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Title: Surprise
Author: The Phile Formerly Known as Soapie
Category: S
Keywords: Alternate universe, MSR, angst
Spoilers: "Memento Mori"
Disclaimer: Mulder is not mine, Scully is not mine, Skinner is not mine, (THANK GOD!) and basically anyone in this story who could be recognized from any X-files episode belongs to Chris Carter, 10-13 Productions, and FOX. Get it? Got it? Good.

Summary: In the future everyone is living underground as a side effect of the alien invasion. Mulder has been missing for years, and when a stranger whom nobody knows shows up suddenly, things get really complicated.

Author's Note: This is possibly the best thing I've ever written. If you don't like MSR, bail out now. If you are blind to Skinner's obvious love for Scully, ditto. If you know the true definition of ANGST, please let me know.

The young woman and the boy who moved stealthily from the tunnels both brandished a plain shot gun and a small oxygen tank. The bullets were homemade, the powder was running short. The bike helmets they wore were sorry excuses for protective gear, but survivors couldn't afford to be picky. Not on this world, at least.

There had been a time when things were different, when people were careless and any reference to alien life was casually brushed aside and granted a happy ending. Not now. Oh, things weren't all that bad, you might say. You could say the humans had won, but when you looked at what they had fought so long and hard for you couldn't help shuddering. Sure, they defeated they "little green men". Sure, "Independence Day" could have been fairly accurate, until people started REALLY dying. People didn't just die, they were exterminated by the thousands, and by their own air. Something the aliens left behind was killing them, and doing it fast. Anyone left on the surface of the planet went insane, (hence the shotgun and helmet) and slowly, literally, 'coughed' themselves to death. They gasped more desperately for air, and the more they sucked it in, the faster they died. For some reason, however, this only happened on the surface.

The faint hum of the tunnel fans grew more distant as the two advanced into the surrounding rubble. Every group that went on a raid tried to ignore the rubble, but it was everywhere, and everything had somehow become it. It was a constant reminder that all of what humans could accomplish could be destroyed faster than they could ever accomplish more. Dust from concrete and rotting bones swirled around the feet of the two as they made their way at a jog towards the 'living' section of town. It was more of a habit than anything else, but all raiding parties checked the only habitable areas for sane life; if one more person could be found before they were really affected, then they would be saved. The scientists under the surface insisted that within 300 years the planet should be habitable again, and they wanted the human race to still be there to see it.

"Pendrell! Over here!" The woman turned sharply at the sound of the scratchy headset.

"William P. Byers, have you found something?!" she teased, but shook herself into action as Byers bounded over a pile of rocks and pointed to a man collapsed near what would have been the door of the old Hoover building. They approached him cautiously, and she kicked his dust-covered foot with her boot.

In a shuddering moan of pain he moved.

"Pendrell, this is a live one, don't ask me how but he could make it, let's bring him down."

"We should call for back up first, you're still in training."

"And this guy's breathing straight air!"

"Good point Will, let's move."

The sharp click of the Commander's heels on tile was one sound no raiding party--especially this one--ever wanted to hear after a raid. Dull, thudding, Captain's loafers, on the other hand, could be welcomed with little dispute.

"Pendrell, what the hell is this, you've got Byers today!" the man in the loafers demanded. The boy was obviously relieved, the woman quietly thankful.

"Sir, he's alive," she said, indicating the slumped over man she and Byers were supporting. Captain Walter Skinner, formerly of the FBI, snorted.

"Sure as hell doesn't look like it. Get him to sick bay if you insist though, Pendrell, and Byers, don't bother telling Commander Scully, I'll take care of it."

"We were hoping you would, sir." The boy grinned. The man laughed his way out of sight.

Dr. Betts looked up as Pendrell walked in. She wants to check on the man she had brought down earlier, he thought. Out loud her said, "He's still sleeping, Lisa, you don't have to check in on him every half hour, I am a doctor, you know." Lisa Pendrell laughed. "My brother always said you had an okay sense of humor for a quack."

"Oh, and would that be the infamous Agent Pendrell of the FBI? You two were a classic case of twin empathy. He was lucky to cash in before all this started."

"Yeah doc, but even with all that physic ability I never figured out why he went after Scully."

Laughter filled the room; it was what the man first heard when he woke up.

"Skinner, Pendrell is a loose string, if you cut her off her now and the whole thing comes tumbling down. You need to crack down on them more!"

Commander Dana Scully, formerly of the FBI, (and very much an ice cube since the whole mess started), was leaning against the hard earthen wall of Skinner's apartments. Skinner himself was sitting on a handmade chair that defied the laws of science by holding anything up at all. He crossed his leg over his knee and sighed. "And you should lighten up. Dana I don't think your attitude is the best thing for the group right now."

She rolled her eyes. "Skinner, you've been telling me that since I was an Agent under your supervision."

"And you've been acting this way since Agent Mulder disappeared." She stiffened. "Can it, Skinner, there's still the matter of Pendrell and the stray, supposedly sane, man."

"You're not going to help yourself by keeping it all in, Scully."

"Don't patronize me Walter, I'm not a child and the tables have turned. This isn't the FBI, Mulder's gone and you're not my superior, are we going to get down to business or what?!"

Skinner sighed again. "Whatever, Commander." Their fighting wasn't helping the continuation of the human race, and if he ever intended to have little Skinners running around, (which he was beginning to doubt more and more) the best opportunity was to shut up and let her have her say. It always involved the refusal to accept Mulder as dead.

The man woke coughing. Dr. Betts and Pendrell paused mid-laugh to rush to his side. He wheezed out a single word. "Water..." and kept his fit up until he doubled over. Lisa looked worriedly to Betts, but the doctor seemed unfazed by this. After he drank a significant two rations worth of water, they took the cup away.

"Sir? My name is Lisa, do you know your name?"

The man nodded, coughing.

"Mulder. What does it take to get a decent bath down here?"

And without another word to the pair at his side, Ex-Special Agent Fox Mulder fell back asleep.

"Narc. We can't run a fiber optic silicon cord down here, the crazies'd chew it out."

"All I'm saying is that it's all that's keeping us from connecting to the old phone lines and into the main frame of the other tunnels."

"IF there are other tunnels, and how do you know that they even have those capabilities?"

"Look, do you think our 400 so-odd people were the only ones to figure to dig it out? You're not thinking logically, they would try to establish some form of communication with us. This is only D.C. Think like you used to, Fro---"

"Hey, guys!"

Three "WHAT?!"s rang out in unison as the young Byers stumbled through the make-shift wooden door guarding the home of underground D.C.'s elite paranoid.

"Narc, we told you to keep the kid out of this," declared the blond, rolling his eyes.

"I'm not a KID, Langly," said the boy, his voice cracking.

"Spill it, kid." Frohike grunted.

The boy sighed, "Anyway, Pendrell and I brought down a live one. A man. Tall, but not very heavy...maybe from another tunnel."

The older Byers raised his eyes to his companions. "If he is..."

"Quit the melodramatics Uncle John, Commander Scully'd never let you guys get at him before she does."

"I have a way with Scully." Frohike declared jauntily. "Yeah, cuz you're 'buff.'" Langly breezed.

"You guys have been down here too long."

"Kennel duty, at WORST, Scully." "Lav duty at BEST, Skinner."

"You don't have to be so severe in your punishments, it's only a minor offense, bringing down a stray with a trainee. How about KC?"

"Pendrell on Kitchen Control? Walter, don't punish the rest of us."

He rolled his eyes. "I suppose you prefer the stews of the fabulas Chef Williams, eh?"

"Anything. You've never had Pendrell's hard tack."

"Scully anyone can make hard tack, it's our main source of starch down here."

"When she made it, I thought they were brownies."

The laughter helped clear the tension in the air. It always helped, but it was hard to get Scully to laugh. Ever since the day the fight had started, when the plane Mulder was taking back to D.C. from Martha's Vineyard had been intercepted and shot down by 'the aliens', she had been like this. When the news came of victory she was still not glad, and when people started dying she acted like it was long coming. To her, a world without Mulder wasn't much of a world anyway.

When the tunnels were completed, and who was left went down, she assumed cold control. Since the abduction left her unable to conceive she wasn't in a rush to get married like all of the others. No one else knew this, though, and the pressure was constant, but Skinner realized finally who it was she missed, and didn't mention it. Often. Now was already a rare moment, so he thought he might try again to remind her nicely that the human race wasn't going to wait around for her to get over a man presumed dead for four years.

Apparently she didn't agree with this.

" should really think about what people are saying..." She was instantly angry. "Oh? And what would that be? Pardon me, Skinner, but I run my life by what I think is right, not by what other people think I should do. You should really think about getting your own opinion sometime."

"He's DEAD Scully. Deal with it. Move on. Think about the living for a change."

"The living? Skinner, this is a cave. We 'living' are eating and sleeping in a massive tomb! This isn't a home, this is a grave! WHAT living?!"

"I'm living, Dana. I'm living a cold, lonely life down here, and so will you if you don't seriously reconsider your priorities, and soon." She knew she should consider what he was saying, but to hell with her if she did. There were tears in her eyes now, tears that had remained unshed for the lives of her mother and brothers. For her friends, coworkers, family and country. She wouldn't cry now, she wasn't that type of person, but they would be there, each single tear, for Bill, Charles, Maggie, Emily, and for Mulder. Mulder.

That was the tear she let go. It rolled slowly down her check, leaving its sadness trail behind it, and rested on the tip of her nose, where she wiped it away forever.

"You know something, Skinner? I think you're right."

The din in the mess hall was cheerful compared to the sterile silence of the surface, Mulder thought. The woman who brought him in was sure hanging around him...

"So...Mulder, right? How is it you were up there, ALIVE?" a young cadet sitting at their table asked. Mulder grinned. So far ever person he told his story to was shocked. The existence of other tunnels shocked them. They had searched so far, had traveled until the air tanks ran out, looking for different tunnels.

"I was sent from a tunnel in Massachusetts, Martha's Vineyard, actually, to look for others. My last air tank ran out about three hours before Lisa found me."

Pendrell jumped at the chance to speak. "But it wasn't on you when we brought you down--"

"I had a little run-in with some coughers."

"Oh. But Mulder, I wasn't alone, I had Will with me. He's a trainee, which is why the Commander's so pissed with me. It's a rule to call for back up if you find a stray...excuse me, a person, when you've got a trainee. Byers was adamant, though. He didn't care if--"

Mulder's head jerked up. "Excuse me, what did you say his name was?" He demanded quickly. She looked fairly surprised. "William Byers. Oh look, there he is now. Will, over here! Hey, he's got his uncle with him...a real weirdo, John is, but hey, you might like him."

'Well, that about wraps it up, huh Skinner?' 'Where have I heard that before, Scully?' He smiled remembering their last conversation of the day. Alone in his "office" he sat thinking, thankful of the way things were finally starting to look up. Mulder finally forgotten, Scully lightening was getting better by the minute, NOTHING could ruin his day now, he thought. (Except for what was happening on the opposite side of the tunnel, in a room much smaller than his, that is, where the object of all of his troubles was standing face to face with three men who couldn't believe their eyes, but did.)

The Lone Gunmen stood wide-eyed staring at the man before them.

"Mulder?! You're dead!"

Mulder grinned. "Relax, Langly, I thought the same about you."

Byers cut in. "But the plane---Mulder I checked the passenger manifest countless times! The coded listings too, you were on it!"

"I changed my mind at the last minute, got off before it was intercepted."

"You were counted as dead, we lost all did you--?!"

Mulder stopped smiling. "I was part of the defense fleet, that's why I didn't stay on the plane...they had seen things in the sky...they were only rumors at the time, but...when I heard about the bombings in D.C. I stopped trying to get back. They said we were winning the war, but she...but everyone I had tried to contact was on the dead list. Then we won, and I went back to the Vineyard, and then people started dying. Four years ago we started working on the tunnels, you know that part...but a few months ago they started talking...I volunteered to look for other tunnels in this area, since I knew it pretty well. Yesterday my air ran out, those two found me, and here I am."

Frohike looked him square in the eye. "Mulder, we're ALL here."

Mulder grinned. "Yeah, I know, I see you. We really should work on a line of communication to----"

"No, Mulder, the people you thought were dead, aren't. She's here, Mulder, waiting for you."

Scully needed to clear her dizzy mind; she headed out into the tunnels, intent on a walk. Skinner was right, or at least to some degree. She would get over Mulder, but just not now. She smiled to herself and continued walking down the tiled floors, the arch of the dirt walls on either side of her and overhead.

It was cold down here; damp. She liked it. Kicking off her impractical heels she set off on a run, going nowhere, but being carefree, a totally new experience for her. She stopped for breath outside of a familiar dirt doorway, the door to the apartments of the Lone Gunmen. She turned laughing, resting her back against the door frame. The door opened; and she turned cold. She knew who was behind her. Some part of her brain knew all along who it was, because of the empathic connection between two people who are very close, like they were. Lights flashed in her brain, violins played, but surprisingly, she was calm.

"Do you always sneak up on people, Mulder?"

"I don't know, Scully, don't you like surprises?"

The End

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