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I Want To Believe by Samantha

Title: I Want To Believe III
Author: Samantha
Archive: Go ahead, but let me know. (OK for XFF, ATXC and Gossamer)
Rated: PG-13 for bad language
Category: XAR, vague H
Spoilers: All the way up to halfway through Zero Sum, plus Emily [see Author's notes]
Keywords: Mulder/Scully married, Alternate universe
Disclaimer: How do I disclaim this? Let me count the ways... OK, OK, OK. I'll do it properly. They're not mine. All the people you recognize anyway. They belong to this guy called Chris Carter - some of you may know the name - and his company, 1013 - some of you may know the number - as well as Fox - OK, everyone knows them [with apologies to James Bond! LOL]. The people you don't recognize are mine, but anyone can use them if they want. Apart from Chris, 'coz he won't do what I want him to with *his* people. *g*
Feedback: Yes please. Feedback keeps me healthy and my hair shiny. Not really, but if making you think so will make you send me feedback, then believe it. *vbg*

Summary: Next in the I Want To Believe series.

Author's notes: This is probably going to be the last in the I Want To Believe series. If I feel the urge, I might write another one, but don't count on it. It won't make sense if you don't read the first two (which you can find on my webpage http://come.to/SamanthasX-Files (shameless plug!)). But in case you don't remember... In this universe, Zero Sum kinda half happened. Skinner did all the stuff for CSM, but Mulder never found out. That's where we come into it. What Skinner did isn't part of the issue though. As far as we're concerned, we don't know. Hell, it could be something completely different from what he did in Demons. So that's what I mean by half of it: we know his complicity and that he did stuff. We just don't know what. Nothing beyond that happens/has happened. Except for one thing that I didn't notice before: there's a plot anomaly. So the whole Emily saga has already happened, OK? (Yes, I'm screwing with the timeline. Yes, I don't care.)


Too easy. It's too easy. They said it was a hard job. Well, at least it's quick money, and a lot of it too. With that kind of money, I'll do whatever's asked of me, and I don't have to worry about them short-changing me: this job's worth a hell of a lot less than what I'm receiving for it.

Free meal to boot too. Well, if I'm going to wait in a caf-, I might as well make it look realistic, right? So I'm having my first decent meal for a long time. Came an hour early just to have it.

Now what? I loll back in the chair on the sidewalk, delaying as I wait. The bill is paid, and the tip lies ready on the tabletop. I take one last sip from my mug of quickly cooling coffee and set it down next to my empty chocolate-smeared plate. I glance across the road at the clock in the storefront, and it confirms that he should be on his way. I pull the much-fingered photo out of my pocket and consult it again. That face is already burned into my memory, but I'd rather be sure. It's my first job in a long time. Then again, I don't advertise freely, so why should I be surprised?

Out of the corner of my eye, I see him. For a moment, I don't realise it *is* him, because he looks different from the photo. Happier, maybe. More carefree, certainly. The man in the photo has the world on his shoulders. And, strange though it sounds, he seems younger. I know the photo was taken a long time ago, but it surprises me how little he has aged. On the other hand, his content expression takes many years away.

Casually, I push the chair back as he walks past. To him, I'm just another innocent bystander. But I'm not. I creep after him as naturally as I can. He's completely clueless to the fact that I'm following him so closely, but I'm not, and he's going to be sorry.

I know this stretch of road so well now, I could walk it blindfolded. I spent the whole of yesterday planning my strategy. Luckily, there's no pavement on the other side of the road, so I didn't have to plan for both sides.

We're quickly approaching the spot I chose. My hands are starting to sweat, but I'm not scared or nervous, just excited. I haven't done anything like this for some time now.

He ducks past the alleyway, and I pounce. So much for an easy job. It takes me several minutes to reassert myself, but in The End, I pull through, and the car's waiting round the corner just as promised. The man winds down the window and indicates that I'm to shove him into the boot, so I do, and then I return for the money.

As I stare down the barrel of the gun, I suddenly realise what it's like to be on the receiving end, and I don't like it, but there's not much I can do any more.

"Mulder?"

Silence.

"Mulder, this isn't funny. You're the only one who would do this to me, now cut it out." She pulled the phone away from her ear and punched the button, hanging up on him. She sighed. Typical Mulder.

The phone rang again. "Scully."

Again, silence.

"Mulder, this really isn't funny."

"It's not Mulder," a voice rasped.

Her eyes narrowed. "Who the hell is this?"

There was a pause, and then a click as the other person hung up. Staring at her phone, she quickly called up a trace.

It was Mulder's cell phone number.

She dialled it, a frown growing on her face.

"The cell customer you are trying to reach is not responding or..." She snapped it off furiously.

"Mommy?"

She whirled around wildly. "What, honey?"

"Is Daddy not coming home tonight?"

"What makes you say that?" she intoned as lightly as she could as she turned the car around, now heading for the home of the Lone Gunmen.

She shrugged. "Just wondering." Leaning across the backseat, she rummaged through her schoolbag for her latest library book.

Scully glanced at her daughter again. "Chrissie, don't read in the car, you'll get sick again."

"It's not that far to Uncle Frohike's house, Mommy. I promise I won't be sick."

This time, Scully's eyes narrowed. How in the hell did she know where they were headed? She shrugged, her mind too busy to dwell on it. What kind of trouble was Mulder in now? Remembering his earlier meeting with Skinner, she groaned. What was *he* going to say about it?

"I'll bet he's done something stupid again," she muttered at the steering wheel. Behind her, Chrissie raised her eyes from the book and shook her head silently, but her mother didn't notice.

"Hey, it's my favourite little squirt!"

"Uncle Frohike, where's Daddy?"

Frohike looked up at Scully, frowning. "Hold on a moment, sweetheart." He took in her taut expression and skillfully backtracked. "Why don't you let Uncle Byers take you down to the ice cream store?"

Byers shot him a glare that almost screamed 'I'm no good with kids!', but agreed, seeing that there must be some reason. Offering his hand, she took it dutifully and led him away chattering happily.

As soon as the door shut behind them, Scully turned to the remaining two Gunmen.

"I think Mulder's been kidnapped. I don't know how, I don't know where, I'm not even sure he *has* been." She went on, telling about the phone calls she had received, but leaving out Chrissie's uncanny intuitions. Before she had finished the story, Langly was already moving towards one of the computers.

"The first thing we can do is run a position trace on that phone call."

"A what?"

"A position trace. We find out where the call was relayed from and it gives us a pretty accurate idea of where the caller was when they made it."

"You can do that?" Scully didn't know why she was so surprised. The Lone Gunmen could hack everything and find out almost every single detail you could ever need, or not need.

"Sure."

"I have to let go."

"Don't let go!"

"I can't open the door!"

"Don't let go!"

Three heads turned as they listened to the shrieks from outside the door. The door thumped several times, before bursting open. Chrissie clung onto Byers' back, her arms virtually strangling him as he struggled to pry her off. Surprisingly enough, he was laughing as he hoisted her down. She ran to the bathroom, leaving him standing in the middle of the floor, facing the other three.

"What?"

"Nothing," sniggered Langly. Frohike made no comment, but turned back to his task. Scully simply shrugged, knowing that if she tried to talk, she would laugh.

"How's it going? Have you found anything?" Byers leaned over their shoulders.

"It's completely scrambled. All data from that time has gone completely screwed. The only thing we can ascertain is that the call was made from somewhere in D.C."

"Well, if you guys find anything else, you call me right away, OK?" Scully picked up her coat and called to Chrissie, who stood staring at one of the computers. "Let's go home."

Switching off the engine, she noted with a sigh that the windows of the apartment were dark. She had hoped that it might have been some mistake. Perhaps something wrong with the phones. But he wasn't here, and that was bad. He was seldom home later than 6pm, and if he was going to be even 5 minutes late, he usually called. Now it was 6:30, and Chrissie was hungry for dinner. Hauling herself out of the car, she trudged up the stairs after her daughter, who filled the silence with her endless chatter about her friend Carrie and what they had done in school that day.

Whilst Chrissie flopped on the floor in front of the TV and started her homework, Scully made a quick tour of the house, just to make sure he really wasn't there. At The End, she let out a breath she didn't realise she had been holding, and returned to the kitchen to cook up a pot of macaroni and cheese.

When the phone rang, she jumped, startled, and dropped the spoon as she ran to pick it up.

"Hello?"

"Dana, it's mom."

"Oh. Hi mom."

"What's wrong?" she asked with a mother's intuition.

Scully took the phone into the corner of the kitchen, watching Chrissie out of the corner of her eye. "Mulder's missing."

"Missing?"

"I got a weird phone call from his cell phone, and now we can't find him anywhere. His cell phone's not on, or else he won't or can't answer it."

"Darling, I'm sure he's fine. He might have just wanted to have some time alone. Do you want me to come up?" she asked. Scully sighed. For her mother, family was a cure for everything.

"I'd rather you didn't, so I can look for him better."

Chrissie looked up from her worksheets and watched her mother solemnly. She longed to comfort her, to tell her he'd be OK, but she wouldn't believe her. Even though she knew.


She awoke with a start, disorientated. She had fallen asleep on the couch, the phone clutched in her hand, the TV quietly snoring in the background. Blinking, she sat up, groaning softly at the pain in her neck. She looked at her watch.

2:21. She jumped to her feet. Was he back yet? She looked around the living room. No shoes, no stray items of clothing. She checked the bedrooms quietly, and then, just to be sure, looked out the front door into the hallway, and then out the window into the street.

Flopping back onto the couch, she stared at the snowy screen, refusing to let the tears spring to her eyes. Slowly, they began to drift shut again, and she was just dropping off when she heard a low sob.

Again, she jumped up. Creeping to the door of her daughter's bedroom, she creaked it open and crossed to her bedside.

"Daddy," murmured the little girl as she tossed in the bed.

"Shh, sweetheart, Mommy's here now."

"Daddy."

Little blue eyes opened sleepily in the dark, shiny wet tears leaving trails down her face, like heavy fat slugs.

"I'm here, sweetie. Did you have a bad dream?"

She nodded, sniffing.

"Do you want to tell me about it?"

"I saw Daddy. He was in a small room, and he was wearing handcuffs. Then this man came in and started kicking him and hitting him, and then, when he left, Daddy started to cry, and he called your name. His head was bleeding, and he had bruises all over."

Scully stroked her sweaty forehead. "It was just a dream, OK? It's not real, Chrissie."

Chrissie shook her head vehemently. "It was real, mommy. He really hurt."

Scully smiled weakly, indulgently. "Go back to sleep." Getting up, she walked back across the room to the crack of light showing the door.

"You should believe me, mommy." Scully turned to find her sitting up, staring wide-eyed at her. "It's real."

She sighed, returning to the room. "It was a *dream*. Dreams aren't the same as real life. It might seem real, but it's not, honey. Now go back to sleep."

"Come on, Chrissie. Hurry up, or you'll be late."

"Wait a minute, mommy."

"What are you doing?" Scully tiredly leaned against the door.

Chrissie came hurrying out of her room, zipping up one of the pockets of her bag. "OK, I'm ready." She looked up at her mom. "Mommy, did you sleep last night?"

"Never mind. What have you got in that bag?" She eyed the bulging pocket warily. "Give it here."

Reluctantly, the bag was handed over. Scully rifled through the pocket, as her daughter fidgeted in front of her.

"Surely you don't need all these things." Scully methodically emptied the pocket, throwing the things onto the couch. "A penknife?!"

Chrissie shrugged.

"You're not going to need a penknife in school, Christine Victoria Mulder." She threw the knife onto the couch with the rest of the things and marched her out the door and into the car.

"Is Daddy coming home today?" asked Chrissie quietly.

Scully swallowed hard, her throat suddenly tight and uncomfortable. "I don't know, sweetheart. We'll have to wait and see." Quickly, she changed the subject. "Dee's picking you up today, because I'm going to be busy, OK?"

She nodded. "Love you mommy." Grabbing her bag, she jumped out of the car and ran into the playground.

Scully stood at the door to the basement office. It stood closed, and her hand rested on the handle. Fervently, but, she knew, futilely, she wished with all her might that Mulder would be sitting there behind their desk, poring over some new 'evidence'. Taking a deep breath, she turned the handle, and pushed it open slowly.

Nothing. No one. Hope deflated like a pricked balloon, and she leaned heavily on the door handle. At last, she pushed herself upright again and crossed over to the desk.

That was when she noticed the brown paper package on the desk. Curious, she picked it up. In square capitals was her name. Not her real name, but just 'AGENT SCULLY'. Turning it over, she found the join, and tore the paper off.

It was a plain videotape. Unmarked, but rewound to the beginning. Frowning, she looked inside the wrapping for more clues, but there was nothing. Picking up the tape again, she weighed it carefully in her hand, before getting up to put it in the VCR.

She stifled a cry. There was Mulder, unconscious, lying on a bed. Around him were men, clad in Haz-Mat suits. One of them filled a syringe with some kind of strange oily substance, and approached his right arm. Suddenly, Mulder's eyes snapped open. They widened at the sight of the syringe, and he struggled to free himself. She noticed then that he was strapped down too, around the chest and neck, and by his hands and feet. Unconsciously, she began to chew on her lower lip, strangled sobs emanating from her throat.

As the needle approached his arm, the struggles grew wilder and wilder. At last, one of the other men grabbed his arm and held it still, whilst the one with the needle injected him swiftly. Suddenly, the flailing stopped, his eyes falling shut. The men conferred for a while, and Scully turned up the volume, anxious to catch just a bit of their conversation. Then the camera moved closer, providing a close-up of Mulder's face as a rubber-gloved hand pried his eyelids apart.

Across his eyes swam a marbled pattern of black.

"Agent Scully. Where's Agent Mulder?" Skinner looked up accusingly from the scattered papers on his desk, his expression melting into concern as he took in her harassed countenance. "Agent Scully?"

She took a deep, shuddering breath. "Sir, Agent Mulder is missing. I believe he has been kidnapped. I found this on my... on *his* desk this morning." She placed the tape firmly in front of him. "It contains footage of Agent Mulder being injected with something, possibly a virus."

Skinner eyed her suspiciously, picking up the tape and inspecting it. Finding nothing wrong with it, he played it, watching tight-lipped but transfixed, as Scully averted her eyes, biting her lip as she heard his cries. At long last, the tape ended, leaving them in bitter silence again.

"Sir, with your permission, I'd like to spend as much time as I can looking for him today, and possibly tomorrow." She retrieved the tape, her voice wavering slightly.

"I understand, Agent Scully. I think this case should be classified as an X-File." Skinner knew that she would understand that he was giving her all the time she needed, and indeed she did. With a quiet thank you, she returned to the office to get her things, and drove away.

Upstairs, a shadow moved away from the window.

I knew Mommy was worried about Daddy. She never said anything, but she never does. She's always been good at keeping quiet. When I was little, Daddy used to tell me about how she never used to let him know when she wasn't doing well. He told me 'coz that's what I do sometimes too. I'm just like my mom.

She wouldn't listen to me. Usually such a sympathetic listener, my mother. When I was still a preschooler, she used to listen to my babblings and nod wisely in agreement. But, like Daddy always said, she doesn't like stuff she can't... what was the word he used? Quantify. I had to look it up in the big dictionary on my shelf, because I didn't understand what he was talking about. Now I know, and that's why she wouldn't listen to me. She didn't want to listen. She didn't like that I was dreaming so vividly about Daddy. She didn't think it was real, but it was. It was so real. I've always known when my dreams are just dreams, and when they're not. This was not.

Poor Daddy. I hope I never get this stubborn. But I knew he would be OK. I just knew it, because that's what my dream had been sent to say. He was hurt, but he'd recover. He'd come back.

But Mommy wouldn't listen.

"Is your mommy collecting you today?"

"No, Dee is."

The young teacher nodded and smiled, moving on to the next group of screaming young children. Chrissie sat alone on the floor. All her friends had already gone, and she was just waiting for the babysitter.

She kicked the table-leg impatiently. She wanted to go home. She wanted to see if Daddy was back yet. Looking around, she noticed that yet more people had left now. She returned to pounding away at the desk.

"Hey! How's my favourite creep?" Dark brown arms wrapped around Chrissie's waist, lifting her up off the seat.

"Hi Dee! I'm OK. Miss, I'm going!" She grabbed her bag off the back of the seat as she was put down and ran out the door. Laughing, Dee ran after her.

"Slow down, creep!"

Chrissie laughed breathlessly. "I can run faster than you!"

With a flying tackle, Dee knocked her to the ground. "No you can't!" Picking the two of them up, she dusted them off and took Chrissie's hand. "So what shall we do today?"

"Go home."

"What, no ice cream, no video arcades?"

She shook her head decisively. "Just go home."

Scully fumbled with her keys as she trudged wearily down the hall to the apartment door. Finally finding the right one, she picked it out and stepped up to the door. Something on the ground nudged her foot gently, and she looked down. On the doormat was another package, identical to the one she had found earlier that day on her desk. Picking it up, she let herself in to the darkened apartment and turned on the light.

Despite her weariness and depression, she smiled at the sight that greeted her. The babysitter sat asleep at one end of the couch. In her lap rested Chrissie's head, thumb in mouth. At the light, Dee winced, and opened her eyes.

"Sorry I was so late," whispered Scully. Quickly, she paid her and sent her on her way. Softly and deftly, she carried Chrissie to bed and tucked her in, shutting the door. Then, at last, she took the video out of its package and put it in the video player, her face already tightening at the prospect of what the tape might show.


"It looks like a road sign of some sort. It's a bit distorted because of the dust on the window, but I think I might be able to clear it..." The young lab assistant carefully sharpened the picture, zooming in each time. At last, the fuzzy characters became legible. Noting down the road name, Scully leaned over.

"Zoom out again, I want to make sure there's nothing else that could help." She studied the freeze-frame carefully.

Eager to offer his opinion, the assistant suggested that it could be a warehouse of some sort, from what seemed like a pile of crates in the darkened corner.

She nodded. "Can you see what those are?"

After several minutes of zooming, brightening and sharpening, the assistant at last shook his head. "I don't think there's any way we could get anything more than the fact that they're crates."

Scully patted him on the shoulder. "Thank you."

Hurrying out of the laboratory, she rushed up to Skinner's office. As she stormed in, the secretary glanced up.

"Um, Agent Scully, hold on and I'll just see if he's busy."

Ignoring her, Scully opened the door. Luckily, he was sitting at his desk working only on a pile of papers and forms - nothing particularly important. At the interruption, he looked up, sighing as he noted Scully's harassed expression.

"Take a seat, Agent Scully." He indicated that his secretary should shut the door, leaving them in peace.

Quickly, Scully gave a short summary of what she had discovered, concluding with a statement that she would be going find him as soon as she left the office.

Skinner rubbed his eyes. "Agent Scully, I refuse to let you go there on your own. It's far too dangerous. You see what these men are doing to Agent Mulder. I'm sure he wouldn't want you to go rushing in without any protection."

"Well what am I supposed to do, sir? Sit around and wait 'till it's safe to go in? That's not an option for me here."

Skinner leaned forwards, lowering his voice. "I'm not suggesting anything like that. Scully, with this videotape as evidence, this can be presented as a straightforward kidnapping case. You're entitled to your back-ups, especially since he's a fellow agent."

Scully nodded, getting up. "Well then, I'll need back- up. However much you think I might need."

"Agent Scully, don't tell me you're thinking of going in on your own."

Scully didn't look up, but continued to load her gun. "So what if I am?"

There was a derisive snort. "Forgive me, but this is what we're here for. To save you from having to do this."

At this, she looked up, her eyes burning. "Listen to me, you son-of-a-bitch, that is my partner and husband in there, and if it takes my life to rescue him, then so be it."

The agent reeled back, surprised. He looked back over his shoulder at the other men, who stood against the wall, smirking, and shrugged. If she didn't want help, then he wouldn't give it.

Her gun ready, Scully took a deep breath and looked up at the building across the street. This was definitely the one in the video. A dilapidated warehouse among otherwise respectable ones, it hadn't been hard to identify.

Too easy, she realised with a frown. Something was wrong. This wasn't the kind of thing they usually had to face. It was altogether too simple. Too many obvious clues had been left behind by clumsy fingers for it to be a mistake. Something was afoot.

Looking back at the men behind her, she scrutinized them carefully before calling the one who had spoken to her earlier.

"Yeah?"

"You're going in first."

He smiled at the apparent display of weak womanhood, and swaggered across the street, gun drawn. Turning the door handle, he discovered that the door was open. Looking at his team once again, grinning, he stepped inside.

The building promptly exploded.

As the dust died down, Scully coughed, rubbing dirt out of her eyes. Slowly, the team began to reassemble as they assessed the damage.

Well, the agent was certainly dead, mused Scully drily. And it would've been me. My god. Glancing at the others, who were frozen in shock, she crossed the street towards the pile of rubble and stood before it, eyes searching for signs of anything out of the ordinary.

In The End, it was one of the other men who spotted the movement behind the next building. With a shout, he ran down the alleyway after the escaping figure. Swearing under her breath, Scully quickly ordered the others to find him, as she sprinted down after the first man.

They threaded their way through the alleyways between the warehouses, losing sight of him now and again, until at last, he was cut off in all directions. Handcuffs were quickly produced, and, out of breath, Scully pushed her way through.

"Krycek."

"Nice to see you again too. Pity it had to be under such... strained circumstances." He let out a harsh laugh.

"Where is he?"

"Where is who?"

She resisted the urge to kick him, to punch him, to shoot him dead on the spot, to torture him until he could no longer stand it. "Mulder, you bastard, where the hell is Mulder?"

He shrugged elaborately. "I don't know. Nobody ever tells *me* anything. Don't you eve find that?" His eyes bored into her skull.

This time, she really did kick him. "No mind games, Krycek. Just tell me straight. What did you do with him?"

"What makes you think *I* did anything with him? Sure, accuse the innocent. Just because I happened to be here when someone blew up a building..." He trailed off as he took in her cold glare.

"Let's bring him back."

Krycek lounged back as much as he could in the solid, stiff chair. He knew that behind the one-way glass, he was probably being watched by a group of people, one of which was undoubtedly Scully. Stoically, he stared off in the other direction.

Behind the glass, Scully stood, alone. She wasn't entirely sure what to think. In her hand were the results of the numerous lie detector tests that had already been conducted that day. All of them confirmed what he said. Even when he was asked questions like whether or not he had seen Mulder in the past few years, the sharp zigzags on the paper remained constant. Yes, he admitted to the bombing. He even admitted that Scully had been the target.

She shuddered. It gave her the creeps, just thinking about it. Thinking about when he had answered that question.

"Was Agent Scully the intended target in the bomb blast?"

At that, he had turned to look at the black glass, behind which Scully stood listening stiffly to every word. Even though she knew he couldn't see her, she couldn't help but feel that he was boring through her with his eyes.

"Yes."

She shuddered again, returning to the inspection of the graphs in her hand. Well, at least there was some sort of relief in all this.

"Was there anybody in that building apart from Agent ?"

It was the only question that he had answered immediately and with absolute conviction.

"No."

And the lie detector had confirmed it.

It meant that her husband was still elsewhere. What a piece of news, she reflected. Both good and bad. Good, because it means he's not dead, but bad because there were no other leads, no other trails. No other means of finding him.

At last, she opened the door to the interrogation room. He turned slightly, noting that it was her, before returning to staring at the wall again. Silently, she sat down in the seat across the table from him.

"So why did you do it?"

He sneered. "You want a motive? You want something easy, like money, or revenge? Sorry. No can do."

She took a deep breath. "So what else can you tell me?"

He shook his head. "I can tell you a lot of things, but I won't. You know why?" He looked at her. "Because you wouldn't know what to do with it. You and Mulder, you know nothing. You think you two are the center of everything They do, but you're wrong. You guys... you guys are just annoying flies that just won't die." He shook his head again, laughing. "But you wouldn't understand."

Scully leaned back. This was a lot harder than she thought. The two of them sat in silence for a long time, Scully trying to find something to ask, Krycek just enjoying her obvious discomfort.

At last, Krycek spoke. "What's the time?"

She glanced at her watch. "2 o'clock, why?"

He laughed. "Well, I'm a little late, but that's to be expected. I'm *always* late."

She frowned. "You're talking rubbish, Krycek, and I suggest you explain yourself now."

"Oh, I will. If you really want to know, yes, you were the target, but if it had been you, the bomb wouldn't have gone off. They don't want you dead. They want you scared. Likewise, I was meant to be caught. You're really not that clever, Agent Scully, you and your cronies. I'm here to bring you a message. That was the point of this, to keep you completely occupied."

Scully's eyes narrowed. "Get to the point."

He chuckled. "Oh, I am, I am, believe me. You see, they don't want you dead at all. They just want you under their control."

She got up quickly, pushing back the chair. "Control?"

"They want you to work for them. Help them find a cure." He leaned forward. "That's why they've got you under blackmail now."

Coming around the table, she leaned down to him. "Listen to me you little asshole, if you don't start talking straight, then -"

"Then what, you'll kill me? I wouldn't do that, I'm useful, you know." He smiled up at her. "Yes, Agent Scully, blackmail. Your beautiful little daughter."

For a moment, she stared at him, and then turned on her heel. She hurried down to the carpark, ignoring someone who was calling after her. Her mind was set on only one thing - her daughter.


"I need to talk to you for a moment."

The young teacher looked up at the doorway, and then at her class. "Alright people, keep working. Just because I'm not here, doesn't mean you get to play around." Watching them carefully, she backed out the door, shutting it behind her.

Helen nudged Chrissie. "Does she really think that's going to work? I'll bet you anything the boys are gonna start throwing things in a minute."

Chrissie shrugged. "No bet, 'coz you'd definitely win." She giggled. "Hey, did you know Miss Sherry's boyfriend lives right down the road from the school?"

She shrugged nonchalantly. "I knew that." Tapping her arm again, she whispered conspiratorially, "What do you think he sees in her?"

The two girls looked at each other for a moment, and then laughed. Nearby, Katie frowned.

"Shh, we're supposed to be working!"

Chrissie stuck her tongue out. "Go away, you spoilsport. Come on, Hel, let's ignore her." The two girls giggled again, turning to the other side to gossip some more with the others.

At last, Helen looked up at the clock. Frowning, she poked Chrissie in the side.

"Ow! Quit it!"

"Look at the time," she hissed. "Where's Miss Sherry? It's way past lunch. We're meant to be having English now."

The door slammed open. With muffled shrieks, the children ran back to their places and picked up their pencils, scribbling furiously and studiously. Nobody dared look up at whoever had so suddenly entered the room. Heavy footsteps marched slowly up and down the aisles, nearing Chrissie's seat. Gulping, she took a quick look at Helen, who had her head down, concentrating hard on the task in hand.

Eyes wide, she slowly and methodically worked through another arithmetic question, when suddenly, she found herself being grabbed out of her seat. She screamed, but her cries were immediately muffled by a hand over her mouth. It didn't stop the rest of the class from screaming though, until a gun suddenly fired a shot into the ceiling.

Deathly silence fell. Outside, in the corridor, doors opened cautiously, teachers warning their classes to stay put. One by one, the staff tiptoed down the hall.

Inside the classroom, some semblance of order had resumed. The children returned fearfully to their seats, obedient in their terror. All of them gazed, afraid, at the man who stood at the front of the classroom, a young girl clasped in his arms.

A gun to her head.

"Agent Scully?" The man tentatively approached the woman by the car who stood jiggling her keys furiously. "Um... Agent Scully?" At last, he touched her on the shoulder.

She jumped. "Sorry. What?"

"Agent Scully, someone was asking for you upstairs just now -"

"Tell them to call me on my cell phone. I don't have the time right now." At last, she wrenched the door open and climbed in, driving off without a backwards glance at the bewildered man.

Hurtling down side streets, she clenched the steering wheel tightly. All her thoughts were focussed on what Krycek had said. Blackmail. She shook her head, blinking furiously. No, don't think about it. Professionalism was the key here, and she was determined to keep a good hold on it.

Her unwavering concentration shattered suddenly like a smashed pane of glass when her phone rang. She started, surprised, but for a few seconds, she drove on, not quite processing the meaning of the shrill tone. Then, at last, dazed, she dug out her phone and answered it.

"Scully."

"I was afraid you were never gonna answer. Local PD were advised of gunshots coming from your daughter's primary school. You might want to check it out."

"I'm on my way, sir. I think Krycek had a hand in it somewhere."

"Krycek?"

She sighed. "It's a long story, sir. Frankly, I don't have the time to tell it now." She swung into the school's deserted parking lot. "I'm gonna need some back- up, probably. Knowing Krycek, the local PD isn't going to be enough." She clicked off the cell phone and shoved it deep into her pocket. Taking a deep breath, she climbed out of the car just as wailing sirens began to make themselves heard. Standing by her car, she waited until the first of the police cars arrived, then, looking back to make sure they knew she was going in, she drew her gun and ran across the playground to the main entrance of the school.

I'm scared. I'm more scared than I've been in my whole life, even more than when Mommy made me have my injections, and even more than when cousin Matty showed me the snake in Grandma's garden. I know what a gun can do. Mommy and Daddy have always taught me how dangerous they are. I guess they know - they have to work with them all the time. So I know how dangerous it is when there's one pointed at me, and I want to cry.

Helen's crying. I can see her from here, and she's looking at me as though she's sure he's about to pull the trigger and shoot me.

No no no no no, don't think that. He won't. He won't. He's just doing it to scare everybody. It's OK, he won't.

Nobody's talking. It's completely silent in here, except for people sniffing. Nobody wants to make him angry. Nobody even knows what he wants.

I'm sure if I turn around, I'll see Principal Matthews in the little window in the door. I'll bet he's too scared himself to come in and do something. I'll bet the only thing he can do is call the police.

I wonder how long it will be until Mommy gets here. I know she's coming, because I can feel her getting closer. I can feel how scared she is. I know, Mommy, I know. I'm scared too. I'm so scared, I can't move. Although I guess that's a good thing, 'coz if I moved, he'd probably shoot me. Isn't it strange how sensible my thoughts can be even now? I always thought you were supposed to go really crazy or something when you were in danger, like you couldn't think right. Well, I guess I'd make Mommy really proud.

There's a car outside. I can hear it only 'coz I was listening for it. I don't think the man heard it though, which is good. It's Mommy, I know. She's so close... I feel like I could call out to her, but the wall and the playground separate us, so I don't.

Well, it makes no difference how quiet she was now. The police cars are screaming closer and closer, and the man's getting ready to do something. Dear god, let it not be a pull of the trigger he's planning. I want to squirm, and I know anyone else would, but all those horrible stories Daddy told me mean that I don't even consider actually doing it.

Mommy's shoes make such a nice noise. I can always tell when it's her because of the click-click of her shoes. Although I guess I can always tell when it's her anyway.

I'm being dragged backwards into the other corner of the room. He knows what's coming. He knows what's about to come through that door.

My Mommy.

"Nice of you to join us, Agent Scully." The masked man rasped as she slammed open the door and stepped in, gun drawn. "I've been waiting for you."

"What do you want?" Her voice was calm but terrified, her eyes darting between his face and her daughter's.

He smiled, his eyes as cold as voice in which he spoke. "Many things, Agent Scully. Many things. But from you, just one."

The gun in her hand remained steady, just like her voice, but her eyes were busy making sure her child was unhurt. Seeing her mother so distressed, she quietly opened her mouth and mouthed the words 'I'm OK'. Scully's attention turned back to the man.

"What do you want?" she asked again, this time more forcefully.

Again, he smiled. "Patience, my dear Agent Scully."

"I am very quickly running out of patience. At the very least, tell me who you're working for."

"Oh, but you know who I'm working for."

Silence resumed, the two guns locked in a horrible battle over a little girl. At last, Scully spoke again.

"Why me? Why *my* daughter?"

"Oh, you know better than to ask that. I think you know full well why." He tugged at Chrissie, who yelped slightly before silencing her squeals with a look of terror. He looked down at her and smiled icily again. "You know, Agent Scully, you've trained your daughter well. She's the perfect non-aggravating hostage."

She swallowed hard. "Non-aggravating hostages tend to survive. That's what I'd like her to do." She looked at Chrissie again. "Look, cut the crap. Tell me what you want."

He turned the full force of his sneering smile at her. "It's your move, Agent Scully. Your move. What do you do in a hostage situation." He laughed a short, dry laugh. "Although I guess this one has you slightly... distracted." He laughed again.

She swallowed. What should she be doing that she wasn't? It seemed she had all areas covered. Back-up was waiting outside, all exits were covered. She was keeping a close eye on the hostage (well, it couldn't be that, she thought sardonically - she wouldn't take her eyes of Chrissie for the world).

And then it hit her. She felt like slamming her head against a brick wall for being so stupid. She had been so lost in this world where only she and her daughter existed, which had been rudely broken into by this thug.

"Let the others go." Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the children cowering in their places, their eyes turned hopefully to her.

The grim smile widened. "Well done, Agent Scully. Seems you're really not that forgetful after all." Without taking his eyes off her, he nodded towards the grateful children. "Get out."

Leaving a wide berth, they rushed out, like a sea, parting its waves around a lone rock. No complaints about the diversion.

"Now tell me."

He readied his gun again, the girl at his fingers stifling a cry. "Work for them."

"I need more than that."

"They need this." He jabbed at the girl savagely. "And they want you to help." He saw the frown on her face and the bewilderment in her eyes. "Here, let me show you." Slowly, he let go of Chrissie. "Now, you stay there, OK? Remember, I've still got a gun pointed at you." With his now free hand, he dug into his pocket, pulling out a vial filled with a black substance.

With a start, she recognized it as the black oil they had found embedded in a rock so many years ago. "What does that have to do with this?"

"We need a cure, Agent Scully. Nobody has a cure... yet." Unscrewing the lid, he held it up to the light. "Isn't it beautiful?"

Suddenly, he turned it upside-down, pouring the contents onto Chrissie. She screamed, frantically wiping away the sticky substance that was quickly seeping into her. Scully rushed forward, horrified, but stopped short as the man cocked his gun.

"Wait and see, Agent Scully. Just wait and see."

Grabbing hold of a desk, Scully leaned heavily on it, tears springing to her eyes as she watched the black streaks disappear. "Why? Why do this?"

"Patience."

She looked up at him, eyes blazing, and opened her mouth to let loose a tirade of curses, when suddenly, she heard a cry. Her eyes darted back to her daughter.

The oil had disappeared.


'A natural resistance.' Natural, he said. As if I'd believe the reason my daughter survived was completely natural. No, it must be something they did. Something they modified in her. They aren't telling the truth, that they have no cure. They must, or else...

But she knew. She knew she was deceiving herself, only because she didn't want to believe these crazy things about her daughter.

She stole a glance in the rearview mirror. Her little girl was looking out of the window at the houses passing by, just as she usually did. No sign of a girl who had just been held at gunpoint, a girl who had just been infected with a fatal...

What was it? A virus? Bacteria? Some kind of microscopic animal, grouped together?

A cure was what they needed, though. It was what they wanted her to find. And at last, she understood. Cures to many diseases have been found by inspecting people with a natural resistance to the illness. They wanted a cure for this strange black demon, and the only way they could find one was to find someone who knew how to survive it.

And that was Chrissie.

She glanced back again. Now she was happily counting out the beads in her little collection, completely unfazed by the afternoon's adventures. Oh, but she knew the reason for that too. She just didn't want to admit it.

At the back of her mind, a memory poked at her like an infected thumb. It had happened just that morning - how could she forget it?

Another night, another set of dreams, to be mentioned conversationally to her mother over breakfast, and yes, that's what she had done. Of course, she hadn't listened, not attentively. She just vaguely recalled something about Mulder, and something about...

Something about a man with a gun at the school.

Clairvoyant dreams.

Mother and daughter trudged wearily up to the apartment. At the door, Scully fumbled in her pockets for the keys as her daughter slid down the wall, coming to rest curled up on the floor. At last, she wrestled the door open. Looking down at Chrissie, she didn't bother admonishing her, but instead picked her up and carried her into the room.

That done, she returned to the living room, exhausted, emptying her pockets of bits and pieces, the tools of her trade. Putting them down on the table, she at last switched on a lamp.

And gasped.

"Mulder?" She knocked over the lamp in her rush to reach him. "Mulder?" She knelt down by him. He lay unconscious on the floor in front of the couch, and for a moment, she was worried that he was infected with something, or hurt in some way, but a quick once-over told her there was nothing serious.

"He's alright, Agent Scully. We didn't hurt him."

She whirled around to find a man standing in the shadows in the corner of the room. Slowly, as he came into the light, she recognized him as the man she had met at Mulder's funeral so many years ago. Now, here he was at another of Mulder's revivals.

"What do you want?"

"Really, Agent Scully, I think you know too much to need to ask that question. Was that little display this afternoon not enough for your eager little mind to work out your part in this?"

She shook her head slightly. "No, I know what you want. The question is how you expect me to give it to you."

He put an envelope down on one of the tables. Tapping it with his finger, he looked up at her. "Details are in here, Agent Scully. I know you may be willing to comply now, but a change of heart is not unheard of in you." He cocked his finger at her knowingly. "Your husband is our safeguard."

"My..." She looked down at Mulder lying oblivious on the floor. "What did you do to him?"

"Just a little something to guarantee your... adherence to what we ask of you. All you need to know is that if you decide to go off on your own tangent, unpleasant things will begin to happen to your family." He watched her gravely. "You have one week to go over what's in this envelope here, and then we will expect you to start your work with us." He turned to go.

For a moment, Scully stared at him while what he had said began to sink in. Then at last, she spoke. "So I don't have much choice, do I."

He paused at the door, his back to her. "Such a difficult word, choice. It's just a question of which part of your life you value more." And with that, he was gone.

Bright sunshine. It's the only thing that causes that glorious pink glow when I wake up. I open my eyes cautiously - the last few days, waking up has been an unpleasant surprise.

But this time, it's an incredibly pleasant, incredibly surprising experience. I'm at home. Suddenly, I realise that I'm not lying on a cold, hard, concrete floor any more. The surface underneath me is soft.

I blink several times, bringing my eyes into focus. I'm in the living room, alone. At least, I think so, but I can't exactly see very much at the moment, so I really couldn't say. And anyway, my head hurts.

My watch reads 11:21am. Well, no wonder the place is empty. Scully, my darling, wonderful Scully will be at work, and my amazing little daughter will be at school.

Except I'm wrong. Here's my Scully, and she's got a glass of OJ in her hands, and suddenly, I'm incredibly thirsty. Weakly, I wonder why she's not at work, but it's too complex a thought to process.

Little hands wander up my chest, and a small head pokes up in my face. My daughter seems to be at home too. What a happy day. The two women in my life cut school and work to look after me. Forget that I've just been away, missing, for nearly 3 days, that's not important. What's important is that they're here now, and so am I.

The End


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