Title: Daybreak 2. Night
Author: Annie Jennings(Auralissa@aol.com)
inspired by: "When the Bough Breaks", bby Jennifer Frye
Feedback: If you have any comments or flames about this story, you can E-Mail me at Auralissa@aol.com. I'll be wearing my asbestos underwear.
Disclaimer: Guess what? My name is not Chris Carter. It's Annie Jennings. Guess what else? I have absolutely no right to use the characters of Mulder, Scully, Skinner, or even Cigarette-Smoking Man. They do not belong to me. Trust me, if I owned Mulder... well, we just won't go there, now will we? We'll just let that one slide. I also have no permission to use "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" from "The Phantom of the Opera", or "On My Own" from "Les Miserables","Beautiful Goodbye" by Amanda Marshall,"Wasn't It Good" by Tina Arena, or "The Last Night Of The World" from "Miss Saigon." However, I did create the characters of Jesse Phillips, Joe Akel, Alexandra Moody, etc. I can be proud of them, at least.
Rating AND Category: Due to some adult language and adult situations, it is hereby rated "PG-13." Its categories would (by my opinion) be MSR and A. Spoilers: just season 4
Archive: If there is anyone out there who wants to flatter me by archiving this story, feel free to do so! Only, please, E-mail me to tell me what the address is, so that I can scurry online and feel spiffy. Hey,"The X-Files" is the big thrill in my brong life as a high-school freshman.

Summary: A year has passed since Agents Mulder and Scully lost their child, and all searches for him have been fruitless. Now, just before hope runs out, an anonymous E-mail from a mysterious young girl stirs unsettling memories, as well as unsettling emotions...


Prologue: LITTLE SECRETS

#4 Oatly Circle
Charleston, SC
December 11 3:09pm

Jesse Ann Phillips sat at the computer, her eyes scanning the contents of the screen. She sighed, and listlessly took a sip of her soda. Nothing much going on in here today, she thought to herself. Boring as usual. Zilch. Nothing. Nada. This disappointed her.

Jesse thrived on action, and lived on the unknown. Secrecy was amusing. She enjoyed those little things that only she knew, and saved all of her findings. At times, she liked to shake up the Internet by erasing files and destroying those little secrets. Just minor things. Jesse was a super-hacker; a genius. At times, she likened herself to a James Bond type. She had been paid by quite a few people to wipe out other companies and rival militaries, to discover things and to destory things. She was a high-priced assassin.

And Jesse was only sixteen.

Jesse took a lady-like sip from the Coke, and blew a stray strand of golden hair out of her violet eyes. Hmm...this looked interesting. She entered in some keystrokes, and observed the results. Her interest was assured. Jesse leaned forward. "What in the hell..." she muttered, and pulled her hair up into a ponytail. The page required a password. No problem. She quickly found another way into the supposedly "impenetrable" system. Easy. But what she found there terrified her.

Jesse suddenly lost grip on the can, and it fell to her feet, spraying Coke on her Nikes. "Oh, my God," she whispered, and she found herself unable to tear her eyes away from the computer screen, which read only one thing:

"Forrester Commune for the Militant Child."


Chapter One: Stolen Dreams Returned

Once upon a dream
I was lost in love's embrace
There I found the perfect place
Once upon a dream

Once there was a time
Like no other time before
Love was still an open door
Once upon a dream

And I was unafraid
The dream was so exciting
But now I see it fade
And I am here alone

Once upon a dream
You were heaven sent to me
But it wasn't meant to be
Now you're just a dream...

Could we begin again?
Once upon a dream..."
-- "Once Upon A Dream" Jekyll and Hyde

 

F.B.I. Headquarters
Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, February 9 3:47pm

The light in the office of the Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation reflected violently off of his shiny head. "I have received something that will be of great interest to the two of you," Walter Skinner said, glancing up from the paper before him. "I normally would not assign such a case to two agents with such personal involvement, but there are other factors to which the two of you are best suited for."

Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully stared thoughtfully at Skinner. Scully was listening intently to his words, her sharp blue eyes penetrating the man's closed exterior. Mulder was playing imaginary connect-the-dots on Skinner's head, bored out of his mind. The comparison between the two partners was incredible. Scully was a petite, smooth, and elegant woman, with brilliant red hair and intelligent blue eyes. Mulder was a tall, devilishly handsome man with rich brown hair and hooded, secretive green eyes. They were two total opposites, but at the same time, they were the two halves of one perfect person, and there was some element of tension that Skinner couldn't put his finger on.

"What is the case, sir?" Scully asked. Skinner gave her a close look, then took off his glasses.

"Two nights ago, we received this anonymous E-Mail," he said, handing her a piece of paper. "There was nothing suspicious in it...until we received the attached file."

Mulder leaned over Scully's shoulder, scanning the paper. "Sir, this seems to be a prank, not a case," he concluded.

Skinner gave him a look that clearly told him to wait. "The file that was attached was only a portion, yet it was clear that there is a great deal more. This case is something that only the two of you are qualified to handle."

Mulder was curious. "What was the file?"

Skinner reluctantly handed him the torn off piece of paper. "I think that this is self-explanitory," he said.

It was all he needed to see. He held down a gasp, but the color drained from his face. His hands began to shake, and Skinner noticed that he was looking ill. "Agent Mulder, are you all right?" he asked, and Mulder silently passed the paper to Scully.

She looked at the sheet, and six words jumped out at her. Six words that held such terror, such fear, such remorse and regret. "Forrester Commune for the Militant Child," she whispered.

All of the fear, the love, the running around, the secrets and the lies returned to her. Memories of her innocent son, that baby who had Mulder's face and her coloring, the mobile that had belonged to Mulder, the deaths of Amanda Harding and Trisha Wheeler, and the night in the forest...

"Jesus Christ," she muttered. Mulder wished that he could do something, put an arm around her, give her his hand, but that was all gone now. With their mutual agreement to leave things as they were, he had forfeited all rights to her.

Skinner cleared his throat, drawing the agents' attention. "I have assigned you to this case. The two of you are to recover this information, and to solve these murders." He handed a file to Mulder, who seemed to be in better condition than his partner.

In the file, there were copies of two newspaper clipping. "The Post and Courier", a
Charleston, South Carolina
paper. There was a large, color photograph of a teenaged boy, with glowing green eyes, dark hair, and a friendly, considerate smile. The article was about the murder of Joe Akel, a sixteen-year-old who was strangled to death outside of his car at the Academic Magnet High School. The body had been found in a ditch by the car, the murder weapon a piece of twine. Police had brought in no suspects. He had been killed on February 6, and was to be buried on the 10th.

The second clipping had a photograph of a benevolently smiling, almost angelic girl, maybe fifteen, with long, golden hair and sparkling, dreamy blue eyes. This article reported the death of Alexandra Moody, a studxat Middleton High School, who had been shot in the back at Waterfront Park. She had been killed from stray gunfire, and no investigations were being conducted. She had been taken to the hospital, and died on February 3. Alexandra was already buried.

Mulder shook his head. "Two murders of local teenagers in one week? Where did you get these?"

"They were sent in another E-Mail from the person who sent us the earlier letter," Skinner explained. "The sender said that there was a connection between the two deaths that was vital to the information."

Mulder was putting the pieces together. "Perhaps the person found the information, the directors of the commune found him or her, and murdered two people close to the person as a warning," he hypothesized. Skinner nodded.

"That sounds like the most likely scenario," Skinner agreed. "The two of you are scheduled for a flight for Charleston that leaves at 9:00 am tomorrow. You have two hotel rooms at the Omni Hotel, a nice hotel in downtown Charleston. And one more thing..." Skinner passed him an I.D., and Scully one as well. "These men recognize your names. To get you involved directly would be a mistake. Therefore, you are assigned to this case under the aliases of Jennifer Redwine and Stephen Rosenblum."

Scully was startled, but picked up the badge. "Yes, sir," she conceded, and put the card in her pocket. Mulder did the same, and Skinner nodded.

"Before the two of you are dismissed, let me wish both of you the best of luck," he said, surprising both Mulder and Scully. "Somehow, I feel as though you're going to need it." Without allowing them to speak, he sat down. "You're dismissed."

Scully rose to her feet, her world in a cloud. The door was a daze, and she felt wobbly. Keeping herself in check, she left the office, with Mulder's worried eyes on her back.


She was not living this. She had to tell herself this. This had nothing to do with her, Mulder, or Christopher. It had to do with only Alexandra Moody and Joe Akel. Nothing else.

Scully despised denial. She hated wallowing in it, telling herself lies to handle life. Yet that was what this was. She had to detach herself from it all, or the case would never be solved.

Mulder caught up with her as she walked down the busy hallways of the building. "Scully," he called. She turned around, and he stood by her. "Scully, are you all right?"

She still didn't know if she would ever be all right. And being around him was too much. She would lose her resolve too quickly. She had to keep herself from becoming emotionally involved in the case. Not until they had their son again.

"Yeah..." she lied, and she shoved her hands in the pockets of her trench coat. She gave Mulder a tight smile, and swung back on. The smell that was in the air that night in the woods, when she had lain in Mulder's arms and had been taken away from all of her madness. She had had no worries in his strong embrace, her head pressed against his chest, her arms locked about his neck, keeping him bound to her.

She sighed, and realized that the scent was gone forever. That night had been both a horror and a fantasy, so deeply twisted and entwined that the fear had been a part of the love, and the love a part of the fear. She could never recapture the innocence and the sorrow of that night, and longed for it to linger in her heart.

If she could seek refuge in the blissful memory of that night, perhaps she could find an escape from all of the evil and the fear that surrounded her now. She might be able to take comfort and solace in the fact that they had once had so much... although they now had nothing.

Suddenly, she seemed to catch a glimpse of her future. A red-haired baby toddling around the room, his eyes bright with vision and hope. The red-haired child growing older, turning into an adorable child, with intelligent look in his eyes and studious dreams. The child changing once more into a lanky, athletic adolescent, handsome and lazy-eyed, much like his father. The adolescent turning into a youth, with ambition and will power comparable to herself when she had first joined the Bureau, and the youth making the last transition into a ruby-haired, sapphire-eyed version of Fox Mulder, shoving his hands into his suit pockets, his tie loosened, and a cynical expression on his face.

And the vision was gone. She was left alone in the apartment, with no baby, child, adolescent, youth, or adult, leaving her with only her stolen dreams and her abandoned love.

She realized then that she had never gotten over losing Christopher. Scully still yearned for him, and still felt the burden of guilt. It was going to be impossible for her not to think of her baby while working on this case, and she would need an anchor, a rock to cling to. She needed what she could not have.

She needed Mulder.

And she started to weep. After months of shedding silent tears, mourning on the inside but unable to cry on the surface, Dana Katherine Scully was consumed by uncontrollable, body-wracking sobs.


Apartment of Fox Mulder
11:32pm

His hands were buried in his hair, slowly ruffling the dark locks, letting his fingers push through the fine, brown strands. The alcohol was setting in, and this was a good thing.

He had to keep his mind off of the case. If he wanted to keep some sort of grip on the last shred of sanity that he had left, then he would need to forget about Christopher and Dana. They were non-existent. They were immaterial.

The tequila was hot, and delicious.

So was she.

Damn her, damn her fiery blue eyes that seeped through the cool demeanor that he carried. Damn her perfect porcelain skin that was as soft as silk and flawless as china. Damn her silky, wine-colored hair that moved so easily through his hands. Damn her spirit, her body, her mind, her heart.

Damn Dana Scully.

He had never needed anyone as much as he needed her. Hell, he would admit it. He had never needed anyone until he met her. Phoebe was nothing, a fling. He had thought that that was love. Now he knew that it was mere attraction. Seduction. Scully didn't need any of Phoebe's tricks or lures. Her seduction lay in her very being.

He knew that this was true ever since Kristen Kilar. When Scully was gone, he sought refuge and redemption in the arms of another. He had never told her about Kristen, afraid to face up to the sins that he had committed.

Did she know that while Kristen had pressed her mouth to his, he had been thinking of Scully?

Mulder sighed, and poured himself another shot of tequila. He found no solace in thinking of Scully anymore. It used to be that she was an escape. If he was ever in doubt, ever afraid, all he had to do was think of her, and he would be all right. When he had been a prisoner in Tunguska, his mind was only on her, on holding her in his arms again, of smelling the scent of her perfume.

But he had tasted that temptation. He had come too close, and now he only thought of fire when he thought of Scully. Of a brilliant, burning candle that would ignite into an inferno.

The tequila traveled through his system, speeding through his veins, blurring his thoughts and robbing him of his sensibility and his reason.

How easy it would be to just go to her. To just tell her that they had made a big mistake, that he couldn't go on torturing himself.

As the hard liquor burned in his blood, robbing him of self-control and of logical thought, Mulder started to realize that it was all her fault. The little tease enjoyed keeping him on a string. On a goddamn string. Oh, yeah, Mulder, we're just friends. Friends his ass! She was enjoying watching him suffer, enjoying watching him in pain. Well, bitch, what would you do if he came to her apartment, barged in, and showed her just what happened when that string broke? What would the little slut say if he took her then, there, and ended his misery?

Mulder shook his head. Even in his drunken state, he knew that he could never hurt her, never cause her pain. He had done it enough. How many nightmares that she lived through each night had been because of him? How much did she go through?

He tossed down another shot of tequila, keeping the alcohol coming until the bottle was empty and he was asleep.


Chapter Two: SACRIFICED PAWNS

Dulles International Airport
Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, February 10 8:46pm

Scully sat in the uncomfortable plastic chair in the terminal, sipping from her Styrofoam cup of coffee. She felt immensely better than she had last night. The initial shock had passed; she should be all right. Her suitcases had been packed, and rested in the seat next to her, reserving the chair for Mulder.

As usual, he was running late. Some things never change, she thought to herself, wishing that his perpetual tardiness would be something that he would work on. The only place that he was ever early for was work.

She finished the last of her coffee, and rolled the empty cup between her palms, back and forth, daring the last remaining drops of liquid to spill out on her pants. She would be lying if she said that she wasn't nervous about the case. She was extremely nervous, and she knew it. Scully didn't know what to expect in South Carolina, and that bothered her. Usually, she had some opinion on a case, even if that was proved wrong. This time, she was going in open and blind.

Scully checked her watch, and sighed. She was going to kill that bastard if he didn't get there soon. Kill him and string him up. A public hanging.

"These things are never supposed to bio-degrade, but I'm willing to risk it," she heard a tired, deep voice rumble from above her. She looked up to see a weary, almost disheveled Fox Mulder holding an identical Styrofoam cup of coffee. She stood up, threw away her cup, and picked up her luggage.

"Well, good morning to you, too," she replied, straightening her shoulders. Under her medical eye, she scrutinized his appearance. He looked haggard, pale, red-eyed, and ill. "Mulder, you don't look too well."

Well, considering the fact that I gave Ted Kennedy a run for his money last night, I'm not that surprised, he thought. He gave her a patronizing look, and shifted his weight. "I didn't get too much sleep last night," he lied. She didn't look convinced, but let it slide.

"Well, come on, the flight started boarding about five minutes ago," she said, and lead the way onto the plane. For a moment, Mulder just stood there, watching her walk onto the plane, admiring her grace and beauty.


The Battery
Charleston, South Carolina
3:47pm

The air was thick and balmy, warm and sensual. Scully had nearly forgotten about the languid richness of the South. It enveloped her, embraced her, and could almost seduce her. Though amid automobiles and electricity, the historic city still had an air of the old days, of women in hoop skirts and ringlets and of charming men in suits bearing magnolias. The atmosphere seemed to be taken directly from a romance novel.

Mulder steered the rental car to the hotel, his thick sunglasses shielding him from the blinding sunlight. What a perfect day for a hangover from hell, he thought. At least Scully was enjoying the scenery.

The Battery was one of the most famous spots in Charleston. It was an ocean wall, with a sidewalk where the ocean spray could bathe you in its salty, musky smell. She wondered how far the Omni was from a walk to the Battery.

Mulder turned the car onto Market Street, following the directions from the rental car woman. Tourists lined the streets, walking by the old, infamous Market. Sweet grass baskets lined the aisles, and horse and carriage tours were taking place.

"The hotel should be up here somewhere," Mulder murmured, and his eyebrows shot up in amazement when he saw it.

The Omni was a large, beautiful hotel, surrounded by a ritzy shopping center. A Saks Fifth Avenue was across the street, as well as an assortment of classy restaurants.

"Jesus," he said, in awe. Scully, too, was surprised. Skinner usually had them set up in the lousiest motels known to man, and now they were registered at this beauty?

Mulder steered the car to the lobby, where a uniformed bellhop went out to greet them. "Hello," he said, his accent pleasant and warm. "Welcome to the Omni Hotel."

Mulder was wondering if this was a joke that Skinner had orchestrated, and if they would soon be escorted to Chez Shithouse as usual. Scully, however, had stepped out of the car and smiled.

"Thank you," she said. She opened the trunk, and handed their baggage over to the bellhop. Mulder got out of the car, and a valet approached him.

"Let me park the car, sir," he volunteered. Mulder, still waiting for the punch line, handed him the keys to the rented Taurus. The valet smiled, and drove away. Mulder shook his head. Maybe he had had just a little too much to drink last night. He was hallucinating.

He leaned down to Scully, his lips near her ear. "Okay, Scully, this is definitely too good to be true," he whispered. She chuckled.

"Just play along, Mulder," she whispered back. "This is a lie that I don't happen to mind." This time, it was his turn to reward Scully with a deep, rich laugh.

The lobby of the hotel was lush, with a giant crystal chandelier and two mammoth staircases. People bustled around, shopping in the expensive boutiques, holding bags from Saks. Scully looked around, impressed by the rich quality of the hotel. She made a mental note to profusely thank Skinner for this.

Mulder whistled, long and slowly. "Well, now I do believe in Santa Claus," he quipped, and she hid a smile.

After they checked in, the hotel manager, a pretty, elegant woman with shiny golden hair, gave them their keys. "There is an adjoining door and a mini-bar," she promised. "The rooms also have a kitchenette and a balcony. Please, enjoy your stay at the Omni Hotel."

The manger had no idea just how much they would enjoy it.

Alone in the elevator, Scully shrugged out of her trench coat. "Why would we get large hotel rooms in one of the nicest hotels in the city?" she queried. Mulder arched his eyebrows at her.

"Why, Scully, I thought you said that you didn't want this lie to end," he reminded. She shook her head.

"I don't. But don't tell me that it isn't curious that suddenly, the two most hated and unwanted F.B.I. agents are suddenly treated like royalty," she pointed out. "I wonder if Skinner actually has a little pity for us."

His mood sobered. "Scully, from our loss, I pity us in a way," he said, quietly.

She was unsure of his tone, but silently agreed with him. Their loss had been one of the worst: the loss of a child. Any mother or father's nightmare... and it had come true for them.

The bellhop met them at their rooms, and Mulder tipped him for the both of them. Ah, yes, he thought, pulling out his wallet, the splendors of the luxury hotel.

But all was redeemed when he entered the room. It was absolutely beautiful, with expensive paintings, a little kitchenette, and a large television. The bed was large, and elegant as well. All in all, the hotel room was perfect.

He stepped out onto the balcony, and the Southern air hit him in the face, refreshing and regenerating him. After being sick, the breeze coming off of the ocean was a godsend. He pulled off his sunglasses, and stared out into the city.

Tourists, citizens, teenagers... it had always amazed him to know that somewhere, amid those wholesome, innocent people, there was a murderer, a psycho, an unbalanced person on the brink of insanity.

He sighed, and walked back into the hotel room.

Scully walked into his room through the adjoining door. "Finally, my reward for putting up with Uncle Jimbo's Discount Bed and Breakfast," she remarked. He gave her an innocent look, and sat down on the couch.

"I hate to interrupt our current state of mind, but we do have a case to solve," he reminded. She sighed, and collapsed next to him.

"I know," she admitted. "It would probably be the best idea to go and interview Joe Akel's parents, see if there was any connection to Alexandra Moody. We have an address, 55 Society Street," she read from the file. Mulder nodded.

"What can we deduce about the anonymous informant?" he asked. Scully bit her lower lip.

"I would say, judging from the skills of the hacker, that the person would have to be older, in at least their mid-twenties," she surmised. Mulder took that into consideration, then shook his head.

"No, no," he murmured. "Look at the connection between the two teenagers. Both were young. The age of the hacker would have to be around the same range as Joe's and Alexandra's. And in these days, you don't have to be old to be a hacker."

She thought over that, and shook her head at him. "Mulder, I hardly doubt that the person we're looking for is some sort of child genius," she said. Mulder arched his eyebrows at her, looking extremely appealing.

"And why not?" he countered.


Harborough Cemetery
Charleston, SC
11:34am

Mourners garbed in black sat in the chapel, attending the funeral of Joseph Allen Akel, the young boy struck by tragedy. Flowers lay everywhere, and only the rays of brilliant, golden sunlight broke the melancholy solemnity of the occasion.

Mulder sat next to Scully, his eyes properly downcast, paying respects to a young man who had died for the sake of another conspiracy. Another pawn sacrificed in that game of secrets and deception. Another innocent life given up in order to gain prestige and power in an uncaring, greedy society. He eagerly awaited the day when he could call checkmate, and end it all.

The minister finished his blessings over Joe's coffin, and a young woman, dressed all in black, stepped up to her place. A woman also dressed in black sat down at the grand piano, and opened up the sheet music before her. The young woman cleared her throat, and the pianist started to play.

"You were once my one companion You were all that mattered You were once my friend and lover Then my world was shattered"

The young woman's voice was true and clear, without a tremor, with a hint of sadness and bitterness. She was beautiful, strong and young, innocent and wise all at once. Mulder was captivated, and listened attentively.

"Wishing you were somehow here again
Wishing you were somehow near
Sometimes it seemed If I just dreamed
Somehow you would be here"

The girl's voice was high, flawless, and lovely. She never got off-key, and never was strayed away. The song was sad, and wistful, and Mulder was reminded of his lost child, his lost father, his lost sister...

"Wishing I could hear your voice again
Knowing that I never could
Dreaming of you
Won't help me to do
All that you dreamed I could"

The next part turned from hopeful and longing to contemplative and pleading.

"Passing bells and sculpted angels
Cold and monumental
Seem for you the wrong companions
You were warm and gentle"

As the piano took the song into its next transition, Mulder took a good look at the young vocalist. Her eyes were soft and sad, yet secretive, and her hair was short, brushing her collarbones. It was honey-colored, and she held the microphone between her long-fingered, elegant hands. But the color of her eyes was truly remarkable. They were the truest shade of indigo that Mulder had ever seen.

She raised her head again, and shook her head as she lifted her dark eyes to the sky.

"Too many years
Fighting back tears
Why can't the past just die?"

Her incredible voice reached a crescendo of questions and agony, and that soprano voice filled the church.

"Wishing you were somehow here again
Knowing we must say good-bye
Try to forgive
Teach me to live
Give me the strength to try!"

Her voice turned strong, her eyes determined, her words defiant.

"No more memories!
No more silent tears!
No more gazing across the wasted years..."

Then, the sad, longing, heart-broken child returned, and her voice softened.

"Help me say good-bye..."

While Mulder watched, the young, beautiful angel walked off of the stage, not a tear on her face, and Mulder wondered if she was weeping on the inside.


55 Society Street
Charleston, South Carolina
5:34pm

The door opened, and a slightly rumpled, pleasant, red-eyed woman looked out at them. She looked worn-out, weary, and exhausted. "May I help you?" she asked.

Mulder flashed his badge. "Agents Rosenblum and Redwine, F.B.I. We're here to investigate your son's murder."

She nodded. "I see... well, at least someone cares that my son is dead," she murmured, a slightly British accent showing. She opened up the door, and let them both in.

The luscious, expensive house was full of elegant, classical furniture. Mrs. Akel sat down in a leather armchair, and Mulder and Scully took their respective places on the sofa. "What do you know?" she asked.

Scully shook her head. "Very little, Mrs. Akel," she admitted. "We came to ask you if you had any of your own personal suspects."

She shook her head. "I can't think of anyone who would do this. Joe was such a good kid. He never got mixed up in the wrong crowd, always did well in school. He was involved with the Stage Company down here, a straight-A student..." Her voice trailed off. "This was such a blow."

Mulder nodded. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Akel," he apologized. "We'll do the best that we can to make sure that this case is solved and the man who killed your son is brought to justice."

Mrs. Akel smiled, teary eyed. "Thank you."

He pulled out the photograph of Alexandra Moody. "Mrs. Akel, did your son ever know Alexandra Moody?"

She nodded. "Yes, she was a friend of Joe's girlfriend, Jesse Phillips. Poor Jesse... she must be in agony. First her best friend, now her boyfriend. I don't know how she must be taking this."

Scully leaned forward. "So, your son knew Alexandra through Jesse," she stated. Mrs. Akel nodded.

"Jesse went to school with Alex. They had been close all through middle and high school," she explained. "Jesse is a freshman at Middleton High School. She met Joe at the Stage Company. He was a stage manager, and she was an actress. In 'The King and I'. She had played Tuptim, and her voice was just simply beautiful She had enchanted the entire audience."

Mulder was beginning to put the pieces together. "Tell us more about Jesse Phillips."

Mrs. Akel nodded, obligingly. "Jesse has a real talent in music," she remembered. "She loves to play piano, and her voice... God, Jesse's voice is like an angel's voice. She sings sometimes at 'Chef and Clef' on Broad Street. She sang at Joe's funeral today." Mulder was glad to be able to put a name with the voice that had so touched him. Mrs. Akel narrowed her eyes. "Are you suspecting Jesse of killing Joe?"

"Not unless we have to, Mrs. Akel," Scully promised. "We're just trying to find some connection between these two murders, which Jesse seems to be."

Reassured, Mrs. Akel nodded. "I'm afraid that that's all I know... Joe and Jesse were very close. This is certainly taking a toll on her."

Scully nodded. "We won't bother you anymore, Mrs. Akel," Scully promised. She stood up, and Mulder followed suit. She pulled her coat tighter around her body, chilled by the atmosphere and by the sudden realization that her partner may have been right.


1124 Flower Creek Court
Charleston, South Carolina
7:09pm

Scully looked around the neighborhood of Canterbury Woods, slightly less impressed than when she had seen Society Street. The homes were smaller affairs, with less expensive and extravagant cars parked in the driveways. It was the epitome of suburban lifestyle, however, and she shook her head.

"Do you honestly think that Jesse Phillips could be the one who sent the mail?" she inquired. Mulder shrugged, the light flashing off of his dark sunglasses.

"I believe that Jesse is definitely the connection between the two deaths," he said. "I also believe that there is a strong possibility that she was the one who sent us the files. But, before I get ahead of myself, I'll spare you the trouble and say that there is no hard evidence." She was impressed, and tilted her head at him.

"I'll also say that Jesse would have to be the prime candidate," Scully admitted. "She has recently lost her boyfriend and her best friend. Something odd is going on. Either Jesse is the sender or knows who the sender is."

Mulder parked the car outside of the house of the Moody family. It was dingy, dirty, and far from the elegant world of Joe Akel. There was a pair of garbage cans in the drive, one with a smiley face painted on it in black. Mulder chuckled at the sight of it, wondering who had painted it.

This time, Scully rang the doorbell, and a dog started barking loudly, alerting the owner that they had visitors. A woman opened the door, holding a huge, beautiful German short-haired pointer by the collar. The ecstatic wagging of the animal's short tail indicated that it was pleased to have visitors.

The woman was the exact opposite of the weepy, tender, and still sophisticated Mrs. Akel. Mrs. Moody was a petite, thin, almost skeletal woman, with deep, violet hair, heavy makeup, and red eyes. Mulder suspected that the tint in her eyes came not from crying, but from drinking. Scully took out her badge.

"Mrs. Moody?" she asked.

She nodded, and squinted drunkenly at the two. "Yeah... who the hell are you?" she slurred.

With a sideways glance at her partner, Scully showed her her I.D. "I'm Agent Jennifer Redwine, and this is Agent Rosenblum," she introduced. "We're with the F.B.I., and we have a few questions about the death of your daughter."

Mrs. Moody laughed. "Bullshit!" she said, with such pride and such conviction that Scully was startled. "Hell, if the local police don't give a rat's ass that my daughter's dead, then why should the goddamn F.B.I.?"

Mulder cleared his throat. "Mrs. Moody, the F.B.I. does not agree with the opinion of the local law enforcement," he said, quietly and sternly. "May we please ask you a few questions about your daughter's death?"

She stared at him, still slightly suspicious, but also intrigued. "All right," she said, quietly. "But call me Rosalie. Mrs. Moody makes me feel old." Rosalie held back on the dog's collar, who tried to jump up and lick Mulder's face. Mulder quickly dodged the affectionate canine, but ruffled the dog's face. Rosalie smiled at Mulder, curious. "Broca likes you. She almost never likes guys, but she seems to have taken to you."

Scully stifled a laugh, and Mulder removed the sunglasses, smiling dryly. "I've always been a chick magnet," he remarked. Scully shook her head. He had no idea.

After the Mulder-smitten Broca had been put away, Rosalie came back into the sloppy, shoddy living room, littered with action figures and clothes. She sat down across from them, holding a bottle of old Bacardi. She smiled down at the bottle, and shook her head, sadly. "You know, Lexi used to tell me that she hoped that I would die of alcohol poisoning," she murmured. "When Paul and I came home, drunk..."

Scully had little pity for the woman. It was obvious that Alexandra had taken care of the tiny house, and now that she was dead, it was going to waste. The mother had neglected her responsibilities, and now the family would suffer. "Rosalie, did your daughter ever associate herself with Joe Akel?" she asked.

"Joe Akel?" Rosalie asked. "He was the kid who was strangled, wasn't he?" Scully nodded. "Yeah, I met him a couple of times. When Jesse brought him over to pick up Lexi."

"Jesse Phillips?" Mulder prompted. The violet-haired woman nodded.

"Yeah. Jess's a great kid. Never has let me or Lex down. She's always turned up with cash when we need it, though God only knows how Jesse had it. Her family's not poor, but they aren't exactly rich, either." This sounded slightly suspicious to Mulder. "But Jesse would always be there for us. If Lex had a problem, she could always go to her. Same for me. I know her pretty well."

Scully pulled out her tape recorder. "May I ask your permission to tape this conversation?" she asked. Rosalie nodded.

"Why not, I don't have nothing to hide."


"Tell us about Jesse Phillips," Mulder said. Rosalie nodded, taking a lady-like sip from the Bacardi.

"Jesse used to come over and hang out. Played with the animals, went shopping with Lex, the usual stuff. Her parents divorced when she was about six, and her father died in a car accident when she was about eight. About two years ago, her sister, Julia, died of AIDS. It was a real tragedy for Jesse. She didn't really care when her father died. He had been a real asshole; only cared about her little brother, Robert." She paused to take another drink from her bottle. "Can't see why, Rob was always such a snot.

"Anyway, Julia had gotten the disease from her boyfriend. She'd been twenty-six when she died. I got to meet Julia once. She was a real beauty, tall, auburn hair, dark eyes... didn't look too much like Jesse, but Julia was her half-sister. Her father was Puerto Rican. Jesse's dad never gave a shit about Julia. Julia was such a sweetie, too.

"Jesse's a real smart kid. She's a talent, too. She came over all the time and played Lexi's piano." Rosalie leaned forward to stare Mulder in the eyes. "You see, Jess has this gift. She can pick up any musical instrument and play it perfectly. I don't know what the word is... um..."

"Instinct?" Scully suggested.

Rosalie snapped her fingers at Scully, triumphant. "That's it! Instinct. She plays flute, violin, piano, guitar... but her best instrument is her voice. God, how many times have I been moved to tears by just Jesse singing?" Rosalie settled back in the chair, and gulped down another mouthful of Bacardi. "Anyway, she volunteers down at Democratic headquarters, really tries to make a difference. I admire her a lot."

"Thank you, Mrs... Rosalie," Scully quickly corrected. Rosalie nodded.

"No problem. Hey, the two of you want a drink?" she offered. Scully shook her head.

"No thanks," she declined. Mulder did the same. He had learned his lesson about alcohol. Scully stood up, and straightened her pant suit. She looked lovely as usual, and her trench coat flared about her long, slim legs. "May I take a quick look at your daughter's room?"

Rosalie nodded. "Sure. Third door on the left." Scully started down the cramped hallway. Mulder stood up, and started after her, but Rosalie stopped him by placing one small hand on his chest, preventing him from following his partner. "Why do you keep asking me all those questions about Jesse? She couldn't have done it. She would never kill Lexi."

Mulder looked down at the staunch, firm, yet wavering woman in front of him. "We do not suspect Jesse of anything yet," he assured. Rosalie did not remove her hand.

"You have to protect her," she said. "If Lexi and Joe were killed, then Jesse's bound to be next. You gotta keep an eye out for Jesse."

Mulder was slowly beginning to realize that though Rosalie was drunk, she had a good point. "That's exactly what I aim to do," he said. She slowly backed down.

"You had better not let her down," she warned. "'Cause Jesse's the key to it all..."

"What do you know about this?" he demanded. Rosalie smiled, the drunkenness returning.

"Not much, dude," Rosalie slurred. She staggered back to the kitchen, tripping over a tabby cat. "Life's just peachy-keen, jelly bean."

Mulder shook his head and followed Scully into the late Alex Moody's room.


The room was crammed full of mementos and personal belongings. There was a modest piano, carefully preserved, a double bed draped with cushions and pillows, and a small stereo system. The CD library consisted mostly of classical music. Mulder found Scully bent over the discs that lay stacked up on the floor. She pulled out one, and Mulder leaned over her shoulder.

"Mozart mixed with Marilyn Manson," he mused, his voice purring in her ear. She jumped, her heart pounding, and he stepped back. "An interesting combination for a teenager."

She nodded, and replaced the CD. She looked around the room, pausing at the Star Trek posters, the paintings depicting fantasy scenes, and the metal wizard figurines. Mulder opened up Alex's desk drawer, removing a stack of papers written in calligraphy. They were mostly poetry, written with a sense of bitterness and sadness. One caught his eye.

"And in days of sorrow and desperation, I continue with precision and determination. For upon this Earth there is no sadder demise, Than that of death made from heartless eyes."

He arched his eyebrow, and nodded in agreement. He replaced the stack of poetry, and Scully sighed, sitting down on the bed.

"Isn't it odd, how some people choose to deal with their grief and others prefer to ignore it?" she mused. "I have no pity or respect for those who drown their sorrows in alcohol and refuse to face reality."

Mulder said nothing, thinking in shame of the night before they left for Charleston. He hadn't been able to deal with reality, and because of it, he still wasn't fully ready for what he was about to face.


The Omni Hotel
Charleston, SC
10:45pm

Scully smiled gratefully at the young bellhop who had taken away her tray from room service. She closed the door, and sighed. She had slipped out of her suit, and wore a simple, nicely cut ice-blue night gown. She had braided her hair into a French braid, keeping it out of her face. She sat down on her sofa, and pulled out the files that the police had given her. Scully put on her reading glasses, and scanned the autopsy reports on Alex and Joe.

Both were not out of the ordinary. She had no reason to believe that they were killed under abnormal circumstances. The kids were both typical murders.

She sighed. The connection between the two did seem to be Jesse Phillips. She was the only link that was known. The boy's girlfriend and the girl's best friend. But what disturbed her was the young age of their only suspect, the inexperience. It seemed odd that the girl could hack into a system so easily, when Kenneth Soona had struggled for months.

Scully put the files down, and picked up a new one. She had requested any past records on both Middleton High School, and the Academic Magnet. There had to be a logical explanation for the death of Joe Akel, and Scully was determined to figure out what it was.

The wind rustled her papers, and she looked up, startled to see that the balcony doors had opened, and the ocean breeze was let in. Scully stood up, and went to close them. But the moment the fresh, warm air hit her face, she stopped, and went outside.

The night was lined with stars, and the city below her lit up with energy. It was as though the silver lights had covered Charleston with a blanket of security, and all was safe and right.

She leaned against the railing, crossing one leg behind the other, and looked out wistfully at the city below her. What was she doing here? she wondered. Working for a reasonable explanation when she knew that one did not exist... deep in her heart, she knew that Jesse Phillips was the anonymous hacker.

The streets were lit up, and pedestrians walked down the streets. Two in particular caught her eye. A slight, slender, crimson-haired woman and a tall, lanky, brown-haired man. The couple walked closely, laughing, the man's arm draped casually about the woman's shoulders. He leaned down to her, and kissed her, long and slowly, and they were locked in the kiss, wrapped up in their own love for each other.

Scully's gaze was downcast, and her heart ached. In the very next room, her love was alone. She yearned for him to be with her, to stay next to her. Why did they have to stay apart when all she wanted was his touch? She ached for his hand to lovingly stroke her cheek, for his lips to claim hers in a kiss like the couple below them. Scully wanted him to end her suffering. She wanted escape.

She sighed, and looked back down at the happy couple, with an hole in her heart that could only be filled by him.


Mulder turned off the television set, frustrated. He could find no distraction from his work, and that irritated him. He needed to keep his mind free, and that was becoming impossible. Every time he got near peace, he would think of Dana Scully, and lose that momentary bliss.

He got up from his comfortable place on the couch, and stretched. He had shed his coat, jacket, tie, and dress shirt, and padded about the apartment in socks, pants, and undershirt. He ran a hand through his hair, spiking the brown strands. Mulder's eye caught the balcony, and he went outside, softly opening the glass doors.

The night differed heavily from the cold, bitter nights in Washington. In the South, there was a balm in the air, a scent that was full of azaleas and magnolia blossoms. He deeply inhaled it, and let it out again, the smell remaining in his chest.

A sigh next to him made him turn his head, and his throat tightened at the sight of Dana Scully on the balcony next to his. God, she looked beautiful, out of that nondescript business suit and dressed in a light blue night gown. Strands of her fiery hair escaped her braid, and they blew in the wind. There was a melancholy look on her face, and he craved the courage to take that sadness away from her.

Why didn't he go back inside, and walk through that door, and take the pain away from her heart, once and for all? Was he that much of a coward, that he didn't dare to take her in his arms and show her his love for her?

The slender woman on the balcony turned away, and went back inside, leaving Mulder alone on the balcony, staring at where she had been standing, and wondering if he would always be reduced to gazing at her from a distance, only allowed to love her in his dreams.


Chapter Three: CANDLE IN THE NIGHT

Standing on the outside
Looking in State of grace, state of sin
Standing on the outside
Looking in
But the feeling will come back Again
--Sheryl Crow "On the Outside", Songs in the Key of X, 1996

 

Middleton High School
Charleston, SC
Thursday, February 11 10:13am

Jesse Phillips sighed, and ran a hand through her thick, honey-colored hair. It fell in calculated, flattering waves around her face, and she methodically tucked the strands behind her ears, assuring that they would stay out of her face. She was tired, not just physically, but emotionally as well.

Jesse was already tired of the practiced condolence calls, the pitying looks in the hall, the whispers, the pointing, the kids with those false masks of emotion telling her that they were just so sorry, and was there anything that they could do? Jesse had finally lost it with an unsuspecting freshman girl, and told her that unless she could bring Alex or Joe back to life, there wasn't a damn thing that she could do.

Why didn't anyone see that she didn't want sympathy or pity? All she wanted was it to end. No more death, no more blood shed in the name of Jesse Ann Phillips. She wanted it all to be over.

Her mother had gently suggested that Jesse stay at home that day, take some time off from school. When Jesse had coldly stated that she had a duty to go to school, Jesse's mom had lost her patience. "Damn it, Jesse, you can't deny this forever! He's dead! Cry a little, let something out!" she had yelled, then immediately apologized, weeping in Jesse's arms.

Jesse was perfectly aware of what was going on. It was quite simple to comprehend. Her best friend and her boyfriend had died because of the computer files that she had hacked. They were never coming back, and Jesse accepted this because she had no other choice but to accept it. There was no point in crying over a mistake that could not be corrected. Better to simply acknowledge their absence, and move on. Which, of course, Jesse had done, silently and without commotion. She did not think it necessary or polite to burden others with displays of hysterical sorrow and tears. No, no point in that at all. The only thing that that got her was unwanted and undesired compassion.

Morgan Whiteside snickered next to her. "Well, Jess, at least Mrs. Benson hasn't gotten into the whole funeral shindig. Her wonderful outfit still has those goofy teal pants."

Morgan's bitter sarcasm was exactly what Jesse needed. She smirked at the unknowing chorus teacher. "Oh, yes, and how lovely they go with her taupe shoes," Jesse cracked. The girls laughed, and Mrs. Benson looked up at the two altos.

"Girls, please," she asked, and the two shut up, innocently.


10:18 am

Mulder looked around the barren, almost desolate campus, and sighed, sardonically. "Well, Scully, look at what our tax dollars have bought us," he said. She nodded, and looked at him, her petite and pretty face rosy from the winter chill.

"Mulder, I've been thinking," she started. Mulder let out an inward groan. This usually meant "Mulder, you're wrong, and here's why."

"What, Scully?" he asked.

"Well, I've looked over the crime reports from both schools. Now, the Academic Magnet High School shared a campus with Burke High School. Burke has a student populous which is mostly African-American. The Magnet school is mostly white. There have been past reports of gang violence directed from both schools. Now, if this is applicable, then Joe Akel would be the perfect target of gang-related violence. He was a straight-A kid, never got in trouble, so on. He was the epitome of the Magnet School."

Mulder sighed, and put his hands in his pockets. "Yeah, Scully, but what about this connection between Alex and Joe? Not to mention the fact that the hacker sent us the information. If he or she knew that this was merely an incident of gang violence, why would the F.B.I. get it?" he pointed out.

Scully sighed, and looked down. "I just want to keep an open mind. We can't go on ahead and draw conclusions before we're ready to."

The chorus room where Jesse Phillips was attending class was up ahead. It reverberated with the sounds of music, and of voice raised in song. Mulder led the way, and slowly opened the door.

Jesse Phillips, the young woman who had enraptured Mulder at the funeral, stood at the piano, and the chorus director started to play a piece. It was a melancholy melody, soft and unsuspecting, longing and dreamy. Jesse had a soft smile on her face, and when she sang, it was not in the angelic soprano of yesterday's funeral, but in a low, rich alto.

"On my own
Pretending he's beside me
All alone I walk with him till morning.
Without him, I feel his arms around me
And when I lose my way I close my eyes
And he has found me..."

Scully stopped Mulder from interrupting her. The beauty of the music ran through her, and she stood, unwavering, listening.

"In the rain
The pavement shines like silver
All the lights
Are misty in the river
In the darkness,
The trees are full of starlight
And all I see is him and me forever
And forever...

And I know it's only in my mind
That I'm talking to myself,
And not to him.
And although I know that he is blind
Still I say There's a way for us...

"I love him
But when the night is over
He is gone
The river's just a river
Without him,
The world around me changes
The trees are bare and everywhere the streets are
Full of strangers...

"I love him
But everyday I'm learning
All my life I've only been pretending!
Without me
His world will go on turning
The world is full of happiness that
I have Never known!

"I love him... I love him... I love him... but only On my own..."

The bell rang, and Jesse Phillips stopped singing.

She saw them both at the door. The man and the woman, in their trench coats, with those hard expressions on their faces. She knew who they had to be, and who they had to have come for. It was inevitable, of course. Who else would it be, other than her?

She raced to her book bag, and slung it over her shoulder. As Mrs. Benson went to greet them, she ran out the back door, quickly blending in with the mill of students around her.

Mulder cursed as he caught sight of the Phillips girl weaving her way in with the rest of teenagers. "Can I help you?" the director asked, her slight brunette head only mildly taller than Scully's own red one.

"We're with the Federal Bureau of Investigation," Mulder stated, and showed her his badge. "We would like to speak with Jesse Phillips, who has apparently left your classroom."

The teacher, Debbie Benson, nodded. "Yes. If you want, I can tell you who her third period teacher is," she offered. Mulder nodded.

"That might be a good idea."


10:22 am

Jesse ran into her English class, almost knocking over the tall, dark-haired teacher. "Ms. Haynsworth!" she gasped, and the pretty, youthful woman looked up.

"Jesse?" she questioned. Jesse nodded. "Honey, I thought that you were going to be absent."

Jesse let the remark slide. "No, I decided to come," she said, allowing a hint of dryness into her tone. "There's a man and a woman chasing me. They say that they're with the government, but I think that they want to hurt me." She told the lie easily, etching pain across her face. The ploys and tricks of the young.

Ms. Haynsworth nodded. "Do you want me to tell them to go away?" she asked. Thank God that Susan Haynsworth was a sucker for a bleeding heart, Jesse thought. She nodded back, and Ms. Haynsworth silently agreed.

As soon as the bell rang and Jesse had taken her seat, the man and the woman showed up at the door. It opened slowly, and Jesse took a first good look at the two.

He was tall, with unruly brown hair and jade-green eyes that were shadowed in pain and in secrecy. She studied his handsome face, committing it to memory instantly. Yes, he was quite attractive, with a languid grace about him that she found extremely sexy. Yes, his nose was a little too big for his face, and his hair refused to behave, but when the minor flaws were thrown in with the sensual mouth, the crooked smile, the hooded green eyes, and his earthy skin, he was beautiful. She knew that he had a past that he was trying to hide, and Jesse pondered him.

The woman was very striking, with smooth fiery hair that was cut just past her jaw. She was petite, with an air of immediate cool and grace. She had sharp, piercing blue eyes that were surrounded by thick black lashes, and a small, Roman nose. Her lips were full, and her demeanor was tight. She seemed to have a personal tie with the man, and looked to be there for more than just business. Such a possibility was alluring to Jesse, and she rather warmed to the prospect.

Why was there something so damned familiar about their faces, though...

The man took out his badge, and showed it to Ms. Haynsworth. "Special Agents Rosenblum and Redwine, F.B.I.," he said, and the classroom buzzed. Many turned to stare at Jesse, who remained cool at her seat. "We would like to remove Jesse Ann Phillips from your classroom, please."

Ms. Haynsworth refused. "I'm sorry, but unless you're her parents, I can't let Jesse out."

The woman, Redwine, had a look of utter protest on her pretty face. "Ms. Haynsworth, we're with the..."

"Yes, I know. Would you please step out in the hall with me?" she asked, maintaining the smile on her face.

Once the teacher and the "agents" were gone, Jesse picked up her book bag, slinging it over her slim shoulders, and stood up. The class turned around, and stared. She gave them firm, cold, ice-laden glares, and pulled on a black baseball hat. "I'm going to leave, now," she said. "I don't care what you tell Ms. Haynsworth, but I won't be coming back."

There were no protests from the awe-struck sophomores. With that final vote of confidence, she calmly opened up a window, and slid her slender, athletic body out, dropping to the ground. She then ran toward her car, all the while not allowing herself to think of the consequences that would surely face her when or if she returned to Middleton High.


"Ms. Haynsworth, I can assure you that we are with the Federal Bureau of Investigation," Scully said, becoming exasperated. God, this was like dealing with Mulder at his most paranoid, or with the Lone Gunmen during Sweeps Month.

The spiritual English teacher sighed. "Look, Miss Redwine, I've lost one student already. I refuse to lose another," she said. "Jesse is my responsibility, and if she has reasons to believe that you might hurt her, then I have to listen to her and give her the benefit of the doubt."

Scully placed her hand on Ms. Haynsworth's arm, not in a hostile way, but in a way to let her know that she was doing the right thing. "Ms. Haynsworth, your devotion and concern for Jesse is just and admirable. But she is in great danger, and we need to get her out of sight before something horrible happens."

Something changed in Susan Haynsworth's eyes when Scully spoke, but it was too late.

Mulder crossed his arms around his chest, and leaned against the wall. He was getting more and more anxious. There was something wrong. He knew it. Like the silence coming from the classroom. When he was a kid, every time the teacher left the room chaos broke out. Nobody spoke in the room.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a figure running across the lawn in a black jacket and a hat, toting a purple book bag. "Jesus Christ," he muttered, and interrupted the budding argument between his partner and the concerned English teacher by grabbing Scully's arm. She pulled away for a moment, startled.

"Rosenblum, what is it?" she questioned, keeping in character. Mulder pointed out the window at the teen dashing toward a raspberry colored convertible.

"Jesse's leaving!" he said, and Ms. Haynsworth looked.

"Jesse?" she asked, confused.

The two agents began chasing after her, but the moment they got out on the lawn, the car was speeding away, Jesse's short, dark blonde hair blowing in the wind.

Mulder cursed again, and kicked the brick wall. This was probably not the brightest thing to do, he thought, and almost let out another string of four-letter words when the pain in his foot started up. What prevented him was the steadying voice of Dana Scully.

"You were right," she conceded. "Jesse's got something to hide, and I think that it would be safe to guess what."


4 Oatly Circle
Charleston, SC
1:34pm

The two agents sat in the rental Ford outside of the Phillips residence, hidden from sight. Mulder was growing bored, and his coffee sup was already emptying too quickly for his taste.

Scully passed the file to Mulder, and he looked at it, musing over it. "So, this is the elusive Jesse Phillips," he murmured, and took out the glossy high school photograph, studying and memorizing her appearance.

The girl was beautiful, there was no denying that. According to her profile, she was 5' 5'', 115 pounds. Turned sixteen last November, owner of a Chrysler Le Baron convertible, license plate number AEJ-227. The photograph was flattering, showing her in a deep purple satin shirt and black velvet pants. The smile she wore was mysterious, and her indigo eyes were dark with shadows.

Mulder turned to the instant photos that he had taken from a distance that day, handing over some copies to his partner. Scully closely examined the picture of Jesse, and put on her glasses. Mulder did the same, taking a good look at her.

"She's obviously got money," he observed. "Look at the leather jacket. It's got to be at least two hundred bucks. And those shoes are Air Nikes, top quality athletic shoes."

Scully scrutinized the photo. "The jacket's in a designer cut. I'd put a tag of three hundred dollars on it. Look at her nails. That's a professional manicure. And they're painted green."

Mulder chuckled. "Kids these days."

She smiled tightly, and continued her appraisal of Jesse Phillips. "I don't know, Mulder, just what to think..." she murmured. "All this money is rather suspicious."

"Remember what we know..." he mused. "Rosalie Moody said that whenever they needed it, Jesse would show up with money. She didn't know how Jesse got the money, but Jesse always had it. We also know that her family is upper middle-class, not rich enough to afford the car, the designer clothes, the rest of it. And, if our suspicions are correct, she is a genius with a computer."

Scully slowly put the clues together. "So, Jesse gets the money via the Internet," she concluded. "Breaking into accounts?"

Mulder shook his head. "No. Nothing that illegal. Rosalie said that she is very aware of the world around her, and is an active Democrat. She has high moral standards. Breaking into accounts and simply stealing the money would be against her beliefs."

Scully lost him. "So, what are you saying?"

He looked straight into her clear, crystal blue eyes. "Scully, have you ever heard of computer assassins?" he asked. She nodded.

"Sure, large corporations and companies hire computer hackers to find out secrets about the competition in order to get an edge in the market," she said. "Some governments use them so that they can uncover plans and strategies during war." She looked at him, startled. "Of course... Jesse's an assassin."

Mulder nodded. "And one day, she hacked into the wrong system," he finished. "Leaving her with these files and ensuring the fate of her friends and family."

Scully shook her head, keeping a close eye on the house of Jesse Phillips, sipping slowly on her Styrofoam cup of coffee.


11:34pm

Jesse smiled as she turned on her stereo system. Those damn Feds had been sitting out there all day, watching her from their car. And they thought that she was some kind of blind idiot? Come on, she thought. Give a girl some credit.

Jesse had been tempted to wave at them with a big smile on her face, but had so far resisted. She had decided that her best protection was her privacy and her mystery. If she could successfully remain in the shadows and the gloom, then perhaps this all might end.

Jesse shut her blinds, knowing that either Redwine or Rosenblum would be watching. She certainly wasn't going to undress in front of them. Jesse pulled off her stylish clothes and put on her typical night clothes. A white tank top and green, plaid, flannel boxer shorts. She sighed, and brushed out her dark gold hair, the strands grazing her shoulders. Jesse climbed into bed, pulling the ivy-printed sheets up to her chin.

Before she fell asleep, she pressed play on the stereo, listening to the soothing, luscious sounds of Fiona Apple.


Mulder sighed, and popped a sunflower seed in his mouth, systematically chewing it, and spitting out the damp shell. He tossed it in the unused ash tray, and started again on another one.

Scully had fallen asleep next to him, and her head of crimson fell on the back of the seat like a waterfall of ruby silk.

At times, Mulder was grateful for his insomnia. During stake outs, it had proved to be an asset. But during long nights, and in hard times, he yearned for the refuge of sleep. Especially lately...

Mulder steered his mind away from the thought of the woman sitting next to him. She was off-limits. He turned on the radio, and switched around, settling on an alternative station, where a beautiful song was playing, simple and blues.

Fed up with my destiny
And this place of no return
Guess I'll take another day, and slowly watch it burn

It doesn't really matter how the time goes by
Cause I still remember you and I
And that beautiful goodbye

Mulder turned his head, and looked down at the lovely, moonlit face next to him. Her lips were slightly parted, her eyelids still. The blue light from the streets was cast upon her face, and she looked as though she had been carved from ice. In slumber, she was young and flawless.

He felt the same frustration that the singer felt, that same feeling that there was nothing to do after she was gone. It really didn't matter to him what happened. All he had to know was that she wasn't there.

We staggered through these empty streets
Laughing arm in arm
The night had made a mess of me
Your confession kept me warm

And I don't really miss you, I just need to know
Do you ever think of you and I
And that beautiful goodbye

That night in the forest... The way she had felt in his arms, her hair under his lips, her breath so near his mouth that he could feel the heat, all of these memories created a potpourri in his mind, a blend of fragrances and visions. He wondered if that night had been forgotten in her mind. Did she still think of what had started and ended while they had been trapped in their self-made prison?

When I see you now I wonder how
I could've watched you walk away
If I let you down
Please forgive me now
For that beautiful goodbye

God, how he regretted agreeing with her. It was something that he never could allow himself to get over. Each day was a reminder of what they could have been, if they could have been together. Each day, he was more and more tormented by her prescence and her beauty.

In these days of no regrets
I'll keep mine to myself
And all the things we never said I can say for someone else

Cause nothing lasts forever, but we always try
And I just can't help but wonder why
We let it pass us by

And Mulder would have tried to make it last forever. He knew that he loved her. Christ, he knew that she loved him. At least, once upon a dream, he could have had her for his own. Now, he could only look down at her, and keep his regrets to himself, and lie to himself by trying to forget her.

When I see you now I wonder how
I could've watched you walk away
If I let you down
Please forgive me now
For that beautiful goodbye...

Scully's head drooped down to rest on his shoulder. His body trembled, but he had not the heart or the courage to gently push her away. Instead, she lay there, and Mulder changed the radio station.


It was day.

Daylight in Waterfront Park.

The setting was exactly like it had been on that fateful day when Alex had been shot. There was sunlight shining on the Atlantic Ocean, and those really fine guys roller blading without their shirts on. She stood there, in the middle of the pineapple fountain, wearing that same ice blue bikini that she had worn on February 3.

She could still remember whose bright idea it had been to go to the park. Alex had suggested it, claiming that it was definitely too warm to stay inside and watch Rosalie get wasted. Eager to get Alex away from her mother, Jesse had agreed. Alex had shown up in the skimpiest bathing suit she owned, a bright red string thing that had looked preposterous off but perfect on.

Now, she saw Alex in front of her, laughing and splashing Jesse with the freezing cold water. She relished the feel of the cold water in her face, and splashed it back.

"I'm going to get you for that!" Alex screamed, joyously pushing Jesse into the water fountain. Jesse laughed, and pulled Alex in after her, toppling the girl's balance.

Soaked to the bone and loving the memory, Jesse laughed merrily, never wanting to leave the comfort and happiness that had surrounded that day. But the scenery seemed to freeze around them, and Alex was standing up. The three hot Roller bladers stopped in mid-spin, and only Alex, Jesse, and the water in the fountain moved. All else was still.

Jesse pushed the strands of wet hair out of her face. She still sat, sprawled out on the floor of the pineapple fountain. Alex squeezed out her dripping mane of bright gold, and stepped out of the fountain.

"It's over, Jesse," Alex said, sadly. "I wish that things could have been different, but they aren't. I have things to show you."

Jesse, bewildered and disappointed, stood up, water dripping down her chin. Alex nodded to her, and started to walk down to the pier.

On each of the swings lining the pier, there was a pair of people that Jesse knew. The first pair was of Alexandra, her eyes hollow and grave, still wearing that scarlet bikini, and Joe, his bright green eyes morose, wearing the jeans and Smashing Pumpkins tee-shirt that he had worn the day he died.

Slowly, the pair on the swing faded to nothing, leaving an empty swing, rocking in the wind. Of course the swing was empty, Jesse thought. Those are the dead ones.

The next swing held her mother and her brother, Rob sitting in Christine Phillips' lap. A faded Julia somberly pushed the swing, but there were no whoops and hollers coming from her smaller sibling. Only that shameful, repentant gaze. They faded away next.

The end of the pier came, and there stood the two F.B.I. agents. Redwine and Rosenblum. Those had been their names. They stood in the corner of the pier, speaking so softly that their words could not be understood. Their heavy trench coats blew in the wind, flaring around their legs. Jesse noticed a tear running down Redwine's face, staining her fair cheek. Her clear blue eyes were shadowed, and she clung to Rosenblum. Jesse watched with curiosity at the tenderness between the two. Rosenblum's long, beautiful hands were gently stroking the side of her face, and he wiped the lone tear away with his thumb. He then cupped her chin in that hand, and leaned into her, kissing her full on the mouth. He put his arm around her, covering her with the sides of his trench coat. The couple then faded away, too, and Jesse was amazed.

"They're in love?" she asked, and Alex nodded.

"Yes... but it is forgotten love. Love that they remember with longing, and love that they both desire, but love that they cannot be consumed by." Alex sighed. "Is it not sad when love is not allowed to thrive, to conquer?"

Jesse gazed pensively at where the pair had once stood. "What's so special about the agents?" she asked.

The ghost of Alexandra was not phased. "It is something that you suspected. They are not who they are. They're more important than that. Jesse, you have to find out who they are. You can trust them. They're the only ones that you can trust. You must protect them, and they, in turn, will protect you."

"How do I find their identities?"

Alex acted as if she had not heard Jesse's question. "It's their faces... yes, that is what makes them so perfect. Look at the comparison. He's so dark, and yet she is so light. He's more of a shadow, and look at his eyes. Darkly beautiful. She's exactly like a fire... all flame."

Jesse nodded. "The candle in the night and the spark to kindle..." she mused. Alex smiled, agreeing with her friend in silence.

Slowly, the scenery began to move, and Jesse found herself, once again, lying in the fountain, her wet hair in her face, her body engulfed in water. Alex lay across from her, and Jesse desperately grabbed her friend's hands.

"I can't stop this all by myself," she whispered, her hair laying across her forehead in damp locks. Alex's face was contorted in pain, and Jesse looked into Alexandra's dark eyes. "I'm only sixteen... I can't do this all on my own..."

"You don't have to," she whispered. "I'll watch over you from a distance... and they'll be with you, too..."

And the scene started again. The gun fired, and one of the Roller bladers fell. Two more bullets. Alex screamed, and Jesse did as well, fear leaping up into her heart. And the last two shots...

Alex fell backward, a look of shock and horror on her face, as the bullets ripped through her chest, the first piercing her lung, and the second driving through her heart. Alex landed in the water, her blood mixing with the water in the pineapple fountain. "ALEX!" Jesse screamed, and her friend looked up at her, the pain etched on her beautiful face. Jesse started sobbing, tears streaming down her face.

Just before Alex died, she had said,"Rosalie... I'm sorry." But in the nightmarish parody of reality, Alex's last words were different. In a choked voice, Alex spoke.

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Blood spurted up from her mouth, running in rivulets down her face, staining the clear, cool water crimson. Jesse stumbled out of the fountain, watching in terror as her best friend died.


Friday, February 12 12:45am

Jesse awoke with a start, sweat dripping down her brow in a steady flow. "Alex!" she gasped, and panted, catching her breath. It had only been a dream... a nightmare. Her sub conscience trying to tell her conscience something. That was all. A fabrication of her imagination.

The stereo played music from "La Boheme", and she turned it off. She needed some silence in order to regain her calm peace. She breathed in, and assured herself that all was right.

Suddenly, her bedroom door was thrust open, and two men in identical black suits barged in. Jesse jumped out of bed, immediately alert. "Leave me alone, you bastards!" she yelled, and the men grabbed her by the arms, dragging her out of her room. "No! Leave me the hell alone!"

The men took her downstairs, and she struggled all the way, cursing them, demanding that they let her go. Then, she saw that her mother and brother stood before her, held by similar men in black, with knives to their throats.

Jesse composed herself. She was letting them see emotion. She had to maintain her cool demeanor. If she let them see her fury and her rage, then they would win. That was something that she could not let them do. Jesse let herself turn cold, like stone.

A man lit up a cigarette, and the match illuminated his gaunt, pale face. She looked at him, her face a mask. "We don't allow smoking in this house," Jesse said. The man gave her a short smile.

"Do you?" he asked, and inhaled deeply. Jesse wanted to spit in his face, to try to shoot the cigarette out of his mouth. In that case, a missed shot wouldn't hurt her feelings in the least.

Christine Phillips was shaking, and Rob was crying. The smoking man snarled at the boy. "Someone shut him up," he ordered. Jesse looked strongly into Rob's blue eyes, and her brother became quiet.

The smoker arched an eyebrow at her. "Quite impressive, Miss Phillips. It is a pleasure to be able to meet you at last."


Jesse remained stoic. "Get out of my house," she demanded. "There are federal agents patrolling this house."

The man chuckled. "We're very aware of their presence," he assured her. "Give us the disks, Jesse, and we'll let you go."

Jesse shook her head. "No. The moment I hand over those disks, you will kill my family anyway, as well as me. I keep the disks."

Taking another drag off of the cigarette, the man cocked his head. "You don't trust me, Jesse?"

She almost laughed, then narrowed her eyes, menacingly turning her eyes into two indigo slits. "Not one bit."

The cigarette-smoking man nodded. "Kill them."

As Jesse watched, calm and collected, the two men slit her mother and her brother's throats.


1:24 am

Mulder put down his binoculars. There was something strange going on... something very odd going on in Jesse Phillips's house.

Just as he was preparing to wake up his sleeping partner, the front door opened, revealing the form of a young, slender blonde girl, calmly holding a briefcase and a duffel bag, clad in a baseball hat, tank top, boxer shorts, and a leather jacket. With measured steps, she walked directly to where the car had been concealed.

Keeping his eyes on Jesse, Mulder shook Scully awake. "Scully, we have a visitor," he murmured. She awoke with a small smile on her face, which faded when she saw the look of cool determination on Jesse's face.

Jesse indifferently knocked on Scully's window, and Mulder gestured for her to open the window. Scully did so, and Jesse leaned down to look into her face. "Open the back door," she demanded. Scully looked at Mulder for a moment, then back at Jesse. Jesse sighed, and restated her command. "Open the goddamn door, Agent Redwine."

Mulder tried to talk to her. "Is there a problem..."

Exasperated, Jesse glared at him. "Cut the crap. I know who you are. Now, let me in your car, asshole."

Undaunted by being insulted by a teenager, Mulder unlocked the door, and she jumped in. "Drive," she ordered. Mulder glanced at her face in the rear-view mirror, and Scully looked at him. Obediently, he put the car into gear.

"All right."


As the car headed across town and to the hotel, Mulder watched Jesse open up the briefcase she had brought. It was a computer case, and she pulled out her laptop. Furious, Jesse typed madly, pounding the keys. Scully glanced back at her.

"Jesse, what happened?" she asked. Jesse did not speak to her until she had finished typing, and then put her computer away. Scully tried again. "Jesse?"

Jesse looked into Scully's crystal blue eyes, not bothering to feign childish innocence. "My family is dead. Their throats were slit."

Mulder almost lost control of the car for that moment. "What?" he uttered, shocked. Scully's jaw dropped, and for a split-second, the only collected person in the car was Jesse. She remained calm, observing the reactions of the two.

Mulder looked over at Scully for a moment. "But we had the house perfectly in sight," he said.

"Maybe we missed something," she suggested.

He shook his head, staunchly. "No, I stayed awake."

Her eyebrows shot to the top of her forehead. "What is that supposed to mean?" she demanded. He shook his head.

"Nothing, Jennifer," he said, adding emphasis to her fake name. She wanted to scream at him, tear out his throat. It was the tranquil, wise voice of Jesse that quieted them.

"If I may cut into this lovely domestic dispute, I believe that they got in through the sewers," she suggested. "Our basement still has connections and old plumbing."

Mulder sighed, not really wanting to start a conflict between anyone. "All right, when we get to the hotel, I'll telephone the local authorities and notify them that a murder has taken place."

Jesse nodded. "Don't mention my whereabouts. It may prove unwise to let them know where I am."

Silently, they drove on, Mulder gaining a slight, grudging respect for their new ward.


The Omni Hotel 2:45am

Mulder hung up the phone in his room, and rolled his sleeves up to a more comfortable position just below his elbows. "That's taken care of," he said, and turned his attention to the young Jesse, who was sitting suavely in a cut velvet chair at the cedar table. Scully had removed her jacket, and sat in a similar chair across from her.

"Well, that's good to know," Jesse said, her tone polite and well-bred. Mulder glanced at Scully, and took his place in a chair next to hers. She looked between the two, and waited for the questions to begin. "Why don't you go on ahead?" she asked. "I know you want to ask me questions. And I can assure you, the answers I have are not pretty."

Mulder began. "Jesse, you are the only connection that we can distinguish between Joe Akel and Alexandra Moody. Can you confirm that you are that connection."

"Yes," she calmly replied. Mulder nodded, and Scully brought out the tape recorder.

"Do you mind if I record this conversation?" she asked, and Jesse shrugged, noncommittally.

"Why should I care? The truth holds no fear for me now," she reminded. Mulder nodded. Scully pressed record, and asked her to state her full name and age for the tapes. Jesse did so, and Mulder returned to questioning her.

"How are you the connection between the two? What would make someone want to murder these two teenagers?"

Jesse smiled. "Oh, but I think that you know that, Agent Rosenblum. You work for the F.B.I., surely you received the file that I sent."

Scully sighed inwardly. She had it, and her anxiety doubled. She needed to know; did the girl have what she wanted? All she desired in the world rested in the hands of a child, and those hands could hold on tightly.

Mulder continued the interrogation. "So, you are confirming that you are the sender of these files."

Jesse nodded. "Yes. I did send the files."

Mulder leaned forward. "Can you hand let us see the files?"

Jesse shook her head, and Scully closed her eyes. "No," the girl responded.

"Why not?" Mulder pressed. Jesse cocked her head.

"Why should I?"

Scully interuppted, her nervousness and impatience becoming too much for her to handle. "Because we can protect you, Jesse. And right now, I think that you need that protection a lot."

Jesse matched Scully's condescending tone with a tone that stung. "Right now, I think that I can draw conclusions that any four-year-old could make." Scully winced, and put her head in her hands, reminding herself that this was a kid talking to her. A kid who had no idea how much suffering and pain that she had gone through what was on those damned files. Jesse wondered why in the hell anyone would get so upset so easily, and suspected that there was more going on than met the eye. "Cut the Bureau bullshit," Jesse proceeded. "I'm not exactly your normal teenager. I know what you apparently want to know, and right now I don't feel like telling you. Those disks are my insurance. The minute their location gets out, I am dispensable, and as good as dead."

She's good, Mulder thought. "Why don't you tell us what got Alex and Joe killed?" The question surprised Jesse, but she showed no emotion. Mulder forged onward. "Go on, Jesse. We know that that was why they were killed. They knew what was in those files, didn't they?"

Jesse shook her head, bored. "No, no. You've got it all wrong. Alex and Joe were completely innocent. The assassins were striking at me. It was an attack, a warning, so to speak. That's the irony of it all. They can't get to me. I'm safe." She looked menacingly at the two. "You, on the other hand, know nothing. You could be easily taken care of."

And she thought that that was irony? "We know more than you think we know," he assured her. "Much more."

Smiling, she leaned in close, her eyes dangerous. "Bullshit," she said.

"You kiss your mother with that mouth?" Scully said, sarcastically. Jesse sat back up, crossing her arms across her chest. She had turned the cap backwards, and strands of her dark honey hair fell in her face.

"Well, that would rather difficult, considering that minor fact that my mother is dead," she reminded. Scully flinched, and Mulder leaned toward her.

"*You* cut the bullshit. We're the only people in the entire United States of America that gives a damn about you at this moment. You are completely alone on this, Jesse, and no matter what you say, at the age of sixteen you are in no position to defend yourself. You need us." Mulder glared her down, and Jesse was impressed by his words and demeanor. She covered it well.

"Agent Rosenblum, if you were in my position, I think that you would be a little wary of who you talked to, too," she pointed out, and Mulder sighed.

"Stop the goddamn tape," he ordered. "We're done for tonight.


Scully gestured to the spare bed in her room. "You can take that," she offered, and Jesse sat down on the coverlet.

"So, this is where hard-earned American tax dollars go," she said, sarcastically. Her words reminded Scully of what her partner had said earlier, surprising her with the similarity of the context. Scully chuckled.

"Well, trust me, my partner and I have had some very interesting living arrangements," she promised. Jesse cocked her head at her, a suggestive look on her face. Unable to meet those brilliant indigo eyes, Scully turned away. "I'm going to go speak with Agent Rosenblum for a moment. Go on to sleep."

Jesse merely nodded, acknowledging her words, not promising to obey. This only mildly worried Scully.

Scully sighed as she entered her partner's room. Mulder was sitting on the couch, looking extremely appealing in a pair of boxer shorts and a torn, cotton shirt. He looked up at her, an expectant look on his face.

"She's alive," she said, her tone falsely optimistic. With a sideways smile on his face, Mulder nodded, not really hoping for anything else. It had been foolish to even think that, just like that, his son would be returned, and there would be a happy ending. Pipe dreams, he reminded himself.

Mulder turned off the television set, and faced her. "Well, that's always good."

Scully shook her head, and put one hand on her hip. Instead of the beautiful nightgown she had worn the night before, Scully was simply dressed in a pair of off-white cotton pajamas, her hair pulled back in a ponytail. "Tonight didn't exactly go as we had planned, did it," she stated. He shook his head.

"Not quite," he agreed.

Mulder turned his back to her, and put his hand to his chin, running his fingers over the faint stubble which had appeared. "It's rather frustrating," he confessed,"knowing that the information we've waited for for over a year is waiting in the next room for us, and we can't do a damn thing about it." He shook his head, and sat back down on the sofa.

Scully stared at him for a moment, and nodded. "I know," she breathed, and turned around. "Good night, Mulder," she said, and closed the door behind her before he could respond.

When she got back to the hotel room, she noticed that the Phillips girl was already asleep, her body stretched out on the spare bed, her breathing regular. Scully crept out to the balcony, and let the wind speak to her.

In the next room, Fox Mulder was probably preparing for bed, his mind full of Christopher and Samantha, unyielding from his constant stream of thoughts. Did he know that, at that very moment, her thought were on him and him alone?


The Omni Hotel
Charleston, South Carolina
11:21am

Scully opened up her eyes to the sunlight streaming in through the windows, casting gold on the room. The balcony doors were open, and the breeze blew in, blowing her hair around her face. As she sat up, she remembered her teenaged companion, and noticed a slender, pretty figure out on the balcony.

Jesse had been standing out there since sunrise, letting the wind ripple through her deep, rich blonde hair. The sun had risen over the Atlantic Ocean, filling the deep blue sky with a reddish-gold light. She had been contemplating the deaths of her family members, and the situation in which she was in right now.

She looked back in the room, where Jennifer Redwine was slowly waking up. The dream that she had had last night had disturbed her, and she was more than a little unsettled about the two agents. After being in the same car with them, the chemistry was obvious and apparent. There was something going on, though Jesse refused to put her finger on what. She had more concerns than the love lives of two federal agents.

Agent Redwine walked out onto the balcony, running her hands through her smooth red hair, and yawning. Redwine smiled warmly at Jesse, and Jesse merely looked back. "How long have you been up?" the agent asked. Jesse shrugged, and crossed her arms across her chest.

"A while," she responded. "Agent Rosenblum went to the shops downstairs. I tipped him on The Coffee Beanery."

The red-haired woman seemed to perk at the mention of coffee, and Jesse smiled, slyly. "Well, if I was in a nice mood, I might just tell you where the store was." Ahh, the return of that bitter sarcasm that Scully had detected last night. Scully crossed her arms over her chest as well, and arched her eyebrow.

"Oh, and you're in a good mood?" Scully assumed. Jesse's smile broadened, but it was a nasty, twisted smile, like the smile of a lion menacing its prey.

"No, but since I'm looking for an excuse to get you away from me, I'll tell you anyway," she said, her tone condescending and dripping with false sweetness. Dana Scully shook her head, and smiled.

"Well, since I am in a good mood, I'll let that slide," Scully countered, and Jesse gave her her dues. The agent was sharp, and she wasn't going to let a kid push her around.

After Scully had gotten dressed and Jesse had given her the directions to the coffee shop, Scully took out her gun and laid in on the dresser.

"I'm going to leave my weapon with you," she said, seriously. "If anyone comes in here, you shoot them and run."

Jesse nodded, eying the gun, and the agent left.

Immediately, Jesse pulled out her laptop and set up her modem. If she was going to allow herself to stay with two people, then she was going to know all that there was to know about Stephen Rosenblum and Jennifer Redwine.

The computer hummed to life, a sound that was familiar to the ears of the young woman. Funny how that sound could be comforting even when four people were dead because of it. As if it knew nothing of the blood that its secrets had shed.

She immediately set up her guards, protecting the system from any detection. Jesse had designed the scramblers herself, and it took a great deal of time to fortify those digital walls. No one could check her location and discover where she was.

Jesse set up the Internet, and signed on using a string of identities. Her paranoia had made her a better hacker. She could credit it with that much. But she had a few chores to do before Redwine and Rosenblum came back. Like checking up on her so-called protection.

She accessed the Federal Bureau of Investigation, wanting to find a simple profile. When it asked her for a name of an agent, she typed in "Redwine, Jennifer."

The profile for Special Agent Jennifer Michelle Redwine was not available. It had been protected. Jesse continued to hack, and found a way past the barriers. Simple, she thought, and eagerly continued.

Redwine's profile was a simple enough profile. A graduate of Duke Medical University, with a degree in forensic pathology. She was unwed, lived in Maryland, and had been assigned to the Violent Crimes Section in 1993, being assigned to Stephen Laurence Rosenblum.

Rosenblum's profile was also nondescript. He had graduated from Princeton, with a degree in psychology. He had been assigned to V.C.S. in ?89, and was also single.

Jesse sighed. These had to be the most boring feds she had ever encountered. Nothing to explain the shadows in their eyes or the haunted darkness that they both seemed to possess.

The dream about Alex came back to her. She leaned back in her chair, and bit her lip. "Faces," Jesse mused. "Something about their faces... being perfect, some sentimental shit like that..."

Frowning, she put the profiles side by side, memorizing Redwine's face first. She had large blue eyes, framed by dark lashes, and colored like clear oceans. Her skin was lily white, with a dash of freckles. Her bone structure was classic, with a small Roman nose and high cheekbones. Her lips were full, and tinted rosy. She had a halo of brilliant red hair, and a pride that she wore like a crown. The only thing that belied her beauty was the sadness in her eyes, the tiny lines that were appearing around her mouth from frowning.

It was a slight clue, that the agents had too much sadness to have had the ordinary lives that they were supposed to be living.

Jesse turned her attention to the photograph of Agent Rosenblum, scrutinizing the features on the handsome man. He had hooded, green-brown eyes that radiated sexuality and heat. She had to look away from the power behind those passionate eyes. His skin was tanned, with an earthy tone to it. His bone structure was unique, with a nose that was a little too big for his face, but that just added to his character and high cheeks. His mouth was sensual, with a seductive curl to them that made her unsure if he was smiling or smirking at her. His unruly dark hair had almost golden highlights in the sun. Cynicism and sarcasm were written over that beautiful face, with shadows and darkness pouring from his soul. Such intensity she had never known, and it all swept her in one glance. He seemed perfect... except for the small, dark mole on his right cheek.

An imperfection.

Jesse scanned his profile, and saw that under distinguishing features, only the long, pale scar along the left side of his face had been entered. That mole was very visible, and certainly the Federal Bureau would mark it as distinguishing. She grew excited when she realized that her suspicions were correct. They were not who they said that they were. She had been right, they were spies.

Jesse selected the picture, and ran a match search, wondering what would come up. The name that she read chilled her.

Fox William Mulder.

His name had been in her files.

With a heavy heart, she read the profile aloud, letting the words ring in the air. "Fox William Mulder, assigned to a project called the X-Files..." She frowned at that. Who was this Mulder guy, some kind of porn investigator? "Sounds like a bad Aaron Spelling show," she muttered, and read on about the division. "No, not unless Heather Locklear is a Klingon," she decided. The X-Files was a division that investigated cases of the paranormal... unexplained phenomena.

The computer disks that she had. No wonder they had tracked her down so swiftly. She continued to read, smiling a little at the personal information. "Agent Mulder's personality does not fit that of the usual agent, yet his success rate and instinct makes him a maverick agent." How sweet. Under personal background, she felt pity for him arise. His sister had disappeared when he was twelve. She could relate.

The related file was that of Dana Katherine Scully. She opened that up to find a photograph of Jennifer Redwine, the partner of the fictitious Rosenblum. She leaned forward, englufing herself in the profile. It turned out that Agent Scully herself had been abducted in 1993, and results from that experience had yet to be determined. Jesse had a sinking feeling that she knew what the results were.

She quickly saved the files, and went to her suitcase. She took out her favorite pair of blue jeans, and felt the left leg for the small lump which she knew existed. Patting the jean leg down, she came across the small, diminuitive pocket where she had placed the notorious disk.

It was only one of the many disks that she had, and this one was the disk that she kept with her at all times. Her personal insurance. After she replaced the pair of jeans in the suitcase, she inserted the disk into the computer, and opened up the files which she had stolen.

And remembered where she had seen the faces of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

They had been test subjects.

In the Forrester Project.

And there was a child.


Scully looked around the Shops at Charleston Place, impressed by the quality of the stores. Banana Republic, Barnes & Nobles, Express, even a Godiva Chocolates Boutique, a brand of sweets that she always had trouble resisting. Yes, she was definitely going to have to thank Skinner for sending them here.

The Coffee Beanery was also of the highest caliber, with delicious smelling gourmet coffee. She went in and ordered something called a Cafe Caramel, and looked around for Mulder. Jesse had said that she had sent him here...

After taking the first wary sip of the brew, she closed her eyes, relishing the taste of the mixture of caramel and coffee. When she opened them, she caught sight of her partner.

Mulder sat in the gadget store across from her, Brookstone. In the front of the store, there was a display of comfortable, luxurious massage chairs. Mulder was relaxing in a black leather chair, his eyes closed and a smile on his face. Judging from the expression he wore, he was obviously enjoying it.

She sighed, and crossed over to where he sat. "Good morning, Mulder," Scully greeted him. With a jolt, he opened up his eyes, and blinked rapidly.

"Good morning," he said. She shook her head, taking drinks from the cup she held.

"I don't suppose that you're ready to go back to the rooms," she observed. With a little smile on his face, he stood up, groaning.

"Well, Scully, learn to do as good of a job as that chair, and maybe that offer would be more appealing," he replied. With her tongue in her cheek, she passed him her cup of coffee. Mulder noticed with some amusement that her lipstick stained the brim of the cup.

"Taste this, it's delicious," she said, and he brought the cup to his own lips. He stopped, shook his head, and gave it back to her.

"I have to move here," he noted, and went over to the Beanery to buy one himself.


Jesse sighed, and looked critically at her reflection in the mirror. She had changed her clothes, and wore the pair of jeans with the disk sewn in the leg, and a dark purple velvet shirt.

Had she changed any within the past weeks? Yes, she would have to say that she had become a different person. Her life had been radically altered, and she had had to adapt to the new situation. The innocence in her eyes had been snuffed out, and the indigo orbs that looked back at her were the eyes of an adult. She sighed, and ran a hand through her soft, dark blonde hair.

A knock sounded on the door, and she straightened her body. It was them. No one else would care. She laughed, shortly and bitterly. No one else was left to care.

Jesse went to the door, and opened it up. The two agents stood side by side, Mulder a good foot taller than Scully. Each held a steaming cup of coffee, and Mulder was rolling his shoulders back and forth. "Well, I take it that you found the store," Jesse dryly observed. Mulder smiled, and walked in.

"No one gave you any trouble?" he asked. Jesse shook her head, and handed the gun back to Scully.

"Thanks," Scully said, tucking the weapon in her holster. "Jesse, we need to talk to you. We have to continue the interrogation from last night. Tempers were short, so we stopped early, but we still have a lot to learn."

Her face was devoid of any emotion, though Mulder thought that he detected a bit of sarcasm in her eyes. "Fine. I have a few questions for you too, Agent Redwine." She tilted her head to one side. "Or should I call you Agent Scully?"

The first question blew Scully away, and her eyebrows shot to the top of her brow. "What?" she asked, and Jesse's smile could almost be considered a friendly one, one tinged with pity and pleasure.

"Come on, Agent Scully, just how long did you think that this facade would last?" she asked. "I'm not a dumb kid like you suspected. The instant I got you out of the apartment, I checked up on the both of you." Her gaze switched to the incredulous Mulder. "That includes you, Agent Mulder."

He sat down at the table, placing his cup of coffee on the hard cedar. "How did you figure it out?" he asked. Jesse nodded.

"It was easy. When I looked up Jennifer Redwine and Stephen Rosenblum, your photographs also were drawn up. Agent Mulder's profile says that he has only one distinguishing feature, that scar, yet he has a mole on his cheek."

Mulder emitted a sly smile. "And Mother always said that it was a beauty mark," he quipped. Scully gave him a reprimanding look, and sat down across from him. Jesse sat down as well, and tucked her hair behind her ears.

"Well, after I accessed your real identities, I recognized your names from the files," she explained. With a wry grin, she looked at Mulder. "It's hard to forget a name like that." He shrugged his shoulders, a smile similar to Jesse's on his face. "And so I back-checked it. I know the whole story. Everything. And I have a feeling that we can help each other out."

Scully exhaled, long and low. "You have a feeling that we can help each other..." she repeated. "All right, Jesse. You have us. We did lie to you, and we're sorry. This was not only for your protection but for ours."

Jesse's stare almost turned accusing. "And the real purpose of this whole investigation was to find the files and your child, not to solve these murders."

Mulder leaned forward. "You're only partially correct, Jesse," he warned. "We came down here with full knowledge of the organization that was responsible for the murders. You are right, our first priority was to recover the files and our... child, but you were quite aware of that." Jesse was not left with enough time to ponder the pause before he finished the thought, and she raised her eyebrows at him. "When you sent that excerpt from the file, you knew what you were doing."

Jesse gave him that point. "All right. You win. But there had better be no more lies from here on in. Because whether you like it or not, I'm staying with you."

Mulder and Scully exchanged glances. Jesse crossed her arms over her chest, and smiled. "You need me," she reminded. "Without me, you don't have your files or your son. Remember?"

"And what exactly do you want out of us?" Mulder asked. Jesse nodded.

"A fair question," she acknowledged. "A very fair question." She leaned forward, her smile gone. She was all business. She looked between the two, and they leaned in as well. "I want justice. I want this all to end. I want vengeance. I want the truth to get out. And I want these sons of bitches dead."

Shocked at the seriousness and the coldness in the girl's beautiful voice, Mulder cleared his throat. "It would only seem logical for you to stay with Scully and me," he began, "and you don't have anywhere else to go." Scully finished for him.

"So, yes, Jesse, you'll stay with us. And nobody will tell anyone that Jesse is with us," she said, adding a condition that Mulder was unsure about. Jesse, however, was pleased.

"And in return, I can give you your son back, as well as the files that I'm so sure you want," she promised. Mulder nodded, and she extended her hand. "Deal?"

Scully shook her hand first, then Mulder. "Deal," Scully agreed.


Chapter Five: ONE HEART, ONE SOUL

China
All the way to New York
I can feel the distance
Getting close

You're right next to me
But I need an airplane
I can feel the distance
As you breathe

Sometimes I think you want me to touch you
But how can I
When you build the great wall around you

In your eyes I saw a future together
But you just look away In the distance

China
Decorates our table
Funny how the cracks don't
Seem to show

Pour the wine, dear
You say we'll take a holiday
But we never can agree on
Where to go

Sometimes I think you want me to touch you
But how can I
When you build the great wall around you

In your eyes I saw a future together
But you just look away In the distance

China
All the way to New York
Maybe you got lost in Mexico

You're right next to me
I think that you can hear me
Funny how the distance
Learns to grow

Sometimes I think you want me to touch you
But how can I
When you build the great wall around you

I can feel the distance
I can feel the distance
I can feel the distance
Getting close...
--Tori Amos "China", Little Eartthquakes, 1991

 

Middleton High School

Charleston, South Carolina

12:09pm

Susan Haynsworth sat down at her desk, grateful that it was time for lunch. She needed a break from all of the chaos and mayhem that had surrounded that particular day, and meditate.

She was often called the odd one out, the only one who had stood up for the students. She was not the average teacher, who only cared about teaching the basics and getting a paycheck. Susan Haynsworth enlightened, inspired, and stirred the souls of all of her students. She didn't just teach. She learned.

But what she had learned that day had disturbed and unsettled her. Strewn across the front page of the story had been an article about the murder of Christine Halley Phillips and Robert Bowman Phillips.

Jesse Ann Phillips was missing, though neighbors reported her fleeing the crime scene and riding away in a Ford Taurus. An anonymous phone call reporting the murders had come in later that night.

She cared deeply about the young woman, and feared for Jesse's life. There was something odd going on, and she instinctly knew that the danger had only increased when the two "agents" had appeared the other day. Somehow, she knew that they had not come to hurt Jesse, from the way that the woman had put her hand urgently on Susan's arm and the passion in her voice. They weren't going to hurt Jesse. They were going to help her. She regretted not letting them take Jesse. By trying to protect her, she had been responsible for the deaths of her family.

But she also knew that the Ford Taurus that she had gotten into had been the Ford Taurus of the two federal agents, and knew that Jesse was safe with them. And she knew that she ought to call the authorities and tell them that Jesse was safe.

But this time, Susan Haynsworth was keeping quiet, and would silently await word from Jesse.


1124 Garden Creek Court
Charleston, South Carolina
1:13pm

Rosalie stumbled into the kitchen, her spiky magenta hair falling in her sunken, skeletal face. Her dark eyes were blurred, and she was getting damn sick and tired of being drunk. Hell, maybe Lexi had been right. Maybe there wasn't any point in alcohol. Rosalie shook her head, and the effects of the wine she had downed a few hours ago wa starting to wear off. She was able to think a little clearer, and comprehend the news in the paper that day.

So, Jesse was missing as well. What in the name of Christ was going on around there? First Alex, then Joe, and now Jesse? Not to mention the poor kid's family. Murdered, all of them, and Jesse gone without a trace.

Of course, Rosalie knew that Jesse had known something that was not supposed to be known. She knew that Jesse was an illegal computer assassin, and she also knew that Jesse liked to hack into the government to dig up whatever little secrets that she could find. The stuff Jesse knew about congressmen could curl one's hair.

But Rosalie had a feeling that what Jesse had found this time was more deadly than a few sexual excursions. And Rosalie also had a feeling that whatever Jesse had would not die as quickly as her usual blackmail.


4 Oatly Circle
Charleston, South Carolina
2:34pm

Jesse opened the door to her house, ignoring the yellow police tape. Mulder and Scully stood behind her, carrying their weapons as usual. By now, she was starting to get used to their paranoia. In fact, she was rather enjoying the idea of having two federal agents at her side. She had returned to collect a few belongings... and then leave forever.

Inside the living room, the bodies had been removed, and blood stained the carpets. Jesse merely looked at them before moving on. Mulder took a glance at them, and started to aimlessly wander the house. Scully was the only one to crouch down on her knees and examine the blood on the rug.

Rocking back and forth on his heels, Mulder looked over the photographs on the mantel, closely memorizing the faces of the boys and girls. There was a photo of an auburn haired woman, her eyes dark and yet bright. He assumed that that was Julia, Jesse's dead older sister. There was another picture, this time of a golden-haired boy. Rob.

Jesse, with a somber look on her face, drudged upstairs, leaving the agents alone.

Mulder wandered out of the family room, and into the music room, where a large, ebony Steinway piano rested. It was a sleek, shining instrument, polished and well-taken care of. He walked over to it, and sat down at the keyboard. Flipping casually through the music, he selected a familiar piece, and laid it out on the music stand. He read through the notes momentarily, put his fingers to the keys, and began playing.

Strains of the beautiful music drifted into the other room, and Scully stood up, her head full of the forlorn ballad. She recognized it immediately. "Moonlight Sonata", by Beethoven. It had been one of her favorites, and the pianist giving it life was extremely talented. She walked to the origins of the sound, and stopped when she saw who the talented musician was.

Fox Mulder sat at the piano, his coat flared about the piano bench, his eyes on the sheets before him, and his heart in the music. Closing her eyes, she leaned against the doorframe, clutching the wooden panels with her hands. Oh, why had he never told her about his gift? The passion that he put into the music astounded her, enraptured her, and seduced her all at once, just as the piece should have. There were no flaws in it, just as there were no flaws on his heart and soul. Against her will, her mind turned to that night in the forest, when those same, beautiful hands that gracefully danced over the ivory keys had been entangled in her hair, and had been wrapped around her waist, keeping her safe and keeping her still.

The music reached its climax, expressing desire, despair, and sorrow, and Dana Scully wished for enough courage to go to him and tell him that she took it all back; that she had never wanted it to end, that she would still be hers if he would take her, and that he was all she had ever wanted, always and forever.

Yet she could only stand there, on the outside, looking in.

The piece came to a slow end, and she opened her eyes, watching as Mulder slowly turned around, his eyes uncertain and guarded. When she spoke, her voice was wispy, and her eyes sad.

"That was beautiful," she said, and he put his hands in his lap, nervously twiddling his thumbs. After a pause, she continued to speak. "Where did you learn to play the piano?"

As he replaced the music, he answered her. "Mom signed me up for lessons after Samantha disappeared. She had been hoping that perhaps I would get over it that way, and I played until I went to college."

The silence increased, and Mulder and Scully stood facing each other, both silently imploring the other to finish what they had once begun, and neither following through.


Jesse turned away from the sight below her, leaving her vantage point at the loft. It was too painful to watch, too painful to view. The house practically crackled with the electricity that they generated, and yet they left it alone.

Swinging her arms at her sides, she walked into her room, gazing at the familiar posters of musicians and Broadway plays that she had so carefully hung up. Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos, The Phantom of the Opera... she had meticulously placed them where they rested now, and she would have to leave them there forever.

There were so many things that made a home a home. A comfortable bed, a warm, soft light, a distinct smell, and that sense of comfort and happiness that came with that personal touch of an individual. And now she was going to have to struggle to find that same sense of security in a different place.

Jesse would only be able to take a few things, and she pulled out her luggage. Jeans, flannel shirts, sweat shirts, underwear, comfortable shoes, hats, and her bathing suits were tossed in there. She had noticed the Olympic size pool at the hotel, and was determined to take a swim. Just in case, she also packed away some nice clothes, and her clunky heels.

Once an entire suitcase of clothes and necessities were packed away, she took out her duffel bag. In went her rosewood jewelry box, and her memory box, full of photographs and notes from Joe and Alex. Some notebooks, a diary... and she noticed something that she had almost forgotten.

A tiny, obsidian music box in the shape of a grand piano, with mother-of-pearl and obsidian keys rested on her dresser. She picked it up, and lifted the lid. Immediately, the tune to "Memory" started to play, its soft, tinkling medly bringing a faint smile to her face. Joe had given her that music box for when she had gotten her first job, at the Chef and Clef. In that box, she had placed the amythest earrings, the pressed angel faced rose he had presented her with on their first date, and a little garnet pinky ring.

One thing that he had given her had never left her, though. For her sixteenth birthday, Joe had given her a gold, heart-shaped locket, and had placed his photo and her photo in there. "One Heart, One Soul, For All Eternity" was inscribed on the front. He had given it to her, and told her that that was true for them.

She had believed it, too. She still did. When love was pure, and good, nothing could harm it. True love had no barriers. It had no destroyers. It was so strong that not even death could break it. Two hearts became one, and two souls combined to form the ultimate force.

Downstairs, she knew that that love could easily exist.

It wasn't fair, she thought. They intentionally keep love from them, and torment themselves by doing so. It wasn't fair that while they were alive and close, they would not let themselves feel love. Joe was dead. She would not feel his touch or experience his kiss until she was dead as well. In life, they could be together, and she and Joe could not.

The music slowed to an end, the last few notes remained in the air, haunting her and torturing her.

Jesse walked to her dresser, and looked at the photograph of her brother and mother that rested there. They were captured forever there, in that pose of mother and son, looking out at her with encouragement. She had watched them die before her, and their eyes, blind with terror, were etched into her memory. She picked up the photograph, and held it with shaking hands, and closed her eyes, tears escaping the lids. "Oh, Momma," she whispered. "I'm so sorry... so sorry..."

She held the photo in her hands, waiting for the tears to subside, and put that in her bag, along with the music box. Jesse also packed away all of her CDs, disappointed when she realized that her stereo system could not come with her. Instead, she took her portable speakers.

As she picked up her guitar case and keyboard, she looked mournfully about the room. "Good-bye," she whispered, and left.


Downstairs, Scully sighed, examining the bloodstains on the carpet. "Imagine your entire family killed in front of you," she sighed. "Knowing that you can't get to them and end your pain and suffering..."

Mulder looked up from the bookshelf he was breezing through. "It hurts," he said, and she was painfully reminded that he had witnessed not only his father's death, but the abduction of his sister. She stood up, and circled the room.

"You can't quite blame her for being so cynical," she said, crossing her arms. "She's rather stuck."

"But we have to establish some kind of trust," he said. "If we don't, then we will get nowhere. It's our responsibility to keep her alive. I don't want to lose her, Scully."

She shook her head. "No, I don't think that we'll lose her," she disputed. "Remember what Jesse said? About the disk being her insurance? She's right. As long as she has that disk, then she's going to survive. They cannot afford to kill her because they run the risk of a security leak."

Mulder put his hands on his hips, and furrowed his brow. "But that was only Jesse's speculation," he reminded. "If you recall, when we had the digital tape, it didn't make any difference to these same men. I basically died in that boxcar, and an attempt was made on your life. We cannot predict that they will let Jesse live. If we do that, then we're putting trust in these men. Scully, if we rely on them, then we're making a huge mistake."

Trust no one, she thought. He had a point, yet she was still firm in her view. "Soona just had one copy. Jesse has multiple copies, and she didn't just copy, she erased. She has what they need, and they have to recover more than one disk. She must be left alive."

He gave her that point. "All that I'm saying is if we let ourselves get too comfortable, then we'll end up losing everything and everyone..." His voice got softer. "And we'll never find Christopher."

She sighed, and her mood turned dark. "He still haunts my dreams, Mulder," she murmured. "He's never far from thought. Every single second of every single day, I find no rest." She looked up at him. "And I don't know how you did it for over twenty years."

He looked away. "I didn't."

The uncomfortable, forboding silence returned, and the soft voice of Jesse interrupted it.

"He's right," she said. The agents turned to see her, loaded down with a suitcase, a duffel bag, a CD carrier, a guitar case and a keyboard carrier. "If we put even the slightest amount of trust in them, then we lose it all. And this has grown to be more than I ever imagined it would be."

Mulder walked to her, taking the suitcase and the duffel bag from her. She thanked him with a short, yet almost friendly smile, and he put them in the hall. She put her other baggage there, and wandered into the music room. "You have quite a talent, Mr. Mulder," she complimented. He shrugged.

"I'm out of practice," he said. She just shook her head, and sat down at the piano.

"Talent doesn't fade," she said. She stretched her hands longingly over the piano keys. "I wish that I didn't have to leave this here, but it's rather hard to transport," she mused. "Do you mind...?"

He shook his head, and put his hands on his hips, pushing back the flaps of his coat to reveal his lean form. Scully followed them in the room, and stood next to him, crossing her legs as she leaned once again in the doorframe.

When Jesse started to play, the music was apparant, and enchanting. It was soft, and rich, and unfamiliar to either agent. She had the song memorized, and she started to sing, her voice gentle and tender. Her voice filled the warm, embracing all three with a comforting power.

"Wouldn't you know it, I've lost my courage Isn't that funny, me lost for words? Not that it really matters, cause I know you know And you would have told me yourself if you could."

Scully smiled, wistfully thinking of how well that song seemed to fit the circumstances that surrounded them. Jesse played on, a similar smiled on her face that grew as she continued.

"Remember the first time, we met each other? You were in your world, and I was in mine Breaking down the barriers, we broke all the rules But wasn't it good, wasn't it fine? While I took for granted, you took your time Longing for love, oh how we tried It's over now that's understood... but wasn't it good?"

The memory of Dana Scully, her suit perfectly pressed, her hair perfectly curled, walking into his office like she had received a death sentence brought a smile to Fox Mulder's face. Oh, but he would never forget that moment. She had been determined to crack the unsolved mystery of Fox Mulder, and he had been determined to simply drive her away. He thought of the irony that went with that. All he wanted now was to get her closer. Now, the innocence that had so enchanted him was gone from her eyes, replaced with a strength that enamoured him.

He could look back on all those cases, all those times when his only salvation was her. She had kept him going, and kept him alive. Oh, yes, it was over now... but it had been good.

"So long together, two would be lovers Caring for flowers that just wouldn't grow And in all of our tomorrows, we'll have yesterday But wasn't it good? Wasn't it fine? While I took for granted, you took your time Longing for love, oh how we tried It's over now, that's understood..."

Oh, but Scully knew who that flower was... it was Christopher Ahab. He had been that bud, that tiny flower that she had nurtured, given sunlight and love to, and had refused to feel, to open up, to live...

"But wasn't it good? Wasn't it fine? While I took for granted, you took your time Longing for love, oh how we tried It's over now that's understood... But wasn't it good..."

As the song came to end and Jesse's marvelous voice trailed off, Scully met Mulder's eyes, and they both knew that it had been good... so good that they wanted it back. Another chance at love, and another chance at life. A chance that they desired with whole hearts. They deserved another chance to be a family, to be whole.

They deserved another chance at Christopher's affection.

Jesse stood up, and closed the piano lid. "We had best go back to the hotel," she remarked, and Mulder agreed.


Chapter Six: FADING COLORS AND DYING DREamS

You'll never see the courage I know
Its colors' richness won't appear within your view
I'll never glow the way that you glow
Your presence dominates the judgements made on you

But as the scenery grows I see in different lights
The shades and shadows undulate in my perception
My feelings swell and stretch;
I see from greater heights I understand what
I am still too proud to mention - to you

You'll say you understand, but you don't understand
You'll say you'd never give up seeing eye to eye
But never is a promise, and you can't afford to lie

You'll never touch these things that I hold
The skin of my emotions lies beneath my own
You'll never feel the heat of this soul
My fever burns me deeper than I've ever shown - to you

You'll say,
Don't fear your dreams, it's easier than it seems
You'll say you'd never let me fall from hopes so high
But never is a promise, and you can't afford to lie

You'll never live the life that I live
I'll never live the life that wakes me in the night
You'll never hear the message I give
You'll say it looks as though I might give up this fight

But as the scenery grows I see in different lights
The shades and shadows undulate in my perception
My feelings swell and stretch, I see from greater heights
I realize what I am now too smart to mention - to you

You'll say you understand, you'll never understand
I say I'll never wake up knowing how or why
I don't know what to believe in, you don't know who I am
You'll say I need appeasing when I start to cry
But never is a promise and I'll never need a lie
--Fiona Apple "Never Is A Promise&quoot;, Tidal, 1996

 

The Omni Hotel 3:47pm

Jesse bit her lip, an old habit that returned as she searched through the infamous files. Mulder sat behind her, his tie loose around his neck, his feet bare and his jacket tossed haphazardly on the floor. Scully was looking through Jesse's disc collection, impressed by the variety and taste.

Jesse was getting pissed off. These damn kids had been moved around a hell of a lot for the past few months, and she was having a hell of a lot of trouble tracking them down. The plan was simple. Between Jesse and the child, plus the disks, they would be quite secure. All they had to do was locate the infant and get him back. Easy.

Jesse scanned the information, and cursed. "Oh, shit!" Scully raised an eyebrow. Ah, the corruption of our youth. Mulder looked over her shoulder.

"What is it now?" he asked. She gestured to the screen.

"The children all disappeared from the compound in Wisconsin a few weeks ago," she said. "Apparantly, a nurse named Gretchen McKinley and a doctor named Glen Wong stole the children from the compound and ran off with them. The directors have been unable to track them down, and there have been no reports of where the children could be." She shook her head, and put her hand to her brow. "We can't find them."

Scully walked to the computer screen, and looked over the report herself. "What night in specific?" she asked. Jesse scrolled up, and read it aloud.

"Uh... the day of December 12," she read. Scully nodded.

"Uh huh, and when did you hack the files?" she asked. Jesse gave her a look of astonishment and utter respect. With that question, Dana Scully had earned the undying devotion and admiration of Jesse Phillips.

"December 11," she breathed. "They took the children because I stole the files..."

Scully nodded. "My guess is is that they're in the city."

He had never loved her as much as he did then. Mulder shook his head, in awe. "Way to go, Scully," he praised. She was surprised, but smiled back up at him.

"Thank you."

Jesse interuppted by clapping her hands and turning her cap around, backwards. "All right, then we ought to be able to find them. If you give me a while, then I can track them down."

Mulder gave her a wary look. "Are you sure?" he asked.

Jesse did not miss the note of hope and frail faith in his voice. She gave him a warm, lopsided smile, and it lit up her face. "I'm sure. You will have your son in your arms again in a short matter of time."

Those words were some of the most beautiful words that he had ever heard... almost as beautiful as hearing the video-recorded Dana Scully tell him that she loved him.

He clapped his hand on the young girl's shoulder, and won her respect and her loyalty.


9:08pm

Mulder's snoring was really, really swiftly getting old.

Jesse was one of the only two awake, and the only one who was working. She sat dilligently at the computer, typing commands, searching through city archives... she had learned more about Charleston in the past few hours than she had ever wanted to know.

Mulder had fallen asleep on the couch, his mouth open, earphones carefully placed in his ears, snoring heavily. She hated snorers, and it grated her nerves. She looked over at Scully, and pointed a thumb in his direction. "Does he often do this?" she asked.

Scully looked up from the paperback she was reading. Her wire-rimmed glasses were placed on her face, and the light reflected off of them. "Nope."

Jesse sighed. "I want to shove a pillow so deeply down his throat that he'll be farting feathers for months," she said, her tone edgy.

Scully arched her eyebrow, something Jesse had to learn to do one day. "Well, that's an expression I've never heard before," she said, wryly. Jesse smirked.

"Welcome to the nineties," she said. Scully chuckled.

"If you think that that's bad, listen to what's playing on his discman," she said. "It's so loud, I don't know how he manages to sleep through it."

Jesse grinned, and turned back to the computer screen. She typed until she had to wait for a long file transfer, when she leaned back and put her hands behind her head. She looked over at Scully, who was back to reading her novel.

"Hey... Agent Scully?" she asked, tentatively. Scully looked up again.

"Yes, Jesse?" she asked. Jesse looked carefully at her.

"What should I call you?"

Scully put down her book. The question represented a lot to her. It meant that Jesse was getting more familiar and comfortable with them, and was dealing with the fact that the three would most likely be together for quite a while. "You can call me Dana if you want, or do as Mulder does and call me Scully. Either one is fine with me. I've grown so used to Scully, it's gained a personal and intimate status as well to me."

Jesse nodded. "Scully... that's cool. What should I call him?"

Scully gave her an amused look. "If you call him Fox, you'll just get a smart-ass remark and an irritated glare."

She nodded. "Got it. Mulder it is... unless he keeps snoring."


10:13pm

By this time, Scully, too, had fallen asleep, stretched out on the bed, sleeping soundly. Mulder had rolled onto his side, and had stopped snoring, much to Jesse's relief and pleasure. She had put on her own headphones, and listened to Chopin as she typed. She was getting close to the what she was looking for... the question was what would happen when she found it? Would her worst dreams be confirmed, or denied?

And she found it.

A wide, relieved smile spread across her face, and she jumped up, ripping the ear phones out. "I got it..." she whispered, and she went to the sleeping Mulder, shaking his shoulder. "Hey, Mulder! Wake up, I've got it!"

Mulder stirred, and opened his eyes. "Mmm... what?" he asked, confused. Jesse grinned.

"2209 Greenwood Avenue, Summerville, South Carolina," she recited. "That's the adress, and that's the site. That is where your son is."

Mulder was immediately wide awake, and rejuvenated. "How far is it from here?" he asked. Her smile broadened.

"So close that it's obscene," she replied.

Scully's reaction was similar, and the three hurried to get ready. Mulder picked up a flashlight and his gun, and Scully did the same. Jesse had changed long ago into her jeans, Nikes, and a blue and green plaid flannel shirt. Tucking her hair under her hat, she looked years older than she truly was. When Mulder saw her getting ready, he shook his head.

"You don't possibly think that you're coming with us," he said. She gave him a look.

"Well, you tell me how to get to Summerville," she pointed out. Mulder sighed, and let her finish. She put on her leather jacket, and rolled her shoulders, letting the adrenaline flow through out her body. It was like getting pumped up to perform; the same energy flowed through her bones, making her anxious to go.

She was amused when Mulder pulled up his pant leg to put an gun holster around his calf. "We're awfully paranoid, aren't we?" she observed. He just gave her an innocent look, and Jesse smiled.

Scully put on her trenchcoat, and Mulder did the same. Just as the trio walked out of Mulder's hotel room, Jesse cursed.

"Oh, Jesus, I almost forgot my necklace!" she said. Mulder sighed, impatiently.

"Your necklace?"

She gave him a defensive look. "Joe gave it to me. I don't go anywhere without it."

He let her go back, waiting outside for her. The moment Jesse got back into the hotel room, she untucked the necklace from under her flannel shirt, and picked up the gun that she had stolen from the men who had shot her family.


2209 Greenwood Avenue
Summerville, South Carolina
Saturday, February 13 12:49am

Mulder pulled the car to a halt, and looked at Scully in the seat next to him. No lights were on, and there was not a sound anywhere. The building seemed deserted, and Jesse looked up from the back seat.

"This is it," she murmured, and Scully looked at her.

"This can't be it," she said. "There are no cars. No one is here."

Mulder pulled out his flashlight, and got out of the car, his mind set only on once again seeing the face of Christopher Ahab. Scully followed him, and Jesse got out of the car as well.

The unlikely trio turned on their flashlights, and Mulder took the lead, placing Jesse in the protective middle of the three. He spanned the flashlight across the building front, seeing nothing. When he got to the door, he pulled his gun, as did Scully, and braced himself for whatever he may find. Before he kicked in the door, he closed his eyes, and did something that he hadn't done in over a year.

Fox William Mulder prayed.

God, let him be here. Let him be alive.

His powerful leg made contact with the door, and it flew open, revealing a dark and empty room.

Mulder's flashlight danced around the room, seeking out any trace of life. The walls had been carefully, lovingly painted brightly, rainbows, daffodils, and sunlight. They disturbed Scully as they wasted away in the shadows, hidden by the darkness. Faded colors and dying dreams... she thought, and continued to shine her flashlight across the room.

"F.B.I.!" Mulder yelled, but his voice reverberated across the empty room, echoing in the unfathomable depths of the dark room. "Come out!"

Jesse wandered about, her skin crawling at the brilliant colors in the dark room. There was nothing more disturbing than the sight of that hope and aspiration being tossed into oblivion. She walked into the next room, and felt chills run up her spine.

Music was pumped through the room, an aria by a famous opera singer from "Carmen." There were cribs lining the room, covered in bold reds, blues, and greens. The giant murals decorated the room, hand-painted and painstakingly planned. There were colorful mobiles hanging over the cribs, and little baby-beads that spelled out names on the front. Baby A, Baby B, Baby C... the list went on and on, and the horror and disgust in Jesse's heart grew.

Scully followed her in the room, her eyes wide. She turned on the lights, and slowly turned off her flashlight. The room was empty. There was no one there. It was completely deserted.

Jesse walked slowly around the length of the room, running her fingers over the wooden cribs. A line of poetry from Alexandra came to her mind, and it chilled her again.

"Bluebirds and canaries without song to sing."

She opened up a large wardrobe, and found the drawer marked Baby X. In the drawer, there were warm pajamas, sewn with flowers and trains. Normal baby clothes for abnormal babies. Inside one drawer, there were photographs. Jesse picked up the pictures with shaking fingers. One was of Scully, and the other was of Mulder. The parents of these ghost-like children.

It was as though their phantoms remained in this room, and she could look around and see them, lying heartlessly in the cribs, silently pacing the room, still there, though their presence was fading and evaporating, and being replaced by cobwebs and ashes.

She replaced the pictures of the two agents, and quickly walked out of the room. It was too much.


The silence of the nursery was deafening, full of black emptiness and devoid of emotion. There was only the haunting music that filled the room, the soprano's voice that sang so beautifully.

Scully's high heels added to the soft melody, and she walked down the aisles of cradles with wobbling legs. She took in the atmosphere of the room, and closed her eyes. The song changed.

Oh, the irony of the music. To change into something so sweet and familiar that it would bring tears to the eyes of the betrayed and hardened soul. A new soprano's voice started to sing the same song that Jesse had sung at Joe's funeral.

Wishing you were somehow here again
Wishing you were somehow near
Sometimes it seemed
If I just dreamed
Somehow you would be here

Scully's fingers traced the top of the crib marked Baby X. It would never end. She would always have to be so close that there was still his scent in the air, his aroma in the wind, yet the wind would carry them in opposite directions, twisting and turning them about, and finally letting them down so far away that the search would prove fruitless.

With a shaking hand, she gently spun the heart mobile over the crib, remembering the pride on Mulder's face when he showed her the mobile that he had bought for their son. She remembered the pitiful, weak pleas of Fox Mulder to get his son to speak. She remembered it all, like a kiss that had been planted on her lips that could reborn with the sheer breath from the man who had given it to her.

But that breath was gone... and she was left alone in that multicolored prison, the soprano singing on.


This can't be happening, Mulder thought. This can't be happening. It can't be over, he can't be gone, we were too close...

"Too fucking close !" he yelled, and kicked over a chair in the office that he had stumbled upon. He turned over the desk, and leaned against the wall, desperately trying to keep the tears that burned against his eyelids from spilling.

There were soft footsteps in the room, and Jesse's soft voice spoke over the music that filled it. "I've seen enough." Her voice was quiet, and empty. For the first time during her entire life, Jesse Phillips was afraid. Truly, seriously afraid. Not just of what would happen to her, but to the entire world. "I've seen enough."

So had he.


The Omni Hotel
Charleston, South Carolina
3:09 am

Mulder sat on the sofa, his mind a blank. Failure. He was a total failure. What kind of father was he? His duty had been to protect and love his son, and he could only fulfill the second half. His son lay in grave danger far from his touch, and he sat in silence, brooding over his disappearance.

And he had failed as Scully's makeshift husband.

He hadn't protected her. He hadn't let her know that he loved her. He hid like a coward, afraid to let anyone know his true feelings. He let them all brew inside, building and festering.

Was he truly like Jose Chung said that he was? A ticking time bomb of insanity? Perhaps. And he wondered what would happen when that bomb went off...

A door slammed, and Mulder looked up. Instead of Scully, whom he had expected, a livid Jesse stood before him, her hands on her hips, her eyes narrowed in rage.

"You son of a bitch," she hissed. "Look at you! You pathetic excuse for a man, you bastard! Even now, when the mother of your child is crying her eyes out in the room next to you, you wallow in self-pity!" Mulder said nothing, and Jesse's voice rose. "Well, let me tell you something, Fox Mulder, you're one of the most selfish people I know at the moment! You hide your emotions under your 'cool exterior', because you're afraid of what would happen if people actually knew what you were feeling! You've blinded yourself with self-pity and self-hatred, and you can't even see that there is a woman next door who loves you and needs you!" He was startled by that, but Jesse went on. "Stop living in the goddamn past! You can't change anything that has happened to you! You can only change what will happen! And until you do that, you're only making life miserable for the both of you! This are the nineties, sweetheart, so wake up, Merry Sunshine, cause this is your present!"

She stopped screaming and panted, her heart pounding. Mulder sat still, still and silent. She crossed the room and sat down on the table across from him. She took his hands in her own, and looked straight into his eyes. "He who lives in the past has no future," she said, sternly and wisely. "And neither do those who love him."

Mulder looked at her, and at that moment, Jesse won the respect and admiration of a man so powerful she would never imagine it. "I couldn't save him or her," he confessed. "And I don't think that I can ever forgive myself for losing them."

She did nothing, and spoke with calm and control in her voice. "Then right the wrongs done upon you. Not with violence or hatred, but with the truth." Her voice grew softer, and her indigo eyes were troubled. "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free..."

Mulder wondered how such a young girl could know so much about the world. "It's too late," he muttered.

"That's a bunch of bull," she countered. "The two of you love each other, and belong together. Until that happens, then nothing will get solved. You're both living a lie right now." She sighed. "At least go to her. Comfort her. She's a mess." She looked away. "Hey, Mulder, I didn't mean to yell at you."

"I know... I deserved it, though." He held on to Jesse's hand. She looked at him, and tilted her head. "This past year has been a mess... And I doubt that it will be easy to put it back together."

Jesse nodded, and stood up. "Do you think that it's been easy for her, either?"


Scully looked up from the bedspread as the door quietly opened. In walked Mulder, his hands stuffed guiltily in his pockets, his eyes downcast and ashamed. He went to the bed next to hers, and sat down on it.

"How are you?" he asked, already knowing the answer.

She shook her head. "I don't know..." she responded, her heart heavy and her mind put down. "I just don't know anymore. Just don't know what to make of it."

He nodded, and the room fell silent. The tension was there, that invisible wall that kept them apart. "We almost..." he began, then faltered. He lost what he was going to say, and shrugged. "We could have..."

She nodded. "I know. It was close."

Mulder tentatively took her hand, so warm and fragile in his larger grip. He hadn't done so in ages, too afraid to let his resolve go. "I'm sorry," he apologized.

She looked into his eyes, her eyes tearstained. "For what?"

He let her hand go then, and stood up. "For everything," he said, gruffly, and walked away, leaving her alone and unsure.

Would he ever understand?


Later that night, as Scully slept, tossing and turning with nightmares, Jesse opened up her diary, and wrote with her scrawling, messy, yet somehow beautiful calligraphy.

"I have taken up paranoia as means of survival, and erased such simple human emotions such as love, hope, and faith. I wondered at first if I could ever feel again, until I walked into that phantom nursery, and saw the empty cribs and brightly painted murals.

"Why did it have to happen to children? Children, who are born with such potential and such innocence. The future of our world, corrupted before they are even given a chance to think. Hope destroyed before ever given birth to.

"Is there no faith and hope in this world? Is there no more hope for mankind? Have we all been condemned and damned to live a life of misery and deception? Or are there those who care enough to end it?

"I only hope that those with the power to change our world use that power before it is too late."


Chapter Seven: FLamES OF PASSION

Listen as the wind blows
From across the great divide
Voices trapped in yearning
Memories trapped in time

The night is my companion
And solitude my guide
Would I spend forever here
And not be satisfied?

And I would be the one
To hold you down
Kiss your soul
I'll take your breath away
And after I wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes dear

Through this world I stumble
So many times betrayed
Trying to find an honest word to find
The truth enslaved

Oh, you speak to me in riddles and
You speak to me in rhyme
My body aches to breathe your breath
Your words keep me alive

And I would be the one
To hold you down
Kiss your soul
I'll take your breath away
And after I wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes dear

Into this night I wander
Each morning that I dread
Another day unknowing of
The path I fear to tread

Into the sea of waking dreams
I follow without pride
Cause nothing stands between us here
And I won't be denied

And I would be the one
To hold you down
Kiss your soul
I'll take your breath away
And after I wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes dear

And I would be the one
To hold you down
Kiss your soul
I'll take your breath away
And after I wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes dear
--Sarah McLachlan "Possession", Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, 1993

 

The Omni Hotel 8:23 am

Scully awoke early to hear the phone ringing. She had not slept well, and she was not looking forward to getting up and answering the phone. She leaned over, and picked it up. "Mmm... hello?"

The tone on the other end of the phone was urgent and hurried. "You're Agent Scully, right?" It was a female voice, one that was panicky.

Scully sat up in bed, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. "Yes," she replied. "Who is this?"

"Let's just say that this is a friend of humanity," the woman said. "And I'm in trouble. You and your Mulder, as well as that kid had better be at 13 Solomon Court, by the Market, in a half an hour... or you'll find two corpses that you don't wanna find. Get it?"

Scully didn't get it, but knew that this woman was serious. "I'll be there."


13 Solomon Court
Charleston, South Carolina
8:59am

The building was run down and dirty, and in a filthy, crime-ridden neighborhood. Jesse didn't like the looks of it, and was comforted by knowing that at least she had her gun in her belt. She had on the now constant backwards hat, flannel shirt, and blue jeans, with the leather jacket and Nikes to boot. Mulder and Scully, in the quick of the moment, had actually dressed down, Mulder in a long-sleeved white shirt, a sweater, blue jeans, hiking boots, and a leather jacket, and Scully in a sweater and black jeans. Her hair was loose around her face, and she looked lovely.

Mulder got out of the car, toting a flashlight. He went around to Scully's side, and opened her door, extending a hand to her. Jesse got out on her own, and Scully allowed Mulder to pull her up. Surprising her, he did not let go, and the couple walked to the building, hand in hand, with a slightly smiling Jesse behind them.

Mulder knocked on the door, and a female voice answered his knock.

"You're late," she croaked. "Here's how we're going to do this. I want the kid to come in first. She's going to go into the back room, where I am. She's gonna deal with me. The lights will all be turned out, so she might want a flashlight. Then, I want Mulder in the room before that one. Right next to the door. Here, I'll keep the lights on. And Scully's going to stay right outside, my lookout."

Mulder shook his head. "No, Jesse's in the middle room, and I deal with you."

The woman turned angry. "Nuh-uh. That ain't gonna work out. I want to talk to the kid. Jesse, whatever her name is. Don't matter much, any how. She talks to me."

Jesse spoke up, her voice calm and steady. "All right. What am I supposed to deal over?"

The woman slowed down a little. "You're gonna like it. Just get in here when I fire this gun. Don't worry, it's just a blank. Last one, too."

Mulder didn't like this one bit, but didn't know what else to do. The thought of turning over responsibility of a child to a possibly armed woman was unethical. But judging from the look of control on Jesse's face, he would probably have little say in the situation anyway. "Okay."

Jesse entered the room, holding the flashlight that Mulder had given her in one hand. Before Mulder followed her, he turned to Scully. "If you hear a gunshot, forget about us, and drive away," he said. She looked at him, her blue eyes strong.

"I refuse to do that," she said, and pulled her gun. Mulder sighed. He had expected as much from her.

Jesse looked at Mulder as he closed the door behind him. "If you hear a gunshot," she said,"you wait. If I don't come out after one minute, then it was me who was shot, and you and Scully leave. Get that?"

He nodded, and pulled his gun as well.

The room that Jesse entered was pitch black, and she quickly turned on her flashlight. The woman who stared at her with animal eyes smiled. "You're Jesse Phillips... the one who took the files."

"Yes," she confirmed. "That would be me."

The woman nodded. "Gretchen McKinley. You ought to know who I am."

Jesse nodded, and pointed the flashlight on Gretchen. She was a tall redheaded woman, with red hair and hazel eyes. She was a pretty enough woman, but she was covered in blood. Her eyes were crazed, and they darted back and forth, nervously.

"What happened to the children from the commune?" Jesse asked her. Gretchen nodded.

"Glen Wong was a doctor at the commune. He was in charge of the children's health. He was also my... well, my good friend. I had been a nurse at the clinic for almost three months when we started noticing that there were some odd things going on. The kids weren't allowed to speak or feel, and there were these wierd experiments going on with genetics, something like that. We just never really found out until Baby X was stolen away. Then, we figured out what was going on.

"We were really disappointed that he came back. He wouldn't have made it in here for long. Kid had a streak in him... something he gets from his parents, I don't know. Anyway, after you stole the files, the directors got really sloppy, so Glen and I took the kids down to Charleston, hoping that someone would find them when they got there."

She smiled at the memory. "Oh, but Glen and I were so full of hope. We loved all of those kids. We tried to break them, painted the house full of bright colors, pumped music through the nursery... but it didn't work out. Last night, they came and killed Glen and took all of the kids... except for one. I got away with one child."

And, as Jesse's heart lept to her throat, Gretchen picked up a red-haired toddler, wearing a pair of blue coveralls and a white tee-shirt. She knew who that toddler was. The child had Scully's red locks, blue eyes, and pale skin, but he also had Mulder's face. He was Baby X. Gretchen nodded. "I can see from the look on your face that you know who this is," she said. "My little Baby X. He was the closest one to escape, and now he is theirs again. You are going to go out of the door, and give the baby to Mulder. Then come right back in here."

She passed the baby to Jesse, and Jesse held him in her arms. She looked down into his face with amazement. The child looked up at her with eyes like oceanic pools. "I'll be right back."

She opened up the door, and Mulder turned pale when he saw who the child in Jesse's arms was. Little Christopher Ahab, back from the dead, once again alive. She gave him the child, her demeanor cold and tranquil. "Your son," she said, and went back in the room.

The woman smiled at the sight of Jesse. "You're gonna take me with you, now," she said, smiling like a maniac. "I'm coming, too."

Jesse looked at the woman with disgust. "No," she said, frostily. "You are not."

Jesse pulled out her gun, pointed it at the woman, and pulled the trigger, never flinching. The woman fell dead, her head a bloody pulp. Jesse looked at her. "You're not going anywhere, ever again," she said, and she left the room in a hurry.


Mulder had no time to look at the baby in his arms before the gun fired. Jesse dashed out of the room, holding her gun in her hand. "Let's go!" she yelled. Mulder ran out of the door, carefully holding Christopher. Scully turned around, her eyes widening and her skin whitening when she saw the child in her partner's arms. Jesse put the gun back in the waist of her jeans, and started to run toward the car. "Go!" she screamed, and the foursome escaped.

Mulder drove, and Scully held her son once again in her arms, silently crying tears of joy and relief, her tears falling on her son's face, even more like Mulder's after the time that had passed. "Oh, thank God," she whispered, and Mulder smiled, happy for once in his life.

Jesse sat in the backseat, looking with amazement at the baby that Scully held. "So... that's him," she murmured, and Mulder nodded.

"Christopher Ahab Scully-Mulder," he confirmed, and Jesse shook her head.

"Jesus, Mulder, he looks just like you and Scully..." she marvelled. "He's beautiful."

Mulder just smiled in the mirror back at her. "We wouldn't have him back if it weren't for you," he thanked. "You were the one who made this all possible."

Jesse shook her head. "No." It hadn't been her.


The Market
Charleston, South Carolina
February 13 2:43pm

There was love in the air.

Jesse knew it. The sun was out, and the sky was clear, but the greatest part of all was the fact that she had helped them to succeed. The child had been returned to them, and they were almost happy.

What kept them from being completely happy was that the child still remained silent and unemotional. He had not cried, not smiled, not shown his feelings at all. Both Mulder and Scully seemed let down by that, but they both kept high spirits on the first day back with their baby.

They had bought a stroller, and baby clothes, as well as baby food, and other utensils. Jesse had to admit that it was rather entertaining to watch two federal agents handling a child.

She walked at their side as they strolled Christopher downtown, with wide sunglasses to shield their faces from anyone who would recognize them. She, too, wore sunglasses, blue John Lennon frames that she had picked up last summer. Joe had a pair, too, and they had laughed over those glasses. She wished that they could spend Valentine's Day together, but some things weren't meant to be.

Mulder had stopped at a stall in the market that sold hand-sewn blankets, and was picking up a few for the baby, who Scully was pushing in the stroller. Jesse ambled over to a stall that was selling jewelry, and picked up a little locket, similar to the one she wore about her neck, except it had diamond chips in it.

It was expensive, but money was no problem for Jesse. She was a computer hacker. She had tons of money. But there were better pieces of jewelry than this... and better things that she could do with that much money.


3:12pm

Mulder cursed as he set up the crib in Scully's room. Jesse insisted, for some reason, that it go there. Why, he didn't know or really want to know. All he knew was that Jesse had gone for a walk, and Scully had gone out for , and he had been assigned with the job of putting up the crib.

Christopher was lying down on the couch, taking a nap. Mulder longed to throw down the stupid crib parts and join his son, but he had a duty.

Eventually, the damn thing was set, and Mulder went to his suitcase and pulled out the crowning touch. A mobile that he had bought long ago, when they had first acquired Christopher Ahab. One that had tiny, plastic UFOs spinning about, with stars that glowed in the dark. It played tinkling music, and he remembered the look on Dana Scully's face when he brought it out to present to her.

::"Hey!" he called out. She looked up, alarmed, and Mulder gave her a devilish smile. He walked to his suitcase, and unzipped it. "When we were in the mall, I picked up something for the baby from a gift shop." Curious as to what kind of present Mulder would buy, she kept her eyes on him, amused.

Mulder pulled out a mobile. Not any regular Fisher Price Mobile, but a plastic mobile with tiny UFOs and stars. The look of pride and pleasure on his face was just too much, and she burst out laughing.

Mulder looked at her, looking slightly hurt. "You don't like it?"

She shook her head, smiling. "No, no. It's perfect." With that secret smile on her face, she stood up. "I love it."::

Mulder smiled at the memory, and fastened the mobile to the crib, placing some of the baby blankets inside of it.

But when he went to pick up Christopher, he found that he didn't have the heart to disturb him. He instead picked up the baby, laid down on the couch, and rested with the child on his chest, curled up in Mulder's arm.

At peace with himself, he fell asleep.

His slumber only lasted him for a while until Jesse came into the room, her hair windblown and beautiful. She smiled down at the two, and sat on the coffee table by the couch.

"Well, Mulder, you must be pretty contented at the moment," she murmured. Mulder looked up, slightly embarrassed.

"Yeah," he murmured. She smiled, and tentatively stroked Christopher's hair. He smiled back, and sat up, holding Christopher as well. Jesse cupped Christopher's face in her hand, and looked upon the child with hope and pleasure. She then looked at Mulder, her indigo eyes searching his brown-green ones.

"You've achieved your goal. Your son is with you." She then stood up, and in the usual, elusive fashion that Mulder at times found irritating and at other times enlightening, left him with words to ponder.

"So, what do you do when your dream has come true?" she asked him, and left the hotel room, heading out to the lobby.

To answer honestly, he didn't know. Had his dream come true? Was his life truly fulfilled? Of course not. Jesse was wrong on that score. Or, was that the point that she was trying to put across? That there was still a lot left to do, and that just because they had gotten Christopher back did not mean that he could finally rest.

He still had no idea if the government knew where he was. He still did not know if his son was in danger. And he still didn't have his sister... or Scully.

Jesse's words rang true, and he knew that she was right. Just because one dream was fulfilled, didn't mean that they all were. The trouble lay in deciding which dreams should just remain dreams, and which dreams to chase after.

He felt the child in his arms stir, getting comfortable, and recalled what Scully's hair had felt under his lips so long ago, and thought about how similar his son's hair was to his partner's.

For some reason, he suddenly remembered that the next day was Valentine's Day.


11:23pm

Scully smiled as she picked up her baby boy again, looking upon his face as though she had never forgotten him. Mulder looked on, his arms crossed over his chest, his hair ruffled from sleep, which was what Jesse was doing. There was a softer look on his face, a look that differed from his usual hardness. A look of admiration and contentedness...? No, it was more than that. Was it a look of fondness and warmth? No... Mulder looked down at the child in her arms, and at her. "You always did know how to hold him better than I ever could," he remarked, and she smiled, shaking her head.

"I just had more patience," she corrected. "Not more love."

Love... such a word had not been said for so long. A word that only consisted of four letters, but one that contained such meaning. A person could say anything, but that one, simple word, spoken from the heart and filled with the soul, could change a person's life forever.

She rocked the child, tenderly, and Mulder, almost shyly, stepped up to smooth the baby's red hair. Her hair. She looked up at him, surprised, and cradled the baby protectively. He stepped closer, and he towered over her, not in a threatening manner, but a protective one. She had forgotten how tall he was, but was reminded of his tall stature in the position that he took.

"It's been so long since we've seen him, hasn't it?" he asked, and she nodded.

"I never did forget his face. He looks more and more like you," she softly whispered, her tone belying her words. Mulder seemed hurt.

"And that upsets you..." he murmured. Before she could protest, he had stepped away, stuffing his hands in his pockets, putting up those walls that he always had. The hurt little boy, not wanting to let anyone in, and that stung her even more. "Not that I blame you."

She wanted to tell him that it was like looking at Mulder every time she looked in her child's face, like gazing upon her heart's desire and knowing that she had lost him forever, but kept her tongue still. Why didn't she ever just speak her mind? Why was it so easy for one to speak out in the heat of anger and fear, but so difficult to speak out in the fire of passion and love?

Scully put her son in his crib, and covered him with the colorful quilt that had been purchased downtown. She smiled softly as she turned it on, the music sounding so light and rich all at once. "You kept it," she commented, and Mulder nodded, shrugging carelessly.

"Yeah, well, you know me," he said. She walked to him, and looked up into his eyes, searching them for something familiar, something rational. Something that she knew was there. But those shadowy eyes only held darkness.

She shook her head, slowly. "No... no, I don't know you anymore..." she whispered. Dreading the consequences, she continued. "After that night, Mulder, I feel like we're miles apart. Like you can hear me, but you aren't listening. You can see, but you don't comprehend. You've changed since that night," she murmured, and Mulder turned away. He didn't like the direction she was taking.

She grabbed his sleeve, and pulled her close to him. He weakened. He hadn't been that close to her since that night... that night in the woods. He found himself trembling, shaking at the mere touch of her fingertips through the thin fabric of his shirt. He pulled away from her, and quickly walked into his room, trying to escape from her, from her softness, her sensuality, her beauty and her appeal.

Scully followed him, her brow furrowed and her eyes full of emotion. "Mulder, listen to me!" she cried, closing the door behind her. Mulder kept his back turned to her, his fists clenched in tight control. She swiftly crossed the room, and put her hand on his chest. "Listen to me," she pleaded. "I just want you to look down at me and tell me that we're doing the right thing."

He turned around, his eyes hooded, his skin pale, and his breathing heavy. He looked down at her, that small hand resting on his chest, and she could feel his heartbeat through his shirt. He slowly brought up his larger, browner hand, and placed it gently over hers, clasping it. Scully's own heart started to pound, and she looked up into his face. God, how she loved that face... so familiar, and so tender. She could only see love in his face when she looked at him, and that was all that she wanted to see.

She brought her other hand to his face, and gently traced the outline of the thin, almost transparent scar on his face. She could never forget what she had felt when that knife cut into Mulder's skin. With every single millimeter, she had felt that same blade cutting into her heart, carving it out. The scar was shinier and paler than his tanned, bronzed face, and it was smooth to the touch. "It never faded," she whispered, and Mulder took that hand as well, placing her hands behind his neck.

"Some wounds never do," he whispered back, and Scully put her hands on the back of his neck as he put his around her waist. Slowly, tentatively, she moved closer, closing her eyes as she felt his lips brush hers... so lightly, like the whisper of the wind, and she was stunned, weakened, left shaking by the power and intensity she discovered behind that one, faltering kiss. He pulled back, his eyes wide and full of wonder, and she felt his hands shaking in the small of her back.

"Are you real?" he breathed, his eyes so uncertain that her heart swelled with love and compassion.

"Yes," she confirmed, bringing her mouth back up to his. "I am real, and I am yours." Her smile was sadly sweet, and full of undying love. "I always have been yours."

With more confidence, yet still tremulously and tenderly, he kissed her again, letting his lips fall upon hers with soft, sweet devotion and grace. It was a kiss that was born of ashes, and one that would light a million fires. The kiss grew deeper, and soon the fires consumed them both.


Chapter Eight: THE LAST NIGHT OF THE WORLD

There you go, flashing fever from your eyes
Hey babe, come over here and shut them tight
I'm not denying, we're flying above it all
Hold my hand, don't let me fall
You've such amazing grace
I've never felt this way

Oh, show me heaven, cover me
Leave me breathless
Oh, show me heaven, please

Here I go, I'm shaking just like the breeze
Hey babe, I need your hand to steady me
I'm not denying, I'm frightened as much as you
Though I'm barely touching you
I've shivers down my spine
Oh, and it feels divine

Oh, show me heaven, cover me
Leave me breathless
Oh, show me heaven, please

"Do you know what it's like to dream a dream?
Baby, hold me tight and let this be

Oh, show me heaven, cover me
Leave me breathless
Oh, show me heaven, please
--Tina Arena "Show Me Heaven", Don't Ask, 1996

 

The Omni Hotel
Charleston, South Carolina
Sunday, February 14 9:34pm

Dana Scully awoke with the sense of dislocation... like she was in a place where she should not be. She was disoriented, and groggy, yet in an extremely pleasurable way. Then, she felt those strong, muscular arms of her partner and now lover around her, and her ruby hair fanned across his bare chest, and smiled, long and slow, remembering where she was.

She was in the bed of Fox Mulder, and she was completely, blissfully happy. With his chin on her head, protectively, and her arms loosely wrapped around his neck, she was at home and at peace. She had found that safe place that she had feared she had lost forever, only to find that it had been there, all along.

Scully closed her eyes again, not wanting to have to see where she was. She was secure in the fact that she was perfectly aware of who she was with and why she was with him. She moved her arms from around his neck to clinging to his waist, planting a kiss in the hollow of his throat. He woke up, and chuckled, a deep, pleased rumbling in his chest that reverberated against her cheek. He started to lightly kiss her hair, moving his lips down to her forehead, tracing her profile with his mouth. When he reached her lips, she met him, and the two kissed with a deep love and serenity. She put her hands in his hair, and he hugged her close.

When the two broke from the kiss, Scully rewarded him with a smile that could light up the heavens. "Well, Fox Mulder, I take it that you slept well," she murmured, and he smiled back.

"Better than I ever have," he murmured back, and she only smiled even more, glowing at him with an inner light that he had released. She stroked his rich, mahogany colored hair, revelling in the way the silken strands felt between her fingers.

As he started to caress her slender neck with his lips, she held him there for a moment, looking down with love at him. "Happy Valentine's Day," she purred. He shook his head, lightly, smiling blissfully.

"That was one hell of a Valentine's present, Scully," he told her, and she laughed.

"Let's just say that I got a good present in return," she whispered, her voice seductive in his ear. It was his turn to laugh, and their eyes met, her face loving and enticing. He shook his head again, and put his hands in her hair.

"Oh, but I love you, Dana Katherine," he said, and when he spoke her middle name, he pronounced every syllable, drawing it out and causing her love for him to grow even more. He slowly sat up, and got out of the bed, and she kept her eyes on his lanky form, smiling with her mind and body.

"I'm going to get a shower and get dressed," he said, and her eyes danced, teasingly.

"Why?" she asked, and he just chuckled, moving in the direction of the bathroom.

Once he had closed the door, Scully leaned back into the bed, covering the blanket over herself, smiling contentedly. She had had lovers in the past, but none were like him. He managed not just to stir her body, but to arouse her soul, and to touch her heart and make her feel.

She climbed out of the bed, eventually, and put her clothes back on, running her hands through her disheveled crimson hair. She looked in the mirror, remembering the sad, lonesome woman that she was used to seeing, suddenly replaced by a glowing, peaceful, beautiful woman who had achieved a goal long set ago.

Mulder came out of the bathroom, his hair damp and clinging to his forehead, looking dangerously appealing. He crossed the room and stroked her short, red hair. He looked into the mirror, at the two of them in each other's arms, perfectly fitting.

"I love you," he said into her ear, and she looked up at him.

"I love you," she replied, and he nuzzled her neck, relishing the taste of her skin on his lips, commiting it to memory. "We'll need to call Skinner, and tell him about what's been going on."

Mulder arched his eyebrows at her, a teasing note in his voice. "Why? Do you think that that's kinky?"

She gave him a look that told him that he was skating on thin ice. "No, not about... that, I mean about Christopher and Jesse." Skinner did need to know, Mulder supposed, but that did not mean that he and Scully couldn't enjoy the time that they had together. He knew just as well as she did that they would not have much time together after they got back to Washington.

She put her arms around his neck, and kissed him again. "Let's forget ourselves today," she said, and, for the first time in a long time, Mulder heard a lighter tone in her voice. "Just you and me... not Mulder and Scully. Just us."

Mulder's hands spanned her waist, and reached underneath the back of her blouse to carress the small of her spine. He couldn't resist the urge to bring his head down to hers, and taste her mouth. She rubbed her knee to his calf, and they broke apart, smiles on both of their faces. "I like that idea, Dana Kath-er-ine," he murmured. There was something so light in the way that he said that...

She moved away from him, but kept his brown hand in her grasp. She didn't want to be unable to touch him at any time. "Let me get changed. Maybe Jesse will watch the baby while we go out," she suggested. Mulder nodded, and kept his eyes on her back as she walked out, smiling.

Jesse was stretched out on the bed, painting her toenails a shimmering, sparkling blue. She smiled slyly at Scully, who only gave Jesse a look of amusement as she continued to coat her toenails with the glittery blue. "I am guessing that somebody did *not* sleep well last night," she suggested, and Scully just gave her a tongue-in-cheek look.

"And I am guessing that someone did?" she asked, pointedly. Jesse whistled, low.

"Oh, my, we *are* defensive, aren't we?" she murmured. "Anyway, Happy Valentine's day, Scully."

"Yeah, Happy Valentine's Day to you, too," Scully said. Jesse put a cotton ball between two of her toes, and blew on the drying polish.

"I once thought that Valentine's Day was a commercial holiday," she said. "If you couldn't tell your loved one that you loved them on any other day, what made one day in February so damned special? Nothing."

Scully picked up her brush, and started to brush out her mussed red hair. "What made you change your mind?" she asked, looking at Jesse's reflection in the mirror.

"Joe," she said, simply. Scully nodded, and padded to the crib, looking down at her still sleeping son. His blue eyes were closed, and there was an expression on her face that reminded her of Mulder's child-like slumber. His red curls were tousled, and his tiny body rose up and down with contented slumber. So like his father...

Scully turned around to Jesse. "Jesse, have you baby-sat before?" she asked. Jesse looked up, interested.

"Yes," she replied. "Of course... why do ask?"

"Mulder and I wanted to get some things for the baby today, and we didn't want to bother you or Christopher," she lied. Jesse sucked in her cheeks, and gave Scully a look that clearly called her bluff.

"Mmm-hmm," she said, and smirked. "Sure."

Scully just rolled her eyes, and walked to her suitcase. There was the usual assortment of suits, blue jeans, and dark sweaters that screamed "Special Agent Dana Scully has no life", but today she was not Special Agent Dana Scully. She was Mulder's Dana Kath-er-ine, and she would remember that. She had nothing suitable, and right then, she realized that she had no life.

Until now.

Jesse carefully, as not to smudge her newly applied nail polish, walked to where Scully was bent over the bag. "I'm going to tell Mulder to wait for you," she said. "You are *not* ready."


Fox Mulder let out a yell of protest when Jesse opened up the door. He quickly yanked on a pair of blue jeans, and walked out, bare-chested and barefooted, to the look on Jesse's face. She was restraining laughing at him. "Do you know how to knock?" he asked, indignation on his handsome face.

"Nope," she said, and gave him a charming smile. "Do you know how to lock?"

He ignored her retort, and crossed his arms, modest all of a sudden. "Well, what do you want?"

"I'm taking Scully shopping before you do. Deal with it," she told him. "And, judging from the looks of things, you probably could deal with a new wardrobe, too, G-Man."

Mulder would have rolled his eyes if she wasn't right. For a day that they were supposed to spend without being fenced in by any boundaries, he was doing one damned fine job of restricting himself. "Fine with me. Tell her to meet me in my room at 11:00," he said, and Jesse nodded, scanning his appearance.

"You got it, Romeo."


An hour later, Mulder stood in front of the mirror, carefully inspecting his appearance. Okay, so this was not the usual apparel of an F.B.I. agent. He could tell himself that much. That was a given. It was also a look that he considered flattering to his own marquee looks. But it was not the usual look of Fox Mulder.

During his hour to pick out a "disguise", he had taken a jaunt to Saks Fifth Avenue, thinking that he could find something suitable there. Not to mention the fact that Saks had a great selection of ties to make Scully turn green with nausea. He had come out with a few new ties to add to his collection, but also a new look for himself. Judging from the heads that he had turned while walking back to the Omni, it was a success.

He had on a pair of black wool slacks that hugged his hips, a forest green shirt that bared some of the curls on his chest, and a black suit jacket that fit him perfectly. No, Mulder had to admit, he did not look like himself.

And this was a good thing.

There was a knock on the door, and Mulder turned around in his new shoes. "Are you decent now?" was the dry inquiry of Jesse. Mulder called out that he was, and the door was opened, revealing a Dana Scully that Mulder had never thought existed.

She was clothed in an elegant, yet sexy, dark, cranberry colored velvet dress that hung a good few inches above her shapely legs. The dress had a scoop neck and long sleeves, and the skirt was swingy. It clung to her body, showing off her curves. Her red hair, usually so uniform, was pinned back from her face with sparkling barrettes, and the ruby strands shone with a silky sheen. Her gold crucifix hung in the hollow of her throat.

Scully herself was impressed and startled by a new Fox Mulder. The suit that he wore was not the usual Bureau suit, and he looked years younger and darkly handsome. She walked to him, her velvet pumps clicking on the floor.

"You look good enough to eat," Mulder told her. She just arched her eyebrows, a sign that this was still the good old Scully that he had fallen in love with, but a Scully that was not to be reckoned with. She swiped at a stray strand of brown hair that had fallen onto his brow.

"So do you," she murmured, and stood on her toes to kiss him. Jesse closed the door behind her, as Jesse let a sad, tender look into her face, remembering how Joe had used to do the same thing to her, calmly letting her know that all would be all right. She could close her eyes, and replace the figures of the older couple with the younger. Joe caressing her cheek, tenderly tracing her jaw.

"Do you believe in love at sixteen?" he had asked, his soft, bewitching voice deep and touched with that classy British accent, and she had put a hand on his arm, her fingertips touching his veins. She had looked upon his handsome, youthful, idealistic face with her wiser, more hardened, intense face, and brough his hand to her neck.

"I believe in a lot of things," she had responded, her voice like satin and sugar, and her thumb had drawn circles in his hand. "And love at any age is one of them."

Valentine's Day, one year before he had died.

Jesse stood alone, and fingered the locket in her fingers. I promise, Joe, I will avenge you, she silently vowed, and was interrupted by the sound of thunder, booming far off in the distance.


That day was a day that neither of the two would ever be likely to forget. It was a day that was surrounded in magic, even with the thunderclouds looming in the distance. All around Charleston, onlookers were amused by the sights of the couple, holding hands, exchanging secretive smiles, and at times embracing to kiss. That day, they let paranoia and fear go, allowing themselves to be spontaneous, and free.

As the sun set, they walked to a small cafe by the Battery, an elegant establishment full of love-happy couples. "Slightly North of Broad," Scully read aloud, and Mulder tugged on her hair.

"Well, I'll be receiving VISA bills for months," he said, and she shook her head.

"You need to be spending money on something," she scolded. The restaurant was classy, with a small jazz band and a singer to croon out love songs for the couples. Mulder sat Scully down, and ordered a bottle of the best wine in the house.

She sighed, and looked around. There had been magic in that day, and she knew that this very well might be the last time she would ever experience that same taste of exhiliration with him again. They would go back to Washington, back under the watchful eye of Walter Skinner, where they would be reduced to meaningful looks and quiet, secretive words. This could be the only time when they could flaunt their love, and she did not want to squander that opportunity.

As Mulder waited for the wine, he spoke. "When we go back to D.C., we'll have to keep a low profile," he said. She nodded, and took his hand. He noted with some amusement that Jesse had painted her fingernails a shimmering red color to match her dress and hair.

"If Skinner ever finds out that we're... then we'll never be able to see each other," she acknowledged. Mulder massaged the muscles in her hand, and she smiled, softly. He had always been able to do that to her; get all of the kinks out of her hands.

"Then we'll use whatever time we have," he said. She smiled, and the waiter returned with the Chardonnay. Bringing the glass to her lips, the light in the marroon wine glistened at him, winking.

The dinner was delicious, and they filled their time with talking, sharing, discussing Jesse and Christopher.. as well as other matters.

"Frohike will be crushed that I've stolen his dream-girl away from him," he teased. She chuckled.

"Mulder, tell me the truth," she demanded. "It's all an act, isn't it?"

He shook his head, slyly. "No, Scully, you honestly have his heart." He poured more wine into her glass. "As you also have mine." She kicked his foot playfully under the table, and he kicked her back. God, he was wierd, she thought to herself. Unpredictable, quirky, sly, and incredibly sexy... he had it all. He was unlike any other man that she had ever dated.

He took her hand, and looked seriously at her. "What are we going to do about Jesse?" he asked. She frowned.

"I suppose that the only thing that we can do is to put her in the Federal Witness Protection Program," she said. "She'll be safe there, and no one can find her that way. She'll be able to start a new life."

Mulder nodded. "We have to find some way to keep Christopher safe," he said. She nodded, and rested her chin on his hands, which encircled her own smaller ones.

"I know," she said. "And, right now, I don't know if there is one. Other than the files... the disks."

Mulder didn't know how the three would function as a family. He didn't know how they would be able to survive. But he did know, that at that moment, he would be able to be with Scully. And that was something that he would not be able to do for a long time.

He took her hands, and kissed them. He looked at the dance floor, where the singer began to sing a slower, beautiful song. He raised his eyebrows at her. "Look, I'm not the greatest dancer, but any moron can sway to slow music," he offered. She chuckled again. It was the closest that Fox Mulder would or could ever come to asking a woman to dance with him. She smiled, tenderly, at him, and nodded. He got up, and helped her to the dance floor. The singer, a tall man with jet black hair and dressed in a tuxedo, was joined by a tall, slender blonde in a gold sequined dress. The man began to sing in a deep, baritone voice.

"In a place that won't let us feel In a life where nothing seems real I have found you I have found you"

Mulder slipped his arms around her waist, and wondered at how easily his hands could span her small waist, his palms carressing her side. She slid her arms around his neck, looking up into his green eyes, holding them with her sapphire ones. Together, their bodies swaying in sync, they danced to the music. The woman began to sing, her voice also beautiful.

"In a world that's moving too fast In a life where nothing can last I will hold you I will hold you"

Mulder rested his cheek on the top of her head, and his arms tightened around her waist. He would keep her there, and never let anyone hurt her. In his life of chaos and disaster, he would be able to hold on to her, and know that she was there for him. The man sang again.

"Our lives will change when tomorrow comes"

The woman took her turn, and Scully exhaled against Mulder's chest.

"Tonight our hearts drown the distant drums"

United, their voices mingling and mixing as one, they sang together, a saxophone joining their music.

"And we have music all right Tearing the night

"A song Played on a solo saxophone A crazy sound A lonely sound A cry that tell us love Goes on and on Played on a solo saxophone It's telling me To hold you tight And dance Like it's the last night of the world"

Mulder knew that, for them, this could very well be their last night of the world. The next day, they would be forced to call Skinner and tell them that their case was solved. Jesse Phillips would go on with her new life, and Mulder and Scully would return to Washington. But their love would go on and on, and that night, they would hold each other and dance.


They walked back to the hotel with smiles on their faces. The night had been as full of enchantment as the day had been. But the next morning, gone would be Dana Kath-er-ine and her noble, young, care-free Mulder. They would once again be Scully and Mulder, the exiles of the F.B.I.

Back at Mulder's hotel room, Mulder unlocked the hotel door, a sly grin on his face. "Close your eyes," he told her. She gave him a suspicious look, and obediently did so. He swooped down, and picked her up, holding her in his strong, muscular arms. She let out a gasp of surprise, but kept her eyelids shut. He kept his arms around her waist and in the backs of her knees, and carried her across the threshold of the hotel room. "Okay, open them," he ordered. Unknowing of what to expect from him, she opened her eyes, and gasped again.

The hotel room was filled with dozens of rich purple roses, the tips of the petals tinged with soft pink. He continued to hold her, and she whispered his name. "Oh, Fox..."

He shook his head. "I don't care who you are, Dana Kath-er-ine, I still hate my first name," he said, smiling, and rubbing the tip of his nose to hers. She kissed him, and put her hands around his neck.

He gently let her down on his bed, and she rolled onto her side, putting her hand on his knee, massaging the muscle. He smiled at her, and he pulled one of the flowers from the vases. "While you were in the ladies' room at lunch, I called the florist and had him deliver the roses," he said. He brushed the petals of the flower to her lips. "They're angel-faced roses. I couldn't think of a more appropriate rose to give to an actual angel." The loving, tenderness on his face was enough to charm any woman.

She brought her face to his, and kissed him, long and freely. "I'll never stop loving you," she promised. "I never have."

He traced her collarbone with his finger. "And I can never stop loving you. I never have been able."

Scully smiled, and brought him down to her side, inviting him with her eyes, her soul, and her lips.


Jesse entered the room, and smiled at the scene. All of those damned flowers, she thought. Oh, yes, to ponder the complexity of a man like Fox Mulder... if she had a lifetime just to do that, she would never be able to fulfill it.

She remembered Julia, lying weakly in her hospital bed, her auburn hair thinning and falling out, losing its luster and shine, coughing so loudly that one wondered how such a small, shrunken, wasted woman could have that much power left in her. Jesse was jolted back into that day when she had brought angel-faced rosebuds to brighten Julia's room, and had patiently described what the flowers looked like to her blind sister.

"They're as pink as the first shades of dawn, and so soft and silky..." Jesse had said. She had only been twelve, and felt only remorse and regret at her older sister's condition. She knew that, within weeks, Julia would die, and her misery would end.

Julia had smiled, her skin so transparent that her cheekbones showed through. Her skin was like paper, dry and thin, pulled tightly over Julia's once beautiful features. She had reached out to Jesse with her emaciated hands, and pulled her sister close.

"Promise me that at my funeral, Jess, you'll have angel-faced roses like the ones that you brought me today."

And eight days later, as Julia was laid to rest, the rosebuds were there, as Jesse had promised.

Jesse had also made a solemn vow to herself. She had promised herself that no human being would ever again die in vain. So she would keep that promise, with the deaths of her friends and family. And so she would fulfill that promise through the lives of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

Dana Scully awoke from her dream world to find Mulder lying next to her, asleep as well, his arm protectively around her shoulders. Jesse Phillips was shaking her shoulder, not seeming to care that she was disturbing Scully. She sighed, regretting that she had to once again leave his embrace.

"What is it, Jesse?" she asked. This had better be good, she thought.

"I need to show you something," the girl said. "Get dressed and come into my room." Leaving Scully some privacy, Jesse walked away.

Scully threw on Mulder's large, terry-cloth robe, and walked into the other hotel room.

Jesse sat at the computer monitor, putting in disks and swiftly rejecting them. At her side, there was a stack of twenty to thirty blue computer disks, all unlabeled and unmarked.

Curious, Scully went to Jesse, and looked over her shoulder. "Jesse?" she asked, startling the girl. Jesse jumped, and then looked at Scully with a frustrated look on her face.

"Jesus," she muttered. She took all of the disks in the stack, and put them in Scully's hands. "These are copies of the disks. All the information, in pieces, except for these." She handed the agent a red disk, and Scully looked at her, puzzled. Jesse took a deep breath, and looked Scully in the eyes. "I want you to hide them. All of them. Don't tell me where they are. I don't want to know. Keep the red one with you, just in case. Hide them all around the country, the world if you have to."

Scully shook her head. "Jesse, why?"

"For Christopher. For you and Mulder. So that they won't come after you with the same intentions that they pursued me," she explained. "That way, they can never kill you without that risk of losing the information."

Scully looked severely at the girl. "And you don't want me to tell you where," she said. Jesse nodded.

"Give half of the stack to Mulder, and tell him to hide the disks. Don't let him tell you or me, and don't tell him where you hid the disks."

Scully went to her suitcase, and put the disks in there, keeping the red disk in her jeans pocket. She then went to her son, and picked him up. The boy needed to be fed, and she needed to be near him. Jesse shut down her computer, and put it in her suitcase. She wondered if she would ever want to touch the thing ever again.

And somehow, she doubted it.


Epilogue: SOMEONE NEW AND DIFFERENT

Charleston International Airport
Charleston, South Carolina
Tuesday, February 16 5:13pm

Jesse Phillips stood in the terminal, jiggling the backpack on her back uneasily. Her flight would be in soon, and she would leave her life as Jesse Ann Phillips forever, and become someone new and different. Her identity would change, and she would no longer be the bright, sensitive, intense, talented, sad-eyed girl she used to be.

Fox Mulder and Dana Scully stood behind her, Mulder's hand lightly holding Scully's, the stroller between the two agents. Jesse wasn't ready to leave them. She had, in spite of her resolve, grown attached to the two federal agents behind her, and she was going to miss them both, and their still stoic, silent babe.

Mulder ran his free hand through his hair, and looked at the petite woman beside him. She looked back up at him, and gave him a reassuring smile, letting go of his hand and walking to Jesse.

"You know that you'll never see us again," she said, and Jesse nodded.

"But if I stayed with you, then no one would ever see any of us," she said. Mulder went to his lover and his ex-ward, and Jesse looked up at him. Her lack of innocence, her talent, her sadness, and her intensity was something that had enthralled him, and he knew that he would never forget the young woman who had brought him back to his son.

She looked back up at him, and thought about the tortured, sensitive, haunted shadow of a man before her, yet a man that was powerful and striking. She turned her head to the woman next to him, cool, calm, strong, and willful. She had learned much from them both, and would never forget the man and woman who had saved her life and revived her will to live.

"Last call for Flight 1106 to Baltimore," the flight attendant called. Jesse picked up her guitar case, and put on her sunglasses. She turned to Mulder first, and wrapped her arms around the tall man's neck, embracing him warmly and trustingly, surprising the man. She then turned to the shorter woman, hugging Scully heartily.

Mulder smiled at her, and she turned to walk away. "If you need us, all you have to do is call," he promised.

Jesse walked away, and just before she walked out of their lives forever, she turned around, and smiled slyly. "I'll be in touch," she said, and without a word, boarded her flight to Baltimore.

Mulder wordlessly took Scully's hands in his, and looked down on her. "She'll be all right," he decided. He chuckled then, slightly shaking his head. "Hell, I think she still has that stolen weapon."

Scully laughed as well, and looked at the spot where Jesse had stood, looking so coldly determined, and frowned, forlornly. There was something odd about her indigo eyes, those same vibrant eyes that had stared Scully down in the past week. Something frosty, bitter, and regretful. She had a feeling that they hadn't seen the last of her.

Mulder noticed the look on her face, and cupped her face in his hand, looking down at her, his brow furrowed in worry. "Hey, are you all right?" he asked, concerned.

She shook off the nagging voice in her heart, and concentrated on the man standing before her and the child next to her. "Yes," she murmured, and gave him a small, secretive smile. "How could I not be?"

Answering her question, he bent down and kissed her again, and the two lovers met in a passionate embrace.


The man snapped the last photograph, and put away his camera. He was pleased with what he had captured on film, and thought happily about the fat check that he would receive for these photos.

It had been an easy enough assignment. Follow the tall, brown-haired man and the short, red-headed one, and take pictures. Make sure that no one could see him. Cinch.

He watched as the two walked away, arm in arm, and thought about why he had even been hired to take stupid pictures of a man and a woman in love. He sighed. None of his business. He just did as he was told, and didn't ask questions.

And the man who smoked all those fucking cigarettes would like these shots.


Later that night, in their last night together in the Omni Hotel, Scully slept in the comfort and safety of the arms of Fox Mulder. And she dreamed...

Back in that cold, sterile laboratory... those men all around her... and those doctors...

Scully knew the dream well. It had haunted her ever since she had been returned from her abduction. She couldn't move... oh, Christ, why couldn't she move? Her arms, her legs, her entire body weighed down. She wanted to fight, but her body refused to obey her commands. She was defenseless. All she could do was watch as the men performed their tests.

And the pain... oh, God, the pain. She could feel her insides burning as the men operated on her. The look on their faces... like she wasn't even human. Like she didn't even count. Just another goddamn lab rat being brought in and disected.

Helplessly, she looked at her body, swollen and stretched horribly out of proportion. She wanted to cry, to start screaming, but all she could do was lay there, letting the men violate her and abuse her.

Then, the dream continued. Something that it ordinarily did not do. She could still hear, hear the Japanese voices being interrupted by a somewhat familiar voice.

"How is she coming along?" the voice asked.

In broken English, the Japanese doctor responded. "Very good, sir."

"How long until she can be returned?"

"Another month, maybe more, maybe less. We watch her."

No! Not another month. She couldn't take this pain, this suffering, for yet another month. She rolled her head slightly, only a fraction. The man whose voice she could almost recognize walked to her, and bent down, smiling oily.

"Excellent."

And he blew smoke in her face.


Scully awoke with a start, her heart pounding and her brow covered in sweat. "No!" she cried out, and Mulder woke up, slowly. He sat up by her, and put an arm around her.

"Dana, what is it?" he asked, and she leaned back into his arms, seeking comfort in the firm embrace that she had wanted to find the entire time she was gone. She nestled up to his chest, and he stroked her back with hands that were warm and familiar.

She shook her head. "Nothing, Mulder," she lied. "Just a bad dream."

He nodded, knowing how horrible bad dreams could be, and eased her down to the pillows again, holding her tightly and swiftly returning to slumber.

Scully stayed awake for a moment, and looked down at her flat, smooth stomach. The dreams had returned, and this time they carried a new element of disaster.

The truth.

The night had passed, supposedly leaving them near dawn. But there was an old saying, that the dawn must be entered by surviving through the darkest hour.

THE END


Thank you again for reading my work! If you enjoyed this story, then wait a little while longer, and the final installment,"Darkest Hour", will soon come to you. :-)

Author's notes: Yes, the characters of Glen Wong and Rob Bowman Phillips are named for the combination of my two favorite writers and my favorite director. My little way of saying,"You're the best." Also, the name of Scully's alias(Jennifer), is a tribute to the author of "When The Bough Breaks", Jennifer Frye, who inspired this entire trilogy.

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