Title: East Side of Eden
Author: conspiracy
Rated: NC-17
Timeline/Spoilers: Post-Requiem
Key Words: MSR, angst, CD
Classification: XSRA
Distribution: Anywhere, although if it's not a major archive, I would like an e-mail notifying me. :)
Disclaimer: I don't own 'em. Stop harassing me.

Summary: "...always, like an elephant that would not leave center stage, her focus would travel back to this one word, this single syllable. Every time it came to her it instilled yet another violent pang of fear deep in her gut. The name fell on her like an omen foretelling the fate of her child. Only she could not decipher that fate. All she could do was worry over the possibilities of its meaning.... Cain"

Author's Notes: "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." -Kierkegaard (the same goes for this story) (more author's notes at the end of the story)

Genesis 4: 13-16 And Cain said to the Lord: My iniquity is greater than that I may deserve pardon. Behold thou dost cast me out this day from the face of the earth: every one, therefore, that findeth me, shall kill me. And the Lord said to him: No, it shall not be so: but so whoever shall kill Cain, shall be punished sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, that whosoever found him should not kill him. And Cain went out from the face of the Lord, and dwelt as a fugitive on the earth, at the east side of Eden.


August, 2000

"I'm pregnant."

The look of shock on her boss' face - and her complete lack of interest in the consequences of telling him. In the back of her mind was a small thought that there must be some type of protocol issue he would now have to face with this knowledge, but her own emotions were so overwhelming that it didn't seem all that pressing. All her remaining energy was spent just trying to contain the tears of joy and grief that formed simultaneously within the brims of her eyelids.

"How?" He asked haltingly after several seconds. His voice was hoarse and she briefly realized that he was nearly crying as well, but everything around her - the man in front of her included - seemed a thousand miles away in some dizzy haze that she had once called the world before it had fallen apart.

"I'm not sure." She paused for a moment, collecting her thoughts so that she would be able to speak again without allowing the tears to escape. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a full second. "The blood and urine tests both came back positive. More tests are being done, but I'm not really sure anything else can be discovered without further investigation." The words she spoke didn't even register in her own brain. Her mind knew that there were still questions to be asked about what was growing inside of her, but her mind was not controlling her at the moment. The unbelievable sense of elation she felt was equaled only by the terror of the revelation that begot both emotions. Her thoughts could not focus. Running through her head was a nearly constant mantra: *I'm pregnant... Mulder's gone... I'm pregnant...*

The emotion she felt at each statement was doubled by its relevance to the other.

"But..." Skinner took a deep, uncomfortable breath. "I have to ask, Dana."

The use of her first name caused him to draw her attention momentarily. "Yes, sir?"

"The fact alone is... remarkable, but..." He shook his head briefly as if coming to an abrupt decision to cut out the bullshit. "Do you know who the father is?"

Scully nearly laughed at the absurdity of the question. Not that she wouldn't expect him to ask, but the caution with which he voiced his query struck her. She was so caught up in everything that she had given little thought to the information she was entrusting with this man. She had really assumed he would know as soon as she told him of her condition.

"Well, there's no way to be sure yet, I suppose, but I've never been one to readily believe in aliens, and while some of the things I've seen lately may have altered my perception slightly, I'm not quite ready to believe I was impregnated by Reticulans."

Skinner just stared at her blankly. She supposed it seemed odd for her to be making bad jokes at a time like this. She was almost surprised herself at the strange bout of humor, but like so many of the trivialities she seemed suddenly faced with, she couldn't find it within herself to care all that much.

"Sir, I'm not the Virgin Mary."

She thought she glimpsed a shadow of relief pass across his features, as if he had been expecting some sort of immaculate conception. "I didn't suppose that you were, Agent Scully." He was redrawing lines quickly. She was grateful; the loss of those lines made her uncomfortable. She didn't know how to handle a crying Skinner, and didn't care to give him the effort at the moment. "But that still leaves the question - and I really don't mean to pry into your personal life - but who *is* the father?"

Oh really, you don't mean to pry? She almost let out a sarcastic chuckle. She swallowed it down quickly and felt the backs of her eyes begin to burn. As strange as it was, after all the secrecy and all the fears they had faced about it, she really wasn't afraid to tell him. The ramifications as far as work went didn't matter now. Everyone would find out soon enough. Instead, it was the simple thought of saying his name that struck something within her and once more threatened to bring on tears. She forced them back down as she spoke, her voice only the exhale of a deeply held breath. "Mulder."

Skinner closed his eyes and wavered slightly. He seemed to collapse down slowly into a chair by the wall, looking around the room, avoiding contact with her eyes. For several seconds the room fell into an awkward silence. She stared at her hands, waiting.

"I'm sorry," he finally said, a small voice just above a whisper that she couldn't even recognize as his. She saw him seem to fight down tears.

Scully stood slowly from her bed, quietly moving to her boss' chair and placing the back of her hand against his face. As he turned his head, she moved her hand to cup his chin and jaw line with her palm, forcing him to look into her eyes. When she spoke it was a fierce choke through clenched teeth, the determination in her eyes showing her resolve loud and clear.

"We *will* find him."

And the floodgates finally opened.


4 Hours Earlier

"Dana?"

The door opened. It was her doctor. Holding papers. She didn't want to know what the blood work showed. Frohike had called minutes ago to tell her that Mulder was missing. Skinner was already on his way back to Washington.

They took him.

They took him. Skinner watched it. It was Them.

What sort of cruel god could make her deal with this now as well? Why couldn't the tests have taken longer? Why couldn't she have time? Time to gain back some hope before these results struck another horrible blow.

The sinking feeling in her stomach told her he wasn't coming back any time soon. She could feel his absence course through her like never before. Her hope was gone and she hadn't even begun to search.

*Please don't let it be cancer... please don't let it be cancer... Please don't make me do this alone...*

She was almost certain. The thought brought with it so much dread she was almost overcome with fear. A sense of helplessness she hadn't felt the likes of in nearly two years was creeping up and down her spine and taking root in her gut.

"Dana?" She noticed with annoyance that her doctor was now standing above her, next to the bed, waiting to gain her attention. She sat up and braced herself for the news that the woman held in her hands. She couldn't do this. She needed him. If she needed him now, how the hell could she get through this again? She wasn't sure that even her will to live could withstand doing it alone. She lost that just thinking about what she might face.

"Dana, your blood tests are back, as well as your urine sample, and they bring some... unexpected news."

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath through her nostrils.

*Here it comes.*

"It says here in your chart that for about two years now you've been considered barren?"

Scully's eyes opened in confusion and she lifted her eyebrow at the woman. What did that have to do with anything?

"Yes. I underwent some testing a couple of years back."

"Who performed these tests?"

"My gynecologist. Dr. Vetzne."

The doctor nodded thoughtfully. "Well, Dana, I know Dr. Vetzne, and she does good work, but I think, perhaps, there may have been an error in those tests."

"What do you mean?" Scully felt suddenly numb. This was too much. Her emotions were going in so many directions that she couldn't feel anything definitively.

"Dana, you're pregnant."

She felt as if she had been slammed up against a wall. The world was spinning.

"Both tests?"

The doctor's concern showed in her face. "Yes, both tests were positive. And just to make sure, I'm having specialized tests run as well to rule out any diseases or disorders that might cause the appearance of pregnancy, but as a doctor you should know that it's extremely rare for blood and urine tests to both come back false. And you're not exhibiting any of the symptoms usually associated with any of those disorders."

She knew these things. She knew them cerebrally, but it would not sink in. How could she be pregnant? Shouldn't she have known? Weren't women supposed to have some sort of feeling about this? On some level shouldn't she have realized that there was a new life forming inside of her?

It occurred to her that the doctor was saying something.

"Do you know who the father is? Would you like me to contact him?" Standard line of questioning for a single mother.

*Single mother.*

*Oh my god- I'm going to be a mother.*

She felt on the verge of an explosion; her confusion and joy mixing together in so much emotion that she couldn't decipher her own thoughts.

"Dana?" She turned her attention to the woman speaking. "Do you know who the father is? Are you involved with someone at the moment?"

The joy would not leave her, but an empty feeling suddenly entered her chest. She felt like she was riding on a horrible roller coaster that just wouldn't stop. Tears finally sprung to her eyes. When she spoke, they almost escaped. "Yes."

"Would you like me to contact him or would you rather do it yourself?"

The first tear slipped down her cheek. She couldn't stop it. "He's..." Another. "He's missing." And another. A thousand horrible images flashed through her mind all at once. Waking up with morning sickness. Alone. Going into labor. Calling a taxi. Giving birth, alone. Raising this child. Alone.

She had to find him.


June, 2000

She woke up to a soft touch on her cheek and the feel of warm leather against her back.

"Wha-"

"Shhh..." Mulder's soft whisper calmed her original startle.

"I'm sorry. I must have fallen asleep."

He smiled softly. "I noticed." His hair was damp. He smelled clean. He was dressed for bed. "I was just about to head off for that particular state myself. I thought I'd wake you up and see if you felt like driving home or if you just wanted to stay the night." He looked her over briefly, a glint of humor still in his eye. "Judging from your sudden bout of narcolepsy, I'd suggest the latter."

Her inability to admit weakness nearly caused her to protest, but she *was* extremely sleepy. And she just felt so *good* here. She yawned and stretched out her arms. "I think I just might take you up on that offer."

"Okay then, you take the bed. I'll sleep on the couch." He leaned down and grabbed the blanket he had covered her with, taking it from her.

She drew a deep breath and let it out in a voice that was much more whiny with sleep than she had intended. "Mul-der, I can sleep on the couch. I'm comfy here."

He smiled and let out a small chuckle at her little-girl voice. "Scully," he said firmly but with the smile still painted on his face, "You take the bed."

A mischievous grin spread across her lips and sleep-addled eyes as she rose from the leather sofa. "Only if you come with me." It took her a full two seconds to realize she had voiced this statement rather than simply thought it. Her eyes opened wide in shock, the haze of sleep completely gone from them. The smile didn't quite leave Mulder's face, but his eyes looked equally shocked as he searched her features for the meaning behind her words. "Joke," she explained with a small, unconvincing laugh. For a second she could have sworn he looked disappointed - but it could have been her imagination. He gave a small, self-conscious laugh.

Out of nowhere, the image of Daniel lying in his hospital bed flashed through her memory. Her conversation with Mulder just before she fell asleep. Fate. Everything has led up to this moment.

"Unless you don't want it to be?" she questioned cautiously. He stared at her for several seconds, his expression unreadable.

*What am I doing?*

His voice would have been cool and collected if not for the slight crack it began with.

"Well, well, Agent Scully, that sounds an awful lot like a proposition to me." She couldn't tell which one of them he was trying to offer an out to by turning this into a joke as well.

She swallowed and took a deep breath and didn't take it. "Maybe it was."

"Maybe?" He was getting awfully close to her now. She could feel his breath on her face. And yet the hesitance in his voice was shown through his movements as well. He was close enough to kiss, but he wasn't making a move to do anything about the proximity.

"Maybe." She smiled and looked into his eyes with a hint of invitation.

"You know, in my high school acting class, my teacher used to call this position fight or fire-truck." His voice was low, his eyes roaming over her face, obviously far away from what he was saying.

"You took acting, Mulder?"

He shrugged slightly. "I needed one more elective credit. That's where they sent everyone who didn't have any other class to take." His voice was so soft, deep and raspy and warm against her mouth. "Mr. Johnson always said that when two people on stage were this close, they were either going to fight, or..."

"Fire-truck?" Scully asked, the hint of a laugh tracing the edge of her voice.

"Well it was a high school class, Agent Scully. The teacher couldn't very well be using such vulgar language."

She smiled and moved a fraction of an inch closer. Their lips were mere centimeters from touching. "So what position are we in, Agent Mulder? Fight or..." She smiled and made a small throaty noise that was almost a laugh but a hell of a lot more sexy. "Fire- truck?"

He smiled right back at her. "I'm here to make love, baby, not war." He leaned in one more fraction of an inch and their lips touched. Then their tongues. Exploring, running over teeth, across all sorts of planes and crevices, and when the kiss finally ended in a desperate attempt to attain oxygen, her lightheadedness came across in a small giggle.

"Baby?" she asked incredulously.

He smiled. "Yeah. It's one of the many synonyms used for a young homo sapien. An infant if you will. Over the centuries, it's also come to be used as a term of endearment. You're unfamiliar with this expression?"

She laughed again and leaned her forehead against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, still smiling. "Scully?"

"Yes?" A breathy sigh.

"Does that little proposition still stand, or are we gonna spend the rest of the night standing here giggling about the inappropriate uses of pet-names?" She chuckled again against his chest. "'Cause, you know, I'm fine either way, but if we are not, in fact, going to the bedroom, I, as I'm sure you can tell in the position you are currently in, am going to have to make a quick trip to the bathroom so that I will, in fact, be able to sit through this sure-to-be fascinating conversation."

She gave another loud, almost drunken laugh and lifted her head to look him in the eyes, smiling widely. "Well come on then, baby." She backed away from him and turned around, heading for the bedroom. He was right behind her.


I forgot who I was for the moment that I turned to see whose footsteps followed close behind, and I caught a glimpse of someone closing in on me as if I wasn't there at all. -"Doppelganger" by James Victor Anderson

August, 2000

Another pain gripped her chest and twisted it repeatedly as Scully finally began to let the tears flow freely. Skinner had been gone roughly an hour and it wasted too much energy to hide her sobs from no one. Her emotional state had improved slightly. Her tears were for Mulder's absence, but not for his loss. The doctor's revelation had brought with it a new sense of determination. She would find him. He had to be there to witness this new life with her. She wouldn't allow herself to consider a life without Mulder. Raising this child without him... it wasn't even feasible. Her tears were simply the byproduct of an emotional day, not the symbol of defeat they had been earlier.

First thing first, however, she needed to get out of this hospital. The doctor was ordering her to stay the night so that she would sleep with no distractions, but obviously this doctor did not know Scully. She couldn't imagine sleeping with Mulder still out there, and she helplessly confined to some cozy little hospital room, doing nothing to aid in the search for him. She had made a single call to the Lone Gunmen about 20 minutes ago and half-asked, half-ordered them to keep an eye out for any John Does admitted to hospitals across the nation that might fit Mulder's description, as well as working their asses off trying to hack into any DoD databases they could find and search for documents about recent train movements. She wanted to interview Skinner personally about what had happened in Oregon simply because it seemed the only obvious next step to take, but she had little hope that his account would be of much help to the investigation.

She closed her eyes and slowly laid her head back on the pillow in defeat. She could do nothing but wait. The events of the day left her with both emptiness and a new sense of completion, but overall, thousands more questions than she had answers to. She wanted to sleep, but at the same time could not shake the feeling that relaxation was a cop-out. She felt like someone taking drugs to escape the tribulations of her life. Her drug was sleep. It was an escape, and Mulder needed her now more than ever.

The sound of the door opening caused her eyes to open slowly. It was close to 10:30 p.m. and she didn't know who could be coming to see her after the doctor's expressed concern that she get some rest.

"Don't be alarmed, Agent Scully. I'm here to help you."

The deliberate voice, as cool as ice, calm and collected, yet strangely urgent all at once. Scully's eyes shot open and she sat up in the bed, almost reaching for her gun at the same time that she realized it wasn't there. Marita. The name itself caused an unconscious glare to form in her eyes.

"Get out."

"Agent Scully, I'd suggest..."

"I don't give a *fuck* what you would suggest. I want you the hell out of my room." Her voice was controlled, never above normal speaking volume, but the underlying tone of anger proved just how serious she was.

Marita was un-phased. "We told you about the ship. We led you..."

Scully wouldn't have any of it. "You *led* us to nothing. He's gone!" She could feel the tears of rage forming at the bottoms of her eyelids, but she wouldn't let them out. "Because of you." She paused. "It was probably all planned that way, wasn't it? Get him back there so you could take him. Get rid of him. I'm surprised it took you this long."

Marita looked her over for several seconds before she spoke again, still cool as ever. "Agent Scully, you don't know a thing about the situation your partner is now in. I believe it would do you some good to listen to what I have to say." She paused. "He trusted me."

"Until you betrayed him. I won't make the same mistake."

The blond walked slowly over to the chair beside Scully's bed and sat casually, crossing her legs at the knee and staring the other woman directly in the eyes.

"I can tell you why you're pregnant."

Scully stared at the woman for several seconds, processing this statement. Could she, in fact, trust a woman who had been working with the syndicate for years? Who came to them with Alex Krycek of all people?

"And why should I believe you?"

"The Cigarette-Smoking man is dead. Alex and I killed him."

Scully eyed her suspiciously. "Why?"

"It was time." It was as if she were discussing an old dog that had been put to sleep. Minus any emotion. "He was the last of the syndicate members and now they are all gone. And the world's a happier place." Scully thought she saw the hint of a smile at the corners of Marita's mouth.

"What about you and *Alex*? You're a part of that group."

Now Marita did smile. "Not any longer. We work for ourselves now." She lifted an eyebrow. "We can help you."

Scully's original shock and anger were giving way quickly to curiosity. If this woman could give her any answers to the questions she sought, the information could be unbelievably valuable.

"What can you tell me?"

"Nothing that can help you find Mulder, I'm afraid." This said regret wasn't exactly present in her voice or body language.

"However, I believe there are a few..." She glanced toward Scully's stomach. "...*other* questions you'd like answered."

A chill went up Scully's spine. How did this woman even know she was pregnant? "Why are you willing to tell me?"

"To gain your trust. I believe that we can be great assets to one another in times to come, Agent Scully. I may ask you to return this favor in the future."

Scully stared at the woman for several moments, weighing her options. "I want to know the truth, but I won't sell my soul to the devil to get it."

Marita made an unnatural sound that must have been a laugh. "Agent Scully, if only you knew what side you were on." She stood from her chair and took a step towards the bed, placing a delicate pale hand on the sheets and keeping their gazes locked. "I am not the devil. There is no *devil*. And there is no God. It's just us. And Them."

"The aliens?" Despite her skepticism of this woman, Scully could not help but be drawn in by the cold blue eyes and hard but fragile demeanor that told her Marita herself was still coming to grips with the information she now relayed, though only a professional investigator would know it.

Marita gave a bitter smile and turned from the bed, proceeding to walk about the room in the first real sign of agitation Scully had ever seen her exhibit. "Yes. The *aliens*." She took a step and looked around thoughtfully for a moment. "Agent Scully, what is God?" Her face turned in profile to the agent. "The creator; the one who gave us life." She paused, as if to give weight to the definition. "So if something... biological gave us life, created us if you will, would that life form be God?" Now she turned her entire body back stare Scully in the eye. "If it wanted to destroy us, would we have any justification in fighting back?" In the cold, blue-gray depths of the woman's eyes, Scully swore she saw a hint of fear. "Questions to ponder, Agent Scully. Especially for one bringing another life into this great big world." Marita slowly strode to the door and opened it slightly before turning her head in profile to the other woman. "If I were you, I'd have an abortion." She was gone as swiftly as she had appeared.

So much for rest.


Two days of working around the clock had achieved nothing. The Lone Gunmen were having trouble getting into anything that remotely resembled what Scully was looking for. There were too many John Does to check out and those that Scully had looked into were obviously not Mulder. Krycek and Marita were gone without even hints as to their whereabouts. Scully had finally given up and questioned Skinner, but he had nothing to say to her that he hadn't already said to the agents in Oregon whom he had first called in for backup. She had a flight back to Bellefleur scheduled for the next morning. Now she sat on her couch, shoving the tears and self-pity down for the billionth time in what seemed a constant struggle not to surrender herself to emotion whenever she found herself alone and unable to do anything more for her cause.

There was a knock at the door.

She quickly gathered herself, grabbed her gun, and went to the doorway, hoping to God she wouldn't have to deal with anything more tonight.

It was Skinner.

She ushered him in and sat back on the sofa, carelessly laying her gun on the coffee table and letting him shut the door himself.

"I thought you might need some company."

She smiled at him weakly. It was hard for her to understand how Skinner could be so badly wounded by recent events. She knew that he had liked Mulder, but she had never before seen her superior so shaken up. Even in the middle of a divorce, accused of murder, she had not seen him waver more than slightly, and now he seemed in a constant state of reconstruction - a state she herself was very familiar with. He was constantly trying to rebuild the walls of authority and stoicism that he relied on in his interactions with other people, and yet never quite succeeding because the incessant quakes of emotion kept shaking them right back down. Oh, he was nearly himself around others, but around her... she couldn't decide whether this newfound uneasiness and grief was out of guilt or understanding. Whether he felt so horrible in her presence that he simply couldn't keep it in, or if, perhaps, he felt safer with her for their shared sense of loss.

She knew he felt guilty. He hadn't mentioned the pregnancy since she had first told him of it, but every once in a while she could catch him glancing at her with a look that she couldn't quite decipher - one of reverence and guilt and awe all strewn together in an odd mixture that made him lower his eyes whenever she tried to stare him in the face.

He was sitting on the couch with her, but on the opposite end. She wondered why he would want to spend so much time with her when her mere presence obviously caused such grief. She supposed it was some sort of self-imposed penance.

"You know," she said, finally breaking the silence that had ensued ever since his entry into the apartment, "it's not your fault. He would never blame you." She looked him over. His eyes were once again downcast. "I don't blame you."

He lifted his eyes to meet hers for perhaps the first time in the almost 48 hours he had spent by her side. "You should."

She looked at him in concern, wanting to reach out to him, but feeling too awkward. "Why? Mulder was the one who wanted to go out there again in the first place. You said you saw a ship. If They took him, how could you have possibly hoped to stop them?"

He didn't hesitate. "That's why I was there. That's why you asked me to go. To protect him. And now he's gone."

Scully was amazed and slightly worried by his state of mind. "Sir, I've never seen you like this."

He lifted his head a little and attempted to smile, but didn't pull it off. "Scully... Dana... I consider Mulder a friend. I consider you a friend." He looked around the apartment, searching for the next words to leave his mouth. "And I take the loss of any agent under my command personally. Especially when I am so directly responsible for that loss." He glanced at her briefly and again looked away. "Especially when that loss may deprive a child of his or her parent."

She felt the tears well up in her eyes unexpectedly and wasn't able to stop them this time. They streamed down her face silently and she turned away from her superior, wiping at her face quickly to try and maintain some semblance of stability.

Just as the situation began to feel even more awkward to both of them, the phone rang. Scully rose from the couch hurriedly so as to avoid any scrutiny by Skinner and grabbed the cordless off its cradle.

"Scully." Her voice was weaker than she intended.

"Agent Scully. Long time no see." It was Marita.

She immediately lowered her voice and went to the windows, lifting the blinds to look out. "Where are you?"

"Where I am now is of no consequence. In exactly 25 minutes, I want you to leave your apartment building and travel for 30 miles to an undisclosed location of your choosing. I will follow you and meet you there. If you notice anyone following you, lose them. It will not be me."

"How will I know it's not you?"

"You won't notice me."

There was a small click and then silence on the other end. Scully pushed the 'talk' button and replaced the phone in its cradle.

"Who was that?" Skinner had stood and made his way over to her. She jumped slightly at his voice.

She looked over him briefly. "No one." She walked to the couch, sat back down, and yawned. "Sir, I'm getting extremely tired. I think I'm just gonna go to bed now if you don't mind."

He stood silently for a moment, looking her over with suspicion before slowly beginning to make his way to the door. His voice was full of warning. "Get some rest. You need it." She smiled weakly at him as he left the apartment.


June, 2000

*Oh...my...God...*

Mulder's head was between her legs. She couldn't even comprehend that, let alone what he was doing to her down there. Oral fixations were definitely good things. A thousand little sparks of sensation danced through her body as his tongue explored her. She felt her legs clenching up and her hands involuntarily went to his hair, clutching at his head, holding him close to her as she rode the waves. When she was spent, she let her arms fall above her head and laid back on the bed, letting her breathing slow as she regained her energy. He slowly moved his way up her body, planting soft kisses on her stomach and ribs, sucking gently at her breasts as he passed them, crawling on top of her lazily as his mouth moved to her neck.

"Oh my God, Mulder, I swear I'll never complain about the sunflower seeds again." He stopped his silent worship momentarily to laugh heartily, pressing his face down into the pillow next to her. She felt her entire body shake with his laughter.

"That a promise?" He asked as he brought his face up to hers and proceeded to kiss her mouth, sliding his mouth over her lips. She "mmmhd" into his mouth in response and shoved a little more than lightly at his shoulder, motioning for him to turn over. He took the hint and broke the kiss, rolling over onto his back as she straddled his lower abdomen and began to kiss at his collarbone. She could feel him hard against her lower body. Slowly, she sat up on her knees and raised herself above him, positioning herself so that she could guide him in.

"Scully - condom?" He was already a little incoherent and it seemed an afterthought that had just popped into his mind. She wondered briefly how many illegitimate children he must have running around with a memory like that.

She smiled down at him as she let him enter her and placed two fingers over his mouth. "Shhh, baby. We don't need one."


"Hope is the worst of the evils, for it prolongs the torment of man." -Nietzsche

August, 2000

The car almost swerved off the road as Scully let herself become absorbed in the memory. He had wanted to wear a condom. Had he known? Neither of them were sexually active and as far as they had known at the time, she was barren. She shook her head. She was being paranoid.

*Someone has to play the part...* a little voice whispered in her head.

She looked at the car's mileage. She'd been driving for 28 miles on the freeway. She began to look around at street signs. What was 2 miles away and not very crowded? There- a rest area, exit 1 mile. Close enough. She pulled off of the freeway and parked at the far end of the parking lot. And waited. She hadn't been followed. She'd watched the rear view mirror most of the way there. No one else had pulled into the rest stop since she had entered. There were a few big rig trucks around and a couple campers and mini-vans, but no signs of Marita or anyone else who might be following her. She had to go to the restroom.


When she left the grimy bathroom, Scully immediately noticed that there was someone sitting in the driver's seat of her car. A couple steps closer and she could make out the woman's nearly platinum blond hair. She approached the car and got into the front passenger's seat just as the engine was started.

Scully reached into her jacket pocket instinctively, but her keys were still there. Marita held an identical key that was now pressed into the ignition.

"Where are we going?" she asked, her voice not nearly as tense as she felt.

Marita said nothing, but backed the car out of its space and got back on the highway quickly, not looking at Scully once.

"Now we can talk," she said calmly, still looking only at the road.

"Why all the secrecy?" Scully asked, a little sarcasm seeping into her tone. "I thought you said all the syndicate members were dead."

"They are. But there are still those who share their... *interests*."

Scully looked out the window of the car. It was dark outside. She looked at her watch. 10:13 pm. "So what information do you have for me?"

"It's not that simple, Agent Scully. I know much more than you've ever imagined. I can't simply tell you everything at once. What would you like to know?"

Scully continued to stare out the window, not sure how to pose the questions she wanted to ask. "Let's start with what you told me you could answer. How am I pregnant?"

Marita was silent for a moment. "Several months ago, a man you've come to know as CGB Spender cornered you. He said he had found a new technology. He took you to help him obtain it: a disc that contained a cure for every disease known to man. He showed you a 120-year-old woman who seemed not a day over 60. Did it ever occur to you how he had helped this woman if he didn't yet have the disc in his possession?"

Scully was silent. She hadn't even thought of that. During that whole trip she had been so confused and disoriented she hadn't thought to question many of the things he had told her.

"Agent Scully, the disc you received from this man, Cobra, contained nothing that Mr. Spender did not already know. The little outing he took you on was nothing but a ploy to kill two birds with one stone. Kill Cobra before he could distribute the information he had to anyone outside of the Department of Defense, and give you a new microchip - one which he implanted into the back of your neck while you were unconscious."

"He did drug me." The statement was more to herself than the other woman in the car.

"Yes, which shouldn't surprise you. This new chip he gave you is one that has been recently developed since your abduction. All of the more recent abductees receive these in order to downplay any further investigation. All the women becoming barren was something that could potentially be looked into by law enforcement, which had the potential to become quite a nuisance."

"How does it work?" Scully asked.

Marita spoke matter-of-factly. "I'm not a scientist, Agent Scully. I don't know *how* it works, I simply know what it does. It causes the woman's ovaries to begin producing ova. The doctors harvest all the ova the woman is born with, then implant into her this microchip which causes the body to actually produce more eggs."

Scully caught herself before commenting on how impossible that process was. She'd seen enough to realize that impossibility was often just a state of mind. She was the living proof of what this woman had just told her.

*Can you imagine what that's like - to have the power to extinguish a life or to save it and let it flourish? Now, to give you that power, so you can do the same.*

She'd thought he was talking about this new technology. Could there have been a different meaning behind his words?

"Why? Why would he do this?"

"When you had cancer, a deal was made."

Scully's heart skipped.

"Assistant Director Skinner went to him. He cured your cancer; the assistant director did some cleaning up for him."

Scully felt suddenly dizzy. What deal had been struck this time? And by who?

Marita continued. "Shortly before your little excursion, your partner made such a deal. He wasn't told the exact terms, simply that at some unknown point in time, you would be given back your ability to have children, and after that time, he would be called upon. He didn't know that Oregon would be this instance. I'm sure he didn't realize it fully until he was taken."

Scully felt the world do somersaults for the hundredth time in the past couple days. She didn't know what to say, couldn't think of what question to ask next. There were so many. "So..." She paused. "He *knew* I could conceive?" How could he have not told her? What must have been going through his mind that he hadn't even told her she could have a child? Why had he been so upset in Bellefleur? Why had he told her that the personal costs were too high when he had *known* they weren't nearly as high as she believed?

"He knew that he had made a deal. He was never informed of either end being carried out."

"But what was the point? What was the point of not telling him?" Scully felt herself becoming angry. Her confusion only fed the frustration.

The cool tone of Marita's voice never wavered and her eyes continued to watch the road. "If he had known for sure, he would have told you. And if you knew, you may have been cautious. You may have decided you weren't ready for children and waited to get pregnant."

The more she heard the less she understood. "Are you trying to tell me that CGB Spender *wanted* me to have a child? For what possible reason?"

Marita was silent for a moment. Scully looked out the window. They were re-entering the rest area. "I'm afraid this is where this conversation ends." She parked the car and quickly left the vehicle. Scully opened her door and got out just in time to see the woman disappear behind a large truck.

"Stop!" She yelled, beginning to run after her. "STOP!" But when she cleared the truck, there was no one in sight. Marita had vanished.


Rain. Lots and lots of rain.

She had forgotten what Oregon weather was really like.

The last time she had visited with Mulder it had been relatively Nice - sunny, even. According to the hotel clerk, a meteorological anomaly. The first time she had been to this state had been a more accurate representation of the usual climate - something which she was now experiencing once more.

Staring out her hotel window, trying to come up with a plan of action now that all possible evidence the forest might have offered had been washed away, she witnessed this "usual" weather with a distant stare. The heavens opened sporadically before her - first a heavy downpour, then a steady sprinkle, and finally nothing but a light mist until once again the clouds accumulated enough moisture to send jarring showers right back down to the earth and start the cycle all over again. All within the span of 45 minutes or less, mimicking almost exactly the tears she had shed over the past few days.

If not for the extremely pressing study of bizarre weather patterns, Scully was beginning to fear that this trip had no real purpose other than one more waste of the FBI's money. It was supposed to be a place to start. When you had no leads, you went back to the scene of the crime to find a new avenue of investigation. But with all the physical evidence washed away and the witnesses all gone missing themselves, she was having trouble even gathering the strength to get in the car, let alone discover an entire new avenue.

She knew that if Mulder were in her position he would never give up. Hell, he *had* been put in this position and he hadn't given up. She couldn't decide whether that thought gave her strength or made her want to simply lie down and confess herself weaker than him. She was beginning to believe that she was.

From almost the beginning of their partnership, Scully had considered herself the stronger of the two. She didn't let things get to her as easily as Mulder sometimes did - especially when it concerned each other. Now she wondered if her forced stoicism wasn't just a superficial attempt at strength, when the real valor lay in actually letting your feelings out so that they could be dealt with.

But then, he hadn't been in her exact situation. She ran a hand over her stomach thoughtfully and stared down at the place where a large bulge would begin to form in the months to come. It was almost too much to comprehend. They had created a life together. It would be part her and part him and whatever fears Marita had instilled in her about this child's possible purpose, Scully could not find it within herself to be anything but awestruck at the miracle that grew inside her.

With a small smile across her mouth and bitter tears stinging the backs of her eyes, she slowly rose her other hand to touch the cold glass of the rain-soaked window.

"I love you," she whispered inaudibly out into the ocean of tears. She had said those words only once before with such conviction, and now it was a declaration made to two people, though one could only feel her words and not yet comprehend them, and the other could only hear them, she hoped, in his memory. "So much." She slumped back into the chair, cradling her belly, and let her own small sobs rock her to sleep.


A shrill ringing woke her in the middle of the night. She was still slumped over in her chair by the window and sitting so long in the same position made it painful to move her muscles, but she slowly made it over to the bed to fish the cell phone out of the jacket she had laid on the comforter when she first entered the room.

"Scully," she answered groggily.

There was a long silence on the other end of the phone.

"Hello?" she asked, slightly irritated.

"I'm okay."

"Mulder?" her voice sounded desperate to her own ears.

"I love you, too." Her breath caught in her throat. Her joy and fear at his simple statement melded together in an almost numbing state of shock.

"Yes." His voice was almost eerily calm.

She froze. "What?"

"I heard you. I hear you now. And I know."

Chills drifted up her spine. She could feel each individual hair on the back of her neck stand up. "Know what, Mulder?"

"About the baby." Her heart skipped a beat. "Don't worry, Scully, you won't have to raise him alone."

She felt a single tear slide down her cheek. What the hell was going on?

"I can hear you. The whole time I was up there, I clung to you, your thoughts." She could hear the sadness in his voice. "And God, Scully, you felt so much pain. I... I could barely stand it." He paused for a moment. "You *are* the strong one."

She brought a hand to her face as she felt more tears begin to break through.

"Let it out, Scully. You know I could never think any less of you."

She felt her resolve break like a piece of plywood being snapped. She began to cry and she wasn't even sure of the reason. She had cried more tears in the last week than she could remember crying in the last 10 years, and yet she seemed to never run out. She supposed it had to do with chemical imbalances from the pregnancy, but nevertheless it made her feel weak and vulnerable. "What's wrong with me?"

Mulder's voice was calm and soothing. "Shhhh It's okay to let it out. It's been 7 years, Scully. Your father, your sister, the cancer, Emily... You've never really just let go. You don't need to feel guilty for feeling."

His words were like a release in and of themselves. She suddenly felt the cleansing waves of emotion she had always heard about but never experienced. Where other people seemed to feel refreshed after they let their emotions run out of them in tears, Scully had always felt worse after a good cry. Rather than releasing the tension of her grief and frustration, her tears had always added to her frustration by depositing on top of all her other woes a layer of self-doubt. When she was a young girl, her father had always told her not to cry. It accomplished nothing, he said. Throughout her life, when she felt the tears welling up within her, it simply made her feel more useless. She could be doing something to solve her problem and instead she was just crying over it.

"He didn't think any less of you, either, Scully. He just didn't want to see you cry."

The tears came in a flood now. She felt all the tension and built up sadness of the past seven years - of her entire adult life - flow through her and down her cheeks. With each painful sob came a release that was even greater. "I love you." The words were choked out and almost incoherent, but he heard them nonetheless.

"Me too," he replied with a small hint of humor. It was the way that she had responded when he had first uttered the phrase to her. "Always." There were several minutes of silence as he listened to her receding sobs and she let his breathing calm her. "Now get some sleep and get back to D.C. in the morning. There's nothing for you to find out there."

She wanted to know everything about what had happened to him now, but she silently nodded her head in agreement, forgetting briefly that he couldn't see her.

"Come back as soon as you can." At that moment, her phone began to ring in her hand. She stared at it, confused. She hadn't hung up yet, how could it be ringing?

She opened her eyes with a start. She was still curled up in her chair by the window. Her cell phone was ringing, still in the pocket of her jacket on the bed.

It was a dream.

How? It had been so real. She could still hear his voice in her ear, still feel the damp tears on her face. Slowly, she lifted a hand to her cheeks. They were damp. She had been crying in her sleep. The phone continued to ring.

She rose from the chair, feeling a slight pang of de ja vu as her muscles ached with the same weariness they had felt when she'd stood from the chair in her dream. She quickly grabbed the phone. "Scully."

"Hello again." The icy voice sent both excitement and dread coursing through her instantaneously. She needed to hear what this woman knew, for her sake and for Mulder's, but she couldn't shake the feeling that this information came at too high a price.

"What do you want?" Scully asked coldly.

"Agent Scully, I'm surprised at you. I have provided you with answers to questions that you never would have found without my assistance. What have I asked for in return?"

"My trust."

"That's too much to ask?"

Scully closed her eyes for a moment, willing the sleepy haze out of her mind. "I was once told to trust no one. It's worked for me so far."

"What about your partner?"

There was no hesitation. "Mulder is the only one I trust."

"So I've found. I only wonder if that trust is somewhat misplaced."

Scully took a deep breath. What the hell was this woman hinting at? She felt the anger rising within her. "What are you insinuating?"

"Wouldn't you expect the one person in the world that you place all your trust in to be truthful with you? Shouldn't you be able to trust that they won't go making deals behind your back that could be potentially ruinous?"

"Will you stop with the insinuations and hints and just tell me what the hell you're trying to say? I don't enjoy playing your little games and I am sick and tired of this bullshit." She felt a small victory as the crisp words left her mouth, though she knew they wouldn't accomplish much.

"Temper, temper. The real answers aren't for this conversation. Meet me in one hour."

"You're in Oregon?"

"Meet me in the woods where you first came into contact with the ship."

Scully was confused. "What do you mean, 'first came into contact with the ship'?"

"You fainted in the woods. You thought it was just another attack of dizziness, but it wasn't. It was the ship's force-field."

The line went dead. Scully felt a sudden chill drift up her spine. It was still raining. The drops of water splattered across the windowpane almost menacingly. The entire room seemed to take on an ominous atmosphere.

*Get back here in the morning.*

*Come back as soon as you can.*

Flashes from her dream. Why would that come to her now? She didn't know what exactly compelled her to dial the airport and have her flight rescheduled for the next one back to Washington, but she felt a strange urgency to get home. Mulder's voice rang in her ears like an anthem.

*I heard you. I hear you now. And I know.*

Mulder, if you can hear me, come back to me. Come back soon.


She saw Skinner as soon as she came out of the terminal. He was staring at his watch nervously. She wondered if she was making him late.

"Sir," she greeted as she neared him.

"Agent Scully." He took her bag from her as they walked. She almost protested, but was still uncomfortable with this new Skinner. She wasn't quite sure how he'd react to her refusal of his chivalry.

They walked the long distance out of the airport and to his car in silence. She was glad. On the phone she'd told him that upon her arrival in Oregon, it had fully set in just how futile the trip was. The explanation seemed to satisfy him enough then, but she had the feeling that wouldn't be the end of his query into her unscheduled return. She didn't know how exactly to explain that her partner had come to her in a dream and told her to return. She was still wasn't even sure herself why she had listened.

"Would you mind going out for a cup of coffee?" Skinner asked as they approached the car.

For some reason, the prospect made her a little uncomfortable. Something about his entire demeanor was making her uneasy. "I was kind of hoping to go home and get some rest."

He was silent for a moment as he came around to unlock her door. "I was hoping we could discuss this... case." For the first time since Mulder had gone missing, he looked her in the eye with the same command and confidence she was used to seeing in him. She wasn't sure how to say no.

"I suppose home can wait. Not that I'd get much rest anyway." He gave a small acknowledging smile that was present nowhere in his face but the corners of his mouth and went around to his side of the car.


They entered the coffee shop and sat down in a booth by the back wall. Scully was still uncomfortable. How much should she tell him of what had happened? She trusted Skinner, but not unconditionally. There had been times when his allegiances were... blurry, and her suspicions, though suppressed, had never fully gone away. It had surprised her when Marita told her that he had been the one to make a deal for her life. With all the mistrust she had shown him over the years, she couldn't quite fathom how he could still care for her enough to risk his career, his own life. She respected him and often considered him a friend, but at the same time wasn't sure how far that friendship went.

"Agent Scully, I'll get directly to the point." He was sitting across from her, staring her right in the face. It was somewhat intimidating - in much the same way as being chewed out in his office. She wasn't quite sure what to make of this change in him. Before she left he had still been guilt ridden, almost cowering in her presence, and now he was suddenly his old, no-nonsense, self. It was both comforting and unnerving at the same time.

"You've been keeping something from me," he started out. The accusatory tone of his statement made Scully sit up a little more defiantly.

"If we are to have any hope of finding Agent Mulder," he continued, "we need as many minds working on this case as possible. I need to know all the information if I am to assist you in any way."

Her defiance melted away quickly and she nodded almost meekly, staring down at the table. She wasn't sure exactly what to say to that. He was right; there really was no need for secrecy. She was becoming too paranoid. With Mulder gone, if she couldn't trust Skinner, who could she trust?

"You're right. I... I'm sorry, sir." She looked around the small shop briefly, trying to think of where she should begin. Her next words were in a whisper. "In the past week I've been... contacted several times by someone offering me information."

He squinted at her. "Who?"

"Marita Covarrubias."

He nodded slowly, as though he had been expecting the answer. "And what has she told you?"

Scully looked over his face slowly, nervous. She had decided to be truthful with him, but there were certain things that she just felt uncomfortable discussing. Especially with Skinner. "She told me of a deal that was made. For my health."

He closed his eyes and briefly looked down at the table. "I'm aware of this deal."

"Are you also aware of another deal made earlier this year by Agent Mulder?"

His eyes opened wider and he looked at her intently. "What for?"

She glanced downward, at her stomach. The realization registered on his face.

"What was his end of this agreement?"

She swallowed. "According to Marita, he was simply to be called upon. He wasn't informed ahead of time as to when or what for, but Oregon was it."

He took a deep breath, removing his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose lightly with his fingers.

"Agent Scully, I regret having to say this, but if he truly has been taken, has it occurred to you that perhaps there is nothing we *can* do except wait for his return? I've never been sure what I believed, but after what I saw out in that forest... If he's no longer on the planet, what can we possibly hope to do to get him back?" He continued before she could protest. "I'm only asking you to take it into consideration."

She was silent for several seconds. She stared at the floor beside their booth with an almost unconscious scowl. A sinking feeling overtook her gut. The thought had more than crossed her mind. But she couldn't allow herself to believe it. Aside from the outright horror of the thought that extraterrestrials might actually exist - something which was beginning to seem more and more a reality - she didn't know how she could survive with the idea that there was absolutely nothing she could do. It was hard enough the way things were. If she truly was unable to do anything to search for Mulder, she didn't know what to occupy her mind with. The baby, of course, but that was so closely linked with its father that she was worried, even now, how good a mother she could be if he wasn't returned soon. She feared that she might let her grief over Mulder carry over into her caring for the infant. Of course she would do everything necessary for it, but how could she be loving and caring when every time she looked at the child she wanted nothing more than to either cry or run away?

"Dana?"

Skinner's voice startled her out of her reverie. She looked up at him and asked in a solemn voice, "Would you mind taking me home now?"

He looked her over with concern, then nodded.

She hoped to God she could make it through the night without crying again.


Walking into the apartment, she dropped her bag just inside the door and the coat followed closely. She removed her gun from its holster and sat it down casually on the coffee table. It was unlike her to just leave things lying around, but she was exhausted from the flight. For once she actually thought she might be able to sleep within minutes of getting in bed. But as she neared her bedroom, she noticed an wrong; an odd feeling, a smell.

Death.

It wasn't the smell of blood, of a crime scene, but the stale, decaying sent that hung in the air at morgues. Coming fully awake, she moved cautiously back into the living room, staring around at her surroundings with a new sense of alertness. Her heart thudded heavily in her chest. The gun was gone. How could she have been so stupid? She was about to leave the apartment when the glint of metal caught her eye.

It wasn't gone; it had been knocked off the table. By who?

Gingerly, she walked to the coffee table and bent down quickly to grab the weapon. She aimed it out in front of her and surveyed the room. No sign of anyone. Nothing out of place. She retraced her steps to the bedroom. The odor was distinct; she had no doubt that something dead was behind the door. She only hoped that was all.

She held her ear to the door for a brief time, her back against the wall, her gun ready to fire. In one swift move, she turned the doorknob and kicked it open, sweeping the room quickly with her weapon in front of her. No one there.

There was something in her bed. An unmoving figure underneath the covers whose outline she could make out in the light coming from the street lamp across from her window. She flipped on the light switch and did another quick sweep of the room. When she was absolutely sure that she was alone, save the figure in the bed, she walked up to it and slowly peeled back the blankets.

After performing at least a hundred autopsies, examining countless violent crime scenes, coming face to face with men who had killed in cold blood and mutants who had fed with even less feeling, Dana Scully almost gasped.

Platinum blond hair already fading, pale skin gone gray. Cool blue eyes now cold and lifeless. Scully had to take a step back and cover her mouth in an effort not to lose the bad airline food she had forced down her throat earlier. She walked back into the living room in search of her jacket, and speed dialed Skinner on his cell phone. He couldn't be far away yet.

"Skinner."

She began to speak as she looked around her apartment for any trace of the intruder. "Sir, Marita Covarrubias is dead."

He was silent for a second. "How do you know?"

"Her body is lying in my bed."

Again, a brief silence. "Where are you?"

"In my apartment. I've looked around some. There don't appear to be any signs of intrusion, though I can assure you she didn't walk in here herself."

His voice held a hint of worry. "I'll be right over."

At that moment, Scully spotted it: a piece of folded paper lying solitary on her coffee table. She bent over and picked it up, sitting down on the couch as she unfolded it.

"Oh my god."

"Agent Scully?" She heard Skinner's voice, but didn't respond, simply stared at the paper in her hand. The message was written in black ink.

*You're next.*

The phrase was one she would have expected. The body itself was clearly a warning and the note simply spelled out what was implied. It was how the words were written that startled her. The almost illegible scribbling that she had learned to read over the years stared back at her and taunted her.

It was Mulder's handwriting.


Skinner didn't allow her to do the autopsy on Marita. He said that she was lucky he was even letting her work on this case. It was much too close to home. However, he felt her closeness could actually help this time, especially since no one else would be able to understand the circumstances of Mulder's... *disappearance* quite as well as she could. She did read the autopsy report. And what she read was somewhat disturbing.

Marita had been killed in the early morning of the day that Scully found her, most likely between the hours of two and five a.m. There was dirt underneath her fingernails and in her hair.

She'd been waiting in the woods.

*Waiting for me.*

Her dream had saved her. If not for the power of its message, Scully's curiosity surely would have gotten the best of her and she would have gone to the forest that night.

She would be dead too.

Her child would be dead.

She was more confused than terrified, though she did feel both. She was still unsure of how exactly she had known to leave Oregon when she did. She was now staying in a safe house just outside Washington, in a Virginia suburb. The Lone Gunmen had relocated themselves and much of their equipment so that she would have someone with her at all times. She wasn't quite sure how three computer geeks were supposed to protect her, an FBI agent, but it did make things more convenient having them around. She would know the instant that they discovered anything and they could discuss strategies and theories without the added inconvenience of a phone.

Speaking of phones, she noticed absently that hers was ringing. Feeling strangely lethargic, she simply sat in the big chair she had been thinking in and let it ring in her pocket for a few seconds, until finally she reluctantly pulled it out and pushed send.

"Scully."

"Hi sweetie."

It was her mother. If she'd been walking, she would have come to an abrupt halt. Since she'd first found out she was pregnant, she'd been avoiding this call. Everyday she looked at the phone and thought about dialing her mother, but each time she had been at a loss for what she would say to her. She couldn't feel ashamed of this pregnancy, but didn't know what else she was supposed to feel when she told her mother, a devout Catholic, that she was about to become a single mother. Her mom would accept it of course, but beyond that, Scully was unable to even conceive of what her reaction would be.

"Hi Mom." Her voice must have been less than enthusiastic.

"Dana, is something wrong?"

She took a deep breath. She was about to say that she was fine when she stopped herself. Best not to start the conversation off with a lie.

Her voice was hesitant. "Yeah, Mom, actually there is."

"Well what is it? Where have you been, sweet heart? I've tried calling your apartment."

Again she paused. Where to begin? The last week had been like a bad action movie. Just when she began to deal with one problem, something else went wrong. She suddenly felt very envious of Sylvester Stalone. At least he knew they'd all eventually be taken care of.

"Umm..." she began, quite eloquently. "I'm in a safe house. I can't tell you where over the phone." She didn't know how much more she should say. She didn't want to scare her mother, although she was sure she had already done just that. "I won't go into details, but there's reason to believe I may be in some danger."

Her mother was silent for what seemed to Scully like a long time.

"Is Fox in danger as well?" It was Margaret's thinly veiled way of asking whether Mulder was there to protect her, but Scully understood her mother well enough to realize it wasn't an attack on her ability to be independent. No, the question upset her for entirely different reasons.

A pang of hurt gripped her chest as she answered. "He's um... he's gone missing." She took a deep breath to keep the tears at bay. Her voice was shaky. "Last week we were working on a case in Oregon. We came back home, thinking it was over, but there was another breakthrough, and..." She took a deep breath. "People were being taken. People who claimed to have been alien abductees were systematically disappearing and Mulder thought..." She swallowed. Her throat was dry. "He was worried that after my abduction, I was in danger as well. So he went back to Oregon with our assistant director while I stayed here, and... He didn't come back."

Both women were silent until Scully had to switch her cell phone to the other hand to avoid cramping her arm.

"I'm sorry, Dana," was all Margaret could think to say. She remembered what Fox had been like when Dana was taken. She hoped her daughter was doing better than he had.

"There's something else I need to tell you, Mom." Margaret could hear the nervous tension in her daughter's voice. She wondered what Dana could possibly be afraid to say.

"What is it, sweetie?"

Scully took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. "I... I'm pregnant."

Again, silence. Margaret didn't know what to say. She couldn't even tell if she was happy for her daughter or not. It seemed, quite simply, unreal. "How?"

Scully thought for a moment. Again, she wondered how much she should tell the older woman. What had happened to her was difficult for *her* to understand exactly, what would it be like for someone who hadn't been exposed to all that she had seen?

"You remember the chip that Mulder gave the doctors when I was sick?"

"The one they put in your neck?"

"Yes. Do you believe that it cured me?"

Her mother thought for several moments. "I'm not sure. I haven't thought about it much. I always thought there was no reason to look a gift horse in the mouth."

Scully smiled sadly. She had often wished she could have the faith that her mother had and simply accept good things as they came, not having to analyze and prove everything. "Well, during a... case this past year, I came into contact with one of the men who gave me that chip in the first place and he... gave me a new one."

"And you're saying this chip has made it possible for you to conceive?" Her mother's voice wasn't incredulous as Scully would have expected. Instead she was accepting and, if not fully believing, at least willing to believe.

"That's the best explanation I have at the moment, yes."

Margaret thought for a moment. She knew what she wanted to ask, but wasn't quite sure how to go about asking it. "Dana... this chip, it gave you the *ability* to conceive?"

Scully knew what her mother was getting at. This was the hardest part of the conversation, after all; the very reason she had avoided this discussion for so long. So instead of helping her mother out and simply telling her what she knew the other woman wanted to know, she simply answered the question she had been asked. "Yes."

Silence.

"So... who's the father?"

Scully took a deep breath and prepared herself. "Mulder."

She could feel the tension flowing through the miles of distance between them. Her mother's voice was controlled.

"How long has this been going on?"

Scully tried to think of an answer to that question, but couldn't. They had first kissed on New Year's. They'd been spending more and more time together ever since she had returned from Africa and found him in that... *place*. They'd spent many nights at each others' apartments, watching movies and sitting on the couch. Some of those nights had ended up with his arm around her shoulders, or her falling asleep leaned against him. Some people could call those occasions dates, though they'd never actually spoken about it. And of course, there had been a few more kisses here and there, though never extremely passionate or romantic. And then one night, it had all culminated in a single impulsive act that had been part natural progression and part giant leap forward. It had only happened that once, though she could sense that both of them had wanted more. And things had gone back to normal. A comfortable place somewhere between dating and spending time with a friend. They had both said those three little words more than three times and with a conviction that made the term "little" seem horribly inadequate, but strangely, they'd never really discussed what exactly those words meant or where the hell they wanted to go with this little arrangement. So she really had no idea how to answer her mother's question. In truth, it had been going on for seven long years.

"Well, I'm two months pregnant."

Scully could hear the agitation in her mother's voice when she next spoke. She supposed her answer had seemed a little smart- assed, but it hadn't been meant that way.

"You know what I mean, Dana. How long have you and Fox been this... *close*."

"Mom, I answered you as best I could. We don't have that kind of relationship. It's not clearly defined. I..." She tried to think of a way to make it clearer to Margaret. "We've kissed, and we spend a lot of time together, but... We've never really talked about our relationship."

Margaret's tone wasn't exactly disapproving, but somewhat incredulous. "But you've slept together."

Scully let out a sigh of aggravation. Her mother made it sound almost wrong. "Yes. Once. And mom, I don't regret it."

Her mother was silent. Scully could tell that she wasn't sure what to think. On the one hand, she was happy that her daughter could have children; on one level she was even happy that Dana and Fox had finally found each other in the way that she had always known they would. But she was upset that her daughter hadn't confided in her about this new development in their relationship. And she was upset that Dana seemed to be taking that development so lightly.

"Do you love him?"

Scully paused. The answer was no longer a difficult one to admit to herself, but the concept of discussing it with someone else, even if that someone was her mother, seemed strange and almost wrong.

"Yes."

"Does he love you?"

"Yes."

Another pause. "Well then, Dana, I don't suppose I have any choice but to be happy for you."

Despite her grief, for the first time in what seemed like years but in reality had only been a week, Scully smiled. It wasn't big, but it was real. "Thank you, mom. I love you."

"I love you too, sweet heart. Call me if anything happens."

"I will."

"Okay, Dana. I'll talk to you soon." Her voice was almost sad and Scully wasn't quite sure how to react to it.

"Bye, Mom." She stared at the phone for a moment before putting it back in her pocket, then got up and walked to the window. Beyond the glass, there was a green lawn, a little garden, a white picket fence, and in the street, three young children playing. The little boy who looked about seven was chasing the little girl who seemed the same age with a giant smile on his face as she pretended to scream and sprinted away, running around the pavement in a large circle. A younger boy, perhaps four or five, rode around on his three wheeler, every once in a while crossing paths with the older children and forcing them to maneuver around him.

*So this is what normal people live like.*

*Not exactly,* she thought looking around her own palace of modern suburbia. Next to the big recliner she had been sitting in was a coffee table, which was across from a medium-sized TV/VCR. There was a large couch on the far wall and a couple paintings hung on the wall. But in the next room, two entire walls were taken up by desks holding computers, recorders, scramblers, and every other known piece of equipment, plus a few most people probably didn't know of. Though this was the very distinguishable "tech room", much of the rest of the house had been converted into workspace as well. There were, in fact, only two rooms in the house that resembled the way "normal" people lived- the one she was standing in and her bedroom upstairs. The Gunmen slept in bunk beds they had moved into the tech room from their place. They apparently were not claustrophobic.

Scully turned her attention back to the children playing in the street. The older boy and girl were now apparently on friendlier terms and were playing hopscotch in squares they had drawn with street chalk. The younger boy was still on his three-wheeler and was proceeding to ride around them in oblong circles almost psychotically. Scully looked down at her stomach and wondered for the first time what sex her own child would be. Would he or she be a relatively calm and observant baby as she had been, or hyperactive and exploring as she was almost sure his father was?

Why had she just said "his"?

She had heard that women could sometimes tell the sex of the child in their womb even before an ultrasound, but it still shook her a little.

*I heard you. I hear you now. And I know.*

Her dream. Why was that coming back to her now?

*Know what, Mulder?*

*About the baby.*

A chill went up her spine even now. The memory was so vivid she could hear his voice clearly.

*Don't worry, Scully, you won't have to raise him alone.*

Him. Mulder had told her she wouldn't have to raise *him* alone.

But it wasn't really Mulder. It was the Mulder in her dream. It was her subconscious. So she had subconsciously known the sex and her mind had incorporated it into her dream. It made sense. But how had her subconscious known about Marita? Was that simply a coincidence? Was her sudden will to leave, sparked by the dream, simply an irrational fear that had somehow coincided with a completely unrelated event due to dumb luck? Her head hurt. She didn't want to deal with all these questions. So why couldn't her mind stop asking them?

She focused once more on the street. It was starting to get dark. The two older kids appeared to be having trouble convincing the younger one that it was time to go inside. They had stopped his three-wheeler and were talking to him as he sat on the bike and wailed so loudly that Scully could hear him quite clearly through the window. She supposed it was probably time for her to turn in as well. Byers was still gone grocery shopping - a fact which she would have found amusing if she could find anything amusing at the moment - and Frohike and Langly were in the tech room doing... whatever it was they did in there. She didn't try to understand much of what they spent their time on. It just comforted her somewhat to know they were there.

She peeked her head into their room on her way upstairs and said goodnight, to which they replied their own wishes of sweet dreams and warnings about bed bugs, and then she proceeded up to her room. It was a small-to-medium-sized room, with a ceiling that angled upwards with the roof, a small chest of drawers for her clothes with a large mirror above it, and a big bed with white cotton sheets and fluffy blankets. It reminded her of a room she and Missy had shared once when they had lived in North Carolina for a little less than a year. That had been one of her favorite houses. She was about nine years old, she recalled. This was the kind of room she'd always envisioned having a nursery in. She hadn't told anyone since she was 10, of course, never wanting to seem like the type of girl (or woman) who thought of things like that, but the dream had never left her. She'd always thought that once she settled down, found the right man and the right job that wasn't quite as hectic, she would move somewhere nice and have a little house with white walls and angled ceilings and a safe place to raise her kids. Up until a couple years ago, those thoughts had never really come into question.

Then the news that that safe place to raise children was really unnecessary. The dream had been shattered. Sure, she could always adopt, but it just wasn't what she had envisioned. She'd thought of being pregnant, having a doting husband by her side the entire nine months, giving birth to a baby that was unique and special, but at the same time a part of her and of the man she loved. A whole person they had created together. Watching him hold their baby and knowing that he loved the child just as much as she did.

Well, some dreams died hard. Just when one part of the equation was filled in, another was taken away from her. She even had the house.

Not wanting to think about it anymore for the time being, she let her body relax and cleared her mind as she drifted slowly away into unconsciousness.


She was in his apartment. Surrounded by him. His things, his scent, his body. Slowly, she began to feel him, as if he were coming into being as she lay next to his forming body. She had seen him right off - lying next to her on the bed, kissing her neck, running his fingers over her languidly - but she could not feel his ministrations until she looked him in the eyes. As she stared into their brown-green depths, sensation had begun to filter into her. The first thing she felt was his hand between her legs. The sudden pressure had shocked her to the point that she gasped loudly and thrust up against him. He smiled and began kissing her once more. She didn't think to ask what was going on. All she cared about was that he was back. He was with her.

As her desire reached its peak, so did the light in his eyes. She saw them in her mind even as his face was pressed tightly against her flesh. And then he shifted, climbing on top of her, moving with an almost fluid grace even when performing the awkward task of climbing over her. She hadn't even spread her legs fully and he was inside her, filling her, again and again. Her senses were multiplied by ten. She could feel every move of his body, could smell his sex and his hair and everything about him; could feel each strand of his hair as her fingers tangled themselves in it. And with each movement of his hips, she felt and experienced more. Her vision cleared as if waking from a dream and she could see each individual spot on the ceiling above her. When he stopped kissing her, and looked into her eyes, she could see every spot of pigment in his eye and beyond, into his soul. It was more amazing than anything she had ever imagined. She saw entire worlds behind his eyes. Universes never before seen, things that had never before been dreamt of. Instead of the fear she would expect of herself, she craved more. Craved the knowledge and understanding she saw in those eyes. The power.

She blinked and it was gone. She knew the things she had seen were still behind the eyes that she continued to stare into, but they were suddenly cut off from her. They had been intentionally hidden from her vision. Instead, she saw with sudden clarity the mistake she had made. It was no longer Mulder on top of her, still driving into her naked flesh. Large, glassy black eyes stared back at her. Smooth gray skin caressed her own. A stab of panic coursed through her body. Her heart rate climbed rapidly and she wanted to scream but could not create a sound.

The thing leaned its head down beside her ear, whispering softly in a voice that was still Mulder's despite the change of appearance. "Tell Cain that his father loves him."


Scully awoke with a start, sitting up in the bed in an attempt to escape the image that now only invaded her mind. Her pulse was racing. She was covered in sweat, both from fear and arousal, she assumed, though she only felt the former now.

With yet another start, she realized that she wasn't alone in the room. A shadowy figure stood silently next to the door. It took her a full three seconds of shocked paralysis to realize that the intruder was familiar to her.

Skinner.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, her voice a little shaky with fear and suspicion.

He stood hidden from her slightly, his face covered by the shadows at the opposite corner of the tiny room. "You screamed," he answered matter-of-factly as he finally took a few steps toward the bed. "In your sleep."

She stopped herself before pointing out that she hadn't actually been able to scream.

*It was a dream, Dana.*

"Why were you here? Where are Langly, Frohike, and Byers?"

He was silent. Two more steps. He was almost to her now. Why was she so afraid?

"Sleeping." His voice was calm, mechanical. She would have pulled her gun on him, but it was on the nightstand and she doubted her ability to get it quickly enough with him staring at her so intently.

"Didn't they hear me scream?" she asked.

His answer was instant. "It wasn't a very loud scream."

The knot of fear in her stomach grew larger. He was getting closer and closer with each word. "How did you hear it? Where were you?"

He smiled. It wasn't Skinner's smile. It was something darker. Inhuman. "Right inside your doorway."

In less than an instant, she was off the bed with the gun in her hand. She cocked the hammer and pointed it right at his head.

"Who the hell are you and where's Skinner?" she yelled.

"We are quick, aren't we, Agent Scully? Not quick enough, unfortunately."

She watched in a mixture of awe and horror as the man's face began to contort and mold until it became the face of a man she had seen before, but was much less familiar with. The man Mulder called the Bounty Hunter.

"Where's Skinner?" she asked, realization finally setting in and a sinking feeling reaching the pit of her stomach. She kept the gun aimed squarely at his neck.

A small, amused smile twisted the corners of his mouth upward. "I think you know."

She resisted the urge to sit down as a wave of understanding and trepidation swept over her. He had seemed different ever since he picked her up from the airport. "You bastard." Her tone was low, but the vehemence was more than present. She wanted to kill him. She wanted to blast his brains all over the nice white walls of her perfect little dream house. But a shot to the head would most likely result in her death rather than his. "Why?" she asked, her voice a little more shaky than she would have liked when she was trying to intimidate someone.

"Clarity comes with time, Agent Scully." He took one more step in her direction. "Sadly, you don't have either." He stalked towards her with clear intent now. She knew that if she let him get his hands on her, he would kill her. She had felt his strength before and didn't trust herself to be able to escape his grasp. He stood between her and the doorway. She had to think fast.

Grabbing the perfume bottle off the top of the bag that rested on the nightstand, she gave him a series of quick sprays in the eyes, and then bolted for the door. Within a moment she was out of the room. She stood by the doorway, waiting with her gun ready.

Minutes passed and he didn't come out.

Finally, she opened the door and entered the room again, gun still up and ready. He was gone. The window was open.

She sat down on the bed and cried.

For Mulder. For Skinner. For herself.

And for her son.

*Tell Cain that his father loves him.*

Cain. She remembered the Bible story. The first son of Adam and Eve who killed his brother Abel out of jealousy when God accepted the younger man's sacrifice over his. Cursed by God to walk the earth for the rest of his life in solitude with a mark on his head so that no one would kill him and deprive him of his punishment.

What did the story have to do with her? Or the child growing in her womb?

*Clarity will come with time.*

The words came to her suddenly as if spoken aloud. They seemed more a threat than a comfort. She had a feeling she didn't want to know the answers to her questions.


Two days and no real developments. She and the Gunmen had moved into a safer 'safe house', one specially picked by the guys as a *very* discrete location. Skinner's body had been found. Strangled, lying in a dumpster near the airport. The thought made her want to vomit and sob at the same time, but since the night she had realized he was dead, she had done neither. All sorts of investigations were taking place. It was all over the news. An FBI Assistant Director killed in broad daylight in a public place and no one had any leads. Scully knew they would never get any. Not unless someone was willing to believe her story. An alien had killed him. A morphing alien who then took on Skinner's features and voice and posed as him for a number of days. For God's sake, *she* wouldn't believe her own story.

She'd been interviewed and she'd told the truth. Skinner was supposed to pick her up at the airport and he never showed up. She simply didn't offer any further details.

*So how *did* you get home when it became apparent that he wasn't going to show?*

*I got a ride with someone else.*

*Someone you met at the airport?*

*An old... acquaintance.*

*The name of this old acquaintance?*

*I couldn't tell you.*

She felt her face contort in disgust at the memory of her own words. When had she become as bad as Them? Half-truths and almost- answers had never been her game. Of course, that also raised the question of what knowledge she was hiding. When had she come to believe in aliens?

The whole question of extraterrestrial existence seemed futile to her now. What the hell did it matter anymore? Something was responsible for all this. Wasn't that all that mattered? The philosophical and religious problems that the issue had once raised for her seemed somehow inconsequential. If there were aliens did that mean there was no God? She didn't know. The impending birth of Cain made her want to believe in some divine being that could protect her son, but she became more jaded and cynical with each revelation that was unfolded before her. The miracle of creation had been given to her by a metallic chip implanted in her neck by a man. A man who had less to do with God than even Jerry Falwell did.

*Cain.*

Speaking of which, when had she started thinking of her child as Cain? It was the name Mulder's voice had used in her dream. She hated it. Why would she name her son something she associated with sin and punishment? She had looked it up in a baby name book the day before - the first sign that perhaps she did have something in common with other pregnant women. It meant 'possession' or 'possessed'. She had gotten chills then, and felt them again now.

Her mother had called earlier to talk about, among other things, the name issue. She had suggested the baby be named after Scully's grandfather. Nathaniel. 'Gift of God'. She had almost laughed when her mother made the suggestion. The child was a gift, and one she was thankful for, but he had definitely not been the gift of *God*. Her mother had sensed her doubt.

"He works in mysterious ways, Dana."

Mysterious was an understatement. Still, she liked the name Nathaniel. It struck something inside her and seemed somehow to fit with whatever personality it was she was beginning to associate with her unborn child. Nathan. Nate. Her grandfather had been called Nate. She wondered if she would call her son by the same nickname.

*Cain.*

It was like a constant ringing in the back of her mind. She couldn't escape it. She would drift off to another issue, another question, but always, like an elephant that would not leave center stage, her focus would travel back to this one word, this single syllable. Every time it came to her it instilled yet another violent pang of fear deep in her gut. The name fell on her like an omen foretelling the fate of her child. Only she could not decipher that fate. All she could do was worry over the possibilities of its meaning, and the futility of that quandary made her feel even more useless than she had been for the past week and a half.

She had taken a leave from work after what happened to Skinner. With him out of the picture, whoever took over as her superior would most likely not be so inclined to allow her to focus all her time on a case she really didn't have any business working in the first place. Over the years, she had accumulated a rather large amount of unused vacation time and now was a better time than ever to use it. Not that it would be much of a vacation.

Her cell phone was ringing. She had left it on despite the Gunmens' warnings about tracking through the satellite. Caution was becoming less and less critical as they scrambled around endlessly for leads. The last 10 days felt more like 10 months. If someone had information to share with her, they needed a way to contact her.

"Scully," she answered wearily, grabbing the phone off her desk.

"Agent Scully, this is Alex Krycek."

Her heart jumped into her throat. No one had heard from Krycek since Mulder's disappearance. Perhaps she'd been right to leave the phone on after all.

"I'm listening."

"I have some things to tell you. Things which may greatly change your view of the present situation. These are the same things that a mutual... *friend* of ours would have told you had she not become... incapacitated."

She attempted to remain calm, but her pulse would not comply. "What sorts of *things*?"

His voice was almost teasing. "Uh-uh-uh, not so fast. Things such as these aren't for cellular lines. Meet me in 20 minutes at the diner down the street."

Scully froze. "You know where I am?"

There was a hint of laughter in his voice. "It wasn't terribly hard to find you, Agent Scully. I don't believe you fully understand your situation. My knowing your location is what's kept you alive. And your son."

"Explain it to me." Her voice was level, but she felt the fear gripping her chest tightly. He had mentioned her son. How had he known the baby was a boy?

"20 minutes." A small click ended the conversation. The minutes began to tick away slowly. Finally, she thought. Finally she might get some answers. Rain. Lots and lots of rain.

She had forgotten what Oregon weather was really like.

The last time she had visited with Mulder it had been relatively Nice - sunny, even. According to the hotel clerk, a meteorological anomaly. The first time she had been to this state had been a more accurate representation of the usual climate - something which she was now experiencing once more.

Staring out her hotel window, trying to come up with a plan of action now that all possible evidence the forest might have offered had been washed away, she witnessed this "usual" weather with a distant stare. The heavens opened sporadically before her - first a heavy downpour, then a steady sprinkle, and finally nothing but a light mist until once again the clouds accumulated enough moisture to send jarring showers right back down to the earth and start the cycle all over again. All within the span of 45 minutes or less, mimicking almost exactly the tears she had shed over the past few days.

If not for the extremely pressing study of bizarre weather patterns, Scully was beginning to fear that this trip had no real purpose other than one more waste of the FBI's money. It was supposed to be a place to start. When you had no leads, you went back to the scene of the crime to find a new avenue of investigation. But with all the physical evidence washed away and the witnesses all gone missing themselves, she was having trouble even gathering the strength to get in the car, let alone discover an entire new avenue.

She knew that if Mulder were in her position he would never give up. Hell, he *had* been put in this position and he hadn't given up. She couldn't decide whether that thought gave her strength or made her want to simply lie down and confess herself weaker than him. She was beginning to believe that she was.

From almost the beginning of their partnership, Scully had considered herself the stronger of the two. She didn't let things get to her as easily as Mulder sometimes did - especially when it concerned each other. Now she wondered if her forced stoicism wasn't just a superficial attempt at strength, when the real valor lay in actually letting your feelings out so that they could be dealt with.

But then, he hadn't been in her exact situation. She ran a hand over her stomach thoughtfully and stared down at the place where a large bulge would begin to form in the months to come. It was almost too much to comprehend. They had created a life together. It would be part her and part him and whatever fears Marita had instilled in her about this child's possible purpose, Scully could not find it within herself to be anything but awestruck at the miracle that grew inside her.

With a small smile across her mouth and bitter tears stinging the backs of her eyes, she slowly rose her other hand to touch the cold glass of the rain-soaked window.

"I love you," she whispered inaudibly out into the ocean of tears. She had said those words only once before with such conviction, and now it was a declaration made to two people, though one could only feel her words and not yet comprehend them, and the other could only hear them, she hoped, in his memory. "So much." She slumped back into the chair, cradling her belly, and let her own small sobs rock her to sleep.


A shrill ringing woke her in the middle of the night. She was still slumped over in her chair by the window and sitting so long in the same position made it painful to move her muscles, but she slowly made it over to the bed to fish the cell phone out of the jacket she had laid on the comforter when she first entered the room.

"Scully," she answered groggily.

There was a long silence on the other end of the phone.

"Hello?" she asked, slightly irritated.

"I'm okay."

"Mulder?" her voice sounded desperate to her own ears.

"I love you, too." Her breath caught in her throat. Her joy and fear at his simple statement melded together in an almost numbing state of shock.

"Yes." His voice was almost eerily calm.

She froze. "What?"

"I heard you. I hear you now. And I know."

Chills drifted up her spine. She could feel each individual hair on the back of her neck stand up. "Know what, Mulder?"

"About the baby." Her heart skipped a beat. "Don't worry, Scully, you won't have to raise him alone."

She felt a single tear slide down her cheek. What the hell was going on?

"I can hear you. The whole time I was up there, I clung to you, your thoughts." She could hear the sadness in his voice. "And God, Scully, you felt so much pain. I... I could barely stand it." He paused for a moment. "You *are* the strong one."

She brought a hand to her face as she felt more tears begin to break through.

"Let it out, Scully. You know I could never think any less of you."

She felt her resolve break like a piece of plywood being snapped. She began to cry and she wasn't even sure of the reason. She had cried more tears in the last week than she could remember crying in the last 10 years, and yet she seemed to never run out. She supposed it had to do with chemical imbalances from the pregnancy, but nevertheless it made her feel weak and vulnerable. "What's wrong with me?"

Mulder's voice was calm and soothing. "Shhhh It's okay to let it out. It's been 7 years, Scully. Your father, your sister, the cancer, Emily... You've never really just let go. You don't need to feel guilty for feeling."

His words were like a release in and of themselves. She suddenly felt the cleansing waves of emotion she had always heard about but never experienced. Where other people seemed to feel refreshed after they let their emotions run out of them in tears, Scully had always felt worse after a good cry. Rather than releasing the tension of her grief and frustration, her tears had always added to her frustration by depositing on top of all her other woes a layer of self-doubt. When she was a young girl, her father had always told her not to cry. It accomplished nothing, he said. Throughout her life, when she felt the tears welling up within her, it simply made her feel more useless. She could be doing something to solve her problem and instead she was just crying over it.

"He didn't think any less of you, either, Scully. He just didn't want to see you cry."

The tears came in a flood now. She felt all the tension and built up sadness of the past seven years - of her entire adult life - flow through her and down her cheeks. With each painful sob came a release that was even greater. "I love you." The words were choked out and almost incoherent, but he heard them nonetheless.

"Me too," he replied with a small hint of humor. It was the way that she had responded when he had first uttered the phrase to her. "Always." There were several minutes of silence as he listened to her receding sobs and she let his breathing calm her. "Now get some sleep and get back to D.C. in the morning. There's nothing for you to find out there."

She wanted to know everything about what had happened to him now, but she silently nodded her head in agreement, forgetting briefly that he couldn't see her.

"Come back as soon as you can." At that moment, her phone began to ring in her hand. She stared at it, confused. She hadn't hung up yet, how could it be ringing?

She opened her eyes with a start. She was still curled up in her chair by the window. Her cell phone was ringing, still in the pocket of her jacket on the bed.

It was a dream.

How? It had been so real. She could still hear his voice in her ear, still feel the damp tears on her face. Slowly, she lifted a hand to her cheeks. They were damp. She had been crying in her sleep. The phone continued to ring.

She rose from the chair, feeling a slight pang of de ja vu as her muscles ached with the same weariness they had felt when she'd stood from the chair in her dream. She quickly grabbed the phone. "Scully."

"Hello again." The icy voice sent both excitement and dread coursing through her instantaneously. She needed to hear what this woman knew, for her sake and for Mulder's, but she couldn't shake the feeling that this information came at too high a price.

"What do you want?" Scully asked coldly.

"Agent Scully, I'm surprised at you. I have provided you with answers to questions that you never would have found without my assistance. What have I asked for in return?"

"My trust."

"That's too much to ask?"

Scully closed her eyes for a moment, willing the sleepy haze out of her mind. "I was once told to trust no one. It's worked for me so far."

"What about your partner?"

There was no hesitation. "Mulder is the only one I trust."

"So I've found. I only wonder if that trust is somewhat misplaced."

Scully took a deep breath. What the hell was this woman hinting at? She felt the anger rising within her. "What are you insinuating?"

"Wouldn't you expect the one person in the world that you place all your trust in to be truthful with you? Shouldn't you be able to trust that they won't go making deals behind your back that could be potentially ruinous?"

"Will you stop with the insinuations and hints and just tell me what the hell you're trying to say? I don't enjoy playing your little games and I am sick and tired of this bullshit." She felt a small victory as the crisp words left her mouth, though she knew they wouldn't accomplish much.

"Temper, temper. The real answers aren't for this conversation. Meet me in one hour."

"You're in Oregon?"

"Meet me in the woods where you first came into contact with the ship."

Scully was confused. "What do you mean, 'first came into contact with the ship'?"

"You fainted in the woods. You thought it was just another attack of dizziness, but it wasn't. It was the ship's force-field."

The line went dead. Scully felt a sudden chill drift up her spine. It was still raining. The drops of water splattered across the windowpane almost menacingly. The entire room seemed to take on an ominous atmosphere.

*Get back here in the morning.*

*Come back as soon as you can.*

Flashes from her dream. Why would that come to her now? She didn't know what exactly compelled her to dial the airport and have her flight rescheduled for the next one back to Washington, but she felt a strange urgency to get home. Mulder's voice rang in her ears like an anthem.

*I heard you. I hear you now. And I know.*

Mulder, if you can hear me, come back to me. Come back soon.


She saw Skinner as soon as she came out of the terminal. He was staring at his watch nervously. She wondered if she was making him late.

"Sir," she greeted as she neared him.

"Agent Scully." He took her bag from her as they walked. She almost protested, but was still uncomfortable with this new Skinner. She wasn't quite sure how he'd react to her refusal of his chivalry.

They walked the long distance out of the airport and to his car in silence. She was glad. On the phone she'd told him that upon her arrival in Oregon, it had fully set in just how futile the trip was. The explanation seemed to satisfy him enough then, but she had the feeling that wouldn't be the end of his query into her unscheduled return. She didn't know how exactly to explain that her partner had come to her in a dream and told her to return. She was still wasn't even sure herself why she had listened.

"Would you mind going out for a cup of coffee?" Skinner asked as they approached the car.

For some reason, the prospect made her a little uncomfortable. Something about his entire demeanor was making her uneasy. "I was kind of hoping to go home and get some rest."

He was silent for a moment as he came around to unlock her door. "I was hoping we could discuss this... case." For the first time since Mulder had gone missing, he looked her in the eye with the same command and confidence she was used to seeing in him. She wasn't sure how to say no.

"I suppose home can wait. Not that I'd get much rest anyway." He gave a small acknowledging smile that was present nowhere in his face but the corners of his mouth and went around to his side of the car.


They entered the coffee shop and sat down in a booth by the back wall. Scully was still uncomfortable. How much should she tell him of what had happened? She trusted Skinner, but not unconditionally. There had been times when his allegiances were... blurry, and her suspicions, though suppressed, had never fully gone away. It had surprised her when Marita told her that he had been the one to make a deal for her life. With all the mistrust she had shown him over the years, she couldn't quite fathom how he could still care for her enough to risk his career, his own life. She respected him and often considered him a friend, but at the same time wasn't sure how far that friendship went.

"Agent Scully, I'll get directly to the point." He was sitting across from her, staring her right in the face. It was somewhat intimidating - in much the same way as being chewed out in his office. She wasn't quite sure what to make of this change in him. Before she left he had still been guilt ridden, almost cowering in her presence, and now he was suddenly his old, no-nonsense, self. It was both comforting and unnerving at the same time.

"You've been keeping something from me," he started out. The accusatory tone of his statement made Scully sit up a little more defiantly.

"If we are to have any hope of finding Agent Mulder," he continued, "we need as many minds working on this case as possible. I need to know all the information if I am to assist you in any way."

Her defiance melted away quickly and she nodded almost meekly, staring down at the table. She wasn't sure exactly what to say to that. He was right; there really was no need for secrecy. She was becoming too paranoid. With Mulder gone, if she couldn't trust Skinner, who could she trust?

"You're right. I... I'm sorry, sir." She looked around the small shop briefly, trying to think of where she should begin. Her next words were in a whisper. "In the past week I've been... contacted several times by someone offering me information."

He squinted at her. "Who?"

"Marita Covarrubias."

He nodded slowly, as though he had been expecting the answer. "And what has she told you?"

Scully looked over his face slowly, nervous. She had decided to be truthful with him, but there were certain things that she just felt uncomfortable discussing. Especially with Skinner. "She told me of a deal that was made. For my health."

He closed his eyes and briefly looked down at the table. "I'm aware of this deal."

"Are you also aware of another deal made earlier this year by Agent Mulder?"

His eyes opened wider and he looked at her intently. "What for?"

She glanced downward, at her stomach. The realization registered on his face.

"What was his end of this agreement?"

She swallowed. "According to Marita, he was simply to be called upon. He wasn't informed ahead of time as to when or what for, but Oregon was it."

He took a deep breath, removing his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose lightly with his fingers.

"Agent Scully, I regret having to say this, but if he truly has been taken, has it occurred to you that perhaps there is nothing we *can* do except wait for his return? I've never been sure what I believed, but after what I saw out in that forest... If he's no longer on the planet, what can we possibly hope to do to get him back?" He continued before she could protest. "I'm only asking you to take it into consideration."

She was silent for several seconds. She stared at the floor beside their booth with an almost unconscious scowl. A sinking feeling overtook her gut. The thought had more than crossed her mind. But she couldn't allow herself to believe it. Aside from the outright horror of the thought that extraterrestrials might actually exist - something which was beginning to seem more and more a reality - she didn't know how she could survive with the idea that there was absolutely nothing she could do. It was hard enough the way things were. If she truly was unable to do anything to search for Mulder, she didn't know what to occupy her mind with. The baby, of course, but that was so closely linked with its father that she was worried, even now, how good a mother she could be if he wasn't returned soon. She feared that she might let her grief over Mulder carry over into her caring for the infant. Of course she would do everything necessary for it, but how could she be loving and caring when every time she looked at the child she wanted nothing more than to either cry or run away?

"Dana?"

Skinner's voice startled her out of her reverie. She looked up at him and asked in a solemn voice, "Would you mind taking me home now?"

He looked her over with concern, then nodded.

She hoped to God she could make it through the night without crying again.


Walking into the apartment, she dropped her bag just inside the door and the coat followed closely. She removed her gun from its holster and sat it down casually on the coffee table. It was unlike her to just leave things lying around, but she was exhausted from the flight. For once she actually thought she might be able to sleep within minutes of getting in bed. But as she neared her bedroom, she noticed an wrong; an odd feeling, a smell.

Death.

It wasn't the smell of blood, of a crime scene, but the stale, decaying sent that hung in the air at morgues. Coming fully awake, she moved cautiously back into the living room, staring around at her surroundings with a new sense of alertness. Her heart thudded heavily in her chest. The gun was gone. How could she have been so stupid? She was about to leave the apartment when the glint of metal caught her eye.

It wasn't gone; it had been knocked off the table. By who?

Gingerly, she walked to the coffee table and bent down quickly to grab the weapon. She aimed it out in front of her and surveyed the room. No sign of anyone. Nothing out of place. She retraced her steps to the bedroom. The odor was distinct; she had no doubt that something dead was behind the door. She only hoped that was all.

She held her ear to the door for a brief time, her back against the wall, her gun ready to fire. In one swift move, she turned the doorknob and kicked it open, sweeping the room quickly with her weapon in front of her. No one there.

There was something in her bed. An unmoving figure underneath the covers whose outline she could make out in the light coming from the street lamp across from her window. She flipped on the light switch and did another quick sweep of the room. When she was absolutely sure that she was alone, save the figure in the bed, she walked up to it and slowly peeled back the blankets.

After performing at least a hundred autopsies, examining countless violent crime scenes, coming face to face with men who had killed in cold blood and mutants who had fed with even less feeling, Dana Scully almost gasped.

Platinum blond hair already fading, pale skin gone gray. Cool blue eyes now cold and lifeless. Scully had to take a step back and cover her mouth in an effort not to lose the bad airline food she had forced down her throat earlier. She walked back into the living room in search of her jacket, and speed dialed Skinner on his cell phone. He couldn't be far away yet.

"Skinner."

She began to speak as she looked around her apartment for any trace of the intruder. "Sir, Marita Covarrubias is dead."

He was silent for a second. "How do you know?"

"Her body is lying in my bed."

Again, a brief silence. "Where are you?"

"In my apartment. I've looked around some. There don't appear to be any signs of intrusion, though I can assure you she didn't walk in here herself."

His voice held a hint of worry. "I'll be right over."

At that moment, Scully spotted it: a piece of folded paper lying solitary on her coffee table. She bent over and picked it up, sitting down on the couch as she unfolded it.

"Oh my god."

"Agent Scully?" She heard Skinner's voice, but didn't respond, simply stared at the paper in her hand. The message was written in black ink.

*You're next.*

The phrase was one she would have expected. The body itself was clearly a warning and the note simply spelled out what was implied. It was how the words were written that startled her. The almost illegible scribbling that she had learned to read over the years stared back at her and taunted her.

It was Mulder's handwriting.


Skinner didn't allow her to do the autopsy on Marita. He said that she was lucky he was even letting her work on this case. It was much too close to home. However, he felt her closeness could actually help this time, especially since no one else would be able to understand the circumstances of Mulder's... *disappearance* quite as well as she could. She did read the autopsy report. And what she read was somewhat disturbing.

Marita had been killed in the early morning of the day that Scully found her, most likely between the hours of two and five a.m. There was dirt underneath her fingernails and in her hair.

She'd been waiting in the woods.

*Waiting for me.*

Her dream had saved her. If not for the power of its message, Scully's curiosity surely would have gotten the best of her and she would have gone to the forest that night.

She would be dead too.

Her child would be dead.

She was more confused than terrified, though she did feel both. She was still unsure of how exactly she had known to leave Oregon when she did. She was now staying in a safe house just outside Washington, in a Virginia suburb. The Lone Gunmen had relocated themselves and much of their equipment so that she would have someone with her at all times. She wasn't quite sure how three computer geeks were supposed to protect her, an FBI agent, but it did make things more convenient having them around. She would know the instant that they discovered anything and they could discuss strategies and theories without the added inconvenience of a phone.

Speaking of phones, she noticed absently that hers was ringing. Feeling strangely lethargic, she simply sat in the big chair she had been thinking in and let it ring in her pocket for a few seconds, until finally she reluctantly pulled it out and pushed send.

"Scully."

"Hi sweetie."

It was her mother. If she'd been walking, she would have come to an abrupt halt. Since she'd first found out she was pregnant, she'd been avoiding this call. Everyday she looked at the phone and thought about dialing her mother, but each time she had been at a loss for what she would say to her. She couldn't feel ashamed of this pregnancy, but didn't know what else she was supposed to feel when she told her mother, a devout Catholic, that she was about to become a single mother. Her mom would accept it of course, but beyond that, Scully was unable to even conceive of what her reaction would be.

"Hi Mom." Her voice must have been less than enthusiastic.

"Dana, is something wrong?"

She took a deep breath. She was about to say that she was fine when she stopped herself. Best not to start the conversation off with a lie.

Her voice was hesitant. "Yeah, Mom, actually there is."

"Well what is it? Where have you been, sweet heart? I've tried calling your apartment."

Again she paused. Where to begin? The last week had been like a bad action movie. Just when she began to deal with one problem, something else went wrong. She suddenly felt very envious of Sylvester Stalone. At least he knew they'd all eventually be taken care of.

"Umm..." she began, quite eloquently. "I'm in a safe house. I can't tell you where over the phone." She didn't know how much more she should say. She didn't want to scare her mother, although she was sure she had already done just that. "I won't go into details, but there's reason to believe I may be in some danger."

Her mother was silent for what seemed to Scully like a long time.

"Is Fox in danger as well?" It was Margaret's thinly veiled way of asking whether Mulder was there to protect her, but Scully understood her mother well enough to realize it wasn't an attack on her ability to be independent. No, the question upset her for entirely different reasons.

A pang of hurt gripped her chest as she answered. "He's um... he's gone missing." She took a deep breath to keep the tears at bay. Her voice was shaky. "Last week we were working on a case in Oregon. We came back home, thinking it was over, but there was another breakthrough, and..." She took a deep breath. "People were being taken. People who claimed to have been alien abductees were systematically disappearing and Mulder thought..." She swallowed. Her throat was dry. "He was worried that after my abduction, I was in danger as well. So he went back to Oregon with our assistant director while I stayed here, and... He didn't come back."

Both women were silent until Scully had to switch her cell phone to the other hand to avoid cramping her arm.

"I'm sorry, Dana," was all Margaret could think to say. She remembered what Fox had been like when Dana was taken. She hoped her daughter was doing better than he had.

"There's something else I need to tell you, Mom." Margaret could hear the nervous tension in her daughter's voice. She wondered what Dana could possibly be afraid to say.

"What is it, sweetie?"

Scully took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. "I... I'm pregnant."

Again, silence. Margaret didn't know what to say. She couldn't even tell if she was happy for her daughter or not. It seemed, quite simply, unreal. "How?"

Scully thought for a moment. Again, she wondered how much she should tell the older woman. What had happened to her was difficult for *her* to understand exactly, what would it be like for someone who hadn't been exposed to all that she had seen?

"You remember the chip that Mulder gave the doctors when I was sick?"

"The one they put in your neck?"

"Yes. Do you believe that it cured me?"

Her mother thought for several moments. "I'm not sure. I haven't thought about it much. I always thought there was no reason to look a gift horse in the mouth."

Scully smiled sadly. She had often wished she could have the faith that her mother had and simply accept good things as they came, not having to analyze and prove everything. "Well, during a... case this past year, I came into contact with one of the men who gave me that chip in the first place and he... gave me a new one."

"And you're saying this chip has made it possible for you to conceive?" Her mother's voice wasn't incredulous as Scully would have expected. Instead she was accepting and, if not fully believing, at least willing to believe.

"That's the best explanation I have at the moment, yes."

Margaret thought for a moment. She knew what she wanted to ask, but wasn't quite sure how to go about asking it. "Dana... this chip, it gave you the *ability* to conceive?"

Scully knew what her mother was getting at. This was the hardest part of the conversation, after all; the very reason she had avoided this discussion for so long. So instead of helping her mother out and simply telling her what she knew the other woman wanted to know, she simply answered the question she had been asked. "Yes."

Silence.

"So... who's the father?"

Scully took a deep breath and prepared herself. "Mulder."

She could feel the tension flowing through the miles of distance between them. Her mother's voice was controlled.

"How long has this been going on?"

Scully tried to think of an answer to that question, but couldn't. They had first kissed on New Year's. They'd been spending more and more time together ever since she had returned from Africa and found him in that... *place*. They'd spent many nights at each others' apartments, watching movies and sitting on the couch. Some of those nights had ended up with his arm around her shoulders, or her falling asleep leaned against him. Some people could call those occasions dates, though they'd never actually spoken about it. And of course, there had been a few more kisses here and there, though never extremely passionate or romantic. And then one night, it had all culminated in a single impulsive act that had been part natural progression and part giant leap forward. It had only happened that once, though she could sense that both of them had wanted more. And things had gone back to normal. A comfortable place somewhere between dating and spending time with a friend. They had both said those three little words more than three times and with a conviction that made the term "little" seem horribly inadequate, but strangely, they'd never really discussed what exactly those words meant or where the hell they wanted to go with this little arrangement. So she really had no idea how to answer her mother's question. In truth, it had been going on for seven long years.

"Well, I'm two months pregnant."

Scully could hear the agitation in her mother's voice when she next spoke. She supposed her answer had seemed a little smart- assed, but it hadn't been meant that way.

"You know what I mean, Dana. How long have you and Fox been this... *close*."

"Mom, I answered you as best I could. We don't have that kind of relationship. It's not clearly defined. I..." She tried to think of a way to make it clearer to Margaret. "We've kissed, and we spend a lot of time together, but... We've never really talked about our relationship."

Margaret's tone wasn't exactly disapproving, but somewhat incredulous. "But you've slept together."

Scully let out a sigh of aggravation. Her mother made it sound almost wrong. "Yes. Once. And mom, I don't regret it."

Her mother was silent. Scully could tell that she wasn't sure what to think. On the one hand, she was happy that her daughter could have children; on one level she was even happy that Dana and Fox had finally found each other in the way that she had always known they would. But she was upset that her daughter hadn't confided in her about this new development in their relationship. And she was upset that Dana seemed to be taking that development so lightly.

"Do you love him?"

Scully paused. The answer was no longer a difficult one to admit to herself, but the concept of discussing it with someone else, even if that someone was her mother, seemed strange and almost wrong.

"Yes."

"Does he love you?"

"Yes."

Another pause. "Well then, Dana, I don't suppose I have any choice but to be happy for you."

Despite her grief, for the first time in what seemed like years but in reality had only been a week, Scully smiled. It wasn't big, but it was real. "Thank you, mom. I love you."

"I love you too, sweet heart. Call me if anything happens."

"I will."

"Okay, Dana. I'll talk to you soon." Her voice was almost sad and Scully wasn't quite sure how to react to it.

"Bye, Mom." She stared at the phone for a moment before putting it back in her pocket, then got up and walked to the window. Beyond the glass, there was a green lawn, a little garden, a white picket fence, and in the street, three young children playing. The little boy who looked about seven was chasing the little girl who seemed the same age with a giant smile on his face as she pretended to scream and sprinted away, running around the pavement in a large circle. A younger boy, perhaps four or five, rode around on his three wheeler, every once in a while crossing paths with the older children and forcing them to maneuver around him.

*So this is what normal people live like.*

*Not exactly,* she thought looking around her own palace of modern suburbia. Next to the big recliner she had been sitting in was a coffee table, which was across from a medium-sized TV/VCR. There was a large couch on the far wall and a couple paintings hung on the wall. But in the next room, two entire walls were taken up by desks holding computers, recorders, scramblers, and every other known piece of equipment, plus a few most people probably didn't know of. Though this was the very distinguishable "tech room", much of the rest of the house had been converted into workspace as well. There were, in fact, only two rooms in the house that resembled the way "normal" people lived- the one she was standing in and her bedroom upstairs. The Gunmen slept in bunk beds they had moved into the tech room from their place. They apparently were not claustrophobic.

Scully turned her attention back to the children playing in the street. The older boy and girl were now apparently on friendlier terms and were playing hopscotch in squares they had drawn with street chalk. The younger boy was still on his three-wheeler and was proceeding to ride around them in oblong circles almost psychotically. Scully looked down at her stomach and wondered for the first time what sex her own child would be. Would he or she be a relatively calm and observant baby as she had been, or hyperactive and exploring as she was almost sure his father was?

Why had she just said "his"?

She had heard that women could sometimes tell the sex of the child in their womb even before an ultrasound, but it still shook her a little.

*I heard you. I hear you now. And I know.*

Her dream. Why was that coming back to her now?

*Know what, Mulder?*

*About the baby.*

A chill went up her spine even now. The memory was so vivid she could hear his voice clearly.

*Don't worry, Scully, you won't have to raise him alone.*

Him. Mulder had told her she wouldn't have to raise *him* alone.

But it wasn't really Mulder. It was the Mulder in her dream. It was her subconscious. So she had subconsciously known the sex and her mind had incorporated it into her dream. It made sense. But how had her subconscious known about Marita? Was that simply a coincidence? Was her sudden will to leave, sparked by the dream, simply an irrational fear that had somehow coincided with a completely unrelated event due to dumb luck? Her head hurt. She didn't want to deal with all these questions. So why couldn't her mind stop asking them?

She focused once more on the street. It was starting to get dark. The two older kids appeared to be having trouble convincing the younger one that it was time to go inside. They had stopped his three-wheeler and were talking to him as he sat on the bike and wailed so loudly that Scully could hear him quite clearly through the window. She supposed it was probably time for her to turn in as well. Byers was still gone grocery shopping - a fact which she would have found amusing if she could find anything amusing at the moment - and Frohike and Langly were in the tech room doing... whatever it was they did in there. She didn't try to understand much of what they spent their time on. It just comforted her somewhat to know they were there.

She peeked her head into their room on her way upstairs and said goodnight, to which they replied their own wishes of sweet dreams and warnings about bed bugs, and then she proceeded up to her room. It was a small-to-medium-sized room, with a ceiling that angled upwards with the roof, a small chest of drawers for her clothes with a large mirror above it, and a big bed with white cotton sheets and fluffy blankets. It reminded her of a room she and Missy had shared once when they had lived in North Carolina for a little less than a year. That had been one of her favorite houses. She was about nine years old, she recalled. This was the kind of room she'd always envisioned having a nursery in. She hadn't told anyone since she was 10, of course, never wanting to seem like the type of girl (or woman) who thought of things like that, but the dream had never left her. She'd always thought that once she settled down, found the right man and the right job that wasn't quite as hectic, she would move somewhere nice and have a little house with white walls and angled ceilings and a safe place to raise her kids. Up until a couple years ago, those thoughts had never really come into question.

Then the news that that safe place to raise children was really unnecessary. The dream had been shattered. Sure, she could always adopt, but it just wasn't what she had envisioned. She'd thought of being pregnant, having a doting husband by her side the entire nine months, giving birth to a baby that was unique and special, but at the same time a part of her and of the man she loved. A whole person they had created together. Watching him hold their baby and knowing that he loved the child just as much as she did.

Well, some dreams died hard. Just when one part of the equation was filled in, another was taken away from her. She even had the house.

Not wanting to think about it anymore for the time being, she let her body relax and cleared her mind as she drifted slowly away into unconsciousness.


She was in his apartment. Surrounded by him. His things, his scent, his body. Slowly, she began to feel him, as if he were coming into being as she lay next to his forming body. She had seen him right off - lying next to her on the bed, kissing her neck, running his fingers over her languidly - but she could not feel his ministrations until she looked him in the eyes. As she stared into their brown-green depths, sensation had begun to filter into her. The first thing she felt was his hand between her legs. The sudden pressure had shocked her to the point that she gasped loudly and thrust up against him. He smiled and began kissing her once more. She didn't think to ask what was going on. All she cared about was that he was back. He was with her.

As her desire reached its peak, so did the light in his eyes. She saw them in her mind even as his face was pressed tightly against her flesh. And then he shifted, climbing on top of her, moving with an almost fluid grace even when performing the awkward task of climbing over her. She hadn't even spread her legs fully and he was inside her, filling her, again and again. Her senses were multiplied by ten. She could feel every move of his body, could smell his sex and his hair and everything about him; could feel each strand of his hair as her fingers tangled themselves in it. And with each movement of his hips, she felt and experienced more. Her vision cleared as if waking from a dream and she could see each individual spot on the ceiling above her. When he stopped kissing her, and looked into her eyes, she could see every spot of pigment in his eye and beyond, into his soul. It was more amazing than anything she had ever imagined. She saw entire worlds behind his eyes. Universes never before seen, things that had never before been dreamt of. Instead of the fear she would expect of herself, she craved more. Craved the knowledge and understanding she saw in those eyes. The power.

She blinked and it was gone. She knew the things she had seen were still behind the eyes that she continued to stare into, but they were suddenly cut off from her. They had been intentionally hidden from her vision. Instead, she saw with sudden clarity the mistake she had made. It was no longer Mulder on top of her, still driving into her naked flesh. Large, glassy black eyes stared back at her. Smooth gray skin caressed her own. A stab of panic coursed through her body. Her heart rate climbed rapidly and she wanted to scream but could not create a sound.

The thing leaned its head down beside her ear, whispering softly in a voice that was still Mulder's despite the change of appearance. "Tell Cain that his father loves him."


Scully awoke with a start, sitting up in the bed in an attempt to escape the image that now only invaded her mind. Her pulse was racing. She was covered in sweat, both from fear and arousal, she assumed, though she only felt the former now.

With yet another start, she realized that she wasn't alone in the room. A shadowy figure stood silently next to the door. It took her a full three seconds of shocked paralysis to realize that the intruder was familiar to her.

Skinner.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, her voice a little shaky with fear and suspicion.

He stood hidden from her slightly, his face covered by the shadows at the opposite corner of the tiny room. "You screamed," he answered matter-of-factly as he finally took a few steps toward the bed. "In your sleep."

She stopped herself before pointing out that she hadn't actually been able to scream.

*It was a dream, Dana.*

"Why were you here? Where are Langly, Frohike, and Byers?"

He was silent. Two more steps. He was almost to her now. Why was she so afraid?

"Sleeping." His voice was calm, mechanical. She would have pulled her gun on him, but it was on the nightstand and she doubted her ability to get it quickly enough with him staring at her so intently.

"Didn't they hear me scream?" she asked.

His answer was instant. "It wasn't a very loud scream."

The knot of fear in her stomach grew larger. He was getting closer and closer with each word. "How did you hear it? Where were you?"

He smiled. It wasn't Skinner's smile. It was something darker. Inhuman. "Right inside your doorway."

In less than an instant, she was off the bed with the gun in her hand. She cocked the hammer and pointed it right at his head.

"Who the hell are you and where's Skinner?" she yelled.

"We are quick, aren't we, Agent Scully? Not quick enough, unfortunately."

She watched in a mixture of awe and horror as the man's face began to contort and mold until it became the face of a man she had seen before, but was much less familiar with. The man Mulder called the Bounty Hunter.

"Where's Skinner?" she asked, realization finally setting in and a sinking feeling reaching the pit of her stomach. She kept the gun aimed squarely at his neck.

A small, amused smile twisted the corners of his mouth upward. "I think you know."

She resisted the urge to sit down as a wave of understanding and trepidation swept over her. He had seemed different ever since he picked her up from the airport. "You bastard." Her tone was low, but the vehemence was more than present. She wanted to kill him. She wanted to blast his brains all over the nice white walls of her perfect little dream house. But a shot to the head would most likely result in her death rather than his. "Why?" she asked, her voice a little more shaky than she would have liked when she was trying to intimidate someone.

"Clarity comes with time, Agent Scully." He took one more step in her direction. "Sadly, you don't have either." He stalked towards her with clear intent now. She knew that if she let him get his hands on her, he would kill her. She had felt his strength before and didn't trust herself to be able to escape his grasp. He stood between her and the doorway. She had to think fast.

Grabbing the perfume bottle off the top of the bag that rested on the nightstand, she gave him a series of quick sprays in the eyes, and then bolted for the door. Within a moment she was out of the room. She stood by the doorway, waiting with her gun ready.

Minutes passed and he didn't come out.

Finally, she opened the door and entered the room again, gun still up and ready. He was gone. The window was open.

She sat down on the bed and cried.

For Mulder. For Skinner. For herself.

And for her son.

*Tell Cain that his father loves him.*

Cain. She remembered the Bible story. The first son of Adam and Eve who killed his brother Abel out of jealousy when God accepted the younger man's sacrifice over his. Cursed by God to walk the earth for the rest of his life in solitude with a mark on his head so that no one would kill him and deprive him of his punishment.

What did the story have to do with her? Or the child growing in her womb?

*Clarity will come with time.*

The words came to her suddenly as if spoken aloud. They seemed more a threat than a comfort. She had a feeling she didn't want to know the answers to her questions.


Two days and no real developments. She and the Gunmen had moved into a safer 'safe house', one specially picked by the guys as a *very* discrete location. Skinner's body had been found. Strangled, lying in a dumpster near the airport. The thought made her want to vomit and sob at the same time, but since the night she had realized he was dead, she had done neither. All sorts of investigations were taking place. It was all over the news. An FBI Assistant Director killed in broad daylight in a public place and no one had any leads. Scully knew they would never get any. Not unless someone was willing to believe her story. An alien had killed him. A morphing alien who then took on Skinner's features and voice and posed as him for a number of days. For God's sake, *she* wouldn't believe her own story.

She'd been interviewed and she'd told the truth. Skinner was supposed to pick her up at the airport and he never showed up. She simply didn't offer any further details.

*So how *did* you get home when it became apparent that he wasn't going to show?*

*I got a ride with someone else.*

*Someone you met at the airport?*

*An old... acquaintance.*

*The name of this old acquaintance?*

*I couldn't tell you.*

She felt her face contort in disgust at the memory of her own words. When had she become as bad as Them? Half-truths and almost- answers had never been her game. Of course, that also raised the question of what knowledge she was hiding. When had she come to believe in aliens?

The whole question of extraterrestrial existence seemed futile to her now. What the hell did it matter anymore? Something was responsible for all this. Wasn't that all that mattered? The philosophical and religious problems that the issue had once raised for her seemed somehow inconsequential. If there were aliens did that mean there was no God? She didn't know. The impending birth of Cain made her want to believe in some divine being that could protect her son, but she became more jaded and cynical with each revelation that was unfolded before her. The miracle of creation had been given to her by a metallic chip implanted in her neck by a man. A man who had less to do with God than even Jerry Falwell did.

*Cain.*

Speaking of which, when had she started thinking of her child as Cain? It was the name Mulder's voice had used in her dream. She hated it. Why would she name her son something she associated with sin and punishment? She had looked it up in a baby name book the day before - the first sign that perhaps she did have something in common with other pregnant women. It meant 'possession' or 'possessed'. She had gotten chills then, and felt them again now.

Her mother had called earlier to talk about, among other things, the name issue. She had suggested the baby be named after Scully's grandfather. Nathaniel. 'Gift of God'. She had almost laughed when her mother made the suggestion. The child was a gift, and one she was thankful for, but he had definitely not been the gift of *God*. Her mother had sensed her doubt.

"He works in mysterious ways, Dana."

Mysterious was an understatement. Still, she liked the name Nathaniel. It struck something inside her and seemed somehow to fit with whatever personality it was she was beginning to associate with her unborn child. Nathan. Nate. Her grandfather had been called Nate. She wondered if she would call her son by the same nickname.

*Cain.*

It was like a constant ringing in the back of her mind. She couldn't escape it. She would drift off to another issue, another question, but always, like an elephant that would not leave center stage, her focus would travel back to this one word, this single syllable. Every time it came to her it instilled yet another violent pang of fear deep in her gut. The name fell on her like an omen foretelling the fate of her child. Only she could not decipher that fate. All she could do was worry over the possibilities of its meaning, and the futility of that quandary made her feel even more useless than she had been for the past week and a half.

She had taken a leave from work after what happened to Skinner. With him out of the picture, whoever took over as her superior would most likely not be so inclined to allow her to focus all her time on a case she really didn't have any business working in the first place. Over the years, she had accumulated a rather large amount of unused vacation time and now was a better time than ever to use it. Not that it would be much of a vacation.

Her cell phone was ringing. She had left it on despite the Gunmens' warnings about tracking through the satellite. Caution was becoming less and less critical as they scrambled around endlessly for leads. The last 10 days felt more like 10 months. If someone had information to share with her, they needed a way to contact her.

"Scully," she answered wearily, grabbing the phone off her desk.

"Agent Scully, this is Alex Krycek."

Her heart jumped into her throat. No one had heard from Krycek since Mulder's disappearance. Perhaps she'd been right to leave the phone on after all.

"I'm listening."

"I have some things to tell you. Things which may greatly change your view of the present situation. These are the same things that a mutual... *friend* of ours would have told you had she not become... incapacitated."

She attempted to remain calm, but her pulse would not comply. "What sorts of *things*?"

His voice was almost teasing. "Uh-uh-uh, not so fast. Things such as these aren't for cellular lines. Meet me in 20 minutes at the diner down the street."

Scully froze. "You know where I am?"

There was a hint of laughter in his voice. "It wasn't terribly hard to find you, Agent Scully. I don't believe you fully understand your situation. My knowing your location is what's kept you alive. And your son."

"Explain it to me." Her voice was level, but she felt the fear gripping her chest tightly. He had mentioned her son. How had he known the baby was a boy?

"20 minutes." A small click ended the conversation. The minutes began to tick away slowly. Finally, she thought. Finally she might get some answers.


Darkness. The diner was closed. Scully felt a sharp stab of anxiety. What the hell was going on?

She walked up to the door and pushed on it in frustration - only to nearly trip over herself when it gave easily despite the "closed" sign just inside. She looked around the medium-sized room cautiously, gripping her gun in its holster. There were windows on all sides of the building. It didn't seem like an especially secretive location, and she didn't see Krycek picking a place so out in the open. Many things could be said of the bastard, but he was not stupid.

Satisfied that the room was empty, she walked slowly around the counter and back through the swinging doors that she assumed led to the kitchen.

A noise.

Surveying the room she now stood in, she noticed that she had been correct in her assumption. Sinks lined the far wall and pots hung from a rack over the island in the center of the room. A dark figure stood in the shadows of the far right corner. "Krycek?" she asked in a low voice.

"Follow me." The shadow moved to the middle of the far wall and walked through yet another door. She crossed the room swiftly and did the same. The next room she entered appeared to be a small lounge area, probably used by the owners and employees to relax in during breaks or when business was especially slow. It was small, with a few beat-up couches and chairs and a small radio that sat atop a coffee table in the center. Krycek (or the shadow she assumed to be Krycek) sat in one of the chairs, now in the far left corner of the room.

"And now to shed a little light on things." He spoke with the same cool tone as Marita had. She wondered who had rubbed off on whom. After the words left his mouth, he reached over slowly and turned on the tattered lamp that sat beside him. A dim light illuminated the shabby room and she looked around once more, making sure that she hadn't missed something in her earlier sweep.

"Have a seat, won't you, Agent Scully?"

He looked her straight in the eyes. The darkness in his pupils enhanced by the strange glow of the light beside them sent chills up her spine. She walked to the chair at her far right, positioning herself in the corner across the room from him. A silence fell over them for a brief time. He was looking her over, studying her. It made her uncomfortable to the extreme. "What did you bring me here for?"

A small smile curved the corners of his mouth upward. "Why, Agent Scully, you brought yourself here."

She wanted to glare at him but stopped herself, remembering the situation she was in. He had the answers she needed. She wouldn't get anywhere being hostile. "You said you had answers."

"It's not all that easy, Agent Scully. As I believe our mutual friend once told you, this will be much more conducive to both our purposes if you ask the right questions rather than simply waiting around for the answers."

She stared at him for a while, attempting to gage his sincerity. "And what are the right questions?"

He let out a small chuckle. "Well, *Agent* Scully, you're the investigator, not me. I'd guess that you just ask whatever it is you'd like to know."

She took a deep breath. "On the phone you referred to my 'son.' How do you know the child's a boy?"

"How do you know?" She didn't answer, just stared at him, scrutinizing. "You had a dream, right? Well so did I."

His matter-of-fact tone shook her somewhat. "*You* had a dream about *my* son?"

He nodded. "You ever seen any Stephen King movies, Agent Scully?"

"A few."

"Yeah, well, most of 'em are terrible- could never live up to the books. But 'The Stand,' now that's a good movie. You seen it?" She nodded, unsure of where he was going with this. "You know how all the survivor's of the superflu are summoned by either God or the devil through a dream? Well, it's kinda like that."

Scully stared at him silently for a moment, trying to decipher his meaning. "Are you trying to tell me that the Apocalypse is coming and my son has something to do with that?"

He smiled like the smart-ass that he was and clapped in approval. "You catch on quick, little lady." She knew the last jab had been an intentional attempt at getting a reaction out of her but she didn't let it phase her.

"In what way?" she asked, much more calmly than she would have believed possible at that moment.

He smiled wryly. "That is the question, isn't it?" One more thoughtful stare in her direction. "I suppose it is in my best interests for you to be informed. Shall we start at the beginning?"

She nodded even though she knew it hadn't really been a question.

"Thirty-something years ago - lending towards 40, I might add - Bill Mulder was part of this group that some have taken to calling the 'syndicate'. As one of the big players in this group, Mr. Mulder was expected to make certain sacrifices toward its greater purpose." He looked at her again to make sure she was paying close attention. "You see, Agent Scully, for many, many years, those in power have been aware of the existence of extra-terrestrial life. For about that long, perhaps longer, there has been an ongoing war between two different species of aliens - whom we only know as the grays and the shape-shifters. The grays are simply a super-evolved virus that originated on this planet, while the others are, well, from somewhere else. This war between the two really has little to do with us besides the fact that Earth happens to be a good location for a military base - aside from our pesky little race. The grays feel they're entitled to Earth because of their origins, and the shape-shifters don't really give a fuck what they're entitled to, they just want Earth because the gray's want Earth." Krycek paused. "You still with me?"

Scully nodded her understanding even as she held back the million protests that came to her mind. The whole thing sounded like a cheesy sci-fi movie.

"So anyway, the original goal of the Project was basically to save the human race. The grays have a virus; for 50 years we've been working on vaccines and alien-human hybrids with built-in immunities. The shape-shifters have poisonous blood and only one point of vulnerability; we've worked on special weapons and still more hybrids. Your 'partner' is one of the only four successful hybrids ever created." A small smile crossed his face as he waited for the information to sink in.

Scully simply stared at him in shock, unable to formulate words, let alone the arguments that she wanted to give him.

"One of the sacrifices Bill Mulder made for his race," Krycek said matter-of-factly. "His wife was pregnant. He was asked by the rest of the group to allow the doctors to do experiments on her, on their unborn child, using technology gleaned by tests during the Second World War. He talked about it with Teena, and they agreed. A few years later, when all seemed to be going well with Fox, Teena got pregnant again, and once more, they performed the procedures on her. A certain English gentleman, whom I believe you've met, also allowed this procedure to be done on his wife while she was pregnant. The three resulting children, Fox, Samantha, and Peter, were the first three successful alien-human hybrids - immune to both the black cancer and the toxicity of the shape-shifters' blood."

Scully had to think for a moment to realize what was wrong with this. "But Mulder isn't immune to their blood. He's been affected by it before. He almost died."

Krycek smiled. "But he didn't die, Agent Scully. Therein lies the medical feat. A normal person under the same conditions would have."

She shook her head. "But I've seen two people who were exposed to it and lived."

"These people obviously were not exposed for very long. Mulder's physiology would allow him to be exposed for up to 24 hours and still recover fully."

She nodded slowly, letting the medical questions in her head fall away for the moment. "So what happened to Samantha and Peter? Why was she abducted?"

"Sadly, the experiments were not as lucrative as the group had hoped. Shortly after Peter was... *modified*, there was a fire at the lab. All the doctors' notes were burned. They had performed the procedure successfully only three times, and were unable to remember everything perfectly. They had already begun cloning experimentation and decided that if they could clone the three successful specimens exactly, they could create an entire army of people able to fight the aliens. But Bill wasn't willing to give up both his children to this research. He was given the choice of which child he could keep. For whatever reason, he chose his son. Samantha and Peter were both abducted soon after. As you know, Samantha's situation didn't work out quite as well as had been hoped. Clones have since been made from genetic material gathered from her during the testing, but only a short time after her original abduction, she ran away from the compound and disappeared. Peter died during one of the tests at age 17."

This was too much information to take in all at once. Scully resigned herself to simply listen to everything he had to say and try and fathom it later when she was alone. Right now she simply needed all the information she could keep in her brain so that when she did attempt to process it, the story would be as complete as possible. "You said there were four successful hybrids."

He smiled again. She wanted to kick in those nice white teeth he kept flashing. "My, my, you *have* been paying attention. I was a little afraid all this was going over your head." Once more, she had to hold back her glare.

"Yes," he continued, "the fourth was Cassandra Spender. The first success since the fire all those years ago. And she was actually modified as an adult human being. You have no idea what a great leap forward she was. Sadly, certain Project motivations have changed since then."

"What is the purpose of the 'Project' now?" She caught his eye for a few moments and for the first time since she'd first met him, felt that she was, indeed, seeing another human being rather than the cold-blooded killer responsible for Bill Mulder's death, perhaps her sister's.

"Well," he started off slowly, "that's a complicated question with a complicated answer." He paused. "A small group of us, myself and the late Ms. Covarrubias included..." he paused for a moment on Marita's name and Scully thought she detected a hint of sadness, but it was gone too quickly to be sure. "We still hold the same objective, even though many of us weren't a part of it in the early days. I may be a selfish bastard, but I'd rather fight for humanity than against it." He stared off into the dimly lit room for a few moments, as if slipping into a nightmare. His face looked extremely disturbed. Scully wondered what horrible things he saw when he closed his eyes. "The older members of the group, up until their untimely deaths," he grinned sarcastically, "had since abandoned their goal of a future for the human race, and were focusing more on a future for themselves. Picking sides on who they thought could win the war, and making deals with that side to make invasion smoother as long as their lives would be spared. If not for the rebel shape-shifters that showed up and started that little 'bonfire', they were prepared to turn Cassandra Spender - their greatest tool against invasion - over to the aliens."

"What about CGB Spender?" Scully asked. "What was his goal?"

He chuckled. "That's a good question. He was always the greatest proponent of both sides. I think his ultimate goal was his own survival, but his plan was to make deals with the aliens just in case, while at the same time buying more time to work on the vaccine and the hybrids." He paused once more to stare at Scully. "He was never that close to his son, but he was close to Bill Mulder. Probably even had an affair with his wife. He considered Fox his son. Thought he would save humanity. When it became apparent to him that this was not *Fox* Mulder's fate, he decided to ensure that there would be another. That's where your son comes in."

Scully took a deep breath. "Mulder's immunities can be passed on?"

"They're in his genes. These experiments they did on his mother were high-tech, even for now. Gene therapy. And this kid's not just getting the immunities from his dad either."

A chill crawled up her spine. "What do you mean?"

"The chip he gave you. It's the newest technology. Created using data from Cassandra's tests. The eggs it allows you to create are specially modified with their own immunities. This child should be able to drink alien blood and not even flinch."

A wave of nausea crashed over her. She didn't know whether to be happy or outraged. Her child would be safe. But with his safety came obligations and responsibilities that no human should have to deal with. "Will his blood be toxic to humans?"

Krycek's eyes lit up with excitement in a way that reminded her of Mulder. "Is Mulder's? That's the beauty of it - they're human enough not to be a threat to us, but alien enough to be safe around them."

Scully had a sudden thought. "What was your dream about?"

Krycek looked confused but she had a feeling he knew exactly what she meant.

"Your dream," she repeated. "You said you had a dream that told you I would have a son. Like in 'The Stand'."

It took him what seemed like several minutes to respond. "I was in this desert," he began slowly. "The ground was red and cracking from the dry heat, and... and you were there. You were pregnant. But then..." He shut his eyes and furrowed his brow, trying to remember. "Then I didn't see you anymore. There was a man. Deep red hair and hazel eyes, and... I knew he was your son. And he was going to save humanity." He looked up and into her eyes. The intensity of his frightened her, but she couldn't look away. "He had a mark on his forehead." He placed his fingers in the center of his own forehead to demonstrate. "And all I could think of was that, that Bible story. The one where the man kills his brother and God curses him to walk the Earth with a mark on his forehead."

"So no one would kill him," Scully interjected.

He looked confused as he continued to rub the spot on his forehead lightly. "Yeah..." He was lost in thought for a moment. "Cain," he said, as if he had just remembered the correct answer to a Jeopardy question. "The story of Cain and Able. Cain was the one with the mark."

Scully nodded and took a deep breath. What did all of this mean? She felt like clues were being thrown at her wherever she went but she didn't know how they fit together. She was constantly being given the pieces to a giant jigsaw puzzle but had no idea what it was supposed to look like in the end.

*Tell Cain that his father loves him.*

*Cain.*

*Possession.*

"Are you religious?" It was the only question she could think to ask at the moment and for some reason it seemed relevant.

He thought for a moment. "Not for a long time. I was raised Russian Orthodox, but the things I deal with on a day-to-day basis haven't exactly allowed a lot of room for *God*." Again he was silent. She waited. "But things like that dream... How can you not believe in *something* at a time like this?"

She nodded and looked down at her hands. Her emotions were confusing her to no end. She had hated this man for years, but suddenly found herself inexplicably drawn to him. As though she shared with him some sort of kinship that she couldn't shake despite the protests of her brain.

"Where's Mulder?" she finally asked. She hoped that she really wanted to hear the answer.

He looked at his own hands for several seconds, deep in thought. When he spoke, his voice had lost every trace of the smart-ass attitude he had first put up. "I don't know." He looked around the room as Scully waited for more. There had to be more. "They took him, I know that much. But I don't know which They, and I don't know what They plan to do with him."

"The shape-shifters or the grays?"

"Or the other members of the syndicate. There are still some of 'em around. However, I think the first two choices are much more likely, judging from Skinner's testimony. We don't have ships as big as the one he described."

"Why do They abduct people? I assumed that the abductions were government-related. Tests to help with work on the vaccines, the hybrids."

He drew a deep breath. "Most of them are. We're not exactly sure why the aliens abduct people. Usually it's the grays that take them. Shape-shifters seem to like having as little to do with us as possible. We assume the grays' tests are to determine as much about human physiology as possible to figure out the quickest method of invasion."

"But why waste all that time? Over 50 years of planning just to take over a planet that has little more consequence to them than a good military base?"

"There are fewer of them than there are of us. They have a longer reproductive cycle and consequently a deeper regard for life. They can't afford to lose many if they should have to fight for Earth. They also live a lot longer than we do. 50 years isn't that significant."

"So they could be taking former abductees in order to gain more scientific results. They have a particular test group." Something was beginning to click in her head. "Which is why I wasn't in danger. I was taken by the government, whereas the people that are being taken now were real abductees."

Krycek nodded. "But that still doesn't explain Mulder. He hasn't been taken before."

"No," she agreed, "but he does have alien genes. And he experienced that telepathy earlier this year. What did They do to him? His head was injured as if he had had some sort of surgery."

Krycek took a deep breath. "I have no idea. I was in prison. The impression I have is that everyone involved in that operation is now dead except for the doctor who performed it. And I have no idea who that could have been." He looked at his watch quickly, as if suddenly remembering an appointment he was already late for. "Well, Agent Scully, it's been fun, but I believe our time is up. I'm afraid I won't be able to contact you for some time." He stood. Despite the sudden reversal into his usual demeanor, his last words were sincere. "Good luck." And then he was gone. He was out the back door before she could stand from her chair. She thought about locking the diner before she left, but realized she had no keys and exited the small building quietly. The darkness was a comforting escape as she made her way slowly back to the house.


*In a constant dream state, but never asleep. All my memories seep from me as they happen, like discarded candy wrappers, useful only until the moment has passed. They never leave, instead lying on the floor of my brain - unimportant trash that becomes a colorful foil and plastic-wrap carpet.

*All is now. Now is all. Everything. I see all. I know all. Everything in the universe and beyond within my vision and my comprehension. To use words is distasteful, inadequate. But all I have for you are words, Scully. I need to think the words so that if I can no longer grasp my vision when I am returned, perhaps I can remember the words I would use to describe it to you. And I will return. Despite what you will be told, it is not the feuding nations of the universe that have abducted me for some horrible purpose.

*You believe in God, I believe in This.

*This force that has taken me. Through the grays but not with them. I saw him and I knew. The others did not. Him with the face of one who has killed so many, a face which has become many, mine among them. Not the same man behind this face. Not even man in the loosest sense of the word - with which I would refer to the original owner of that face. The others were taken by the grays. They did not see the man who smiled at me with knowledge that I soon attained. He took on that face for the sake of my mind. That fear is gone now. The fear that I would not, could not handle his true form. I am one with him now. His form becomes mine, his mind, a looking glass, through which I see and understand All.

*Soon I will be with you, away from This, this memory discarded like the rest but not gone. Understanding will be in the back of my mind to guide me, but Understanding, like the memory, will be thin tinfoil on the ground. Do not fear fate, Scully. It is predetermined. Our son has a fate and he will fulfill it. A name does not matter. He *is* Cain.*


Genesis 4: 1 And Adam knew Eve his wife: who conceived and brought forth Cain, saying: I have gotten a man through God.

March, 2001

She felt like she was being ripped in two. The painkillers hadn't helped nearly as much as she thought they should have. She had seen how many drugs they pumped her full of, and despite the years of medical study, she could not believe that she could still feel anything.

Margaret was by her side, letting the bones of her hand be crushed against each other tight enough that Scully was mildly surprised her mother didn't need a little lidocaine of her own.

She had considered a natural birth, but now decided the drugs had been a very good idea. A few local anesthetics couldn't hurt the kid, and going without them would sure as hell have hurt her. The doctor kept telling her to push, so she kept pushing, but the whole thing felt futile. She had first started having contractions roughly 28 hours ago. From the time she'd gotten to the hospital, they'd been sitting around trying to get the baby out (or rather, walking around. Then sitting. And laying.), and for all 28 hours, the stubborn little thing would not cooperate. Finally, she heard the words she'd been waiting for.

"She's crowning!" The doctor yelled excitedly from between her legs. "Keep pushing!" She wanted to slug the happy little paper- faced, eyeglass-wearing bastard. Better yet, she was almost sure her weapon was lying in pile of clothes somewhere around here. But she continued to push, realizing that the order was probably to her benefit.

Ah, relief. A short time later, (VERY short in comparison to the previous 28 hours) almost all the pain was gone. She heard crying.

*That's my baby.*

Her heart almost stopped in her chest from the emotion that wailing brought to her.

"We've got a boy." Before Scully knew what had happened, the infant was in her arms, staring up at her as though he were deeply pissed to be removed from his cozy little home and brought into the harsh light of the world. Or at least the harsh florescent light of the hospital room.

*I'd be upset too, baby.*

He was beautiful. A small swirl of dark hair was stuck to the top of his head. His eyes squinted to the point of closure as his entire face scrunched as closely together as possible to shut out every tiny ray of the horrible brightness.

For the first time in roughly 7 months, Scully really smiled.

"What's his name?" one of the nurses asked, holding a sheet of paper.

Her eyes didn't leave the tiny infant. The smile was plastered on her face. "Nathaniel. Nathaniel Cain." She couldn't be sure why she said it. The middle name she had planned on was William. A tribute to her father and the baby's.

"Nathaniel Cain Scully?" the woman asked.

Scully felt a small stab in her chest and tears welled in her eyes at the conflicting emotions, but the smile stayed across her mouth and in her eyes as she finally looked up at the woman. "Yes."

She looked back at her son and kissed his forehead softly, letting a few tears slide down her cheeks in complete awe of the life that she held in her arms.

*Nathaniel Cain Scully.*

*March 29th, 2001.*


May, 2001

Scully was sitting on her mother's couch, nursing Nathan when the phone rang. Not her mother's phone, but the cell phone in her jacket pocket on the chair across the room from her. It had to be the guys. They were the only ones who called that number anymore. Stored up vacation time had lasted her quite a while, and she had only been back to work a couple months before taking maternity leave. After all she had gone through - Skinner's death, Mulder's disappearance, and so on - the bureau had been surprisingly understanding of the sudden surge of time off. It probably helped that she'd taken no more than two vacations in the last 8 years.

Standing awkwardly, with the baby still held to her chest, Scully walked slowly across the carpet and used one hand to fish the phone out of her coat pocket, pressing send with her thumb as she brought it to her ear.

"Scully."

No words were spoken, but she could hear heavy breathing on the other line. Chills went up her spine. It couldn't be. It just couldn't. There was no way.

*Mulder?*

"Cold, Scully." It was his voice. His breathing continued on, labored. "So cold."

She sat down to avoid dropping Nathaniel as her knees started to give out. "Mulder? Mulder, where are you?"

Only his breathing filled the air. She waited.

"I... It's cold, Scully. I don't... I don't know where I am."

Nathan stopped suckling and grabbed at her fingers as he gurgled softly and began to drool. She tucked the phone between her ear and shoulder and adjusted the infant onto his stomach over her other shoulder, softly patting him at a speed ten times slower than her pulse.

"Mulder? Can you see anything? What's around you?"

She could hear the tears choking his voice. She wanted to cry with him, but needed to find him first. "It's dark, Scully." A solitary sob broke through and he seemed to gain some confidence with this release. "I... there are cars. It's... a highway, a road of some sort."

She questioned him carefully, like a little boy who had witnessed a horrible crime. "Are there signs anywhere? Do you see any landmarks?"

He sniffed into the phone. "I'm at a pay phone outside a diner."

What?

Why hadn't he mentioned the diner in the first place? It seemed odd that he'd notice the road before his more immediate surroundings.

"Mulder, what does it look like? Is there a sign on the diner? Is the traffic heavy on the road?"

He made some more sniffing sounds. His voice was suddenly more confused and awestruck than frustrated. "Where am I?" There was a slight pause and he seemed to notice the phone for the first time. "Scully? Scully, where are you?"

Her head was swimming. Nathan burped finally. "At my mother's. Mulder, where are *you*? What does the diner look like?"

Silence for several seconds. She felt the baby squirming against her to break free. Only then did she realize how tightly she'd been holding him.

"Diner?"

She moved Nathan back to a lying position in the cradle of her arms. "Yes, diner. You said you were at a payphone outside a diner, Mulder."

"No, I'm..." His voice was even more dazed than before. "I'm on the street. Outside your mother's house. I'm down the street. At the pay phone."

"How did you get there, Mulder? You just said you were by a highway, and then outside a diner. What's going on?"

"No, no, I'm outside the convenience store down the street from your mother's house. I... I must have been confused..." He didn't sound convinced.

"I'll be there in two seconds, Mulder." She hung up the phone and quickly stood, carrying the infant into the kitchen where Maggie was making dinner. "Mom, would you mind taking care of Nathan for a minute." She paused, unsure of how to state the circumstances. "Mulder's back."

Margaret stared at her daughter in shock. "What did you say?"

"Mulder's been returned. He's at the convenience store down the street. I have to go get him."

Mrs. Scully looked at her daughter with a confused expression, but nodded and took the baby from her arms.

"I'll be back in a minute." With that, she rushed out of the house, to her car.


She found him exactly where he had described. Sitting on the ground inside the glass telephone booth, obviously collapsed from exhaustion. She could see the various rips and gashes in his clothing even from her car. His back was pressed into the glass wall of the booth, his legs bent and pressed together awkwardly to fit into the small space. The telephone hung off its hook and his head drooped forward as if unconscious. He looked like hell. He looked like hell and, next to her son, he was the most beautiful thing she had seen in her life.

Before even consciously getting out of her car, she was by his side, kneeling beside the open wall of the booth where the door should have been and checking his forehead with the back of her hand. His skin was cold as ice.

"Mulder, can you hear me?" She grabbed his face by the chin and turned his head in her direction, using her other hand to lift his eyelids so she could look into his eyes.

His leg twitched. She jumped back slightly, caught off-guard. As she moved closer to him again, his entire body spasmed suddenly. His eyes opened. He stared straight into her.

"Mulder? Mulder, can you hear me?" It took him several seconds to respond.

"Scully?"

She smiled and touched his face gently. "I'm here, Mulder. Can you stand on your own?"

His eyes were wild, but they never left her face. "Scully? How did you find me?"

Her smile faded and she stared at him with genuine concern. "Mulder? You called me. From the payphone." She motioned to the receiver hanging in front of his face by its cord. He stared at it as though it were some alien object, then back at her. Finally he looked around at his surroundings. He seemed to become more confused with each new object that entered his vision.

"I... I don't remember." He looked at her desperately, willing her to take away the haze that his mind was floating through. "We're near your mother's house, aren't we?"

She nodded, a sinking feeling pulling at her gut. "Yeah, Mulder. That's where I was when you called me." She surveyed his face for any signs of recognition. "What's the last thing you remember?"

He gnawed on his lower lip thoughtfully, closing his eyes for a brief moment. "Oregon. With Skinner. We found the ship. It was hidden, but we found it with the laser beams." He could see the concern deepen in her eyes. "What? How long have I been gone?"

She drew in a deep breath slowly and let it out even slower. "About 9 months." He watched her glance downward. "A lot's happened." She wouldn't meet his eyes for a long time. Finally, she stood. "Can you get up on your own? Are you injured?"

Gingerly, he tried out his muscles. Everything seemed in working order. He lifted himself from the ground with a little help from her and the ledge below the pay phone.

She still would not look at his face.

"What is it?" he asked as they walked slowly towards her car.

"What do you mean?" Her eyes were focused straight ahead on the vehicle. "Mulder, you've been gone for almost an entire year and you just show up. I can't help feeling slightly odd."

He swallowed. "I... I'm sorry."

The nearly silent words stopped her in her tracks as they were just approaching the vehicle. She turned to face him. She could remember hearing those words from his lips very few times in the past 8 or so years. Tears welled in the bottoms of her eyes. "No... no, you have no reason to be sorry. It's not like any of this is your fault." For some reason her mind flashed to the note she had found in her apartment when Marita was killed.

*You're next.*

*Mulder's handwriting.*

She pushed the thought out of her head.

"There are just some *things* that you need to know before we get in that car and go back to my mother's."

His brow creased in concern and curiosity. "What happened while I was gone?"

She stared at the ground for exactly 6 seconds. She was counting. "Um... Marita Covarrubias is dead. Murdered."

*Start with the smallest blow.*

He looked at her, confused. "That's not exactly earth-shattering." She was still looking at the ground, obviously upset. He backtracked. "I mean, don't get me wrong, she was helpful, and she probably didn't deserve to die, but..."

Her head made a small movement sideways that he interpreted as a cue to stop talking. "There's more. Skinner..." She trailed off and took another deep breath. "Skinner's been killed as well." She could see the pain that instantly swept over his face. He looked away from her and she placed a hand on his bicep. The contact felt good. Real.

He chewed on his lower lip silently and nodded. "How?" He made his voice casual. A defense mechanism she could spot from miles away.

"Strangled. By the..." She tried to think of a term for the man that didn't seem so bad-horror-movie-esque, but failed. "...the Bounty Hunter. He... He posed as Skinner for several days with no one's knowledge."

Mulder had a sudden flash of a man consumed in light, staring at him with a knowing smile. He pushed it from his brain. "I suppose there's been an investigation." It wasn't really a question.

"Yes."

"And I suppose they've had no leads."

She swallowed and looked away in shame, though without specific knowledge of the situation Mulder could not recognize it as such. "No."

He took a deep breath and finally looked at her, though she still turned her attention towards the parked car. "What else?" he asked.

Her eyes fluttered around, looking to the ground, to the store they stood in front of, looking everywhere but at him.

*Screw your courage to the sticking place, Dana.*

One deep breath and she looked him square in the eye. "The day you... disappeared, I found out..." *Inhale, exhale.* "I found out I was pregnant."

*Inhale, exhale.*

*Inhale, exhale.*

He stared at her with wide eyes full of an emotion that she could not place. Neither of them spoke for a long time.

Mulder had a sudden flash of something. Memory or premonition, he couldn't be sure. A young man with fiery red hair and deep hazel eyes looking straight at him, straight into him.

"Cain."

Scully's head shot up at the single syllable. "What did you say?"

Mulder stared at her, as confused by her reaction as by his own tongue. "Cain. I said Cain. Why? Does... Does that mean something to you?"

Her attention turned, once more, to the ground beneath her feet. "It's... it's our son's middle name."

*Our son.*

The pronoun use seemed to have an effect on him as well. A small smile slowly broke out across his face. He gulped down the tears that began to invade his vision. One big arm wrapped around her tiny frame, and then another until she was pressed tightly to his chest. Her hands found their way up his back and she returned the embrace. Her body began to shake against his with rough sobs.

"Shhhh..." His whisper in her ear nearly made her knees give out. It had been so long.

So, so long.

"C'mon," he whispered into her ear, "Let's blow this pop stand."

She smiled weakly into his dirty, torn sweatshirt.


November, 2000

Nothing out of the ordinary for nearly six weeks. The inactivity was driving Scully into depression. She had never been depressed for any length of time, always believing that wallowing in feelings of any sort, the bad ones especially, could only be counterproductive. Recently, however, she had found herself in a bad mood almost constantly. She was irritable, distressed, and above all, moody - something she had never been accused of in her life. After returning to work a month and a half ago, after Mulder had vanished, she had worked only one field case. It was a disappearance in a suburb of Washington and had been solved easily when the girl's body was found in her boyfriend's car, 40 ft. deep in a local lake. She was found after the boyfriend confessed to driving into the lake drunk and not being able to save her. The kid was too scared to call the police or tell her family. It had been tragic for both families. The situation hadn't exactly helped Scully's emotional state either.

So much had happened recently that she couldn't be sure which was most responsible for her depression - hormones from the pregnancy, Mulder's disappearance, Skinner's death... What bothered her the most about the last one was the sinking feeling she kept having that if Mulder had been around they might have been able to bring their superior some sort of justice. Mulder would have fought for it. She was too chicken-shit even to try. And for once, the scientific explanation wasn't making things any easier - the fact that her hormones were making her depressed didn't alleviate the very real circumstances that added to that depression. Instead, this explanation just made her feel like her body was betraying her.

And now she had someone new to report to.

The new assistant director was a man named Kerby D. Dwight. He seemed kind enough. In many ways he even reminded her of Skinner. But, being new to the job, and facing the added strain of trying to appear stern despite the goofy name, the new A. D. had more important things to worry about than field agents who reported directly to him. And so Skinner's former workload had been shifted around throughout the bureau. When Scully had first heard the name of her new superior, she nearly had a physical reaction. Standing outside of his office now, staring once more at the nameplate as she waited to go in for a meeting, the sick feeling came back to her.

Section Chief Thomas Colton.

Apparently one of the higher-ups had felt it was a favor - one deserved by her present situation. No one knew she was pregnant yet; they had simply taken pity on her for all of the other things that were gong on in her life. Part of her also believed that these *favors* were a kind of retribution for what they had assumed was the horrible chore of being Spooky's babysitter all these years. Someone had discovered that she and Colton had gone through the Academy together and seemed to be friends, and so felt they were doing her a service by assigning her to her old buddy. She wanted to find this kind-hearted soul and kick him or her in the shins.

Knocking on the door politely, she heard the trademark little smart-ass sneer from within the large office. "Come in!"

She walked into the well-lit room that was roughly half the size of Skinner's and sat down in what had become her designated chair, wrapping the heavy trench coat more tightly around her. Part of the reason no one was presently aware of her physical condition was her change in wardrobe. She had plenty of larger clothes in the back of her closet from when she had put on some weight a few year's ago, and had taken to wearing those once more to hide the excess "weight" she carried now. Tom had commented a few times on why she didn't take off her coat, but had since learned not to ask. It didn't do him any good.

For his part, he had been mostly civil, aside from a few snide comments about Mulder or the X-Files that seemed to slip into his everyday speech - which was not an intelligent strategy considering Mulder's absence. Scully wanted to punch the little bastard square in the teeth with each little smirk he gave her. He accepted her reports though, and didn't seem all that displeased with them - even if they did bend towards the paranormal. She wondered sometimes if he had been told to take it easy on her. She also wondered what the hell was with all the special treatment. It didn't seem standard for people who'd been through traumatic experiences. Bureau policy usually indicated that everyone was to pull their own weight and if they had problems with that, there was always the "Employee Assistance Program."

"Dana," Colton acknowledged as she took her seat.

"Tom." Though she had been extremely weary, her old "friend" had insisted that she call him by his first name. He seemed to have no trouble using hers.

"I trust you've filled out your division's expense reports for the past couple of months."

She nodded and handed him the papers. He looked them over as she sat silently, glancing around the office at pictures of the man in front of her. Tom with the President. Tom with the director. Tom with who she assumed to be his wife. So much success. Again, she wanted to vomit.

He looked up and smiled at her. "Okay then, everything seems to be in order. I trust that you have something lined up for the next few weeks?"

She nodded. That was something else that disturbed her: the freedom she was being allowed. Colton had basically told her that he didn't know how the X-Files division was run, so she could do whatever the hell she wanted as long as he could see she was doing *something*. This was definitely not bureau policy, and he had always been by the book.

"Then I guess I'll see you next week."

Here goes nothing.

"Actually, Tom, there's one more thing I needed to talk to you about."

"Yes?" God, he was looking at her. She didn't want to admit it to herself, but she was embarrassed. She didn't want to care what this man thought of her. She didn't want to tell him what she had to tell him. She didn't want to talk to him about anything this personal and have to look at that ass-kissing little smirk that said he was better than her.

"Um..." She took a deep breath. "In about two months, I'll be taking 12 weeks off of work." Another breath. "As is standard bureau allowance for maternity leave."

He simply stared at her for a long time, and then something finally seemed to click in his brain, and he began to laugh. She couldn't believe her eyes. His laughter escalated to the point of a full, throaty chuckle, and he leaned back in his chair, patting his chest to calm himself down. "It's Spooky's, isn't it? Forgot to use birth control and got you knocked-up before he was 'abducted.'"

She closed her eyes and set her jaw to restrain herself. "The circumstances of my pregnancy are personal information which I'd rather not discuss with you, *Agent* Colton. However, the fact remains that I *am* pregnant, and I am giving you advance notice of my leave, which I have legal right to."

He smiled at her. "C'mon Dana, lighten up. I can't very well *deny* you maternity leave. Hell, take 20 weeks off for all I care." A thoughtful look passed across his face for a moment. "In fact, maybe you should. You didn't quite use up all your vacation time anyway."

"Tom, I have two days left."

"Two days, two months, what difference does it make?" He smiled as if he had made a hilarious joke. "Look, in all honesty, I think a 12 month maternity leave is ridiculous. With 20 weeks, you can be home three months before the baby's born, and two months after. What do you say?"

She stared at him in confusion. The paranoid part of her brain that Mulder had rubbed off on told her that he was just trying to get her away from work, so she couldn't find any answers. The logical part of her brain told her that she wasn't exactly finding any answers anyway, so what was the point of resisting?

"You're serious?"

"As a heart attack." Once more, he flashed those perfectly engineered pearly whites. If only he knew how much his smile annoyed her, maybe he'd stop showing it so damn much. Come to think of it, if he knew, he'd probably walk around grinning 24 hours a day.

"I guess I'll think about it."

Shit-eating grin #563. "You do that, Dana. I'll see you in a week."


May, 2001

They had ended the embrace and walked to the car silently, holding hands. After so much time apart, Scully almost felt that physical contact was necessary to keep him from slipping away.

The drive was mostly silent, with careful glances and small, casual touches that both of them needed from each other more than any words. But when the car pulled up beside her mother's house, Scully's chest began to tighten. She didn't know why she was so nervous. She took slow, deep breaths and undid her seatbelt, stepping out of the car. Only then did she notice that Mulder hadn't moved since she'd parked.

"Mulder?" she asked, ducking her head back into the vehicle.

His expression was blank - what she recognized as his panicked look. He kept his eyes focused straight ahead.

"Yeah, um..." Finally, he turned his head in her direction. "Scully, you think it'd be okay if I just sat in here for a while. I... I need to get my head straight before..." He let out a breath she hadn't noticed him holding and looked downward. "Before I meet him."

"Of course not." She stared at him as he continued to let his eyes flicker around the car's interior. "I'll stay with you."

"No." His protest was immediate. "No, I... I think I need some time alone, to... to work some things through in my mind."

"Mulder, he's 2 months old. Saying the wrong thing isn't going to do that much damage." She sat back down in the driver's seat and took his hand.

His eyelids fell heavily against his cheeks. "I just..." He opened his eyes and stared at her, tears beginning to invade his vision. She felt the hazel depths tugging at her heart. "Scully, I'm a father. A *father*. I... It's just so... *huge*. It's the biggest thing I've ever done and I feel like I've already sort of... screwed up." He looked away from her.

Scully's own eyes filled with tears. Out of sympathy and empathy. "Mulder, you haven't screwed up. Don't you think I felt like a failure? Here I am bringing a child into a world that's turning upside down for me every day - offering him nothing. No family, no real stability, not even my full attention because I couldn't be bothered to focus completely on the pregnancy when *I* was feeling depressed." She squeezed his hand almost forcefully. "But I had to get over that feeling. For him. And by putting it aside, I let myself focus on what was really important. And the feeling went away because there was no reason for it anymore." She nodded her head forward to meet his eye and hold it. "Now we are going to walk into that house together, you are going to hold your son, and you are going to stop blaming yourself for everything right here and now." Her eye gained a humorous glint and she smiled. "It'll be the first selfless thing you've done and it'll make me love you even more if you can carry through with it."

His lips curved upward slightly, but the sorrow was still in his once more downcast eyes. "And what if I can't?"

She leaned towards him until their foreheads touched. "Then I'll love you anyway."

He pulled his forehead away from her and tilted his chin upward, smiling softly. She let him kiss her gently for a full 30 seconds, returning the gesture only when he seemed completely sure of himself. After what seemed like an instant and an eternity simultaneously, she broke away and smiled at him.

"Somewhat reassured now?"

He grinned sheepishly. "Somewhat."

The light in her eyes seemed to electrify. "Well then, I guess I'll just have to reassure you a little more." He reached for her arm. "Later." She smiled and got out of the car once more and began walking towards her mother's doorway. There was only a short pause before she heard him following after her.


October, 2000

Her vacation time was up. For over a month Scully had been working with the Gunmen, trying to find any possible leads, but nothing concrete had come from any of their work. She had gone into her own savings account for money to fly to different spots around the country where there had been reports of group abductions, and everywhere she went, she came across the same story: people claiming to have been multiple abductees at one time or another, now gone without a trace. The police had nothing; the locals had no idea of what might have happened other than the widely held belief that they'd all been taken again. The reports had come from 15 different towns. Scully only bothered visiting three of them on her own time and money. It was becoming glaringly obvious that the same scenario had played out in each one of these small communities. All that surprised her was the lack of news coverage. No media seemed to have picked up on any of the stories save the local news channels in the affected towns. Scully knew that she shouldn't be going around to these places under the guise of a federal agent when she was not in fact assigned to the investigation, but no one *was* assigned, and with Skinner gone and she not under the direct supervision of anyone at the moment, she found it unlikely that anyone would care enough to stop her.

The Gunmen had helped her first by finding the abduction reports, since it seemed no one had filed their report to the bureau yet, strangely enough. They then looked for similarities between the various communities. The only commonality appeared to be the size of the towns. All were small, approximately 12,000 to 15,000 in population - which made it even more unbelievable that this story had been completely missed by the media. In areas that small, the disappearances of 10 to 15 people in a short amount of time should have been a huge event. With every new case the Gunmen found, Scully became more and more suspicious of the absence of reports coming through to the FBI. Now that she was going back to work, though, she intended to find out more.

Then she had discovered who she would be assigned to. Tom Colton. She had received an anonymous letter with a bureau seal informing her of the identity of her new superior and indicating that the reassignment had been a favor earned by years of hard work and the obvious difficulty of her present situation. What a load of bull.

She had just had her first meeting with 'Tom,' as he insisted she address him. He had assured her that as the sole agent assigned to the X-Files for the time being, she would be granted a great amount of freedom in her work, but her first request had been shot down that first meeting. She informed him of the group abduction cases and he hadn't even blinked.

"Dana, I understand this is a difficult time for you. But I'm afraid you're looking for connections that just aren't there. We already have a team of agents working on Mulder's case. Feel free to give them the information you believe you've uncovered, but remember, people disappear everyday. It's a coincidence. And no reports have been filed to the bureau. Quite frankly, it's not our jurisdiction and you're lucky that I sympathize with your situation enough not to give you an official reprimand for what you've just told me."

She was sick and tired of people sympathizing with her situation. They didn't even know what the hell her situation was. But it didn't change the fact that she wasn't getting any of the bureau's help on this. She didn't have the funds to keep doing the field- work on her own and truthfully, she didn't know that she even had the will any longer. She had stopped crying almost a month ago - not because she didn't feel the grief and frustration anymore, but because she simply couldn't find the energy. She knew that Mulder would have kept fighting, would have never stopped looking for her, but she was tired of fighting. Maybe the bounty hunter had been telling her the truth that night when he posed as Skinner. Maybe it had been a single act of mercy on his part to advise her of the only real course of action possible - she would just have to wait.


May, 2001

Scully waited for Mulder to join her at her mother's doorstep before unlocking the entrance and stepping inside. He followed her tentatively. She didn't know that she'd ever seen him this scared in all their years working together. The man was practically shaking.

As she closed the door behind them, Margaret entered the front room from the kitchen. "Fox!" Scully could see the tears in her mother's eyes as the older woman came forward to greet him with an embrace. "We were so worried about you!" He returned the hug cautiously, obviously unsure of the new terms of his relationship with this woman despite her show of emotion. She took a step back to give him the once over. "What happened to you? I expected that the police or the hospital would call, not you from a payphone." She smiled. "It's a miracle."

The corners of his mouth turned upward self-consciously. "Yeah, I guess I'd better give the bureau a call, huh? Call off the intensive manhunt." He gave the small flash of a real smile back at Scully and she returned it.

"Nothing less for the FBI's most unwanted," she assured him.

Margaret looked over him again with the concerned eye of a mother. "We'll need to get you a change of clothes."

For the first time since she had spotted him sitting in the phone booth, Scully noticed his tattered and torn clothes. Strangely, she realized, he wasn't all that dirty or injured himself. In fact, he looked as if he'd just had a shower. The clothes were the only worn things about him. On the outside, at least.

"Actually," Scully said, still standing behind Mulder by the door, "I've got some in the trunk of my car." Now her smile was diffident. "I, uh... I couldn't bring myself to take out your overnight bag."

His eyes registered understanding and she was grateful for it.

Maggie looked to her daughter cautiously and then back to Mulder. "Maybe you'd like to meet Nathan first?" It wasn't exactly a question, but not an order either. Scully was thankful for her mother's uncharacteristic hesitancy.

Scully watched a look of slight confusion cross her partner's face, soon followed by anguish and indecision. She felt a small pang of guilt in her chest.

*I forgot to tell him his son's first name.*

His lips again curved upward in a not-quite smile. "Eh, might as well change first. I wouldn't want his first impression of me to be *too* frightening."

The women gave their own half-smiles of acknowledgement, both realizing with sadness that to Mulder, his statement wasn't quite a joke.

**

April, 2001

A loud wailing woke Scully in the middle of the night - not an unusual occurrence over the past month. For the last 8 weeks (when she hadn't been at the hospital) she had been staying with her mother. Margaret had helped with Nathan far beyond what Scully would have asked of her, but the younger woman insisted on being the only one to tend to these late night calls for attention. She wanted her child to have a mother, not a grandmother who filled two roles.

Besides, she didn't exactly mind the disruption to her sleeping pattern. She was almost grateful for the distraction from her nightmares. Taking care of her son was by no means easy, but in worrying over his needs, she found she could put aside her own problems, the depression that had been plaguing her. Most of the time.

Then there were the nights when she found herself lost in his inquisitive young eyes and unable to separate the curiosity of looking the world over for the first time from the excitement of discovery she had often witnessed in the eyes of his father. Brown and green were already beginning to pool into a fathomless hazel that she had missed for so long.

The baby actually exhibited an odd, almost exotic mixture of his parents' physical traits. His skin had a healthy natural tan and his eyes were obviously his father's, but the little tufts of curly hair on his head were soon becoming a deep red. And although it was too early to tell if the baby fat would wear off on its own, he appeared to have what Margaret referred to as the trademark "Scully chub": a genetic curse that Dana had spent much of her high school years attempting to work off.

As Scully made her sleep-addled way to Nathan's crib, nearly tripping over her own feet in the three steps between her bed and his, she let her mind freely drift to thoughts of Mulder for the first time in ages. She lifted the screaming infant carefully and allowed herself to fantasize about her partner performing the same task. Mulder would be a wonderful father. He would devote to his child the same dedication that he had always put into anything he cared deeply about. As she hugged her son close to her, his crying receded, seemingly having been spurred only by loneliness. She smiled wistfully. For the first time that she could remember since he had disappeared, she had hope. She didn't know where it came from, but it was there, and at least for now, what might have been was beginning to seem more and more like what still could be.


May, 2001

Scully sat patiently on the couch, holding her son close enough that he could hear the rapid beating of her heart. Margaret had busied herself making coffee, though Scully was sure it had never taken her mother over five minutes to perform the task before. Mulder was in the upstairs bathroom changing. She hadn't known him to be a slow dresser in the past either, but she understood his reasons for taking his time.

She understood, but it still frustrated her. As long as she could remember, she had hated suspense. Movies that dragged on and on, pulling out the tension far longer than the final release of it called for had always annoyed the hell out of her. Now she felt as if her life was taking on the same tacky plot device. It would have been simple for Maggie to be holding Nathan when she came out to greet them in the first place, but no, the timing wasn't quite right. So the writer dragged it on and on, killing the viewers with unwanted tension while a hundred terribly mundane things took place simply to lead them to the climax which would have been over by now. Mulder had to change; Maggie had to make coffee. And where did this leave Scully? Alone with her son and unable to decide whether it was silly to tell Nathan what was going on when she knew full well that his comprehension level wasn't developed enough to understand her words beyond their tone.

"You're gonna meet your daddy." Scully never expected herself to use baby voices, no matter how young the infant, but it had come to her out of instinct. Her mother pointed out medical studies that found using the high-pitched, annoyingly cute tones could drastically improve the child's ability to pick up on speech patterns, and she felt justified.

Somewhat justified, at least. At times, she still almost made herself nauseous.

She placed one hand behind Nathan's back and the other at his neck to support his head as she turned the baby to face her. The little pools of hazel swirled and danced in his eyes with excitement and trepidation as if he had understood her words.

*Daddy.*

Over the past months, Scully had begun to get used to the idea of Mulder as a father. She had thought of how it would change his relationship with her, of whether they could be good parents together, but never had she figured Nathan into the equation as the child she was beginning to know. She hadn't thought before of Mulder as Nathan's daddy.

"Coffee's on its way." Scully nearly jumped as her mother came out of the kitchen. Margaret looked extremely tense. Almost as nervous as her daughter felt. "How's our little sailor?" she asked, sitting down on the couch next to Dana.

Scully smiled softly.

Get a few Navy men in the family, everyone's got a nickname.

"Fine. Strangely calm."

Maggie smiled and ran a hand softly through the baby's quickly thickening crimson hair. "He knows his daddy's here."

Scully watched her mother as she looked at her grandson. The affection in her eyes was unmistakable. It filled her heart with warmth and gave her hope for how Mulder might fit into this new makeshift family. Strangely, Scully didn't sense any hostility between her mother and her.... partner. She knew that Margaret had always liked Mulder, but liking someone and being happy that they've just had a child with your daughter outside of marriage were two different things. Her mother was a forgiving soul in most respects, but Scully had still expected her to have some - more than some - reservations about the situation. If she did, the subject hadn't come up.

"Is it safe to come down?" Scully turned her head to see Mulder hesitantly standing at the top of the stairway, smiling self- consciously. If she thought he looked good earlier, now he was simply.... Beyond words. His appearance hadn't actually changed much, just new clothes; her eyes had simply been starving for the past twenty minutes and here was the buffet, back and re-set. And it didn't help any that she was holding *their* child in her arms.

Receiving the acknowledgement of the women's soft smiles, Mulder continued hesitantly down the staircase. Fear gripped his gut and excitement pumped through his chest. As he reached the bottom step and finally the white-carpeted floor, he saw for the first time his son's inquisitive young face, lightly tanned and chubby, the dark flames on his head blending smoothly into the dark curiosity of his eyes. He was beautiful.

*My son.*

His feet carried him to the couch swiftly without conscious thought. Before he knew it, he was standing above his... his Scully, their child in her arms. He looked nervously to Margaret Scully, expecting to see the admonishing stare he thought he somehow deserved, but finding only kindness and encouragement. He kneeled down slowly beside the two younger Scully's and ran a hand lightly over his child's impossibly soft baby hair. Despite the small audience that Margaret provided, Mulder felt his eyes begin to water. He needed to hold his son.

Sensing his need, Scully shifted the child from her arms and into his as he sat back on the carpet and began to let gentle tears stream down his face.

"He's so... *incredible*. I..." He looked from Nathan to Scully and stared into her eyes, finding there the same amazement and awe that he felt surging through him. "He's *ours*." His lips curved into a huge smile as the thought really sunk in. Scully's eyes, already watering, now seemed to electrify with an entire new surge of emotion as she slid down off the couch to join the father and son. She wrapped an arm tightly around Mulder's waist and let the other hand drift up to her baby's hair. She wanted to scream for all the joy she felt at that moment, but resigned herself to simply returning her partner's huge grin and pressing her forehead against his shoulder.

"I'll leave the three of you alone." For the first time Scully did not detect any hint of self-sacrifice in her mother's tone when she spoke those words. Margaret was usually queen of the guilt trips - whether intentional or not. But now she seemed content. Scully felt a sense of relief. Finally, she didn't feel the need to analyze her mother's words or find some problem she had to solve. She was happy just sitting beside two of the people she loved most in the world.

As if on cue to her thoughts, Mulder let his head lean against the top of hers which still rested on his shoulder, and out of Nathan's mouth came one of those cute little baby noises you always think only exist in movies until you're actually around an infant long enough to hear them.

"I love you." The whisper was soft in her ear, raspy and low and warm, and it sent a shiver through her body that was the physical incarnation of a combination of old feelings and new, indefinable ones.

She turned her head slowly towards the man beside her, her mouth so close to his that she could feel the warmth of his lips on her own. "You talkin' to me or the kid?" she asked softly, smiling warmly.

"Both." His lips met hers gently and briefly, the whisper of his tongue only barely touching her mouth. He looked back to the infant in his arms. "You think it'd be wrong of me to ask your mother to look after him after so little introduction time?"

She smiled with humor. "Don't worry, you've seen enough. That's all he does is sit there and make cute little noises. And cry. But that can wait until you're a little more comfortable with this whole parenting idea."

Just then, the baby let out small shudder and crinkled his face uncomfortably.

"You smell something?" Mulder asked.

And the first loud scream began. Scully let out a chuckle and let her head fall back against Mulder's arm. "And so the real joy of parenthood begins." She climbed up to a standing position and offered Mulder and the baby her hand. "Diapers are up in my room."


Scully let Mulder change Nathan's diaper. Good fatherhood experience, she called it.

More like a chance for her to watch him make a fool out of himself as he tried to operate the strange sticky plastic contraption. But he didn't mind. She could laugh all she wanted. He was content to have Nathan watch him with those big speculative eyes, apparently confused as to why this giant clumsy thing couldn't perform the simple task of strapping a disposable sack onto his midsection. And he had missed Scully's laughter so much. His memories of the past 9 months may have been gone, but he could sense the time that had passed and longed to experience as much of her as he could to make up for the absence.

When, by the 3rd diaper, he finally got Nathan changed into something that would at least serve its purpose (despite some aesthetic failings), the infant was passed off to his grandmother who promised that she didn't mind putting him to sleep in the small play pen she kept in the living room.

And so Mulder and Scully were alone in her room. At first, neither one of them knew what to do. There was so much to say, so much to do, so much skin on each of their bodies that craved the other's touch. Taking a step towards his partner, Mulder raised his hand to her hair and ran it down the side of her face softly.

"He's so beautiful." He looked over her face, his expression, a strange combination of lust and awe. "You're so beautiful."

Her breathing was quickly becoming more rapid. It had been so long since she had been able to feel him that even the slightest touch sent electricity searing through her body. The side of her face where his hand still rested was on fire. She leaned into his palm, wanting more of him in any way she could get it.

"We need to talk." His words were unconvincing. His other hand began to rub slowly up and down her arm.

"We will." Her voice was breathy, her words almost a warning. "Soon. Not now."

An eternity passed while he registered her words as the permission he sought and slowly moved his body closer and closer to hers, finally coming into contact ever-so-slightly as his t-shirt brushed against the front of her sweater and his lips brushed, feather-light, against her cheek right at the corner of her mouth.

Her hungry lips could not tolerate his leisure. She sought his mouth with a ferocity she had never before felt. Her legs melted beneath her and she was forced to sit down on the bed beside them. He followed her, her mouth attacking his, sucking his lower lip against her tongue and letting her teeth graze his just enough to excite. He climbed onto the bed with her, straddling her and forcing her body to lay back against the soft mattress.

Before she knew what was happening, he had taken control, letting go of his original passivity to plunge his tongue against the roof of her mouth. His lower body mimicked the motions with a pelvic thrust that jolted her senses to the point that it was hard to believe they were both still fully clothed.

"I could kiss you for hours," he whispered urgently against her lips as he came up for air for what seemed like the first time.

She chuckled against his mouth. "I hope that's not all you plan on doing."

He smiled and began clumsily unbuttoning her sweater with one hand as the other helped keep him in position. The task seemed to be taking him longer than she thought possible. Her lungs were working overtime just in anticipation of his touch.

And then rough fingers were pressed against her with no barriers. She wasn't quite sure what happened to the bra she'd been wearing, but it wasn't on her now and that was all that mattered. She felt a string being pulled tightly inside her that seem connected to her entire body.

His lips left hers and she almost protested before she realized where they were going. Stalled momentarily at the side of her neck, his mouth sent tiny tingles every which way. But when he let those gorgeous lips travel even farther down, to her chest, she nearly screamed.

The only thought that prevented that scream was her realization that this was her mother's house.

"Mom.... Downstairs..... baby..." she attempted to warn Mulder.

His ministrations stopped momentarily as he looked up at her face with a sly grin. "Shhh. I can be quiet if you can," he whispered.

"Oh God..." She let her head fall back against the pillow as he stopped the gentle lapping he'd been busy with and closed his mouth over her nipple, sucking softly while his tongue swirled over the tip. "You're not helping any," she sighed.

"C'mon Scully. Think of it as an argument. I don't think you can take everything I've got to give you without screaming your lungs out."

Oh, he'd done it now. "Keep it coming." He grinned and lowered his mouth to her belly.

She'd never thought that thing about undoing a person's fly with your teeth was very plausible. But then, Mulder *did* have an extremely talented mouth.

As he slid her pants slowly down her legs, he allowed his fingers to brush against the skin as he uncovered it. When all the clothes were off of her except her underwear, he placed a soft kiss on the inside of her right knee, then slowly worked himself upwards, alternating between legs each time he got closer to his ultimate destination. A small open-mouthed, lingering kiss on her left inner-thigh caused her to bite the inside of her cheek hard as her chest rose and fell heavily.

His fingers dragged the cotton down over her hips, down her legs, past her feet. A lazy tongue ran over her clit as she felt one finger, then another plunge inside her.

She tasted copper, but she didn't make a sound.

Her hips thrust forward involuntarily. His fingers inside of her stopped thrusting and began to explore, massaging her walls in rhythmic circles. The mouth that had lazily ran over her, now surrounded her clit and sucked until it hurt. Another finger plunged inside her and the circles stopped, replaced by deep thrusts that made her squirm against him and almost bite entirely through the skin of her cheek.

Finally, she felt the involuntary clenching of every one of her muscles from the abdomen down. Not to mention her arms as she gripped the comforter and her jaw as she finally was able to feel the pain she had caused to the inside of her mouth.

At the foot of the bed, Mulder stood from his kneeling position and grinned at her.

She sighed. God, how the hell was she still so turned on? And why the hell was he still wearing all of his clothes?

Smiling weakly, she maneuvered her rubbery limbs carefully to crawl towards him on the bed. Mulder smiled and watched her as she stood up on her knees to kiss him, simultaneously working her fingers around the button of his jeans.

A thought struck him suddenly through the clouded haze of his mind.

"Condom."

Scully stopped kissing him abruptly and let her body fall back into a sitting position on the bed. "Shit." She looked around the room, frustrated. There had to be something in here they could use. A zip lock bag?

She put her head in her hands. "Looks like one of us will have to be making a trip to the store."

Mulder looked down at the uncomfortable bulge in his jeans. "Um... yeah. Scully, I'm not exactly in any condition right now. Especially if I happen to bump into your mother on the way out."

She looked up from her brief fit of pouting and laughed. "Fine. I'll go. But you've got to promise me that *that* will still be here when I get back."

He smiled. "With thoughts of you to keep me warm..."

She stood up and began pulling clothes on. "Yeah, that's what I was afraid of."


Scully crept down the stairs quietly, not wanting to wake Nathan in case her mother had actually gotten him to sleep. Heading for the door, she noticed the kitchen light on. Her mom would worry if she heard the car leave with no explanation.

"Mom?" Scully asked, peeking her head into the kitchen. Margaret sat at a stool beside the tiled island in the middle of the room, holding Nathan to her side as she flipped through an issue of Home & Garden with her reading glasses on.

She looked startled to hear her daughter's voice. "What is it, sweetie? I thought you and Fox would have a little more catching up to do."

Scully had to consciously will herself not to blush - which invariably made her blush more profusely. "Um, we do, actually. I just need to run down to the store for a second. I'll be right back."

"What for, Dana? I can do it." Margaret's eyes registered willingness. Scully felt her cheeks redden even more.

"It's no bother, mom. Really. I just thought of something I wanted to... show Mulder. How's Nate doing?"

The older woman smiled down at the baby resting against her hip. "He's fine. Looks like he's actually getting sleepy. He wouldn't stop crying when I tried to put him in the pen."

Scully smiled. "Okay, then. I'll be right back."

"Okay, sweetie. Be careful." She turned back to her magazine.


When Scully returned to the house, she headed straight upstairs to her bedroom, plastic bag rustling at her side. But when she opened the door, it was empty.

"Mulder?"

"In here." He emerged from the bathroom clad in only a pair of boxers. She was slightly shocked. She didn't know what she'd been expecting. She *had* just run to the store for a pack of condoms. He *had* just spent a considerable amount of time with his head between her legs before said run. But seeing him like this for the first time in... an eternity, just sent a rush of hormones shooting through her blood stream like she hadn't felt since high school.

He strode up to her and slowly unbuttoned her sweater once more and she dropped the bag she'd been carrying. He reached around her torso with both arms to unhook her bra and slide it off her body, leaning forward to kiss softly along her jaw line and down her neck.

"I missed you," he whispered softly. The reverberation on the sensitive skin of her throat made her shiver. Moving to kiss the other side of her neck, his hands found their way down to the button of her pants and worked the fly open quickly, giving a gentle shove to get them over her hips, and letting gravity take them the rest of the way. Scully had gained some weight during her pregnancy. Her breasts were fuller with milk, and her stomach and hips were more rounded, displaying more curves than she had shown in a long time. Mulder relished the feel of her flesh in his hands, healthier and more sensual than before.

She hadn't bothered to put on any underwear in her hurry to redress, and she now stood naked before him, vulnerable and trusting as his hands explored every expanse of her flesh yet again.

"Mulder." Her voice was low and husky and commanding. He could feel the fabric of his boxers become more restraining by the second.

"Mmmm," he conceded, slowly bending over to grab the fallen bag of prophylactics.

A slender hand stopped his arm. "No, let me." She bent down as he stood up, and he felt the fabric tighten just a little more. Especially when he realized she was getting in a kneeling position before him, opening a package of Trojans.

"Be quiet, now." Her grin was pure evil as she finally got one out of it's wrapping and decided to cover him with something altogether different. Keeping the condom between two of her fingers, she reached up and pulled the shorts carefully off of him, leaving him completely exposed... right in front of her face. Sure. Quiet. That would be *real* easy.

Slowly, she let her tongue fall from her mouth and reached it upward in one long stroke down his length. Mulder took a deep breath and struggled to remain standing. She took his tip into her mouth between those two perfect red lips and he looked down at her and almost fainted. Slowly, she let her head slide forward, taking him in more and more, until... When he was almost fully engorged, she quickly slid back away and slipped the little piece of latex over him, standing and smiling smugly before walking calmly to the bed and climbing onto it.

"Coming, Mulder?"

Still shell-shocked from having her mouth on him for such a brief time, Mulder simply stood, speechless, for a moment before regaining consciousness. "Um... yeah." Scully smiled even wider as he stared at her and blinked repeatedly as though trying to piece together how she was suddenly no longer on the floor in front of him. He stepped closer to the bed and climbed onto it, covering her with his body and kissing her languidly on the lips for several seconds - something he was sure he could never tire of.

"Mulder." Her tone implied warning and he wasn't about to upset her. Reaching one hand down to her opening, he slowly let himself slide into her. When he was buried within her as far as he could go, he simply lay there for a moment, reveling in the soft feeling of completeness.

Then Scully began to squirm. The mere sight of her body wriggling underneath him (not to mention the feeling) just about caused him to start bucking wildly into her, but he controlled himself. Slowly, he began to move within her, pulling out a little, then pushing back in faster. With each thrust he withdrew more and slammed further into her flesh. They both wanted to scream, but instead, Scully bit at her uninjured cheek and dug her nails into the skin of his back. Mulder bit down on his lower lip fiercely. He was afraid to kiss her in case he had to contain the urge to moan again. After several minutes, he felt her muscles clench up around him, triggering his own release in a final series of rapid, graceless thrusts.

"Mulder?" Scully asked as he lazily pulled out and rolled off of her. "Did I scream?"

He had to think very hard. "I... I'm not sure."

"My throat is hoarse."

He smiled and rolled onto his side to face her and drape a limp arm across her abdomen. "I didn't hear it. I won't hold you to it."

She smiled softly and closed her eyes, feeling exhaustion overtake her body. She felt Mulder leave her side and shortly thereafter a soft blanket was draped over her. When he finally did lay back down behind her, she let her back fall against his chest comfortably.

*Spooned up like little baby cats.*


Scully awoke the next morning to a familiar loud shrieking and the smell of eggs and bacon wafting through her open bedroom door. She rolled onto her back lazily and almost got up to go bribe the child into silence when she realized she wasn't wearing any clothes. Feeling awkwardly confused for a moment, she had a sudden flash of the night before. She could feel the color rushing to her cheeks. Where was Mulder, anyway?

Slipping on the pajamas she *would* have worn to bed, Scully wandered down the stairs, entering the family room which the crying had originally emanated from just in time for it to die away. Instead of an unhappy infant, alone in his playpen, she found a 39-year-old infant bouncing his new friend on a knee and making faces she would have thought beyond even Mulder's sense of dignity.

"How are my boys this morning?" she asked, running a hand through Mulder's damp fresh-from-the-shower hair. He looked up at her, his mouth still halfway open from the smile he'd been giving Nathan, a light in his eyes that nearly made her heart explode, unable to contain it's joy.

"Great." He allowed his lips to curve into a defined smile and his eyes took on a feral glint for a brief moment as he soaked in the full sight of her. "Grandma's making breakfast." The glint in his eye was replaced by humor at his use of words. God, these new titles felt strange on the tongue.

But somehow right.

"Breakfast is ready!" an almost too cheery voice called from the kitchen. Mulder handed the baby off to Scully in an unspoken agreement. He knew almost instinctually that she'd need to hold the child before she could do much else this morning. Make sure her little miracle was still tangible.

*Miracle.*

Scully reached one hand slowly behind her neck and felt the small, almost imperceptible scar where her cure rested. An alien object that she owed her life too. Her son's life. She shivered involuntarily.

It was far too easy to slip into the illusion of domestic bliss. Scully was finding it almost impossible not to, in fact. Mulder was back, their baby was healthy, her mother was in the kitchen making breakfast just like she had every morning when Dana and her siblings were children. It was like a fantasy. But it wasn't a fantasy. This package came chalk full of every dark underbelly imaginable. Government conspiracies up the wazoo, alien abductions, deals with heinous forces...

*Deals.*

Scully shook her head, hoping the motion alone could silence her thoughts. She did not want to uncover the answers to any of her questions. She was tired of asking them. She was tired of worrying herself to sleep every night wondering about the fate of her child, the fate of his father. Mulder was back now. He hadn't even been there 24 hours. Why couldn't they just pretend nothing had happened? Maybe if they started over right now it would all be alright. They could quit the X-files, she could go into private practice and he could be a... professor, or a writer or something. And all the MIB's and informants could go fuck themselves with some other lost souls who felt like saving the world. And maybe, just maybe, she could forget all her burning questions and just pretend she'd never been infertile in the first place. She and Mulder had made a baby the old fashioned way, and he'd been there for the pregnancy, the birth, everything. Nathan wouldn't remember. They could play normal for the next 40 years or so. Get married, buy a house in the suburbs, have another kid and a dog. Fulfill all the dreams of her 10-year-old self.

Maybe in another life. In this one, normal just couldn't apply. And she'd never been a very good liar.

"Mulder?" Her voice stopped him just before he passed through the swinging doors to the kitchen. "I need to talk to you after you eat."

He nodded. "Aren't you gonna..." He motioned with his thumb toward the kitchen and furrowed his brow in concern.

She shook her head and offered a small smile. "I'm not hungry. I'm going to nurse Nathan."

He took a few steps toward her. "You really should eat something, Scully." He smiled. "Especially after that workout last night."

Her smile became genuine. "And what workout was that, Agent Mulder?"

He put a hand to his chest as if wounded. "Ah, Scully, that hurts."

She chuckled and went to sit at the couch. "Besides," she said, becoming serious once more, "I need a little time to myself to think."

He stared at her for a few more moments, deciding his next course of action, and finally nodded, then turned around and headed back for the kitchen.


Mulder sat somewhat uncomfortably at the kitchen table with Margaret, eating the best eggs he'd ever tasted. Perhaps he'd just gone a long time without them, but they were still damn good. Strangely, he hadn't been hungry last night when he... arrived. Much the same way that he had been completely clean. It didn't seem like the usual MO of government conspirators or little gray men to keep the abductee bathed and well fed for the duration of their stay. But for some reason, Mulder had the distinct impression that neither of those groups were involved this time. That what he had come into contact with was something altogether different from anything he or Scully had ever encountered.

"Where did you sleep last night, Fox?" The question was innocent enough. Spoken casually and seemingly out of concern for the comfort of her guest. The answer was not quite so simple. What would Scully want him to say? He knew she was close to her mother, but he also knew that if Nathan hadn't come along, Margaret would *not* have known they'd ever slept together.

"Umm..." He chewed a mouth-full of scrambled egg slowly to stall for time. It was only polite not to talk with food in your mouth, right? Finally he decided it was best to just be truthful. As in the "that depends on what the definition of 'is' is" version of truthful. "In Scu- In Dana's room."

Margaret nodded. For a brief moment he half-expected her to drill him further, but then she smiled slowly as if she'd just thought of something incredibly funny that only she got. "You don't need to be embarrassed, Fox."

He stared at her for a moment, attempting to read her, but not knowing her quite well enough to understand her mood. "Embarrassed?"

She smiled again and placed her hand lightly over his. "I know how it is. When Bill was in the service, every time he'd get back from a long trip... Well, I remember that feeling."

Mulder smiled awkwardly, not quite sure of exactly what Margaret was telling him. "But..."

She took her hand back and looked at it briefly, her expression becoming more serious but still friendly. "Yes, we were married. And I'd rather it be that way for Dana. But I've learned some things with age." She sat back in her chair, throwing the napkin from her lap onto her empty plate. "There was a time I felt uneasy about my children even becoming involved with someone who wasn't Catholic." She smiled fondly. "Missy destroyed that one." For a moment Mrs. Scully seemed lost in her memories. Mulder wanted to ask what had happened with Melissa, but was still out of his element a little too much to go prying into things she might not want to share.

Finally, Maggie turned her attention back to the man sitting at her table. "Don't misunderstand me. The decisions I've made have been right for me, and as much as I'd like to accept my children exactly as they are, I worry about them. For religious reasons, because I don't want them to get hurt... But each of them have taught me that everyone needs to live their own life." She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes before looking him in the face. "Melissa was the hardest because she was the only one who didn't care what the family thought about how she lived her life. She'd disappear for months at a time and we wouldn't know where she was. But after each little trip, she would call me and we'd have a long discussion about where she'd been, what she'd seen. She wasn't looking for my acceptance. She just wanted me to know what a great time she was having. Even when bad things happened. She was grateful just to experience everything she could." Margaret smiled and let out a small sigh that could have been interpreted as a wistful laugh. "You'd think Dana joining the FBI wouldn't have been that big a deal. But she'd always been Bill's little Starbuck. She'd always done everything to please her father. It was kind of a shock when she finally found her rebellious streak - however mute it was in comparison."

Mrs. Scully paused for a moment, reaching for her cup of coffee and sipping at it slowly. Then she turned her attention to Mulder. "What I'm trying to say, Fox, is that I understand that Dana needs to choose her own path. And I'm grateful that that path includes someone who obviously cares deeply about her. I don't think Dana always realizes that she can confide in me. She remembers the morals and values her father and I tried to instill in all our children, and doesn't understand that I won't be disappointed in her if she doesn't follow them perfectly."

Mulder nodded slightly in understanding. He didn't know quite what to say. He felt as if the woman had just taken great pains in opening up to him just to make him feel more comfortable, and he had nothing to offer in return. She was looking down at her cup of coffee, appearing almost distressed.

"Mrs. Scully..."

She smiled wearily. "Please. Margaret."

"Margaret..." The name felt awkward to his mouth. "I think she does confide in you. More than just about anyone. She's just a very... private person." In reality, he knew that Margaret was correct in many respects - that Scully was always looking for the approval of her family, as much as she told herself she didn't care. But what he had said was true as well and he felt the woman needed to hear it.

Mrs. Scully smiled softly and closed her eyes. "Maybe you're right." With that, the conversation was apparently over. Margaret stood and began to clear the empty dishes off of the table. Despite the new understanding that Mulder appreciated, he couldn't help but be grateful for the conversation's end. He helped Mrs. Scully with the dishes in silence, then went to find Scully.

She was sitting on the couch in the living room, patting Nathan's back gently as she held him partially over her shoulder. The baby gave a little hiccup and a creamy substance dribbled down his chin. Scully readjusted him so that she could see his face and quickly wiped away the liquid with a cloth.

*God, I really am a parent,* Mulder thought. *Even his spit is cute.*

"You wanted to talk?" Mulder asked.

Scully looked up at the sound of his voice. She took a deep breath, her face full of trepidation. Mulder was confused.

"Yes." She looked down at the infant in her arms and closed her eyes momentarily. "Sit down." He complied as she scooted over even though there was plenty of room on the couch without the adjustment. Mulder stared at her in concern as he felt his heart begin to race with mild fear at what she was going to say.

"Mulder," she began, "a lot happened while you were gone." She looked down at Nathan. "A lot."

"You said as much last night."

She wetted her lips with her tongue and nodded. "I told you that Marita Covarrubias was killed. I didn't tell you that I was the one to discover the body." She paused. "Lying in my bed."

Mulder was silent for a moment, processing the information. "Do you have any idea why?"

"I had been in contact with her since your disappearance. She told me things. Perhaps things I wasn't supposed to know."

He squinted his eyes at her slightly. "What sorts of things?"

Scully took a slow breath and let her hand play thoughtlessly with Nathan's hair. "You didn't question my ability to conceive when I told you about my pregnancy. Why was that, Mulder?"

His brow furrowed in confusion, as if he had just now realized that she was supposed to be infertile. "I..." He took a deep breath and thought for a moment. "It never occurred to me. I... I'm not sure." He looked to be deeply disturbed by this fact. Scully stared at him, trying to detect any hint of deception. All she saw was bewilderment.

She decided to take a different approach. "Mulder, when we first slept together, why did you want to use a condom?"

He stared at her quizzically, as if he were trying to decipher a language he hadn't studied since high school. "I don't remember. I don't know what you're talking about."

She took a deep breath. "Just before..." She motioned with one hand, trying to get her point across without saying the actual words. "Just before we... you know, you seemed worried that you didn't have a condom."

"I'm sorry, Scully, I don't remember. Maybe it's all those safe- sex public service announcements. Maybe they really do work." He was starting to get defensive. "Just what exactly are you saying here, anyway? That I knew you could conceive? What did Marita tell you?"

Scully took a deep breath and stood, taking the infant who had fallen asleep in her arms with her. "She told me about a deal." She wouldn't face him. She couldn't look at him if he was going to lie to her.

"What *deal*?" He stared at her back in a mixture of confusion and the beginnings of anger. "Scully, look at me. What kind of deal?"

She laid the infant down in his pen gently, so as not to disturb his slumber. "She said that you made a deal with *him*. With CGB Spender, the smoking man, whatever the hell his name is. She said the terms were that I would be able to have children and you would be called away. That Oregon was that calling."

Mulder stood. He could feel the adrenaline of the anger starting to pump through his veins. "That's bullshit." He said in a harsh whisper, not wanting to wake the baby. Not wanting one of the child's first memories to be of his parents fighting.

Scully turned to him, her demeanor weak. For the first time he noticed a real change in her from the woman he had known before his abduction. She looked somehow defeated. Like a wife who was tired of the lies and thoughtlessness of her husband and yet unable to leave. It almost brought tears to his eyes but at the same time made him angry. Angry at the world that had done this to her while he was away. Angry at her for letting it.

"Are you sure it's bullshit, Mulder?" Her voice was quiet, but not out of concern for her son's sleeping habits. She was obviously angry, but it wasn't the heated Scully anger he was used to. It was a mellow anger. An accepting anger that assumed she would lose the argument even though she felt she was right.

"Scully?" It was a plea more than anything, an appeal to her former self to come out and yell at him a little. "Scully, what's wrong here? Why won't you believe me?"

She put her hands on her hips and looked down at the ground, setting her jaw in pain that wasn't at all physical. "Mulder... Why? Why would she lie to me about that? She told me that CGB Spender wanted me to get pregnant. What purpose would it serve to tell me both things if one was a lie?"

Mulder shook his head incredulously. "I don't know. Maybe to plant mistrust." He looked her over angrily. "Apparently it did the job."

She continued to stare at the carpet. "There's something else." He waited in silence while she thought over her next words. "I know it's going to sound silly or... or I don't know what, but along with her body, there was a note..."

There was a sudden flash in Mulder's mind. A white piece of paper from a dream or a memory, he wasn't sure. "You're next."

Scully's head snapped up and she looked at him in shock or horror or some mixture of the two. "How... How did you know?"

Mulder blinked in confusion. He wasn't sure what was going on. Flashes of unconnected images were streaming through his mind. What looked like his hand using simple pen strokes on a small white paper. Scully crying in a motel room by herself. Nathan's birth. His mind couldn't keep up.

Scully stood stone stiff across the room from him. "How did you know?" She asked in an accusing voice. Tears of fear were beginning to spring to her eyes. He wanted to comfort her, but she was only a backdrop to the other images. Images that he couldn't stop. He felt like his brain was going into overload.

And then everything was black.


Mulder awoke in a hospital bed. His head hurt. As his vision cleared, he noticed a man with jet black hair sitting in a chair in the corner of the room.

"Where am I?" Mulder asked groggily as he tried to sit up.

The man looked suddenly worried and rushed to his side. "Don't sit up!" Mulder was quickly restrained by the man as he gripped his biceps and pushed him back down on the bed. "I, uh... You're at a hospital." The dark-haired man let go and stood awkwardly.

Mulder put a hand to his head to try and make the dull ache stop by the power of touch alone. "No shit, Sherlock. What hospital?"

The young man (late 20's, early 30's) looked embarrassed. "Um, Fairfax Mercy, Agent Mulder. You were brought in by one..." He flipped back a few pages on the notepad he'd obviously been doodling on. "... Margaret Scully."

"Uh-huh. And who are you?" Mulder could have sworn the kid blushed.

"Agent Fielding. Craig Fielding. I, um, I was the agent assigned to your case. Your disappearance." When Mulder didn't respond, Craig apparently decided that was an invitation to ramble on a little more. "I mean, of course, there were more agents assigned, but after a while, you know, the bureau decided that resources needed to be spent elsewhere, and well, you know, I just happened to be the only one left on the case. Me and my partner that is..."

"Fielding, you said your name was?"

He nodded enthusiastically, obviously happy that someone had actually remembered his name for three seconds.

"Well, Agent Fielding, would you mind doing me a favor and letting me borrow your phone?"

The young man swallowed, attempting to look professional. "Of course." He removed the small black cell from his coat pocket and handed it to Mulder.

"Mind giving me a little privacy?" Mulder asked. The younger agent again blushed slightly and headed back to his corner. "A little more privacy?" Mulder motioned toward the door with his head. Fielding thought for a moment and finally left the room. Mulder quickly dialed Scully's cell phone.

It rang three times.

"Scully."

"Scully, where are you?"

She was silent. He thought she had hung up for a moment, but her breathing was just barely audible.

"Mulder, are you alright?"

"What do you think?" he asked. "I'm a little disoriented. One minute we're having a discussion, the next I'm in some hospital room being waited on by Agent Dumbfuck."

"Agent Fielding's a nice guy. He's the only one who's kept looking for you this whole time."

"Must be why I was found so soon."

There was another awkward silence. "Scully, are you afraid of me?" It had been his first thought when he awoke. The image of her going into hysterics as she stared at him in horror.

It took her several seconds to answer. "No." Her tone spoke otherwise. But he sensed something other than his fit of psychic ability was bothering her.

"Scully, what is it?"

He heard a weak sigh on the other end and realized she had begun to cry. "Mulder... Nathan's missing."

He felt an icy hand grip at his heart fiercely. "What?" His voice wavered on the single syllable.

"Mom and I woke up this morning and he was gone. No sign of a break-in, no note, nothing." Try as she might to hide them, he could hear the tears choking her as she spoke.

"Have you called the police?"

"Yes. They said to look around the house some more."

"What did you tell them?"

There was a brief moment of silence. "I told them that I was a fucking FBI agent, not some hysterical mother who forgot which room she left her child in. Then I hung up."

Despite the horror of the situation, Mulder couldn't help but smile at that. "We'll find him, Scully. I swear to you."

"That's what I said to Skinner when you first went missing."

"And look how that turned out."

Scully was silent.


Mulder was able to get Agent Fielding to do his questioning in the car on the way to Mrs. Scully's house. It wasn't difficult to fit the entire meeting into the car ride because there wasn't really much for the young agent to discover. Mulder didn't remember anything. Or at least anything he was willing to share just yet.

Once Fielding had dropped him off at the house, Mulder rushed up to the doorway and rang the bell. When the entryway opened, he nearly reached for his weapon before realizing he no longer had it.

Standing inside the doorway, welcoming him in, was Alex Krycek.


"In the brain of every religious person there is a god shaped vacuum." -Jeremy Konopka

Krycek had shown up at the Scully residence only a few minutes before Mulder had arrived - just the amount of time it had taken him to convince Scully she should listen to him. Mulder's first instinct upon seeing the rat, especially with his son gone missing, was to lunge at him in an attempt to wrap his already clenching fists around the man's neck. This instinct had been squandered when Scully appeared behind Krycek and told Mulder to come in, sit down, and listen to what Alex had to say. His first instinct after that had been to lunge at both of them, but he kept this urge at bay all by himself.

Now Mulder and Scully sat on the living room couch, just about as separated as they could be while still sitting on the same piece of furniture. Krycek stood by the empty playpen like a general waiting to give orders to his troops. Margaret was apparently 'out,' although no one had cared enough to tell Mulder where exactly that was.

"What's going on here?" Mulder asked. He looked at Scully. She was silent. "So what, Scully, I'm gone for a while and suddenly you trust this scum bag? More than me?"

She had the decency to look somewhat wounded by the remark.

"Save your domestic squabble for your own time," Krycek interrupted.

Mulder glared at him, but said nothing.

"Agent Scully understands that I have information for the two of you which could, at the very least, help to put your minds at rest. I think you'd be quite interested in this information, Mulder, if you'd just put aside your petty vendettas long enough to listen to it."

Mulder took a deep breath and looked to Scully. She simply sat motionless. Dead. The anger fumed within him, but he felt strangely thrown off guard with Scully just sitting there, waiting for the bomb to drop. "I'm listening."

Krycek seemed to accept the statement and began pacing back and forth in front of Mulder and Scully, the continuous movement apparently helping him think.

"I've spent the last few months gleaning information. For myself and for the two of you. I'm sure that you, Mulder, are too blinded by old grudges to see it, but I *am* on your side. There are some who feel that the two of you should be kept completely in the dark, but I realize that this would simply increase your determination and quite possibly interfere with things that should not be interfered with. By telling you what I can now, I hope to make you understand that what is happening is for the good of humanity."

It was a rehearsed speech, the kind a politician gives when they're announcing bad news- carefully worded and precise to give it just the right spin.

"Get to the point, Krycek." The lengthy rhetoric was not helping Mulder to control his temper.

Krycek stopped pacing and faced Mulder. "The point, Mulder, is that your son is going to be the savior of humanity." He paused for a moment, letting it sink in even though he knew that the agent would not accept the statement at face value. "I already told Agent Scully that your son is one of the few successful alien-human hybrids, as are you..." He smirked as confusion registered on Mulder's face. "...but as I told Scully, Nathan is a much more advanced specimen. Many in power believe that he is the one who will save us from invasion. This belief is held so strongly by so many, that Agent Scully was actually given special treatment by the bureau to ensure that her pregnancy went smoothly." He looked to Scully, who appeared surprised at first, and then seemed to register understanding, as if a puzzle piece had finally clicked into place. "It's gotten almost to the point of a religious following that your son is the center of." He looked at Scully sharply. "You've felt it." It wasn't a question. She blinked and looked to Mulder. He stared back at her with curiosity and just a little too much emotional detachment. She felt cold all over. But when she looked to Krycek and saw the knowing light in his eyes, she felt almost safe.

"Yes."

She felt Mulder's accusing eyes rake over her face and found herself unable to return his stare. She didn't understand what was going on, but she had the sense of something much larger than herself or Mulder. Whatever her partner seemed to think, she didn't completely trust Krycek. But something told her to believe him.

"Where is Nathan now?" Scully asked.

"They've taken him. The higher-ups. They need to perform some tests to make sure the chip worked as they'd hoped."

Mulder's anger was multiplying by the second. "What kinds of *tests*." He spat out the last word with disgust.

Krycek nearly smiled. Lucky for him, he was able to hold it back just before Mulder decided to break his neck. "Calm down, Mulder. Do you honestly think they'd hurt the 'Messiah'?" He spoke the last two words almost mockingly, yet seemed to believe their meaning even if the term was a little over the top. "Just simple blood tests, some observation. He'll be returned home as soon as they're done."

"And when will that be?" Mulder asked, his words razor-sharp.

"Not long. A day. Perhaps two. The important thing to realize is that it's no use looking for him. By the time your investigation begins, the child will have already been returned to you."

Scully furrowed her brow. "Why? Why would they return him? Wouldn't it be easier to just keep him with them at all times? Why would they entrust us with a child they believed to be their savior?"

Krycek looked down at the carpet and bit his lower lip thoughtfully. After a moment of silence as he contemplated his answer, he turned his attention back to the two people who sat on the couch before him. "Perhaps I misled you when I said that it's gotten *almost* to the point of a religious following. It's more like a cult." He swallowed and looked around the room almost as if he were embarrassed to be revealing the information. "Your son is the savior. There's another who has been viewed as the prophet." He looked first to Mulder, then Scully, his eyes so intense and serious that Mulder found himself for the first time captured by Krycek's words rather than infuriated. Once he was sure that both agents were listening to him fully, he continued. "It's a woman. She has premonitions. The dream I spoke of before..." He looked to Scully to make sure she remembered. She nodded slightly. "...She's had that dream too. As have many of the others. She says it's a message. Your son will save the human race, but something will happen to him in return." He was starting to get excited. Scully could tell he truly believed in this. "He will be returned to you because she says it should be so. And They don't even question her anymore."

Scully shook her head. For the first time in months, she felt the rush of adrenaline that came from solving puzzles. It made her want to vomit out of self-loathing that her mind could turn her son into a case to solve, but she found herself welcoming the feeling despite herself. "I don't understand. The dream... You said it made you think of Cain and Abel. Cain wasn't punished without cause. He killed his brother out of jealousy."

Krycek shrugged. "It made me think of Cain and Abel. It wasn't *about* that story. My mind just made a connection to something I remembered from childhood."

Again Scully shook her head, this time closing her eyes to help her thoughts clear. Something was right on the tip of her brain, just beyond her comprehension. An image or a phrase. Something that could make it all make sense. "No," she said, shaking her head more fiercely and opening her eyes to look at Krycek. "No, it's not a coincidence. Nathan's middle name is Cain."

Krycek squinted his eyes at her in confusion. "But that's the name *you* gave him. Why did you name him that?"

Scully took a deep breath and looked at Mulder. He had been strangely silent since Krycek began talking in terms of religion. He looked at her now with both interest and concern. She felt uncomfortably in the spotlight. "I didn't mean to." She looked back and forth between the men, searching for understanding even though neither of them could possibly understand yet. "His middle name was supposed to be William, but when the nurse asked me... It's just what came out."

Mulder stared at her and chewed on his bottom lip, working over it as if it were the idea in his head. "Could it have been caused by the suggestion of Krycek's dream?"

She took a deep breath. "No. It had been months since I'd spoken to him, and besides..." She looked down at her hands. "Ever since you left, I'd been having these... nightmares. Visions. The name kept coming up in all of them."

They were silent for several moments. "It's no matter, anyway," Krycek finally said. "I'm not here to discuss the influences of Christianity or Judaism on our present situation. I came to tell you that the child is safe and now I'll be on my way."

Scully moved to stop him, but the look Mulder threw her way silenced her protests immediately. It was a cold stare she almost couldn't believe came from his eyes. It held more distrust and anger than she had seen since roughly 5 years ago when she'd shot him.

So that he wouldn't shoot Krycek.

The irony was fully coincidental - she hadn't trusted Krycek then, she simply didn't want Mulder to end up in prison. She didn't really trust Krycek now. She just wasn't willing to fully dismiss him as Mulder seemed to be.

Mulder began to rise as soon as the other man closed the door behind him. "I'm calling the Gunmen."

"Why?" Scully regretted the word as soon as she'd spoken it.

"Why?" Mulder asked incredulously. "Your *son* is missing, and you have the audacity to wonder *why* I would actually choose to *do* something about it?"

She couldn't look at him. The anger flowed off him in waves. It made her sick just to be near him. "You think I don't care about Nathan?"

Her question came out in the same low defeated tone Mulder had heard the last time they fought. He almost wanted to hit her just to see if he could get a stronger reaction. "God, Scully, what happened to you to make you this... *weak*?"

There was the reaction he wanted. Turned out he didn't need physical violence at all, just a well placed blow to the old ego. Her eyes flared up with the first electricity he had seen in them since the morning before, and she glared at him more fiercely than he remembered. "You son of a bitch." She didn't stand, but he could feel her rise to his level. "You don't have any idea what I've been through in the last nine months." Finally, she rose from her spot on the couch and took a small step toward him, nodding towards the door. "Do you think I wanted to believe a single word that came out of his slimy little mouth? Or Marita's for that matter? You were *gone*, Mulder." Tears were beginning to form in her eyes but they didn't make her seem any less threatening. "*Gone*. Do you understand at all what that was like? I had no one to trust. No one. What the fuck was I supposed to do?"

He set his jaw and looked away from her, willing himself not to feel anything but the anger he was comfortable with. Willing himself not to think of how *he* had coped when she had been taken. How he'd reacted to finally finding someone he thought he could trust. "Yes, I do know what that's like, Scully. I know a little too well what that's like. And you know who's fault it is that I understand *exactly* what you've been feeling? That man." He pointed towards the door with emphasis and looked directly into her eyes. He wanted to punish her for what she'd done. "*He* allowed you to be taken from me... *He* shot my father..." He looked to the ceiling and then back to her with a small sarcastic bark of laughter. "Fuck, Scully, he helped *kill* your sister! How the fuck can you sit there and listen to him feed you bullshit when he killed Melissa, and for all we know *took* Nathan?!"

She let her eyes fall from his, her gaze drifting around at the room in a bitter stare. He knew that bringing Melissa into it had been a low blow, but he hadn't said anything that wasn't true. She was being completely irrational - something Scully never was. At least the Scully he knew.

Instead of the concession he had hoped for - almost expected - she returned her gaze to meet his slowly, angry tears beginning to stream down her face. "No, Mulder, you don't know what I went through. You don't know a thing about it. I was pregnant. Do you understand what that means? To be pregnant? I had another person's life to think about with every step that I took. I had to live for nine months wondering if my child would ever even know what his father looked like. Can you even *imagine* what that's like?" She gave him a bitter, angry smile that almost tore through his emotional barrier all on its own. "So yes, I believed Krycek when he told me things that I needed to know. I believed Marita. I even believed the fucking bounty hunter when he posed as Skinner for *two days* after he'd been killed. Because you know what? I needed to believe *something*. And if you can't understand or at least accept that, than you're a bigger hypocrite than I ever thought."

Mulder said nothing for almost 5 seconds as she stared up at him, waiting for a response. "Then why won't you believe me?"

The words were spoken so gently and with such earnest pain that Scully nearly broke down and hugged him. But she couldn't simply forget everything for one moment of sincerity. "Mulder-"

He wouldn't let her answer. "Agent Fielding said that your mother checked me into the hospital. Did you even come check to see if I was alright?"

"Nathan-"

He cut her off. "He wasn't missing until this morning."

She swallowed and set her jaw, attempting to word her response delicately. "I was... afraid. At the time."

Comforting anger washed over Mulder's mind, allowing him to push back the vulnerable pain. "Afraid of me. Because for all your talk about trust and love, you still think I'm capable of willingly harming you."

She glared at the wall rather than making actual contact with him. "Well if you're not, then explain the note. How did you know what was on it?"

Both the anger and the pain rose up even more. "I don't know. I had a vision. But that's not even the point, Scully. The point is that you're so fucking bothered by it! You should *know* beyond any doubt that I could never do something like that. Can't your fucking rational mind allow you to even *look* for another explanation?"

She let her vision drop to the carpet at her feet. Her words were a whisper that left her mouth before she could even consider their truth. "Maybe it'd be easier if you were hurt."

"What?"

She continued to stare at the floor, her voice rising slightly in volume. "I said, maybe it would be easier for me to believe you if you were hurt."

Mulder stared at the top of her head in confusion, waiting for her to continue.

Finally, she lifted her eyes to meet his. "I came back to you in a coma. Maybe it would be easier for me to trust everything you say if you hadn't shown up looking like you'd been on vacation all nine months while I was going through hell." It took the actual voicing of the words for her to realize their validity. She had never once doubted that the note had somehow been forged until he returned. While she hadn't completely disbelieved Marita's claim of Mulder making a deal for her fertility, the prospect of such a deal hadn't seemed such a horrible thing until he showed up perfectly fine, apparently suffering no major inconvenience for this 'calling' which he hadn't bothered informing her of.

With her simple statement, voiced softly as if it were a harmless thought, all of Mulder's anger came crashing down around him. His chest physically hurt with the new pain that accompanied his guilt. He'd lost nine months, but she'd had to *live* them.

"Scully-"

"No. I'm sorry." She looked dazed as she slowly took a step back from him and began heading toward the stairs. "I... I have no right to blame anything on you, Mulder. We're in this together. Go call the Gunmen." With that, she was gone. He heard her bedroom door shut several seconds after she disappeared from his vision. He wished he could convince himself that she believed her own words.


He had to be *somewhere*, but the word seemed wrong. This wasn't a place in the standard definition.

Correction: his *body* had to be somewhere. Perhaps that was why he felt as though he drifted through dimensions with no strings attached, no feeling but that of a strong presence that he was carried within. He was not himself; he was everything. He saw and felt and heard all things in one indefinable sensation that not only enveloped him, but conceived him. And yet it took no effort at all to focus on a single image while all else faded to the background. The hand of his body helped a pen drift across a scrap of paper, forming words that pained him in a way his physical body could never have allowed him to feel. But it was not *his* hand that formed the offending letters. It was the hand of one that lacked understanding and compassion. The man's ability to change form did not blind Mulder to the darkness within him. Hatred, cruelty, and pride were all that lurked beneath the transformable exterior.

His mind lurched forward - or perhaps backward. Time was of no consequence. It did not exist. All things happened simultaneously. Everything surrounded him at equal distance, like one giant circle that encompassed him, offering all that he sought, all that existed within the universe and beyond.

The image of a woman now filled his mind. With her came the impression of sorrow and grief, and somewhere hidden away in the recesses of her soul, hope. His soul felt each of these feelings magnified against the backdrop of existence. With every tear she cried, each tear that had ever been or ever would be pulsed through his being with clarity and definition, filling his entire world with sadness. But also with her came an emotion that was his, and not the subject's - something he didn't often experience.

Love.

A deep, cleansing love that was unfathomable to the contained human spirit, but which grew and burned throughout his universe now that he had been released from the confines of the physical.

He watched a man he had once called his father, his aura filled with fear and the anger that spawned from it, inject a needle into his pregnant wife's belly as doctors watched with curious eyes and nervous hands. He saw the unborn child change into something different and yet the same. A soul that would remain its own with a body that now belonged to the watchful eyes of all who surrounded his parents.

Scully sobbing all alone with grief a thousand times more potent than he could ever have imagined. The love in his nonexistent heart mixing with the torture of hers to create an explosion so powerful his world began to shatter...


Mulder awoke in a cold sweat on Margaret Scully's couch. The dream was fresh in his mind. So fresh that it almost seemed odd to feel the fabric against his skin. Odd to move the limbs that shouldn't have been there.

He had spent the previous day doing everything he could to find his son. Aside from contacting the FBI, that is. He knew that it was only a matter of time before Agent Fielding and the other investigators who had been assigned to his case started trying to contact him for more information. He was surprised they didn't have his ass in an office answering questions this moment. He hadn't wanted to risk the loss of all the time it would take to talk to every single person in the FBI building. Instead, he had done an extensive search of the house on his own (Scully had remained locked in that damn room all afternoon). Coming up with no evidence, he had called the Gunmen and asked them to do everything in their power to find information on this 'cult' Krycek had spoken of. Then he'd gone to his apartment, only to discover that it was now being rented by a nice couple from Vermont who hadn't appreciated his attempted break-in. He'd called Scully, who had finally answered the phone after about 11 rings and informed him that she had run out of money to keep paying his rent about 3 months previous and had all his stuff moved to a storage shed that her family rented out.

So he had gone to Scully's apartment. He was relieved that the locks hadn't been changed - after all, everything else in his life was different now. Opening her door and entering the apartment, he felt a surge of nostalgia and serenity. She hadn't stayed there for months, but her essence still embodied the small living space. He could smell her on the furniture, feel her aura surrounding him in the things she had kept there for as long as he had known her. Many of her clothes were gone, along with bathroom supplies and other necessary items, but her couch still resided in the middle of her living room, her bed was still made with clean sheets and blankets, family photos still decorated the shelves. Right away he knew that he wouldn't find anything in this place. It was just a feeling that he got walking around the apartment. It was still so distinctly Scully, utterly untouched by anything else. And so after a quick survey of the place, just to make sure, he had gone back to Margaret's house. Once there, he'd called the Gunmen for an update. Nothing. He'd ended up falling asleep on the couch as his mind attempted to come up with other avenues of investigation.

And now he was awake, and he heard... crying? Alarmed, he sat up so quickly that his vision momentarily blurred. The crying came from the playpen, where an unhappy infant lay, screaming his lungs out. Mulder rushed to the small pen and picked up the child, patting him gently and cooing into his ear to calm him. He had been returned, just as Krycek had promised.

As Mulder sat back down on the couch, baby in arms, he heard someone clear their throat from behind him. Startled, he whipped his head around just as a tall man with white hair began to walk towards the front of the room, into his field of view.

Mulder stared at the man in shock. "You- You're dead," he stammered.

"Quite the contrary, Mr. Mulder," the man spoke in a perfectly sculpted British accent. "I am very much alive."

Mulder simply continued to stare, awestruck. "But..."

"Four years ago, you *thought* you saw me meet my end in a horrible explosion. What you failed to realize is that colleagues of mine were watching us at the time. I would have surely been killed if I had left that car alive. By giving the illusion that I had been killed, I effectively cut myself off from those colleagues without having to go through the rather nasty detail of facing my own mortality."

Mulder furrowed his brow, continuing to pat his son's back gently as he conversed with the man. "Yet you've resurfaced now, I take it. Why?"

"Simply put, I have no reason to hide any longer. My former colleagues are all dead, and those involved in the fringes of our group have since realized what must be done. I am here to return your child to you and Agent Scully, and to offer you some assistance."

"What kind of assistance?"

Rather than answering the question, the Englishman turned his attention to the stairs behind Mulder. "And there she is now."

Mulder craned his neck around to see Scully walking down the stairs with a confused expression on her face. "Mulder?" she asked. "What's going on?"

"Another *guest*, Scully. Isn't it nice of all these shadowy government figures to just stop by when they're in the neighborhood?"

As always, she ignored his attempt at humor and continued down the stairs, sitting on the couch beside him. "Nathan..." Her voice was weak but grateful. She reached her hands towards the infant and Mulder relinquished him to her hesitantly. "I was so worried about you." She cradled the child in her arms and whispered softly in his ear. All of Mulder's remaining bitterness about the day before nearly melted away.

"Touching scene, but I'm afraid we have business to discuss." Mulder and Scully turned to the man in front of them and Mulder noticed with some surprise that the words appeared sincere.

"What kind of business?" Scully asked.

"As I'm sure Alex Krycek has informed you..." He spoke the other man's name with unhidden disgust. "...your child is, shall we say, *special*. He is the first successful alien-human hybrid created from birth, and the most true specimen." The man looked to both agents to make sure they were paying careful attention. When he was satisfied, he continued. "As I once told you, Mr. Mulder, your father's hope for you was that you would be able to fight the future yourself. While the small degree of mutation we caused in you may not be enough for that fate, his dreams can still be carried out now. Through your son."

Mulder nodded. The dream he had experienced last night had shed a certain clarity on things. He understood what his father had done. He knew what he was. "You said you came to offer us assistance."

The man nodded and Scully looked at both of them with curiosity. "What kind of assistance?" she asked.

He nodded his head toward the child in her arms. "Protection and... advice." He paused for a moment before continuing. "As has been demonstrated to you by both our abduction and subsequent return of your son, you and your child are not by any means safe on your own. And there is reason for you to fear for that safety. There are other forces that would like to get their hands on this child, and not all of them will return him unharmed to you the next morning."

"So you're offering *your* protection?" Mulder asked.

"Rather informing you that you will be protected from here on out. We do not take no for an answer. Especially in matters as pressing as this."

Scully made a small throaty noise that could have been construed as a laugh if it weren't so bitter. "Your *protection* didn't seem to help Marita."

The Englishman quirked his eyebrows as if deeply insulted. "Ms. Covarrubias chose to operate on her own, without the security of the group. She did not trust us. Her fate is the fate of all those who attempt to work alone in circumstances as great as these. It is a fate that the three of you might share if you refuse to work with us."

"Is that supposed to be a threat?" Mulder barked.

The man let a small smile play at the corners of his mouth. "A threat? By no means, Mr. Mulder. That was a simple warning. You are not prepared to go up against the forces which we would protect you from. Not alone."

"What's the advice?" Scully asked.

He produced a slender white business card from the pocket on the breast of his suit. "Take this." He handed the piece of paper to Scully. On it was a telephone number with an area code she didn't recognize. "If ever Nathan has a medical problem- anything from an earache to pneumonia or a broken limb, call that number. Do *not* take him to a doctor. Doctor's won't know how to treat him and they will only make the situation worse. Not to mention that if his genetic abnormalities were discovered, your child would be the center of great scientific study. Our simple tests are nothing in comparison to what ignorant scientists around the world would do if they got their hands on him. And more importantly, if he was discovered, our enemies could quite easily catch wind of it. At the moment, they know that something is going on surrounding the two of you and your son, but the specifics have been carefully hidden. He's our secret weapon and it is in the best interests of humanity to keep it that way."

"Why should we believe you?" Mulder asked. "We've been lied to before." He looked pointedly at Scully, who set her jaw and cast her eyes down toward Nathan, using her son as a distraction from the cold look his father gave her.

"In the course of this particular situation, you have never been outwardly *lied* to, Mr. Mulder. If you are referring to the late Ms. Covarrubias, I assure you, it was simply misinformation on her part. She'd been working with Mr. Spender for far too long. To give her credit, she was certainly not loyal to the man, but she put much too much trust in his words. He knew that she would betray him. He was intelligent in *that* way. Such a man knows who to lie to, and how."

Scully stared at him with a mixture of curiosity, hesitancy, and nervousness. "Then... was it all a lie?"

"Everything *she* told you?" The man thought for a moment. "I believe she informed you of how exactly you became pregnant, and of the fact that CGB Spender wanted you to become so. Those were truths. In fact, all of us wanted it. It was foretold."

"By the 'prophet?'" Mulder asked.

The white-haired man smiled. "Ah, I see Mr. Krycek relayed to you more details than he confessed. You see, Alex *says* he doesn't believe. Says that we should not trust in this woman you know as the 'prophet' so completely." His smile widened slightly. "But his actions would speak otherwise."

Mulder wasn't interested in Krycek's beliefs. "Who is she?"

"Her name is Candice. You'll have to meet her sometime." He looked down at the child in Scully's arms. "Perhaps when Nathan's a bit older."

Mulder didn't like how the man looked at his son. As if Nathan were a favorite pet, a little puppy that would someday grow into a fierce guard dog and begin to earn his keep. The boy's destiny had already been decided for him by a group of men and women that cared only about their own survival, without any consideration as to their little hound's wants or needs. And his parents could do nothing for him because they belonged to the same masters. The former protectors of the house, now useless for anything but breeding the next generation of sentinels.


Late September, 2007

"I feel sick," the little six-year-old whined as his mother helped him dress.

"You don't have a fever, Nate. You're just tired. Raise your arms." The boy kept the sour look on his face as he complied, holding his arms above his head limply while his mom tugged a sweatshirt over his head to cover the T-shirt he already wore.

"Dad said I should stay home if I feel sick."

Her face became mildly irritated as she rushed off to find some other item necessary to her son's elementary school survival. "Mulder!"

Nathan sat back on the bed, letting his limbs rest as he opened his mouth as far as possible to take in a deep yawn. He heard his father's confused reply from somewhere else in the large apartment. "What?"

"He's not sick, he stayed up too late watching basketball with you last night. Don't tell him he can stay home."

"I didn't tell him he could stay home. I said he *should* stay home *if* he's sick."

His mom let out an exasperated sigh and reentered her son's room, bringing with her a paper bag of food to stuff in his little blue and red backpack. "It's okay, mommy. I'm not that sick."

She gave him a look that meant she wasn't in the mood to be tested. "Then hurry up and get ready, your dad and I need to get to work." She ruffled his hair affectionately, offering the first break in her irritation for the morning, and he lifted his legs onto the bed to start tying his shoelaces - something he'd just learned and was very proud of.

Once the laces were properly tied, he shoved himself off of the bed, grabbed his backpack, and walked slowly out to the living room, where his father was sitting on the couch watching the news with a cup of coffee. "Hey kiddo." Mulder greeted the small child, helping him up onto the couch. "Feelin' better?" Nathan nodded quietly and stared at the television. In response, his father quickly picked up the remote and changed the TV to a channel with cartoons, taking a long sip of his coffee.

Mulder and Scully had found this apartment roughly 5 and a half years earlier. It took up about a fourth of the second floor of a nice building in Georgetown, with three bedrooms (one of which had been converted into storage space for all of Mulder's junk), one and a half bathrooms, a full kitchen and living room, and best of all, all this within their budget. The Bureau obviously had to be informed of the change in residence, but there had been no fuss whatsoever. Mulder almost thought he could get used to the idea of those in power being on *their* side for once. If only it hadn't come with any strings attached.

He looked at his son and felt a sinking feeling at the bottom of his stomach. Just a normal six-year-old boy. An extraordinary normal six-year-old boy. He could see the child's high degree of intellect already. The kid was probably smarter than him. Give it a few years and he'd be a regular genius. Hopefully there'd be more than a few years for that talent to shine.

Mulder reached over and ruffled the boy's hair. Nathan just stared at the cartoons obliviously, too young to be embarrassed by the attention. His father smiled sadly and silently prayed to any god that might exist that his son would be allowed to grow into and beyond that adolescent self-consciousness.

In all honesty, there were no indications that he wouldn't. Whenever Nathan was sick or hurt, they called the Group. They'd been weary at first, but one trip to the hospital with a sick baby had changed that. The Englishman had been right when he said ordinary treatments would only worsen the child's condition. What had started as a small cold had escalated higher and higher with everything the pediatrician did. By the time they had backed down and called the mysterious number, Nathan's fever had reached 106 degrees. It was a wonder there had been no brain damage.

But since then, the child had experienced no unusual health problems. Mulder's fear was completely irrational, but both he and Scully felt it. And Nathan was still close to the age that Emily had been... Neither of them tried to remind themselves of that fact. Nathan may have been created with much more advanced procedures than the other children had been, but it was extremely hard to discount their worries with memories of a dead little girl always looming in the background.

"Everybody ready?" Scully called as she speed-walked down the apartment's one hallway, shoving the back onto her left earring with her right hand as her left arm reached for the briefcase she'd left on the kitchen table.

"Think so," Mulder said, turning off the television and standing to hand her his still half-full cup of coffee. She drank down the caffeine as he grabbed Nathan's hand and led him to the doorway. Scully threw the last gulp of coffee into the sink, set the mug on the counter, and followed quickly.

"What were you watching?" Scully asked in what Mulder had deemed her 'mom voice'. It wasn't much different from her regular voice, only a little softer, and about half a note higher than her usual deep alto.

"Cah-toons." Mulder smiled at the little boy's voice. It didn't matter how often he heard it (and Nathan was quite a talkative child), almost nothing could make him go all mushy faster than the sound of his son trying to pronounce the letter "r".

"Which one?" Scully continued as they exited the building and Mulder went to unlock the old manual garage door that led to their four-car shared parking space.

"I don't know. Theh was two dogs and two cats and they talked and they like to whun awhound a lot."

Scully had to smile at the seriousness with which her child answered the question. "Any good?"

He shrugged his small shoulders. "Okay. The cats weren't vewhy whealistic. They liked the dogs."

She smiled and put a hand on his shoulder to urge him forward as Mulder got the garage door open and went to start the car. "Not to mention the fact that they talked," she said.

Nathan shrugged again and she grinned down at him. Once the green mini-sport utility vehicle was out into the driveway, Scully helped Nathan get into his seat and buckle up, then quickly went to shut and lock the garage back up before taking her place in the front passenger seat.


"The teacher releases you, not the bell. Did I say you were excused?" the woman in her mid-50's warned as a group of first grade boys attempted to leave their seats. The boys looked appropriately guilty or annoyed (depending on the child) and sat back down quietly. Mrs. Hanson waited patiently for the room to silence completely, then waved her hand in dismissal. "Okay, you can go." The children leapt from their desks, rushing out the doorway and onto the playground, where students from other classrooms were already beginning to form their various groups. A first-grader with deep red hair and striking hazel eyes nearly sprinted from Mrs. Hanson's room straight to the middle of the concrete yard, where a pick-up game of kick-ball was being started.

"I'm a captain!" An older boy yelled as he grabbed the red rubber ball and raised his arm authoritatively. Soon another boy claimed the other captain position just as obnoxiously and the picking of teams began.

"I get Kevin!" the first boy yelled just as obnoxiously as he had before. A scrawny but fast third grader ran to the loud boy's side.

The other captain looked around thoughtfully until he spotted the dark splash of red in the back of the crowd of children. "Nate! You're on my team!" Nathan smiled and ran up to the front. He was always one of the first to get picked at kick-ball. Mrs. Hanson said he had 'natural athletic ability.' He told his mom and she smiled but said he shouldn't get a big head. Whatever that was.

After another minute or two the teams were complete, and Nathan's team took the field. Their team captain was the pitcher, and he caught the other team's first kick. The second kick went straight to first base. The third kicker was the loud boy who was captain of the other team, and he kicked it all the way to the other side of the playground, getting a home run. But the fourth kick was the exciting one. It was a ground ball that went straight to Nathan over in left field. The other kids on his team couldn't catch very well, so he chased down the kicker on his own and tagged him before he could get to first base. Everyone on his team cheered.

Then it was Nathan's team's turn to kick. Their captain went first and he got to second base before he stopped. Then Nathan was up. The first roll was off, but the second one was perfect. He ran towards it and threw his right leg forward, making contact with the ball.

But he hit it with the wrong part of his foot. Instead of kicking the ball with his toe or the side of his shoe, Nathan felt the rubber under his sole. He tripped and stepped down, causing the red sphere to roll out from underneath his foot and send him toppling backward. His reflex was to catch himself with his right arm.

"Aaaaaaaaaaah!"

Mrs. Hanson was on recess duty at the other end of the playground, but she heard the scream. She quickly jogged over to the kick-ball area to see what was wrong. There, lying on the pavement in the middle of a group of huddled children, cradling his arm and sobbing, was Nathan Scully.


Scully stared down at the table before her in a hypnotic trance. Mulder was in a meeting with Colton, going over the latest expense reports he had filed. All the reports with her signature on them had been perfect, and so her presence was not required for this particular meeting. Instead, she was left alone to go over the details of a case her partner had requested. Her arguments as to its validity as an X-File were to be anticipated as soon as he returned to the office, but she couldn't focus. And as much as she'd thought it could never happen, she was tired of arguing.

Work almost felt pointless these days. She and Mulder knew for a fact that aliens existed. She could no longer refute it. They personally *knew* members of the syndicate they had tried for years to corner, and spoke to these individuals on a fairly regular basis. The conspiracy they had fought so long and hard against had eradicated itself and slowly given way to a plan to protect all of mankind - something neither she or Mulder could exactly disagree with. All that was left in that arena was to wait for the enemies to strike their first blow.

The X-Files had boiled down and thinned out to become only those cases that were isolated: fluke genetic mutations and strange paranormal occurrences. Their investigations helped people, but it all seemed somehow muted by the knowledge that an even greater threat was just over the horizon, waiting to obliterate or enslave the entire planet, not simply scare a few suburban families who were seeing ghosts.

Scully didn't know what she was supposed to believe. Her strength as an investigator had always relied upon offering the logical counterpoint to any radical explanation, but if she was able to accept the impending colonization of earth by an alien race, how could she continue to claim that all these other things were preposterous? To his credit, Mulder had never used this particular argument, although she had seen the incredulity in his eyes on more than one occasion as he listened to the 'rational' theorizations she slung at him. It was instead the argument that she came into contact with in her own mind with each new case they encountered. Her instinct was always to disagree with any possibility offered outside the realm of science, but at the same time, when really thought through, nothing seemed that unbelievable any longer. She was left questioning every comment she made, every belief she had ever held. All because she had been forced to accept one extreme possibility.

So now, instead of working up her own theories for the case file that lay before her, Scully found herself staring at the smooth surface of the table, wondering if any part of this job still held her interest other than her partner; wondering if she should have just stayed home with Nathan for a few years and given him a better childhood rather than leaving him with her mother every day till he was old enough for school. If the sacrifice of not getting to watch her son take his first step could really equate with the benefits of a career that held less and less meaning by the second.

As she continued to ponder her life in the cool fake wood of the table top, her partner entered the room and went straight to his desk, throwing the papers he held on top of the clutter with an exasperated sigh and sitting down before even saying hello. Not that he ever said it anyway.

"So what do you think?" he asked, turning in his seat to face her for the first time since entering the room.

She sighed and let her hands wash over her face slowly. "I didn't read it."

Mulder was silent for what felt like a long time. "You were alone in here for almost 45 minutes. What have you been doing?"

She looked around the room, paler than she had seemed earlier that morning. "Thinking." Before he had a chance to inquire further, she continued. "Mulder, what's in this for you anymore?"

He furrowed his brow and looked at her, questioning.

She elaborated. "This job. What do you get from it? Do you still feel that what we do is important?"

Assuming she was finished, he began to formulate an answer, but before he could voice it, she cut him off once more. "You set out on this quest to find out what happened to your sister. You've done that. We know as much as anyone else on the planet does about alien invasion. Even if we stopped working, we would continue to be informed. Every quest we've ever undertaken has been fulfilled to the farthest point it can be, at least as far as our investigations can take us. What's left here?"

He sat back in his chair, chewing his lower lip and pondering her questions. They had had several conversations like this over the past few years, and he never knew quite how to respond to her. True, he couldn't feel the same passion about his 'quest' that he'd once had, but he needed to work. He needed to help people and if he left the X-files, he was almost sure no one would take them over. These families would never have any closure. "What else would I do?"

The shrill ringing of the phone startled Scully and she nearly jumped before restraining her impulse and watching calmly as Mulder picked up the receiver.

"Mulder." He was silent for a moment, listening to the voice on the other end. "What can I do for you, Mrs. Hanson?" Scully furrowed her brow. A sinking feeling gripped at her gut. She observed as her partner's face became concerned and immediately knew that her bad feeling had been confirmed. Mulder continued to 'uh-huh' for a few more brief moments, then ended the conversation with a small "thank you" and hung up the phone, standing almost immediately to leave. "Nathan's in the hospital."


"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." -Anais Nin

"Who's your doctor, sweetie?"

"I don't have one."

The dark-haired nurse looked down at the little boy with concern. "You don't have a doctor?"

Glassy hazel eyes stared up at her blankly as his head moved from side to side.

She furrowed her brow. The teacher who'd called 911 had told the EMT's that the child's name was Nathaniel Cain Scully, but the name hadn't turned up anything more than birth records. The doctor listed as the boy's physician on his school records couldn't be located. The parents were supposedly en route to the hospital. Maybe they could clear a few things up.

Though she had a sneaking suspicion that they were the ones causing all the confusion.

In the meantime they'd X-rayed, bandaged, and splinted Nathan's broken arm. He'd need a cast, but aside from that, he was fine. In the course of things, they had drawn some blood to discern some basic things like blood type, etc. But the type had been unreadable. It was unlike anything the doctors had seen before. The implications could be some sort of serious condition, even though the child appeared healthy at the moment. All this made it even more unbelievable that the 6-year-old had never been treated by a real doctor.

"Hello?" The nurse whipped around to find a short red-haired woman and significantly taller, darker man by her side. The woman had spoken to her.

"Can I help you?" the RN asked.

"We're looking for our son. Nathan Scully? He was brought in from Georgetown Elementary?"

The nurse gave a fake smile and stepped aside, revealing the small boy who laid on the examining table behind her. Both parents immediately rushed to his side, surrounding the makeshift bed. The woman - apparently the boy's mother - felt his forehead gently. "What happened sweetie?"

"I fell," he replied weakly.

"What's wrong with him?" the father asked, turning towards the nurse as he motioned with his head toward his son's splint.

Mulder noticed that the woman didn't even need to look at the chart she held in her right hand. "It's a clean break of the right radius. It'll take a while, but he should be okay. Only..." She tried to think of the right way to word her next statement. "You're aware that your child has no medical records beyond his date of birth?"

Mulder and Scully looked at each other for a brief moment in silent conversation. "Uh, he hasn't really had many medical problems," Mulder offered.

The nurse looked at them in disbelief. "What about regular check- ups? Colds? Shots? Nathaniel says he doesn't even have a doctor."

Scully quickly answered that one. "I'm his doctor." The nurse gave her a questioning look. "I went to medical school. I don't have a license to perform medicine, but there's no law against me administering care to my own son."

The nurse couldn't hide her disapproval. "Well, in situations like this, it might be *helpful* for your child to have up-to-date medical records so that he can be treated properly in the event of an emergency."

Scully had to fight down the arguments that came to her mind, realizing that every response she thought of was beyond the understanding of this woman who had no idea of their situation. "I'll take that into consideration in the future."

The nurse understood the tone of dismissal and bit her tongue, realizing with a sense of bitterness that she was about to overstep her bounds. As she turned away she remembered one last thing. "Oh, before you leave, we also wanted to perform a few tests on Nathaniel to make sure he's alright. The simple blood- work we ran in the absence of any recorded blood typing turned up... well, we're..." She stopped herself and corrected the pronoun, once again remembering that she wasn't, in fact, a doctor. "They aren't really sure what it turned up."

Scully replied to her instantly. "Uh, that won't be necessary. We're aware of this condition."

The woman gave her a confused look. "You're *aware* of it?"

Scully nodded. "We, um... I discovered the abnormalities myself. They've examined him in Europe, but they couldn't really understand it either. He's healthy though. It's been determined that it's not harmful."

The nurse nodded skeptically. "But don't you want our doctors to just *look* at it?"

Mulder shook his head. "No. He's fine. Wouldn't want to scare the poor kid by putting him through any more trauma."

She had to catch herself before arguing the point further. It seemed as though these two had their minds set, and she was overstepping herself yet again. Grudgingly, she left the room to go inform Dr. McKewin.

"Mommy, I've never been to Europe." Apparently Nathan was not as out of it as he seemed. Scully sat in a chair beside the examining table and ran a hand through the dark red curls on the top of his head.

Scully sucked in her lips and sighed through her nose. "I know honey, but I needed to tell her that."

"Why?"

"Your mom was just pretending, Nate," Mulder interjected. "She always wanted to go to Europe. Don't you remember how you used to pretend and make up stories about all the stuff you wanted to do?"

The small boy nodded as a small smile spread across his face. "I liked to say I won the major league baseball game."

Mulder smiled and ran his hand over his son's face in an affectionate teasing gesture. "All by yourself." Nathan smiled and closed his eyes, obviously tired from his ordeal.

There was a small knock on the doorway, which was purposely minus a door. Mulder and Scully both turned to see a man in a white doctor's coat with a nervous smile on his face. "Someone here to see you," he said shakily. As the man entered the room, the visitor was revealed behind him: a woman with long blond-gray hair and a kind, smooth face. She reminded Scully somewhat of Cassandra Spender.

"Thank you, Doctor," she said in a calm soothing voice that gave her an almost unearthly quality. "You may go now." He nodded, looking extremely confused and a little scared, and scampered from the room. The woman turned her attention to Mulder and Scully. "Hello," she said in the same surreal-sounding, gentle tone, "You must be Agents Mulder and Scully. My name is Candice."

The name instantly clicked in Mulder's brain as he reached out to shake her hand. "The prophet?" he whispered.

Her welcoming smile widened. "That's what some call me. I hadn't realized I'd already gained the following of those I'm meant to follow."

Scully stepped forward and took the woman's hand after Mulder. "Well, I'm not sure if I'd say 'following.' We've heard the title."

She nodded knowingly at Scully, her mouth still plastered in an ever-upward turning expression of joy and acceptance. It wasn't hard to believe that this woman had a religious following. Her mere presence emitted more divinity and holiness than Scully had felt in all her years attending church. "You still want to hold on to *some* of your skepticism. I understand. It's hard to have every identifiable part of you stripped away in sacrifice for a greater good. But there *is* a greater good, Dana. You must believe that. Why else would you continue to pray?" Scully was stopped in her tracks. Mulder didn't even know that she prayed to God every night. She didn't have any special ritual, it was simply a silent plea she made in her head just before she went to sleep each night that she had never told anyone about.

"How...?"

Candice put a hand to Scully's face, cupping her right cheek lightly. "He hears you, Dana. He hears everything."

"He exists?" The question leapt out of her in a surge of hope before she could censor herself.

Candice let out a small sigh of understanding laughter. "Maybe not the way you think, but... He's there."

"You speak with him?" Mulder asked.

"Not in words." She looked to the ground in thought for a moment. "He sends me messages. Images. I know they're from Him because when I see them, I feel all His grace flowing through me. I don't try to understand Him. To know Him cerebrally is beyond the capability of any human. But I *know* Him."

Mulder had a sudden flash of the dream he'd first had six years ago. The dream he still had to this day. All-knowing, all- encompassing and all-encompassed. He couldn't comprehend it, but when he slept, he could feel it.

"Hello Nathan." Candice moved away from the two parents to go sit beside their son. Her hand absently played with one of his red curls as she stared gently into his eyes. "How do you feel?"

"Okay," he answered softly, obviously fascinated by the bright blue-gray orbs before him.

"I'm Candice."

The little boy stared back at her with a quiet serenity. "I know."

She smiled. "Do you know because you heard me talking to your parents?"

He shook his head, keeping eye contact. "No. I just know."

Her smile widened and she turned her attention to Mulder and Scully who observed their son and the strange woman in awe.

"He's developing the abilities."

Both Mulder and Scully looked at her in confusion. "What abilities?" Scully spoke up.

Candice smiled serenely once more. "The ones he will need to fulfill his destiny." She looked down at Nathan with a sort of motherly pride. "Psychic ability, extreme intelligence..." she explained, turning back to the two adults, "...All those things which are present within a normal human child, but which the alien DNA will help to activate further."

Mulder glanced in his son's direction, expecting him to question what the woman was saying, but Nathan simply continued to stare at Candice with the same calm expression. At six years old, could he really understand what was being said?

"Why are you here?" Scully asked, abruptly changing the subject from her son to the woman he was looking at so peacefully.

"To meet Nathan," she answered with none of the defensiveness that might have been expected. "And the two of you." A trace of humor suddenly crept into her expression. "Don't misunderstand. I may know the three of you better than anyone else on the planet. I guess I should say I wanted you all to meet me."

Scully wasn't completely satisfied. "Why come to us now? Why not six years ago?"

"I wasn't meant to come until now."

Scully couldn't stop her eyes from rolling at the statement. As much as she had come to accept over the past years, this was bordering on too much.

If Candice took offense to the motion, she didn't show it. "Dana, I know this is hard for you, but it's the way things are. In times like these, it does no good to hide under comfortable lies."

Mulder spoke now. "What are you talking about?"

"The lies that we all try and tell ourselves. That we have some control over our fates. That our lives belong to us and us alone."

"What are you saying?" Mulder asked. "That everything is predetermined? That free will doesn't exist? Then what does it matter whether I believe the lie or not? Won't it always meet the same end result?"

"There is fate, but that doesn't make free will non-existent," Candice replied. "I can't hope to make you understand this fully, but they can co-exist." She stood and walked closer to Mulder and Scully, leaning against the foot of the 'bed.' "Your destiny lies in the type of person you are. The future of the world rests on the shoulders of you two and your son, not because some distant deity has chosen it to be so, but because of the personalities and complexities of your characters. The details of what will happen have not been decided. The outcome has not even been foretold. But your son's spirit is strong. Strong enough that I have absolute faith in him and his ability."

Mulder furrowed his brow. "But this entity... what some would call God, he *knows* what will happen." It wasn't a question. The dreams Mulder had nearly every night revealed to him the truth of his own statement.

Candice nodded happily as if her student had just come to a point of understanding. "But he does not direct it. He knows all simply because to Him, there is no time, and therefore no timeline. All of existence lies within Him."

"But if he doesn't direct it, then who does?" Scully asked.

"You do." The woman took Scully's hand and looked into her eyes. "It feels like a huge responsibility, I know. But if you couldn't handle it, it wouldn't be yours." Scully still appeared confused. "This is what I've been getting at. He doesn't direct your actions, but he can direct your fate. He gives you the strengths and weaknesses of character that determine what you can do; what you will do. He doesn't hold your hand every step of the way, but he sets you off on the correct path."

"Then why did He take me?"

Scully turned to Mulder with confusion. "What do you mean?"

Candice answered for him. "When he was abducted six years ago. Others where taken by Them. He was taken by Him."

Mulder nodded. "Why?"

The woman's smile left her for what seemed the first time since she'd entered the room. "He doesn't often intervene. But when the course of someone's life has done something to them, changed them in a way they weren't meant to be changed, occasionally He's left with no choice." Mulder nodded, urging her to continue. "You were born with a great deal of faith. You're the believer. You are able to see right off what is true and what is false and accept most of those truths at face value." She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, as if reading something from memory or a vision. "But something happened to you as a child. Not just one event, but a series of things involving those around you - particularly your father." She opened her eyes and stared straight at Mulder. "Belief in any form of religion became off-limits to your usually open mind. This was never meant to happen, and such a change to your character could very easily threaten your acceptance of things which you must be open to now." Candice rose a pale hand to Mulder's cheek, caressing in a soft nurturing gesture. "So He proved his existence to you."

"So what happens now?" Scully asked, interrupting the moment. "You come to us to reaffirm our belief so that we can stick it out for another few years?"

Candice turned toward Scully and took a step forward, to within a foot of the other woman. "You'll stick it out anyway. You've become somewhat disillusioned, but that's not who you are. You don't quit anything."

Scully stared at the woman in disbelief for several seconds. "But what if I want to?"

The serene blue-gray orbs swept over Scully's face softly. "You don't." She smiled softly once more. "Dissatisfaction is a state of mind. You can change it without changing anything."

Scully found herself smiling back and she didn't even know why. A stranger presuming to know everything about her, including the answer to every one of her personal problems, should have frustrated, even angered her. But she believed that this woman did know.

"I have to go," Candice said, somewhat apologetically. "I'll be in touch."

"How can we contact you?" Mulder asked.

"You can't," she replied, heading for the door. Just before she left the room, she turned back to face them. "Don't worry. If you really need me, I'll know." And she was gone. They didn't even try to stop her.


March, 2013

He didn't even try to approach her. He almost wished he didn't know how she felt about him, wished he had the handicap that all the others had just so he could at least keep his hope. Maybe he never would have talked to her anyway. At least then he could have kidded himself that he had a chance.

Nathan turned around as he felt his friend Ben approaching him from behind. The other boy hadn't spoken, Nate had simply known he was there despite the hundred or so other kids that surrounded him at this Friday night middle school dance.

This strange ability had been with him as long as he could remember. His parents told him it had started when he was around six years old, but though his memories stretched farther back than that, he couldn't remember what it felt like not to know the thoughts of others. Ben was going to ask him if he was going to ask Wendy to dance. He almost gave his friend the answer before the question was formally asked, but caught himself just in time. He had learned early on that it was better just to pretend he was as ignorant of everyone else as they were of him.

"So, you gonna do it?" Ben was a sixth-grader just like Nathan, but much shorter, and altogether more 'nerdy'. He didn't play sports (at least, not very well) and he didn't have much of a sense of humor. By his choice as well as the choices of other kids, Nathan was really his only friend - even though they also had little in common. Nathan was basically the opposite of everything that Ben was. He was good at sports, which in middle school made him fairly popular automatically. He also knew what other kids wanted from him, which made it easy to make superficial friends. But Ben was the only one he really liked. Ben was the only one of them, even at this age, who actually said what he meant, without caring what someone else's reaction would be.

"Nah, I don't think so," Nathan answered, staring off in the direction of Wendy and her friends.

"How come? I know she likes you." Nathan could tell his friend truly believed the reassurance he offered, but sadly he was wrong.

"No she doesn't. I can tell."

Ben stared at him through glasses that were too large for his head, squinting despite the half inch of glass aiding his vision. "What are you talking about? She flirts with you all the time!"

Nathan tried to think of a way to convince his friend of his knowledge, without actually revealing what he knew. "Ashley told me," he lied.

"When? Where was I?" The smaller boy stared up at his friend like a little cartoon turtle, conversing with some greater animal that had taken pity on him.

"Just now. When you were gone. She said she doesn't like me like that."

"Jeez, man. I'm sorry. She's kind of a bitch, anyway."

Nathan smiled at his friend's attempt. "Ben, you can't use 'jeez' and 'bitch' so close together and try to sound cool."

Ben smiled sheepishly, a little embarrassed.

*I think Nate Scully likes you.*

*Oh god, I hope not! I mean, he's cute and everything, but he's kind of... weird, you know?*

He could hear the girls' giggles from across the room despite the incredibly loud music and screeching peers that surrounded him.

*I went to the store... pick up Nathan, call Mulder to see when we're leaving on Friday, call Mom... what else? Is Ben coming over tonight? I hope he's not allergic to the stuff I bought for breakfast. I swear that kid's the most allergy-prone...*

"My mom's here." Nathan announced to his friend, already heading towards the school's front entrance.

Ben rushed after him, maneuvering around swarms of 8th graders, trying not to get lost in the huge crowd. "How do you know?!" he screamed, attempting to be heard over all the noise.

Nathan looked at his watch. "She said she'd be here at 9:00! It's 9:07!" He knew Ben was still confused at how the epiphany of his mother's presence had hit him so suddenly, but he wouldn't ask. And Nathan didn't feel like answering.

They reached the door after several minutes of people-wading, and finally found themselves outside. The cool air welcomed them with a rush of badly-needed oxygen straight to their lungs.

"You boys have fun tonight?" Nathan turned to see Mrs. Grenson, the Assistant Principal, standing just outside the door they had emerged from.

*Probably coming out here to smoke something... little assholes, they're all alike...*

"It was okay," Ben replied, always innocently assuming that anyone who asked such a question actually wanted an answer.

"What'd you come out here for? There's still two hours left."

Nathan picked up on the suspicious tone. Sometimes he wondered if adults knew how obvious they were. Then he realized he knew the answer to his own question.

"Just waiting for my mom," Nate answered. At just that moment, the green car pulled up in front of the building. "There she is."

The two boys rushed toward the vehicle and got in quickly.

*Nice car. By the kids' clothes I would have assumed welfare mother.*

"Hi Ben," Scully greeted as the small child climbed into the backseat with her son.

"Hi Mrs. Scully."

Scully smiled and bit her tongue. She'd quit trying to correct the title almost a year earlier.

"Ben, it's not 'Mrs.', it's 'Ms.'," Nathan informed him. The little turtle-like boy looked at his friend, mortified beyond any rationality.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Scully."

Again, she smiled. "I keep telling you, Ben. We've known each other a long time now. Call me Dana."

"Okay." Eyes hidden by thick glasses wondered around the car interior for a moment before he spoke again. "But Mister... Nate's dad doesn't call you Dana."

"Well, that just makes you all the more special, doesn't it?"

Nathan smiled, amused at the interplay between his mother and his best friend. "Mom, don't you need to call Dad?"

"What?" Scully asked, staring forward at the road as she drove.

"About Friday. You need the travel arrangements for that case in South Carolina."

His mother was silent for several seconds. He knew that his ability still startled her sometimes, but at least she wasn't afraid of it anymore.

"Thanks, Nate. I almost forgot." She pulled out her cell phone and pressed the first speed dial number. "Mulder, it's me."


June, 2015

A shrill ringing and it wasn't the damn alarm clock.

Mulder opened his eyes just enough to see the crack of light stream through the bedroom door as Scully stumbled down the hallway, presumably looking for her cell phone.

Probably on the floor somewhere in a pile of clothes.

Mulder smiled to himself, watching her naked figure rummage through pockets as she came into contact with various garments that were strewn about the floor. Nathan was staying the night at Ben's house. The adults, meanwhile, had celebrated their precious 'alone time' with dinner and half a movie. The movie had become exceedingly boring as soon as their physical proximity on the couch had made them realize just how long it had been since they hadn't had to worry about the kid in the next room.

Not that he couldn't tell what they were worrying about with just as much clarity as if they had actually done it. In times of great anxiety, Mulder had brought this point up again and again, but Scully still felt the need to restrain herself, and him, to at least keeping the noise down most of the time, if not skipping the recreation altogether.

Mulder chuckled. They hadn't worried about the noise last night.

"Scully." Ah, so she'd found her phone before the caller gave up. "When?"

Her voice was suddenly worried. Mulder sat up in the bed slowly, easing himself into full consciousness in preparation of what she might relay to him once off the phone.

"A friend's house," the one-sided conversation continued. "Leasson. Janine and Curtis Leasson." Mulder stood and walked out into the hall, slipping on a pair of boxers he found along the way. "Yes, we've known them for four or five years... Why?" Mulder approached her and stared at her questioningly. She just shook her head at him and turned away, concentrating on whoever spoke through the little black receiver. "Oh my God." Her voice was filled with horror. Mulder wanted to comfort her, but didn't know from what, and the weight tugging at his gut was getting heavier and heavier by the second. "Where did it happen?... Uh-huh..." Scully swallowed nervously and took a deep breath, preparing to ask her next question. "How soon?" The words were a shallow breath exhaled deeply. Their tone told Mulder exactly what this conversation was about.

He slowly made his way over to the couch and sat down, letting his head fall into his hands. This was it.

*Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.*

*This is it.*

In a short while, Mulder heard the phone 'beep' off as Scully took in a long, deep breath behind him. He felt as if her exhale brought the world crashing down with it.

"How long?" he asked, his voice defeated.

It was several seconds before she answered. "They don't know. Two months, two years. It could be any length of time. But it's started."

"How do they know?" His voice was raw and gravelly. Like sandpaper rubbing against her soul.

"The black cancer. In the original plan, the syndicate was supposed to unleash it on the public in preparation for invasion." She paused, swallowing slowly. "Three cases through-out the United States have been discovered in the past week. The offspring of these cases have been isolated, but they're not sure when more of it will be released upon the public. Or where."

"Could this just be another one of their 'tests'?" he asked, grasping for an idea less frightening than full-scale invasion, less frightening than the concept of asking his 12-year-old son to do something about it. "There have been false warnings before."

Scully closed her eyes and sucked in her lips slowly, hugging her own midsection as a shiver crept up her spine. "They *know*, Mulder."

His response was immediate. His hands left his face and he looked up at her with a frustration that was derived more from desperation than anger. "*How* do they know? Nothing's certain."

She looked down at her naked body and wished for clothes so that she could at least *feel* less vulnerable, but wasn't able to move to get any without finishing the conversation. "Candice." Even after all this time, it was hard for Scully to accept the woman's knowledge. The hardest part was that she *believed* everything Candice said. Her rational mind just told her she wasn't supposed to.

A look of horror briefly passed over Mulder's face, as though the shadow of a ghost had passed over him in a split second and left, no trace of it remaining. He looked away from her, down at his hands, at the carpet. She wanted to comfort him, but there was nothing to comfort him with. She couldn't very well assure him that 'everything would be alright.' So she left him to his solitude on the couch. She went back down the hall to their bedroom, put on a pair of pajamas, and lay in bed, staring at the ceiling for 3 hours before getting up. He never joined her.


Crying. The tears were shed silently, but Nathan felt their anguish course through his body with enormous volume. An image of his father sitting on the couch with his face cradled in his hands. Every so often, a quiet sob wracked his body, forcing his shoulders to jerk upward involuntarily.

*Why?*

One word whispered over and over, though never spoken.

*Why us? Why him? Why now?*

The enormity of the situation his father faced hit Nathan then too, and he understood the overwhelming despair. Tears formed in his own eyes but he wouldn't let them fall.

Ben lay on the floor next to him, fast asleep in a sleeping bag that dwarfed him. Nathan stared silently at his friend and nearly let out a solitary sob. What would happen to him? What would happen to Ben and his parents and all the other innocent, unsuspecting people? Nathan knew his purpose. He'd heard it echoed in the minds of his parents and his doctors countless times. What he didn't hear from them were doubts. What he never sensed was any worry that he couldn't do what he needed to. That frightened him. People only put their complete faith into something when there was no other alternative. They had no back-up plan.

What if he failed?

His father's voice rang in his ears once more.

*He's just a kid! Why does it have to be him?*

Finally, a single tear escaped.

*God help us all.*


August, 2016

Wenatchee, Washington was usually hot in the summer and this August felt even more like an oven than normal. The northern location did nothing to compensate for the valley temperatures. Meanwhile, Cynthia Roberge's yard was becoming a desolate brown wasteland of dried grass thanks to a two-week vacation during which her automatic sprinkler system had malfunctioned. So now, instead of putting things together for her return to work the next day as she should have been, she found herself out in the scalding, dry heat, attempting to salvage the yard with Miracle Grow and enough water to stop the spreading deserts of Africa.

As she slaved away over the plants, Lucy, her golden retriever, was busying herself roaming around the fenced-in area looking for lord-only-knows-what hidden beneath the various bushes and small trees that lined the fence.

A yelp from the dog caused Cynthia to leave her work and go check on the animal. Lucy lay at the far end of the yard, twitching, her face hidden under the foliage of a small plant.

"What is i..." Cynthia stopped dead in her tracks as she approached the large lab. Golden fur danced as small ripples raced around underneath the dog's skin. Carefully, still in shock, Cynthia parted the leaves that blocked her view of the canine's face and screamed.

Staring back at her were no longer Lucy's playful brown puppy eyes. All she saw was solid black.


Mulder stumbled out of his room slowly, leaving Scully asleep in their bed. Something was wrong. He padded down the hall barefoot, wandering, searching, looking for what it was that had disturbed him, though he wasn't really sure when he had become disturbed. Entering the family room, he was faced with the back of the couch, and peaking over it, the back of his son's head. Wild crimson hair shooting every which way captivated his attention and he stared at it, unmoving.

Waiting. He was waiting for something and he wasn't sure what. The head began to move, to turn in his direction. "Cain?" he asked. No response. The head turned farther until it was facing him. He looked into its eyes; two black orbs that bore into him with detachment bordering on mischievous contempt.


Mulder awoke with a start that nearly sent him sitting straight up in the bed. The figure standing roughly two feet away from him and staring at his face with concern made his heart race even faster.

"Nathan, what are you doing in here?" He asked, putting a hand to his chest to calm himself as he attempted to regain his composure. Scully wasn't lying next to him. She was out of town on some consultation work - the only reason either of them actually left town any longer since they had been promoted to section heads and given more agents to work underneath them. He wished he could feel her hands now, her steady cool hands that would anchor him and assure him that it was just a dream. Instead, he was forced to actually be the adult.

"Why are you afraid of me?" the boy asked, standing still, just a few feet away from his father's bed. Mulder looked up at his 15- year-old son who was already almost his height. He stared into the boy's eyes and found himself curious despite the part of his brain that told him not to treat his son like the lab specimen they had always fought to keep him from becoming.

"Don't you know?" Mulder asked.

Eyelids closed over the hazel eyes that so resembled his father's. The boy nodded. "But why? What does it mean?" Mulder detected a hint of fear in his voice.

"I don't know, Nate. What do you think it means?"

A tear formed in Nathan's eye and streamed down his cheek. "I don't know, Dad. I'm scared." Mulder could do nothing but stare at the boy who always seemed so much more calm and sure than anyone else as his fašade slipped for perhaps the third time in his life.

"Come here, Nathan." The teenager walked slowly to his father's side and sat down on the bed, letting the older man wrap strong arms around him. Mulder was grateful that Nathan still accepted hugs.

"Dad..." He hugged his father back and let the tears come out faster, sniffling and shaking with his fear. "It's happening."


Her cell phone rang just as she was arriving at the airport for her return flight to Washington. She was on the car rental shuttle with two middle class families and three elderly couples, and every one of them turned to look at her when the shrill ringing broke through their polite silence. Scully smiled apologetically from her seat near the shuttle's luggage rack and deftly maneuvered the phone from out of her pocket up to her ear as she turned away from the onlookers for some semblance of privacy.

"Scully," she spoke softly.

"It's happening." A faint British lilt voicing the words she'd been dreading for roughly 15 years.

"Have they been notified?" she asked, in an unspoken reference to Mulder and her son.

"Yes. It wasn't necessary, however. The boy already knew."

Scully glanced around at her fellow passengers, her heart sinking with each unsuspecting face her vision fell upon. "What happens now?"

"She says Nathan will know. Very soon. You must go directly home when you arrive back in Washington. We'll have a car waiting for you at the airport."

The line disconnected as the other party hung up.


"A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word darkness on the walls of his cell." -C. S. Lewis

The call had come an hour before. Turn on the news, they'd said. Mulder had rushed to the television to turn on CNN. Nathan had followed him and they'd sat on the couch in silence ever since. The screen featured the White House and an alien ship... hovering over it. It was like something out of Independence Day, only much more frightening in real life. The entire world was at a stand still, unsure of what to do, unsure of what could be done. Correspondents for CNN filled the room with all sorts of babble and useless speculation about where the ship was from and what its purpose might be. There was apparently some form of communication taking place between the beings on the ship and the President and his cabinet, though no one knew what was being said.

Suddenly a small box popped up in the corner of the screen featuring a correspondent touching his ear with a look of concentration. "It seems the President has just agreed to an emergency press conference just 90 minutes after the ship's first appearance. We'll take you there now."

Half of the screen remained a live image of the space ship hovering over the White House, while the other half of the one- dimensional picture shifted to a camera inside a large meeting room, where members of the media were quickly piling in. At a podium in the front of the room was an image of the President of the United States, obviously broadcasting from inside the Oval Office on a two-way receiver.

"My fellow Americans and citizens of the world..." he began, not waiting for the various reporters who were still attempting to be seated. "Today is a great day for the United States, and a great day for the Earth in general. We have made contact with beings not of this world. These are benevolent beings who wish to share with us their great scientific advancements. Before speaking to you today, I conducted a meeting with the leader of this race. We had many questions for each other, most of them with less than simple answers, but one question I had for him was perhaps selfish in its importance to me personally. As fellow inhabitants of this plane of existence, I asked him if his kind believed in a God. He assures me they do. It is through this common ground that *I* wish to better understand our visitors. I encourage all of you to find your own way of accepting them, because I have complete and total faith that what they say is true - They come in peace." The man gave a smile that had seemed genuine the first 500 times he'd used it and turned his focus away from the camera to look at all the media representatives waiting less-than-patiently. "I'm open for any questions you might have."

Mulder cringed. John Bunan was a liberal politician for his party, but ever since the religious movement had swept the country a few years back, political protests had understandably gotten a whole hell of a lot more vehement.

The first question was being asked on the television screen. "What kinds of technology are these... *beings*, as you called them, willing to share with us?"

Bunan thought for a moment before answering in his soft southern accent. "They have the cures to many diseases that we are still wrought with: AIDS, which our scientists have been struggling with for decades; various forms of cancer- even this new outbreak of the so called 'black cancer' that has been sweeping across our countries. While a relatively new disease to us, they have apparently been dealing with it for years and have already developed a cure as well as a vaccine for those not yet infected."

Another reporter raised her hand and was acknowledged. "How can we be sure these cures will work with human physiology?"

The President gave another billion-dollar smile. "Their leader has assured me that they have studied the human race and that our physiology is really not all that different from theirs."

"Studied in what way?"

Mulder's attention left the television screen as he turned to see how his son was reacting to all this. The boy sat motionless, still fixated on the glowing box with a blank expression.

"The vaccine."

Mulder furrowed his brow at Nathan's words, whispered as though he had just had an epiphany. "What about it, Nate?"

Hazel eyes continued to stare blankly at the television, but his lips moved as though he were in a trance. "The black cancer. They're spreading it so that people will get the vaccine. And the cure. It's not real."

"What's not real? The cancer or the cure?"

"Either. Both. The cancer kills, but it's only another form of them. The vaccine cures, but it creates... *other* problems."

Mulder was becoming anxious. Where the hell was the kid getting this stuff? "What kinds of other problems?"

"Colonization. It aids in it. People lose their will power. They don't want to fight. They become slaves."

Mulder couldn't believe what he was hearing. It was straight out of every sci-fi horror film ever made, and that's why it seemed impossible. Twenty-three years with Scully had taught him to question the flawless. "Nathan, how are you receiving this information?"

He shook his head slightly, still focusing his complete attention on the screen. On the spaceship, Mulder realized. "I just know."


Scully had just exited the plane when her cell rang once more. She hoped to God this call brought better news than the last.

"Scully," she answered.

"Scully, it's me."

She felt a rush of warmth flow over her. Her first instinct upon her last phone conversation had been to call Mulder, but she hadn't been able to. The emergency CNN broadcast on the plane hadn't eased her need to talk to him. "Mulder, I got the phone call. What's going on?"

There was a brief silence as he contemplated how to phrase his words. "Have you seen the news today?"

She nodded even though she knew he couldn't see her. "They showed it on the plane. What the hell is going on?"

"Nathan's been receiving... *messages*." She closed her eyes in pain at the thought of her child finally being forced into his role. Mulder continued. "He thinks that the aliens' vaccine is some sort of mind control drug. That they're spreading the black cancer. I'm taking him over to visit the Gunmen and see if they can think of a way to get the word out."

"Have them hack into the electronic newspapers," Scully offered.

She could hear the responding smile in Mulder's voice. "Have I ever told you just how much your naughty side turns me on, Scully?"

She wanted to smile but couldn't. "Maybe you'll get another chance to show me."

He was silent with the weight of her words and her tone.

"I'm on my way home."

"No," Mulder stopped her. "Why don't you go find out what you can from Candice and the group? We don't know our timeline yet."

She took a deep breath, not wanting to be separate from him and her son any longer, but realizing she was just being selfish. "Alright." She bit her lip and swallowed the small surge of tears that threatened her. "I love you."

Mulder was silent for a moment. "I love you too." It had been a long time since he'd spoken those words with such conviction.


"Done." Frohike typed in a series of commands and it was posted all over the web - an article written by Nathan, detailing the make-up of the alien vaccine and exactly how each component of it worked to disable the human mind until everyone on Earth belonged to a slave race of mindless drones. Signed 'anonymous' and posted on the front page of every major electronic newspaper. It was even sent to the television stations. They didn't tend to run with anonymous sources often, but the detail in this report was enough to make anyone take notice.

"Scully thought of this?" the little troll asked. All of his hair was gray now, but aside from that, he looked exactly the way he had the day Mulder met him. And his personality hadn't changed much either. Mulder waited for the perverse comment that still appeared at every mention of his 'partner' despite the years and the situation, but before the smaller man could even open his mouth, Nathan visibly blanched.

"That's disgusting." The teenager shook his head in repulsion. "You realize she's my *mother*."

For his part, Frohike looked pretty damn guilty. Mulder almost laughed.

"It's okay, Nate," Mulder said, patting his son on the back. "He's harmless."

"I know, but that one was worse than most." Frohike shrugged. Nathan just shook his head again. It was a pretty regular occurrence in the times Nate had visited the Gunmen or vice versa. While those times hadn't been extremely numerous, these little demonstrations of the boy's ability had always made Frohike a little uncomfortable. Even worse was the feeling that he could never read the kid. Aside from small things like this, Nathan rarely showed any emotion. Like the only feelings he had were the ones he'd stolen from others. Langly felt the same way as Frohike- Byers was noncommittal, stating simply that they shouldn't be speculating about Mulder and Scully's son. None of them had ever said anything to the parents. The topic just seemed too awkward to bring up.

"Well, son, you've got to learn to face all the ugliness of humanity before you can hope to combat any outside threats," Mulder teased. Nathan gave a shrug of a laugh and blushed. Frohike didn't look at all humored by the situation. He never forgot the kid could read minds - it was just pretty damn hard to censor his thoughts. "C'mon, loosen up a little." Mulder patted his friend on the back. But Frohike was staring at Nathan. For a split second, a glare passed over the boy's face that could have sent a chill down his spine in 90-degree weather. The older man blinked and the red- haired teenager was staring down at the ground as bashful as ever. In the 15 years Frohike had known him, he'd never seen an expression like that.

"Speaking of Scully, I had better go call and see how she's doing." Mulder removed the cell phone from the pocket of his jacket, which had been lying over the back of a chair. "You guys mind if I go in the other room for a minute?" He motioned towards the door with his head as he walked towards it.

"Go ahead, Dad." Nathan smiled at his father, sensing the warm feeling that emanated from Mulder every time he mentioned Scully.

Once alone in the room, Frohike looked over the 15-year-old again. It was amazing that such a young kid could pick up on so much, even with his 'abilities.' None of the Gunmen had spent a lot of time alone with Nathan over the years, but Frohike had certainly witnessed enough to be convinced of his powers. Sometimes he was awed. Other times he was scared.

"So..." the older man began awkwardly. "Did you actually understand all that?" He nodded towards the computer screen, referring to the report they had just distributed throughout the web.

Nathan shrugged. "I guess."

Frohike examined the boy more closely. "No, don't be bashful - I'm serious. 'Cause I've been around a lot longer than you and I didn't understand half of that shit."

Again, the teenager shrugged. "It's not really an intelligence or an experience thing. I just *know*."

"Your ability lets you understand everything you... pick up?" Gray, bushy eyebrows pressed together in curiosity.

"Well, it's like..." Nathan turned his eyes upward in thought. Frohike wasn't one to notice the little details of someone's physical appearance, especially another males', but every time he saw Nate, those eyes jumped out at him. Little flecks of color danced around in them continuously like he'd never seen before. "When I pick up on information, I don't really hear it, I just kind of... sense it." The boy turned the dancing orbs back to his one-man audience. "I just know everything that the person I picked it up from knows. I understand it because they understand it."

Frohike nodded, fascinated. To think, all those years Mulder had spent searching for this kind of thing, and bam! - he's got a kid with more psychic ability than all the 1-900 companies put together. "Is it just automatic or do you try to read minds?"

Nathan smiled mischievously, which almost gave Frohike another chill. This kid could make himself look downright evil. "Both. Things occasionally come to me out of nowhere, like this..." he nodded towards the computer as Frohike had done earlier. "But if I know who I'm looking for, I can usually call up anything at will."

The little man suddenly found himself incredibly uncomfortable, even nervous. After knowing the kid for so long, he felt completely irrational in his fear, but he suddenly felt like he had never known him to begin with. "C-Can you tell what I'm thinking now?"

The boy nodded, still smiling. Then the grin suddenly left his face, leaving in its place a somber look of confusion and hurt. "You're afraid of me." He bit his lower lip (something which Mulder decided must have been a genetic trait) and stared into Frohike's eyes in pain. "Why is everyone always afraid of me?"

Nathan appeared on the verge of tears. Frohike had no idea what to say, what to do. The kid was looking at him like a lost animal.

The door opened and Mulder walked back into the room. "Everything okay in here?"

The tears were instantly gone from Nathan's eyes. He seemed perfectly normal. "What did mom have to say?"

Mulder approached him and took a deep breath. "Nothing yet. She's on her way to the complex with a few of Them. She's going to meet with Candice to see what she can tell us." He turned to look at his friend, who was staring at Nathan blankly. "What's the matter, Frohike? You look like you saw a politician."

The little man shook his head as if to wake himself. "Wha- No, no. I'm... fine." His eyes remained on Nathan.

Langly and Byers entered the room right at that moment. "We've got the goods!" Langly shouted. Byers cringed at the volume of his colleague's voice as he produced a large brown paper bag. "Thai," Langly announced, his voice only somewhat lower. "You stayin', Mulder?"

Mulder looked to his son, whose expression was a mixture of alarm and amusement. "Nah, Nate and I've got things to do. I'm surprised at you boys - the aliens have finally landed and you're eating? What happened to uncovering the truth behind their arrival?"

Langly smiled and motioned to Nathan. "What's left to uncover? Your kid here's got it all right up there." He pointed to the boy's head. "We've spread the good word, now all that's left is to eat some good food."

Mulder smiled as he began to leave, Nathan following close behind. "Yeah, well, never let it be said that *I've* gotten soft with age."


When the world was pulled out form under me, and I learned to walk without it, I was still expected to believe in its firmness.

I am too momentary now to accept such sound advice. -"Quicksilver" by James Victor Anderson

For the first time ever, Scully was brought to the complex without a blindfold. When this whole thing had started, she had protested the blindfold requirement, asking how she was expected to trust them if they didn't trust her, but she and Mulder had eventually agreed to it in the face of no other alternative and a logical argument that the less people who knew where to find the base, the better. Now, however, in the light of recent developments, They wanted to make sure she memorized the route to ensure that in any unforeseen event, she could find her way back along with Mulder and Nathan. A call from Mulder was the only thing that had distracted her momentarily from watching the roads they were taking.

*I love you.*

He'd said those words again. She felt a chill race up her spine. The words didn't bother her - they'd both said that phrase hundreds of times. It was the way he spoke them; the same way he'd spoken them earlier when he'd called her at the airport. So much conviction, so much... sadness. They seemed somehow final. She didn't want to think of what the ending might be.

The car pulled up to a small house out in the middle of Nowhere, Virginia - just past the suburbs. Scully knew that this couldn't be their destination. The complex she'd been taken to so many times was at least an acre or two wide and completely closed in. This rundown shack just didn't fit the bill.

The others were getting out of the car and the white-haired Englishman, whose name she still didn't know after all these years, was motioning for her to follow. She slowly exited the vehicle and fell into step behind the three or four men she had arrived with as they opened the door that was falling off it's hinges and headed farther into the house.

"What is this place?" she whispered.

"A cover," the Englishman answered in a voice that told her not to ask any more questions at the moment. The men in front of her wound their way to the middle of the humble abode where a door was opened that led to a set of stairs. Scully remembered being led down stairs on the occasions that she'd traveled to the complex. Here, the Englishman waited for her to follow the others down the stairs, hanging back to shut the door himself. They descended for a full minute in silence before they reached the bottom. Once off the steps, Scully found herself in a small metallic room much the same style as the areas of the complex she was familiar with. One of the men went to the far wall and pressed a series of buttons on a keypad, then held his finger to what appeared to be a scanning devise for a few moments. Part of the wall slid away to reveal an unobstructed doorway. In single file, the small group passed through and then they were inside the room Scully was most familiar with.

"How will I get in if I'm forced to come back here without your help?" she asked. The Englishman handed her a small folded piece of paper. Written on it were the numbers "4 - 2 - 8 - 1 - 0 - 1 - 3".

"That is your combination," the man informed her. "Your fingerprint has already been loaded into the computer. Place your right index finger over the scan pad for no less than two seconds." She nodded as the men in front of her began to head towards one of the back rooms of the complex. Scully knew where they were going. That was the direction of Candice's room. Whatever the woman had done with her life before she became 'the prophet', it was over now. As far as Scully could tell, she spent all her time in this underground lair - only to emerge when something pertinent caused her to contact the outside world. The first time they had visited her here, Mulder had asked the psychic if she ever got claustrophobic, trapped in here all the time.

*It's not a cage,* she'd responded. *There's just less noise in here.*

Scully took a moment to survey the large main room while she waited for someone to come out and tell her what was going on. Wandering around the space that looked and performed as a medical lab, she recognized all the standard equipment that would be present in any emergency or operating room. There was a cold metal table in the center of the room that served both for surgery and check-ups, and lining the walls were various sinks and counters with high-powered microscopes and such. It was all familiar and yet strangely alien at the same time.

"Dana?" Candice was calling her from the back room. Scully wondered briefly if she had been told of her arrival or if she'd simple known. Not that it mattered.

She walked briskly down the metal hallway and into the psychic's room, which was empty except for the woman lying in her bed. The men must have gone into another of the several smaller rooms in this corridor. "What can you tell me?" Scully had learned a long time ago to get right to the point when speaking to Candice. The formalities were unnecessary - she heard them whether they were voiced or not.

"Sit down," the ever-calm and gentle blond instructed, motioning to a chair beside the bed that she rarely seemed to leave.

Scully walked to the green-upholstered seat and did as she was told. "Are you receiving any information from the... from Them?" Even after all the talk over the last 15 years or so, Scully couldn't ever quite bring herself to actually voicing what 'They' were without feeling incredibly ridiculous.

Candice smiled. "I know it feels strange, Dana, but it is really happening this time."

Scully closed her eyes and nodded. "I know. It's just... After all this time, the reality is still hard to accept."

Candice reached over and placed a frail-looking white hand over Scully's. "Reality always is." Scully nodded again, opening her eyes only slightly to stare down at the woman's hand over hers.

"But we can't dwell on these sorts of things now," Candice said softly. "Acceptance will come when it needs to. For now, action must be taken."

Scully opened her eyes fully and looked at the woman with both trepidation and curiosity. "What can I do?"

"Your husband." Candice held up a hand to silence Scully before she could protest. "Now, now, I know you're not technically married, but in the eyes of the universe, well... close enough." She gave a brief smile at her words, and then let it fall away in one of the few times Scully had ever seen the woman look troubled. "Be careful."

Scully's brow furrowed in confusion. The woman's cryptic warning sent fear straight to her gut, yet at the same time, her brain recognized that she hadn't really been warned against anything specific. "What?"

Candice closed her eyes in a look of near-pain, and gripped Scully's hand in hers. "Mulder... He's..." The woman took a series of deep, fast breaths as though she were hyperventilating, but they actually seemed to calm her. "The note. You found a note. His writing. He denied it. Don't believe him."

An icy hand gripped Scully's chest. She pulled away from Candice's grasp abruptly, standing from her seat before she knew what was happening. "What are you talking about?"

The warm blue eyes stared up at her with understanding and sadness. "Dana, something's changed in him."

Scully shook her head. She felt disoriented. What the hell was going on? "No." She stared at the woman with contempt sprung from confusion and anxiety. "No. That was 15 years ago. Nothing could have changed in him. I've been living with him for 15 years! Wouldn't I have noticed?" Scully wasn't even sure what she was talking about, cerebrally, but on some other level she knew exactly what Candice meant, what all of this was suddenly leading up to.

"Maybe it hasn't been changed all along. I haven't sensed it before now." Candice continued to stare at her with the utmost compassion. She motioned for Scully to sit down again, but the younger woman wouldn't comply just yet. "Perhaps something was done to him a long time ago. Maybe it's been activated just now."

Hearing this, Scully did sit down. "The surgery." It was a whisper more to herself than to Candice.

"Yes. He had an operation. Years ago. Something in his head."

"What did they do to him?" Scully found her voice escalating with anger even as she tried with all her energy to calm down.

Candice closed her eyes again and began to speak in a low voice as if in a trance. "A microchip. They embedded one deep within his brain. To control it."

"To control what?"

Scully watched as Candice's eyes moved back and forth beneath their lids. "The abilities. The evil."

She felt fear stab into her gut as a slow ache overtook her chest. She somehow knew what would be said even before the words left Candice's lips.

"They created him. His formation was against the will of God and so something... evil inhabited him."

A single tear streamed down Scully's cheek. "But he's not evil." Her voice was weak, her protest a voiced will and not the firm belief it should have been.

Candice remained in her trance. "It lied dormant for most of his life, only rarely showing itself in the form of the understanding of evil. But something..." Her voice trailed off as she searched for the next words. "A ship. A ship with alien writing - Navajo. It triggered the evil. His true abilities showed and with them, everything else." She furrowed her brow as if attempting to follow a story that played out behind her closed eyelids. "They suppressed it with the chip. But he was taken, and... and it was activated once more. He wasn't gone." Another tear streamed down Scully's face at what she knew came next. "He was there, always. He was taken for a moment, and returned. He hid until the evil went away - back into the recesses of his mind. He killed the woman... Marita. He killed her before she could tell the entire truth."

Solitary tears turned into quiet cries turned into violent sobs that Scully could do nothing to suppress. Everything in her battled against what was being said to her while at the same time everything in her told her mind and heart of its truth. Suddenly, something clicked in her head.

"But you said he was taken by God," Scully cried almost desperately. "You said he was meant to understand. You said he was the believer and God wanted him!" She wasn't making sense to herself. She tried desperately to remember what it was that Candice had told them in that hospital room upon her first meeting with them and every word she could recall, she now repeated, trying to make the woman remember her own words; trying to make her take back the ones she was speaking now.

Candice stared at Scully with a sorrowful gaze. She looked horribly pained. "I was wrong, Dana."

Scully let her head fall forward against the bed, shaking back and forth in denial. "No! You're wrong now! If you were wrong once why can't you be wrong again?" She stared up at the woman with anger and hope.

Candice was silent. She looked solemnly at the other woman for some time. "Dana, I'm sorry. Something interfered with my mind. I'm older now. I know what to listen to and what to ignore. I'm telling you, deep inside, you know what I tell you now is the truth."

The younger woman let her head fall once more, but Candice was right. Everything inside her was telling her to believe the awful truth.

After letting her cry for a time, Candice placed a gentle hand on Scully's back and traced small circles to soothe her. "He won't harm Nathan, but the threat written on that paper still stands." She paused and then delivered the final blow. "Stay as far away from him as possible."

In her mind's eye, Scully saw the cold bluish corpse staring lifelessly back at her from underneath her bedding and the folded white paper with the cold black letters that promised her the same fate.

*You're next.*

She heard his words from the telephone, spoken with a finality that had scared her.

*I love you, Scully.*

The end looked even less promising now. Her tears dried up, but she felt cold inside.


A long, thin wisp of cloud through a three quarter moon this afternoon was whiter than innocence should ever be allowed, and was banished into blue dust until it learns some sense in the way every mortal must. -"White Stains" by James Victor Anderson

Mulder was halfway back to the apartment when his cell phone began to ring. Nathan picked it up off the floor between their seats and handed it to him.

"Mulder."

"Mulder, it's Byers." He sounded frightened. "They've traced the line."

Mulder was confused. "What?"

"The computer line. They traced it from the article. We have no idea how, but they're here."

"The grays?"

"Yes." Byers' voice was a whisper.

"They're in the house?"

There was silence. Mulder took that to mean yes.

"We're coming right now, Byers. Don't attempt to kill them, we don't know what works."

Nathan spoke up from the passenger's seat. "Turn down the heat. It'll slow them." Mulder turned his vision from the road to his son momentarily.

"Byers, Nathan says to turn down the heat. Do anything you can to get them cold. It should at least slow them down a little." Mulder turned off the phone and dropped it back onto the floor as he performed an illegal U-turn with the car, heading it back towards the Gunmen's lair.

"How do we kill them?" Mulder asked his son.

Nathan thought for a brief moment. "Give me a gun and get as far away as possible."

"What?" Mulder knew exactly how he felt about handing his 15-year- old son a weapon and telling him to kill.

"Dad, what did you expect would have to be done? I wasn't given special immunities for no reason." He looked out the window. "I was created because the aliens can be killed with a weapon in the same way a person can be, but when these guys are killed, their blood becomes the black cancer. I can't get it. Everyone else can, and it doesn't only kill you, it breeds more of them."

Hearing his son speak so matter-of-factly about being 'created for a purpose' pained Mulder beyond anything he would have imagined. "So what happens to the blood once they're dead? It just sits there and waits for someone else to stumble upon it?"

"We bleach the place." Mulder was silent, not fully understanding. Nathan elaborated. "Well, for safety reasons, actually just me. I go in and pour bleach everywhere. Despite the incorrect name of black *cancer*, their blood acts as a virus. Bleach kills all viruses."

Mulder took a deep breath. "Okay, but I'm going in with you."

Nathan didn't even hesitate with his response. "Do you really want me to go through this without a father?"

That shut Mulder up momentarily. "But I'm resistant too."

"To a certain extent. You probably wouldn't die, but you'd be severely incapacitated. We don't need that." The boy looked at his father seriously. "I don't need that."

Mulder wondered at how his teenage son could sound more mature than him. Sometimes he felt like Nathan was the parent. He supposed that knowing the thoughts of anyone in the world forced you to grow up fast. Mulder often mourned that childhood that he had never been able to give his son.

"It's okay, Dad. At least this way lots of other kids will be able to have one."

Mulder had to swallow down the small surge of tears that threatened his strength.

*No kid should have to be this selfless.*


Frohike wished for a moment that he didn't realize organized religion was just a plot to subdue and contain the masses - maybe then he would have been able to comfort himself with some sort of prayer or faith in a greater being. Instead, he was hiding underneath a desk, hoping for the divine intervention of the only savior he knew - a well-armed FBI agent. Byers had called Mulder just before the *metal* door finally cracked and gave way. Now the said graying redhead was on his own somewhere in the house, as were his two colleagues. Frohike hadn't seen him or Langly since that horrible crash of sound when they had all dispersed. They'd had evacuation plans. The plans had even been practiced. The only problem with those plans was that all of them had assumed they'd have at least thirty seconds notice beforehand. In this case they hadn't been aware of the invasion until the entire building was surrounded.

Now, the grays were inside the apartment. Frohike could hear them moving about in their slow, deliberate paces. As he'd always assumed, there was no verbal communication - but that made it all the more difficult to know whether they'd found anything important. He wondered what Mulder would be able to do when he did get there. There was no telling how many of these guys there were, and they were all armed. Besides that, there was no sure way of killing them. Hopefully the little 'messiah' would be able to figure something out.

Frohike shivered. It felt like someone had just turned the AC on high. It was August, but with all the work Langly'd done on the damned thing, turning it all the way up could take 90 degree whether down to nearly freezing. He hugged his knees tighter.


"You can't go on being a good egg. You must either hatch or go bad." - C.S. Lewis

Mulder parked the car several streets away from the Gunmen's building. Stealth was essential if they were going to have any chance of saving the guys.

"So what's the plan?" Mulder wasn't accustomed to actually obeying anyone's orders, but in this case he realized that his son really did have the upper hand as far as strategizing.

"Well, hopefully they've cooled the place down by now," Nathan began, a thoughtful look smoothing out his features in a way unique to him alone. "That should slow the grays down a little. Their reflexes will be weakened." He paused, looking upward as if reading from the ceiling of the car. "But there are about 10 of them outside the building."

Mulder furrowed his brow. "That many just for a little news story?"

Nathan nodded. "They take every threat *very* seriously. It's how they've been so successful." His eyes wandered along the gray upholstery over his head. "Take your gun and give me the spare under your seat."

Mulder had never told him about the spare. "I thought you didn't want me going in with you?"

"I don't." The teenager's hazel eyes danced with excitement. Mulder could tell his son was afraid, but he was also ready. The kid had been preparing for this his entire life - however short that length of time actually was. "I need your help with the ones on the outside. We need to take them by surprise. Once we start shooting, we can't stop until they're all down. Then I go in."

"What about the blood?" Mulder nodded toward the backseat of the car, where over 50 gallons of bleach were stored. They'd stopped at a Wal-Mart on their way back.

"Stay back after we've finished shooting. We can't afford to waste time on the dead ones while there are still living aliens inside the building. Once they're all down, we'll bleach the place."

Mulder nodded hesitantly, then reached down beneath his seat and pulled out the small compartment that held his second gun. Nathan seemed completely in control, but when he took the weapon, Mulder saw the look of apprehension pass over his face. After all the excitement and planning, Mulder finally saw in his son's eyes the young boy that he really was. He stared at the weapon for a moment as though it would kill him to touch it. And for that moment, Mulder was relieved. He'd been afraid ever since the grays made contact that all the knowledge the boy had received over the course of his life had left him desensitized and nonchalant about murder. He had accepted his task so readily. But here Mulder saw the trepidation that, although he knew it needed to go away soon, reassured him that he had not allowed his child to become nothing but a mechanical tool.

Gaining confidence faster than Mulder could reconcile, Nathan's expression changed to a masterful poker face. He shoved the gun into the front of his jeans and left the car, waiting only shortly for his father to follow.


Scully didn't know what to do, where to go. She needed to act, but without any knowledge of Mulder or Nathan's whereabouts, she was unsure of what needed to be done. The cell phone in the passenger seat taunted her. How could she not call him? How could she not find out what was happening to her 15-year-old son?

*Stay as far away from him as possible.*

Candice's words haunted her. Did the warning mean that she couldn't establish communication either? Even if it wasn't dangerous, she didn't know how she could talk to him now. Candice had said it - something had changed inside Mulder. Now that she thought about it, she had somehow sensed it from the beginning, but she'd pushed it back into her subconscious, fearing the implications. The confusion he had exhibited when he first called her from the payphone after being returned all those years ago - it had seemed somehow forced. She'd been so happy to see him, she hadn't even questioned it. And the note - he'd known what the note said. He'd never harmed her in all these years because, as Candice said, it must have lain dormant within him for some reason. But now it was back. Her gullibility in the whole situation made Scully feel humiliated and vulnerable. She couldn't have faced him even if she wasn't afraid.

She noticed absently that the car was driving in the direction of her mother's house. She sat in the driver's seat, but had no idea why she should be heading in that direction. It didn't matter. She had nowhere else to go.


Nathan rounded the large building slowly, looking in every direction for grays as he closed in on the complex they surrounded. He would catch them off guard. In his mind's eye he could see clearly that all of the six guarding the building's exits were too focused on their task to worry about an ambush. They had no reason to suspect one.

Clearing the corner quickly, he spotted the first one. He knew he had to fire. Everything rested on how well he was able to perform now. None of the years he had spent preparing, none of the future trials he might face, *nothing* mattered more at this moment than whether he could complete this first brutal task. His hands gripped the weapon, his arms raised to eye level.

He knew how to aim the gun instinctively.

Two pounds of pressure on the trigger.

Three pounds.

Four.

*It still feels like murder even if it is for a good cause.*

Nathan suddenly heard his father's voice, though the words had never been spoken. He'd asked his dad once, "What's it like to kill someone?" Mulder had just been faced with that situation on a particularly horrible case. Nathan was only five.

"When you're protecting people, sometimes it's necessary," he'd answered. What rang in Nathan's ears now, though, was the thought that ran beneath his father's words. Mulder never would have voiced the truth because it hurt too much to admit even to himself. If he let himself think even for a moment that what he had done was wrong, he ran the risk of becoming disillusioned with the entire job. 'Necessary' was the word he needed to remind himself of over and over, not 'murder.'

*Will I feel the same way?*

For a split second, Nathan didn't want to find out. A wave of fear surged through him out of nowhere. He didn't want to kill anyone. He didn't want to be a murderer, and he didn't want to feel even less human than he often did if he wasn't overwrought with the emotions he knew were engrained in both his parents.

*What's more important: your feelings or the human race?*

He applied one more pound of pressure and the bullet exploded out of its barrel before he could change his mind. Gray brain-matter and black liquid splattered and one of the bodies fell to the pavement. Nothing swept over Nathan but a sudden clarity of mind as he slowly located the other grays and finished the job. Mulder followed at a distance, there for backup that was never needed.


Halfway to her mother's, Scully's stomach suddenly twisted in one more knot. It was a sensation the likes of which she'd never felt - an excruciating sense of foreboding that nearly overtook her entire body, and for several seconds she was unable to make herself steer the car.

*Nathan.*

*Mulder's with Nathan.*

Candice had assured her that he would not hurt their son. She had been *certain*. But then why did Scully's heart feel as though something was trying to rip it in two? She couldn't take this anymore. Pulling over onto a shoulder of the road, she took out her cell phone and speed-dialed the Complex.

"Dana." The cool, pleasant voice that soothed her somewhat even at times like this. Scully furrowed her brow. Candice never answered the phone.

"Where is everyone else?" Scully asked.

"They're here," the woman assured her. "But I knew that you'd need to speak to me."

She thought for several moments before responding. "I have a bad feeling."

On the other end of the phone, Candice nodded. "As you should. Your son is in danger."

"From Mulder?"

Candice paused before answering. "Not directly, but Mulder may very well be a hindrance to the boy which could cause him greater danger from other forces."

"What should I do?" Scully's voice almost shook.

"Nothing now. The boy's father will serve as a comfort to him for a time. I'll alert you when action needs to be taken."

Scully didn't like that answer. "Where is he?"

Candice said nothing, but in Scully's mind, she saw Mulder standing outside the Gunmen's building, pointing his gun in her son's direction. The image was so clear that she gasped.

"Wait for my signal." And the conversation was over.


The surge of power that coursed through Nathan was a greater high than he'd ever experienced. Killing the aliens had been easier than he could have imagined, and now he stood in the Gunmen's ransacked lair staring around at his handiwork with unabashed pride. Frohike still hid under the table and Nate could sense that Langly and Byers were hiding out in other areas of the apartment.

"Stay where you are, guys!" he called out. "They're all dead, but don't move until I can get the bleach in here to kill the virus!" He was about to head back out to the car when he heard Frohike whimper from under the desk. "What's wrong?" Nathan asked.

"The..." the little man's voice was shaking. "Shit! Get it away from me! What do I do? Shit! What the hell am I supposed to do?"

Nathan crouched down beside the little man and saw that a trail of black blood was slowly making it's way toward him, as though of its own volition. "Do you have any bleach?" Frohike continued staring at the advancing trail of liquid, petrified. "Melvin," Nathan said, his voice loud and slow as if addressing a small child, "Is there any bleach in the apartment?" Before the small man could answer, Nate saw the bottle in his mind. He ran as fast as he could into the kitchen and opened a cupboard beneath the sink. A large blue and white container sat at the back of the enclosed space and the boy grabbed it quickly and raced back to dump the potent chemical onto the black blood just as its long liquid arm reached out to touch Frohike's knee.

Small gray bubbles emitted a weak-smelling gas and the menacing puddle was transformed into a harmless black stain on the linoleum floor. "I'll go get more." Nathan left Frohike still huddling beneath the desk in fear.


A small blond woman stood on the television screen, surrounded by a room of news-people, all bustling about busily. The effect was a sense of urgency that, though not manufactured, served the mood the program's director had been searching for. Sensationalism always helped in the news business, and at least this time nothing had needed to be made up.

"The nation and the earth are in a state of confusion today," the woman began, "as millions of people worldwide woke up this morning to find something disturbing on the internet. Whether in their inboxes, titled as a piece of urgent news - which was the most common case - or posted on the front page of every major web-based information/publication service, most of the world's people have read or at least skimmed through a roughly 30-page article entitled: 'Why They're Here.'" The woman paused as a picture of the alien leader shaking hands with the U.S. President came on the screen to the right of her head. "The article claims that the visiting extraterrestrials, though appearing to be friendly so far in their meetings with world leaders, are in truth planning a secret takeover of the planet. Many experts say that this argument would have been discounted off-hand if not for the alarming detail presented. Here with us now is Dr. James Holtzen, Professor of Human Biology at Harvard Medical School and advisor to former President Hawkins. Doctor?"

The screen split in half, one side remaining on the excited newsroom, the other turning to a transmission via satellite of an older man wearing a business suit, sitting on the edge of a large chair with a look of excitement on his face. "Hello Sandra." It was evident that the professor would rather have skipped the pleasantries.

"Doctor, can you tell us, aside from its sheer length and the fact that it is so widespread, what has given this manifesto, which may otherwise have been seen simply as a prank, more credibility than, say, a story from the National Enquirer?"

The man looked happy to be able to talk about his new favorite topic. "Well Sandra, first of all, the writers of the National Enquirer couldn't produce a 30-page article if their lives depended on it." He smiled a smug grin. "Secondly," he began, his eyes taking on an excited glint as he continued, "the kind of physiological facts present in this work suggest a kind of knowledge of the alien biology that we couldn't hope to learn within the next few *years*. Whoever the author is, either they had previous knowledge of the aliens' arrival - which would be suggested by the other claims in the article - or they are an extraterrestrial themselves."

Sandra nodded compassionately. "You bring up an interesting point, Doctor. With this lack of knowledge we suffer from as to any physiological facts about this new race, how can the information in the article be verified? How do we know the author didn't simply make it all up?"

"That's just it!" The doctor's excitement seemed to multiply. "While we don't know for certain whether the facts in this article are truly facts, the detail would suggest so. Not only does he or she write with a convincing sense of understanding, but the biological information offered makes sense. The statistics given in the paper are close to those of a human, yet with variations that would allow for very different living conditions. And the viral blood the author spends so much time detailing is the most ingenious part. A symbiotic virus is not unheard of, but the actual blood of an organism simply remaining in the body as a less-evolved specimen of the same life form is an amazing concept I've never even read of before. That this organism would act as a deadly virus to humans is quite plausible since there are obviously defense and self-preservation mechanisms built into every species."

Again Sandra nodded, showing that she had listened to every word from the doctor's mouth - whether she had understood those words or not. "Then what about the author's claims of a planned takeover, Doctor? Any evidence to suggest such an idea?"

The man thought for a moment, biting the tip of his thumb as his brain worked. "None other than the shear credibility of the rest of the article. I'm not saying that this couldn't very well be some sort of ploy - simply that the rest of the information given here is certainly enough to make me stop and take pause before considering befriending these creatures."

Sandra's side of the screen enlarged until it had swallowed up the entire television once more. "Thank you, Doctor. Despite the President's and other world leader's assurances to their citizens that the aliens are peaceful beings, there are many already up in arms over this accusation. Protestors outside the White House today asked President Bunan to tell the aliens to leave, and many are worried that violence may ensue." The woman now got a concerned look on her face as she placed a hand to her ear, listening to the nearly invisible speaker there. "Just one moment." Someone handed her a piece of paper. "We are now receiving news that the D.C. police have found a crime scene. Apparently a group of aliens, suspecting the location of whoever put out the now infamous manifesto, surrounded a D.C. apartment earlier today. Some stayed outside while others went into the building, when an unknown assailant came on scene and shot all of them. A resident from a neighboring building called the police when she heard the gunfire, but no one saw the shooter, and no one can locate the identity of the renter whom the apartment belonged to. The bodies of the 15 extraterrestrials were all found doused in bleach, as well as much of the floor of the apartment itself."


"One death is a tragedy, but a million deaths are merely a statistic." -Joseph Stalin

Within mere weeks, people were following Nathan like the prophet Candice had said he would be. They didn't know who he was, but it didn't matter. The anonymous articles sent into newspapers around the globe almost weekly were published because of their infamy and read because of the population's support for what they said. At first the columns only made in-depth arguments and explanations as to why people should not trust the aliens, but soon, out of necessity, the call was made for change in action as well as thought. Violence began to surface, first in the United States, and then around the world, spreading like wildfire wherever the aliens visited. Some took to the streets out of fear, others out of belief in their newfound, nameless savior. Even many of those who were not violent themselves supported the fighting, which the articles insisted was merely a last resort. Again and again, Nathan reiterated that slaughter was not their purpose, only defense. The aliens would not leave unless mankind fought back with a vengeance stronger than they were thought to possess.

The will of the people soon caught onto their governments. Japan was the first country to declare war outright on the invaders, but other countries soon followed suit. Within 5 months of the publishing of the first manifesto, over half the world's nations were at war. Still, the aliens did not leave. They made no direct retaliation, but people were dying by the millions of the so- called "black cancer". This was the only fuel that humanity needed to keep the fire of rage burning brightly.

In the second month of the war, Russia launched a nuclear warhead at one of the seven spaceships that had now arrived. The vessel was not rendered unable to fly, but kept from leaving the earth's atmosphere. Seeing a final light at the end of this dark tunnel, other countries took the hint. All in all, seven nuclear weapons were used, more than ever in the history of the earth. The fallout was incredible in the areas below the crafts. It took two or three warheads to crash one ship, and when that happened, flying pieces of metal fell from the sky, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles, depending on how high the ship had been at the time it exploded. Five months into the war, three ships were down, the other four having escaped the atmosphere just before annihilation.

Yet people were still dying. The aliens traveled in smaller "pods" to reach the earth's surface, leaving their large spaceships, trying to convince people that they were there to save humanity from disease, not wipe it out. These pleas fell on the deaf ears of a world that was dying and fighting with every last breath it had. Nathan continued to write throughout the war, even when things got so bad that it was difficult to circulate newspapers any longer. He listened to the arguments of these alien "diplomats", but knew better. He could see inside their heads. He knew that if the Earth let up just one inch, They would be waiting to snatch it away. At 16 years old, the fate of the world was on his shoulders, and he couldn't let that happen.


"A wise man once said 'If I could prove there was no God I would keep it a secret lest the world destroyed itself.'" - R. A. Underwood

In 11 months, Scully had received three phone calls. In the meantime, only the weekly articles she read in the Washington Post could assure her that her son was not dead. He included little messages in them for her alone - ones written in a code that they had worked out when he was only 10, knowing that it very likely wouldn't be long before he'd need to use it. At the bottom of each article, was always a series of numbers. The newspapers published these without knowing what they were, and there had been much speculation as to their meaning, but only Scully understood.

This week's, a powerful column of inspiration to those who felt too weak to go on fighting, included the series: 42-11-1013. In other words: "I'm alive, healthy, and dad's still with me." This was the most common message. Any other details were too risky to share, even in code. Which was the same reason she had only heard from Mulder and her son three times. The first had been just after the raid at the Gunmens' old place. It had been a brief few words from Mulder.

"Nathan and I are going into hiding."

The phone had disconnected and those had been the last words she'd heard from Mulder. The last two communications had been from Nathan, one saying simply, "Read the paper," which she had been doing anyway, and the other a bit longer to tell her only the week before that the war would be over soon and that he and dad loved and missed her. That had brought tears to her eyes. She wasn't sure how much longer she could take this. For nearly a year she had been watching the news, reading the paper, and trying her best to go on with her life normally in the face of a missing family, alien invasion, and nuclear holocaust. The last warhead had been fired by the United States, and although it was meant to hit the third spaceship as it sailed over the Atlantic, the homing device on the missile had followed the craft as it changed it's course to fly over Virginia. Wreckage had fallen on DC and the surrounding areas, destroying buildings and turning a few of the suburbs into virtual wastelands. Luckily, the area around her apartment hadn't been hit by more than a few pieces and hadn't done any real damage. She spent most of her time the same way as all the other FBI agents that remained - doing crowd patrol in the streets as mobs of people went into almost daily fits of panic.

Now she sat silently in her apartment, staring out the window, watching as protestors paraded down the streets. These were the people who were not necessarily willing to fight, but believed in the cause enough that they wished to recruit others to do the work. They seemed to be everywhere these days.

*How the hell did we get to this place?*

A soft buzzing in the pocket of her jacket alarmed Scully to the fact that someone was trying to reach her cell phone. Letting out a tired sigh and turning her attention away from the window finally, she raised the small device to her ear and pressed 'send.'

"Scully," she answered.

There was a brief silence.

"Hello? This is Agent Scully. Do you have the wrong number?"

"Something's wrong, Dana." It was Candice. Scully felt chills rise up her spine. She heard from the woman fairly often, but her calls were usually an act of comfort, baring no real news.

*Wait for my signal.*

Was this call about Mulder? Was this the time Candice had told her that she'd have to save her son from him?

"This is it."

Scully's breath caught in her throat. *Ohgodohgodohgodohgod...*

"You can do this, Dana. I have faith in you. He does."

"God?" she asked, her voice shaky on the single syllable.

"Yes."

"What do I have to do?"


"In the Bible, the ones who were most certain about what they were doing were the ones who stoned the prophets." -Bob Chell

For the first time since Quantico, Scully could feel the gun shaking in her hand. Candice had directed her to a location where Mulder and Nathan were supposed to be - an apartment they'd been staying in for a few days in northern Virginia. The place was old and dirty, but it seemed that most things looked that way these days.

She found the door for apartment 21, the one Candice had instructed her to go to. Coming up with a better plan than the original, "point your gun and request cooperation," especially considering what was going on with her nerves at the moment, Scully tucked the firearm in her pants at the small of her back and, taking a deep breath, knocked on the door.

There was silence at first. No one seemed to be home and Scully didn't know if she was relieved or upset. Then there was a small creaking sound from within the apartment. Someone was moving.

She waited patiently for a long time before the door finally eased its way open and... there stood Mulder. She couldn't believe that after all this time, she was actually standing there looking at him. What she was about to do was even harder to believe.

"Scully?" His face softened to make him look about 10 years younger than when he'd first opened the door. "Scully, what are you doing here?" He was obviously worried about her arrival, yet the smile beginning to cover his face showed it was also welcome, despite what may have been his better judgment. "How did you find us?"

"I-uh..." She smiled at her own lack of words and opened her arms, leaning forward. It was what she had planned, but her speechlessness wasn't an act. He looked good. He felt incredibly good.

She surveyed the tiny apartment while she wrapped her arms around him. "Where's Nathan?" she asked. She didn't want him to interfere, but she'd hoped to at least see her son once.

Mulder took a step back from her. "He's... out." He gave her a look which she understood as 'this place could be bugged.' She nodded slightly.

He turned his back to her to walk to the sofa and she took her opportunity.

Without so much as a word, Scully ran forward and shoved him down on the couch, face first.

"Scully, what the-?"

Handcuffs were around his wrists before he knew what hit him and he felt the distinct imprint of a bureau-issued weapon press against the back of his skull.

The hand that wasn't holding the gun ran through his hair softly just once. "I'm sorry, Mulder. I love you."

And then one hard thud of metal against bone turned everything black.


After getting Mulder's unconscious body into the backseat of the car, Scully simply sat in the driver's seat with her seatbelt on for a long while. She didn't know what to do. Candice had said to get him away from Nathan, but she never said where to take him.

*Don't let him talk. It will be easier that way.*

That's one thing Scully had done. As soon as she'd knocked him out, she'd found some duct tape in the apartment and covered his mouth with it. She'd understood Candice's warning as soon as he opened the apartment door - his voice sounded normal. Listening to him speak, she couldn't help but have doubts about whether he really had changed. She knew this was just wishful thinking, but his soothingly familiar voice just helped to reinforce it.

Where the hell could she take him? She wouldn't know what to do with him at her apartment - what if he got away and lashed out at her? The only place she could think of was the Complex. Once there, she could ask Candice what to do. That was a plan.

She drove for almost an hour and a half before she reached the place that only she had been shown without a blindfold. She got out of the car, and opened the back door on the passenger's side, her gun trained on Mulder's figure. He still appeared to be unconscious. She tried to move him using one hand, but found it impossible. She set the gun down on the floor of the vehicle and began using both hands to try and pull him out.

She suddenly found herself on the ground with her own weapon pointed at her.

"Mulder..."

He held the firearm with his right hand, which a pair of handcuffs was dangling from. His left hand, currently being used to prop himself up, looked a little bruised and bloodied.

"Who the fuck are you?" he asked, voice full of venom. "Where's Scully?"

Her eyes widened. "Mulder, it's me."

Something flashed across his face - confusion and something she'd rarely seen on him: real, concrete fear. He slowly climbed out of the car, pointing the gun at her continuously as she backed away. And then the confusion seemed to get the best of him. He looked down at the weapon as though he had no idea where it came from, and threw it down on the ground, a little beyond Scully's reach, then ran around the other side of the car and disappeared.

Scully leapt to her feet, grabbing the gun, but she didn't see him anywhere. There was nothing out here - no trees, no... anything. Just fields and fields of tall grass. He could be anywhere out there. She suddenly felt an intense fear, like nothing she'd experienced in a long time. She looked around her. Stillness. This bothered her more than if Mulder had come running at her. There was no point in trying to win this. At least he was near the Complex now. Maybe Candice could stop him.


"The great mass of people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one." -Adolf Hitler

Mulder's heart began to race as he watched Scully (or what looked like Scully) take off in the car. On the one hand he was safe from her, but how would he leave now? How would he get back to Nathan and figure out what was going on?

Across the street from where he hid, there was a house that looked just about to fall apart, and on either side of it, nothing. He stood from the brush he had been crouching in and looked around. Nothing on this side of the street either.

*The complex.*

He wasn't sure how he knew. It was something about the smell of the air, the feel of the ground beneath him. He instinctively recognized this place as the area he had been taken so many times but always kept from seeing. If Scully had taken him to the complex did this mean that he wasn't safe here either? That the group thought he was a threat as well? But then why had she left?

Feeling awkward at being suddenly out in the open, he jogged quickly across the street and entered the old house, noticing briefly that the lock on the front door had recently been broken - from the inside. This must have been some sort of a cover for a larger complex underneath. On the occasions he had been brought here, he remembered being led down stairs. The house was small and bare, and in the very middle of it, he found what he'd been looking for - a stairway leading down.

As he approached the top of the stairs, a whiff of something strong invaded his nostrils. He hadn't smelled this particular scent in a long time, but there was no mistaking it: burning human flesh. At this point he questioned going down the stairs. He didn't have a gun with him. He was completely defenseless. But he was also an investigator through and through. Curiosity had a way of getting the best of him.

He took a couple steps down onto the darkened stairway.

A noise. It sounded human, but muffled, perhaps by distance. The stairs seemed to go on for a long time.

"Help!"

He could make out a voice this time, strained with pain, but not as desperate as the cry of someone being attacked. Mulder got the feeling that whoever had hurt this person had already left.

He rushed down the stairway in total darkness for a long while before nearly crashing into a large metallic structure. It was either a door or a wall - only one way to find out. He felt around blindly until one of his hands grasped what seemed to be a doorknob. He twisted and it yielded surprisingly easily.

What it opened to reveal nearly made him vomit. The door he had just come through was thick - he had felt no change in temperature as he approached the outside of it. On the inside there was fire everywhere. The blaze seemed almost calculated in it's sporadic spread throughout the room, so that there was enough room for one to walk between the bursts of flame, but enough fire to cause him to break out in a sweat almost instantly.

"Help!" The cry came from a man in the middle of the room who seemed to be slowly burning alive from a fire that must have started at his feet and was presently rising to just above his waist. It was then that Mulder looked more closely at the other fires around the room. Each of them was centered on one person - one blazing corpse that contained the flames to itself alone. The plea for help came once more from the man in the center of the room, the only one still alive and fighting.

"Krycek?" Mulder asked, attempting to see through the flames.

"Mulder! There's a fire extinguisher by the door!"

Mulder turned around and spotted the red canister sitting on a counter. He lifted it in front of him and used the chemical spray to make his way through the other burning men and women before he finally arrived at Krycek and put him out.

"Jesus Christ, what the hell happened here?"

"Nothing to do with him." Krycek's legs were crumbling into ashes, his waist and chest doing only slightly better. Mulder didn't know how he could still be alive, let alone conscious. There were small burns on his face and neck, but for the most part it looked as though the fire had been self-contained, spreading slowly up his body the way the fire on a candle wick spreads down, burning each layer of wax completely through before moving onto the next.

Mulder looked around at the other bodies he had just extinguished. They were unrecognizable; some charred over with burns that had seemingly melted the flesh off of their bodies, while others, like Krycek would have been, had become piles of ash and bone, ready to blow away with just one breath of air.

Krycek lay on a table in the center of the room, no longer ablaze but obviously in a great deal of pain. Mulder stared at him idly, wishing that Scully were here. He had no real medical experience. He had no idea how to help the man.

"Don't worry about it, Mulder." Krycek's words were strained, but clear. "There's nothing you can do. She made sure of that."

"She?" Mulder's brow furrowed. Krycek's breath became more labored. "What happened here? Who did this to you?"

"Candice."

Something sunk in Mulder's chest and clicked on in his brain. It was as though he'd been expecting the answer. And yet, he couldn't have been. He and Scully had trusted Candice implicitly over the last 10 or so years.

"What?" he asked. The scene around him suddenly looked strangely familiar. Perhaps he'd seen it before in a dream...

*Burning bodies. Nothing to be done. She works in mysterious ways.*

An image flashed before his mind's eye of a serene-looking, familiar grayish-blond haired woman suddenly smiling with an evil glint in her eyes, only to reveal pointy, razor-sharp teeth. In his vision, she began to laugh maniacally, with a force that shook his foundation.

He opened his eyes to see Krycek staring up at him curiously.

"You know, don't you?" the dying man asked in a voice that fell just short of awe-inspired.

Mulder nodded, not sure what exactly it was that he knew - not knowing if he wanted to be.

"You have to stop your son." Krycek's voice held the beginnings of desperation.

"I don't understand." Everything was coming at him too fast. He watched in his head as a woman in her 60's hid in the woods and stabbed Marita Covarrubias in the chest, over and over. He saw Marita's body lying in Scully's bed, saw the note.

*You're next.*

His handwriting written by her hand - and always in the background, that smile; evil incarnate.

Mulder's voice was stifled. "H-How?"

"She's evil, Mulder." Krycek stared up at him with a strange kind of excitement - that of a man willing to help save the world even as he was leaving it. The excitement of grandeur without fear only because fear is of no consequence any longer. "This is the time that has been spoken of for all time."

*All time.*

The phrase struck something familiar.

"Why do I know this?" Even as he questioned the knowledge, more images were flying at him: Candice whispering into Marita's ear, into Scully's.

Krycek seemed to ignore Mulder's question. "We followed her - all of us. She told us things and we believed every word." He began to cry, lying there on the table, missing half of his body. His good hand bolted out suddenly to grasp the bottom of Mulder's shirt. "Mulder, you have to stop her." The tears drained from his eyes suddenly and all that was left, seriousness. Dread. "Mulder-"

Mulder didn't hear him. He was lost in the images streaming through his mind. Candice whispering into the ear of the Bounty Hunter; him killing Skinner.

"Why do I know this?!" Mulder screamed as loud as he could. There was too much information - too much to take in all at once. He felt like his sanity was being washed away from him in an ocean of... of memory. Of memories that shouldn't have been his.

"You're abduction..." Krycek whispered, as though the realization was coming to him at that moment. "You weren't taken by the aliens, Mulder. You were taken by... something else. You were shown."

"Shown what?!" Tears were beginning to stream down Mulder's face. He wanted to collapse, wanted to fall to a ball on the floor and never get up.

"Mulder-" Krycek's voice was insistant now. "Mulder, you've got to stop him."

"Stop who?" Mulder was slowly sinking downward, his voice losing it's volume as frustration wound away into defeat.

"Nathan." Krycek waited for a reaction but got none. He was losing his grip on Mulder's shirt, so he clung onto the man's arm. "Mulder, you don't understand. We were wrong." He did all he could to pull the agent back up, but from his position - lying half dead on a slab of metal - that wasn't much. "Mulder, we were wrong all along. You have to stop him. They're here to help."

By this time, Mulder was sitting on the floor, leaning against Krycek's table and staring around at the desolation and carnage that surrounded them. "Who's here to help?"

"The aliens."

It took a moment for this statement to register in Mulder's mind. "What?" He stood once more, turning to stare down at Krycek's burnt form. "That's not possible."

Krycek's eyes were wide and full of determination. "She's polluted his mind. Nathan only hears what she wants him too. But we need them. Their blood isn't even a threat. They're here to save us."

Mulder's heart was pounding faster than he could keep up. "No," he said simply, attempting to banish the information even as the image entered his mind of that evil smile whispering into his son's innocent ear. The smile became a gun and Nathan grabbed it, firing at a figure Mulder couldn't see with emotionless eyes and an expression made of stone. "No." The word was no longer a denial, but a plea.

*Please don't let this be real.*

*Please let this nightmare end.*


"Had Christ died in my van, with people around him who loved him, [his death] would have been far more dignified." -Jack Kevorkian

Mulder found Krycek's car where he said it would be, and from there, he let his mind's eye guide him.

It took a little over 20 minutes to reach the suburb turned desert wasteland. Mulder saw them from a distance - Nathan and a group of grays he was holding at gunpoint. Behind them, a car that looked like Scully's. At a hundred feet away, Mulder stopped the car and got out.

"Nathan, stop!" Mulder felt his voice crack with its urgency. His son's fiery red hair shown like a Phoenix against the dull, dry landscape. There was no mistaking the boy's posture now, one leg slightly in front of the other as an outstretched arm held the small metallic weapon in front of him, pointing at the quivering gray creatures huddled together on the ground. If the boy heard his father's cry, he did not acknowledge it. A second later, the shots sounded out across the barren desert. Mulder saw black blood splatter backward as the quivering of the bodies fell still and limp.

"Nate!" As he came closer, breaking into a run, he saw Scully, back behind her son, sitting in the car, he guessed for safety reasons. She still thought the blood was toxic. "Nathan, they're here to save us!" His explanation was cut short. A small explosion in his chest caused him to stumble backward. His vision blurred before he fell to his knees. It took him several moments to realize that the wound now spilling blood all over his torso had come from his child's weapon. His eyes glazed over with the pain. He couldn't focus. All he saw through the haze of his pain and heat oppressed mind was a blurry figure still holding the object of his demise.

Nathan stood completely still, feeling something small and undefined snap inside his brain. Behind him, his mother opened the car door and ran wordlessly to the man now on his knees in the dry dirt.

"Mom?" Nathan asked, as though waking from some horrible dream and having no concept of his new surroundings.

Scully's eyes filled with tears. She couldn't breath, couldn't comprehend what had just taken place. At the moment the gunshot had rang out, all the fear and confusion that had filled her upon seeing Mulder's approach left and she couldn't help but rush to his side. She placed her hand against his wound, directly below the heart, knowing that she could have fixed him if there'd been a hospital. In this new world, there was no such hope. His eyes stared up at her, uncomprehending for a moment, before the flash of what she knew to be Mulder came over them.

"They were here to help." His words were forced out through gasps of air and in an instant she knew everything. In his desperate eyes she found the innocence that she had not allowed him to defend; the truth that only he could have accepted in time to make a difference. And even he was too late. The tears came as though they were ripped from her body by some unseen force, making her throat raw within seconds, causing her chest to heave under the pressure. She reached one arm over him and braced herself on weak arms, elbows digging into the coarse, gritty earth and cradled his head in her hands, then collapsed into his bloody chest as she watched the last strands of life leave his body, a thin wisp of what must have been a soul quickly pulled from his eyes. It was all gone. The hope she could have turned to Mulder to receive was gone upon the revelations of his last words. All that was left was a despair so deep she could not fathom a possible end. A despair not only for herself, but for all of mankind, for the fate of not only her soul, but those of all that came after.

Nathan had not moved. His eyes began to water. What his mother had learned from his father was now transferred onto him in a wordless, one-sided discussion. The verdict was beyond comprehension. He turned to look at the heap of gray flesh with a newfound sense of sorrow and remorse. What had he done? He dropped to his knees and began to wade through the bodies of the dead, looking for life that he hadn't blotted out. There was none. He had destroyed everything. Destroyed the last chance at survival for the planet, destroyed an entire race; killed his own father. As though the realization had just hit him, he turned his head to face his mother, still knee-deep in alien flesh. Closing his eyes on the pain that enveloped him as he first took in the scene of her sobbing and cradling the lifeless head of his father, he forced himself to search the recesses of her mind for something, anything he could do to make it better. Any small comfort he could offer her at this point would be better than the overwhelming guilt that pulsed through his body, streamed through his veins.

He saw a man holding a camera. A man that had wandered the streets, searching for what Nathan himself had forced upon so many others. Looking for an angel that would deliver him a peace less eternal than the one he was doomed to suffer.

Then he saw his mother, closing her eyes.

He knew what he had to do.

The gun, long forgotten, was still gripped in his right hand. Nathan stood from his makeshift cemetery, arms and legs covered in black liquid, and forced his limbs to move him toward his parents.

In his ears, his mother's thoughts rang out as though she were screaming them.

*Ohgodohgodohgodiloveyouiloveyouwhywhywhywhywhywhywhy...*

He wished that he could answer her.

"Mom?" Her sobbing ceased but the tears did not. She lifted her head wearily to look at her son. To his surprise he felt no sense of hatred from her. "Mom, sit up." Something inside her must have told her to trust him, despite everything that her eyes should have told her in the past few minutes. She forced herself off of Mulder's stiff body, still clutching his hand as though the touch alone could hold onto what had already left.

Nathan sat down in front of her and leaned back into a one-armed embrace.

"I love you." With one hand he grabbed her free one while the other brought the handgun to his stomach. One shot was all it took.

The pain was incredible. Her hand clutched his even tighter and he knew that the bullet had gone straight through and into her. The gun fell to the ground with a soft thud, the hand that had been holding it going straight to the small hole in his abdomen, feeling the damp stickiness spread through the cotton of his t- shirt.

"Open your eyes, Mom."

"Nate-"

"Open your eyes." He kept his tightly shut. Now he would have the mark. Immortal. Unless he found some other poor soul to stare death in the face for him. But he knew he wouldn't. He knew in an instant that this was meant for him. All the suffering of Alfred Fellig, the use of his mother as a conduit, all to give him his divine punishment.

His mind's eye locked onto his mother's consciousness. He saw a blond woman standing at a hospital door. "If I were you, I'd have an abortion."

Scully was slipping away, he couldn't decipher what the image meant to her. "Mom, if you had to do it all over again--?" It was a ridiculous question. Everything had been fated from the beginning. There was no changing the future or the past.

"I love you, Nathan." There was no doubt or sorrow in her voice. He heard a gasp and she went peacefully; safe now in a place he would never see for himself. But when he closed his eyes, the gentle peace that swept over him was what he knew Heaven must be. One final gift from his mother, a reflection of the one he had given her.


EPILOGUE

"And then what happened?"

Nathan stared at his hands and took a deep breath. "I grabbed a shovel that I'd kept in the back of that car and I dug graves." He looked around the tiny office for several seconds. "One for my mother, one for my father, and a large hole to dump all the other bodies in. It took me hours and hours to dig that grave. But I thought that after what I'd done they at least deserved the dignity of not being left to rot out in the sun."

Natalie nodded. Nathan had been getting therapy from her for about a year now, but he had never been able to talk through this one experience fully. Now she understood why.

"It was a hard time, Nathan," she consoled. "No one acted rationally. People's beliefs were shaken to the ground. And you were young."

He nodded. He wanted to tell her that he'd been the one to start the war, but since the articles had all been anonymous, no one still knew that. Ten years later, the guilt was his alone. He'd tried to fix it; tried to get word out that he'd been wrong. But most people either didn't get word, with communications as down as they were, or thought these new messages were hoaxes. The aliens eventually got tired of the fighting and left, and shortly thereafter, by coincidence, the black cancer, like the black death so many years before it, apparently decided it had killed enough people and disappeared. People assumed it was because they had won the war. Maybe no one but him would ever know the truth.

"You do know that you won't live forever, though, don't you?" Her face registered concern. He had told her his reasoning for shooting his mother, and himself. How else could she understand what he had done? How could anyone? In fact, he'd told her almost everything about himself. Enough, probably, for her to assume he was the one who'd written the articles.

He stared at her point blank. "What makes you think I won't?"

She looked frightened for a split second.

*How the hell does he do that with his eyes?*

Nathan tried not to listen to the voices anymore - tried to block out other peoples' thoughts. They had become too loud and untrustworthy. But occasionally they just popped into his head.

"Nathan," she began, "No one lives forever. You're only 25 years old. Just because you survived the gunshot wound, that doesn't make you immortal."

"Then what was the point?" he asked, his voice rising slightly. "What was the point of letting her die? This is my punishment. I've told you before, it's been there, waiting for me, all my life."

She looked into his face with compassion. "But why should you be punished? If it's been waiting for you all your life, then you don't *deserve* it, it's simply your fate. How can someone be punished for fulfilling their destiny?"

He sighed and leaned back in his chair. Glancing around the room he noticed a book on Freud. "It's like Oedipus Rex," he said, turning his attention back to her and sitting up a little. "Not the Freudian aspect of the play, but the real point of it. Oedipus *had* to kill his father and marry his mother. As much as he tried to escape it, that was his destiny, what had been foretold since before his birth. And yet, when he did fulfill his fate, he was still punished for it, and that was seen as just. It's just the way things work."

Natalie leaned forward, toward him. "And that is exactly the problem with that play. It presents a paradox that no one can solve. It goes against everything we know as humans to punish a person for what is beyond his or her control."

"Not according to the Greeks," Nathan mumbled. "Or geneticists." He glanced around the room again. "Can we talk about something else?"

She smiled softly. "Of course. What do you want to talk about?"

He stared intently at the wall for a while. "I've been having problems lately trying to reconcile what I know about my creation with ended up happening." He ran a hand through his hair. "I was supposed to save humanity, not help to ruin it. It just feels like... I always knew my purpose in life, you know? Most people don't have that luxury. And it didn't work out. So what happens now?"

Natalie thought for a moment. "Maybe you find a new purpose. Maybe you shouldn't have to suffer any longer for the sins of generations that came before you." She caught his eye and stared straight into him. "That purpose was given to you by a group of men who had no business doing so. They were trying to create a savior when they didn't even know what they were saving themselves from."

Nathan smiled sarcastically. "Trying to genetically engineer the next coming of Christ."

She nodded and took his hand. "But Nathan, you don't have to die for their sins."

His lips curved upward sadly and he let his hand fall from hers, slowly standing up to leave. "No, I've just got to live for my own."

THE END

The masterfully soaring buzzard, concerned with rising summer air, is not looking for death. The burning Viking ship baptizes men for the violent, chilling end of mortal glory. The buzzard only seeks to live. -"Symbols" by James Victor Anderson

THANK YOU'S AND AUTHOR'S NOTES:

Thank you SO much to Kris, Adrienne, and Carrie, who all helped edit this at one point or another through-out it's creation. :)

This is my first novel, and it only took me, let's see... 18 months to finish? That's what comes from procrastinating, folks. :) Thanks to everyone who got all the way through it




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