made it bearable when she was nearly at the end of her rope, teetering on the brink of insanity. She never realized how much she needed him for his unpredictability, his theories, the pandemonium of thoughts that *was* Mulder.

'Ah, I miss you', she said to the to the sky, in the silence, in her heart.

The e-mail was unimportant. Dr. Brauchman explained that his crew had been sent to the North Pole for a twelve year study on ice core samples. They had luckily been free of the virus, and until recently, they had not even known of its existence. He told Scully that his crew would be willing to help in any way possible, and wanted to know if she had any ideas on sequencing the virus. A crew member had found a frozen sample of the black oil, one of the carriers of the virus, deep inside the earth from a core sample.He explained that the surving community, in a round about way, had referred him to her. He wished her luck on any accomplishments, and hoped his e-mail found her in good health.

Scully clicked reply and wrote briefly:

Dr. Brauchman:

I have not found anything of particular use, but, I congratulate you on your good fortune. I am still hitting the proverbial brick wall but will be happy to send you some basic lab notes and see if you have any ideas.


D.K Scully

She tapped the send button and looked into the darkness that was her lab. Pressing the glasses further up the bridge of her nose she felt a chill, and wrapped her arms around her waist.

She thought of the last night she had seen him, had spoken to him, and closed her eyes, briefly. Why did she put herself through the suffering that was in remembering ,why couldn't she just let go?

Let go.

How could she merely just let go to her life? The way it was..the way it had been....Seven years. She rested her head in her hands, and her hair fell forward, a fraction of an inch below her shoulders. Too long for her own taste but she had lost any initiative to cut it. She removed her glasses slowly and rubbed small circles above her temples.

If she had seen him, would that have made it easier ?

Of all the loss she experienced, it was his she suffered most acutely from. He had been on his way to see her. They had been laughing, talking, happy. If she had seen his smile and his eyes...if she'd felt the sheer, amazing warmth he radiated once more would she feel so empty now?

Would she ever feel that way again?

Joan was more worried than ever before. Mr. Mulder's face was flushed, and he had taken to tossing and turning with an occasional moaning that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up and her heart go still.

And then, like a miracle, like a sign, he awoke.

She was at his side immediately.

"Wh-", he began, but it was slight, and he had little energy. "How-" he tried again but it seemed futile.

Did he remember? DidHeDidHeDidHe?

She thought maybe he had forgotten, and wondered if that was more of a blessing.

Someone had once explained the nature of blessings, but she had since forgotten whom.Maybe Dr. Evans, though that seemed unlikely..who? No matter. She focused her eyes on the disoriented man before her.

"I am Joan, Mr. Mulder" She announced, her voice low, tranquil, even.

"How long?" he managed to croak, his voice raspy from disuse.

305 days since the Beginning which had had a middle and most certainly, an end.

"Almost one year since", she paused,"the Beginning."

He stared at her blankly.

"Do you remember?"

He looked at her, bewildered, but also as though he were in pain. Suddenly he started to moan, a grieving, sorrowful sound, it came from some great depth within him.

She watched him, transfixed. It would have distressed her, were the room not soundproof .Not that it mattered, anyway. No one was left to listen.

She gazed at him, this man, who was clutching his head ;cradling it, perhaps he did remember.

Mulder stopped moaning when he came conscious that the sound he was dully becoming aware of wasn't coming from his head but from his mouth. He plunged into silence hinged on the thought:

One Year. One full year, one year, one...


A memory lay at the very back in his mind, swirling just below the surface, and it came to focus, slowly.

They had been at the airport, Scully looking at the arrivals and departures in the terminal. They had just wrapped up a case that was supposed witchcraft and ended up an elaborate prank.

Go figure.

His cell phone rang, and he'd answered it,last-name only serving as simultaneous identification and greeting.

"Fox?" his mother, her voice tinny on the other end, almost...scared.

He'd never before heard Teena Mulder sound that way.

"Mom?" he asked, filled with trepidation over the tone of her voice of both a resonating sadness and a fear he couldn't identify.

"Fox, I need to see you. Now, as soon as possible." her voice was no- nonsense now. " It's important."

"Mom, I'm about to catch a flight back to D.C, I'll call you as soon as I get there."

"No! Fly to Maryland today, Fox. Meet me in Baltimore at the Airport Hotel. This is really imperative."

His curiosity was piqued. To say he and his mother were close was a vast understatement. The past had been a rocky one even in the best light, but he wanted to move past that with her, if possible.

"All right, I'll cancel my flight to D.C and meet you at that hotel."

He pressed end while pondering why his mother was in Maryland at all, and why they were meeting in a motel, and what exactly *was* going on?

"Mulder?" Scully said," Is everything all right?"

He looked at her, her forehead pinched in concern. "It was my mom. She needs to see me, in Baltimore no less. It's a little strange, Scully. I'm canceling my flight to D.C and grabbing one to Baltimore."

She raised her eyebrows and looked at him, worrying her lower lip.

"Do you think everything is all right, Mulder?"

"I'm not sure. She didn't seem like herself, and she kept accenting the fact that it was' imperative' that she see me."

She opened her mouth but was interrupted by the loudspeaker

"Flight 1485 to Regan International, now boarding."

"That's our flight. Mulder, are you sure you want to go out there alone? I could go to Baltimore with you and....."

He could see the distrust in her expression. She doubted his mother's motives and he could understand why.

"Scully, It's okay."

She gave him a long look filled with her doubtful musings. She opened her mouth a moment to say something, but then closed it and nodded.

"Right then, well, I guess I better go and get on board ."

She reached for her carryon luggage, and he touched her arm lightly.

"Thanks, Scully." She gave him an odd look, and then turned her lips in a quasi -smile.

"Be careful. Call if you need anything, Mulder, I mean it, anything-"

"I will, have a nice flight"

"Sure" she replied, with a voice laden with sarcasm.

She gave a jaunty half wave and was off.

He'd watched her walk to the gate, her hair swinging and her stride purposeful.

He admired her for a moment before turning on his heel and heading in the opposite direction, and then...

Then, nothing.

It was though a giant curtain had fallen around the entire scene and left him breathless for the final act. Had he gotten there to see his mother? He didn't know.

Joan was watching him, curiosity spread across her face.She looked familiar. Something about her was soothing, and looked to be young, no more than fifteen, with hair that appeared to be light;her eyes a guiless blue... the kind of blue that reminded him of Scully's.

"Where is she?" he croaked, and Joan looked dismayed.

"You don't remember?" Joan asked him, cautiously.

But he did remember,and he knew why she wore that look of contemplative grief.

Scully was dead.

Joan watched him collapse back into a mindless sleep, and she quietly left the room. No point watching him now, when he would be so exhausted.

She remembered the morning when she had woken up, nearly two years ago. Her brand new life, her brand new body, a downright miracle, they had said.

She had awoke with his name on her lips and they knew that if there ever was a sign then this was it. They named her Joan because they likened her to a saint, though her creation had been anything but divine.

Was she even really real? She was born a year prior to the Beginning and was already fourteen. It was amazing that they had made her into a young woman, so seemingly free of imperfections.

In the start of her life, two years ago, everything had run together. They had taught her some language before she was awakened by " advanced technology", as they had referred to it, which were mostly audio tapes reiterating the alphabet, stories, how religion came about and what were parents.

Things that she could not know unless they told her.

The 'secrets of life', Dr. Daniel's had said, looking at Joan and smiling. Then, people had been everywhere, all around, talking, showing her things, saying " here, touch this" and," this is what a baby is." Lessons, day in, day out. The way the world should work.

Someone had given her a picture and said "Here, this is your mother."

Her mother.

Joan leaned against the wall, seeking shelter from the onslaught of nostalgia for what she never had known.

Everything had happened so quickly, and yet Scully always remembered it slowly, a mental freeze-frame to alienate any error, any alternate possibilities that she had missed. She never found one.

She ticked off the events like a mental laundry list that made living with the outcome no more easy afterwards, and left her wondering why. She relived the moments, one by one. A now divine ritual that plagued her every day of this new, unfullfilling life.

He'd called her from the airport, back in D.C and at Dulles, frantic, telling her he was on his way.Delayed because all the flights to International had been cnacelled. His voice had a nervous quality to it, and it had put her instantly on edge. She tried asking how things had gone earlier in the morning with his mother, but he wouldn't explain, just told her to be there, at her apartment, when he arrived and to be'ready'. She'd thought with a smile that she was perpetually ready with Mulder,and she'd hung up the phone.

She had waited anxiously, worried for the urgency in Mulders voice and hoped that he was not driving the streets of D.C like a maniac to get to her apartment, and in a more important order of concern, why would he need to get to her in such haste?

They had arrived when he had arrived, she had had time to barely register the knock and then the distinct feeling of a cloth placed against her mouth.


On her way to blacking out she wondered how they managed to get in so quickly.

She awoke,sometime later, in the backseat of a car, the smell of leather and cigarettes filling her nose. Unfamiliar.

She was still groggy and disoriented, and had called out,her voice a harsh raspy sound.


"Mulder is not here, Dr. Scully." She would know that voice anywhere: slightly patrician and yet graveled from years of Morley cigarettes.

He lit a cigarette, and then looked at her fully " He won't be joining us, either."

"Why?" she'd demanded, sitting up awkwardly, trying to smooth her hair.

"He is in a quarantine state. You should not be overly concerned with Fox Mulder. You are here for a reason entirely separate from him."

She felt angry, contrite, met his steel eyes and looked into them, searching for the logic in this rhetoric.

"The end had come, Dr. Scully, for us all. You are lucky that we had time to find the both of you, lucky we took the time...to ensure your safety."

"Our safety?" she ground out, furious at the ambiguous nature of the conversation, a game of cat and mouse that she was quickly losing interest in.

"Colonization, Dr. Scully. Something we did not expect so soon, but nonetheless....thousands have been infected, and it will only spread. They destroyed a facility of ours staffed with our best doctors, several warehouses were burned holding vaccines.We have little hope of fighting, but fully intend to survive."

"I don't believe you," she said the words but they sounded hollow, with no conviction behind them.

Something in her believed what he had said.

"I have to see Mulder." She was insistent.

"It is impossible, he was infected. With the virus." Scully had breathed in, painfully, Mulder...

"Don't look so stricken, he should recover, he has a weak immunity. Let him go, Dr. Scully, right now you are more priceless to the world than he is."

She blanched at his words, striving to keep composed and wanting to assimilate all that he had said as quickly as possible.

She shut her eyes and willed this to all be a dream, and she would wake up, very soon...

"I know this is....difficult for you. But I am offering you immunity, a chance to live and to help in possibly saving the world. A safe haven and a research facility to try to stop" he paused," this."

She was waiting for the sacrifice.

"But you will never see him again, do you understand that....Dana?"

"Why?" she asked, her voice small, constricted.Painful.

"You distract him from what we need and he would distract you from the task. He might not harbor the virus well, he may wake up and have no memory, asking questions with answers that you can't give."

"Or he could wake up looking for me." She suffered through the words.

"We have already remedied that. Let him go. Help us. One sacrifice is not much" he pulled on his cigarette slowly, softly,"in the face of saving what will be the rest of the world."

No, No, No, no...

A tear escaped her eyes, falling with a soft "thump" on her notebook.

Her reverie was broken by a voice, a woman stood in her doorway and was saying her name.

"Dana?" she asked, and Scully stood, smoothing her hair and smiling a half smile, brushing away the memory.

"Ah, Margurerite, so nice to see you. What can I do for you today?"

Part Two: Silence

Scully had kept a journal since the Beginning. At first, to conserve paper, she had written entries on her laptop, but the clicking of the keyboard made the task cacophonous and perhaps a little distasteful. So she asked for leather bound notebooks for her personal journals, and stiff wirebacked notebooks for her research. Stacked in two neat rows on the edge of her desk, they added the only personal effect to the otherwise sterile room. She wrote voraciously,sometimes it was the only way to offer any silence to the memories echoing in her mind.

It was amazing the way that the writing was could be a type of vessel that kept her afloat and focused.

Today had been so tiring, already. Discouraging. She tapped her pencil against the notebook, a drumming that filled the room with something other than air and the sound of her intermittent breathing.

She grabbed a journal, and opened it idly:

Her handwriting welcomed her, neat, precise. She had written this nearly six months ago, on a night in November that had been especially difficult.

A woman had come in with a miscarriage, and had been totally devastated. Scully had watched her, feeling badly for her, but somewhat jealous. The woman and her husband had survived, together. That was better than most. Much, much better.

She'd been filled with emotions of greed and anxiety, and had sat at her desk intending to only briefly outline the days tragedy, but her emotions had been evident in the outpour on the page.

It read:

"Thursday, November 2, 2000:

A woman lost her child today in a miscarriage. I told her it was more than likely the stress of the past six months. She and her husband had been heartbroken, and I could find little to say in encouragement. God help me, I was jealous. I still *am* jealous . I am envious of this womans ability to even conceive, here, in this world. Knowing that your son or daughter may not ever be able to see the splendor of the sun! Not only that but to have with her, a husband, someone who knew and loved her both before and after the tragedy. Someone who she could speak to and could comfort her in the darkest hours of the night. She has no real idea of her good fortune for she has not been utterly without, as so many of us have over the past five months. I know that I should not be feeling this way, but in times like these I feel so utterly broken. So terribly, indescribably alone.

This is not the person I was before the virus, before the Earth was dominated by an alien life force. I had been kinder then, more understanding, so much more giving. My heart, as a person,as a fellow human being, would have softened for the woman,and remembering my own short, bittersweet experience of being a mother I could sympathize with the brevity of her relationship with her child.

Now a coldness has come over me, a distance that I can both see and almost touch, it is so deeply rooted within.

I hate to feel so selfish, so self- absorbed that I blind myself to the plight of others. So many of these people look to me for their needs medically, and also are aware of what I am working on. I wonder if they hope I succeed or if they have lost the initiative to concern themselves with the outcome. Having seen so much, was their only talisman of the life before a heart-wrenching nostalgia? Do they wonder if they had a choice to relive the last days of decisions, the final moment to evaluate the possibility of life or death, would they have chosen life again?

Having known what the future holds now I wonder at my own response.

D.K.S "

She flipped the pages to a clean one and looked at it, wondering if she felt the need to write or if it was that she merely wanted to ponder over her words written months ago. Did she feel the same way now?

Scully closed her eyes and sighed wearily, and decided that her answer was yes. Perhaps she felt even more bitter than that day, for then, unlike now, she had still held some vestige hope in her heart. Then, she had wanted to believe that there was a possible solution so badly that it had kept her going. Kept her focused on the Project and looking forward to the possibilities.

There was no glimmer of hope in her heart now.

Mulder wondered about the other people in this underground homestead. He'd taken to calling it "the underground ", or the "U.H" to Joan, sometimes just pronouncing "uh" if he felt witty, which was not particularly often these days.When he was it brought an uncertain smile to Joans face.

He lay on his back, wishing that the underground could rustle up some sunflower seeds. Joan had told him that she'd looked, but there weren't any.

"Were they not planning on my staying?" he asked, looking dismayed. Joan looked at him oddly, not recognizing that he was joking.

He still didn't know what had happened to him and to the rest of the world, and all he could recall about Scully was the fact that he knew she was dead.

Scully being dead was enough to cause him to stare at the wall for hours, looking as though he wished he were somewhere else in the world, anywhere else.

He had evaluated his room and all other things in close proximity. The light was a strange light, it made everything have a tannish- yellow tint. Like a modern day movie with special effects added to make it appear to be " yellowed " with age. The air was slightly damp and stagnant, and the space was small and impersonal. Perfect for a quarantine unit.

Mulder supposed that a fair share of patients in commonly furnished rooms had less luck than he on ever seeing their surroundings.

The pieces that he inexhaustibly tired to match together always would not fit close enough, there were too many gaps and spaces in his memory. No matter how he asked, Joan would tell him nothing as to why he was here, and she would not help him to recall anything. She told him to be patient and let things come as they may.

It was aggravating.

Every day he tried wondering if he really wanted to know what had happened.If he wanted to recall how Scully had.....died, how the world had ended, and how the little grey men had won out in the end.

It was a state of torture, a hell. A place of silence and darkness.How could anyone happily survive here? Was anyone else looking up at the ceiling and wondering how worthwhile this all was?

He closed his eyes to block out the artificiality.

His mother.

He was on the verge of a memory, he could feel it, his mind fine tuned itself and seemed to listen to the place inside him that the memory came from.

Baltimore ,and the strange rendezvous at the hotel.

Mulder willed himself to remember, and in a sudden rush, he did.

She'd been waiting in the lobby, a look of disorientation and sadness was on her face, and he had never seen his mother look so small, and weak.

"Mom", he had said, cautiously, wondering why she had done this,"mom, why are you here? Why was it so important that you meet me in this hotel, so far away from home?"

She looked out of place. Like a spot on a too garishly white painted wall,her eyes begged to be righted. To be returned to her proper place in nature and the scheme of things. An airport hotel would never be Teena Mulders one safe place.

"Fox", she said his name in a half-whisper," we need to talk in private."

He'd looked at her blankly, wondering what this was all about, her being in a strange city, in a strange hotel, and she was now leading him amid "hushes" and "shhhhs." It was not like his mother at all.

They rode the elevator in silence. His mother's cheeks were flushed. They went into a room that looked anonymous: cream walls, beige bed, silence save for the air conditioner in the corner.

"Fox..." His mother began, her face now somber.

"I spoke with him yesterday. He is why I am in Maryland, I went to see him in Washington. He told me you were on assignment, so I could see him freely."

Her eyes held unspeakable volumes and guilt, as she lowered her lashes, Mulder could picture him, smoking his cigarettes while assuring his mother of an empty safety...

"He told me things, Fox. Things that I had no right to know. Things that I never wanted to get involved in but it seems that this is all my life has become, now. He told me that the They had returned to launch the sickness that will kill off our population, our Earth." His mother turned, a wistful look swept across her countenance, looking out into the fog drenched city below.Mulder could see her blinking. She watched the ground below for a prolonged moment.

Mulder had never seen this woman, so diminutive, all her strength surrendered,and it appeared that she had given it up willingly.

"He said that nothing had gone according to the plan. Few had the vaccine. Some facilities were destroyed.." her voice caught. " There is something else I need for you to know." She turned and looked at him, her eyes shining in the opaque light and he saw her age, he saw her fragility, and it frightened him. It filled him with a sickly sweet guilt for not ever giving her more of a chance, and he regretted to be standing in this hotel room miles away from anyplace she knew, having this conversation with her.

"He told you this? What gave you cause to believe him, mom? He has never been honest in the past. Why now?" He wanted to understand, but he felt angry.

Angry for her for trusting a man that Mulder could never trust. Angry to see his mother so weak. She was a pawn in all of this, why couldn't she see that?

Had the smoking man, CGB Spender manipulated her into telling him this?

That wasn't all that made him feel flustered and ballistic; this conversation held the undoing of mankind, possibly, if what she said was true.

A tear slid from his mother's eye, had fallen to the floor with an unceremonious silence.

"I only helped him because I had to. I have been unfair to you all of your life, keeping so many truths from you, concealing the past from you. The secrets of those days...." she paused, and cleared her throat," They matter little now. I just wanted you to know I was sorry for failing you. For failing Samantha. For Bill."

He looked at her, silently, assimilating her words and dissecting all of the hidden meanings, what was said in the unsaid. She continued, her gaze unwavering.

"For listening to your father, and fool heartedly believing that he could change the world, or that you couldn't possibly save it."

He had closed his eyes against his will: his father....

"What are you saying to me?" his voice was ragged, a decibel below dangerous.

She looked at him, trapped.

"Then what he told me was true. Not some ruse to get me to trust him, right. He tried to kill me, you know that don't you? He has done nothing but perpetuate lies and ruin any good thing in our lives....do you expect me to believe this?" Mulder was white hot with rage. His mother was mute, her shock of white hair made her face look exceptionally colourless.

"If he weren't your son you would have died a long time ago, Fox." Her tone was melancholy, and all the emotions inside him dissipated. He saw her as a woman, one who had risked everything her entire life, and only had sorrow to show for it.

"I'm sorry Fox. If I could change it, I would." She was crying now, the tears falling faster and faster down her cheeks," Everything has been a mistake. It's true that he, your father, is not a good person. I can't convince you of his virtue any more than I can convince you that what I am telling you is true. It's true, Fox, and there is so little time...and I am so sorry to be having this conversation with you now, so late..."

"Mom, listen, it's okay. There isn't anything to forgive." She wanted to be free of this oppressive guilt, and he could identify with that. He had doubted her loyalty in the past, but she was here now and proving her allegiance to her son. She had just given him a moment in time that he may have not been afforded otherwise. He wondered at the implications of her words, about the virus.

"You have to go now, Fox. He said that it all will happen quickly. I don't know your fate. I hope you get to see her before the end..."

Her words were hauntingly prophetic, and she touched his arm, then, and he felt her, her energy, her presence, her love. Her love for him that he had always wanted to discredit, and deny if he could. But she was not keeping anything from him now, all the walls were down, and he looked into her eyes a long moment.

"Go now, Fox," she said again, and he felt the memory fading.

Echoes. Echoes of voices and then...

Nothing. He opened his eyes slowly, as not to displace the contents of the last few moments by chasing them off with light.

Black greeted him. Had he fallen asleep? He didn't think so, because he felt the last few minutes had been a conscious memory. Another puzzle piece to add to the whole. Perhaps Joan had turned off the light, thinking that he was asleep.

He rubbed his eyes and let them adjust to the darkness. The shadowy forms of the sparcly furnished room began to take shape slowly.

He focused on that day, the memory that still had his cheeks flushed and his breathing altered. Had he gotten there in time? He knew somehow that no, he hadn't. Part of this was the utter certainty that Dana Scully was dead. He could not remember the details, but the feeling of loss was gaping and open, like a wound. He felt her loss in every part of his being.

What he couldn't recollect was whether or not he had seen her one last time. He did not know if her had the power to reach out to her in those chaotic moments that he imagined on Earth, when realization had dawned on America and beyond that their time was drawing to an unfortunate close. Had he been able to give her the time to call her mother and her brothers and to tell them goodbye ? Had he made it easier or harder for her?

It was no use, the more he tried to remember the more his mind drew a blank.

He lay his head on his hands and felt the tug of defeat. Try as he may, he was only going to recall the hotel, and a fragment of a moment at that.

His mother's agonized face filled his mind.

Mulder did not know how anyone, after a certain point, could take this isolation. For him to scarcely remember it made it seem slightly unreal. He felt a sting of tears at the back of his eyes, and wished that he could control them.

It was an excersize in futility.

Joan waited at the outside of his door. She wondered if he was sleeping, or maybe thinking. She did not want to interrupt him.

He had been awake now for days, with no more recollations of the past. She was both annoyed and discouraged by this. She had expected more from him. For all intents and purposes, Mulder had been touted as a perceptive, intelligent Human being that should not be underestimated. And yet, he let himself fall victim to his melancholy.

This was something that Joan simply could not understand. She could not grasp that human emotion of utter dispair, hopelessness. All she had seen of the people that had lived on earth was a deep abiding sadness. They walked the halls like empty shadows, not looking at anything, hardly moving.

She wanted Mulder to be more....Alive.

It seemed awful for her to want to push him, to see how far that he could go without suggestions of the past. She could not tell him anything concrete, because the people who survived this had overactive imaginations, and the mind will do strange things in light of mass destruction. All the people wanted was an easy explanation, and there really wasn't one. Joan knew that people would let their minds latch onto improbable rationalizations, they would let themselves believe anything, and she knew that. She thought that was sad, in a way, the way that real human beings who lived on the real Earth would rather believe a lie if it sounded better than the truth.

The real truth of the matter was that there was no way that a Human being from Earth could easily adjust to witnessing 97 percent of their population die, and to be thrown into a dark hole to live the rest of your days because Aliens, of all things, won out in the end.

Maybe a lie *was* easier than that truth.

Aside from that, she was angry. Mr. Mulder was supposed to be her salvation, she had been made for him, and now...

Now he was in his room probably staring at the ceiling again.

She would rather have him screaming in the night, that was more progress than this mindless procrastination. He avoided the answers, and he could not tell her otherwise. She had seen it in all of the people from the original ( and as they often pointed out in quiet conversation,"better") Earth. They all wanted to shut it out. She had seen them pretend that what happened was just a minor "setback." Mr. Mulder was moody and silent.

She opened the door a crack, hesitantly .She recoiled a little : he was crying.

Joan felt instantly awful, cursing the soundproof room because sometimes you should be able to listen.

"Mr. Mulder?" she asked him in the darkness, her voice the same low tembre as always, but with a sadness in the undercurrent.

Joan understood what it was to cry, especially when faced with such desolation.

"I am sorry, Mr. Mulder." She came in slowly, he rose and wiped his face, looking at her in a mixture of shame and apprehension.

"You must think..." he held up his hands at a loss for words.

"Did you have a memory?" She could not stifle the slight note of hopefulness in her voice, but she tried.

"Yes, though not much of one." He kept his voice at an unrevealing monotone.

"I feel badly for pushing you, and I know I have been. I cannot tell you that I don't want you to remember, I do want you to, but I do apologize for my disrespect."

She kept her eyes averted, downcast, her voice a mere whisper.

"Joan, I just don't understand what the importance of this is. This place is like...a prison to me, it makes no sense as to why I am really here. I can remember my entire life up until that night, but..."

She frowned " I let myself think that you - uh, we, all think and feel the same way. You have had little time to respond to this tragedy. I am not being fair to you, I am not trying to understand your pain....I'm so sorry" Joan felt as though she had somehow failed him.

"Please", his voice had a desperate note in it," tell me about it."

He looked at her with such hope.

Joan felt her heart constrict at having to do this to him,"I can't."

He stared at the floor.

"You have to discover it without my help, Mr. Mulder-"

"Joan, just call me Mulder, all right?" There was anger behind his voice.

"Ok, Mulder, you have been through a lot of....well, this year has been difficult, yes?"

He smiled, somewhat ruefully, and nodded," In the very least." " Joan, you speak as though I'm unique...how has this affected you?" Mulder looked at her, his head titled to one side, patiently waiting.

"'This' ?" she asked, and felt a growing unease. She could not reveal too much too soon about herself.

"The Virus, Colonization, living underground...all of it?"

"It has been difficult." She turned away from him and felt blood flush her cheeks. She did not want to talk about this with him, knowing she must be dishonest, and she hated dishonesty.

"How about your family?" His tone was even, almost soothing.

"My family is .... gone."

"Dead?" He asked.

"My mother is dead." Her tone was wistful, and she sighed.

"Did she die....from the Virus?"

"No, my mother was immune. That is how I am immune, and able to help you. What did you remember?" she asked, trying to direct the conversation away from her.

"I remembered the last time I saw my mother, the last time I spoke with her. She knew what was happening."

"She had the virus when she saw you." Joan told him, and softened her eyes, happy that he decided to change the subject, and sympathetic to his loss.

"How do you know that?" he nearly demanded.

Joan looked at him, in the semi darkness and saw a spark. An interest, his eyes lit up and he leaned forward.

"I was told this. That is how you got the Virus."

"How did I fight it off?" he was demanding now, his face alit with something that almost made it glow.

Joan felt wonderful. He was ready, he was on the edge, she could tell.

"You had a weak immunity. The DNA that had been exposed to the virus had already been slightly mutated by alien DNA. They had not been sure that you would live through it, or have any coherence when you awoke, but you have had an outstanding recovery, so far."

He leaned back again, seeming to digest this information slowly, contemplatively.

"So you are totally immune." Back to her again. She sighed loudly and nodded.

"I am completely immune. I have been restricted to this area of the compound,however. The Quarantine Area, though you are the only patient here now. The others died."

She kept her gaze straight ahead " I have been lucky",she added as an afterthought.

"How did you mother die, Joan?"

"Mr. Mulder, I hate to not answer your questions, but I really don't want to answer them. She is dead, and that is all that is of any importance. She died before..." she paused, then, quickly "she died. I am going to fix you some lunch and I will be back soon."

Joan rose hastily, eyes downcast and misty with tears.

She looked at him for an instant, and regretted it. He was surveying her calmly, rationally, and she could feel his mind clicking away in the quiet of the room. As though her were studying her.

He looked at her and merely nodded.

She turned on her heel and left, Closing the door she started breathing funny. Once she had a panic attack when placed under the high stress of dealing with the events that had propelled her life in this direction, events that she had no control over, none at all. She had been born the full product of pre-destination. The answers that he wanted threatened her existence, and nearly the rest of the living world.

She willed herself to breathe. Calm breaths, she told herself, calm breaths.

It was the questions about her mother that irritated her the most, They made her acknowledge all that was missing. That and the fact that she had no answers to give. Her mother was an image without a name. A woman that had already died far before her "daughter's" birth.

She wiped the stray tear from her eye and moved forward down the hallway.

Part Three: Duende

Scully leaned back in her chair, lifting her toes off the ground.

Today had been another difficult day.

"Four months," she said aloud, and her voice sounded empty.

Four months ago she had been working, her head bent over a notebook, a lab journal; her pen working furiously to write down the progress she had made in sequencing. She had not heard the door open, but the smell of burning Morleys left no question about who had soundlessly entered the lab.

He never heeded the no-smoking sign at the lab entrance, or the look of distaste she gave him when he emerged smoking.

"Dr. Scully.," he said in lieu of greeting.

Her eyes rose to meet him, azure blue and unwavering.

"I have some...upsetting...news."

She had been thinking: what now? The Virus has again mutated into a more disastrous pathogen? The world was crumbling and falling away? The Potomac was about to surge into the Compound, crushing them all ?

She had no expectation of what he would say to her next.

"Mulder is dead."

Three words.

Those three words knocked her silly and left her breathless. She could not speak, could not move, she felt utterly numb.

"W-what?" she stammered," You are lying!" she spoke softly, resolved to not lose her composure with him too quickly.

She held her tears back but they glimmered in her eyes. A litany of not him, not now, I don't believe this, no,no,no played in her mind. He'd tossed an envelope casually on her desk. She didn't touch it, but met the smoking mans gaze and held it.

"I won't believe this" She placed her hands on her hips and he matched her stance, drawing in breath after breath of nicotine and tar, and blowing in towards her face, saying nothing.

"I can't believe this" Her voice had lost some of its edge, becoming more of a plea than a declaration. Her voice rose, and she felt the pulling of hysteria at the edge of her words.

"I can't accept this. I need- I need -" She paused and regained her composure,he met her with silence and regarded her casually. She'd wondered if he found her suffering to be an amusement.

"How?" she ground out.

"His body simply could not fight the virus any longer. He had survived for six months, and that was a fairly long time of" he inhaled, paused, exhaled "stress."

She sunk down into the chair, trembling, not believing what he was saying and yet believing it was true. He was telling her that Mulder was dead. He was gone. Like the others.

"Dr. Scully, you knew you would never see him again, so I took the liberty of telling you the truth."

He watched her, extinguishing one cigarette on the polished lab floor with precision. She watched and her eyes had gotten blurry on the image of his foot callously grinding.

She heard herself speaking, a low, painful sound. A whisper. Barely anything.

"Is there anything else?" She appreciated somewhere inside the gesture of him coming here, walking in and telling her that Mulder was dead.

Her best friend, her partner, her....



She felt a traitor to even think of thanking this man, he who had brought her nothing but bad news.

"I understand your loss. He was my son, after all ." He lit another cigarette, greedily breathing in this time.

Scully had blanched and nearly got lightheaded. So this was it...two blows in one day, Mulder's Father...

She sighed, a slight " Oh"

"I don't need to hear anything else." She made her voice cold, calculating, unforgiving. She'd felt so bitter, as though she were on the edge of some dangerous precipice, and falling, falling, falling.

"I am sorry." his tone had the same cadence, the same monotony. Clipped, careful, precise.

Utterly emotionless.

She had watched him turn and leave the room, cursing his luxury, his fortune. How could he be so blessed? How could he walk away without any trace of compassion...He alone had held the power and connections to survive while the rest of the world was left a gaping, lonely hole. Families were broken and torn. Her family, her mother, her brothers, all dead. They had all been taken from her, and now, Mulder was dead. She could have saved him.

Scully saw that she really could have saved him.

Sought him out and helped him by being by his side. She could have made it to him somehow, and she could have rescued him with some miraculous inner power. But she hadn't done that. She hadn't even looked for him. She had accepted his distance from her as a variable that could and would be modified. Learning that he was dead only made her realize how dependent she had grown of his always surviving. The Mulder she'd known was supposed to walk through that door with the truth, damnit, and he was supposed to take her with him. Isn't that how it had gone before? Now she was forced to face the only truth that was left: Scully allowed herself to put unrealistic faith in her partner. She wanted to expect the unexpected so much that she refused to see that she had sacrificed his life for her own. She could have fought harder, told the smoking man that she refused his offer of immunity. She should have stood by her partner, she should have looked. Instead, she elected to live and to leave him suffering, alone through the virus.

The click of the door had been enough to lull her into hysteria. Scully felt herself give into the tears. Tears that made her feel self- absorbed. She cried for Mulder, for Mulder who had lost, he had really lost everything.She had believed...she had wanted to believe that everything would fall into place once Mulder got well....

The faith that she had in humanity died with Mulder. To know that he was dead spelled a finality that Scully could not ignore. She had been fighting with hopes that one day she would not be alone. This had been Mulders very prediction, he had been right all along, and she never even got to tell him that she was sorry for even doubting it. He had known all along that the Aliens would come, and that we were in for the biggest shit storm of all time. He was right, and she felt stupid for doubting him. She had never even told him.

Too late.

Death is final. Your opportunity is vanquished for change.All the time for that particular emotion, that specific person, that singular relationship is over.

Death is non-negotiable. When she agreed to not seek out Mulder, she believed it was for the best, but something that would become only temporary,she believed that he would find her.

Unrealistic. Silly, insipid thoughts, even then.

Like that night four months ago, tonight, she was crying. The memory was so intense even now, almost akin to reliving the very moment that that she had first heard the words.

It was not until later that night in January that she had found the envelope. She'd forgotten that the Smoking Man had casually tossed it onto the table, she had watched it hit the desk with a disinterested smack.

Her eyes were puffy and red from crying, and she was occasionally hiccuping. She forced herself to stand, to walk around, to inhale, and exhale.

Scully walked around the room twice, breathing slowly. Calming herself. Knowing that she had undergone a lot of mental stress. She was understandably upset. Telling herself that she needed to calm down, now though; right now.

Scully hated to lose control.

She sat back down and fingered the envelope. It was in Manila stock and was secured with a clasp. She lifted either side of the clasp slowly, afraid of what was in the package. She felt ominous. The envelope opened and she slid out the contents.

The first item was a photograph.


It was his profile, taken at just the right angle so that she could see his entire face. It was the most somber picture she had ever seen. Mulders coloring was light, with a blue tinge. She looked at it, mesmerized.

She turned the picture over in her hands : 1/11/2001 - time of death, 12:29 am. F. Mulder.

She lay the picture down on the table, and forged through the envelope. All were pictures of Mulder. The stages of his sickness, the virus. From early infection to his death.

The last picture she flipped through was a photograph that looked to have been taken in her apartment, and she supposed it was taken the same the same night that Mulder had been coming to see her, the night she had awoken groggy in a car.

The same night that this nightmarish life had begun.

He was crying, screaming. His hair was wild,disheveled. The green in his eyes were luminescent.

She had never seen him like that.

She touched the picture lightly.

Scully leaned her head on her desk-top, ceasing the memory that haunted her. Sometimes it seemed as though they were all she had to fall back on, any more.

However sad that may be, Scully chose to re- live these moments out of an emotional necessity. They were the only 'real' things she had. When she reflected over the past ten months, the hardest parts weren't the physical world. It wasn't the lack of the sun at dawn or the clouds that are in a winter sky and circle around the moon. She did long for the season changes, or the look of the river and the skylines. She could manage the small living spaces underground, the impersonal nature of the Underground and its inhabitants.

Scully walked the short distance from her lab to the area that was technically 'hers'. She flipped the switch, giving the minuscule furnishings a real definition. She passed them by without seeing, her mind engulfed by the occasions of the past.

She ran a shower, and stepped out of her clothes and into the scalding heat.

What she missed was the emotion behind the physical world. She missed the wonder that spring could bring. She missed the companionship of 'knowing'; knowing that her brothers were a phone call away, her mother mere miles. She missed the certainty of Mulder in the FBI office every morning. Not the tangible, not the permeable effects of a regular life, but all that was unsaid.

Mulder had been gone from her life for nearly a year, but the elapsed time made it no easier. The water washed over her and she blindly wiped at her face, of the life she knew.

The feeling desecrating her heart was emptiness. There was nothing left to believe in, nothing that she could hold onto.

'God', she prayed, silently to herself. ' help me'.

She closed her eyes tightly against the warm fingers of the water. She felt so small, so lonely. She wished that she could go back, further into the past, back to the car ride, or the airport, and say to Mulder

"Don't answer that call, Mulder, just come with me."

What a cruel fate, Dana Scully told herself, What a cruel, cruel fate.

At the moment the door closed behind Joan he was thinking. His mind turning in sporadic circles, wondering where she had come from, why she was here, what was the hidden significance?


He contemplated what made her so hauntingly familiar. Mulder did not want to think that she had any type of ulterior motive. She was fifteen years old and her soft spokeness belied the fact that she was a gentle person, an innocent girl that he was wrong to make assumptions about. Something in her eyes when he mentioned her mother. A look that was very poignant; almost wistful.

What was it?

This day was getting topping the list on "odd." The conversation with Joan had unnerved him, the fact that she was being evasive bothered him .

The investigative part of his mind told him she was hiding something. Mulder had always relied on instinct, and sometimes instinct alone when he couldn't get any better evidence, as was apparently the case.

Maybe Joan had some important answers for him.

He surveyed his room and replayed snippets of Joan in his mind, the curse of a photographic memory... Something was peculiar about her. He could sense it when she'd spoken of her past. He felt frustrated that he could not act on any of his assumptions.

He thought of her posture: arms crossed across herself evasively, protectively.

She had avoided his questions and tried changing the subject. Where was his missing clue? What wasn't he seeing? When he asked her for answers, she had looked down and away. He wondered why. Had she been afraid that he might find some inner truth lurking there?

Just what was she keeping from him?

Joan walked down the corridor from Mulders room, slowly, keeping her breathing smooth and regular, until she left the Q ward and went into the common ward, Common A. She headed straight for the kitchen and looked for a meal to fix Mulder.

She took a loaf of bread and a long knife and started cutting. He had looked at her with such interest. Interest into her life, her feelings, her past.

Something inside had wanted to sit down and tell him anything, long as he was asking. Since the doctors who had raised her the first year were gone now she often felt alienated and lonely. An outcast with no one to talk to and certainly no one to tell the truth to. Whatever the truth actually was.

She looked off into the distance, distracted, and almost did not feel the cut.

It was not until she glanced down at the bread that she saw her hand.

It was bleeding.

Joan looked at it, transfixed. She had never made herself bleed before.

This was a new experience.

She was fascinated. It ran in rivulets, onto the bread, the counter, down her arm and onto the floor. She thought it was beautiful. Such an amazing red! It was thick, too.

The gash on her hand was deep, but she felt little pain. She started laughing, a ringing in her ears made her head feel fuzzy, her ears feel as though they were vibrating.

"This is wonderful!" She managed, feeling a little odd and then...blackness.

She awoke in a room, dim and quiet. A survey inspection revealed the table she lie upon, a white sheet underneath her legs.

'Where Am I? What happened? Why am I here?' they were fuzzy questions, from the back of her mind.

The rest of the room gave her no definite clues, but she could smell the antiseptic smell, and it reminded her of Dr. Daniel's lab before the Beginning.

The Beginning.

She sighed, and looked around some more, feeling unnaturally calm, and then, down at her hand. It was wrapped in a neat bandage, secured with tape and was throbbing lightly.

She contemplated taking the bandage off and even began fingering the edges of the tape to look at the gash on her hand, but a sound interrupted her.

The door, opening ;Joan looked up.

Her heart stopped beating. The woman was....she was... Her Mother.

Joan gaped at the woman, who was approaching her, a half smile on her face. She looked friendly, kind, concerned. Joan had memorized this face. The picture of her mother in her pocket became an omnipresent weight, and she placed her un bandaged hand on top of it, to feel it beneath the cloth of the sheet and her clothes. It was there, a silent testimony of who the woman before her was.

"Hi Joan, how are you feeling."

Joan was speechless. She knew her name! They had said her mother was dead. Why lie about it? That her motherwas gone, dead, lost, forever. And yet she was standing before her, her hair and eyes beautiful, more lovely than the photograph, completely stunning in fact. Joan could even smell her, feel the heat from her small body. She was living and she knew her name.

Her mother looked at her a little anxiously " I'm Dana", she said, cordially, politely.

Joan, speechless, tried placing her feelings in conscious order.This woman knew her, but then again, she didn't. 'Dana' was looking at her speculatively, waiting for some kind of answer.

"H- Hello" Joan stammered. She had to think of what to do. This woman her mother,Dana, was looking at her intensively, a small frown in between her eyebrows.

"What is it Joan? Is the pain bothering you? I gave you an injection of Valium to keep you calm, Joan. Tell me how you are feeling? Any discomfort?"

Joan was overwhelmed. This could not be happening. This was the most unbelievable thing that she had ever had happen to her in her short, albeit eventful, life.

"I have to go." She declared, and watched as 'Dana' turned rigid at her words.

"I'm sorry Joan, but I really need for you to sit back, relax, and let me keep an eye on you to make sure you are all right. You lost a little bit of blood, and I had to repair the injury with sutures. The injection I gave you will make you a little whoosy. It's best that you rest here for just a while longer."

Her voice was so cool, so collected. She had a surreal below the surface elegance, and Joan was impressed.

This woman that was her mother was a beautiful woman, and a kind woman, and she had a soft touch.

Joan felt tears prick behind her eyes, eyes the same shade and clarity as the woman standing before her.

"Someone is waiting for me," she said to 'Dana' matter-of-factly.

"Your parents?"

"No, they are.....dead." Better to not complicate anything before she knew her plan of action.

"I'm sorry." There was a genuine sadness, Joan dared to look in her eyes and saw confirmation of this dispair written in her mother's words and expressions.

She had to get to Mulder, because somehow she knew he would be able to help her. He had an inquiring mind. He liked to solve problems. This is a problem that she could trust him on, she knew that, instinctively. If there was any reason to break her silence, then now was the time. And there was no one left to trust. She could not tell the Men of this startling discovery, they would blanch and undoubtedly take her away from here. Maybe even get rid of her altogether. She had never doubted them, until now, and everything was in full color now.The ambiguous nature of their "suggestions." The way that they had told her nothing about the woman that is her mother. All she knew from them was that she was genetically, biologically created from ova that came from the red- headed woman before her.

To tell them that she knew of this womans existence was not a good course to follow. She had never even let them know that she had a picture, intuitively knowing that they would deny her answers. They were not an option. They had to be the ones in the dark now, and she liked the feeling that gave her. Almost...control, she thought to herself. Joan knew she had been gone for a long time, and that worried her. The lethargy that she was in was obviously from the drugs, and therefore it was preventing her from finding sound reason for 'Dana' to let her go.

"Dana," Joans voice was pleading," It is really important that I go to take care of some....things."

She looked right into her mother's eyes, holding the gaze.

"It's not negotiable, Joan. Now I will go and get some pain killers and look over your blood work and be back in a moment." Dana smiled at her worriedly, turned on her heel and left the room, the door closing witha soft "click." Joan marveled at the way she walked. She caught herself daydreaming, and made herself feel focused.

She removed her body from the table-bed and felt dizzy.

She took a deep breath, and spied a door that led to a dark hallway. She looked down, at the same clothes she had been wearing earlier,flecked with bloodstains and the edges around her vision got blurry,nearly black. She steadied herself, and turned the knob. She had to get to Mulder and confide in him her secret. He was all she had, and she knew that. He would tell her if she could or could not or not to act on this information, to tell this woman that she was her mother. That Joan had proof in a photograph and the rest was in her DNA.

Would he believe this? She hoped he would. From the moment she had said his name there was something special about Fox Mulder. She was not sure why, or what all he held for her, but she knew that he was a necessary part of her, of her future. That he would lead her to some resolution. The Men had never said this, but she *knew*. It was a certainty that never faltered, no matter what she heard or was told to do. She followed her heart down the hallway, almost getting lost and turned around but finally, finally reaching his door.

It was up to him now, would he believe her?

Scully was hunched over her microscope when they had brought the girl in. Scully had thought, by the look on their faces that the outcome was tragic.

Another suicide?

Suicide had become the method of choice to relieve the pain and sadness of this small, suffering humanity. Over fifty people had committed suicide over the past year. Varying methods, usually without a farewell letter or a reason. There was no one to give it to.

Scully rushed over, a young girl, no more than fifteen.Her hair was a shade above strawberry blonde. Her skin was nearly translucent, and a trickle of blood had been smeared across her face.

The gash on her hand was deep, but certainly not life threatening. Scully took her to the table in her lab with the assistance of the wiry young man who helped bring the injured girl in.

"I found her in the kitchen. She had been murmuring something before she completely passed out"..

"Do you know her name?" She asked him, while making a cursory examination and flushing the wound with sterile water. The man flinched and looked away.

"I think it's Joan. She doesn't live in A. She lives in Q."

"I didn't know there was a "Q"" Scully murmured, thoughtfully.

"Uh, yeah...well, will she be all right?"

"She will, thanks for bringing her in...I'll let her know that you helped."

Scully bent down over the hand. It would need stitches. She administered a local antiseptic, and gave the sleeping girl and injection of Valium to keep her calm. Most patients awoke in the rooms screaming, afraid that they had been infected, that that was why they were here. Valium allowed them to wake in a fairly safe state, open to suggestion and overwhelmingly calm.

Scully repaired the girls hand with smooth stitching. The handy-work was neat and precise, and she applied an antiseptic ointment on the girls hand before dressing the wound.

She left her to rest, but before going, looked down at her sleeping form. She was a lovely girl, and Scully found herself wondering about the girls parents. Were they alive as well? Why did she live in a different part of the Structure? Where was "Q?" Scully had not even heard of it, but resolved to ask Joan when she awoke.

A few moments passed and she waited for the bloodwork to finish running. She took out her journal and added Joan to the register of patients who had come, and would go.

Joan stood outside Mulders door. He could see her golden head in the window and wondered why she was waiting to come in.

The doorknob turned slowly.

"Mulder?" she called in her soft voice.

"Come in Joan"...he wondered where she had wandered off to the past few hours. He thought she'd gone to make lunch. His mouth was opening in the shape of a sarcastic comment until he saw her. Disheveled, a streak of dried blood across her face.

She was uncommonly pale.

"Joan..what happened?"

She looked at him blankly, before acquiescing to his request for information.

"I need your help" she sounded desolate, frightened. The look in her eyes was one of pure unadorned hope, and a little trepidation.

"I can trust you, can't I Mulder?" It was more statement than question.

"Of course, Joan."

He felt as though he were on a precipice, standing with his arms wide open, free. He leaned forward, poised, ready.

Part Four: Revelations

Mulder waited for Joan to continue, her small form looking frightened by the prospect of divulging her secrets. He could recognize that look anywhere: he had seen it on the faces of unwitting informants thousands of times in the past, on cases.

He did not let his gaze shift from her face, wanting her to feel secure in the fact that he was there, and would wait as long as she needed him to, she could trust him.

Joan shuffled her feet and looked at the floor.

"I cut my hand", she said, simply, and then wavered a little, looking as though she may start to cry. He was compelled to know the reason. What had swayed her to such an emotive state?

"How?" it seemed an innocuous enough question.

"I was in the kitchen slicing bread. I was thinking about other things....and I noticed I had cut it."

He watched her, as a type of wonder and excitement grew across her face.

"It was beautiful. The blood. I have never bled before. I did not know that it would look so red, so pure. It was so warm, running a little river down my wrist, all over the handle of the knife. I must have let it bleed a full minute before even noticing it."

"What happened then?"

"I must have passed out, and when I awoke, I was in an unfamiliar room, the doctor's room."

Mulder was confused as to where all of this was leading, never mind the strange fascination Joan had had with never bleeding.

" Back up for a minute, Joan. Why had you never bled before. That is, well, nearly impossible - how old are you?"

"Almost fifteen," she said, and the look of excitement was quelled by one of fear.

"How can you be nearly fifteen and never have suffered any type of injury or gone through a medical exam and not have ever bled?"

"I know it is improbable. Of course I have had blood taken, but I have never actually seen my blood in such close proximity before. I was mesmerized by it, it was so lovely, so perfect, so incredibly liquid."

Mulder was beginning to wonder if perhaps Joan was repressing her childhood. That could explain why she was reluctant to speak of a past that she possibly couldn't remember. For anyone to be so fascinated by the appearance of their own blood....something had to be amiss.

"But the main thing is not the blood, Mulder, it was the doctor."

"The doctor?"

Joan was near tears again, shaking slightly at what she was going to say to him and looking at him half-wearily.

"She was my mother." Joan stated firmly, with conviction, and looked down at her shoes.

"Your mother?" Mulder asked, incredulous.


"Joan, not to seem ignorant here, but I thought your mother was dead." Some reprehension had crept into Mulders voice.

"She was dead. They said she was dead, but she was alive." Joan came next to him and looked into his eyes. "As alive as you and I and she looked at me and said my name."

"I'm waiting for the "But, Joan."

"She doesn't know me", Joan said simply, her voice hinging on an inner pain. " She never knew me, Mulder."

"How is that possible?" he was bewildered, but in his mind, the analytical part unsilenced by the tragedies he had experienced over his life, was slowly putting pieces together that he found unbelievable.

"They lied to me. I don't understand why they had to lie, to save me some explanation of why my mother would never know me or recognize me or know I even existed?" Her eyes registered an absence of thought for what she was saying.

"Not dead! Such a little variable in face of the whole, right, Mulder?" She looked at him, expectant.

"Who were you, really, before this ? " Joan asked him, her voice incredibly steady and measured.

"They stopped telling me things past how important you were to keep you placated, to keep in a fuzzy realm of stilted remembrance. Do you remember the night you came here? I saw them drag you in, your voice was harsh and yelling, and you were half out of your mind. You had gotten the virus, and it was stating to cause psychological effects. You were kicking and screaming a name, over and over "Scully." And the man who smokes so many cigarettes said to me " Here is your "Mulder" Joan. The one you were made to save."

Mulder looked at her and saw the fear at having revealed this to him in Joan's eyes. She was scared, and understood that fear. They had manipulated her, a young girl, into keeping him where they wanted him.

"This woman, this doctor, are you sure she was your mother?"

"Yes, I have a picture of her that a doctor gave me before the Beginning." Joan rifled her pocket and held it to him, fingers trembling, Mulder took the photograph, gingerly turning it in his hand to show the face that he would know anywhere.


She was standing in a doorway. He remembered this day, although it had been years ago, in the Fall, around the fifth year of their partnership. She had one hand carelessly placed on the door frame, leaning in and scanning the room until she had found him, leaning over a body and taking photographs. He had looked up and saw her, her hair framing her face at a perfect angle.She was wearing an amused expression, one eyebrow carefully arched over her azure eyes. She had her mouth slightly open, her cheeks flushed from the wind and the cold. A black overcoat surrounded her form, clad beneath in a suit. Three- inched heals, head to toe elegance, the picture-perfect FBI G-woman.


He could not believe this photograph, what it may mean, the many implications. All twirling about in his head and in his heart, calling from an inscrutable depth : what if.

Impossible, Impossible.

He closed his eyes and he saw blood, the blood of Dana Scully as he had found her that warm June night. He remembered the pallor of death on her face, the coldness of her hands, her sightless eyes....

"Mulder?" Joans voice came from far away, connecting him to the present and severing the gruesome memory.

"Scully is dead, Joan. I saw her, dead. I remember how she looked now. I can see it in my mind if I just close my eyes." he stepped away, moving his body with the force of grief.

"I know Scully is dead, they told me that she was dead.."

"Then why are you telling me this woman in this picture is alive, Joan. That you just saw her and got your hand bandaged by her, What is going on here?."

"I am so tired of this God - damned game." He flung the picture to the floor, and watched as Joan, speechless, picked it up.

"This woman, this.....this...." her eyes filled with tears that toppled over the edge of her face and splattered her cheeks with wetness " This is "Scully" ?"

Mulder looked at Joan and instinctively knew she was not lying. She had no idea that the woman in the picture was Scully, and she actually was crying. Her eyes held too much torture and pain, un -understanding and deep regret to be lying.

"Joan, I am sorry," he said softly, knowingly.

"This is Scully", She repeated, with more conviction.

"This picture is Scully, but I don't know who this woman is. She could be a decoy, a clone, anything to mislead us, Joan."

"Mulder, there was something about her. Something in her eyes that made me know, fully, that she was my mother. Something within me just clicked, it made sense. Do you understand what I am telling you? She is alive, you have to trust me, now. She is alive."

When Scully returned from running lab work, she found the exam room empty.

"Joan?" she called out, but there was no answer. She opened the door to the dark corridor.


Scully looked around the room to see if anything was amiss. Other than her patient, all looked to be in order.

Why had she gone?

She had mentioned needing to get somewhere, but Scully was sure that Joan would listen to her, or at least be slightly whoosy from the Valium. She had not been given a small dose. It should have been enough to sufficiently cause Joan to have some difficulty escaping.

She looked down at the blood work in her hands, a simple CBC and a Blood Glucose. Everything looked fine, aside from the Glucose being a little low. Joan was otherwise a healthy teen-ager.

It bothered her that she did not even get to ask Joan any real questions. She felt inadequate in that Joan had rushed off into the night, disregarding Scully's request. It was unsettling.

She would look into it more thoroughly tomorrow. Today still had its share of work to be done.

Joan looked at Mulder wearily, the day finally taking its toll on her. She glanced at herself in the sliver of mirror. She looked pale and withdrawn. She also felt disoriented, as though she weren't really there. She moved to the edge of Mulders bed and sat down, tilting her head towards Mulders lowered one.

He had been shaking his head back and forth for five minutes. She wondered at what he was resolving to do. Joan wanted him to go and see her, and to confirm her existence, and had told him this.

"Please, Mulder, believe me...." she had said, and he had looked at her with an expression torn between pleasure and pain.

"What if she is a decoy? A clone? A really great look alike? Joan, these men can do anything they want! They can make any person any one !," he said, startling her for the room had been so quiet.

"I don't think so" That was all Joan could manage to covey. I don't think so, Mulder. She looked pretty real.

"Mulder, her eyes were kind. She smelled wonderful. She was a live, breathing, doctor. She *is* Dana Scully." Joan tried to sound absolutely certain, even if it was for selfish reasons. She needed to know, and her mother would not trust her coming into her lab and telling her that she was a product of genetic engineering.

In the back of her mind, she wondered if her certainty was accurate was right. He was right to be worried, because these people made things happen and they certainly did not let things happen.

There was no chance in their perfect little universes. Joan was afraid to cross them but emboldened by the strange light-headiness and the supreme joy she had felt upon learning that the woman that was her mother was really alive, and never dead.

She looked at him again, his head still in his hands and he was sighing.

"Take me to see her."

A moment.

Mulder told himself that that was all he needed right now, and all he wanted. To see her for a moment would somehow be enough time to confirm or deny her identity.

He nearly stopped and turned around a thousand times. Joan led the way, avoiding others by taking the back hallways. He felt a strange exhilaration and a nervousness and he told himself, that no matter what, he wasn't going in there tonight. He needed time to determine the best course of action. A lot of time. He just wanted to see her. It would commit her to his present memory and hopefully erase the vision of her, sprawled on the apartment floor, long dead, too long dead to be revived. Her skin had been blue and she was cold then.

To see her warm and human and alive....

Joan gestured to a door, with a glass panel. Unmarked.

He looked at her, and gestured for her to go back to the Quarantine unit, and she nodded.

He pressed his face against the glass and saw her, his breath catching at the sight.

Her head was bent and peering over a large journal, and she was writing. Her pen strokes were the same, the way she moved was the same. She was rapt, fascinated by her task and he was entranced watching her.

It was the most haunting experience of his life.

Should he go to her?

At this moment, he had little compulsion to listen to the voice of reason.. What did she think had happened to him? Would she want to see him? Would this only open a wound resolved for Scully on the fateful June night?

This woman, every nuance of her body, her smooth action, her amazing presence, it was luring him in. He placed his hand on the doorknob, closing his eyes and hoping a little fate would have the good grace to intervene.

Scully was writing in her journal, final recap of the day as well as some absentminded doodles on the side of the page. Find Joan was in the center of one page with small circles drawn around it.

An overwhelming feeling washed over her, reminding her of Mulder. As though she could feel his presence. The room was silent, and she tried to absolve and silence the memories playing in her mind, the relocation's she would rather not delve into, this long day had gone a little too long.

A feeling swept over her; weightily, like destiny. The hair on the back of her neck rose up, sensing a forgien electricity. Someone was watching her.

She lifted her eyes to the door..

Mulder held his breath, watching her head rise and seem to stare right at him.

Dare she notice his figure, shadowy, forlorn in the door way, behind the glass.


It was undeniably him. She peered into the darkness. A trick? An illusion ? Had she toppled, like so many others, into the realm of insanity?

She walked to the door. He, or whoever was in her doorway, did not move. He looked in at her and she felt her world stop spinning. The doorknob was turning.

He moved into the room in an instant, and knew from the look on Scully's face that she did not believe what she was seeing, and yet she moved to him, close, closer, until she was looking in his eyes, and then crying.

"Mulder, Oh, God, Mulder" her voice was as he remembered, the perfect combination of nonchalance and disconnected passion. Scully.

"Is it you, is it really you?" she whispered to him, and he nodded.

She felt overwhelmed, overcome by the sight of him, whole, living, breathing. Here. She closed the distance between them with outstretched hands, and he took them, greedily, eyes shining.

"How?" She said again, afraid to say more, unsure of herself and what she was feeling. This moment was fragile. It teetered between a tangible reality and a dream.

What was real? She asked herself. Was this a sad culmination of months of disparity and loneliness?

His hands were warm, solid, firm. Mulder.

In that moment Scully felt supreme. She was sure of herself and the gift, the miracle, she had so hoped for had been granted. She was amazed at her luck, the simple brilliance of it all.

"You are alive," she said, her eyes looking at him on the brink of tears, an incandescent aquamarine.

"So are you!" he replied, and tugged her into his arms and into an embrace.

He could feel her heartbeat against his chest: a steady monotony that he could set his watch to. He breathed her in and felt her hair against his chin. They held eachother for an unascertainable amount of time, before resting heads, forehead to forehead, in a gesture that was familiar to them both.

He felt so much for this silent woman in his arms.

This woman he thought was dead, that he would never see again, alive, beneath him, breathing.

He felt wonderful.

She pulled away, looked into his eyes and touched his face, lightly dragging her fingers across his cheek, brushing across his lips and then against his brow. Her face held a mixture of serenity and lingering surprise, he could see the disbelief in her eyes that seven years of partnership had made him prone to recognize.

She stepped away, and then looked around, trying to place herself in reality.

"Mulder, you can't be here." She was whispering, conspiratorially, and guided him out the door into her office, through an adjoining door to a vacant, dark, hallway.

"Come with me" she hissed, and extended her hand outwards. He grabbed it and followed.

Scully moved cautiously down the hall, darting nervous glances about her all the while grasping his hands, belying her trepidation with the pressure of her hand tightening around his.

She took a key ring from her pocket. He looked and saw the familiar Apollo key chain and smiled that she had a chance to even keep it. The room was dark and sparsely furnished. She closed and locked the door behind her, and stood with her back to him for a few moments, breathing deep breaths and shaking her head in continued disbelief.

"Scully?" he asked, and she turned. Her eyes were red and slightly puffy. He looked at her in the darkness and saw the fear radiating from her like waves.

"How is this possible?" she asked him, then, not waiting for an answer, continued " The Cancer man told me you were dead. That you had died four months ago from complications from the Virus. Aside from that, he told me you were in Russia, which is not just around the corner. And supposing that you did find me, how did you get here? No one can get in", she looked exasperated, and it reminded him of the X- files, and the way Scully would give him the how - the - hell - did - you - make - that - rabbiit - jump - out - of - your - hat, Mulder? look. She needed a rationale and quickly, he sensed the foundation she relied on was crumbling.

"I had the virus, but I didn't die. I woke up five days ago in a Quarantine ward. I have only bits and pieces of memory from the day I got here. I remember the morning, at the airport, and I remember my mother. And I " remembered" that you were dead. I was trying to cope with that until my little caregiver, Joan, came rushing in this afternoon telling me that you were alive."

"Joan," she said, simply.

"Yes, and Scully, there is more."

Part Five: Bittersweet

Scully leaned against her door and looked at Mulder, unable to move past the few steps she had already made. He stood a mere five feet from her, looking down at her, and she was frozen. This was happening. It wasn't a hallucination and she hadn't died . This was real. It seemed like she should be dreaming this, and she probably was dreaming this, but she wasn't. He was here, in her face, alive, breathing.

It scared the hell out of her.

The emotions taking life in her conscious caused a dizzy fuzz to flash before her eyes as the old Dana Scully, the Dana Scully FBI agent and human Earth citizen, who was just getting used to the whole alien idea, mind you, met the new Dana and she had to face up to some consequences. He had been alive. He had been alive and she had been alive. She had not even sought him out! She had believed he was dead!

She must have looked horrified because she heard Mulder speaking.

"Scully, are you okay?" the worried look swimming in his eyes, so familiar.

"Mulder, I'm fine." she breathed in a little shakily and managed a wobbled smile.

"So, who's going first?" Mulder quipped, and turned around to look over Scully's little tiny space that was impossibly impersonal.

"Nice, Scully. I love the white on beige look this place is so popular for."

She almost laughed, but managed a strained " Thanks" in his direction.

"Coffee Mulder?"

"I'd love a cup. Wow, Scully, so domestic." he was grinning at her, and she felt nervous.

This whole thing was so surreal...

"Scully, I know this is all really hard to believe but we need to stay focused." Mulder looked at her, and she managed to bring her eyes to his. They were as intense as ever, she always had admired that in him, the passion that he could light in anything.

"I can't believe all of this. It all seems so....surreal."

"Scully, I think you should sit down, I'll make the coffee." She nodded, and walked away from him slowly, found an available chair and sat in it. She heard Mulder fumbling in the kitchen, and it all seemed too ordinary for her to mentally process. Mulder, who until this moment she had been convinced was dead, was alive and making her a cup of coffee.

The most improbable thing in the Universe was this moment. Ninety-seven percent of earth's population was dead. Ninety Seven Percent, and that was a *good* estimate. She was one of the few alive, and no one in the six degrees of Dana Scully Separation had made it aside from, come to find out, Mulder! Of everyone in her universe, it was Mulder who survived. Against the odds, against her own judgement.

Which got back around to the fact that she had just let him go, without fully realizing it, all those months!

"Mulder" she called, and he emerged, carrying two cups, looking at her like she was.... Fragile.

"What, Mulder" She thought she sounded normal, but he was looking at her as though perplexed.

"Scully, What is it."

"This is just unreal, Mulder, that is what it is. I'm having a hard time accepting all of this."

"That's fair."

He handed her the cup, and she took it, but started speaking as he was sitting.

"I have been...Mulder, I gave up." she looked into her coffee, looking for words, for answers, for the truth.


"I didn't see it clearly until just now, Mulder, I didn't. I.." she was near tears, they made her voice thick " I believed everything, Mulder. All of it. When he said you were dead, I believed him, Mulder. I feel..."

"Scully, lets start from the beginning. Let's go slow. He reached out to touch her, but she pulled from his imploring hands. She wouldn't lift her eyes.

"I feel so inadequate."

She leaned her head over the mug, a veil around her face, to stop any tears from escaping her eyes;she didn't want to cry. She couldn't lose her hard won control before Mulder.

"Look what kind of person I've become, Mulder. Look at me" she gestured towards herself absentmindedly, one hand akimbo with coffee cup, the other with fingers pointing accusingly at herself.

"Scully," he sounded so level, so regular, so very himself, and it made her feel achingly guilty.

He had been alive.

She had believed the lies.

"Where did they keep you?" she asked, she needed to know.

"Not more than five minutes away. In another ward, Ward "Q." I slept it all away, I didn't see any of it. None of the virus, nothing past June Twenty First" She felt herself stiffen.

"You didn't see anything?" She tucked her legs underneath herself, and watched him. He was looking at her as though he were almost....disappointed.

"I didn't see anything. In fact, I only remember a little but from that day, as it is. I remember seeing my mother."

Scully was amazed, this conversation was nearly a year overdue and was actually happening. It was astounding, incredible, exhilarating.

"I also remember seeing you in your apartment, and I thought you were dead." He swallowed, and she felt a chill race up her spine.

"You didn't see me dead. The virus you had was very contagious. It caused physiological effects within an hour, two hours after exposure."

"I don't understand, Scully. Tell me about the virus, tell me about what happened, and then we'll get back to me. I need to know." he looked at her pointedly, and she was touched by the fact that he was still so unflappably Mulder. That he still could pick up the pieces and move on. That he had been awake for only a few days and had already found her..She had never known anyone like Mulder, anyone who could pick up the debris from any catasrophe and make it functional, give it life, grace it with a new understanding. It was as though he already accepted the outcome, and she couldn't believe that for over ten months she'd been trying...trying to at least accept, and he, awake for mere days was already there. There in that mental place of inherent complacity that she so envied. How could he always be so unbelievably calm when facing the events of the past year! She ran her hands through her hair, trying to evoke some comprehension from within. Mulder, at least, hadn't changed. Wether the feeling that accompanied that admission was hope or dread, she didn't know. She took a deep breath, and began.

Mulder watched Scully transform, at once from an emotional woman to a cool, clearheaded professional. The switch was immediate as soon as she launched into a narration that coming from Scully a year ago would have been much, much more than bizarre. It would have been a great joke to hear her speaking of the circumstances that led to the earth succumbing to an alien virus so advanced that it could be considered a life-form.

"Colonization began on June twentieth, when the first virus was released. It was a highly communicable virus, fact acting and deadly, causing swelling of the cerebral cortex and profuse sweating, fever, eventually dehydration and death. Each victim was individual in how long they lived past infection, some for days, and others from mere hours. It was very contagious, spread more rapidly than a cold or the flu in that anything was a vector: the air, contact with another human, et cetera. This killed roughly eighty- five percent of the total population in two weeks. That's amazingly fast, some would have said before this it was impossible, but it was launched from all directions. It was quick and easy. That is what you were exposed to, because the black oil was afterwards. "

"I have it on good authority that I contracted it from my mother." Mulders tone was flat, measured.

"Did she know?" Scully asked him in the mid- darkness of the room and it sounded as though she were soothing him.

"She did, Scully, She tried to warn me. The smoking man told her." He saw Scully recoil at his words.

"What is it?"

"He told me things, Mulder. He made little deals with me and told me I'd never see you again.He told me you were sick, far away", She swallowed, her voice more and more constricted as she strove to finish." He told me you were dead,and then he told me he was your father."

He sensed that she was angry about this, as though there were something he had been keeping from her intentionally, and now resented him for. " Scully, he told me that he was my father while using me as a lab rat. He offered me fucking salvation and then cut in my brain. I didn't believe it then and I saw no reason to tell you. My mother confirmed it. In that hotel room. It was just a few days ago for me, Scully. I've lost a year and.."

"I know." Her voice was flat and dispassionate.

"Does that upset you?" he asked, quietly.

"Yes and No. Yes, in that I am happy that you have been lucky enough not to see what has happened, that you didn't witness what I witnessed. You were free from that, and you will never know what it is like to actually see it unfold before your eyes. Bu-."

He stopped her sentence by touching her arms with his fingers, making her pay attention to his words.

"I know what that feels like, in the very least. I want to be here for you now, Scully. I want you to be here for me, too."

She looked into his face, a mixture of tenderness and intense sadness. Not far beneath that lay the pallor of guilt.

She was so close that he could smell her, and he breathed her in, finding that her scent had not changed. Eternally Scully. She seemed so slight, sitting with her lips pursed and searching the depths of her coffee cup for hidden answers to life's many questions.

"Fine" She murmured.

He wanted to erase the pain in her, the dispair that she wore like some fundamental piece of clothing. It grew on its own accord and permeated the room, the cloying presence of depression.

"I miss so much, you know. I even miss the mundane, like pumping gas, and the way my heels sounded clicking through the hallways. I miss everything, Mulder -"

He crossed the few steps to her and took the coffee cup from her hands, and pulled her close, out of the chair and into his arms. Her fingers formed fists against his chest. She turned her face against him, and he could feel her breathing.

"You don't have to do this, not to yourself, you know that. He lied to you to keep you away from finding me. I understand why you believed him."

"No, Mulder, No"- He hugged her tighter.

"Shh, I want you to let it go. If you need me to accept some apology-" She pulled back ,looking into his face, tears swimming in her eyes.

"Oh, Mulder -"

"Shh, Scully." He grazed her temple with his lips " I need you to be strong now, I need to know that I can trust that in you."

She nodded.

She still had that strength within, Mulder could feel it in her, a vibration beneath the cool exterior of her skin.. Her passion he'd known so well through the years had been tested, perhaps more so than her faith. It had been difficult the past year for her. He could see it in her smile, in the way she carried herself, even her tone of voice was different, subdued .

He felt that despite that, Scully was still herself, and he wanted her to realize that. They had deceived her, and life had done it's fair share, causing her to misplace her simplest confidences. The tiny comforts of reality meant something to her, he knew that, he knew her. A year may have separated them physically, mentally, emotionally, but he felt he could fix that. They were together now, and that mattered. That was what mattered the most.

The moment seemed to last forever, he held her for an endless second in time, enthralled from the simplicity of the joy it could possibly bring. She took the lucidity he offered, the solace, he shared his personal strength. He took tiny answers from her in the moment of perfection. She was fully alive in his arms and he could feel that life. It thrilled him.

She pulled away a moment later, a sheepish look painted on her face. He wanted to capture that look, add it to the millions of obscure Scully faces that he'd seen over the years. The way she was so diverse, so multi- faceted mesmerized him. He thought she was beautiful.

"Mulder ?"

"What Scully?"

"You just had an strange look on your face."

"It was nothing."

"Ok, Well - " She tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear, and turned away from him, settling back into her seat. He took the seat opposite hers and leaned forward.

"Tell me more about the virus."

"Well, there are three distinct and separate forms of the virus .They are distinct mostly in that they were present at different periods of time throughout the course of colonization. The first phase was the most deadly, as I mentioned. This phase was unexpected by the scientists who had been working on the vaccine. It was similar to the effects of the Alien blood we have encountered on occasion of the bright green variety, but it is not spread through a gaseous medium. It was a contact virus: more contagious than Rhinovirus and certainly, in it's short course, more communicable. The next phase was the Black oil. Roughly ten percent of the population died from the Black oil, and these are just rough estimates, but, it is on good authority that five to six percent suffered from the original black oil...the kind that we have seen, as well. The third phase was the final colonization phase, which is, for all intent and purposes, still going on. Not even half of a percent of the Earth's population were chosen to be vessels for the alien gestated life form." Scully shuddered, and then continued. "That makes roughly 97 percent of 6,000,000,000 people died Mulder. Thats over five billion people. Roughly, in all of the world maybe, and it's a rough maybe at best, 1,800,000 people are alive and fighting this every day. If they aren't out there above ground they're underground, fighting to stay sane."

She looked over at him, and grimly smiled " I assume that the virus had a Natural Selection element in play. The first killed off all of the weaker humans, the second eradicated any stragglers. Finally, the third was the tool of colonization." She rose, and went to get more coffee " You want a little more, Mulder?"She called, and he followed, accepting the coffee and then settling back into the chair.

"The most fascinating part of the virus is this: when you examine them under the microscope, they are essentially the same thing: same composition, the same molecular structure. All three are sensitive to temperatures below freezing. The beings themselves are sensitive to the cold as well, and won't venture to the coldest parts of the globe. I received an e-mail two weeks ago letting me know that a North Pole Survey Crew had survived and was willing to help me in the fight." She laughed a short laugh, and looked into her hands.

"So, what is it that they have you doing for them." His tine was soft, he expected anything. It made him suddenly afraid, afraid of what she had done, what she might have sacrificed in this to live. What job did they instruct her to do that caused such sadness, such pain?

"I am working on a counter -virus. One that can attack the residing Aliens above and be used as a weapon. A virus to destroy them and to let us have the Earth back."

"Have you accomplished that?" He was intent, and noticed her composure drop a little.

"No," she answered softly," I haven't. Virology was never my best subject, Mulder. I was a medical doctor, not a master of Alien Viruses."

"Do you think its possible?" She scrunched the skin on her forehead and wiped the lines away with her hand.

"Anything is possible, Mulder. I have seen that."

"So, you have been working on this for nearly a year and have little results? Why did they want you working on this?"

"Not they - him. The smoking man, CGB Spender, your father-" He visibly shrunk at the words " Don't call him that. He may be, but..." Compassion skirted across her face," I understand."

"Well, he must have orchestrated the attack at my apartment - I went to answer the door and the next thing I knew I was in a car, driving along, and he was telling me about the Virus, what had happened, and why he needed my help. He told me you had the virus then, and that I had to "choose" to not see you again, in order to work on a cure and live."

"I suppose he didn't bother to mention that you are immune to the virus."

Her eyes widened," What?"

"You are immune, Scully."

"How do you know that?"

"Another good authority" He wondered if she were ready for this news, where he had learned this piece of valuable information that Scully had apparently not been aware of.

"Where, Mulder. Who?"

"I should start from my beginning, before I tell you all the tricks I have up my sleeve"

"Mulder-" there was a warning note in her voice.

"Give and take Scully, thats the name of the game." She arched an eyebrow " Well, you haven't heard the rest of my year."

"Then by all means, go ahead."

She gave him a testy look before continuing " Regardless of Immunity or not, at the time I thought I was susceptible to the virus. I took what he said with more than a grain of salt and accepted his offer, foolishly trusting him, and believing that you would find some way around it."

"What's that supposed to mean,' find some way around it'.?"

"Well, you always do" She smiled at him, warmly, genuinely. He felt a lump rise in his throat.

"At least I did until January twelfth, which was the day that he told me you were dead. He threw some pictures on my desk and said your body gave out from the stress of the virus." She looked at him, searching his face, looking for any sign of...forgiveness.

"That bastard", was all he could say.

"The rest of my year has been spent battling the omnipresent depression. I've seen fifty two suicides in the past year. In fact, I thought I had another one today, a young girl that cut her hand, but she was all right. Mulder, what is it?"

"I need to tell you about that girl."

"What girl?"

"The one you saw today, Joan."

"How did you know her name?"

"She has been the person caring for me the past ten months. She is the one that told me you were alive."

Scully looked at him, a little dumbfounded.

"That's right, you mentioned that...when you first came to the lab door" she murmured, a note of suprise in her voice that she hadn't remembered it already.

"Scully, Joan is special."

" How so, Mulder? In what way?"

"In a lot of ways, Scully, and I don't know if you are ready to hear this."

"Mulder, I am ready to hear whatever you have to say. Don't assume-" she was getting angry,thinking that he was probably doubting her rational mind.

"I don't mean that in a degrading way, Scully. This is important. This is-"

"Yes," she had a strained note in her voice.

"Scully," he lowered his to a near whisper, almost a conspiratorial one, and leaned forward. He watched her lean forward too, a look of anticipation on her face," she is like Emily."

Scully's heart stopped beating.





What did that mean? She didn't want to think of what that meant! Joan was a nearly grown young woman, it was impossible, impossible. The little voice inside her head mimicked her " but anything is possible."

"How" she managed, and it was a weak thing, her voice, a terribly shattered thing. He touched her hand, and she felt his warmth seeping through her skin, seeking to draw out the cold. " They made her, Scully. She is genetically your daughter."

She should cry at the words, her daughter. She should laugh at them, wave her hands triumphantly, but it left her feeling dizzy and lost.

"Scully?" she heard the worry in his voice. So much worry in one day was going to be the end of her. Tears, from some faraway deathless well rose in her eyes.

"Mulder," she said, wonder in her voice, a tiny bit of hope.

"Scully," he said her name again, but more confident this time.

"She took care of me while I slept, fighting the virus. When I woke up, I couldn't remember that last day, it was all a blur. All i could remember was that you were dead, that they had said you were dead and that I had confirmation of it. I slowly remembered seeing my mother in that Airport hotel. She told me of the virus and told me to go to you I remember going, I can almost remember getting there, but everything else is fuzzy, distorted, lost. I asked Joan to tell me what happened, but she said that she couldn't, that I had to remember it all on my own. Joan and I started talking about things, I asked her about her family. She said that they were all dead. Then she told me that her mother had not had the virus, that she'd been immune. I had a feeling that something wasn't entirely kosher Scully. I mean, she was evading my questions, looking at her hands and everything. She kept trying to deflect the conversation from herself. I kept on having this feeling that she was holding back. Turns out that I was right.

"Mulder, slow down. This is all going really fast for me. I need a minute to think."

She turned away from him and looked at the wall. She stood and found herself speaking before she thought of the words.

"How?" That dangerously enticing mix of agony and joy on her lips. He knew she wanted answers, ones that could be easily processed,rational thoughts and feelings painted in nice colors. She wanted the logic in everything, her mind worked best that way, in plain black and white.

"Joan wants to answer your questions."

"Joan! Mulder, where is she?" she asked, a bit of trepidation in her voice. She had forgotten to ask where Joan was all along.

"I asked her to wait for me to come back and get her, when you were ready. I thought this may be....difficult....for you Scully."

"I appreciate your kindness and concern, I do. I think I should see her now, but -"

"I know you have the strength to do this Scully"

"How are you so sure?" She had a note of helplessness in her voice, and he tried to sound reassuring in his response.

"I know you, Scully."

She nodded.

"Should I come with you when you go to her?"

"I think it would be dangerous for the both of us to be prowling the hallways together. We're both supposed to think the other is dead, I should remind you" He gave her a toothy smile and she tried to feel the warmth but she was numb.

`God, Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change'. The line from a poem she had read a lifetime ago, popping into her mind in this of all moments.

"I think you are right." She moved towards the door. " She's probably scared out of her mind, Mulder. Wondering how things are going....go and get her, bring her here, we'll talk. And Mulder- be careful. There are people watching everywhere...don't let anyone see you."

"I figured as much...Joan gave me the back hallway tour to get here, so I'm just going to retrace my footsteps....Scully?"

"Yes," she looked up, uncertain.

"It's really good to see you."

She smiled akwardly,"Well, Mulder, it's really good to see you too..." she murmered, moving towards the door.

Mulder followed her to the door, amazed at her enduring composure, hoping she believed in the strength that he knew to be unwavering within her.

"Are you okay, Scully" He asked anyways, knowing the answer.

"Considering the fact that I woke up this morning fully believing that I was alone in this world, and then finding that not only is my partner alive but I also have a teenage daughter, I'm doing fine."

"That's the Dana Scully I know"

She managed a wan smile, opening the door, suddenly afraid that this would be the waking point of her dream, and touched his arm to believe he was still there.

Nothing wavered, there was no shift, he still stood.

"Hey Scully, I know we have a lot to do when I get back, but afterwards, would you mind cutting my hair?"

Part Six: Arpeggio

Joan never wore a watch. They scared her.The digital watches that hung on the walls in the hallways were an eerie red color that Joan didn't like very much. They seemed to follow her down the hallways, mimicking her steps, watching. She was afraid that quite possibly clocks had some secret eyes that she couldn't actually see. She hated to even look at them. What did time matter anyway, except to remind them all of the ever present passing.

She was waiting. For a long time now, in Mulder's dark room. Pillows were on his bed, covered in a blanket, it looked like he was here but he wasn't. She pretended he was sleeping, that made it easier; she wasn't alone then. She busied her mind with what she was going to say when Mulder got back.

Would she jump up and say " Is she ready?!" with ten types of excitement in her voice? Would she stay still," Is it really her!"

That question was answered deep within: "yes."

But it wasn't *her* voice. It was the other voice that she heard sometimes in the darkness. And it was the voice that revealed secrets into the darkness that she knew somehow were important. The voices were far away, she knew that, but everyday they seemed closer. She had to strain less and less to hear the words. They made sense, they had clarity, at times they were close to her ear. So close she could imagine the breath of the speaker. A phantom utterance that both enthralled and frightened her.

"He will save us, he will save us all." That one was all the time, a thousand voices, it came from within.

They had a melody. It was beautiful.

But everything was beautiful to Joan. She wished that she had a better vocabulary: it takes a lifetime to learn words.

"Dana Scully," she said aloud, as though this were some far away conversation, as though she had a guest.

Would Dana Scully want to see her?

When her mother knew the entire story of how she was brought into this world, would she want to know her - could she accept her as her daughter?

Maybe so, maybe not.

'I love this name, Dana Scully' she said within, and repeated it, over and over, different ways sometimes but the same words: Dana, Dana, Dana. Scully, Scully, Scully.

Sometimes she could re-envision her face from Memory. Just a few hours ago. He hand was throbbing to remind her that she had cut it. She looked at the bandage and touched it: soft.

Just like Dana Scully.

Her mother, her mother, her mother.

When the door creaked she jumped a little, and grinned when she saw Mulder, who was smiling back.

"It's her!" Joan proclaimed, and he smiled wider, nodding, and sat by her.

"What do you think?" Joan asked, her whisper, hoarse voice was high pitched, barely intelligible.

"It's her," he said, and took Joans hands in his and smiled at her, and with a newfound awe " And you really are her daughter."

"Yes," she replied, and then got still " Does she want to see me?"

"Of course" Murder's smile faded." Of course, but.."


"This has all happened so fast, so quickly that she is still letting it all sink in. That's difficult for her, it takes an almost...blind faith....to accept something like this without question. So much has happened to her...and even though we talked I'm still a long way from understanding everything."

Joan looked at him, mute. Maybe *she* wasn't ready for all this, and a sudden disquietude shook her, but then Mulder was standing, tugging on her hands and bringing her to her feet.

"C'mon, let's meet her."

"Now?" Joan creaked. She felt the paranoia mix with a serene feeling in the center of her chest. She breathed in breath that was followed by whispers..

"Go to...."," mother","Dana" Joan shook her head.

"Joan?" Mulders face was in front of hers. The voices stopped. The room was normal again, dark and ordinary.

"I hear voices," she said, " Millions of voices, but they are all the same."

Mulder looked at her a long moment, and then he blinked.

"Let's talk about it with Scully" he had a nervous note in his voice.

"Okay, okay" she finally agreed, and followed him. They had to walk quickly, taking advantages of the shadows and the light, careful fast steps down the corridor, avoiding people. The blood thundered in her ears as the endless streams of 'what ifs' assaulted her ears... Then they were there, and she was at the door, a smile on her face that Joan didn't recognize. Scully took Joan's hands, fingering the bandaged one and looking at her with concern.

"Is it bothering you?" she asked, and Joan nodded " It stings a little."

She watched as the woman before her ( Her mother!) tenderly examined the hand and then walked off, only to return a moment later with some oddly shaped white objects.

"Here, Joan, take these. They'll help with any pain." Joan took them from her hand and followed her mother into a tiny kitchen space, where a glass of water was handed to her, and she swallowed the pills as Dana, her mother ( ! ) told her.

Everything else happened quickly, brief moments intertwining until she was sitting, cross- legged on the floor, speaking of her life before she knew Mulder, before she knew anything. When she and her siblings had been thought of only as organisms, the essence of the project. Nothing more than an entity. To reflect on that time was almost difficult for Joan, to think of herself as merely *that* . It felt empty, it felt barren, in comparison to who she was now. Was she still a mere entity? Dr. Daniel's had thought not, Mulder had seen her as real, she had bled real blood. She was real, no longer a whim or a creation, no longer a mere accomplishment.

"I am the pinnacle of Dr. Stephan Daniel's career. He was one of the doctors in charge of the entire project, and he made it a point to try to tell me everything about myself. In a way, I think he felt badly that I was created without anyone really being concerned over who I was going to become. They thought of me as an entity, the Men behind the Project rarely referred to any of us as much more. For a time, before Mulder awoke, I often thought of myself in similar fashion.The Project began before I was even a possibility: they started with clones. Male clones. They were mindless, which had a severe disadvantage:but they did let the doctors determine what traits would be evident from your ova." Joan watched as her mother flinched a little from the course the conversation was taking, but Joan plunged forward anyway.

"They determined over time that they had the best chances for success with a female creation. So they went about making little girls, not clones, but attempted hybrids. The little girls always had problems: mental illness or incapacitates, horrible birth defects and congenital diseases. They all died."

"My....other daughter, Emily, she died a few years ago.." Her mother's voice held pain in it's depth, and Joan felt incapable of relieving her sadness.

"I am sorry." Joan said, and then " Is this too much too soon for you?"

"No, Joan, go on."

"Well, the project leaders, the Men, told the scientists they needed to be quick in finding a successful way to make a hybrid. The Others had Cassandra, who was a successful Alien - Human hybrid. The doctors had only known that she was a success, and that they had made her with alien body parts gradually, and that she was a completely perfect sample. That is when Dr. Daniel's, who was working on advancing growth of tissue, was brought into the Project, and he conceptualized me."

She breathed in, one long breath, and then continued. "Dr. Daniel's had been very successful with sheep. He had made a sheep - goat hybrid within a secret government facility. The Men thought that if anyone would be able to accomplish the goal it would be him.You see, the Men wanted a successful hybrid that was essentially alien in biological origin. Of course the alien genes were spliced with Human DNA for certain qualities: appearance, the capacity for emotion, voice, et cetera. What was borrowed from the Alien DNA was the incredible regenerative qualities, a natural immunity to the virus, some other things. Not everything was disclosed to me. There never seemed to be enough time, I think. For a while, a long, long while, I comprehended very little. My intelligence had to be developed and shaped. I was not only educated about my own origins, but also the origin of all other things that were exclusively human. I resent that the virus stopped so much of the work and the testing of my boundaries. It's not completely known what capacities that I have that are Human and distinctly Alien. When a human technically, biologically became alien," Joan looked at Mulder, who nodded that he understood " The doctors hypothesized that they could extract the DNA supplemented with Alien DNA and transplant it successfully with similar results. What was understood about this was hardly taught to me. All I know is that the human being could not physically withstand the mental overestimation. Even when transplanted from Mulder, it was unsuccessful. The smoking man was persuaded by Dr. Daniel's to allow the doctors to take the DNA and splice it with Human DNA, and make a true hybrid. The others before me were made from older alien DNA, and completely Alien at that. This is why Dr. Daniel's felt that they failed. There was no way, with our technology, to successfully create a hybrid on our own, with strictly Alien DNA. It was Mulder that made my creation possible, and for that I am indebted." Her mother raised a hand in the air, looking at Joan both speculatively and with apprehension. Joan got an overwhelmingly strong sensation to comfort her, and so she moved closer, taking her mother's extended hand and looking at her.

"You think this is so intense", and Joan was amazed at the timbre of her whisper, or that the words were coming from her mouth. She could see in colors what her mother was feeling: she could feel in this soft hand hold what her mother was: infinitely strong but innately fragile. A complete comparison and contrast. And on the surface, a surface that ran deep within her mother's soul she saw love.

She looked into her eyes " I see you" Joan whispered," I know what you are thinking."

She watched her mother's eyes widen, in obvious attempt to comprehend her words, but her face suddenly began to fade. She blinked, and reopened her eyes but the blurring hadn't improved.

Joan felt the hair on her neck rise, she felt lucid. She was no longer the commander of her body, which should be alarming, yet was strangely comforting. She could sense her mouth moving, forming words, words from a far away place that echoed without meaning in her mind. Nonsensical. All that she could tell was that her voice was not a raspy half - useful thing. It wasn't a whisper, it was a full, rich voice, it was perfect.

And the voice had words, and it was speaking to her mother, and to Mulder, who watched her with wide eyed bewilderment, not sure what was happening. Joan had no control. No control over her hands, her mouth, her face. The beating of her heart drowned the syllables she was pronouncing, it was the beautiful voice. She knew this voice, it was the one within, the gentle voice from within that told her little secrets, tiny truths that, until now, she had been private audience. IT WAS NOT HER. She was incapacitated, broken, and then falling, faster and fasted into a soft warm goodness a million miles away. She was floating in blackness surrounded by pin pricks of light. All around her a whispered chorus, her real voice, her real self, saying " Stars."

Until this moment, things were going well. Scully had been taking this all in with a composure Mulder didn't know she even had.

Then again, this was all before Joan started speaking in a voice that Mulder and Scully simultaneously recognized : Cassandra Spender.

This can't be possible, he though to himself, and watched Scully's face contort in a way that screamed the words : It can't be possible.

Did she still have a hard time believing?

He had to admit to himself, that in this moment, so did he. It was hard to follow that Joan would not be here were it not for the both of them, which made him feel savagely protective of the both of them: a mother and child tableau.

A surreal tableau at that. He wondered what Scully was feeling as Joan knelt at her feet, looking at her reverently, staring into her eyes and reading the contents of her soul. Mulder watched that, he envied that, he wanted to be able to do that to her right now. Right now when she was a million miles away.

That was when it happened: Joan metamorphosed. She sat taller, straighter. She looked at the both of them and began to speak in a clear resounding voice.

Split personality? Perhaps...

Until he recognized that voice: gravely but well tempered. Until he saw those eyes : beseeching, not Joan.

She was in there, beneath everything, not looking out of the orbs entirely possessed by someone else. No, not someone, Cassandra Spender. " They didn't tell her everything, you know that, they didn't really tell her why. They didn't expect success, so used to failure, they didn't even think that They would make it this far. And he thought he was so smart, by protecting you with her...He never sees things as they are past his own selfishly destructive vision. But none of that matters, this is important that you listen. You need to believe her, because you can't accomplish this without her, you need her, Dana, Mr. Mulder..."The voice was fading, it sounded far away although Joan, physically, herself, was there, kneeling before Scully, and then suddenly limp. She fell to the floor like a rag doll, and Scully was reacting. Mulder admired that, her reaction. Always swift, always composed.

"Joan!" she was yelling the name, and Joan rolled, moaning a little. Scully sighed, a slight release of tension from her shoulders as she lay Joan onto the floor, telling her to stay still, stay clam. She was pale, leaning over her daughter. Scully turned her head and looked at him, a anxiety-ridden expression on her face.

"What happened?" Joans voice was normal again, and it relieved her. "I was someone else" she rasped.

Her mother put her hand on her forehead, soothing the hair away from her face. She was on the ground.

Last she remembered, she had been floating in some strange space. A space filled with lightness and dark.

"Stars," she said with wonder, and then she looked into her mother's eyes." I saw stars. Where was I?"

Joan rose up, to a sitting position and looked at Mulder, who was surveying the scene with composure.

"You were here Joan, but for a moment you weren't completely yourself. " Dana, her mother answered softly.

"How do you feel?" she asked her, helping her up to a sitting position.

"Dizzy, a little. Otherwise I feel fine. I could hear myself taking, I sounded different. It was strange. But it was like it was from some long tunnel, some obscure place. I couldn't find my arms, I was totally without motion. Just floating. I couldn't stop my mouth from moving."

"Has this happened before?" Mulder asked her, and she shook her head `no'

"I want you to rest, for a little while Joan. A lot has happened today, and.." her mother's voice fell away, uselessly.

"No" Joan said as forcibly as possible. " You need to know the rest, about me. About why I am here, what I know."

Mulder leaned towards Dana and reached for her shoulder. She pulled away.

"I don't know Joan," she said, and looked at her, a worried look on her face more pronounced than the one she had seen earlier, in the hospital room, when she had first seen her... It seemed so much longer that a few hours.

"I'm fine." Joan said, and repositioned herself on the floor. Her mother readjusted herself as well, but she didn't return to the couch, leaving Mulder alone up there. Joan caught the look that Mulder gave Scully when she remain on the floor, and it made Joan smile.

"When the two of you are together, I understand so much. I understand the importance that you have for her" she looked at Mulder, who looked ashamed. He looked at her mother briefly, she did not turn around.

"I was born April 29, in the year before the beginning. It took under four months to gestate and grow in the tanks completely. A phenomenal amount of time, all because of Dr. Daniel's' experimental advancing technology. I fared better in those four moths than the three young girls they made with the new DNA from the DNA the smoking man took from you, Mulder. The other three died. I survived. In the tank, they gave me lessons on audio tape, they taught me words, the alphabet, basic lessons imbedded in my sub-conscious. Thirteen years of human socialization. When I was complete, I didn't know how to speak fully, and yet I said your name, Mulder. When the smoking man heard of this he decided I was exceptionally special. He thought It was miraculous, and the others did too, when they learned that it was from you that I was made, in some respects. So, they named me " Joan." Over the months they taught me things, basic things, things about life and science and education. Little lessons everyday. It was Dr. Daniel's who taught me the most, though. He managed to make so much clear to me. I still don't understand it all, but I have a good memory. The virus killed them all. A man came into the area on June twentieth and infected everyone, causing anyone in the "Q" ward to contract the virus, I was immune. The Smoking man had the vaccine and the immunity, dually protected. He brought Mulder in the same day that everyone was dying. I had never met him, I don't know who he was except in what I had been told.

He told me that Mulder was the man I was made to save. I was to protect him. And I have."

She rubbed her hands on her legs, not looking up. " They made me swear not to tell anything. The never really said what would happen if I did, but I assumed that it would be awful. I have willingly kept this secret, until finding out that you were alive and they had been lying."

Scully leaned into the couch and felt it's support. The cold fabric was relaxing, soft, inviting.

What a story.

She watched as Joan began yawning from the pain killers, and Scully felt relieved. She needed time to think, time to take this all in and dissect it all, put it in it's proper places.

Mulder was watching her. It was amazing, the connection they had.. She felt him in her skin, staring at her back, wondering if she was all right.

She was.

The most all right she had been in a long time, ten months, to be more precise. She felt righted in the world, she knew her place.

If it only all made simple sense.

That was the main problem : it didn't. It was improbable, unrealistic, a complete fairy tale.

She believed it.

She ushered Joan to her bedroom, laying her on the soft comforter and telling her to go to sleep. She watched her fall into the soft throes of sleep and smiled. Her daughter.

Impossible and yet entirely possible.

She rose quietly and re-joined Mulder.

"She's asleep," she said and looked at him. He was watching her, a look of trepidation on his features. He made her feel...she stopped the thought, and crossed the room to look up at him.

"I got used to you in heels," he said, distractedly.

"Really? Sorry to disappoint. I didn't get a chance to bring my favorite pumps", she smiled at him, and gasped when he grasped her shoulders, pulling her close.

He was inches from her face, leaning over her, towering over her amazingly, and she looked up, daunted by the `thump, thump, thump', of her heart.

Jesus, he made her feel a million things when he was this close.

"You believe this?" he asked, his voice a little over a whisper.

"Yes" she breathed.

"It amazes me that you do" the same intense whisper, breathing against her face, she missed this, she had missed him so. Today had been wonder after wonder.

She leaned a little closer, saw something change in his eyes and he looked down, his eyes on her face, her lips, looking as though he were suddenly drowning.

He pulled away and stalked from her abruptly, moving a good ten feet and not looking at her anymore.

She closed her eyes and made herself breathe.

"What are we going to do?" he asked, even toned.

She forced her hands to stop shaking.

"I really don't know Mulder."

"I believe her too, Scully. And when she was telling you...when she had another voice-"

Scully interjected " Not `another voice', Mulder, it was Cassandra's voice."

"I know. But that has got to be impossible."

"I thought you were the believer, Mulder," she said wryly, and he gave her a half smile.

"I am, but I like some logic in what I believe."

"She is my daughter, Mulder...and in some respects, Mulder.."

"I know. In some respects she is mine too...and C.G.B Spender's"

"No, Mulder, more so you. She feels that she *has* to protect you...and what do you make of Cassandra's cryptic message?"

"I'm not sure I understand it all," he said simply, and stared at the wall for a long moment.

A loud knocking at the door made them both jump, Scully wordlessly instructed Mulder to go to her bedroom, her fingers over her lips. He nodded.

She approached the door cautiously, the knocking continued, and then she could hear a voice.

"Dr. Scully, help, please, Dr. Scully..."

She opened the metal door and stared at the woman in the hallway, her hands and face smeared with blood, her skin pale and eyes wide.

"P..P..Please help me....My boyfriend," she said, and then she sucked in a raspy breath "He tried to go outside...he was attacked....oh God, oh God,....it was a fucking alien...oh God."

Part Seven: Yellow

Mulder strained to hear the conversation going on outside Scully's bedroom. He placed his ear against the wall, but heard very little. The only sound he made out for sure was the closing of the door, and he instinctively knew that Scully was gone.

Where did she go?

He sat in the darkness in a small chair at a desk. Scully's desk, it was just a small plywood thing, cheap.She had a tiny leather journal in the front.He touched the smooth cover in the semi - darkness, almost wanting to read it, if it meant discovering who Scully was now. A different person and yet so much the same.

He knew the distance of ten months was daunting: ten months that he had no conscious memory of, and he felt it was a strong disadvantage to not know what was going on in her head. Not that he had always known what was going on in Scully's head, but....

It made him feel dizzy. The Scully he knew before had never been so openly emotional. The Scully he knew before was always assertive, she didn't falter, she had the strength of a thousand women. But now, now he saw a part of her that was forgien, something he couldn't identify, the toll of days that he would never know. Days lost to him forever.

He looked over at the slumbering Joan, and reflected over the past day, this day that had been both incredible and unbelievable. He wondered at her cryptic words : the words that sounded as though they were spoken by Cassandra. Cassandra Spender who had been missing for years. All coupled with Scully, all centered around Scully. He wanted to protect her, to take away that look of dread in her eyes and see the skeptic smiling back at him, ready to defeat his theories, but always losing or winning gracefully. He had liked it best when they ended up meeting in the middle.

But this wasn't work. It wasn't some case and it wasn't June 2000. Ten months had come and gone for this woman, a Dana Scully that he sometimes didn't recognize. It had only been a few hours and he felt listless: he felt powerless and inept and he hated it. He hated that she reminded him of his mother in the hotel room that for him was only a few days ago.

And the girl on her bed was her daughter, and in part, his too. He genetically helped in creating her, albeit against his will. She felt that she was made for him...no, his father, his real father, had told her this. Probably a lie. Everything else was lies bespecked with truth in this new different world. He was sickened by the thought of his father even near her, breathing in her Scully smell and standing close, blowing the dark smoke on her skin. Scully's skin that was whiter now: more pure. Her hair was darker, her eyes seemed lusterless, she was ebony inside. He didn't know how to fix it and it made him feel helpless.

Useless, empty.


In the little room that they had been in, listening to Joan, he couldn't believe Scully, she had believed in so much.More than in his wildest dreams. And when he dreamt of her she was someone else, a woman in yellow: a flowing dress that made her hair seem to glow and while he dreamt he saw what red really was. What she really was. He understood her, to the bone, in the lucid state that was dreaming. In wakefulness, in reality, he couldn't even comprehend her thoughts, her feelings. He thought of the moments before a knock on the door had led him to this temporary exile. He had actually felt himself grabbing her, in that tiny room that wasn't her *real* living room, her living room was in an apartment in Georgetown that * was* Scully, lots of windows and light. Real. Not a cardboard box. He wondered if he was gripping her shoulders too tightly, but he needed to feel her . He didn't believe that she was acquiescing to everything, without even a facade of disbelief. Her eyes reflected total trust, and he craved it from her. He wanted it to jump from her chest and swallow him whole. Things shifted, then, the look of her, so small beneath him, it made him realize again what was always an undercurrent with Scully. That hadn't changed, maybe it never would. And scant inches from her face he didn't want to stop, he wanted to taste this new non skeptic Scully. He wanted to thank her personally, physically, for being alive. But, he couldn't trespass against her, she was too pure. He could not get past that, taken in by her overwhelming beauty, he couldn't mar her flawlessness.

Sick, sick, sick. He said to himself, and breathed, unsteady. Where was she? What was going on?

Scully ran down the hallway, following the girl that led her to the bleeding man, sprawled in the corridor, the half light of awareness brightening his features. She looked at the woman: shaking, pale, making little noises and pointing at him.

"He just wanted to get me flowers," she said, and then wailed, painfully, tortured.

"Can some one help us over here ?" Scully called to the by- standers, who were congregating noisily around the incapacitated man. She checked his pulse, it was thready. She looked at the gashes crisscrossing his chest. It didn't look encouraging.

Two men from the small crowd came forward, ready and willing to help, looking at the injured man's flesh in horror. She gestured for them to handle the man gently, counting to three before picking him up, and moving him to the lab area where a table was waiting. The two men deposited the injured and stepped away, looking at Scully expectantly, and she pulled on latex gloves. With the familiar "snap, snap" they closed around her wrists and she ripped off his shirt, struggling to do everything at once.

In the corner of her eye she saw Marguerite stepping forward, coming through the two men and the patients girlfriend, who was still crying loudly.

"Everybody out", Marguerite said authoritatively, and pushed the girlfriend and the two helpers out the door. Marguerite rolled up her shirtsleeves and grabbed gloves from the opened box.

"Maybe this is a good time to let you know I'm a doctor too, Dana."

Scully looked at Marguerite, confused by her sudden declaration. After a brief pause they registered, and yet Marguerite made no move to elaborate. Resigned to accept Marguerite's silence, Scully nodded and returned the concentration to her patient, and simply welcomed the extra set of hands.

"He went outside" Scully said," and was attacked. His girlfriend says it was an alien. Looking at the injuries,I'm inclined to believe her." Marguerite nodded, and strove to staunch the blood flow, cleaning the wounds simultaneously.

"He'll need sutures," Marguerite said, and Scully nodded.

They worked on the unconscious man quietly, saying few words aside from basic treatment protocol.

Scully paused her ministrations to insert an IV- Catheter into the mans wrist, to give injections of sedative and pain medications. Marguerite looked over and nodded excitedly when Scully hooked the EKG to the mans chest and the heartbeat was returning to normal, the blood flow was stopping, and his color was definitely better. They both leaned over him and worked on his sutures, closing up the gashes in companionable silence.

When they were done, the man was in markedly better condition than when they'd started.

Scully looked over at Marguerite, who was watching their patient with a look of professional compassion.

"Why didn't you tell me that you were a doctor, Marguerite?"

"I've had my reasons. Good ones. I haven't practiced in over seven years. I used to do...research...before the virus.

"What kind of research?" Scully asked, and Marguerite shook her head.

"I can't tell you that."


"For my own protection. I got a second chance at life, maybe a crummy one but one all the same. I don't want to jeopardize that, let's leave it at that I was happy to assist, all right Dana?"

She stripped the gloves from her hands and Scully walked over to Marguerite. She put a hand on the womans shoulders and spoke softly.

"I'm here, Marguerite. As a friend."

"I'm sure you mean that, Dana, but I can't confide in you without risking your own safety."

Scully looked at Marguerite a long moment before speaking. Over the past few months she'd thought that they had formed a fragile friendship. Marguerite had come to her for assistance in sleeping and with horrible headaches. Until now, they had not spoken of the past, their lives before, or even their outside interests. But somehow Scully felt compelled to help her, she saw in Marguerite's eyes a pained sadness that was all too familiar, and she knew it could be lonely, living in such silence. Reluctantly, following her base instincts, she cleared her throat and began.

"I don't know why I want to press this, Marguerite, but something tells me to. I have a feeling I can help you, if you let me." . Marguerite looked pained, and then managed a tight smile.

"You could help by loaning me a change in clothes, actually." Scully frowned, and then nodded. Marguerite wasn't going to reveal anything: so be it.

"All right, follow me."

Not until Scully reached her door and was unlocking it did she realize who exactly was behind her door. She froze, suddenly, and turned to face Marguerite.

"Dana? Is something wrong?" Marguerite was speaking, and yet at the same time, Mulders voice, loud and booming: " Scully, is that you?"

"Who is that?" Marguerite asked, and then blushed " I'm sorry to be so rude, Dana. Where are my manners."

"No, Marguerite, it's...uh, a friend of mine. A good friend."

"Dana, I thought..."

"What, that I had no friends here, Marguerite?" she tried to sound like she was only being sarcastic, and not so worried..

"Well, do I know him? Can I meet him?" Marguerite asked, pressing at Scully's door, fingers demanding entrance.

`Shit, shit, shit' she thought to herself, a resonating litany.

"Scully?" Mulder again, damn him, she could recognize the little distressed note in his voice, in a second he'd be roaring her name down these hallways.

"Just hold on a sec, Marguerite. Let me go and tell him something, I'll be right back."

She crept in the door and closed it on her friends perplexed face.

"Mulder," she spat " what the fuck do you think you are doing? Practically yelling out my name. You aren't supposed to even *be* here!" He looked at her, an expression of chagrin on his face.

"Sorry, Scully, I got worried. You just left, I didn't know where you were, or-"

"It never ceases to amaze me how you think that I am entirely lacking in self- sufficiency."

"That's not the truth, Scully, you know that." He gave her a long look, and she knew he meant what he said.

"Hide in my other room - the office -Don't come out. I have a guest. A friend" she was still whispering, a melodramatic hissing that she hoped Marguerite couldn't hear from outside the door.

"Go." she mouthed, pointing, and then turned to let in Marguerite.

"Sorry," she said to her, thinking, `if Mulder makes a sound...'

He had gone into the other room, leaving Joan to her bedroom and Scully hoped Joan was still sleeping soundly. Just in case, she looked at Marguerite and smiled.

"I also have a young patient resting in my room, so I'll have to ask that we be really quiet. Can I get you a drink?" She was talking rapidly, she knew Mulder would probably recognize the antsy tone and was holding his breath from within her office. She hoped he felt guilty for flagrantly disregarding their safety. She was sure he did.

"No, Dana, if I could just use your restroom and borrow a clean sweater, I'll be fine."

"Sure" Scully said, smiling again wondering when was the last time she'd done so much false smiling, It hadn't been since the FBI, not since the days when she was riding high with Mulder, covering his ass.At least some things never change.

She was almost having fun until she heard Joan's near -whisper.

"Dr. Evans?!"

Scully saw Marguerite first : she froze in transit to the restroom, and turned slowly, in the direction of the voice. Scully started praying to God to paralyze this moment in time and let her re-arrange everything, but He apparently wasn't listening.

"Joan" Marguerites eyes had filled with tears, her voice a mixture of awe and shock.

"I thought that...." Joan said, and Marguerite crossed the room to her, looking with wonder at Joans face, her hair, her everything. Breathing her in and smiling.

"Look at you, Joan ! If Stephan were here, he'd be overcome with joy. You look beautiful!"

"So do you" Joan whispered, solemnly, and the two embraced briefly. Mulder cleared his throat from the other room.

"Sorry to interrupt," he said coolly.

Scully turned to face him, appraising his look of intense scrutiny of Marguerite. She glanced at Marguerite, who had her hands on Joans frail shoulders. Scully walked over to Mulder, and placed her hand on his arm.

"Mulder, it's okay," she said, softly, yet he didn't listen. He stared at Marguerite and Joan. Marguerite said nothing, looking frightened at the sight of Mulder.

"Who are you? How do you know Joan?" He demanded, and then turned to face her,"Scully?"

Marguerite paled, and gave Mulder a brief look before speaking, " The three of you? How did you manage to find each other ?" She then closed her eyes " Joan."

"Exuse me, but WHO ARE YOU?" He was getting upset. Scully moved towards him.

"Mulder, I already told you, Marguerite is my friend." She gave him a long look, asking him with her eyes for him trust her, before answering Marguerite.

"Well, in a round about way, yes. Joan cut her hand mid morning and ended up my patient. She told Mulder I was here and then he came to verify that it was me. And then..."

Scully looked at Joan, the briefest of smiles on her lips " Mulder brought Joan here to see me."

"So you know" Marguerite said, nodding already, not waiting for an answer.

"Stephan thought that there would be no way for you three to cross paths. Dana. I don't want you to think that I intentionally deceived you."

"Well, it's a little late for that, you obviously have." Scully pursed her lips," Mulder-" she warned. He glanced at her quickly.

Joan was still at Marguerites side, looking up at her reverently, and Scully felt a twinge of jealousy. For some reason the touching interplay between Marguerite and Joan seemed too intimate. It could just be that she was exhausted! it was already three in the morning and today had certainly been eventful.

She broke the tense silence in the room " I want to know what you know about Joan,Marguerite. But I want to hear it in the morning. I've been up a long time, and today has been one emotional roller coaster after another. And with Joans injury...I think it's best that whatever conversation that is about to be started be started tomorrow."

She saw a disappointed look cross Mulders features. He never could give up easily.

"Scully..." he began, but stopped when she put her hands on her hips.

"I think we should all stay here, together." Joan said, with absolute conviction.

"Why? I don't even know who she-" he pointed at Marguerite accusingly " is. You may trust her, Scully-"

"I do trust her, All right, Mulder." He just looked at her. " Okay?"

"Please, it's safer that way...I don't think that it would be a good idea for us to all part right now." Joans tone was beseeching. Marguerite nodded " I do agree with Joan, but it might be suspicious for us all to be missing. I'll watch over our patient, Dana, you get some rest. I'll be back in the morning and we can all.....talk."

"Thanks, Marguerite" Scully smiled wanly at her, and then added " if you wouldn't mind asking how the girlfriend is holding up, I'd appreciate it."

"Sure." Marguerite said, and then looked at Joan " I'll be back in the morning Joan, go and get a little more rest." Joan nodded and obeyed, returning to Scully's room silently. Marguerite waved a curt goodbye, giving Mulder a slight nod before leaving the room.

With the two gone, the room became silent, and she turned to Mulder.

"Can you trust her completely, Scully?" he asked,solemnly.

"I can Mulder. She's my friend, and I think that Marguerite is only trying to protect me and Joan...and herself by not telling me who she is. She has been a patient of mine for months, and she and I have become close. That to me is important, Mulder. Living here for so long with no one to talk to...it makes the relationships I do have special. I know her, and I know that for whatever reason she has for keeping this information from me, it is a good reason. We have all been through so much, Mulder. I think you are forgetting that. In some ways it's easier to trust in her because whatever the purpose behind her deceit, I believe it was fear that motivated her. She is a good, kind person. You can trust her, Mulder. You can."

"But you still don't know who she is. Maybe she's working with Them...have you considered that?"

"I have, I did. In a split second everything ran through my mind, but when she saw Joan,the response that she had, it made me trust her."

"Jesus, Scully, you trust everything now." His tone was bitter, and she recoiled as if he had struck her.

"What's going on Mulder, why are you so angry? Do you want to tell me, or do you want to brood it over in silence?"

He opened his mouth, but she spoke again before he had a chance to answer " You know what, Mulder? I don't really want to hear your answer. It's three in the morning and I'm tired. I've had enough excitement for one day. Go to sleep. I'll see you in the morning." She walked over to a small closet and pulled some blankets and tossed it on the couch.

"Just like home" he murmured.

She went to the bedroom and grabbed an extra pillow, amazed to see that Joan was sleeping again, and soundly at that. She watched her form a few moments and then went back into the small living room, tossing the pillow in his direction.

"Good -night, Mulder."

"Night, Scully."

It was a long time before Mulder slept. He stared at the ceilings for at least thirty minutes, turning images of Scully in his mind and dissecting every one of them.

Who had she become?

No answer was lurking in the darkness. He closed his eyes, finally, so that he could dream. And he saw her : bathed in yellow light. The colors coursed through the sky in vivid arcs, and he watched them explode all around in wonder. She was smiling, and laughing, and pointing at the colors.

"Show me!," she said, happily, and he stepped towards her, towards the pale lemon light.

She had on a saffron dress, her hair was effulgent orange. He could see her, she was waiting. He took a step forward...

And woke to Joan above him,smiling.

"Wow," she said to him " Wow."

"What- " Mulder was saying, sitting up, looking around.

"I've never seen the sun" Joan smiled at him, a silent thank - you in her eyes, and touched his head.

"You were dreaming," she said, matter - of - factly. He was dreaming of her mother, and she was so beautiful.

"Sure I was. I don't remember what I was dreaming, though." She frowned. He was lying, He did remember.

"You were dreaming of her." She watched in amusement as his eyes widened.

"Who?" Scully asked, coming into the room from the kitchen, and Joan smiled at her mother warmly." You." She answered. Her mother looked a little shocked " Me?"

"Of course, you. He always dreams of you, but..."

"Joan !" Mulder said, visibly coloring " you can see my dreams now? What's going on?"

He looked bewildered. Joan thought it was funny.

"It just happened. Before I met her I could only sense things, hear faraway voices: nothing concrete. But now everything is vivid and completely visible. I can see..more. It's not all that I want, whenever I want, it just comes and goes. I have no control over it. I just happened to look at you, and see saw that you were dreaming. It just popped into my mind, into my field of vision, and I saw it."

"What was it?" Her mother asked.

"Nothing!" Mulder said.

"He dreams in yellow." was all she said.

"Yellow, Mulder? Why yellow?" her mother was extremely interested in his answer. She crossed her arms over her chest and stared at him. Mulder was definitely uncomfortable, and she wondered what he would reveal.

He cleared his throat " Yellow is my favorite color. Being colorblind...growing up, well, once I was coloring a tree in school and I painted the trunk green and the leaves purple. Everyone laughed. From then on the only colors I could trust were yellow and blue. And of course I picked yellow as my favorite, the sun, the stars, the moon are all yellow. Sunflowers have yellow. So, I dream in yellow, I suppose." He breathed a heavy sigh and looked down.

"So I'm yellow in your dreams?" she asked, carefully.

"No, you're wearing yellow," he said. He didn't look up.

"You were all in yellow light, I think it was the sun" Joan added, and saw Mulder grimace.

"Where's Marguerite?" he asked, trying to change the subject.

But her mother stood perfectly still, looking at him, not wavering her glance from his sitting form. Joan knew instantly that she was terribly confused. It washed across her face, dancing in the corners of her eyes. She looked for a long moment, Joan felt her willing Mulder to look up at her. But he never did.

"I'll go check on Marguerite" she announced. Joan was looking admonished, Mulder was sullen. Neither said goodbye. Leaving the tiny space, she paused before going across the hall to ponder what had just occurred. Whatever Mulder dreamt meant something, he was obviously shaken by Joan's narration. She needed to talk to Joan about that, about the essence of privacy in some of these things, especially dreams. She'd been lighthearted about it at first, she didn't expect Mulder to have dreamt of anything important, and certainly not anything to do with her.

But....yellow. Yellow.

Why did he dream of her?

She hardly could recall her own dreams if they weren't nightmares. The most common nightmare was the one she had of Mulder, calling to her, beseeching.

She never found him. That dream had bothered her until yesterday. He was here now, and she had so much to thank God for. If only this could be easier. She sensed a growing impatience with Mulder, and she thought it might be directed at her. Yesterday in the living room he had gripped her arm tightly, tight enough to cause a tremor run through her skin.....

She sighed.

She approached the door to her lab, looking in first to assure that Marguerite was alone.

She wasn't. The girl friend of the patient was in with her, and they were talking softly.

Scully rapped on the door softly, and Marguerite gestured for her to come in.

"Dana, this is Sarah, Sarah, this is Dr. Scully."

"Hi, Dr. Scully...thanks for your help with Chuck. I wish he hadn't gone out there. I should have stopped him...." her voice wandered off, and her eyes filled with unshed tears.

"It's okay, Sarah," Scully said softly, and the girl nodded.

"How is he?" she asked Marguerite.

"Surprisingly well. Very lucky...it could have been fatal. I thought that Sarah and Chuck could visit while we talk." Marguerite looked at Scully and Scully nodded her assent. " All right, that sounds fine. We'll be back in a little bit, Sarah." Marguerite rose and walked to the door with Scully in tow.

"Before we go in there, I need to tell you something. We need to get out of here. All of us, as soon as possible. The men who run the project don't tolerate mistakes, and this is a colossal one. For the four of us to be together...it's too dangerous Dana. I have a plan, a suggestion. I'll answer your questions on one condition : that we make arrangements to leave this place as quickly as possible, hopefully tonight."

Scully motioned for Marguerite to sit in the chairs inside her lab office, and stood, arms over waist, and cleared her throat.

"All right, then, I'm listening."

Part Eight: Mendacity

"I was a doctor before I did research. I'd worked in the ER for a few years after finally finishing med school. I specialized in genetics, and hoped to find a good job doing research that would support me and keep me interested in the field. Working in the ER has a way of de- sensitizing you to human life, it makes you tired and ready to do damn near anything to sleep. One night, on a long shift, Stephan was called on a consult. He came in like he owned the hospital, ordering the ER doctors about...I was one of those doctors. It was incredible, in an instant when I met Stephan, I felt like I had finally met my match: professionally and personally. We worked together for weeks in the lab on a difficult patient. I had just handed my notice to the ER, fully ready to do research, and by then I was in awe of him. He has a mastery of the lab, procedure, God, he was brilliant. I would just watch him work and be thrilled by the sheer power if his hands, his mind, his drive. It was nearly seven years ago...amazing that it's been so long already.

"After the research at the hospital was completed, he left. I thought I would never see him again, and I'll admit to being a little emotional about that. I was impressed with how well we worked together and his skills were such an attribute...It had been a few weeks and he came back into the hospital, as I was finishing up my time there. He'd gotten a grant for transgenic research, and he wanted me to join his team. I was overwhelmed, it was so sudden, and I still wasn't sure about where I wanted to begin my career, but I reluctantly accepted. It was an honor just to work with him.

"We didn't start with humans that early, instead we used animal specimens, and we got so very close then, everything was so....well, novel. We'd stay up all night and into the morning working with DNA, encoding it, placing it in new patterns to watch what would happen. He and I worked like that, totally oblivious to anything but the purity of our work, trying to accomplish the unbelievable. It wasn't until the third year that They approached him about working on the project. For a time, he was silent about the discussion that they shared, but one night...he came to me and sat by my side, and took my hand and told me that he'd found the answer to all the dreams he ever had in life. He told me everything, everything about the project and he made it sound so....well, beautiful. Pure. I wanted to be a part of it, but I couldn't just *do* that. I mean, some part of me really thought it was wrong, but when he said how much he wanted to do it, I.....I....accepted." She looked up and her cheeks were flushed.

"Do you understand what I'm saying?" Scully nodded, and Marguerite continued.

"He followed his work at all costs, nothing took priority over that. I knew that. He wouldn't let anything stand in his way, and for whatever reason, I accepted it. By then, I knew I'd follow him at any and all costs, and told him that I would work on the hybrid project alongside him. It wasn't a completely professional decision, I wanted to be with him. I felt...I felt that I couldn't accomplish on my own what we had successfully done together."

"The first two years were a complete failure, and it wasn't until we got the new DNA from Mulder that it all became clear. Stephan was so excited then at the mere prospects. All of our time, our energy, was devoted to our work, nothing took precedence.We were nearing the goal, we could both *feel* that!"

"He didn't truly start to think of himself as a creator until Joan. All the other female specimens were not little girls, they were all experiments. Failed experiments, and they made him bitterly angry. It was difficult then, a wall built between us...outside of the lab we hardly spoke. When he perfected the advancing formula, a way to accelerate growth 330 percent, the results were astounding,. It appeared that the negative effects of the DNA's mutated form that we extracted from Mulder when his DNA underwent that metamorphosis it went through, when it became distinctly alien, weren't evident if cell growth was so quick. It was only a matter of time before he started her. I believed it wasn't possible. I was wrong. It was as though Stephan knew that Joan would be a success. He made her grow so quickly, it was amazing, she breathed in that false amniotic fluid and survived, while her little sisters all died from some complication or another, as always. He called her his " tiny piece of destiny." She nearly spat the words, some inner bitterness from within. Scully reached to touch Marguerites arm,acknowledging that time must have been difficult.

"I think he merely wanted her to live, and she did. When he accepted that, he began to wonder about the implications of the gene splicing. He wanted her to be perfect, he believed that she would be. Our main concern was the brain function. There is a very high PSI element to the DNA, as you know, I....he theorized that she would be psychic, overwhelmingly so. But it would take time to develop. He knew it would happen, but in what time frame? His estimate was that by the time Joan reached fifteen, 33 percent of her psychic abilities would be realized. I think that was a sound assumption, based on what you have told me. Joan's abilities will only become more pronounced. We knew that, and inherently wondered if her powers would exceed the limit she could stand: she can sustain more than a genetic human...I just hope that she is strong enough to endure...."

Scully looked at Marguerite a long time before speaking. She had asked to disclose this to her alone, afraid to talk before Joan in that she may not truly understand, and she was understandably daunted by Mulder. Scully watched Marguerite wring her hands before speaking again.

"I know you must be wondering, how could I do this? I can't be simple and blame Stephan, but - I blame myself for following him as I did. I can't help but somehow feel that I played a role in his death, he never would have been exposed to the virus that day in the lab if we never worked on the project together. I might have been able to persuade him, to live by my morality!" she looked away "but he was always so invested in his work, that took precedence over all else, I knew that, I accepted that."

"Marguerite, you couldn't have prevented Stephans exposure to the virus. That would have happened anyways. You can only be blessed that you were away from the lab the day of the exposure."

"Everyone there died Dana, everyone except me and Joan. I didn't even say goodbye."

"Why didn't you tell me that she was alive, Marguerite?" Scully surprised herself by asking, she hadn't expected the words to fall from her mouth, especially after seeing Marguerite suffer so openly.

"I couldn't," she said, clearly tortured.

"I studied your genes, Dana. I helped to make the pieces fit....you were a...a...subject to me, a specimen. I'd only seen pictures of you, dossiers of your life, portraits of your intelligence. They choose you as a candidate because you held so many excellent qualities....I didn't allow myself to think of you as anything but. When I realized you were alive....They asked me to look after you, but I didn't really go along with that, you became my friend. And what does it matter now, anyways....we're trapped down here, until the day you realize Dana, that it's time to go! Time to take you life in your own hands, if that only means an instant...." Marguerite was fading again, and Scully felt angry, but also felt badly for the woman before her.

"I am not a person without feeling, Dana....I just didn't think...I wanted it to all be simple, I didn't realize then that this was all so complicated." she buried her face in her hands.

"Marguerite-" Scully began, but stopped. She could think of nothing to say. Nothing that would remove the guilt that Marguerite was feeling, nothing to absolve the demons. Part of her didn't even want to. But she trusted her, she knew that within, Marguerite was a confused woman who had followed her science blindly; she had followed her partner with the same energy that fueled her research.

"I didn't even think of Joan as special until she started speaking. She looked at the world with such wonder, she still does. She has always been so beautiful, even as a zygote-....Oh, Dana. I wish I had told you. I wish I had been able to tell you that she lived, that she was your daughter. I thought the first time I met you that you would be so proud....but she had to take care of Mulder, we all knew that. We all knew that her and Mulder had a truly special bond, something science couldn't explain."

Scully sighed, incapable of speech at this point.

"Dana, I need to help you, and I am going to help you...you, Mulder and Joan. We all need to leave here, quickly, before They find out that you know she is alive, that he is alive. We all need to go, and soon." her voice was getting higher.

"Marguerite, calm down. I agree with you that we should leave, but how?"

"Through the door our patient used...I have a house, in the mountains - It has a laboratory...Stephan and I would go there, before......We can all meet there. We can't go together....they might find us..."

"Marguerite," Scully said softly," slow down. You're letting yourself get upset. Take a deep breath, Okay?" Marguerite nodded " I want you to wait here for a few minutes - I need to go and talk to Mulder."

Mulder was furious.

"You're kidding, right?" He nearly yelled it, and yet Scully looked nonplused.

"No, I'm not kidding Mulder," she said in a tone that breached no compromise.

"You are telling me that you want me to leave here, tonight, without you...and take Joan and Dr. Marguerite to some cabin in the woods?" He was yelling now, and couldn't imagine why she couldn't wipe the expression of such placidity off of her face. Who the hell was she anymore?

"Mulder, I'm asking for your help. I want you to take them to a safe place, and then go onto the cabin, Marguerite will look after Joan,and then meet us, when everything is safe."

"You want me to leave you here, alone?"

She nodded, impatiently.

"Scully-," he said, and then shook his head " I don't know that I agree with this...I can't help but feel like she might be deceiving you"

Scully gave him a cold look, she stood, her arms folded on each elbow, head turned to one side.

"Mulder, she's been through a lot, like all of us. I honestly think she made the wrong decisions, but I do think she wants to help us. I agree that we should leave, for everyone's well being."

He stared at her, a million thoughts in his mind, but instinct, instinct was screaming at him from all directions; something wasn't right.

Instinct was interrupted by Scully's ice-edged tone, as though she were talking to an infant." I want you, Joan, and Marguerite to leave together tonight. Find a place safe for them to stay. Go to Marguerite's mountain home and I'll meet you there. It's simple."

"Leave you alone?" he asked, incredulous. Leaving Scully alone was not an option.Couldn't she realize this? Had he not said it enough?

She warned him with a voice all too familiar " I'm not -"

"Look, Scully, I know what you are going to say, something along the lines of taking care of yourself, right? I don't doubt that you can take care of yourself, but you are my partner, and I won't let you jeopardize yourself for something that we can't even verify" he was incensed with her. He'd never heard such bullshit in his life.

"Something * you* can't verify, not me, Mulder, not us, and when has that stopped you before? If this were an X- file....wait -" her face turned to stone, and she continued, "- We aren't partners anymore, Mulder. This isn't the FBI and you aren't going to try to sway me on this. I'm sending them with or without you. I trust her, I believe her, and I want for her and Joan to at least be safe. There's no point in going over this again."

"Fuck you, Scully" he turned from her, amazed that he could be this angry and hurt by her words. She wasn't the same person. Not the Scully he' d known and worked with. This wasn't some new side of her, this *was* "her-and he didn't understand the new Scully.

"Mulder -," she said, he face ashen " I'm sorry for the way that sounded. But you can't tell me if it were Samantha you found here that you would not do EVERYTHING in your power to keep her safe, and you'd agree with me that getting her out of here would be your first priority. I'm asking you becuase I need your help, and were the roles reversed, Mulder, I'd do the same for you. You should know that. You should trust me, I haven't done anything to lose your trust, have I ?"

He turned and faced her " I do trust you Scully...I still and always will trust you, even if we aren't FBI partners anymore. You mean.....just about everything to me, okay. When I woke up from months of suffering through the -virus, I thought of you. I stared at the ceiling for days, thinking about you. Wondering what happened to you. The rest of the world was dead, Scully, and I kept fucking thinking of you! And when I found out from Joan, who just happens to be your daughter, I was overwhelmed with joy, all right Scully. I thought I knew you. Before this, you listened to me when I had a hunch about something, and here I'm just following my instincts, but for whatever reason, you don't listen to me anymore, you don't trust me. Everyone else, every fucking body else in this underground shit hole you believe in, but you won't listen to me!" He turned from her, tried of looking at her too pale face, afraid to see what lurked in her eyes. He didn't want to feel this way, but it was impossible not to.

"I do trust you" her voice was small," and if you really trust me - Mulder, I am asking you to look after them, keep them safe -"

He stood still " I'll do it, I will take them to D.C. put them someplace safe....and I'll go to this mountain home of Marguerite's, and I hope it exists. And since I am so convinced of your self sufficiency, I'll meet you there"

He felt her place her hand on his shoulder, felt it burning there. He shrugged it off, not turning.

"Good luck" he murmured, and left the room.

The door closed behind him and she closed her eyes tightly. At least he would go. His anger at her would pass.

She hoped it would pass.

Why was he so upset? He seemed to think she didn't trust him anymore and that wasn't it. She would always trust Mulder, and no matter what she said to him in the heat of argument he'd always be her partner, always be her best friend.

Then why, she asked herself, had things gone so horribly?

It seemed that ever since Joan had sat and disclosed the details of her life Mulder had been angry.

Yesterday, in the living room, he'd gripped her arm so tightly....

She opened her eyes and walked to the door. He'd get over it, she knew. He wouldn't be mad by the time she got to the cabin, and then they would be just like they were before...

What was she thinking? She'd hurt him, she saw it in the way his eyes had constricted to little slits. Heard it in the way he said " Fuck You." He wouldn't even turn around. She hadn't been fair to him, but she wanted him to listen. The sooner they were free, she felt that the safer they all would be. He'd understand that later, she was sure.

She re- entered the lab to see Marguerite staring blankly at the wall, her face expressionless. She hadn't heard her come in, and so Scully cleared her throat.

"He's agreed to go" She said, amazed at how hurt her words sounded.

"What's wrong?" Marguerite said, turning and looking at her.

"Nothing, I'm fine," she said, trying to have the declaration echo in her voice.

"No, you aren't" Marguerite said simply.

"Things will be all right. Mulder is worried about....about, well, Mulder is a man of instinct. His instinct tells him to be wary, but I think his main objection is in leaving me all alone. He's like that sometimes. I can handle Mulder, though."

"You were close" It was a statement, not a real question, and her voice was flat.

"We were FBI partners, we were more than close" Her own voice sounded so pained.

"I can understand that" She said, nodding thoughtfully, but Scully knew the womans thoughts weren't solely on her and Mulders partnership.

"Were you lovers?" She looked at Scully, staring into her eyes and she felt her cheeks grow hot.

"Of course not. Just friends, good friends..."

"Did you want to be lovers?"

Scully was shocked by the question. In her life before few had asked the question that had so easily fallen from Marguerites lips.

"It wasn't like that - It isn't like that," she said simply.

"But you want it to be?"

"No." she whispered, unsure of if it were a lie or the truth " Things with Mulder can be so complicated...I never really thought about that, I guess"

"You don't have to be completely honest. Stephan and I weren't lovers, but we would have been. It was just as though I had finally noticed how it wouldn't be that difficult. All the times I thought of walking over to him and demanding that he drop the pretense, that I wanted him to look at me and not just see his partner, but a woman.."

"Marguerite -" She began, but the woman was nodding " It's okay, Dana. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought this up, I'm sorry" she stared again. " It's been so long that I have even spoken of him...and .." her face crumpled to tears.

Scully walked to her and placed her hands on the sobbing womans shoulders, hoping to offer some comfort, though haunted by her words.

"Are you ready?" Joan asked Mulder, who had a very dour expression.

"Sure. Are you?"

"What is it? "

"Can't you just read my mind and find out?"

"You don't want me to know. What's wrong.? Are you worried?"


"You're lying"

He just gave her a blank look. Now must not be the right time, and she nodded " All right, all right. I'll see you in a few minutes. Did you see all the things I laid out for you? I managed to borrow a sweater from my friend Tristan. He was very cooperative. It was a shame that I couldn't tell him that I was leaving. But..."

"Joan, what do you think of Marguerite?" he looked guilty for asking, and Joan sensed that this was part of his discomfort.

"Dr. Evans? She's a wonderful person. Dr. Daniels and her had an...interesting relationship. She kind of ran everything, but he was the man that lived the results. I don't really remember her being around overmuch when I first woke up, but Dr. Daniels and Dr. Evans did work on me together, and I always cared about her. I still do. I can't help but trust her."

"I have a strange feeling, you know" Mulder murmured, his face twisted in indecisiveness. He turned to her and looked intently into her face,".Joan, I don't know what's come over Scully, she's..." he looked from her and at the bed, casting a glance over the room.

"You are still close, Mulder. It's going to be fine."

"I shouldn't have said anything," he said simply, and then picked up his bag.

"Of course it will all be fine, Joan...no one's messing with my luck" he grinned at her lopsidedly, and she smiled back. He was still nervous, below the surface,and she felt that it all had to do with her mother, but she said nothing. She followed him out the hall, ducking to avoid contact. The scary red clock red 11:15. Her mother and Dr. Evans were waiting on the other side. She was ready.

The lab was dark and silent when Joan and Mulder entered, and Mulder looked around, to see if there was anything amiss. Suddenly a whisper emerged from the darkness.

"You're here" It was Marguerite. She stepped forward, her eyes puffy and red, and Mulder idly wondered what had made her upset.

"Where's Scully?" he asked.

"In her room. She thought it was best if she didn't say goodbye. Mulder," she said, giving him a slight smile " she wanted me to tell you that she would see you soon, and gave me these vials of the vaccine. They can be used as a weapon against the Aliens, which will be needed, since we have no weapons....and some syringes. One tenth of a cc. will treat an adult. I'm telling you this in case something happens to me. The most important thing is to keep Joan safe."

Mulder nodded, and looked at Joan, who looked both nervous and excited.

"Joan, I know you are going to want to look at everything all at once, but the most important thing for us to do is to hurry once we escape. We can't stop to look. Once we are safe, I promise, I'll show you anything and everything. Do you understand?" Joan nodded.

"All right then, last chance to bail out....Joan? Marguerite" Joans face was electric with excitement, and Marguerites was passive. He let his eyes rest on the older womans face for a moment, instantly regretting his quick judgment call. She smiled at him for a moment, and he lifted the sides of his mouth grimly.

Marguerite left the lab and stealthily walked down the hallway, after a few moments she motioned for them to follow. They passed Scully's door and he nearly lingered, wanting to go in and apologize.

But, he didn't. He was confident that she knew, sure that when they saw each other again, it would be yet another beginning. With his heart pounding, he took the first step out the doorway, towards the future.

Part Nine. Dissimulation

Getting through the dark tunnel was, by far, the easiest part of escaping. Once she reached the surface, however, that rapidly changed. The air was rather cool for late April, and there was a sting of rain that fell from the sky unceremoniously. And the world was entirely silent, more silent than she imagined.

She hoped that Mulder, Joan and Marguerite were safe.

Today was Joan's birthday. She felt awful for not being there with her, experiencing the joy of her daughter's birthday. The first birthday that she could witness, that she could share with Joan. A confirmation that they had found each other, and they didn't have to be alone in this world any more. She scanned the empty space before her: nothing. Whether she was more afraid or more frightened by that, she was unsure.

It had been three days since they had left. In that three days she had done nothing but pray and feign unawareness of where Marguerite had gone. On the second day, the smoking man had come to see her. She covered her nervousness with a mask of despair, feigned mourning over her partners so- called death.

She hoped that he thought she was crazy, half out of her mind with depression.

They knew he was missing, and suspected that he was with Marguerite, yet somehow didn't think she knew. The smoking man had said nothing to give anything away, but the way he asked abut Marguerite was discerning. He seemed more interested in where she had gone than anything else, and he said with a measured glance that she " Might be traveling with a young girl, about fifteen." She had to force herself to remain still when he'd so casually mentioned Joan, her daughter. She had to swallow all the curses she wanted to fling at him for building her a life on the foundation of a lie. He disgusted her now more than ever before, and she would not have trusted herself with a weapon, it didn't matter that he was Mulders father.

She resolved not to think of it now, running fast alongside the river, the rain stinging her face and making her feel cold. Nothing surrounded her, all life was absent. Not even birds, just the sound of the river below. She tried to keep aware, looking for any sign of alien life forms in the darkness. She didn't see anything.

The Potomac still appeared the same. The ground was littered with all kinds of trash, and occasionally she'd passed a long ago decomposed body that she tried not to pause over . She forced her mind to remain empty. Deserted cars, houses, ground all mocked her as she ran.

It was a long while before she stopped.

She needed a car. There was no way to travel without one, and once she felt safe and assured that she was not followed, she sat along a curb and surveyed what would serve as available transportation.

She spotted an old Ford Escort. It was silver, and dusty with ten months of grime and dirt, a late eighties model. The doors were closed and she tried the lock; it wouldn't budge. She searched the ground around and under the car, and was filled with something akin to elation when her fingers closed around a metallic key box: it was her lucky day.

A gas station was only a few feet away, the first she'd seen in her mindless run forward. If her luck was truly with her the car would start.

With some hesitation, it did, roaring to the most magnificent life that it could have. She steered it to the gas station and siphoned some fresh gas from the dead tank. It was incredibly fortunate that they hadn't shut the tanks off before the power went out, otherwise, she'd be forced to travel solely on foot. Afterwards she tentatively entered the long deserted store. It had been robbed long before her arrival, but on the counter she saw a tiny pile of sunflower seeds. She smiled, fingering them gently, and saw the paper beneath them.

It read :

"Intuition- your place, not mine"

She held it close to her chest and scooped the sunflower seeds up, dumping them into her pocket, happy to have been given a direction, amazed at the simplicity of fate.

The first few miles were treacherous: he turned backwards again and again to make sure that nothing was following him and the two women he had told Scully he would protect.

Her words still stung his ears, and yet he felt guilty. He always did, though he rarely apologized. He regretted that now. The surface was dangerous; he thought of her, out here, on her own. Joans placating words had only been a temporary comfort: to think of her alone now was devastatingly heart- wrenching.

He didn't want to think about it: he needed to think about moving, and that was his constant focus. He couldn't think of anything except for getting to someplace safe, and sometime soon. Whenever the image of Scully would emerge in his mind he shook it away, and kept onward.

Joan was suprisingly silent, although she had promised to be, and yet he was amazed that she kept it. More amazingly, it was damp and cool for an April night that was almost near May. This time of year had always been nearly eighty degrees as far as he could remember, and the year before it had been at least seventy. It had to be at least thirty degrees under that. Tears rolled down his face from the sting of the wind. In the last May before this he'd -

He stopped his thought for the world he'd known held no resemblance to this one: there were no people strolling the side of the river and staring at the stars, the monuments were silent and dark. After a few miles they reached a gas station, and he turned, amazed to find Joan looking petrified and Marguerite being mildly soothing.

"Hey," he said " It's okay. I think we can relax now" both did, visibly.

"Why don't we take a look inside here, maybe find some snacks that we can carry along with us? And then we'll find a car and get some gas and find a nice place to stay. All right?" they both nodded, both silent, Joans face white and Marguerites expressionless.

He turned and entered the deserted gas station, long ago looted for the money it had but with partially full shelves. The beer and cigarettes he noticed were gone, but he smiled to see bags upon bags f his favorite sunflower seeds.

"There is a God," he murmured, and glanced around as he opened a bag, taking a handful and beginning the ritual that he'd so missed.

The floors were dirty and tramped with mud, but hat suprised him was what appeared to be fresh, human footsteps.

"Someone has been here," he said to himself, and could hear Joans whisper in the background, followed by Marguerite's soft whispers.

"See this?" she was saying, He didn't bother to listen.

He needed to leave Scully something to let her know that they had made it this far. This was the first landmark he'd seen so far and he was sure that she would see it too, and would stop, maybe to find some food or a car. Scully thought like him sometimes, after all.

He found a piece of paper and scrawled a note, placing a pile of sunflower seeds on the counter, right where he knew that she would look.

He motioned for Joan and Marguerite to follow him, suddenly amazed that they had come so far, already, and that things were obviously looking very promising. He couldn't imagine why they didn't let anyone go free if they choose.

He imagined that no matter how safe it appeared now, that was temporary. Marguerite was looking at him, and he wondered if he had missed something, and cleared his throat.

"Let's find a car. Joan, any look good to you?"

The world is a beautiful place, even in the silent darkness, Joan thought to herself.

Mulder was driving the car, and Dr. Evans sat beside her in the backseat. She'd never ridden in a car, it felt exhilarating, kind of scary, but a good scary.

They had seen no one and nothing since they had left, but it was still amazing. The stars came out after a while and she could almost count them, they seemed so bright. And she liked the sound of Mulder, crunching on his Seeds as he called them, though they tasted salty, too salty, to her, too reminiscent of tears. But no matter, he liked them. And Dr. Evans would whisper things in her ears about what a flag was and that was the Washington Monument. And there were big trees with pink flowers that she could see as they drove by.

They were going to her mother's house. Her old house, her house before this. Mulder wanted to show her a picture her mother had of one of her sisters, one named Emily. He wanted her to see the way that her mother had lived before this.

Joan had never been happier. She felt safe. She knew within that her mother was safe, and that was a happy feeling. Her mother was worried, she sensed that too, but as the miles passed it grew more distant. And Mulder was worried, but he didn't let it show. He was worried about her mother. He couldn't help it, and for some reason she found that to be a happy thing too. Everything was happy, she was finally alive and in the morning the sun would be shining.

Mulder would tell her when she shouldn't look. She tried not to, but sometimes she got glimpses of bodies in the street, bodies that were mostly bones and torn clothes. Bones that were old and gray and looked rough, like they had been sitting in the sun for countless years, not only ten months.

When they passed them on the road, she closed her eyes.

"So, are you and Dana close?" Mulder looked over at Marguerite oddly. She was looking at him intently, and it made him feel doubtful of her again: as though he were some type of...specimen.

They had gotten to Scully's apartment a few hours earlier and Joan was sleeping in her bedroom. He and Marguerite had said very little the entire car trip, and now, to hear her asking such an obscurely personal question was unnerving.

"We're partners," he said simply, not looking back at her, instead, surveyed Scully's apartment. They had found candles under the bathroom sink. Marguerite lit them, and Mulder walked around her apartment, suddenly missing this life more than he had ever before. Missing Scully more than before because there really was no one else, and he needed her. He looked at the centerpiece on a half table in her foyer. Nice. He never really noticed her decorating skills before this.

"I know that, but..." Marguerites voice annoyed him. He didn't like her, he couldn't trust her. He wouldn't even be sitting here with her weren't it for Scully, and her insisting that he *could* trust Marguerite. But something about the enigmatic Dr. Evans didn't bode well.

"I don't think it's a good idea for you to be asking personal questions about Scully and my relationship," he said coolly, and walked into the kitchen. It was still so neat, like she had only left it yesterday. Like she could come home any minute. He heard Marguerite's voice muffled from the other room.

"Why do you call her Scully? Never Dana?"

He came out of the kitchen, biting back a scathing comment regarding her abundant interest.

"I've always called Scully Scully. That's her name. I like to call her Scully. Dana doesn't sound right, coming from me."

"Maybe you don't want to get too personal."

"Maybe you should not be so concerned with why I call her what I call her. Does it matter?" He took a drink from his water.

"Are you lovers?" she asked, in a tone that was conspriatory.

He spat the water all over the floor in utter shock " What!" he demanded, nearly choking.

She looked as though she would laugh at him. " Are you lovers?" she repeated, solemnly.

"No! We're partners, plain and simple. I'm tired of this rhetoric, Dr. Evans. I'm going to sleep."

"It's Marguerite," she said, and then added as an afterthought " You know, Fox, you can trust me."

"Not Fox. Keep it at Mulder. Good Night" he made his voice as icy as possible.

Couldn't she get the fact that he didn't want to make friends?

Marguerite watched him go into the living room, and sighed a sigh full of disgust.

Damn him, she thought to herself.

She'd wait a few minutes, and think things through. So far, she had gotten nowhere. Mulder didn't want to tell her anything, and it frustrated her. He didn't trust her. Not that she blamed him. Not at all.

After all, she couldn't be trusted.

Dana had been the easy one. Dana Fucking Scully. Her face popped in Marguerites mind and she strove to grind it out. He'd told her that before all this, the two FBI agents had been close. So close that they could tell when the other was in danger. So close that they couldn't keep real secrets...they were that connected. A truly enviable relationship.

It seemed though, and it was an assumption, that that closeness was somewhat shattered. Dana Scully had lost her edge. She used to be strong, but ten months of utter hell had made her rescind her strength. How exhilarating.

She'd been so easy to manipulate. It was too easy, almost, the way she had accepted that story of unrequited love between her and Stephan. Maybe on Stephans part, she thought to herself, and smiled/ He had been such a pathetic man. He had worshipped her. He hadn't been the genius behind the project, Marguerite had been. It was I, she said to herself, that convinced that pathetic piece of shit to work with me on the Project, to engineer Joan and make her a perfect weapon.

A weapon they could loose if Mulder and Scully got too close again.

It was good that Dana trusted her. He'd been right about how she would believe the story so sadly close in circumstance to her own. A bunch of well constructed lies that Dana Scully had nodded her head to, reaching out, trusting in the " friendship" between them. Friendship. Dana Scully was just a tool. A piece of the puzzle. A bothersome hindrance that had to be tolerated. Marguerite hated that, she wished that they had been more careful. HE should not have been so greedy with his son,she thought bitterly. It reasserted her hatred for Mulder. How could he have been given so many gifts? To hold so many talents and a fucking radar for the truth. How glorifying it would be if he wasn't so essential.

Had only the two not crossed paths again, and she loathed Mulder because of it . If Mulder had only not waken up for a little while longer. If only Joan had never met him. Joan was the mistake in this. She should have known. Stephan had. He cared so much about the little bitch. She's just a project, Stephan...that same argument night after night after night after night. Fucking redundant. The most emotional son of a bitch, he wanted to think of her as her father.... Well, well, well. She certainly had resolved that. This was her damned project. Screw them if they wanted to mess it up. All of the scientists, all of them, they all sided with him. That she was more than a biological entity....they thought she was a person, with a soul. You can't think that way in Science. You can't follow your "heart" on these things. That was the central difference between her and Dana Scully. So smart in her life before this, and yet her life was nothing but her work, nothing but her partner, which brought her back to the reality of the situation.

The tender relationship between the two agents was fledgling at best. It was practically non-existent. But beneath the surface the two had such a powerful attraction and desire for the unknown that Marguerite could *see* it in Dana Scully's eyes. If she looked hard enough, she could see it Mulders too. No matter what little walls he wanted to build up around himself. They were pathetically lonely in the life before this. That in itself was sad. Loneliness must be universal for those two, she thought to herself, and nearly laughed.

She wondered how much time had passed...two minutes, five, ten? She could blank out for hours, in the thinking.

He was waiting. She needed to go to call him. She knew that was part of the plan, no matter how involved in her thoughts she got. It would work out, of that she was positive. Everything would be fine.

She pulled the pack of cigarettes from her bag, she'd kept them hidden. She'd even found a few more packs at the gas station. While Mulder was at the gas tank she stuffed them in her purse, what a lucky find.

It was he who got her in the habit. From the moment she met him, she knew what she was meant to do. Stand by this man, serve him well, and he will bring you everything you want. Life, happiness, work. She had him to thank for everything. He had come to her in the winter, five years ago and told her about the Project. She took no time to answer. It was all of her dreams, her wishes, her absolute destiny. She had never been happier, and it was he who she swore to thank, forever.

She lit the Morley as she softly closed the door to Dana Scully's apartment, clutching the lighter she carried for luck that he had given her. All the things she told Dana, all the feelings, they were like the way she felt for him, in the beginning. She had been so straight laced, so focused in her work. She had partnered with Stephan and it was such frustrating work. He was so self- absorbed and blind, to everything. Life was a beautiful experience to him. It was a variable to her. She met him, and from that first moment, he intrigued her. No matter the age difference, no matter the fact that he smoked and his voice was raspy from it No matter the look of a man who had killed countless and seen multitudes dead. In an instant: part of her composure fell down, and she liked it. He made her feel wild, She lived her work for him. She made him Joan, from his own son, and from him. She felt her body flushed as she remembered the night she convinced him to give of himself to make Joan. To create Joan with his sperm and his son's beloved partners ova. How intrinsically and beautifully balanced. Something Dana Scully couldn't ever *really* have. If she knew, would she be grateful?

She walked to the corner and picked up the phone which she knew would be working. He arranged for it to work. She dialed the number, it barely rang.

"Yes." His voice, raspy, burnt. She loved it.

"We've made it to the apartment: has she left yet?"

"Not tonight, but I think she will be soon - tomorrow. I'll pay her a visit."

"Don't act as though you suspect her." She heard him inhale, and she did too, closing her eyes and missing him, though she didn't say it.

"I wouldn't. How is the girl?"

"She is fine. Getting a little better at reading minds every day, just as we expected. I am impressed."

"And Mulder?"

"He doesn't trust me. He thinks I'm out to get him," she said, wrapping the cord around her finger, looking around the corners...it was a little disturbing, and still a little cold.

"I should have expected as much. Let me know when he leaves."

"I should think tomorrow. I'll be in touch."

"Yes." He murmured, and then the dial tone.

She took one last drag off the cigarette and stubbed it out with her toe. Mulder needed to trust her. He had to, no doubt about it. She had to find a way, a possibility he couldn't refuse. She needed to convince him where to let them stay, when to leave. Dana could escape any time now, on her way to meet them, maybe even here. If she went to the gas station. *If.*

Damn Fox Fucking Mulder and Dana Fucking Scully. They were out to steal her happiness.

Part ten: Providence

The apartment that she'd fallen in love with from the moment she saw it, a cozier replacement from the apartment that had seen her through Quanitco, welcomed her as though it were yesterday, not nearly a year. The door swung open and greeted her, as familiar as anyday.. A comfortable place; her space.

Mulder had left a note, she touched the corners before reading it, looking at the light streaming in through the bay windows in front. . They had the blinds in the same position that they'd always been in. Just as she remembered.

It was too much. It was all too familiar. She sunk to her couch, it was plush and soft and beautiful. She had always liked this couch, a lot. It had cost too much when she'd bought it, and it was funny to think that those things didn't matter anymore. Money didn't matter. Nothing really mattered, if she thought of it in the mere material sense.

Scully forced herself to look at the paper in her hands.

"If you've made it here, I guess something out there is playing on our team. Be careful.M & J are safe, I'll see you soon.


She felt tears sting her eyes and wiped at them absentmindedly. It was so much, still. The days that they had been apart, traveling on opposite ends but in the same direction, had been more intense than the months that she'd been in exile away from him. It seemed to be clear that she needed him, no matter what she tried to say or do to convince herself otherwise. She wished that he knew that. It was another thing that she'd neglected to tell him, another small failure to add to her list of half cherished moments and blunders destined to be permeate wherever she went. They were a part of her, and that was all she knew.

She traced the silky fabric along the windowframe, and looked into the gray water streaked streets below. The world was dull, permanently frozen and left somber and dark. A place that didn't welcome wanderers and travelers from the underground. She shivered despite herself, and moved away. Night was falling, the room was significantly darker than when she'd arrived. Scully moved to the kitchen and took a candle, and then lit it, and placed it at her table alongside the couch. She sat and stared into the flame until nightfall cloaked the sky and streets below in it's inky blackness.

She craved to fill her moments with thoughts of what she would do afterwards, after she made it to Marguerites cabin, as planned. After she saw Mulder again and could feel the smallest bit safe. After she could be safe enough to see her daughter again and to build a relationship with her. To build a trust. A second chance at happiness. But they came after tonight, and tonight was long. Long musing at the roads she'd taken that had led her here, wondering why it all felt so familiar to be thinking of Mulder and their work as though it were yesterday. As though it still existed.

She looked away from the flame, to the window, and back again, in one moment wishing them to all be as they were. As shed known them. As life was before.

He'd left them at a nice house that he was sure was well enough away from things that they would be safe. He'd even gotten them a car, and food, and waxed warnings about Aliens and eating well. Marguerite had assured him a million times that there was nothing to be alarmed about before he'd finally left, but not before he took a chocolate hostess cupcake and popped a candle in it for Joans birthday.

If Scully was here she would have wanted it to be something nice for Joan, and so did he. The smile on her face was all the thanks he needed, she seemed so suprised to hold the tiny cupcake in her hand and blow out the candle.

And he had almost missed the look of disgust that Marguerite gave him with Joan beaming at the cake perched in her palm. He would have dismissed it if the illumination from the glowing wick hadn't caught on the steel hardness of Marguerite's eyes. But in a moment, she'd erased it, back to smiling and looking pleased. He almost thought that he'd imagined it, and perhaps he had.

Maybe one day he would trust her completely, after all, Joan and Scully both did.

Joan waved good bye when he left, and he had made a point not to be too enthusiastic about leaving.

"It's only a few days, Joan," he said, in lieu of bon voyage sentiments.

"I'll miss you, Mulder!" her voice was happy. " Take care of Dana!"

"I will" He'd affirmed, and then drove away, onto the Shenandoah parkway, to hopefully meet Scully in just a few days in the woods,at Marguerite's if only she were so lucky.

And she would be, he knew she would. It was just the waiting, and the uncertainty of it all,that was unnerving.

Perhaps moreso was the abundant silence that plagued everything until he drove into the foothills, and then everything came alive suddenly. The birds that were absent in D.C started chirping, insects buzzed languidly through the air, and the forest ground was teeming with life.

Weird. It just didn't make sense.

Whats more was the fact that he hadn't seen any aliens, which was a mixed blessing. It seemed strange that an alien had attacked that man that Scully and Marguerite had worked on together just feet from the Underground compound's gates,and yet there were no aliens stalking the streets above, and little evidence of them either.

Something just didn't seem right.

The feeling of uncertainty expanded when Marguerites house appeared out of nowhere, and miraculously had a porch light burning. There hadn't been any electricity in D.C.. and yet, here, in the woods, miles from true civilization, the lights in her house still worked, were still on, basking the house in a warm glow, and beckoning to come inside in the most auspicious of facades.

He looked at the house for a long time before making a decision.

There was a slim chance that the bulb above the door was a 100 year bulb, after all, Marguerite did seem like the environmentally conscious type. And the lights inside could be the same. He hadn't seen a soul for miles, at best he's heard some birds and other woodsy creatures. Precautions, he neared the door with weapon raised, and peered in through the window ; he saw nothing.

Just a neat, well decorated cabin. He sighed and tried the doorknob: it opened without the protest of a lock.

Strange, Mulder thought to himself, very, very strange.

The trip was blissfully brief to Marguerites cabin. Scully pulled in a little after dawn the day after she'd made it to her apartment, and saw that someone, possibly Mulder, had already arrived.

The sky was shades of pink and purple as she neared the porch and peered inside, no movement caught her eye and she paused to finger her weapon stashed in the front pocket of her parka. She took it in her hands and turned the door handle, which opened soundlessly, amazingly unlocked.

The downstairs of the cabin was decorated quite tastefully in fall colours. It was lovely, and Scully took a moment to drink it all in. The architecture itself seemed older, the exterior was almost all log and well crafted. She scanned the couch and the kitchen, no Mulder.

Where was he?

She crept soundlessly up the stairs, each step tentative in both a fear that Mulder may be here and sleeping, or that someone else might be here and sleeping. Either way, she didn't want to wake them.

The top floor was empty. Nothing in any of the rooms. Her heart was pounding a dull rhythm on her temple.

She walked back down and discovered by the front door a small door to the left side. It was slightly cracked, and she toed it open delicately. A winding staircase greeted her. Bingo.

Scully moved up the stairs with the same careful ease exacted on the previous climb to the top visible floor of the cabin. This stairway seemed to be going to the attic. She saw Mulders head facing a yellow - pained glass window and paused.

The sun was streaming through the rosette and covering the room with a million facets of gold, all shades of saffron in the spectrum across. It splashed upon his face, his hair, and all along the walls. He stood facing it, looking outlined in brilliant light and totally captivated. She came up behind him and placed her hand on his shoulder lightly.

"Mulder...." he turned and simultaneously grasped her wrist.

"God, Scully, Sorry. Scully..." A million expressions swept across his face, dispair, amazement, relief, and something else...

"Mulder," she said his name again, and smiled. " I'm so happy that you are here."

He was watching her with a wide eyed wonder, as though she had done something incredible and he was still reeling from it.

"What? " she asked, and he shook his head, mute.

He was glowing from the window, and she moved from him to step closer to it. The glass was cool to her touch and suprisingly thin. She could feel Mulders eyes were on her and she ignored them, instead, she ran her fingers along the outline of steel that held each plate in place. It was a huge window, nearly cathedral sized, and nearly filled the wall. It was also old, and frail, and had a few hairline cracks from the rosette of yellow in the middle.

"Beautiful" she heard Mulder say, now suddenly near her, and she felt suddenly very weak. She turned into him and grasped along his shoulders.

"I missed you." she whispered, and was amazed at how young she sounded, so full of wonder and scared at the same time.

"I missed you, too" he murmured and stuck his face in her hair, and she felt his breath against her, and she soft skimming of a kiss along her hairline, and she was suddenly filled with fire, her entire body fragile and nearly breaking, like the window above and around her.

She realized that her eyes were closed, and opened them to see him watching her, too close for comfort and safety a year ago, but suddenly not close enough. She leaned forward, feeling dizzy, nearly drunk, until she shared his breath, they were milliseconds apart, merely breathing. She inhaled the sunshine and the smell of him so close. And it was nearly unbearable, the heat that breathing together brought her face and body excellerated with each inhalation, and when they began to breath synchronously, in and out with little shallow breaths, the silence between them static and impossible to end crackling and propelling them ever forward, she leaned closer.

His mouth was barely there, and for an instant it was a hallway, years and years ago, and the near moment, she could feel his hands at her neck and then...

Conncection. Her lips touched his for a fraction and nothing was there to stop her, no pinprick of pain from a bee sting, nothing.

In ten seconds it was real, the clinging of lips halted by the fan of breath against her face from Mulders mouth, and the salty warmness of his tongue darting against her lips, which opened of their own accord, letting him in, drinking him in, the taste of perfection and warmth and trust, and something deeper. Something that made her feel faint and fuzzy and completely incoherent. Something mysterious. It pushed at her psyche until she realized that she was hyperventilating, pushing Mulder away and leaning against the desk previously unnoticed behind her. The room hadn't changed, it was still charged and intoxicatingly still, and she couldn't breathe.

"Scully? Scully, are you okay?" She couldn't nearly stand. It felt perfect but also so painful that she couldn't cognate the source of her anxiety. His voice was from a tunnel, miles away, and she couldn't imagine that this had just occurred from one kiss. Her whole world was crashing down around her from one kiss.

"I'm fine" Her voice sounded funny to her own ears. Unintentionally but satisfyingly harsh, it made her nearly smile to see the pained look across Mulders face.

"I can't do this, Mulder," she said, matter of factly. He watched her, a look of pained curiosity across his face, his shoulders stooping sadly.

"Do what, Scully?" He asked, his tone infinitely placating. Scully felt angry at him for being so patronizing.

"We're too close for this, Mulder," she said, her tone sounding anxious. Too anxious.

A pained sigh escaped his lips " Don't do this, Scully..."

"I didn't know it could be like that, Mulder."

"Like what...?" his tone was tinged in bitterness. She looked away and wiped her lips, and sunk to the floor, feeling melodramatic and suddenly exhausted. Her voice threatened tears as she whispered " It's too intense like that.," she said, and didn't look at him.

The moment he'd been waiting for, it seemed, for so much time had come and gone and left Scully undeniably shaken: but not in a good way.

He watched her lean against the desk in front of him, avoiding eye contact and acting evasive. He wanted to know why she was so upset, but he thought he did.

It wasn't easy enough for her. The kiss between them had been electrifyingly profound, more than the kiss they shared on New years, a kiss that was filled with expectation and promise and something deep within. Something undeniably potent and irrevocably discerning.

"The way it was, Mulder...the kiss on New Years...that was nice..." She read his thoughts, he was convinced. She still wouldnt look at him, and it made his anger worse.

"The kiss on New Years was easy, Scully. Not nice."

"I liked 'easy' Mulder."

"I knew you would. It could have been whatever you wanted, however you wanted to take it. And I knew you were disappointed afterwards...but what doesn't make sense to me is why you were so disappointed this time. What did I do wrong? Are you going to tell me that this was.."

"Just stop Mulder....it's impossible. This won't work with us, I don't need it to be this way. And neither do you."

"I'm glad you feel authoritative on what I need now. Run away, Scully. I won't hold you here. Just fucking run." He threw his hands in the air and looked away. The kiss that just moments before had sent him reeling was now fueling an arcane anger, directed solely at her. He didn't know her, and maybe he didnt really even want to anymore. She was cold. Why hadn't he seen that before? He turned and faced the window, pale gold still assaulted the room as the sun made it's gentle rise ever upward.

He felt her fingers on his shoulder and didn't turn, but spoke in a voice devoid of any inflection.

"It meant something to me, Scully. It was incredible for me...and it felt right. I can't convince you that I'm what you need or even what you want. But please don't lie to me and say that the kiss we just shared was insubstantial. It was more than you expected. I could tell that you felt that way, I could *feel* that it in you. Beneath the surface. I could feel you....and I haven't felt you in so long. Not the Scully I knew before this. I thought I was finally *finding* you again."

She sighed behind him, and it sounded shaky and tremulous. She forced his shoulders to turn and look at her tear streaked face.

"I'm no good at this." she admitted," and this is hard. Hard to admit, hard to...give in... I never thought this would happen, not really." She looked into his face and held his gaze a long moment before speaking, and he felt the intensity of the air between them thicken, and she breathed.

"Do you feel this?" he asked her, directly, his voice hinging on anguish.

"What?" she managed, her voice tiny again. He hadn't felt this way since he was seventeen, he felt drunk off of champagne and was about to kiss the girl of his dreams from high school, though for the life of him he couldn't recall her name. All that mattered was the woman before him.

"Don't be coy, Scully." He smiled bitterly, and traced a finger along her cheek, which caused her to move ever closer. " That," he said, as her eyelids flickered and she swayed.

"Yes, Mulder," she said, and then looked into his face for answers. He saw the confusion in her eyes, and yet something more, something deeper, layered within.

"Show me you feel it, Scully," he spoke without thinking, the air around them charged again and irresistibly provoking.

"No Mulder" she whispered, running her hands to his shoulders, pushing but pulling simultaneously. The sun had finally risen directly before them, filling the room with bright light and she shook her head slightly with a smile. " Show me."

The pure moment that was between them was shattered nearly as quickly as it had begun, by the sound of crashing glass and four men in black ski suits, all armed with guns and leering grins.

The last thing Mulder remembered was being hit, quite squarely, at the base of his head. Before he had a chance to react, move, or stop them, he witnessed the same procedure of head bashing happen to Scully, before falling unconsciously to the floor.

He awoke some time later, still in a laying position and with an aching headache. It was dark, more than he remembered the cabin being at night, and then he realised that he was no longer in the cabin at all, he'd been moved. To a dark damp cell like area, with four walls and a door. He could barely see anything to the front or side if him, and so whispered into the darkness.


There was no answer.

The pounding in his head didn't seem to be ending, in fact, it seemed worse. He tried to stand and wavered, the throbbing in his head almost unbearable.

"Scully ! " he called into the darkness, wincing as the sound brought another rush of blood through his head, causing a sharp throbbing at the base of his neck he gingerly touched it and looked at his hand in the dark room, it was slightly damp with blood.

"Bastards" he mumbled...what had they hit him with? A sharp rock?

He sunk back to the floor, weak, calling intermittently Scully's name, which echoed and then faded into silence. Where was she? What were they doing to her? He clutched his hands into fists and the door suddenly opened, spreading a yellow light across the floor and the shadow of a figure.

"Cigarette, Fox ?" he asked as he entered.

Joan watched as Mulder sat, rocking, back and forth, back and forth.

Occasionally he would speak. His mouth would make a moaning sound that made little sense. But then again, nothing much made sense and the buzzing in her head was getting worse. That was enough to worry about.

The men dressed in black had let them walk out the doors, let them go to the car, the little silver one. And they told them to drive away and never, ever come back. And Mulder had stood and looked at them, menace in his gaze and in his stance, and they smirked at him.

And then he got in the car and drove for awhile. He told her, at some point, they were going to Maryland.

Her mother's mother used to live in Maryland; and he told her that. But that was before they stopped, where they waited, for what Joan wasn't sure. They sat in the green grass and waited, apparently for Mulder to stop rocking back and forth.

And the buzzing only got louder. She thought of telling him, but he was sad. Sad because Dana, her mother, was still locked in the dark room. And he was also angry, it radiated from him in waves, frustration without definition.

She watched him and felt like crying.

Mulder rose from the grass as twilight fell.

"Let's go Joan," he said to the girl resting in the grass.

She stood, and looked at him, perplexed. " Where are we going?"

"To Maryland. I'm going to talk you to Scully's mom's. You can stay there while I come back here to rescue Scully."

"Okay" She said, without much conviction.

They drove for miles, and night fell. And it was then, around ten or so at night, that Joan turned on the radio.

And it worked.

"WRVZ in Baltimore! Happy May Day, guys! Let's see...tonight there is a projected low of about 30, but watch out, tomorrow is expected to reach the upper sixties. And now, some good time great oldies..."

Joan looked at him and he pulled the car over, and sat in the shoulder, spinning the dial.

Rock, Jazz, William and Mary's station. NPR, Pop. Country. All blared back at him.

And thats when all the pieces suddenly fit.

There was no apocalypse.

If he deduced correctly, then D.C was a test. Maybe some other cities, maybe the whole state of Virginia. A test more elaborate in scope than the American people could imagine.

The rest of the world was alive?

He couldn't think that, not without proof. Maryland might be one of the few surviving cities.

If so, he knew how to find out.

"Mrs. Scully!! Mrs. Scully!" Each exclamation was peppered with loud booming knocks until Margaret Scully, clad only in nightdress, appeared at the door.

"Oh....my....goodness....Fox? Fox Mulder?" She raised he voice in pitch as she flung her arms about him.

"Mrs. Scully," he replied, returning the embrace earnestly.

She looked at him, not trusting her eyes. He grinned at her, and she turned to Joan.

"Mrs. Scully, this is a long story- but this girl is your granddaughter. She's Dana's daughter."

Margaret Scully did well not to faint.

Scully sat in the darkness and counted.

Numbers had a rhythm, an inherent power to soothe, and she needed soothing. Some sort of comfort in this lonely blackness. Something to speak to her instead of her guilt; anything aside from Mulders pained yell.

"Please don't do this to me, Scully."

She leaned back into the wall, wanting it to hold her, to somehow offer consolation to the decision she knew that she would eventually have had to make. Her relationships always had their inevitable end; nothing, no matter how much she wanted it to; lasted forever.

So this was it. All her work had led her here, the unwilling and docile employee of her greatest enemy and her partners father . A man who played a role in the destruction of the world above.

She closed her eyes tightly and envisioned a place of rocks, red from the sun. And it was hot, a sweltering type of heat that she thought she could feel burning her forehead.

Nothing filled her vision but bright light until she fell over.



From a distance, she heard them. A loud chorus of her name, getting closer, and closer, until nearly exploding in her ear in a frenzy.

And yet she could still hear the conversation in the background, Mrs. Scully, Dana's mother, her *grandmother*, and Mulder, her brother, her friend, discussing the alternatives.

"So, I'll need to leave Joan here, and go find Scully. And then we'll come back here and get Joan..."

Joan! Joan! Joan!

"Something very dangerous," Mrs. Scully was saying.

"I'm willing to take the risk." Mulder leaned close.

The voices escalated till she heard nothing but her name.

Then, a brilliance filled her eyes. A bright light that made the world infinitely warm. A warm, bright place.

Her mother stood, at a distance, her shape coming into view slowly, and there were rocks, large red rocks that were everywhere. And the ground was yellow. The sky was blue, with some clouds, but not many.

"Joan" Her mother said," Joan."

And the darkness, all the darkness in the world lifted up and floated away. She had to be there, she had to go. With her mother.


She blinked and saw Mulder, standing over her, and a concerned Mrs. Scully.

"Are you okay?"

She blinked again, small dots flew in the scope of her vision.

"I have to go!" She whispered. " I have to go to the place..."

"Where Joan?" Mulder asked, his voice filled with worry.

"To the place where darkness....darkness is...it's ascending." Her voice was filled with wonder, and then the humming, the loud buzz that followed her around no matter where she went, started again.

She fell to the ground and started to moan.

"Fox?" Margaret Scully said, as she looked at Joan on the floor.

"She has visions. Uh....this is going to sound unbelievable, maybe. She's Dana's, generated from her ova. It was fertilized by my father - "

Margaret looked aghast, her face suddenly blanched. " Your father? But..."

"Not the man I thought was my father, my *biological* father."

"Oh, dear," she said, and crouched at Joans side to absentmindedly stroke her hair.

"Her DNA, though, was spliced with an Alien DNA that came from me, from my brain - "

"From you?" she asked, incredulous.

"Yes. I know it sounds like science fiction but if it helps you to believe, Scully knows this is true - she'll admit it to you when you see her again....and that will be soon."

"So, Joan is part....alien? Is that what I am to believe."

"Essentially, yes. And it gives her certain...skills. She has visions, like the one she just apparently had, and she can read minds, and dreams. And just recently this buzzing sound started. It concerns me because - "

Joan moaned beneath them and reached for Mulders hand.

"You need to find her. That....place, that place I saw, she sent it to me. It was from her."

"Who?" Mulder asked,

"Dana," she said," Dana...please, go get her and bring her here."

Mulder sat back on his heels and regarded Joan. Her eyes had closed again and she looked as though she may speak.

Something in the back of his mind propelled him to reach for Joans neck. She breathed softly as he felt the tender spot in the back of her neck.

A chip.

Why hadn't he thought of it before? It seemed logical, now, they knew exactly where she was, what she was thinking, possibly.

A tracking device.

"Fox? Are you okay?" Margaret asked.

"Joan, she has a chip. In the back of her neck. They know where we are...they know that we know there was no apocalypse. He let us go..."

He stood, resolved. " Call Bill. Get him to come here and look after you. All right, Mrs. Scully? I'm going back for Dana."

"Now? But I thought you were going to wait until the morning - "

"It can't wait."

"Take my car. It's got a full tank and they might not look for you in it - "

"Thank you," he said, and impulsively hugged her.

"Please, please bring her back to me. I trust you Fox, I trust you completely."

He looked at her without words, and nodded.

As he got into the car, he swore to himself, that after this night, they were done, done with searching for the truth, done with risking their lives. After he found her, he resolved that he would not let her go.

"This is ridiculous, and surely you must know that. Surely! She's useless to the project."

"I don't think that you understand the true nature of the project, Marguerite," he said, and reached for a cigarette.

"My project was Joan," she said, and reached for his pack, extracting a cigarette and lighting it from the light he extended.

"My Project was Virginia," he said, his tone measured, reserved.

"She won't be suitable for the work you want her to accomplish." Marguerite said," Dana Scully isn't strong enough."

"I disagree. It is you that doesn't have the strength."

He pulled his gun from inside the jacket pocket and held it out, an effortless motion. His face was passive as he pulled the trigger and watched her fall to the floor in a small "thump."

He stepped over her limp hand and extinguished the still smoking cigarette with his well polished black shoes.

Mulder drove with his eyes fixed ahead. The radio waned in it's connection, returning to a dull fuzz once he crossed the county line into Richmond.

He could only imagine what Scully was going through.

Why had he left? He asked himself a million times, each mile adding another exclamation to his query. Why had he left! Just left? Just like that...no fight, no flailing.

Maybe he had been getting used to disaster.

Would she still be there? It had been under thirty six hours since he left her there, in that darkened room. He could feel the press of gentle heat against her lips as she had kissed him. Kissed him like she never would have before this, before she thought the world had ended and she had no choice.

Knowing all that she did now, would she come away with him and dare to try this, dare he think it, *relationship*? A relationship. With Scully. Something a year ago he would have laughed at.

He approached the small building with apprehension. It was late, nearly a quarter past midnight and the building itself looked unchanged.

He hoped she was still there.

A gunshot sounded through the still night air and propelled him out of his seat, closing the door softly behind him. He crept into the half open door with apprehension, his body tensing in automatic fear that she had been shot, that he had not made it in time.

The hallway inside was silent and dark. No guards patrolled the shadowy corridor. He moved towards the door that she had been behind and turned the knob slowly.

It wasn't locked.

Heart pounding, he blinked and opened the door.

The sound of a shot awoke Scully.

She sat upright, suddenly rigid, performing a series of checks to ensure that the bullet hadn't hit anything on her.

Where had it come from?

Suddenly a light flickered on, overhead. Her head unconsciously shot up and looked at the ceiling.

"Scully?" A voice.

Her name said in Mulders voice.

She stood, weary, her head light and still vaguely painful. She clutched the wall for support and spoke. " Mulder?"

The door to her room opened and he stood there, a gun clutched in his hands and relief evident on his face. He moved across the room to her and enfolded her in his arms briefly, before giving her a long look and saying " We have to get the hell out of here."

"Not so fast, Fox."

The smoking man stood in the doorway, looking at the both of them with an expression of contempt. His lined face pursed as he took a long drag from his cigarette.

"Let us go!" Mulder said, raising his gun menacingly, and the smoking man did not flinch.

"Reminiscent of days past, don't you think?" he asked, and watched Mulder cock the gun and raise it higher, in direct proportion to his heart.

"I know the truth now!" Mulder spat, his voice angry and harsh, completely unforgiving. " That there was no apocalypse, that it was only a test."

The smoking man raised his eyebrows appreciatively and his lips curved into a satisfied smile.

"Good work," he said succinctly and then tossed his cigarette casually aside, letting it fall to the floor and burn.

"How could you do that? All those innocent people?"

"It was easy." He answered.

Scully looked at the two men, aghast, trying to follow the direction of the conversation. There had been no end to the world by the virus?

"You bastard!" Mulder hissed.

"I'm prepared to let you go. I can admit failure when I'm party to it." He reached for a cigarette as he spoke.

"Oh, are you ` prepared `" Mulder taunted, his voice dangerous, a tightwire of emotion.

"Mulder-" Scully warned, and was suprised to hear her voice so suddenly weary. She reached for his arm but he didn't look at her.

"Go." The smoking man said as he lit the end of the white cylinder and greedily inhaled.

"Not until you tell me *why*" Mulder demanded.

The smoking man paused and regarded Mulder coolly," Why?" he asked," Must you really ask such a nonsensical question?" He laughed, a little bitter sound made raspy from years of smoking.

"All of Virginia? For what?"

"It was necessary. Now, take my offer and leave here. Take your precious Scully along with you." He turned his eyes to her and looked a long moment," though I will certainly miss her company."

Mulder lunged.

The smoking cigarette was knocked to the floor as Mulders hands enclosed around his fathers neck. Scully scrambled for the gun and held it over the two men. The smoking man didn't struggle, dull awareness flickered in his eyes as he watched the man above him, his son, choke the life out of him...

"Mulder-" Scully said, and touched his shoulders.

He jerked as though suprised and looked up at her.

"This won't make it right, Mulder," she said, in a consoling way, and their eyes met and held.

Mulder let go of his father and tossed him to the ground.

"Stay the fuck away from us !" He spat down to the still startled man that fingered his lapel self consciously.

He smiled at Scully and Mulder as they rushed from the building, hand in hand.

They ran, Mulders hand burning against her back, propelling her forward, to what looked like her mother's car.

"Mulder?" she asked, her breath in little pants.

"No time, Scully. Get in!"

She nodded and flung the door open, and Mulder turned the keys in the ignition. The tires squealed as he pulled from the dirt drive.

She looked over at him, not sure if she was dreaming or hallucinating, but it felt real. And it caused her to cry, great gushing tears of relief and confusion. Mulder looked at her as though afraid to speak.

"Are you okay?" he asked, looking at her with a tender concern that made her cry harder.

"Sorry...shock, I think," she said to him, her voice wobbly from tears.

They sat in silence; her tears subsided. She looked over at him and wiped the last clinging tears to her face with disdain.

"I can't believe he just let us...walk away.."

"He didn't," Mulder said, his eyes trained on the road.

She jerked her head around " Are they following us?" she asked, her voice slightly frantic.

"In a way. Joan has a chip in the back of her neck. She's sending a signal."

"Oh God, no" Scully said, her voice pained.

"And as you might have somewhat gathered there was no "virus to end all viruses."

"I heard but I didn't follow," she said, her voice normal, measured, smooth. " What's going on Mulder."

"Your family - your mom, Bill, Charlie, all of them - they didn't die. Virginia was a testing grounds for the virus and the vaccine. They told the public that it was a terrorist attack from unknown origin. A virus so advanced that all infected were immediately sentenced to death. No survivors...at least that's what your mom heard, and I imagine that same report was recycled throughout the world."

She sat into her seat and sighed " All those innocent people, Mulder," she said. " What about Congress? The President?"

"Miraculously saved, Scully."

"Do you think they know?"

"What do you think?" he asked, skeptically.

"I need to ask you about something-," he said, and met her eyes momentarily before returning them ahead. " Joan said she received some sort of vision from you - of red rocks and blinding sun."

Scully tensed and remembered the rocks, the sweltering heat.

"I saw a place....filled with red rocks. I think it was Arizona. It was probably nothing."

"I don't think that it's nothing. I think we need to go there, to look for an answer."

"An answer to what, Mulder?"

"What's causing Joan to lose control. She's hearing the buzzing...I don't know if you know that. The same buzzing that I felt when I was...sick."

"Are you sure?" she asked, dreading his answer.

"Yes." He looked at her a long moment . " I'm sorry."

Joan went to the silver car and sat.

Her mother, she knew was getting close. She could feel her coming, feel her with Mulder, and Joan wanted them to *be* here. To be here now.

Mrs. Scully, who Joan insisted on calling ' Mrs. Scully' than the offered ' grandmother', was inside the house with Bill. Uncle Bill, as Mrs. Scully said to call him.

He looked at her funny and said " Uncle?"

He started to yell then, confused noise that Mrs. Scully "shhhhssshhhedd!" with conviction. Joan left the room, tired of hearing her own tale.

The silver car had been the one her mother had driven. Inside was clean and still kind of smelled like her.

In the back were large journals, leather-bound books that lay haphazardly across the seats. Two. And a wirebound notebook.

She opened the little box in the front of the car. Mulder had said something about gloves but she didn't remember what. She unlocked the box and opened it.

Vials. Three. Filled with orange yellow liquid.

She held them into the sunlight until interrupted by the sound of car on gravel. Mulder and her mother had finally come back, and she needed to tell them that they needed to leave.

"Dana!" Her mother's arms closed around her, and Scully felt as though she could finally breathe.

"Mom," she answered.

Joan had rushed to them, arms outstretched and smiling when they had arrived, and her mother and Bill soon followed. Bill regarded Mulder with a mixture of disdain and ill concealed appreciation.

"My goodness, you look awful!" Her mother said, appalled. Scully knew she was right. Ten months of living underground had made her skin pasty, her body was thin, and she hadn't showered in nearly a week.

"Dana," Bill said, when he covered her in his big arms. She squeezed him back. Everyone had started crying, Joan and Mulder hugged and Scully's mom drew near them. She smiled at her mother and then pulled from Bill. She looked up at him and smiled.

"It's great to see you again," she said to him, her voice nearly a whisper.

"Well, then..." Her mother was saying behind her " lets go in and get some food and talk."

"Would you mind if I showered first, Mom?" She asked.

"Not at all Dana. Joan, why don't you come into the kitchen with me. Fox, you and Bill can go into the den, if you want." She turned towards the door and Mulder met her eyes, his gaze petrified over the prospect of conversation with Bill in close proximity.

"I actually need to talk to Mulder beforehand...him and Joan. If you don't mind....?" Her mother and Brother shook their heads and re- entered the house. Joan and Mulder came towards her.

"Joan- " Scully said, softly, and looked into her face, so innocent. " Mulder tells me that you have been hearing a buzzing sound. Is that true?"

"Yes. " Joan answered," and it's getting worse. Much worse. I'm afraid of it. And I keep seeing this place. With red rocks and yellow ground."

"Mulder told me that you saw it once. Did you see it again?"

"Yes. I saw it last night...I didn't tell anyone because you and Mulder weren't here. Mrs. Scully....I don't think she wants to completely understand. It was brighter this time, as though it were somehow closer. And I got the feeling that we need to go there, soon. "

Scully looked away and in her minds eye she envisioned that place again and she knew where it was.

"Sedona," she said, and Mulder looked at her. " We went to Arizona once, remember? I saw a brochure for Sedona. It has to be there."

Joan looked at her with interest, and then squeezed her eyes shut and covered her ears.

"Noooo" She said, her voice a strange whine. Then her body stiffened.

"Dana." The voice, Cassandra's. An automatic change. " You are right. You need to leave. Leave there tonight...with Joan. The answer to her problem can only be solved if you leave tonight. Do you understand?"

Scully looked aghast " Tonight?" she asked.

"He's..... coming.......he.......needs.....her.........eventually....." Her voice was choked suddenly, her hands around her neck " can't..."

She fell over, her body stiff and then limp. Mulder looked down at her as she crouched to check Joans pulse, almost too tired to concentrate on what was actually happening anymore.

Arizona? Heartbeat against her fingers strong and fast yet Joan looked nearly peaceful. She hadn't knocked her head on the ground but had scraped a knee and elbow in the gravel.

"I need some Band-Aids, hydrogen peroxide, cotton swaps, neosporin..." She intoned to Mulder, who she heard move away by a fast paced crunching in the gravel.

She looked at Joan but didn't see her, her mind not wanting to focus on anything but Sedona Arizona. Weighing her options as though they mattered again, after not mattering for so long. It could be a trap, she reasoned, stretching Joan out and pushing the hair from her face. Such a beautiful girl. The color was returning to her cheeks, her hair was still long and golden, it fell around her face and she looked so innocent. Scully nodded to herself, knowing she had to leave here, with Joan and Mulder, tonight.

Mulder and her mother returned, their faces worried. " I need a shower. And then," she called over her shoulder as her mother sat to dress her mother's wounds " we're leaving after that."

"Leaving?" Bill said from the doorframe," You can't be leaving, Dana. You just got here..."

"Bill...I have work to do," she said, her voice impassioned.

"Dana, there is no more work. You've been through a very traumatic experience, months underground, thinking your family was dead. And, that's your daughter, too, out there in the gravel and you are walking around like a zombie."

"Bill, I really need a shower. Ask Mulder to tell you why we are leaving."

"He's going too? "

"Yes. Now, let me - " She tried to push past him. " take a shower."

He looked down at her and she frowned up at him, wiggling past his arms and leaving him standing there.

Hours of driving passed in a colored blur outside of her window as Mulder slept. She needed sleep, her eyes were tight and hot as she strove to keep them open and seeing. The sun was setting as they crossed the border into Arizona. Joan lay in the backseat, her mouth open and breathing puffs of air every few moments.

She eyed a sign on the side of the road flashing vacancy and opted to stop. There was no way in hell she was driving the remaining three hours to Sedona without some sleep. And a shower. And a hot meal.

"Mulder?" She murmured, and he stirred, groaning softly as he opened each eye as though it were sticky from sleep.

"Scully?" he asked, his mouth raspy from dreaming." Are we there yet.?"

"We're stopping for the night Mulder, I need a shower and a bed, and in that order."

They pulled over to the front of the hotel, a low lying, squattish establishment with turquoise paint on the walls. An old man at the counter eyed them wearily and stood.

"How can I help you two?" he asked, and Mulder crossed over to request their rooms. Scully looked out the window at her sleeping daughter who had not even been jostled by the movement of their arrival. Distractedly she watched as Mulder snagged the keys from the elderly mans hand and tossed down crumpled bills that her mother had given them

"Ya'll have a nice night." The old man said, and returned to his seat.

Mulder walked a short sidewalk down to two rooms with an adjoining door. Scullly shook Joans shoulders softly and she slowly looked up at her.

"Mmmmm.," she said, her voice sleepy.

"Come on, Joan. A nice warm bed is waiting for you."

The sun had completely set and stars began to dot the dark sky as though they were closer than light years away. Behind the hotel lie boulders, red and craggy, their shape still visible in the hazy evening breeze.

"Scully?" Mulder said from behind her, and she turned to him and smiled.

"It's really nice here," she said softly, and reached for a bag that her mother had packed. She entered the doorway Joan had gone into, and said over her shoulder her plans to take a shower.

Minutes later, toweling off, she unzipped the black bag to reveal mens shirts and pants donated by her brother to Mulder. She twisted the towel around her body, her hair dripping as she tried to squeeze out the excess by wringing it with a wash cloth.

She extracted a white button down shirt and covered herself in it, flipping her head upside down after buttoning the row of clear buttons. She twisted the towel around her wet head in a turban style, and hoisted the bag onto her shoulder after re- zipping it up.

She knocked on the side door that joined the two rooms " Mulder?" She called.

"Come in," he said, his voice muffled. She could hear the noise of the television set amplify as she opened the door. A woman with dark hair, eyes and skin sat behind a desk and gave the weather.

He looked at her a long moment as she stood there, his body cushioned and clad in a white tee shirt and pants. She admired him a moment before stepping forward.

"I got your bag," she said, and stopped as she noticed herself in his mirror. Her shirt was nearly transparent, giving view of her nipples vaguely underneath.

"Scully," he said her name softly, and it caused her to turn slowly in his direction.

"Come here," he said, and she felt her feet moving, as though bidden by his eyes. She approached him cautiously, and he caught her wrists in his hands and pulled her to him.

She tentatively sat at the base of the mattress, her eyes scanning the room nervously. He was stroking her hand with his thumb, and she could feel him watching her. He took a finger and traced the line of her throat, which made her shiver unconsciously. His mouth trailed the line his finger burned in hot, wet kisses.

He turned her face to his and looked into her eyes. She dared to blink, and was suprised by the feel of his mouth, warm on hers, insistent. She opened her mouth, drinking him in, kissing him with unabashed passion and desire. She clutched at his hair, her mind suddenly not functioning past this moment, propelling her onward, forward, without worry about consequence or even twenty seconds from now.

She ran her hands along his chest, exploring the ripples underneath his shirt as he resumed kissing along her neck. She tilted back as he unhooked the buttons on her shirt slowly, following each undone button with a fiery kiss. She arched her back as he approached her breast, sighing, close to his ear.

"Please, please, please..."

Mulder struggled with a clear plastic button above the line of her breasts and he kissed her again, a kiss more explosive and insistent than the last. And he managed to think how incredible this was, and how much he really wanted it to not stop, not stop unless he was forced to.

He was thinking that as she shot up, stiffly.

He looked into her eyes and they stared ahead, unfocused.

"Scully?" he asked, his breath in pants, his voice concerned.

She pulled from him, swinging her legs over the mattress and landing her feet on the floor. She looked ahead as she righted her stance, but she didn't bother to re - button her shirt or sweep her hair, that had fallen from the turban style towel, and now was disheveled. She walked to the door and turned the handle, and he felt frozen by shock.

What the hell...

He got up, hopping on one foot as he swiped each shoe on and hurried out the door, Scully was walking, her motions robotic, as though they were forced, unnatural.

And then he saw Joan. She looked over at them with the same dewy expression of incomprehension. Scully moved towards her and he reached for Scully's arm. She began to flail, knocking the weight of her arm against his chest with a dull thud.

White light, bright, intense, filled the sky above them. He shielded his eyes and let her go momentarily, and Scully lunged towards Joan.

"Scully!" he called, and grabbed her again, forcing her into the dirt as the light intensified. He tried to look into it and was blinded.

And as soon as it came it was gone, and with it, Joan.

She came back to herself after the light had gone.

But she knew what had happened. Joan had been taken. Taken. She looked up at the stars and they shimmered back, unaware, unassuming. They gave no answer and smirked at her from the heavens above.

She crawled to where Joan had been, ignoring the rock, ignoring the sand. Her hands dug in the dirt that still held the image of her footprint, ever so lightly pressed into the desert ground.

Tears, hot and fast, coursed down her cheeks, and she lay in the dirt, kissing it, rubbing her face in it, letting it cover her, wash over her, give her some sort of peace.

"I don't believe this," she said in a chant, over and over, a mantra. She spoke the words without thinking, a low sound, more close to a growl than a whisper.

She felt Mulders hands at her back, he was speaking to her, but his words made no sense.

Joan was gone.

Another daughter, taken, leaving her with nothing.

Mulder tugged at her shoulders, offering her comfort. She thought she felt rain on her back, but when she looked up she saw that it was Mulder.

He was crying.

For his sister.

She sat, looking up at him, her eyes filled and flowing, unfocused on anything but her grief. She cried, out there in the desert, until Mulder wrapped his arms around her and sat beside her, and shared in their grief.

They sat until the sun rose, long rosy fingers giving illumination to the desert sky in stages, a slow ascent that made the world want to glow new again. They weren't waiting for answers, or even the right questions. They just waited, waited until it was safe to stand without falling over. And Scully rose with the sun, her face dirty and streaked with tears, the white shirt she wore colored by the dusty ground of the earth.

She extended her hand down to Mulder, and he took it.


May 10, 2001

It is with a careful consideration that I sit to write this, to attempt to outline the scope of my emotions following the loss of my daughter, my darling Joan.

Mulder and I have decided that a search for her would not only be unproductive, but also futile. She is gone. Gone as his sister Samantha was taken so long ago, and now another sister has disappeared. We think it best to not sustain ourselves on hope; hope is fallible when it comes to these things, to loss.

The morning after she disappeared we got up and walked away. I remember the laden feel of my feet as we went inside and slept, offering each other comfort in the darkened hotel room. And as I dreamed I saw my daughter; as happy as the day that we first met. The day that Mulder brought her to me and my life had forever changed. I saw her face and she whispered something to me I couldn't decipher. Her voice, ever so hoarse and shadowy offered no true consolation; and yet I awoke that evening to find myself refreshed and sated.

I don't attempt to comprehend the divine meaning of this. We got into my mother's car and returned to Maryland, an exhausting drive that was mostly silent. We passed through the deadened streets of Virginia and closed our eyes to the landscape, not wanting to see what we were a victim of for over ten months, our lives manipulated and stolen.

Back at my mother's, Mulder pulled these journals from the silver gray car that once belonged to somebody, a lifetime ago. He handed them to me and I attempted to ignore them, dismiss them, possibly even destroy them...but something prevented me. Something unbidden and dark wanted to hold onto these memories with a steady hand. And so I grasped them, and retreated inside my mother's house to drink tea and write my thoughts, though they get me nowhere.

Tomorrow we are leaving. My family is in risk for me to stay with them; and Mulder has gone to find us identification that will make us American citizens again. It feels so void to no longer have any work, we are forced to remove ourselves from the identities taken from us in Virginia. We are now normal people, going out to live a normal, ordinary life. We will put behind us the quest for answers, and emerge with a new hope of finding nothing in the darkness.

Our quest has ended.

And as I think of pausing here to close this journal indefinitely, I try to articulate what it is that we have found. So many things that no longer exist; proof tainted or stolen time and time again. Our bounty from our search is non- material, it cannot be held in our hands but it is mapped by our hearts. We have found each other.

And in that acquisition, in that powerful gift, I believe that we will finally find our own peace.

D. K . S


Authors notes:

First of all, the thank - you's: Big thanks to Jessica. Jessica, who I might not have met if it weren't for Darkness Ascending. She chose me, after all, and I am eternally grateful for her doing so. If you don't have a beta, well, you should get one, and hopefully have as good as a relationship with yours as I do mine. Jessica deserves equal credit for all the work we have done on Darkness together...she's been there to haggle tenses, grammar, and word repetition, and she helped me come up with so much of it....gosh. You are just amazing, and she bakes brownies! People, she's one in a million.

Note: This is a repost of this story. Why? Well, the text was all wrong, it was hard to read, and it was covered in errors. It was downright embarrassing! So forgive me. I thank every single on of you out there for giving me a chance! Thanks to all the authors that inspire me. And finally, thanks to my good friend and excellent beta, Jessica. She's " Simply the Best" ( Imagine the cheesy background music now)

Thanks to the BRC for hooking me up with Jessica, too, BTW.

Also, huge hugs to : Nikki- who always managed to drop a line at the right time, and that really kept me motivated. Kaleigh - for being a fellow member of XFAA and for also being a great friend, thank you for getting into Darkness and hanging on with me. cecily sasserbaum - thanks for your sweet note and I hope you managed to read the rest of the way. X- File Lizard and Darkstar from the MXFFF for saying you liked it when it was still in the infant stages. Thanks to my boyfriend, who read without laughing at my first draft and telling me I might have something worth finishing. And lastly, but not any less importantly, thank you to everyone in the fanfiction community. It is your creativity, Writers, that inspire us to write our own work, and the people who support by reading, you guys are wonderful. Thank you for reading, thank you for writing, and thank you for pressing recommend. I have you to thank for the completion of this story!

I hope you will be able to find some time to drop me a line : phriendly11@yahoo.com I'd like to know your thoughts on the ending

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