Title: Espoir
Author: Anne Dorton
E-mail: SitaAnne@aol.com
Archive: Whenever, wherever
Classification: XRA
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance, Scully/other sex, Mulder/other sex
Spoilers: "The Truth" and various other "mythology" episodes.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Never were. Never will be. But I like when they come over to play.
Rating: NC-17. Sex.

Summary: After the events of "The Truth" Scully and Mulder are separated again. In two different countries they join a resistance fight against colonization, each for their own separate reasons.


Roswell, New Mexico
May 2002
7:35 a.m.

There are three things that human need: Food/water, clothing, and sex. It is biologically programmed into us, and it's more than just the need to pass on our genes.

Skin to skin contact is an important component of life for humans. We're the only animals, however, that give that contact meaning. Love is a socially necessary illusion.

Human minds create it, and while we feel biologically urges, the ties that bind us to each other, the ties we call "love," are completely constructed.

When I was eighteen and being told these things by a sociology professor, I remember thinking, as any eighteen-year-old pseudo-cynic male would, that I could avoid these socially fictive relationships by simply sleeping with a lot of people. I would be fulfilled biologically, and I wouldn't have to deal with the ramifications of real relationships.

I was sitting in that same sociology class listening to my professor spew on about how capitalism had screwed everyone over when the challenge to my new theory waltzed into the room. Her name was Phoebe Green, and she reached into my chest and pulled the theory right out of me along with my heart. After we broke up, or should I say, after she dumped me for a 34-year-old Duke, I went back to sleeping with random women. Some of them were pretty. Some of them even liked me, though I can't remember anything about my Oxford-self that would have enticed them. I don't remember any of their names.

In March of 1989 I met Diana Fowley, and in May of 1989 I married her. She was in love with me and I cared for her deeply, and since love had become something I didn't think I could ever feel, I decided it was time to construct some of those love-bonds my professor talked about. We were actually happy for a while. She helped me to begin really trying to uncover what had happened to my sister, and I helped her to work through several abusive relationships.

We trusted each other at a time in our lives when the both of us had been growing continuously alienated from the rest of the world. It was her mistake to help me pursue Samantha, though. She helped me discover the very thing that would destroy us.

As of 1993, I had only had one true love in my life. The X-Files. My search for the truth. I don't even remember the fight with Diana that eventually drove her away. One day, she and I were working on paranormal and unexplained cases in our spare time after work, side by side. The next day she was gone. It was almost like she faded out of my life, and I don't even remember noticing until she had completely moved out.

In 1993, with Diana gone and the parade of sex partners beginning again, I thought that the X-Files would be the only love I would ever know. Then Dana Scully walked confidently down the stairs of the FBI and proved me wrong once again. I need her, all of her. Not just her skin, not just her sex. I wanted her from the moment I saw her, but when I began to fall in love with her, I knew that the sociology professor had been dead wrong. My love for Dana Scully, the obligation I felt toward her, was very real and all consuming.

Diana had made the mistake of helping me find the X-Files.

Dana Scully had made the mistake of finding me. Together, Scully and I have made many, many mistakes in our nine years as partners. Maybe allowing ourselves to fall in love with each other was the biggest one of all.

Lying beside her though, our skin pressed up against each other, I can't help but think that it was a mistake that I needed to make. I said last night before we went to bed that there may be hope. I want to believe there's hope that someday she and I can live a life together without all the pain and death and horror that we've been exposed to.

I want to believe that somewhere out there her sister, my sister, and all of our dead friends are waiting for us, watching over us, ready to reveal the truth.

I want the world to know what know, but I don't want to hurt her anymore.

No, love is not a socially necessary illusion. Love is very real. Love's name is Dana Scully and she is naked beside me in a bed in Roswell, New Mexico. And the two of us, I know, are about to be separated. Again.

When I wake he is in the shower. I sit up and stretch in bed and for a moment I am just a woman waking in a bed that smells like the sweat and sex of the previous night. I am just a woman who slept in the arms of the man she loves.

This is not the case. I am a hunted woman, a haunted woman, and the man who slept beside me, in whose arms I sought a small amount of solace, is doubly hunted. I don't know if he slept. He usually doesn't. I haven't lain beside him in almost a year, but the last time I did, every time my eyes fluttered open they met his.

I hear the shower stop. I rise and stand, naked, in the motel room, beginning to collect my belongings from the floor. He comes out of the bathroom and watches me. I can feel him watch me, I always can.


His voice comes out strained. For a moment he sounds as if he is afraid. I turn and meet his eyes, which are bemused.

"You're killing me here. We'll never get out of New Mexico if you walk around naked like that."

I notice he is naked too. I smile and point to him.

"The same goes for you, buddy."

He runs his hand through his hair and smiles faintly. I smile back. We stand there, naked, awkward for a moment before I turn and throw my clothes on the bed.

"Speaking of getting out of New Mexico," I begin, "How exactly are we going to do that?"

He begins to dry himself off. "Hang on." He feels around in the pants he was wearing last night. "Marita slipped this to Skinner, who slipped it to me. She told him she could help protect us if we were willing to leave. I think she felt a little guilty."

"What is it?" I throw my clothes back on and shudder a little. I hate wearing dirty clothes.

"It's just a phone number. It's a 202, DC area." I looked. (202) 555-8769.

"Are you going to call it?" He pulls on his clothes effortlessly.

"What other choice do we have? We've missed the window of opportunity to leave the country on our own." He picks up his cell automatically and then looks at it disgustedly.

"They can trace us."

I smile and pull at the sleeves of my shirt. "Use the motel phone."

I watch him, his tense shoulders telling a different story than his cooler-than-thou face. I am worried now because he is worried. He dials quickly.

There is a pause.

"This is Fox Mulder and I was under the impression that I could obtain help-" He pauses and looks shocked. "Is that the...okay. Okay. Can you hold-" He stares at the phone.

Whoever he was talking to has obviously hung up.

After he places the receiver down he looks at me.

"New identities." I state rather than ask.

"That was a friend of Marita's at the CIA. He said to go to LAX where 'the package' would be delivered."

"How very Mission Impossible." I sigh and look at Mulder.

He crosses to me and envelops me in a hug.

"I won't let us be split up again."

"There's nothing we can do about it now, Mulder."

I am not ready to lose him, though. I am not ready to begin the fight again on my own.

He still doesn't look at me. He already knows.

We arrive at LAX in 18 hours of straight driving. We don't speak to each other much, just what we need to say. I ask her at around the ten hour mark to take over driving, and she still doesn't speak to me. It isn't exactly a chilly silence; she isn't punishing me. She's just grieving because she knows the same thing I do. Our new identities will be in separate countries, and we will be alone again.

At LAX we make our way to the international arrivals terminal, where we were told 'the package' would be. It is 10 at night. There are very few people here. No one gives us a second look, which I find odd. I want to scream, "Don't you people know what's going on?" For her part, Scully looks like she just wants to bolt. Her eyes dart around.

A large man in Bermuda shorts and a polo shirt brushes against her and turns. "Do you have the time, Miss?" She tries to smile and looks at her watch. "It's 10, almost exactly."

"Okay," he says. "Thanks." From his pocket he pulls out two small pamphlets and coyly clips them in Scully's pocket. "Wait until I leave the building." Then he disappears down a corridor toward baggage claim.

"Well, I hope you like London." She says, withdrawing the passports. Inside each of them is a small piece of paper with the name of an airline on it. I assume we have electronic tickets. She is flying United and I am on a Virgin Atlantic flight.

"Bloody hell," I say. "Where are you?

She retrieves the other passport from her pocket. "Paris."

Her voice breaks.

"We're actually lucky, you know, to even have this chance," I say but my voice sounds hollow. I cannot lose her again.

I just can't bear it.

"Lucky," she says and begins to choke up. "We should check in," there are tears in her eyes.


"Sorry," she whispers. I can't look at her, if I look at her then I will tear my new passport to shreds and try to run away with her. That is not a good option for either of us.

"I don't know if I want this."

"We can continue our quest this way. We can find the truth."

"Can we?" She looks up.

"Maybe you can find our son. We just have to lay low for a year or two. Then maybe," I check the name on my passport, "James Laughlin and," I check hers, "Sophie Genet can accidentally meet."

She looks at me and I look away. We both know that this separation may be permanent. "Maybe."

"I'll have to send flowers to Marita. Hey, Scully?" We start moving in the direction of our respective ticket counters. Hers is in a different terminal. I look at the departing flights.


"Do you speak French?"

She sighs heavily. "I guess I do now."

"We can still search for the truth," I tell her. "We can still fight for us, for our son."

"Yes. We can." She looks at the monitor and checks her watch. "These flights must not be until tomorrow. It's too late tonight for international flights."

"Let's check." We approach the United desk, and the woman behind the counter smiles at me. "Hi there."

"Hello, sir. Ticket, please?"

"Ah, no. I was just wondering if you could check what flight my friend is on tomorrow. She has an e-ticket and we can't seem to remember what time." This is a bad lie and she regards me closely, but shrugs, figuring I must just live near the airport.

"Okay. Your ID, please?" Scully hands her passport over and the agent clicks away at her computer. "Ms. Genet, you are on the 3:30 flight tomorrow. You've got a lot of time to kill. You know, you can look this up online now."

"Thanks," I say quickly and snatch Scully's passport back.

We turn and begin walking to another terminal.

"We won't even be that far away, geographically," she says, but her anger is growing.

"No. We won't."

"Dammit, Mulder. I just got you back!" We continue walking. I don't say anything. "God. Aren't you even upset?"

"We don't have a choice this time! We either stay and run forever or we leave and fight! Can't you see that? This is bigger than the both of us! This is another chance to have the truth!" My voice has raised, I am trying to pick a fight.

She stops walking and looks up at me. "I'd rather have you than the truth." She turns around and walks away. My feet want to go after her, but my head tells me not to. It's a clean break, I think. Maybe this way, getting on my own flight will hurt less. I continue walking toward the other terminal, and hope to God she comes after me. I don't, however, think she will.

Chapter 1: Une Espoir Dans La Cite

Paris, France
January 2003
3 a.m.

His hands are all over my body, and I am enjoying it. He lets his fingernails graze across my nipples before grabbing my wrists and pining them over my head. He holds me down as his tongue traces circles around my belly button. My back arches as his faces goes lower. He teases me with his teeth against my inner thighs and I nearly kick him in my eagerness for him to continue. He lets my wrists go, so my hands are in his hair, which he seems to enjoy.

Suddenly he shocks my body by flicking his tongue across my clit.

Slowly, he inserts two fingers into me and I scream his name.

"Oui, oui, oui, yesyesouiyesoui! Paul! Paul!" I go back and forth between French and English. "Don't stop, don't stop, n'arret pas! N'arret pas!" Whether or not he understands, he gets the message. My orgasm is hard and fast and over before he pulls himself out of my lap.

He moves over me and I kiss him just to taste myself, a dirty little pleasure I take. He enters me, and fucks me for a total of two minutes before he comes. After it is over, I feel slightly better. We both light cigarettes and I laugh at the cliche of a post-coital smoke. He doesn't understand my laughing.

"Was it not good for you?"

"No," I assure the poor bastard, "It was lovely." It was lovely. How many guys will go down on you during a onenight stand? Not many. I was a lucky girl tonight.

I am not in the habit of going home with random strangers.

I never have been. Sex isn't something I really need on a regular basis, and I can get myself off well enough so that I don't go insane during my dry spells, which tend to be long and frequent. Tonight, though, I was feeling that lonely itch deep in my stomach that can cause women to do destructive things. I dressed up, went to an "Americanstyle" bar on the Right Bank, far away from my apartment.

I spotted Paul right away and we chatted. He was mildly attractive in an overly-eager sort of way. I shoved him up against a wall and rammed my tongue down his throat.

We went back to his place, another thing I don't like to do. It doesn't seem safe. I had my gun on me, and reckless behavior has become more attractive in the past year, now that I have nothing left to lose. So we ended up in his ratty apartment, in his small bed. Satisfied, I sit up and begin to put my clothes back on. This is the worst part of the one night stand.

"Are you leaving?"

"Yes. I have work early tomorrow morning."

"You may spend the night if you wish." He is laconic. He doesn't seem to care whether I stay or not, and I definitely do not want to stay.

"Thank you, Paul. I had a lovely time, but it's time for me to go." He stands up, the sheet wrapped around him. I notice that by the moonlight streaming in his small window he is fairly attractive. He has a great body, with biceps that ripple as he moves across the room. His eyes are a clear gray, wide and earnest. His lips are large and full.

They were nice to kiss. Dana, you didn't do too badly tonight.

He gives me an awkward kiss and business card. I smile and let myself out.

I can't take the metro home; it's too late. Paris can be dangerous so I hail a cab. No sense in getting robbed.

The ride takes ten minutes. As we cross one of the many bridges over the River Seine I have a sudden, brief panic attack. What have I just done? I set out with the express purpose of sleeping with a complete stranger. I succeeded.

But is this all I'm living for now? There's no quest, no mission, just a series of meaningless encounters with people who I don't care about and who will never care about me.

The panic passes. It has to. If I thought much about where I've ended up in the past few months I'd never leave my house again. As we pull up in front of my apartment building I light another cigarette. I pay the driver and I climb the stairs.

After I finish my cigarette I make some coffee. The sun will be coming up in an hour, and I decide to watch it. My apartment overlooks the Jardin Des Plantes, and I've never seen the sun rise over Paris before. I'm not tired and I don't have to work today.

I sit at my desk and begin to write another letter to my mother. It is dangerous to write to her, but I have no choice. She's all alone now on a day-to-day basis. Bill is always away and Charlie lives in California still, as far as I know. I never give her a return address. That would just be stupid. I miss her terribly. But not as much as I miss William.

My beautiful baby son, who I would have died for. My heart aches to see him, just to make sure he is okay. I know the family I left him with are good people, but that's not enough knowledge. I want him back, but I hate myself for wanting him back because I know that is not best for him.

He is where he belongs, and I tell myself this daily.

I have one picture of him that is on the desk. I look at it and begin another one-way letter to my mother.

I am at work, at a small clinic on the outskirts of Paris, when a man enters looking terribly ill. I have been working here, or, rather, Sophie Genet has been working here, for a little less than three months. When I arrived in Paris, I went to the address on my passport and found a fully furnished and stocked apartment in the Latin Quarter, along with a note that read, "You still have some friends," and a book of French phrases. I enrolled immediately in one of those Learn French Now! courses they advertise on the metro.

Whoever our "friends" were, they had also left me 10,000 Euros in cash and an anonymous Feedback where they could contact me. There were no other details about who "they" were which worried me. If they were at all connected to my enemies, I would be tracked down immediately.

My paranoia grew. I bought a box of hair dye and dyed my hair black. I began sporting much more makeup than I did before. I bought all kinds of different clothes. I did these things because I was supposed to, but the point of it all was lost on me. I didn't care one way or another if my enemies caught up with me. I didn't care anymore because I had nothing else to lose.

My French got better and better, and after only six months in the city I was fluent. I didn't have any medical certificates, but I went searching for a position as a doctor anyway. I eventually stumbled a tiny clinic that served some of the poorer suburbs of Paris. They wouldn't hire me as a doctor, but I proved my skill to them when a man with a gunshot wound was rushed in, so they took me on as a nurse. I had to learn a whole new vocabulary of words, and I tried to keep my real nationality a secret, though much of the staff quickly figured out from my accent that I was American.

The man who had entered the clinic is drunk and dirty. His skin is a yellow color and I can plainly see that he is suffering from cirrhosis of the liver. I sigh and find him a bed, make him comfortable. He speaks to me, but his language is slurred, and I can only pick up a few words here and there. I hear, "femme," and "elle est froide."

He is saying something about his wife being frigid. A doctor enters and instructs me to take care of him, but shrugs when he sees I have pretty much already done so.

Most of the people here have figured out I am more than qualified to take care of patients, so they simply go through the motions of treating me like a nurse.

After work I enter the metro and head back to inner Paris.

Before returning to my flat, I stop at a bistro on the Rue Mouffetard in my neighborhood and have a glass of wine. I have not grown to love Paris, but the languid attitude of its residents, the long lunch hours, the frequent vacations, have grown on me. I could fall in love with Paris, I could really love living here if there wasn't a constant itch at the back of my mind.


I whisper his name and think of the few hundred miles that must at this moment separate us. I pull out a cigarette from the tiny purse I bought at Les Galleries Lafyette, the largest department store in Paris. The man at the table beside me motions an offer to light it, and I allow him.

He slides into a chair next to me, and we both sip wine and stare into the street.

"My name is David," he says, and there is something wrong.

It takes me a minute to register he is speaking to me in English.

"Pardon?" I inquire. "Je suis desolee, mais je ne parle pas l'anglais, monsieur," I say in the best accent I can muster. I have just told him that I am sorry but I do not speak English.

"That's a lie." He is young, a few years younger than me, with sandy blonde hair and bright blue eyes. He is attractive, I think, in a boyish sort of way, with slightly chubby cheeks. I notice that his clothes are rumpled and he needs a shave. "I know who you are."

I should be alarmed, yet I am not. Somehow I was expecting another random meeting sometime soon. I don't really care enough about my own life to be much afraid of being discovered.

"Is that so?" I ask in English and take a drag. "Who am I?"

"I believe while in Paris your name is Sophie Genet, am I correct?" I notice his accent is a little funny. He's American to be sure, but there's something else in his voice I can't quite place.

"That's my name."

"But you used to be someone else. We all go through changes, Sophie. The world is going through a big change right now."

"And?" I arch my eyebrow and try to look disinterested.

The truth is, if I allow myself to admit the truth, I have been waiting since I got to Paris for the chance to search for the truth again. Even without Mulder the desire the know about the conspiracy and the need to expose the men who had sold the world out for their own freedom is still strong within me. I have my own stake in the truth, and when the rug was pulled out from under me a little less than a year ago, I was left with no avenue for investigation. I sort of gave up, thinking, or perhaps somehow knowing, that the truth was trying to seek me out.

"I need a place to stay," says this man, this boy. The longer I look at him, the younger he looks. I'd place his age in his mid-twenties.

"And?" I repeat. He'd better get to his point soon. "What have you got in exchange for a place to stay?"

"Some answers."

"The truth?" I look at him squarely. "Many people have tried to entice me with the truth."

"I didn't say 'truth,' mademoiselle, I said I have some answers. Concrete answers." He leans in. "I know how to save your son."

My response is immediate, though I have coached myself after many years not to believe men who mysteriously show up and claim to have answers. I stand and motion for him to follow me. We walk along the Rue Mouffetard, a street Parisians call La Mouffe and turn down Rue De L'Epee de Bois. After crossing Rue Monge, we hit my street, Rue Daubenton. We say nothing to each other. In fact, he follows me like a dog the whole way. I do not know if this is because I have made him uncomfortable or because he is trying not to draw attention to me. I live in the 5th, a very old section of Paris. Consequently, I have no air conditioning in the summer and the heat is spotty in the winter. As we enter, the temperature if my flat exceeds the 0 degrees Celsius that it is outside by about 2 degrees. I check the thermostat, which seems to be in working order.

Also, as we enter, I move quickly to my kitchen drawer, where I keep a gun I purchased on the black market. I turn and aim it at the young man's head and motion for him to close the door.

"You might as well keep your jacket on," I say. "Sit."

The furniture was all here when I moved in. Whoever left it for me had good taste, though. My couch is large and white, and looks almost exactly like the one I had in Georgetown. "What do you know?"

"I know who you are."

"You said that already. For whom do you work?"

"I don't work for them if that's what you're afraid of.

I'm one of your friends. One of the people who got you this place, who set you up with your name and new life."

"Yeah, so why are you here?"

"Because it's moving closer to a time when we need to act to stop the colonization of the Earth. You know more than almost anyone, and we need your help."

"Who is this we you keep referring to."

The man, the boy, sighs. "It's complicated. There are a lot of us, people from all over the world. We're a loose organization that is trying to fight the complete destruction of humanity. We're dissenters from the project." He looks at me. "I used to work for them."


"I was a lab technician, hand selected out of a graduate program to become involved in the Project. Only I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I was paid very well in my first year, and all I was really doing was cleaning up after the real scientists experimented. Then I stumbled on what looked to be a small oil spill on the counter. I started to wipe it up when it," he struggles, "soaked into my skin. I was sick for a long time. They ran experiments on me. The same thing they did to your partner. That's where I met Marita Covarrubias. We were both used as human test subjects for the vaccine for a year. I was told you're familiar with the vaccine?"

"Yes. It was used on me after I was infected with the black oil."

"Right. Marita and I sort of...formed a connection after our experiences together as test subjects. She became interested in fighting the conspiracy. After the Syndicate disappeared, it seemed like a good time to put that together. She contacted me, and I contacted a few other people, covertly, who I knew were not exactly loyal to the project. We call ourselves the A.C. 9. A.C. stands for "against colonization" and there were nine of us to begin with. It's all an underground operation."

"Okay. And why are you here?"

"We sent you away so that the heat would be off you for awhile, but now the A.C. 9 organization needs your help.

Mulder's, too, but especially yours since you are a doctor.

We're running our own lab, and we've got an early prototype of the vaccine. We're trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to replicate the vaccine developed by the Syndicate."

"And what does this have to do with my son?"

"You gave him up to protect him, right? To let him be a normal little boy?"

"Yes," I respond tersely. My grip on the gun has loosened, but I still have it aimed squarely at his head.

"What Spender injected him with, we developed that, too.

Let me assure you, though, we did not instruct him to test out our little vaccine. He is a part of our organization, but he is on the fringe. He wants to act while the core members of A.C. 9 are, at the moment, simply gathering research and evidence. I can tell you more about what was done to William later. I want to tell you now that it may be possible for you to ensure your son a long and healthy life. And perhaps to reunite with him without fearing he'll be hurt. If you join up with us and fight against colonization, if we win our fight, you can ensure life for your son. If we lose our fight, I can tell you the date he, you, and I will die."

I finally lower my gun. "You want me to join a resistance movement." I sit next to him on the couch. "David, I don't have any resistance left in me."

"What about for William?" He hardens his glance and looks at me. I put my head in my hands.

"Isn't getting me involved dangerous. Aren't they probably watching me at this very moment?"

"We have been watching you for months. We don't believe you're being watched by anyone else."

"What do I have to do?" I ask. I have no choice. What else can I do?

Chapter 2: Un Espoir Pour Les Personnes Sans Espoir London, England
February 2003

Walking down Oxford Street in the direction of my West London flat I am hit by a black cab. I have been spacing out again, and all of a sudden I find myself on the pavement, face down in dirty water with an old cigarette butt stuck to my chin. All I hear is the cabbie screaming murder.

"Oi! What in bloody hell were you doing, mate?" He climbs out of his cab as I sit up in the street and shake myself.

"Oi!" He yells again. I stand.

"I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm sorry, I-" There is biting, gnawing pain in my wrist all of a sudden.

"You sure you're okay, then?"

"I think I hurt my wrist. I'm sorry. Is there any damage to your cab?" I have taken on a very posh British accent for the purpose of being undercover. For the first few months I was here I didn't fool anyone, but it's a very good accent now, and sometimes I even fool myself to thinking that this is actually the way I am supposed to be talking.

"Naw, mate. Just damage to you, then? I'll give you a ride to the nearest hospital. No charge." He motions for me to get in the cab and I decline.

"No, it's fine. Nothing broken, I don't think."

"You sure? Give us a twist of the wrist, there, just to make sure." A crowd has gathered and I am anxious to move away from it.

"Cheers, mate, but I'm fine." I get thorough the crowd and quickly make my way toward my flat. At Marble Arch I turn up Edgeware Road into the section of London I call Little Lebanon. Along this street there are numerous Middle Eastern restaurants and shops, as well as hookah bars and clothing shops that cater to the making of Muslim burquas.

My flat is on Harrowby Street, across from a pub called The Victory. Everything in London is across from a pub. Beer is something I have grown fond of, and if I were to be wallowing in pity right now, it could even become an easy friend.

There used to be a great deal more furniture in the flat.

At least that's the way it was left to me. But I have no use for plush reclining chairs and bookshelves, so I got rid of them in order to make room for a makeshift surveillance center. Inside my file cabinet, where I keep and file the pictures I have taken around various spots in England, I find a first aid kit. I remember Scully setting a broken finger I had once. She made it look so easy.


I've lost her again and I didn't even get to say goodbye.

She was angry when we left for Europe, and she is probably sitting in Paris right now still angry.

Or maybe, miraculously, she is happy.

I have to banish that thought quickly as I attempt to set my own wrist, because if she's happy it means she's happy without me, and I don't want to think about the large French man who could, at this very moment, be making love to her. I jerk my wrist the wrong way and bite my lip to quiet a scream. A drop of blood falls from my lip to the bandage on my wrist. I've just made a mess of myself.

I work at New Scotland Yard, but only as a glorified secretary. I got the job with my false passport and funny accent in order to at least be close to reports of paranormal activity. I haven't had much luck in hearing of any x-file-like cases, but my job has afforded me some access to police-only surveillance. The average Londoner is photographed over 100 times a day by the traffic cameras installed around the city.

I have been working on my own out of London to try and expose the truth. I've been gathering evidence of the global conspiracy, setting out on weekends to investigate crop circles in York or a UFO sighting in Wales. It's been a good way to reacquaint myself with the geography of the UK, but up until a month ago I turned up very little.

That was when I met my new best friend, Peter Lampton.

Standing on the corner of Oxford and Tottenham Court Road, right in the middle of Central London's insane traffic, a man was on a box talking about the conspiracy.

I know, I know. I shouldn't listen to crazy men standing on boxes spouting conspiracy theories. There but for the grace of God go I. This man was different. He wasn't dirty or disheveled. His clothes were nice, too nice, for being a street person. He simply stood on his box and began talking about things I recognized from my own dealings with the conspiracy. He didn't shout his words, he spoke them, and he attracted a large crowd. I happened to be in the neighborhood the day I first saw him. I had been at the British Museum killing time before an appointment I had on Bedford Square. On my way to the underground, in front of a large West End theater I heard the words "super soldier" and stopped.

There were maybe ten people standing in front of him completely mesmerized by what he was saying. They didn't seem to notice they were standing in the middle of a metropolis on a busy Thursday afternoon.

"I am talking about events in the States," he said in an upper class posh accent, not unlike the one I had been trying to pull off, "but this is a worldwide phenomenon.

The aliens are coming for us. We're all food now unless we act. We must act!"

As I stood there, I felt compelled to listen to him. I know it sounds stupid, but I think he had some sort of control over the crowd. I couldn't leave him; I felt that if I did leave I would die. He didn't speak for long, maybe five minutes while I was standing there. Then he got off the box and picked it up and began walking down Oxford east toward Holborn. The spell on me was broken, but I was intensely curious about him.

I caught up with him a few blocks down and stopped him.

"Excuse me, sir?"

"Yes," he said, turning toward me. He was my age, perhaps a few years younger, with sandy brown hair and an earnest expression. His face was rounded, and he had a small scar on his upper lip, as if it had recently been split.

"Can I ask you about what you were saying back there?"

"Sure," he said. "Want to have a drink at the pub?" He pointed out one called The Dirty Dozen and I shrugged. We went in, ordered beers and sat in a corner booth.

He seemed nervous, and whenever I questioned him about the conspiracy he had been talking about he simply recited what he had said back on the corner. Finally, in exasperation I nearly yelled, "Yes, but how do you know this?"

He didn't want to answer me at first. He averted his gaze.

"I don't know," he admitted. "I just know."

He and I have met for beers every Thursday since then, and I have learned little else from Peter himself. He says he lost time a few months ago, and since then had experienced prolonged blackouts, where he neither knew what he did or where he went. Almost inevitably he'd end up back in his own flat, but once he woke up in front of a bar in Clapham, three miles from where he had been before. He couldn't even verify that these experienced were actually happening.

Then, he told me, he began speaking on the street corner.

"It wasn't even a rational decision, you know? One moment I was walking home and the next I was, well, standing on a soapbox. As it were. And I just knew the things I was saying. I mean, I didn't remember them until I began talking about them. It was like," he leaned in, obviously worried that someone else in the pub would hear, "the thoughts were being transmitted to me. Do you think I'm crazy?"

I had smiled at him reassuringly. "No. I don't."

In reality, my heart was leaping out of my chest.

Contrary to the beliefs of my former partner, I didn't just believe every wacko theory that came my way. My natural inclination, especially recently, is to be skeptical. The first reaction I had to Peter was to think, "This doesn't sound right." Afterall, he reported no consistence abduction stories, just a few instances of missing time.

Yet he was afraid. He didn't understand what was going on, and he wanted answers from me as much as I wanted answers from him.

I asked him to go get an x-ray of his face, and he did. We found an implant in his nose and a chip in the back of his neck. He was scared, of course, and I scared him even more when I told him the possible consequences of removing the chip. He fought with me. He wanted it out and so did his doctor, but I calmly explained to him the possible consequences of his actions.

I have been having somewhat similar experiences to Peter, but for an entirely different reason. I space out. I just, go away, mentally. When I come back I'm often in the street with a broken wrist, like what happened today. I think about Scully, about William, and my mind just flies back to the States.

As I bind my wrist I check my answerphone, and sure enough, Peter has called.

"Mr. Laughlin? It's Peter. I just wanted to know if I could meet you tonight and talk about an experience I had.

It was strange. I'm feeling a tad out of sorts. Can you please call back? You've got the number."

I clean myself off and pick up the phone. I wonder if Peter is okay. I only get his answering machine.

"Peter, it's," I hesitate, "Jimmy. Just calling you back, mate. Let me know what's up."

I go to my computer and check my e-mail. I have an anonymous address that was set up for me by whichever of Marita's friends got me this flat. I have one new message.

It frightens me. My hand reaches for the phone nearly automatically as it had done for nine years before I moved to London. I want to call Scully. Of course, I can't call Scully, and her absences hits me like a wrecking ball then.

I sit in my chair completely still, unable to do anything except reread the e-mail. It says:

"Dear Mr. 'Laughlin,'

You are being watched. We are your friends, but your involvement with a certain abductee may garner you notice from unfriendly sources.

Stop your investigation. It's the only way. We will need your help in the near future. Save your energy for us.


Whoever these people are, I cannot stop my involvement with Peter. His story not only fascinates me, but I have begun to like him, and James Laughlin doesn't make friends easily.

No, I think. This is a warning I must ignore.

Peter and I do catch up with each other later. He takes the Tube to my neighborhood, and we go to my favorite local pub, the one across the street. We order pints of Carling and shoot the shit before getting down to dirty business.

"So," I say, "You told me you were out of sorts. How come?" I am having trouble keeping up my accent tonight, and he notices. He gives me a strange look but takes a swig of his beer and a drag off a cigarette before sighing and beginning another of his horrific stories. I have grown accustomed to his stop/start way of speaking, his careful intonation and syntax. He is an investment banker in The City during the day, and I can see by the way he speaks on holds himself that he would be a good person to trust with your money.

"I can remember things," he says. "The memories have just started, and I don't know what to do. I've heard that regression therapy can help."

"Have you been speaking to someone else about your experiences?"

"I have."

My heart begins beating. "Who?" I ask a bit too anxiously.

"Another man who approached me after one of my-ahemspeeches. He just came up to me and asked me to tell him everything. Much like you did. I didn't like talking to him though. He told me to go to this regression therapist." Peter fishes around in his pants pocket and pulls out the business card of one Mr. Johannas Kuhner of Kentish Town, a "memory regression therapist." I memorize the address and give the business card back.

"Anyway," Peter says, "yesterday I was making another speech and I suddenly stopped talking. I had been saying something about an experiment where the aliens," he struggles, "use this device that burns their abductees.

Almost like branding a cow. Suddenly, all at once, I could feel the brand on my back. I screamed, and my audience sort of got afraid and dispersed. I could remember it. It was real. It really happened."

He lowers his head and looks like he is about to cry. My brain suddenly flashes to my own memories of torture at the hands of The Project. I feel my skin being pulled taught by thick needles and immediately my hand goes to the side of my face. I rub my beard.

"I should tell you something," I say to Peter. "I have more than just knowledge about post-abduction trauma."

"You do?" He looks up at me with clear, unflinching brown eyes.

I take a deep breath and begin to recount my own experiences. I even drop my accent to do so. I know blowing my cover on the same evening I had received a warning about doing so doesn't seem like a smart idea, but Peter needs a friend. And so do I.

Chapter 3: Je N'ai Pas D'Espoir

Paris, France
March 2003

I have reluctantly joined the A.C. 9, more out of a sense of obligation than any real feeling that I can save the world. Obligation to them, obligation to William, and most of all, obligation to Mulder. I have to admit that I'm frequently prone to the fantasy that this group has also recruited Mulder in London and he is, right now, working with them as well. I fantasize that we might meet in some strange way, and have to act as stranger, but eventually end up living back in DC with William. Most of all, though, I just like the thought that in some way Mulder and I are again working side by side.

I don't know for a fact that they have recruited him, though.

The A.C. 9 is little more than a loose, poorly organized association of former lab assistants and peons to the Project's overlords. They can't effect any change whatsoever, and I am beginning to think that my work with them is not only a waste of my time, but also a waste of the time of talented individuals. I've become close to David. I like him. He's overeager and charming and completely convinced he can save the world. He reminds me of myself, about ten years ago.

I am working in a small lab, trying desperately to figure out a way to concentrate the substance in their prototype vaccine. I have nothing to experiment on, no lab rats or rabbits, so all I can do is attempt to concentrate the protein and then add it to the black oil and see what happens. So far, what happens is absolutely nothing.

David enters. He is sort of my supervisor, though I think we both understand that this is a ridiculous position for him to be in. He understands the science of what I am doing, but he doesn't understand anything about how the vaccine relates to the larger Project. Whoever his higherups in the A.C. 9 are (and he refuses to tell me their names), they have kept him as in the dark about the Project as he has kept me about their identities.

"Hello, Dana. How goes it?"

"Fine," I answer automatically. "That's not true." I throw down a petri dish in disgust. "It's shit."

"Why?" He walks over to me, tripping over papers in the crowded space. The lab is in the basement of a company called Agro, which is housed near the Pompidou Center in a more modern section of Paris than the one I live in. Agro is a biotech research company, but all that its housed in its Paris offices are the computers and secretaries. Their own labs are in a Paris suburb near Versailles.

"Because I have nothing to test this on!" I am frustrated for more reasons than one. I turn to David. He leans in and looks to be scrutinizing my work, but he just shrugs.

"It's quitting time anyway."


"I was hoping to take you out for dinner."

"Oh?" I repeat, arching my left eyebrow. This is an attractive offer. Free food and free flirtation. What else could a down-and-out ex-mother, broken-hearted freedom fighter want?

"Do you have any preference? Italian? Traditional French?


"Chinese?" I ask with interest. "Do you know a good Chinese restaurant here?"

"There's one over off the Champs Elysee. It'll take a few changes on the Metro, but it's probably only about twenty minutes away."

"I'm game," I say. "What time is it?"


I frown. "Way too early for dinner."

He laughs at me as he crosses the room to get my coat for me. "You're so Parisian all of a sudden. When, may I ask, is an appropriate time for dinner."

"Eight," I instruct, "and no earlier." The truth is that I'm never really all that hungry, so I don't really care when we eat. I like David, though, and I like to tease him.

"Well, would you care to go out for a pre-dinner drink then, lest we embarrass ourselves by asking to dine too early?"

"Oh, drinks and then dinner. I'm game." He helps me into my coat and his arm brushes against mine. I'm game, I repeat for the third time in my head.

We arrive at some swank bar off the famous Champs Elysee, on the Place De La Concorde end of the wide street. I still marvel, as cliched as it is, at the lights of Paris.

The stars have fallen to the ground and taken up residence in its streets. The whole Champs Elysee twinkles, and it is still just barely dark outside. As we walk in, I notice that there are more than a few people there, unusual for a weekday night. Unlike their English or American counterparts, the French aren't as keen on stopping in for a drink after work. They prefer, from what I can tell, to go home to families before going out again for dinner at around nine or ten at night.

I remark on the amount of people and David smiles. "It's a great bar."

"Well, order me a drink then, I'm going to the ladies'

room." I leave my coat at a small table and walk to the back where I find the unisex bathroom. Inside, I splash water on my face and ask myself for yet another night what I am doing with this man. David has made his intentions toward me clear with every look he gives me. He and I have been thrown in this together, the Paris operatives of what seems to pretend to be a worldwide organization. Neither of us have very much direction in our "fight," and so it has seemed natural to progress from being coworkers to being friends.

Quite like another working relationship I once had.

And there he is again. The ghost of Mulder. David is not Mulder. He is not as handsome, nor as smart or funny. But as far as I can tell, David is a good sort of man, and I want a good sort of man to give me a good sort of roll in the hay.

My God I'm fucked up.

I exit the bathroom and find David's sparkling, clear blue eyes following my every move. That's sexy. He has ordered me red wine. That's even sexier.

"I ordered you the house red. I have no idea what it is."

"I'm sure it's great." I take a sip and nod my approval.

Paris makes wine taste better.

"Dana," he begins, "I know you've just had your life turned upside down. I know that you're not looking to have anyone in your life right now. I just want you to know that I really love spending time with you."

I smile and earnest smile at him and answer as honestly as I can muster. "I really enjoy spending time with you. I don't know much about you, though."

"Oh. What do you want to know?"

"For starters, how old are you?" He laughs.

"Never ask a lady her age."

"Well, I didn't say you could ask me mine. I just want to know how badly I'm robbing the cradle, here."

"There's been no robbing done yet." He smiles mischievously before taking a sip of his wine. "I'm twenty-eight." I nearly choke.

"Wow," I say. I had been expecting that, though. He is ten years younger than I am in years. In disposition, I might as well be his mother. I can see by his demeanor, by the way he talks, that he wears his naivety on his sleeve.

Naive is something that I am not.

"How old are you?"

"Older enough to know better," I answer dryly.

"Next question?"

"Are you from the States originally?"

"Yes. I was born in Peacock, Missouri. I went to U.C.

Berkeley for both undergraduate and graduate school. I was recruited out of Berkeley for the Project. I don't know how they found out about me."

"What did you write your dissertation on?"

He laughs. "You really want to know?" I nod. I am interested. "I did my dissertation on cases of genetic mutation after the Three Mile Island disaster."

"Have you lived somewhere else besides the States? You have kind of a strange accent."

"Do I? Well, I spent a year working for the Project out of a New Mexico laboratory before I was relocated to Scotland for six months to work with British lab technicians on various other aspects of the Project. Maybe I picked something up there."

"Perhaps," I say and smile. It does sound kind of Scottish. It's so slight I can't tell one way or another, but I get the impression there's more to the story.

"Is it an appropriate time to go to dinner?"

I look at my watch. It's almost eight. "Sure," I say, "I am looking forward to Chinese food. I haven't had any since, well, before I came to Paris."

When we arrive at the restaurant it is empty, of course.

The man who seats us scowls at our earliness and our American accents. To tell the truth, I really should be keeping a lower profile, and I say as much to David.

"Well, we can speak in French if you like." So we do for the rest of the evening, and it's remarkable how well he speaks the language. I make a mental note to try and check into his background. He's so young, but I have seen him speak perfect French, and he mentioned being fluent in Italian as well. The Project either trained him well or he's smarter than he appears.

We eat, and the food is very good. It's kind of a dive, the restaurant, but I enjoy his company more and more. I find out he has two older sisters he hasn't seen in three years, and that he was actually married for a short time right after he finished his undergraduate degree. I ask about her. He speaks of her affectionately, in French.

"She was beautiful. Her name was Janine, and she had been an English major at Berkeley with me. We lived on the same hall our freshman year. We were inseparable. College romance is so intense because you pretty much live with each other whether you like it or not. It just seemed natural to get married. I went to grad school, and she didn't. I was ambitious and she wasn't. Janine just wanted to live a simple life with children that we never had. We divorced in eight months flat. We wanted different things. Sometimes, though, I wish I had stayed married to her. Especially now."

I smile. "Is being in Paris all that bad?"

"You answer your own question. You have a black cloud hanging over you a kilometer wide."

"I know," I say. We finish eating and stand to go. "Do you want to come with me?" I ask, because it is inevitable that I ask him this. He shrugs. I know what he's feeling, but neither of us will speak it. We both are looking for other people, but are content with whomever we can find.

At home, David zeros in on the one small picture I have of William near my desk. He walks over to it, but doesn't ask me who the baby is. He simply smiles and says, "Il est tres beau." He is very beautiful.

I am grateful to not have to talk about my feelings. We sit and drink some tea, and I have to bite my tongue to keep from remarking on the sad state we've both found ourselves in. "Do you miss her?" I ask.


"Yes. Janine."

"Sometimes," he says and sighs. "I think I miss the idea of her more than anything." Then he laughs. "No, I think people say that when they really miss the person but don't want to admit it. Yes, I miss Janine. She was the only person in my life who never really wanted anything from me.

She just wanted to spend the rest of her life being with me. I couldn't even give her that." He stops talking. We are now speaking in English, so I am better able to articulate myself.

"I understand what you mean."

"Who was he? Or would you rather not talk about it?"

"I'd rather not, thanks." I press my lips together and scoot closer to David on the couch. "I've had a great time tonight. Having someone to talk to these past few weeks has been wonderful."

"It has." He kisses me then, partially because he wants to, I think, and partially because we've run out of things to say to each other. I kiss him back because if the conversation were to go any further, I'd have to talk about Mulder, and he is the last person I want on my mind right now.

We manage to make it to the bedroom to make love, but we are back out on the couch not long after. He turns on the television and I make more tea. The sex was decent and I feel a bit better. He watches BBC news, and I stare blankly at the television trying hard not to seem cold.

The truth is, I want him to spend the night. I want him here when I get up in the morning because I am sick of waking up alone. Even when Mulder and I were together I woke up alone way too many mornings.

I don't say this to David, though, and he takes this as a sign he should leave.

"Well," he says, "I'll see you in the morning."

"Okay," I say. I give him a quick kiss, and he stumbles out of my flat like a baby deer just learning how to use its legs. I finish my tea and go to bed alone.

The next morning, I head for work at the clinic. I exit the commuter rail station at my normal time and head on my normal route to work. About four blocks before I reach the clinic, a man in a suit stops me. "Come with me," he barks at me in French.

"Why?" I ask, and reach for a weapon at my back that I do not have.

"We need you," he says. Well, I think, the goddamn A.C. 9 might as well have just put a sign up over my flat that said Dana Scully Lives Here.

I am thrown into a black car, and I plead in French.

"Please," I say, "I must get to work. I am expected."

There are four men in the car, but I am blindfolded, gagged, and bound hand and foot before I can sketch their features in my mind. They speak to each other in French too rapidly for me to pick up much. What I do pick up seems to be idle chitchat and nothing useful. I do catch two of their names, Daniel and Michel, though I can't match names to voices.

We drive for what seems like hours. I hear the city noises disappear and when we finally do get out, I smell manure and grass. We are in the country, somewhere; I have no idea how much time has passed so I can make no guess as to where we are. Finally, I am afraid for my own life for the first time since arriving in Paris.

I am hustled into a building and left alone in a room that echoes when I breathe. I walk around it, trying to ascertain its dimensions or features. The walls are cold, hard metal. The ground is concrete. The room is small, about thirty six square feet. There is nothing in it at all except for me.

A long time later, someone else enters. They hand me a bottle of water and some crackers, which I am fed, and which I take because I am unsure as to when I will have the chance to eat or drink again. I am asked to sit in a chair that has been brought for me, and I do rather reluctantly.

The person begins speaking and I hear that it is a woman.

She has a soothing voice, deep and rich.

"Miss Genet," she says in French, "I know you have begun working with some of our associates. They have told us you are a talented research scientist, well schooled in different sorts of DNA. You are now working for us. What do you say?"

She snaps her fingers and my gag is removed.

"No," I say. "Let me go. Who are you?"

I hear her chuckle. "Us? Oh, we're your friends."

Chapter 4: L'Espoir Est Un Ami

The day after my big confessional to Peter, I receive another e-mail from the A.C. 9. It says about as much as the first, but scares me because it contains the phrase, "You are being watched" in it about a hundred times. This is also the day I meet Peter's family for the first time.

I decide to put off my fear while I put on a happy face for his wife and two daughters.

His wife is, of course, completely oblivious to his current mental state (which is bordering on the frantic after I tell him about the e-mail). Her name is Meredith, and she is his age. She's plump, round, but very pretty with a Scottish accent and bright red hair. It is obvious simply by the way she looks at him that she is worried about him, but to what extent I cannot tell. He has a baby girl who is eight months old whose name is Joyce and a four-year-old who has her father's skinny body and her mother's bright red hair named Anne. Together, they paint the picture of a nearly perfect family.

Pictures are deceiving. I am, however, completely in awe of the eight-month-old Joyce. She is the smallest thing I have ever seen. I haven't been around many babies. Hell, I haven't even been around my own, but when Meredith asks me to hold Joyce while she finishes setting the table, I nod enthusiastically. The baby stares at me with huge blue eyes, and my heart sinks and soars at once. I think, simultaneously, about how lucky this creature is to be alive and how unlucky she is to be born at such a time in history when her entire species is in a danger that few people know about and maybe no one can stop.

Is there hope for her? There is always hope. I know that I am her hope. My breath sucks itself in as I hand her back over to Meredith. I don't want to give her away, perhaps because I want to protect her, and perhaps because I didn't have a choice in the matter the last time in my life a baby was taken. Not that I blame Scully. I don't.

I just wish so many things these days it's hard to keep track. I wish I could hold Joyce forever, but really I wish that I could hold William.

I notice as I give Joyce back that she has red hair. I wonder what color my son's hair is. It's probably brown, but it could be some shade of Scully red.

"You're very good with the baby," Meredith says in her thick Highlands accent. "You should have children of your own. Or do you? I was under the impression you were not married."

"No," I say, in a British accent. I told Peter I'd keep to my cover story with his family, even though I feel bad lying to them. "I don't have a family."

"You want children?" Meredith asks as she sits at the dining room table. We all join her. Anne climbs up on her own chair and proceeds with deadly seriousness to butter her bread.

"Yes," I say. "Very much."

After dinner, I make my way back to my flat, promising Peter I'll be in touch with him soon to figure out what to do about this group contacting us. I sense immediately as I walk into my building that something is wrong. I climb the stairs quickly, reaching for a gun I don't have. I find my door unlocked, which sends me into a panic because I am unarmed. I kick the door open anyway, just like I learned at Quantico.

"Hello?" I call. "I'm armed."

A thick female voice answers me.

"You lie," she says. She is seated at my desk, and has rifled through all of my UFO material. The lights aren't on, and I can't see her. Neither of us move to turn them on. "Hello, Mr. Laughlin."

"Hello," I say. "Who the hell are you?" I keep my voice hard, tight.

"Joanne. Nice to meet you." She stands in the dark and holds out her hand. "Oh, don't worry, I don't bite."

"What are you, some sort of spy movie cliche? Joanne, did you say? Why are you here?"

"To use another cliche," she drawls, "I think I should be the one asking the questions." She draws a gun and points it directly at my heart. "Turn on the lights." Her accent is unquestionably British, and reminds me of Phoebe's, except her voice is slightly higher. Perhaps it is more than the accent. The calm cadence of her words reminds me of my ex-lover as well.

I move slowly to the light switch and turn it on. Standing in front of me is the most perfect specimen of the femme fatale. Joanne is tall, with blonde, long, straight hair.

Her figure is curvy and she wears a clingy black dress. If I weren't staring so hard at her tits it might make me roll my eyes.

"Who sent you?"

"I sent myself. What? You think a beautiful woman can't have interests of her own?"

"Fine," I spit. "Why did you send yourself?"

"I need to talk to you, Mr. Laughlin. I have some answers to questions you and your friend have been pondering. Sit down." She shakes her gun at me.

"Why the metal friend, Joanne? Why couldn't we meet for a friendly chat at a pub?" I have not dropped my accent.

She has called me Mr. Laughlin, which may mean she doesn't know who I really am.

"I just wanted to make sure I was heard."

"I'm listening." She stands over me, the gun still pointed at me, but a bit more relaxed. I consider my options for a moment before deciding on a plan of action.

"I work for some people who you probably wouldn't like.

I've grown tired, recently, of my work and I have begun research in a field you are probably all too familiar with.

An associate of mine overheard you and Peter talking one afternoon at the local and notified me that I should contact you. I know things, Mr. Laughlin, and so do you.

All I'm proposing is a friendly symposium of knowledge."

"Oh, really?" I say, cocking my head. "And what organization would I be supporting."

"One who you have run up against before. I work for The Project, Mr. Laughlin." She still hasn't threatened me with my real identity, which is very strange. I am well known within the Project, so she must not be a high-ranking conspirator.

I make my move when I see her relax a fraction more. I spring up from the couch, my right hand grabbing the gun, my left arm pushing her by her right shoulder. I am coordinated and she does not expect the attack. I end up with the gun in my right hand and my left arm around her throat.

"You listen to me," I say, harshly, "I want to know why you're here. Cut to the chase."

"I am," she gasps, "I am here to ask for your help. I am searching for answers of my own, you see. I do work for the Project still, but tonight I am not working for them. I am working for myself. I believe that what they are doing is wrong, and I believe that you and I together have information which can help us defeat them once and for all."

"Liar!" I yell and shake her. My anger flares dangerously high and I force myself to take a breath.

"I'm telling the truth!" Her voice has become slightly more panicked, but she still retains a certain calmness that pisses me off even more.

"You don't know anything."

"Oh, Mr. Laughlin, that's where you're wrong. I know you know that the date is set, but you've only seen pieces of the horror that is awaiting the human race. You know that everyone but those in the project are simply food for the alien race. You know that our invaders are distance genetic cousins of us. What you don't know is that there's been a means developed to defeat them. A biological weapon that could save humanity. There's hope, Mr. Laughlin. I am here to offer you protection from your enemies. I give you protection, you give me information and access to documents I do not have access to."

"Why would even the most sinister of men keep such a thing secret?"

"Because they've been promised something more than just salvation from the alien race. They've - we've - been promised power beyond our wildest dreams. Power does funny things to men."

"So you're here on some benevolent mission to save humanity?"

"I have interests of my own. First and foremost, I want revenge. The Project experimented with this biological weapon on humans and covertly-captured aliens alike. My lover was killed in those experiments. I want to kill the leaders of the project. First, however, I want their technology."


"I rather like being alive, Mr. Laughlin. Don't you?" She laughs. "Let me go now. I haven't been sent by anyone."

I do loosen my grip on her and allow her to stand of her own volition. The gun is still pointed into her back, however. I am not dumb.

"You're lying again," I say. I actually don't think she is. I think she really believes that she is here of her own volition. But since she doesn't know my real name, I have a feeling she's being used to get to me.

The real question is whether or not the leaders of The Project (whoever that may be now) think I will figure this out or not. Is she a trap or a decoy?

"You know enough to know how dangerous my bosses are. You know that just for contacting you I could be killed. I have put my own arse on the line here." Her tone is becoming more frantic now. There is a fleeting moment when I enjoy the fact I'm making her beg.

I smile at her, although it probably comes across as more of a leer.

"Okay," I say simply. "Tell me what I have to do."

There's only one way to figure out who my enemy is and how much they know. I may have just walked into a trap. If I have, at least I have my eyes open.

I respond to the "A.C. 9" e-mail promptly. It is a succinct response.

"To whom it may concern:

I don't know who you are and I don't know why you're watching me. I would like you to know that I am being looked after now. End your contact with me."

I wonder briefly if Joanne sent those e-mails. I call Peter and we speak briefly. I tell him I have made a new contact and will hopefully be pursuing a course of action in the near future. I tell him I am going to try to figure out what sends him on his, as he refers to them, "talking sprees." He sounds a bit hesitant on the phone. He says he is afraid of new contacts, and asks if this is the correct means to an end. Perhaps, he says, we should work alone on this.

I tell him that we could search forever and not find the right avenue of investigation. Joanne is our method of getting to the meat of the conspiracy, to solving the mystery of his abduction, and perhaps to save the world.

Peter is still dubious, but the man trusts me and says as much.

After all this is finished, I turn on the telly. There's a German porn playing and I watch it the same way I always watch porn movies -- reclined on the couch with one hand on the remote control and one hand down my pants. When I am close to orgasm I do not think about Scully. For the first time in a long time I don't think about Scully. I think about Joanne, the tight body I held next to me for a minute, the breathy English accent.

When I finish I am slightly disgusted with myself. I sit down and compose a fourth letter to Scully. I will never send these letters, I just write them when she feels especially far away. It brings her back sometimes. In this one, I tell her about Joanne, about how dirty I feel lately, how perverted, how on the outside. I tell her how I no longer fear for my life, how I feel that my hope has died.

I write the words, "Hope is sometimes so difficult" on a piece of paper, and something inside me turns over. It feels as if my entire rib cage has rotated. My head hits the desk, my hands drop to my side. I begin to sob.

Chapter 5: L'Espoir Doit Courir

Somewhere in France
April 2003

My breath is coming faster and faster, each inhale stuck on top of another like leaves in a pile, and I feel as though one good push could send those leaves scattering, my breath gone. I have been running for what feels like miles as fast as I can away from the compound that held me for fourteen days. I was lucky, I was able to coax a low-level guard into letting me have a bit more fresh air, and from there I was able to escape by digging under a fence. It was all so easy. Too easy. The French countryside is kind, and I do not feel I am being pursued. Unfortunately, my captors dressed me in the state uniform for lunatics, and I know I must somehow get more clothes without being of notice. I do not know how to accomplish this.

Suddenly, I come upon a town called Terot. That's what the sign says anyway. Suddenly I am reminded of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," as this was surely the "poor provincial town" they modeled Belle's after. I watched it once, many lifetimes ago, with my nephew.

I pass laundry hanging on a line and wrestle with taking something to wear outright, but I instead grab a sheet. I am caught.

"Who's there?" screams a woman from inside the house attached to the yard. "Get away!"

"Please," I say. "Please, I need something to wear."

She says something that probably means "vagrant" though I am unfamiliar with the word. She exits her house with a large broom handle and shakes it in my general direction.

I cower and hold out my hands in submission. She is tall, round but not fat. She is also young, probably my age.

She looks so much younger to me.

"Please," I repeat. "Please help."

"You want a handout? You want me to just give you my linens so that you can filthy them with your stink?!"

"I have no money." I touch my chest, and realize I still have one thing of value. She notices it too.

"That's pretty. Are you crazy?"

"No. It was a mistake. I'm sane. If you could please just give me a shirt and some pants. Please. I'll give this to you." I remove the cross from my neck. I break the last bit of my own heart doing so. She snatches it and puts it in her pocket. I want to cry, but instead, I harden my features. "I assure you, I am perfectly sane," I say as sanely as I know how.

"Fine," she says. "Let me get you something from the house. Stay here." How can this be my life? Reduced to begging from a French peasant woman, bartering the only thing I have that means anything to me anymore? It's absurd.

She returns with a dress two sizes too big for me, but at least it doesn't say "property of the state asylum" on it.

I run behind the house and change, yelling my thanks. When I emerge, covered from head to toe in huge red painted flowers, she throws some old sneakers at me.

"Here," she says, "those slippers are no good. They won't last you."

As I put them on she smiles kindly, and I entertain the small hope she might give my necklace back. Instead she pats me on the head and whispers something I don't understand.

"Forgive me," I say, "but what does that mean?"

"It's a blessing. For your travels."

"Oh. Thank you very much for believing me and giving me these clothes."

"Thank you for the necklace," she pats her pocket and smiles again. "There is a bus that goes to Paris that leaves about a mile South of here."

"Okay. Goodbye." I begin walking, the sun beating on my bare arms. It is a warm day for spring, and I begin to think that maybe more time has gone by than I think has. I was under the impression that about two weeks had passed while I was held captive. I was basically doing what I had been doing at the lab in Paris, though these experiments were far more sophisticated. I have learned much about the way the alien virus works at its very basic level, and I have learned a great deal about how the virus attacks the alien organism. It's not so much a vaccine yet as it is a cure. That is, I don't believe it's as effective as the Project believes it is in preventing alien invasion of a host, but it is a very effective cure. Well, I'm living proof of that.

The Project.

I wonder if they are behind all of this madness. Or perhaps my "friends" weren't so friendly to begin with.

Have I damned myself? Have I sold myself out to the very people I have spent ten years fighting? There are so many questions. There are some answers, though, too, and for those I am grateful.

I know that large-scale vaccination with the current prototype will be impossible. I have recently proved this.

It will be impossible to manufacture enough of the vaccine.

My captors seemed to take particular interest in this fact.

However, I have also discovered that there is another method of attacking the virus. The current "vaccine"

prototype was basically designed to cut off neurotransmitters of the newly formed organism in the host.

It basically caused the organism to be severed from its brain. There is, however, something that I didn't let my captors know.

This alien virus has a cure. It can also be prevented.

The organism, on its own, attacks pretty much whatever human body it can find. However, when I tried to force it to infect a rat that had cancer, it wouldn't. I had, in fact, infected the rat with a similar cancer to the one I had. Cancer is a preventative, which makes sense. The alien virus is smart, it will only attack healthy hosts.

Obviously, you can't go around causing cancer. Cancer is the body producing too many cells, turning on itself, growing things in places where there should be empty space or healthy tissue. The trick to warding off the virus, then, is to make it think the host has cancer. Although I was unable to prove this for a fact, it must sense the growth rate of cells in the body. If they are growing at too fast a rate, then it will not infect the host. This also explains why Gibson Praise and William are probably immune. Their regenerative skills, the rate at which they can regrow cells (even brain cells, which are generally thought of as impossible to regrow) is astoundingly high.

They are part alien (and so, in effect, partially infected with the virus already), but the part of them that is human is constantly rebuilding itself and creating new sectors of the brain, making their brains function at a higher level.

My new job, my goal, the only one I have now, is figuring out how to induce this process in human without causing cancer. And I think I can do it. I think I know how.

I reach a small outpost in the middle of nowhere, grape fields surrounding me for miles in almost every direction.

There is a sign for a bus, and under it, it says "Paris."

It also stops in several other towns before heading to the capital. I do not have a ticket. Nor do I have any money.

When the bus arrives, I explain this to the bus driver, and he attempts to throw me off the bus, but if there's one thing that I've learned about the French in my time here it is that they are nearly always willing to take a gamble.

So I offer him a gamble. He looks like an old gambler.

"When we reach Paris," I say, curling my lips up a little, "I will give you double the bus fare. You will drop me off last, next to my apartment building. I have millions of francs in cash up there. Something terrible has happened to me, and I have had my wallet stolen. Please?"

He looks me up and down, and I cringe. I hate the way men always feel the need to rake you with their eyes before accepting or rejecting a proposal.

"Oui," he says simply, and I take my seat at the empty back of the bus.

We reach Paris four hours later, and I buzz my next-door neighbor, explaining that I've lost my keys. It is close to midnight, and she lets me in, grumbling all the while.

I am exhausted, so tired that I can barely work up the strength to climb the two flights of stairs. The bus driver is waiting. I intend to pay him, if I can get into my apartment.

I find the door unlocked, and open.

I am confused, frightened. I walk in and yell, "Who's there?"

"It's David," says my lover, and I see him reclined on the couch. I collapse next to him, unable to move, immobilized by my sudden, profound exhaustion. I don't ask him why he's here. I don't question it anymore. "Do you know where I keep my stores of cash? My Euros?"

"Yes," he says simply. I don't ask him why he knows this.

"How much."

"Twenty-seven times two to pay the bus driver waiting downstairs. Hurry. I'm a woman of my word."

I hear him rustle around. This is the last sound I hear that evening. I fall asleep, sitting up, on the couch.

The next morning, I awake to the enticing smell of coffee.

My neck feels as though it has been paralyzed by sharp, stabbing hooks. My muscles are all stiff and tired. I feel like I haven't slept. The coffee is my best friend.

Of course, David is making it. He pours me a cup, asking with gestures if I like cream and sugar.

"Just milk," I say. He pulls out a box of milk that I didn't buy. I hate the stuff that isn't fresh. "How long have you been here?" I ask.

"Since you disappeared. You got fired from the clinic, by the way."

"Oh. Didn't you think that I ran away? Why did you come here?"

"They gave me the apartment. When they thought you weren't coming back." We sit at the large, round table. I trace its wooden knots.

"Do you know who took me?" He meets my leveled gazed.

"No. Well, I know who would want to take you. Our enemies. The Project."

"The Project?" I close my eyes, "Convenient that I have an arch nemesis."


"Nothing. Your 'bosses' didn't take me? I was essentially doing the same thing in captivity as I was doing for the A.C. 9."

He looks shocked, and looks sincere about it. "That's not how we operate. We had no idea what was going on. We thought maybe you had deserted."

"Why didn't you look for me? Why weren't you shocked when I walked in?"

"I was. You were tired."

I accept this response for now because I am still tired. I am so tired.

"We have to run again, you know. The same people could kidnap you again. I can get you to Germany or Italy, or maybe even Argentina."

"No," I say. "No more."

"You could be killed!"

"They let me escape, David. I wouldn't have escaped if they didn't want me to. Not if this is The Project we're dealing with."

"Who else would it be? Dana-"

"Dana." I snort softly, as if this is an unwelcome nickname. He tries again.

"Sophie, we have to leave Paris."

"I am in agreement with you there."

"Good. I'll get you the necessary paper work. Argentina is probably best."

"No. I'm going to England. I'm going to England as Dana Scully to look for Mulder."

The words that come out of my mouth shock even me. I didn't know this is what I wanted, but it is. My hand reaches instinctively to a necklace I no longer have.

"You'll be killed!"

"Fine. Sure. Great," I say. "Let them kill me. Just let me find Mulder first."

I stand and go into my bedroom. My body feels as if it's been beaten for days straight. I take four aspirin and hope they take effect sooner than they will. I begin to pack. I take out my passport, my real passport, and look at my picture. It was taken nine years ago. I touch the woman's hair, her cheek, and her neck. "What I didn't know..." I whisper. "What I wish I could take back..."

I shove the letters I've been writing to my mother and to William in the bottom of the bag, and throw everything else in after. I walk out to grab my coffee and David is gone.

Just as well, I think, I have no idea who he even is and whether he actually is my friend or not. My hands go numb at the thought of having literally slept with the enemy.

I dress and finish packing. The apartment has personal effects I bought in my time in Paris. I will miss it. I will my Paris, but I am tired of running and hiding. I want Mulder.

I am rolling my suitcase out the door when David reappears, dragging a similar suitcase behind him.

"What's this?"

"Want company?"

"I thought you'd-"

"Well, I didn't. Let's go."

We take the metro to the airport, and I am happy for his company. But I do not trust him.

Chapter 6: Un Espoir Noir

London, England
April 2003

She's all around me, dipping her petal hair onto my knees, her puffed lips on my thigh, her flexible nose on my bellybutton. When my eyes open I see her. When I breathe I smell her. I try not to do either. It's easy to believe that the woman working eagerly between my thighs could be Scully. A tongue feels like a tongue, and so I concentrate on this tongue, running up and down the shaft of my penis, expertly pushing along its bottom seam while a hand reaches out to cup my balls. I moan.

This tongue is too skillful to be Scully's. Her method of lovemaking was a bit more trial and error than Joanne's is.

Not that I'd complain ever to Scully, but she was definitely not as experienced in the bedroom arts as some other women.

She stops her magical tongue and instead moves to mount me, her legs astride my thighs as she faces me. I am underneath her. This is my favorite sexual position. It's something about giving up control, letting the woman lead the way.

Joanne begins to move her hips rhythmically against mine and I feel my orgasm growing just below my belly. It starts there, above my groin and moves swiftly down into my genitals, an expanding fire which breathes with breath of its own. I begin to pant harder, and Joanne, sensing this, rides faster and faster. I try my best to stimulate her clit as well, but she knocks my hand away and does it herself, moaning and rolling her head around so her long blonde hair tickles the tops of my thighs as it dips down her back.

Somehow, we come together, at nearly the exact same moment.

This has never happened in all my years of clumsy lovemaking. I do not think that she is faking. Joanne gets what she wants, and she wanted an orgasm tonight.

She'll have got one. I begin by moaning her name, and she moans mine (or, rater, she moans James'), but soon both our words are nonsense. I hope vaguely that my words are Britishy sounding nonsense, because I'm sure I drop my accent once or twice during it all. I think I may even black out for a minute, because the next thing I consciously sense is her absence.

I'm cold. She has dismounted my now-flaccid penis and gone off to my tiny kitchen.

"Joanne?" I call.

"Just getting some water. Be right back. Want some?"

"Oh, sure."

She returns, sauntering into my room stark naked. I don't mind. Not at all.

"You've got to tell me more," I say to Joanne over coffee at Coffee Republic, the English version of Starbucks. We are all business, as if twenty minutes ago we had not had our parts inside each other.

"I can't. I've told you all I know." She's coy. I am an expert at reading people and I cannot read Joanne.

"This weapon is only in its infant stages?"

"Yes. It's simply a concentrated compound that as proved effective in killing a weak strain of the alien virus."

"Are we working alone here?"

"Not exactly."

"Explain," I demand and down my large house coffee.

"I do have partners."

"You lied before, then."

"No, I told you I was working in my own interests. I have a few other people working in my interest as well."

"So this is or isn't a personal vendetta?"

"It is. I'm just very persuasive," she practically purrs.

I wonder if there is some sort of female secret agent school where they teach them these sexy techniques.

"So where do we go from here? Now that I'm on your side.

At least I think I'm on your side." Under the table, I feel a fingernailed hand running up my thigh and dangerously close to my groin.

"You're on my side. You need to find out more about Peter.

He's the whole reason I started looking at you, Mr.

Laughlin. We were both watching the same person. Does he know about you and me?"

I stare at the ground. "He thinks you're my girlfriend."

She laughs a laugh that is hard on my ears, but thankfully says nothing about the impossibility of the two of us being a couple. "Well, you can decide whether or not to tell him the truth. My advice is not to, not yet. He's the center of something big, something huge. It's not something you're going to want to explain to him just yet."

"I should take him to get more tests run. An MRI. I once ran across a case," I pause. I must remember not to say too much. "I used to work for the government."

"I know," she says. She takes a file out of her briefcase and begins reading. "James Laughlin, worked for several years as an investigator at Scotland Yard. Was demoted to current desk job because of," she turns a page and I try not to register surprise on my face, "a wild theory about UFOs. Is that correct?"

"Yes," I say a bit too quickly. Whoever the A.C. 9 is, they did a good job.

"Tell me about this case."

"A boy. Abnormal brain activity. He'd been abducted and experimented on."

"Yes," she arches a blonde eyebrow and blinks long lashes.

"Luck to have met you."

She stands and smiles. "Let me know when you've got something. You have the mobile number." With that, Joanne disappears, and I shake my head in wonder. What the hell is this?

I find Peter at his street corner, the same as I always do.

He is happy to see me, and asks after Joanne.

"Oh," I say casually, "she's good." With each passing day we spend together, I grow more and more fond of the small man, his growing family, and his overwhelming city. I hate the lies that stack up behind me, a growing book of the past year.

"So what's going on then, mate?"

"I want to take you for an MRI, Peter. You have health insurance?"

"Yes. An MRI? I just had one done."

"It's worth it to do it again. There was a boy named Gibson who I ran across in my previous life. And after my own abduction, there were some brain abnormalities. I think we should look and see."

"What if there's something wrong?"

"I think you're seeing it backwards. In both cases, Gibson, and myself there was nothing wrong. Everything was right. Everything was too right. Things were working at a higher rate than normal humans. My own brain activity has slowed. Gibson, however, remains an incredible human.

My," I shudder, "son had some of the same abnormalities.

But I don't know the particulars of that."

"Your son?"

"Yes. With a former lover." My brow creases involuntarily.

"Not too former, then?" He asks, noticing my distress at calling Scully a "former lover."

"Fresh memory. Very fresh."


"In any case when can you have an MRI?"

"You really think it's important?"


"Then I can get it done as soon as possible." My heart aches at the trust he has in me. Obviously, he should have a second MRI done. The past has proven to me that brain activity is an indicator of experimentation by aliens or the government. My intentions are not entirely honorable, though, as I am trying to gather information for Joanne. I wrestle with the decision as to whether or not to tell Peter about Joanne's real vocation. In the end, I decide not to, not just yet. I've been blowing way too many covers lately.

"Good," I say. "Do you have a doctor you can trust?" I walk him to his flat.

"Yes. You want to come in? Meredith would love to see you."

I feel a burning in my eyes. "No, thank you. Send her my love, though." I have to be alone tonight. I've been too destructive the past few days.

Two days later, I wake when my phone rings. It's Peter, with the results of his MRI.

"Jesus, Mulder," he says, using my real name though he usually prefers to call me Jimmy. "It's fucked up." His language takes me aback. I've never really heard him use a curse word before.

"What happened?"

"You were right about abnormal brain activity. The doctor thinks there was something wrong with the machines. I got a copy of the MRI saying it would be fun to show my friend.

I lied," he adds softly. "He wanted to do another MRI. I made an appointment I'm not going to keep to do another one."

"What's strange about it?"

"I don't really know how to read it, but the doctor said is showed activity in all areas of the brain, including ones that were supposed to be dormant."

"Can you come over here?"

"Yes." His voice is shaky. "Please explain this to me."

When he arrives at my flat, I have dressed and made some coffee. He walks over to the coffee pot immediately and pours himself a large mug. It is eight in the morning. He is still shaking.

"Maybe coffee isn't the best thing for you right now." I gently take the mug away from him.

"Yeah. Need a pint's more like it."

"Well, it's a bit early for that."

"I'm scared."

"Don't be. Let me see it." I look at the MRI and wish for the millionth time for Scully. My memory, as good as it is, can't really tell if this looks like Gibson's or mine.

"This could explain all the, well, unexplained features of your life." We haven't really come across a good vocabulary to refer to his speeches. We've called them "speeches," "episodes," and "memory lapses."


"Well, I don't really know how the brain works, but maybe a new portion of your brain becomes active while your conscious memory shuts down. Something like that."

He paces a bit and takes another sip of coffee. "I really shouldn't worry?"

"No," I assure him, and indicate he should sit on the couch. "I promise you that you're going to be okay."

Five minutes after Peter leaves for work, Joanne bursts through my front door. How and when she got a key, I do not know. She has been watching me, though, because she obviously waited until Peter left to come in.

"Well," she demands.

"Abnormal activity," I confirm, briefly wondering if she was listening to me as well. I chide myself for not keeping accent around Peter. I have to stop dropping my cover, or I'll be killed before I can help anyone.

"Well, the shit's hit the fan." She hands over a test tube with an orange substance in it. "Be careful with that.

It's the biological weapon."

"Seriously?" I regard it with some reverence.

"Watered down, but the same substance."

"What's going on?" She is out of breath, pained.

"A mass murder. In York. Like the ones in America I'm sure you heard about. There are rebel aliens everywhere."

She leans in close. "James, abductees are being killed by the rebel aliens. Do you know what that means?"


"The invasion has begun in England. If the rebels are here, the colonizers are as well. We're running out of time. You and I are going to York, and we're taking the weapon. It's going to be a field test."

I look at the test tube and then at the unusually flustered Joanne. I am afraid to go to York, but I pack a bag anyway.

Chapter 7: Une Femme Completement Sans Espoir Est Dangereuse London, England
April, 2003

David and I arrive in London without much fanfare. We exit the airplane and make our way to customs, an Italian silk scarf wrapped around my head movie star style, and with my flashy lack of baggage, I get some "who-could-that-be"


My lack of baggage isn't so flashy for the Hethrow customs agents, who ask me a million question when I say, in my own accent, that my stay in England may be of some duration.

They finally stamp my passport, only because I'm an American, but warn me that I can't stay past a few weeks.

When we reach the queue for the black cabs, I look at David.

"Well," I say. "You have contacts here?"

"Mais oui, ma cherie," he says instead of a simple yes. I turn my head away from him and roll my eyes.

For six months during my junior year in high school I dated the most beautiful loser that creation has ever known. By this I mean that he was gorgeous, smart, had nice manners, and was a complete and total dork. He would spout out regurgitations of his older brothers' college philosophy textbooks (his family had produced two Dartmouth graduates and a soon-to-be magna-cum-laude at Harvard, so there were plenty of philosophy textbooks to be had), refuse to drink anything but sparkling, imported water, and would drink espresso until his hands shook. It was more than just pretentiousness, though, because he really understood how wine was made, the different tannins and flavors that are offered by different regions of the world. He wasn't pretending. After three months with him, I realized he was just a harbor for useless knowledge. He knew which things were the best things because he'd taken the time to learn.

And he was damn proud, and damn cocky about it. We were both sixteen.

Since dating Paul Rodriguez, Jr. (and God help you if you forgot the "jr.") I learned to love the less fine things in life, to appreciate the sheer normalcy of things. If he taught me nothing else, Paul taught me that routine was okay.

David reminds me of Paul. David doesn't know about wine, he doesn't impress me with his knowledge of which rock bands are hip in other countries, but he thinks he's smarter than anyone else. He thinks he's smarter than I am.

Normally, dealing with a man who thinks he is smarter than me would be no big deal. In the FBI, the Old Boys Club is still up and running, collecting dues through secret handshakes that can only be made if you have external genitalia. I'm used to it. Sometimes the men are smarter than I am, but those tend to be the ones who aren't as cocky. Like Mulder.

David is cocky, but from the story he told me, he doesn't have much reason to be. He's never been out in the field, fighting the bad guys (or the good guys, depending on which side he's on). There's something he's hiding from me, something big, and it's not just the length of time he's spent in Europe.

He's lording it over me, I can feel it. If being around Mulder taught me nothing else (which it did), it's that being an excellent observer is invaluable. Take into account a person's entire being, and you can know things about them that even they don't know. "You have the advantage," Mulder once told me about his profiling days.

"You can watch them. They can't watch themselves."

So I'm determined to get to the bottom of the A.C. 9. My hands shake involuntarily as we exit in the exclusive neighborhood of Kensington, near Notting Hill. I notice with some weariness that David has the keys to this flat.

Where in the hell did he get those? He's the sneakiest man I've ever met.

We enter a spacious, airy, converted late eighteenth century townhouse. The ceilings are high and arched, pure white. I think vaguely that I have always wanted an apartment like this, a place large enough to raise a family with style.'

"I'm hungry," I say instead of remarking on the flat. I toss my things on a bed that has been made with Egyptian cotton.

"I'll go to the grocery store."

"Okay," I say. "Get milk, eggs, butter, some chicken or something for dinner tonight, some tomatoes and spinach for a salad and whatever else you want."

"Gee, thanks, Mom," he leans in and kisses my head. "I'll be back."

"You have money?" I ask, half joking. He shoots me a look that I take to mean that money won't be necessary.

As soon as he leaves I jump on his bag and begin going through it. Whatever was necessary he must have brought with him, but none of the papers he has shoved in a folder are labeled. There are a series of international faxes with no date and the numbers blacked out in permanent marker. I read them, even though they say little of importance.

The last one in the stack has been folded a few times, though, and this one does hold something interesting in it.


I've met the counterpart. In London. Good news all around. I'll be in touch, and maybe we'll be touching together soon.


The rest of his bag is filled with clothes. At the bottom, though, I do find a small vial with a thick yellow liquid inside. I put everything back neatly and try to assimilate what I've discovered.

David has another lover who's initial is J, who is in London and has found someone's counterpart. Perhaps my counterpart. Perhaps he or she is speaking about Mulder.

My eyes grow wide as my head races with a thousand fantasies of meeting Mulder. Then my happiness comes crashing to a halt when I realize that if someone named J has met "the counterpart" he or she could very well have his or her claws in the counterpart. The way David has his claws in me.

The thought that Mulder is sleeping with someone else is enough to make my stomach turn over several times, and as David comes back into the flat, I have to fight with myself hard not to run to the bathroom to vomit. He notices the green look on my face.


"Dana," I correct.

"Dana, are you alright?"

"I'm fine. I'm just tired." It's not a lie. I am tired.

I lay down on the couch and go to sleep.

Somewhere, I am cradling a child in my arms, a tiny baby girl with red hair and pale blue eyes. I'm rocking her to sleep, singing a song I make up as I go along.

"You are the beautiful girl," I sing, "the beautiful girl."

I hear a low rumbling coming from a white area behind me, which is my kitchen. I am in danger. I run, holding my baby in my arms. I run, my lungs on fire. I hit water, and we enter it swimming like two dolphins, cutting through the water.

Everything goes black suddenly, and I am filled with despair. I begin to weep, but since I am still underwater, my choked sobs only serve to blacken my surroundings. I'm drowning, and the liquid is no longer water, but slimy black oil. I can't remember who it is I'm looking for, but it is someone important, and I miss her.

Just as I'm sure I can't hold my breath, I hear a voice high above me, through the viscous liquid.

"Scully! Dana Scully!" I swim as hard as I can to reach the voice. When I break the surface, bathed in light, Mulder is kneeling his face close to the surface. He kisses me, giving me his breath, and we tumble, together, back inside the ocean of disease.

I wake.

I am crying and David is watching me. I grab my purse and leave the flat before he can see how badly I'm shaken.

Less than ten minutes later I am exiting the Tube station at Piccadilly Circus and wandering around the deepening dusk light bathed in a neon glow. I feel a bit more at home. I am familiar with London, much more than I was with Paris when I first arrived.

Something inside me misses Paris. It's inside me now, and it felt like home just a little before David entered my life. I spot a Starbucks and practically kill myself running toward it. I am a devotee of the grande vanilla latte. Saying that aloud to anyone in the past few months would have gotten me laughed out of France.

After ordering, I sit and stare at the people, who don't notice me. I make up stories for them in my head, trying to think about anything but my dream, a thinly-veiled version of real-life events. I watch the people ordering at Starbucks as a woman, her husband, and their baby walk in. The baby is a year old or a little more. William's age.

My tears fall quickly, and to me their saltiness tastes bitter and defeated. I am unsure where my feet are taking me as I begin to leave the coffee shop and walk across a bridge that faces me. I pass a phone booth and I stop.

As I enter it, I know that I have made a decision. I've made a decision to take back my life, to reclaim that husband and that baby that I know are rightfully mine.

It's a selfish decision, the one I make, based not what's best for the universe, or for the rest of the human population. It's the decision I know Mulder, in his quest to be humanity's savior, can't make. This is what's best for me and me alone.

I call Skinner. I dial the phone number for his office by memory. It is mid-afternoon in DC, at home, and I wait expectantly as his secretary picks up.

Only it is not his secretary.

"AD Phil Lambert's office," says the strange woman on the other line.

"Hi," I say tentatively, "I'm looking for AD Skinner."

"Skinner? Oh, he doesn't work here anymore."

"Do you know where I could reach him?" The cruel woman laughs.

"Try at home. He got fired. Far as I know, he's been out of work since." Click. My heart stops knowing that his contact with Mulder and I, and that awful Kirsch, is what got him fired in the first place. I know his home phone number by heart as well, and I decide to dial it, knowing that further contact with me may make him worse off than he already is.

"Hello," answers my weary AD as-was.

"Hello," I say simply unsure of what else to say, waiting to see if he recognizes my voice before I have to tell him.

"Who is this?" he asks, alarmed.

"You don't know?" I laugh a little at the game. He must know. He's spoken to me on the phone thousands of times.



"What the hell? Aren't you in hiding?"

"Well," I say, trying to sound like my old self, trying not to make my voice come out too bitter, "that wasn't working out for me. What, with all the kidnappings and people who knew who I was. So, I'm in England now, blowing my cover."

"Jesus," is all he says. "Well, what can I do?"

"Lots of things. To start, though, will you tell my mother you've spoken to me and that I'm okay."

"Yes. Are you okay?"

I laugh again, in spite of myself. "Just peachy."


"We'll talk more later. I've encountered a man here. An informant who claimed to be working against The Project."

I look around, knowing that if anyone heard this phone conversation, they'd think I was some sort of paranoid asylum escapee. "I don't trust him, though."

"Why not?"

"Things just don't add up. He told me his name is David and that he knows Marita. That it was her friends who contacted him and led him to me. He's part of the group that set up my new life for me. But he's lying. I can tell. He's lying about where he's lived. He says he was in Scotland for six months, but he has some sort of strange accent. I found a fax referring to someone I think may be Mulder. He has a partner."

"A partner?"

"Someone with the first initial J. Will you talk to Marita about this?"

"That might be hard."


"She's disappeared. Gone, without a trace. I was keeping in close contact with her," he stumbles over the word, "close," enough so I know that there was some sort of relationship, friendly or otherwise, going on there.

"Can you help me at all?" I ask, frustrated. Of course, even blowing my cover would be a dead end.

"I can try."

"Thank you."

"Where can I reach you?"

"You can't. I'm in hiding. I'm living with David, so it's risky to call me at home."

"Then call me again. Tomorrow. Same time. I'll see what I can find."



"I was kidnapped. Some horrid French woman made me do experiments."


"It sounds crazy. I didn't tell you because it sounds so utterly crazy." I am crying again.

"Dana, you're not okay."

"I'm without hope," I say. "This will never work out."

"Did they hurt you?"

"Yes and no. They beat me at first, but then they pretty much left me alone. I'm all healed. Nothing major. I escaped and ran, barefoot, through the French countryside."

"Jesus," he says again.

"Yeah," I say. "I don't think He's with me anymore." I feel a pang over the loss of my cross, the many years since I felt the comfort I used to feel at church.

"But I am." Skinner's voice is welcome, reassuring, and just what I need to hear.

I hang up the phone and walk, slowly, in the direction of the tube. It is very late at night before I get home, and David is not there.

There's a note, though.


Went out to meet some friends. Made dinner. Miss you.

See you in the wee hours. (This Brit boys know how to party).

A kiss,


I crumple the note and take a bath.

Chapter 8: L'Espoir Est Absent Quand La Morte Est Presente York, England
April 2003

The train to York made me realize how much I've missed living in this country. All the rain has a good effect it's green here all the time. As we rumbled along, I passed thousands of sheep, and tiny towns seemingly untouched by time. I even saw a bedraggled man walking the fields with a contemplative look on his face, as I've seen thousands of times in the movies and on the television.

The last time I was in this country, of course, I was young and in love with Phoebe, determined to make her mine and to make a mark on the world.

Now I don't really know who I am anymore.

Joanne and I get a hotel room near the famous York Minster and rent a car to take us out to the site where the abductees were killed. I've been watching the press, who has reported only that there was a "massive fire" that "may have injured several hundred people" in the York area.

There is no mention of death, although Joanne has given me a report which says that a hundred people were killed.

My understanding of the rebel aliens' agenda is limited. I know that they are working toward the same cause I am, getting rid of the colonizing aliens, but I also know that their methods (which can only be described as slash and burn on acid) are not something I condone. They kill abductees to get rid of the experiments the Project and the colonizers were running. If the experiment is gone, colonization cannot take place, because there will be no women to produce the hybrids.

I am confused, though, as to why they are at war with the other species of alien. The Earth is obviously some sort of prize in this war, and one group is trying to keep the other group from having it. I ask Joanne.

"It doesn't matter who wins the war," she explains. "We're food either way. The rebel aliens just want our planet, while the current colonizers want our bodies and our DNA."

"But didn't you mention you had worked with the rebel aliens?"

"Yes. We're two-faced about it, though. We figure, if we can use the rebel aliens against the other ones, then we'll only have to deal with one species instead of two."


"My partners and I." I let it slide that she seems to be deferring to someone else.

We reach the spot where the rebels burned the people, and sure enough, I find ash all over the ground. I take samples in a makeshift evidence case, a plastic bag and some sterilized tongs. For the millionth time I miss Scully as I try to figure out how I can get the evidence analyzed by Scotland Yard when I'm not an investigator.

"Jesus," says Joanne as she steps on a bone. She kicks at it and I give her a warning glance.

"That's evidence," I point out.

"Well, we already know what happened here."

"Do we? I know something burned. I see bones, but they may or may not be the bones of people. We think we know what happened."

She smiles sweetly. "What ever happened to playing a hunch?"

"Playing a hunch is overrated," I quip back. "I want this analyzed."

"When we get back to London," she says. "This is pretty much the country up here."

"We'll see," I say.

"Do you have anymore questions?"

"How do we find the rebel aliens? The faceless ones."

"I don't know. They're difficult to locate. They must still be in the area, though. Something is happening in York. Something big."

"Yes, you keep saying that, and you've given me no idea of what that may be. What are we talking about, here? The beginning of colonization? I thought it had already begun.

The end of the world? Give me some sort of clue, here Joanne."

"That's what we're up here to find out." She pulls her fingers through her long hair and smiles another devastating smile. She approaches me, puts her hand on my arm and leans in close.

"We're up here to test a biological weapon."

I push her away angrily. "On what, Joanne? I mean, really, what the hell am I doing up here besides learning bits and pieces of a puzzle you already know the answer to.

What are you trying to show me."

She recedes from me, but does not lose her cool, which makes me angrier. "I'm simply here, like you, to try to locate and kill the rebel aliens and the colonizers. To try and contain the black oil."

"Okay. Containment," I growl. "You want containment. And death. To kill the rebel aliens, you say."

"Yes! Stop questioning me! I lead you to this. Without me, you would just be working at your merry desk job pining after some old girlfriend."

I slap her.

I'm not proud to admit it, but I've hurt her. She falls to the ground and her nose begins to bleed. My burst of anger hasn't dissipated the malevolence I'm feeling, however, and I leap on top of her and pull her arms behind her back.

"Do you know who I am?"

"James Laughlin. Alien hunter extraordinaire. Pathetic slobby loser who thinks he can get off with me."

I pull tighter on her wrists, and she suppresses a cry of anguish. She is still acting cool, but my death grip on her skin is making her sweat.

"Who am I?" I scream again.

"Alright! Shit!" She yells. I pull her a few feet away from the road so a passing car can't see us. We're now in unburned grass, covered in green and invisible from the road. I turn her over so she faces up at me. There are tears in her eyes now and I shake my head at her final form of intimidation. "I know you're not British. Your accent is horrid. I've listened to you talking to Peter. I know you're American."

"Who are you working for?"

"No one. No one." I get some satisfaction from the fear in her eyes, but she isn't really afraid. Joanne is just a good actress.

"Tell me who your partners are." I pull her hair. I can feel my stomach twist inside me as I do so, but pain is the only language my lover understands.

"A man. My boyfriend."


"An American. He used to work at a lab for the Project."

"Who else?"

"A few other former members of the Consortium. I told you this!"

"And what are your objectives, then?" I'm American again, suddenly, but I'm not feeling too much like the big bad cowboy when I am the one causing the damsel to be in distress.

"To get rid of the fucking aliens! What the fuck do you think?!?"

"Strike one." I pull. She cries.

"Please don't."

"Strike two," I say and reach into my back pocket. I have a small Sig Sauer that I snuck into my bag while Joanne wasn't looking. I pull her into a half sitting position, so I am leaning over her with the gun at her mouth.

"Jesus," she says. "They said you were crazy but-"


"My bosses."

"Oh, so you have bosses now?"

"Yes. Yes."

"Who are they?"

"I don't know. We don't ever see them. We were recruited off the Project."

"For what purpose?" She is silent and I shake the gun at her, but when she says nothing else I have to let her go.

She's call my bluff. I can't kill her.

She stands and dusts herself off. "Fuck you!" She screams as I run for our car. Then I hear a familiar click at my back and I turn.

In the middle of a burned field in York, with no one around me, I have a gun drawn on me by a blonde bombshell and a former lover. I pull mine on her as well.

"This is interesting, Mr. Laughlin."

"For the last time, call me by my real name!"

"I don't know you real name, for the last time." She laughs. "I know you're dead anyway, and I know that no one will remember you name when I bury you out in this field."

"Why did you bring me here?"

She smiles another of her playful smiles. "Why not?"

"Shit," I say. "Give it up. What am I doing out here?"

"Okay, fine," she says. "My bosses are aligned with the former Project in a weird way. Several of us lab kids that's what the Consortium called us before they were all killed -- developed this potent biological weapon." She holds up the vial with the yellow substance in it. "We did this on our own, and decided that a split from the group would be advantageous. There were six of us to start, but I guess the men got wind of our little miracle worker here and killed off a few of us. My former lover included."

"So, you were trying to blackmail the most powerful Consortium of men in the world?" I laugh involuntarily, or perhaps to mock her. "You've got to be kidding."

"Oh, come on. We were cleverer than that. Why do you think those men died?"

"You killed them."

"Well, I certainly didn't start the fire."

"For what purpose did you kill them?"

"They didn't do what we wanted."


"We had made a fortunate alliance in the rebel aliens.

They agreed to do our dirty work if we did some of theirs."

"You're informants?"


"And you really don't know who I am?"

"Our ringleader, a man who goes by David, a man who is actually my current love interest, knows who you are. He kept that information to himself." I hear a bit of bitterness in her voice then.

"The A.C. 9?"

"That's me. Well, me and David and an ever-growing pool of lab kids, former disgruntled members of the Project."

"To what end is all of this taking place?"

"To *the* end, Mr. Laughlin."

She begins to walk toward me. I briefly wonder, as a "lab kid" what kind of shot she is, but I decide not to risk it.

Actually, I don't have to.

Just then, I hear someone behind me, grass crunching under their feet.

I turn my head for an instant and see the most welcome site I think I've ever seen.

"Marita," I say. "Thank God." She closes her eyes briefly before pulling her gun on Joanne. Joanne looks shocked.


"Sorry, Jo. My loyalties are elsewhere now."

Marita pulls the trigger, a long black coat trailing behind her even though the day is warm. She looks like a beautiful grim reaper, my very own dark guardian angel.

She turns calmly away and walks to her own car.

"Mulder, are you coming?"

"Yeah," I croak out, the full force of what I have learned and what has taken place hitting me smack in the stomach.

I vomit twice before we reach London.

Marita and I get to my apartment, and she gives little in the way of explanation.

"How did you find me?"

"I've been watching you. I've been here in Europe, watching you and Scully. I made a mistake when I contacted an old friend to help you out. I didn't think he was a part of this whole mess."

"Do you know where she is?"


"Scully. You mentioned Scully."

"Yes. Well. I know she's here."

"Here?" My heart is in my throat, and I think Marita must see it beating through because she smiles a sincere smile at me.

"In London, yes. Other details I don't know. She contacted Skinner."

"Why?" I know Scully wouldn't endanger herself or me without reason. I also know she must be looking for me.

"I don't know. She's afraid of something. She's been pursued by Joanne's former counterpart, David."


"This whole thing you've stumbled upon with what's-hisname-"


"Yes, Peter. That's the real mystery. This whole rebel alien conspiracy thing is old news. Keep talking to Peter."

She attempts to hug me before she leaves, but it is an awkward motion. "I'll be in touch."

"Thank you," I say.

"I got you into this mess. I had to get you out."

It is time for one of Peter's speeches, so I walk to his corner on Oxford and Tottenham. It's about a mile and a half from my flat. When I get there he is almost done. He sees me and smiles, and after such an awful day, I am glad that he is happy to see me. I am certainly happy to see him.

"Hello, mate," he says as he climbs down off his crate.

"You fancy a pint?"

"Good use of terminology," he laughs. "I reckon I do.

What have you found out?"

"Nothing I didn't already know. I've had a hell of a day, though. How about you?"

"Oh, you know." The small man scratches his head. "I have a implant, I talk about crazy things, I think I'm beginning to remember an abduction. The usual."

"Oh, Peter," I say and put my arm around my friend. "It's tough. The memories that come back are difficult to talk about. Horrible."

"Horrific," he agrees. "But let's talk more about your informant."

"Oh." We hop on a number seven bus going West toward my flat, toward our favorite pub. "She's dead."


"I'll explain in a few." We hop off the bus at Hyde Park and in the thinning light of the day I glance across the grass and see someone I never thought I'd see again. Shock barely has time to register on my face before I see something that brings on anger.

Scully. My Scully. My beautiful, radiant Scully looking thin and haggard. Looking like death walking. And kissing another man. I kick the edge of the McDonalds we pass by and Peter's eyes grow wide.

"Mate?" He questions. I pull him around the corner and hope she hasn't seen me.

Chapter 9: L'Espoir Est Un Batard

When David comes back from his party, I am already asleep.

He climbs into bed uninvited and I shuffle in what I hope is a disgruntled manner.

"Hello, beautiful," he slurs before falling fast asleep.

When I am sure he is in an alcohol-induced stupor, I get up and leave the flat. I travel by foot to a pay phone a secure distance away.

The conversation is perfunctory.

"Sir?" I say, unable to rid myself of the respect for Skinner as our former positions at the FBI required me to have.

"I have almost nothing for you."


"A name that matches one of Marita's usual alias' is recorded as entering the UK at Hethrow a little over twenty four hours ago."

"Interesting," I say. "Has she double crossed us?"

"To what end?"

"You tell me. What do you know about her?"

"She didn't double cross you."

"So why are we all one big happy family in London?"

"I don't know." He pauses. "She wouldn't double cross you."

"You know her that well?"

He's coy, and I don't pry anymore. "I know her well enough," is what he tells me, confirming an earlier suspicion that perhaps Skinner and Marita were involved in some extra curricular activities.

"What else?"

"Not much, Dana. That's about all I can tell you."

"Nothing on any of her friends?"

"She was once involved with a man she called David. I remember her telling me that."


"I know nothing about him. Just that she said he was a 'man destined for power' and that it scared her."

"Interesting," I say. Certainly when I first encountered David at the cafe in Paris he didn't seem as though he was destined for power. In fact, he seemed more like a scared little boy. Lately, though, his actions have been far more calculate. Indeed, I've almost been afraid of him at times, the way his eyes narrow in anticipation of something. I just wish I knew what.

I hang up the phone with Skinner, promising to call him back the following day around the same time. I decide to do my own research, also, and follow David to see where he goes. I will have to be careful, though, because he's very aware that I haven't exactly been devoted to him lately.

The next day finds me traipsing through Hyde Park after David, who seems to be taking a slow walk around one of the large lakes inside the park. He doesn't really seem to be looking for anyone in particular, and after about an hour of silent reflection, he begins to walk north, toward Marble Arch. Whoever he was supposed to meet didn't show up.

My disguise is a simple one. I wrapped a scarf around my head and put on oversized sunglasses a la a 50s movie icon, in order to hide my hair and eyes. He's never seen me wear a scarf, and he's never seen me in the clothes I'm wearing (a flower print dress that went out of fashion when Paula Abdul did), so I figure I'm relatively safe if he catches a quick look at me in the open spaces of the park.

Unfortunately, I've figured wrong. He turns quickly and spots me right away as we approach the great white arch that opens onto Oxford Street.


I weigh my options and decide not to act surprised.

"David! Glad I caught up to you!"

"How long have you been following me?" he asks lightly, but I know that there is serious meaning in his question.

"Oh, I was out sort of wandering around, and I saw you from across the park. I started walking but then I lost you for a moment. Then I saw you'd turned up this part of the road and came after you." I try to stop and take breaths so my answer doesn't sound rehearsed. All and all I think I pull off the lie well. David seems to think so too. He smiles.

"Good to see you, then. But, may I ask what it is you're wearing?"

"Oh. Just trying to be a bit more glamorous for London."

I forgot about my outfit. I should know better than this.

My state of mind has made me act in a way that has put myself in danger. "Don't you like it?"

"Oh, it's great," he says hiding his disgust at my dress.

"Are you hungry? It's getting on toward dinner time."

Of course, I'm not hungry. I haven't really been hungry for a dinner in a year. "Sure," I say. "Let's find somewhere to eat."

"You like falafel?"

"Oh, yes."

"The Lebonese section of town is just up here. Great falafel. The best."

"Perfect," I say. As he turns, I walk up to him and give him a kiss on the lips. He is surprised at my unusual token of affection, but he accepts it graciously. I am a little surprised to. This man has gone from a close confident to a convenient fuck to a formidable enemy in less than two months. I think I kiss him not only because it makes him believe the lie that I am falling for him, but also because I respect him, more than I wish to admit to myself.

We walk on toward Edgeware Road and the promised falafel.

I hold his hand as we go and he chats about the beauty of London the spring. I see nothing but obstacles to the truth, obstacles to Mulder.

We return home, and in what has become my usual fashion, I leave as David falls asleep to call Skinner. I am certain that David will notice, but I don't care. I can say I'm an insomniac. He can follow me. All I'm doing is going to a phone booth.

"Dana!" Skinner sounds excited.

"Yes, Sir?"

"I've been in contact with Marita. She wants me to tell you that you need to get away from David right now.

There's some sort of conspiracy. He's the ring leader in this new consortium."

"Are you serious?" I ask. "The project is still alive?"

"Not exactly. It's hard to explain. These are bad people, Dana. They want power. It's a whole war inside the secret government."

"What should I do?"

"Marita says just leave him. Go to Mulder. She's got Mulder." My chest tightens.

"No," I whisper. My whole body shakes with anticipation and a near-high at the mere mention that I may come in contact with Mulder soon.

"Yes." He gives me an address near where David and I had been walking this afternoon. I can't remember if I say goodbye to him or not when I take off running toward the flat.

Chapter 10: L'Espoir Est La Revolution

It is three in the morning when I hear a knock on my flat.

Peter is sleeping on my couch tonight. He had to put me to bed after a rousing round of drinks at the Dog and Mouse Pub. Actually, there was nothing rousing about it at all.

It was sad and pathetic and the both of us knew it. We were drinking to forget, and that never works. I was drinking to forget something more immediate, however, and thus I ingested far more whiskey than he did. But let me state for the record that whiskey in London is damn good.

He stirs as I pass him to open the front door, but the poor guy doesn't wake up. He looks uncomfortable curled up into a tiny ball on the couch. I vaguely, in my still-drunken haze, expect to see Marita at my front door. It is a woman, but it's not Marita.

Oh God.

She's crying, weeping, sobbing and she throws her arms around me without speaking. I think I'm crying too, but I can't tell. My arms don't have the strength to go around her. I want them too, but everything is too overwhelming.

And I'm still drunk.

"Mulder," she's whispering, and everything is running together to me. The way she says my name, it makes no sense anymore, it makes no more sense than the way her hair is smashed against my chest or the way my hands meld into her hips. "Muldermuldermuldermulder," she keeps whispering. A prayer. An answer.

"Jesus," is all I hear myself say. She is solid in my arms, real. This is no dream. "You're...here," and the childlike surprise in my voice makes us both laugh.

Peter wakes at the sound and sits up, staring in the dark.

I notice him out of the corner of my eye, and release Scully to walk over to him.

It is only then when the rage I felt at her earlier in the afternoon hits me full force. She was kissing another man.

She had her arms around him. She looked like she loved him. The force of this realization makes me physically step back from her, and the look of surprise on my face registers in hers.

"Scully?" I choke out, as if I don't recognize her. Peter turns on a light, and indeed it is difficult for me to figure out if this is the same woman I left a year ago in Los Angeles.

"Mulder, what?"

"Hello?" Peter says in the British way, meaning "what the fuck?"

"This is Dana Scully. My former partner at the FBI." Her eyebrow twitches in response to the way I've introduced her, coldly and with a formality that hasn't been between us since the days of the flukeman.

"He knows who you are?" Scully asks in surprise as she extends a shaking hand to Peter, still confused at the distance between us.

"Sure. He knows. Who have you told?" My tone is vicious and she catches the less-than-subtle anger I am projecting.


Peter looks at the both of us, standing nearly toe-to-toe in my living room and blessedly makes himself scarce. As he leaves, he says, "I'll ring tomorrow, mate," which I take to mean, "You'd better tell me what's going on here."

"Mulder?" Scully repeats more forcefully before advancing toward me. I back away. "It's me. I'm here. We're together now.

"I saw you," I stammer, backing away as if from a wild animal.

"You saw me?"

"There was a man. In Hyde Park. This evening."

"Are you drunk?"

"Actually, probably still a little bit."

"Shit," she says and sits defeated on the couch. "That's David."

"Who's David?"

"I actually have no idea. I met him in Paris. I thought he was my friend, but he's not. He's an enemy. Our enemy."

"Why are you sleeping with the enemy?" I should just wrap my arms around her, just take her away from London forever, but I can't. I am a jealous person by nature, and the sight of her, happy, in someone else's arms, when I have been miserable for a year has made me act like the alpha male I know I can be.

"Why do you want to know?" She's sleeping with him. There was no denial. "Why does it matter. I'm here now." She stands back up and paces the twelve foot length of the room. "We're here." She turns and looks at me unflinchingly.

"Like you haven't done some stupid things in this past year. Like you haven't slept with anyone else."

I lower my head, and have a brief flashback to the mindblowing sex Joanne and I enjoyed before her unfortunate demise. Shamefully, I can feel my dick beginning to get hard at the memory, like a drug flashback, an acid retrip.

"Who was she, Mulder, huh?" Sculy is taunting me now, using what she read as my guilt against me. "Tell me."

"No," I say.

"Then what the hell are you doing giving me the third degree? I'm here, Mulder. I'm here."

"Stop saying that! Stop it. I know you're here!"

"I don't think you do," she says before pouncing on me with the force of a tiger. She stands in front of me and takes her left hand and places it behind my neck. She pulls me in for a kiss, a deep, sexual kiss. Her tongue is all over my mouth, thrusting back and forth between my teeth. Her right hand seeks out my crotch, and my body betrays my anger at her by growing hard under her ministrations.

Despite my deep bodily desire to take all her clothes off and fuck her on the floor, my mind keeps flashing back to the episode in the park.

I break the kiss she started and she stares at me, hurt.

We look at each other for a moment before I sit on the couch and say, "Let's talk business. We'll deal with everything else later."

"Fuck you," she spits out, but sits anyway. "I'd leave now. If I had anywhere else to go."

"Yeah. I know the feeling. Can I tell you the story of my time in England? I've had some strange experiences, and I have some documents to show you. Then you can tell me your experiences. We'll compare notes and then decide how to get the hell out of here."

She's trying hard not to cry. "Okay," she says. "I'll go first, though."

When we are both done with our stories, we end up in my bedroom, both laying face to face on my double bed. We've done this before, but it seems like ages ago. I was enraged by the tale of her encounters with David, and she was enraged by mine with Joanne, but we get through those parts easier than we can talk about anything that has passed since. Her account of her abduction and forced work puzzles me. I can't decide who she was abducted by. Her feeling is that the new Consortium (the one that we decide David is the ring leader of after I tell her of Joanne's murder) did it, but she can't decide to what purpose. I feel more dubious motives are at work. I ask her to check herself out or have another doctor do it. She agrees to this.

Our conversation is business-like, and after putting the pieces together, I decide that David is indeed dangerous, and that returning to the U.S. is also not an option at the moment, because we don't know where our enemies are.

"Mulder," she says, a pensive look on her face, which is so thin I want to cry, "the rebel aliens are trying to wipe us out as well, correct?"

"I believe so. They don't want the oil aliens to take over the Earth. Perhaps they want it for themselves."

"So the A.C. 9, they're allied with the rebels to what end?"

I recall Joanne's answer to my same question. "Joanne said that it was to *the* end."

"What does that mean?"

"They're developing this biological weapon to give to the rebel aliens. She said they had struck a deal with them.

The rebels aliens had to kill the men of the Consortium, which they did, and then the A.C. 9 would 'perform some of their dirty work.' I don't know what that means."

"The creation of the vaccine," Scully says suddenly.

"Maybe the rebels want the vaccine for their own purposes.

And if the A.C. 9 develops it, they can save themselves and give it to the rebel aliens. The rebel aliens can then use it against their enemies. And the A.C. 9 can save themselves."

"More selfish bastards," I say. "As always."

"But why can't they just save the rest of us?"

"Maybe it wasn't part of the deal," I say, though there is still much that doesn't make any sense at all to me. My eyes follow the curve of Scully's hip, and I imagine the creamy skin beneath. She is looking me up and down too, and I finally reach out to touch her.

I stroke her cheek. "You're so thin," I say.

"I know," she says. "Haven't felt much like eating lately.

Actually, I've been feeling kind of sick. I wake up in sweats. I have terrible dreams."

"About what?" I ask gently, stroking her hair. She moves toward me a little. "William." She can't look at me for a moment.

"Hey," I say, making her eyes meet mine with a firm touch to her chin. "That wasn't your fault."

A tear slips down her cheek, but, true to form, she won't let me see her cry. "I know."

"No, you don't. Scully, it wasn't your fault. You did what any mother would do. You did what was best."

"I know," she repeats, but her lip is trembling.

"Please," I say, "please don't put this all on yourself. I should have been there for you. It's not your fault."

She raises herself above me, and a tear escapes her eyes and falls directly onto my shirt, just above my heart.

"Then it's not yours."

"I should have been there," I whisper, not knowing whether I mean then or now.

"You were there. You're always with me. Am I still with you?"

"Oh Scully," I say as she collapses onto me, her arm around my waist. "I'm so sorry about the way I treated you earlier. I just-"

"Shhh," she says. "Let's not talk about it. It's over. I absolve you. I'm sorry it was so shocking for you to see me. I'm sorry that's a fresh memory. Do you forgive me?"

My slightly broken heart screams that I shouldn't, that I'll be hurt again, but I've always been slightly masochistic. "Of course," I tell her. I mean it.

We fall asleep together, fully clothed, with tearstains on my shirt.

Chapter 10a: L'Espoir Est Parti

In the morning, Peter knocks at the door, and Mulder introduces me to him properly. We chat while Mulder showers and dresses. I mention to him my own implant, and tell him I've seen his MRIs and X-rays. I ask him sheepishly to come to his "speaking" this afternoon, and he agrees. We laugh a little about the secrecy, the strangeness of our world while Mulder prepares us tea.

"Here you both are," he says, extending nondescript white cups to us.

"Are you drinking this the British way now, Mulder. All that milk and sugar?" I ask.

"Of course," he says and takes an appreciative gulp of Earl Grey. I scrunch my nose and drink it anyway, a stray hair falling dangerously near my cup. Mulder moves to the couch and pushes it behind my ear. Peter is watching us with growing interest.

"So the implant?" Peter prods. "What to do about it?"

"Don't remove it," Mulder says, his eyes darkening. "Or maybe do." He looks at me. "We never figure that out."

"Well, we'll figure something out this time," I assure both of them. Peter leaves for work, and says he'll see us later. Mulder sits next to me on the couch, and places my tea cup on his coffee table with a gallantry I've never seen him exhibit before.

"Let's talk about you, now," he says.

"What about me?"

"You need to be examined by someone."

"I know."


"I know."

"Okay," he says. He repeats the earlier motion of brushing a hair away even though there isn't one there. His fingers linger on my chin, and I want so badly to kiss him, but my rejection last night still stings. He's overreacted to seeing David and I.



He'll be wondering where I am by now. He'll know I've figured everything out.


"I'm just panicked, Mulder. We don't have a long time to figure things out. David will be looking for me. His friends will be looking for you."

"And is killing us their object?"

"No. I think we both have figured that out by now."

"Then what are we afraid of?"

I shudder. "There are worse things than death, Mulder.

You should know that by now too."

I pace around the NHS clinic nervously while I wait for a doctor to see me. Mulder stayed at his flat in order to sift through some paper work he says Joanne left. Last night we found a fax that matched the one I found among David's things. He also wants to call Skinner. I told him that it might be a good idea. I also told me to prod Skinner into helping us return to the States.

I need to call my mother. I'm still afraid that I'll lead danger to her door.

"Miss Buckstar," says the nurse, calling me up by an alias I thought up on the spot.

"Esther Buckstar." What a horrid name.

I rise and sit on the doctor's table. I undress and notice in the mirror the bones of my ribs poking through my skin.

For the millionth time that day I shudder. When the doctor enters he looks me up and down before sitting on a stool.

He is a gray-haired, bespectacled man and I feel immediately at ease with him. He looks like a grandfather, and has the soft, polished hands and good nails of a gentleman.

"What's the problem, Ms. Buckstar?"

"Well," I say. "I just need a physical." I use an American accent. What the hell?

"It's sort of irregular to come to the walk in clinic for a physical."

"I've been through a recent trauma," I say. "I know it's irregular. I'm actually a doctor," I stammer, "in the States."

"I see. Well, I can give you a quick physical, but if you've been through a major trauma, then you're going to have to go to a specialist."

"I was kidnapped," I say. "I need you just to tell me everything is okay." My voice shakes. I've become such a weak person.

"Well, let me see." He proceeds to give me a brief, perfunctory physical. He pauses when he feels the glands along my neck.

"Your glands are swollen."


"Have you been feeling tired? Sick?"

Yes. All the time, I think. "A bit," I say.

"You might have mononucleosis. You should probably have some blood work done."


"Other than that you seem to be in perfect health."

"Can I ask you to feel the back of my neck?" I say suddenly.

"What?" I put my own hand to the back of my neck and feel a telltale lump. Oh, God.

"Just, can you feel this?" I say. He moves my hair and peers at it.

"My goodness," he says. "This is extraordinary. It's an-"

"Implant," I whisper, finishing his sentence. He puts on gloves and I prepare to be cut into for the third time.

When I return home with a bandage and a souvenir in a small test tube, Mulder is nowhere to be found. I see a note on the table that says, "Be back around four." It is now past five and I have to go to Peter's corner in a few minutes.

This worries me. I check his answering machine, but there are no messages.

I walk out to Oxford street and begin to make my way east to Tottenham Court Road. Just past the large intersection, I see Peter, who is simply waiting at the corner, standing around.

"Peter?" I say. He looks at me, and no recognition crosses his face.

"The aliens," he says. "They are coming. They are coming to harm us. We must fight back. Resistance is now.

Resistance is now."

"Aw, Jesus, 'ere's this bloke again," says a thick man behind me as he leans against a store window as if waiting for a magic show.

"Peter," I say and grab his wrist. "Please, let's go somewhere else." I am testing to see if he's cognizant or not. He doesn't seem to be. His pupils are dilated and his breathing is deep and steady, as if he were sleeping.

As I reach for the back of his neck to feel his implant, he swats my hand away. "Traitor!" He yells at me. He leaps at me in the crowd, and pins me to the dirty sidewalk.

"Traitor!" he screams in my ear. "We will have you yet!"

Then he begins speaking nonsensical words. The crowd has backed away from the fight, as if unsure as to what it wants to do. I scream. He rips the bandage off my neck, and I feel my blood begin to flow as his other hand clamps down on my neck, cutting off my breath.

Then, just as suddenly as he started, Peter stops and backs away from me. His brown eyes big with worry, his breathing now coming in quick, rapid spurts. He rolls off of me and someone in the crowd restrains him, shouting that he's a metro police officer.

"It's okay," I manage to say in between being thankful that I'm breathing. "Don't arrest him."

"No, my dear, I've got him," says a familiar voice.

There aren't too many people who I would be unhappy to see in this situation.

Unfortunately, this is one of them.

"So you got it out, did you?" he says. "That may be a mistake. Why don't we go down to the station. I've got someone there you may want to see."

"Fuck," I whisper as David smiles back at me.

I reach for a gun that isn't there. I reach for a knife I don't have. I struggle in my own mind, thinking that I should run away. Loyalty makes me stay. In the end, I walk sukily to a car and am drive out of London.

Chapter 11: L'Espoir Est Le Sange

My first thought upon waking is that my wrists hurt, and I want them to stop. The pain is so bad, that I don't notice the dried blood that is preventing me from opening my eyes.

The only thing I'm concentrating on, before my consciousness fully takes over, is trying to get my wrists to stop throbbing madly.

When I first came to the FBI, I worked a case where a serial killer had tied up and tortured his victims for days before killing them. He'd keep them in a dark basement, tied as tight as he could get the ropes. One of the bodies we found had fingers that had withered and before the victim was killed. The coroner said it must have been extremely painful. Then he showed me where the victim had tried to gnaw her own hands off. I think about that every time I encounter rope.

My fingers are not exactly numb. They ache, tingling from mid-palm to fingernail. I try to move them, but I can't.

When my mind finally begins to question why on Earth they hurt so badly, I remember everything.

I had been on my way to see Peter when a young man showed up in front of me. He called me "Mulder" and as I followed him into an ally, he hit me over the head. I must have bled a lot. My head hurts something fierce, though right now my priority is getting my hands free.

I manage to get my eyes open enough to see, though they are still stuck together by the sticky residue of dried blood.

I wonder how much time is passed. It must be quite awhile.

Enough time for my fingers to go numb and for the blood to dry.

I'm in a room, a large, white room. There is no one in front of me, but I strain and believe I hear breathing behind me. I'm bound hand and foot to a chair, and there is a gag in my mouth. I scream against it, making a sound that is somewhere between crying and choking. A similar sound answers me. A female sound. I call out again, and this time to response is stronger. I can't see her, she must be directly behind me. Straining my neck as far as it will go, I catch sight of the foot of another chair on the floor behind me, and one behind that. There are no other sounds besides our muffled cries.

We sit like that for what could be minutes or hours. I think I lose consciousness again at some point, but I am awake and alert when the man who hit me enters the room.

He proceeds behind me, to the woman who I know but be Scully but I hope isn't. He takes off her gag, and suddenly I am positive it is Scully.

"Fucking bastard," she screams at the top of her lungs. He hits her and I cringe as the sound of cartilage breaking hits my ears. He's badly injured her nose, if he hasn't broken it. I can tell that much by the sound. "Goddamn," she murmurs.

"My dear, you didn't think I'd just let you wander away, did you?"

This must be David. Great.

Scully groans, and I hear him move behind her and do something which makes her scream.

"Don't move. This will be easier if you don't move."

Apparently she isn't listening, though, because he hits her again and she stops making noise. I scream against my gag.

"Oh, another one awake, eh?" He comes over to me, this man who must be five or six years younger than I, and removes my gag.

"Who are you?" I yell.

"I'm your dear lover's lover, Mulder. I'm the man she turned to when she was exiled from you. He smiles, his lips pulling across his teeth as if they move of their own accord.

"What the hell do you want with her?"

"Oh? With her? Nothing, really. I'm just finishing what your favorite old men began years ago. I'm finishing everything." He holds up a small vile with an implant in it. I cringe.


"Shut up," he tells me and replaces the gag. I lose consciousness again after he hits me.

When I wake again, the room is dark and no one is around, but I am untied. I stand, and am grateful that my wrists and ankles no longer hurt. My face, however, screams in pain. I begin pacing the room carefully, looking for any clues as to where I am. The floors are smooth, linoleum.

I am reminded of the high security facilities back in the States and I wonder what sort of compound this is. The door is cool steel, it is not meant to be broken into or out of. In fact, I am in a vault of some kind.

The door opens suddenly and loudly, and a body is thrown at my feet. I am blinded by the bright, white light that floods in from the outside, and I can't see who throws the body, though I can guess.

I lean over and feel long hair and wet blood, smooth skin and broken bones.

"Scully?" I say, shaking her gently. Her heart is beating and she is breathing, but her breaths are ragged.

"Scully?" I say again, and she groans in response. "I need you to wake up. Please wake up." She is face down on the floor, and as I touch the back of her neck to roll her over, I feel stitches and a lot more blood. He must have put the implant back inside her.

I roll her over onto her back and sit down, cradling her head in my lap.

"Scully, I need you to get up. You have to. Come on. I need you here. I need you." My voice cracks and I lean over the body of the woman I love. "Please."

She coughs and I take that as a good sign. "Come on, baby," I whisper. Suddenly she opens her eyes, starting.

"Mulder?" Her voice is slurred, she must have a bad concussion. "Muller? Where am I?"

I can feel tears on my cheeks, "Someplace we need to get out of."

"Oh," her voice is soft and gentle, childlike. "I don't think I can get up."

"Scully, you have to."

"But where are we?" She repeats. "Why are you here?"

"Somewhere near London, remember?"

She sits up and turns to face me. "I'm dizzy," she says.

"I know," I reply. "But we have to get up and work out a plan."

"Peter," she says.


"He has Peter. Peter was in here, and then David took him to the same room he took me. He put an implant back in my neck. But he's doing worse to Peter. There's something else."

"Something else?"

She struggles. "An alien. A rebel alien, one of the faceless ones. He was helping David. They were making Peter do things."

"Making him do things?"

"I can't remember. I can't." Suddenly she screams. "Oh, God, it hurts! It hurts!"

"What hurts?"

"My head. My head, my head. When I try to think about the room or Peter. Oh, God." She collapses, sobbing in pain.

"Make it stop. Make it stop. Stopstopstopstop," she murmurs, rubbing her head against the floor.

"Think about your mother," I say. "Think of her face.

Think about how excited she's going to be to see you." I pull her back toward me so her head is in my lap again and I lean over and kiss her gently on her dry, cracked lips.

"Think about your mother."

She draws a ragged breath, "Okay. There's something important, though." Another spasm of pain runs through her.

"Don't think about it. Let's think about your mother for a little while first. You have to. Okay?" I let her meditate on that for awhile before I bring up the idea of esape again."

"We have to think of a plan now," I prod. "There's this chair. It's enough of a weapon if he doesn't know where it's coming from."

"Right," she says. "Right." I can't imagine the pain she's in. She still pulls herself to standing position and leans against the back of the simple wooden chair. "I'm not feeling too strong."

"You can't see me, but I'm not in the greatest shape, either," I say. "But if one of us hits whoever comes in here next with the chair and the other one quickly jumps him, it might work."

"I'll take the chair," she says. "I'll position myself right next to the door, and I'll swing and hit as fast as I can."

"Good," I say. "I'll get behind the door. I won't be able to see you, so scream when you hit him. I'll come out from behind the door and start to hit him. But you just have to run out and find Peter. Just run out and find him, I'll be fine."

"No," she says, "this time I'm not leaving without you."

"We have an advantage here, Scully. It's dark in here. He can't see us."

"If David is the next one who comes."

"If it's the alien, we're screwed," I agree. "Let's hope it's not." We get into our positions and talk quietly before falling into an anticipatory silence. I try to steer the subject away from anything having to do with our present ordeal, trying to keep Scully as strong as possible. David and his organization, whatever they want to call themselves, have worked out the finer points of mind control. There seems to be a less refined version on Scully, while Peter's is very sophisticated. They must be the ones, through the implant, making him give his "talks."

Scully is being forced to keep secrets. If he has the infant form of the vaccine as well, and all the knowledge the rebel aliens have brought him, he is far more advanced than even the Consortium was.

We wait for at least an hour, as far as I can tell, until I hear the clunk of the latch being opened and the quickening breath of Scully across the room. As the door is flung open, the lights floods in again, and another body is thrown in. I hear the chair smacking something, and I jump out of position and onto the man that Scully has hit. She begins to run to the body that was thrown into the vault but I scream at her.

"Just get out, Scully. I'll take care of him!" The man is David, I can see now that my eyes have adjusted to the light. He is staggering on his feet, reaching for a weapon. He pulls is out and waves it at me. It's a knife, and I step back. Scully goes toward the body again.

"Get OUT!"

"No!" She answers in a full voice. David reaches behind him and hits a light switch, and the entire room becomes a blinding white ball of lights. I reach out in front of me, without really looking and try to take him down while we're both temporarily blinded, but my arm, instead, receives the wrong end of a knife. I pull back quickly and realze that while it's a bad cut, it's not a dangerous one. So I attack again, trying desperately to get the knife away from David.

Both our bodies are covered in my blood by the time the fight is over.

It ends when David goes down, but I can't figure out why.

There is a loud thud as his body hits the floor, and for a minute I believe I see myself striking him down.

Instead, it is a rebel alien, and I back away in fear.

David isn't breathing. Whatever the alien hit him with, it killed him.

Scully is tending to the man on the floor, who is Peter. I look up at the rebel alien, the being with burns all over its face, no eyes, no mouth, no node. He's absolutely terrifying and I back away again, until I'm pressed up against the wall. Scully drags Peter into the corner as well, and now we are caged animals.

Then, something amazing.

The alien turns and goes, leaving the door open for us.

I turn to Scully, who begins to cry. We drag Peter out the door into a makeshift lab. There are bodies everywhere, bodies of young people who obviously made a deal with the wrong people.

These must be the "lab kids" David employed. Scully gasps in horror, but out of the corner of my eye, I see a reason for us to run as quickly as we can.

"Fire!" I yell and we run, carrying David together, until we find a way out of the compound.

We clear the building and try to revive Peter just as the entire place explodes. We cover our eyes and ears, and the eyes and ears of each other as we pile ourselves into a heap. Luckily, we are far enough away from the compound when it explodes.

Peter groans and rolls over. He looks up at me. "How in bloody hell am I going to explain this to my wife, mate?"

Epilogue: L'Espoir Est Le Dernier Chose Qui Mort

One Month Later

Mulder is most aggravating when he is trying to take care of me. My injuries were extensive, this is true, but so were his. All I want to do is sit in silence, but he keeps asking me if I'm comfortable.

I am comfortable, very comfortable. We have new pieces of furniture in a lovely two story brick house we've rented for ourselves in the suburbs of London, in a place called Richmond. We decided, after much contemplation, that returning to the States wasn't an option, so we had Marita (who was extremely sorry after her last favor to us caused so much trouble) give us newer identities and work permits for the UK. I'm going to begin working toward my UK medical license, and Mulder has decided to go back to profiling for Scotland Yard.

We're not exactly undercover, but we're out of the way of harm, at least for now. I've been able to contact Skinner and my mother through Marita, who has promised to keep us apprised as best she can of the situation in the States.

"Scully?" He says again.

"What?" I say in mock anger.

"You need anything from the kitchen while I'm up."

He once told me that sex is a necessity of life but that love is a social illusion. The pledging of your life to one man is something that society has created and that biology never intended people to be monogamous. This is true, I know, from my science courses, but I have trouble believing him nonetheless.

"Don't get up," I say and pull him toward me.

"Lemme go," he says playfully. "I hate to wrestle."

"Love you," I say softly and he looks as though I've pushed him. I guess he's not really used to hearing it.

"I love you too, Scully."

"You mean Mrs. John Foley."

"Yes. Mrs. John Foley," he agrees. He gets up from the couch and gets himself a glass of water. He limps slightly. We had the implant removed from my neck (again), and from Peter's as soon as we could, and that injury of mine is healing nicely. Unfortunately, I sustained a pretty bad concussion, which has taken me some time to get over.

We're still unsure about what actually happened.

I only know that my time in France was all a lie, from the beginning. The two weeks I spent kidnapped, working for the A.C. 9 was really just to give them a chance to implant me and try to perfect their mind control technology.

"I've been a guinea pig so much of my life, it's a wonder I don't grow fur," I say offhandedly. Mulder cringes.

"Let's not talk about all that," he says.

"What," I tease, "don't you still want the truth?"

"The truth," he muses. "The truth is that I'm here with you now, and for the moment that's all that matters." He kisses me again. We've done nothing but make love for the past month, and that's okay with me. I know he's lying.

Eventually he'll want to pursue the truth that we've spent so much time seeking, but right now, I have hope that we are finally getting some resolution to our lives.

There's just one thing missing.

"Do you think we'll ever see William?" Mulder turns his head toward me and takes my chin in his hand. "Listen," he says, "There's always hope."

Hope, I think, is always the last thing to die.


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