Title: Ashes, Ashes
Authors: Nora Katherine and RocketMan
Written: April 1998
Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully are the property of Fox, CC, and 1013. No infringement is intended.
Also, 'cigarettes' by Lucille Clifton is her own property and no infringement is intended.
DISTRIBUTE: Anywhere as long as everything stays intact.
Rating: PG
CONTENT/Spoiler: Mulder/Scully friendship. Spoilers for all seasons up to US5.
ARCHIVE: S; A

Summary: Waking nightmares haunt Mulder and Scully as they investigate an odd case of alien abductions.


'cigarettes'

 my father burned us all. ash
fell from his hand onto our beds,
onto our tables and chairs.
ours was the roof the sirens
rushed to at night
mistaking the glow of his pain
for flame. nothing is burning here,
my father would laugh, ignoring
my charred pillow, ignoring his own
smoldering halls.'

--Lucille Clifton, "The Book Of Light"

Even in the lateness of his dream cycle, he could clearly hear her voice: singing, singing, mixing life and love with hurt and pain: her childish voice not knowing the real words, not caring for the real words when he tried to tell her - when he tried to tell her the truth.

"Ring around the rosey, pocket full of posey. Ashes, ashes, We all fall down!"

Her squeal reverberated as they toppled, as if falling was fun, even though it wasn't at all when it was real.

"Fox?" she called out as he left in disgust.

"Stop it, Sam. I'm not playing with you if you can't play it right!"

"Play with me!"

He saw in his dream memory her body: whirling, moving ungracefully past the stove, coming to make him play: catching, catching, burning.

Smoke.

"Fox! Help me!"

Her "help me's" were all the same, same as the night she was stolen, but this was not then. This was fire and deadly and hot and raging.

Smoke was filling the air as storm clouds, ash raining down and scalding them as he dragged her: ash falling down, their house falling down, falling down around them.

"Come on, Sam! Stop clutching me; I can't see!"

Smoke and fear echoing through his lungs like poison, crushing like a serpent's clutch, it rattled around until smoke overwhelmed fear and all he could think was:
I don't want to die.

And then hands and staleness and air hitting his face and caressing his bangs, lifting and teasing them into his eyes so he could not see.

The breeze carried to him his mother's anxiousness and Sam's wailing and all he knew was that everyone was safe, everyone was safe.

The staleness brought him back, the reek of lingering smoke on the jacket of the man holding him like a rag doll, and he lifted his teared and reddened eyes to search the face above him.

He saw the man his father had spit on once, the man his mother had beat on the chest, the man who had saved him and saved Sam.

The grass felt cold to his hot cheek and he heard in the background, the roaring of lions angered as his house fell around them, lions growling and hissing with the flames, licking up his

house.

Sam threaded her fingers through his, unwilling to let go even for a moment.

His eyes turned to the fire, to the man backlit by the light of the fire, making him dark, so oily dark, and the man lit another cigarette and smiled foully.

The smile was cold and chilling and not at all good feeling like the rass had been, and Fox turned his eyes and rested them on Samantha.

A puff of stale air came at him and the man tossed a lighter to the grass beside him, beside Fox Mulder's trembling body. The lighter flashed silver and shiny and then embedded itself in the lawn.

And Fox Mulder knew, he knew with all his heart, that this was the man of fire.

This was the man.


In the motel room next to him in the battered town of Shrike, Mississippi, Dana Scully roamed with an odd detached sort of look that made her movements zombie-like.

She could hear him dreaming, tossing in the bed and even *crying out* but she could do nothing for him; it was not her place, nor her right.

Outside the relative safety of their motel, the rain slashed away all silence and the thunder brought promises of her own coming nightmares, of lightning pregnant clouds birthing a fear to rival Mulder's.

She sighed and watched the rain smacking against the window like a ghost's hand rapping against the ledge. She could clearly see in her mind's eye the vision of Heathcliff, in "Wuthering Heights" a sad and bitter old man, calling for Cathy to come in, come in, and the desperate sob of the ghost as she begged with all her heart to be returned home.

Thinking on this made her shiver and she pulled the blanket she had stolen from the bed tighter around her shoulders.

She wondered what was out there tonight, begging to be let in. Was it Mulder's demons?

Or hers?


"I will bring fire to thee."

--Euripedes

She had been all too right and she wished she hadn't, now that it was here.

The lightning appeared in her sleep and she cowered in the bed, still deep within herself, frightened for no apparent reason.

The bright flashes had never been one of her childhood fears, as it sometimes was with other children. But now, now, it was an intense, hypnotizing, paralyzing fear that kept her from even covering her eyes.

It was as if the lightning froze her to the very core and all she could do was watch.

Ever since her abduction, it had been like that.

A bright flash and she would freeze and then memories she'd rather not have came for her.

Memories were terrible things at night, in the brightness and the howling of a storm.

She wished she had gone to Mulder and stayed with him through his nightmares, because maybe she would not be having these now.

They caught her though, and dragged her to the old familiarness of bright lights: familiar, yes, comfortable, never.

She was still, still despite the straining and the fear clawing at her to do *something,* no matter what, something.

She was crying, but there were no tears, only soft voices inside her saying that everything was fine and peaceful, but Dana had never allowed herself to be hypnotized, and it was hard for her to succumb to the calming voice.

That was what had probably made it worse for her.

In sleep, knowing what was coming and dreading it, she tensed and curled tightly up into the smallest amount space possible, as if she could make herself invisible to them.

She turned as the first wave hit her, her face went deathly white as the second roiled into her and then she heaved awake as the third forced her mind away from memory.

Sweating and ready to be sick all over the clammy sheets, Dana threw off her bedspread and staggered to the bathroom door.

She did not make it and instead collapsed on the dingy carpet, the lightning flashing around her and her eyes closing in defeat.


Awaking to find herself weak and crumpled on the floor, Scully tried to recall what had pitched her there, but like all other times, all she could remember was lightning, and she wondered

why that should frighten her so much.

She stood and rinsed her mouth out in the sink, spitting out the vestiges of the nightmares and cleansing herself of the weakness.

Massaging cramps in her neck, Scully stepped into the shower and heard from the other side, Mulder stepping into his own.

Her water ran cold before adjusting and she splashed it across herself in an effort to keep the lingering fears away.

She hoped to scrub away the storm-fears with the soap and the light.

And Mulder's case.

Shrike, Mississippi, port of call for aliens?

Or just wild rumors and frightened people?


"Fear has many eyes and can see things underground."

 -- Miguel de Cervantes

Mulder noticed the weather-stained brick as he and Scully pulled up to the local police precinct. They both stepped out in tandem, neither speaking a word.

They had both been unusually quiet that morning, but both were recalling their nocturnal demons more than focusing their thoughts on the case at hand.

Mulder unconsciously held the door open for Scully as they headed in, and she offered a glance in his direction, but didn't emit a word. As soon as they made it through the threshold, a large suited man with rosy cheeks and a blazing red beard that matched his head of hair descended upon them.

"You two must be those FBI agents," he said, offering a bit of a Southern drawl.

Mulder offered his hand first. "Mulder... and this is my partner, Dana Scully."

He nodded politely at both of them, offering up a hearty handshake. "Jack McDonald. This has been a tough case for all of us..." he began, leading them both into his office, and closing the frosted door behind them.

"I can imagine," Mulder said, sitting down in one of the chairs opposite the man's desk. Again, he quickly glanced over at Scully, almost hoping she wouldn't notice.

Unfortunately, Scully caught his eye, and shot him an appropriate look to go with the gesture. Mulder ducked his head slightly to avoid looking embarrassed.

"Nine girls... abducted..." His mouth grew into a thin line. "Or so it seems. They all came back, six months pregnant, and, uh--" McDonald's voice trailed off as he shuffled through some papers on his desk.

"Did you know any of them personally, um--" Mulder quickly glanced at the name plate on his desk, "--Sheriff?"

"Yeah," he said, slowly raising his head until Mulder and him were gazing eye to eye. There was a cool intensity in McDonald's eyes that Mulder wasn't sure he would have ever wanted to cross. "One of those girls was my daughter."

There was a long silence.

Mulder took that opportunity to turn to his partner again, suddenly realizing that she hadn't said a word since they had entered the station. His urge to ask "penny for your thoughts?" was incredibly overwhelming, but Mulder had the sense of mind not to say a word.

He knew just looking at her would cause Scully to speak.

And true enough: "Mr. McDonald, what do you know about the nine abductees and these supposed pregnancies?"

McDonald sighed, and lines that weren't visible a minute earlier suddenly grew upon his face, causing him to age years in a matter of seconds. "Agent Scully.." He paused. "That's what I was hoping you might tell me."

Scully nodded, but didn't reply.


As they stepped outside the door, Scully's ice blue eyes cut into his own vulnerable hazel ones, cutting wounds unimaginable.

Without even speaking a single word.

Mulder opened his mouth to speak, but she beat him to the punch.

"Mulder..."

They both paused for a moment-- Mulder waiting to hear Scully's words, and Scully realizing she hadn't yet articulated what she had wanted to say to him. Finally, her thoughts organized themselves.

"You believe they were impregnated...?" Scully didn't even need to finish the sentence; Mulder knew exactly what she meant.

That unspoken communication, Mulder thought ironically. He forced himself to keep her at eye level. He knew what she was thinking. "Scully, I don't know."

"But you think that they were impregnated, like me? Don't you? That's what you think, isn't it?" Her voice raised a little bit, but not enough to cause alarm. Yet.

"Scully... I don't know. We need to talk to the girls."

"Mulder..." she started.

"Scully," he cut in, reaching out, and grabbing her arm.

 Pressure... on her arm...

"This won't hurt a bit."

Voices... where did they come from? The pictures were so fuzzy...she felt the pain ...Remembering nothing..."Dana... it'll be all right."

Penny? She comforted her in the Place...

"It'll be fine."

 "Scully! Scully!"

Mulder was shaking her frantically, unsure of what was happening.

Was this another side-effect of the implant that they had re-inserted in her neck?

He found himself overcome by panic as he continued to shake her by the arms, repeating her name over and over again.

"Hmmm? What?" she asked as her eyes readjusted again.

Scully found herself staring into Mulder's bottomless green eyes.

She felt like she was looking right through him...

Shutting her eyes again, she shook her head, and forced herself to refocus on her surroundings. As she opened them once more, she found Mulder's hands still attached to her arms.

"Mulder ..." she said.

"Scully, you just-- completely lost contact for a second there."

Scully looked at him, unsure of what to say. Mulder took the opportunity to insert a joke. "I was wondering if I was going to have to use 'E.T. phone home' on you, or something."

Scully did not find an ounce of humor in his statement, however.

"Mulder, I was here," she insisted.

"You were... but you weren't responding at all... I thought something had happened to you-- I thought maybe it had something to do with the ... the implant," he finished after a beat.

Scully eyed him for a moment, her lips pursed. Unconsciously, her hand rose to the back of her neck, but as soon as she realized her action, it dropped back down to her side.

"I'm fine, Mulder," she answered. It was almost a reflex now.

"Are you?" he asked, his eyebrows raised in irritating concern. At least, it was irritating to Scully. She didn't want his worrying.

"Yes, I am," she replied curtly, and walked off to find the sheriff.

They needed to start interviewing those girls.


 "We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones."

 -- Stephen King

The first house that they came to was an old Victorian mansion. It reminded Scully of those old horror films ... probably the kind that Mulder liked to watch all the time. She caught

herself looking in his direction as he pulled the car up to the curb, and she quickly looked away.

She didn't even know why... her eyes were drawn to him... as if she knew that he knew ... but knew what?

  "I'm... Emily's mother..."

She couldn't be a mother...

How could she protect her?

Emily... was her daughter...

.. she was a mother...

Mother... mother...

The nonsensical phrases ran over and over in her head as Scully sat, paralyzed in her seat. She didn't become conscious of her surroundings again until Mulder leaned over and poked her arm, causing her to jolt violently.

He jumped back, surprised by her reaction as she was to him poking her.

"Mulder?" she asked, looking at him.

"Scully..." He frowned, wanting to tell her something, but knowing that he couldn't. He held back. "We're at the Sheffer residence."

She blinked, and licked her bottom lip. "Yeah."

Tapping her jacket to make sure she had her pad, Scully stepped out of the car. Mulder watched her closely until her gaze fell on his, turning into a glare.

"What?"

"You know what," she said, her voice dangerously low.

"Scully, I'm worried about you," he said as they headed up the walk. "When you blanked out like that... I mean... it scared me. I didn't know what was happening."

Scully frowned. "Now you know how I felt," she muttered under her breath as they reached the ornate porch.

Mulder touched the buzzer. "What?"

"Nothing."


The kitchen was unusually bright... the sunlight streamed in through the huge glass doors. The bright yellow and white curtains only seemed to intensify the effect.

The juxtaposition of that with the general mood of the people in the room was almost fascinating to a degree.

It made Scully want to run out of the room, laughing and crying in the same moment. It was interesting how quickly the rain from the night before had dried out under the hot Mississippi sun, she thought. Another jarring contrast.

She forced herself to concentrate on their work. She worked for the federal government, and despite her own personal demons, Scully had to detach herself from that. She had a job to do.

"Jennifer, what happened to you five months ago? Do you remember anything of the period where you were missing?"

The young woman gnawed on her lip for a moment. Her clean skin and long brown hair shone brightly in the sunlight.

Scully swallowed, willing herself to not become distracted again.

Finally, Jennifer spoke. "There was ... I remember a light."

"Most abductees remember most presently a bright light," Mulder said. "Did you see anything in the light?"

"It was hot... there was a hotness.... intense... it was..." She paused, her breath breaking off and coming back in short spurts. "I remember... the heat... it was... it burned... bright.."

"Ashes, ashes, we all fall down..."

No! He didn't want to play...

He tried to tell her... the flames ... they were coming...

They descended slowly, crashing down.

"You're a little spy."

 "No!" Mulder said suddenly, causing both Jennifer and Scully to suddenly stare at him.

"Mulder, what's going on?" Scully asked him, searching for answers in her expression.

"N-nothing..." he mumbled, pressing his mouth together. "I-- uh... sorry... I thought you said something, uh..." He looked at the two of them. "Do you, um, mind if I use your bathroom?" he asked Jennifer suddenly.

"No, not at all," she said, pointing out the directions.

With that, Scully watched as Mulder practically bolted from the room. She then looked at Jennifer.

"What were you saying... about the heat...?" She forced herself to keep talking to Jennifer. If she worried about Mulder too much--

"It was..." she let out a breath, shaking her head. "I can't.."

"That's okay," Scully said, reaching out with her hand. "Would you excuse me for a moment?"

Jennifer nodded.

Scully quickly strode off and down the hall where Jennifer had directed Mulder to go. She encountered the bathroom, the door shut.

She lightly knocked. "Mulder?"

"I'm fine, Scully..."

Ironic, she thought, knocking again. "Mulder," she said, this time with more inflection. She wasn't going to let this go. If he was going to be on her tail, she wasn't going to stay off of his.

"Scully, I said I'm fine--" he replied, irritably. "You won't even let a man perform certain bodily functions?"

Scully's face froze up in embarrassment. It occurred to her that he was probably just using an excuse to get rid of her, but even so...

"All right, sorry," she finally sighed, and headed back into the kitchen.

When she got back in there, she encountered a man sitting down next to Jennifer. Scully raised her eyebrows in question.

"Agent Scully..?" she said. "I'd like you to meet my fiance-- Dan."


"So... how did you two meet?"

"Before .. uh..." Jennifer didn't even want to say the word anymore. She was sick of it... sick of talking about it. But she knew it was going to keep coming up again and again. It just didn't get any better with each time she had to talk about it.

"How'd you meet?" Scully asked softly.

Somewhere in the middle of the conversation, Mulder headed back into the room, looking no less fresh than a flower. Scully wondered what was going on with him... but there was a time and a< place for that. And this wasn't it.

Mulder shot Scully a look of confusion after glancing over at Dan, but kept the question from leaving his mouth.

Jennifer picked up before Scully could say anything. "Agent Mulder, this is my fiance, Dan. I was just telling Agent Scully how I met him... uh... it was actually," she grinned self- >consciously, "we met at a town social-- I help out with the mayor's office, and what-not, and Dan's father serves on the city council... and we just..."

She shook her head, and glanced over at Dan with a grin.

"... hit it off," he finished, smiling back at her with a full set of perfect teeth.

It was so cute.. that picturesque love story that Scully had always wanted in some sense, but at the same time, vowed that she would never become. She had a career, and a life, and...

"I have thought about this a lot."

Emily was her child...

She could be a mother. She wanted to be one.

She was thirty-three years old, damn it...!

"I have thought about this.."

"I have thought about this.."

"... remember from that night?"

Scully caught the tail end of what Mulder was saying.

"Not very much." Jennifer sniffed, holding back tears.

Scully watched as Dan's arm came around her shoulder. "We were... we were all..." she laughed slightly. "We were all pretty smashed, you know... I mean, already, we couldn't remember

anything, but, you know how that is--"

Scully nodded to further the story.

"And, uh... we were hanging out, and all I remember is... suddenly... just... everythin' went dark... and then bright... and then... the heat... and ... it all.."

She lost it at that moment, all her words breaking into wrenching sobs. Her fiance pulled her close, holding her and rocking her as Mulder and Scully exchanged a glance. They both knew what

the other's immediate thought was.

What they couldn't guess was that which was lurking just beneath the exterior... the waking nightmares which threatened to surface again. Seeing their partner caused both of them to stay in check.

Mulder was the first to speak. "I'm ... sorry, Jennifer. Sorry about what happened." The words sounded incredibly thin mixed up in the thick atmosphere of the room. And the bright sunlight only managed to make the moment even more absurd.

She didn't reply; still wrapped up in anguish. Dan merely nodded for her, and stood up, bringing Jennifer up with him.

Mulder and Scully took that as their cue. "Uh... we're probably going to need some more information later on," Scully said. "But... um... we want Jennifer to come to us when she's ready again. Okay?" Scully's tone was soft.

"Yeah," Jennifer coughed out, moving her face to look at the two FBI agents. "I will. I promise."

"Okay," Scully said.


 "In a real dark night of the soul it is always three 'o clock in the

morning."

 -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

The chips tasted strangely sour in her mouth. Mulder had insisted on eating... probably to ease his mind off the case for the moment. There was nothing like a little bit of food in one's stomach to ease the mind, Scully thought.

It was like Virginia Woolf had said, something to the effect of: "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."

But as much as she wanted to enjoy the club sandwich that was sitting before her, she simply couldn't cause herself to work up an appetite on it.

Scully also knew, however, that she would never hear the end of it if she didn't eat what was sitting before her. Mulder would have immediately noticed.

Even though she wasn't hungry whatsoever, Scully shoved the sandwich in her mouth, pushing herself to bite into it and chew without wanting to gag.

She found that the more that she ate, the hungrier that she became, thankfully.

And it also occupied her enough to keep from having to make conversation. Scully had the feeling that Mulder was thinking the same thing.


Mulder couldn't get his mind off the young man whom Jennifer had been with. Her "fiance," she had said. He wondered how long before the abduction itself they had met... and there was that five months...? Had he been abducted as well? The Sheriff hadn't mentioned anything about him, Mulder thought.

And what about the others?

Something about the entire thing bothered him, but he couldn't put his finger on it whatsoever.

The heat...

The intense heat....

What was that? And why did it always cause him to remember...?

Smoke... flames...

The voice: "You're a little spy."

It kept repeating.. repeating...

"No," he said aloud.

Mulder didn't even realize he had spoken aloud until Scully said, "No, what, Mulder?"

"Oh, I was, uh..." He searched his mind rapidly for a reason. "I was thinking aloud. About... this ... just.."

Scully furrowed a brow. "What?"

"Never mind."

She frowned. This was getting ridiculous. This lack of communication was insane. As much as she didn't want to talk about it, they couldn't spend this entire case not speaking to one another. They had to at least discussion this investigation.

"What do you think about Jennifer?"

"What do you mean, 'what do I think?'"

"I mean, do you think she was abducted?"

"It's possible. I don't know."

"Mulder.. it's just... I keep going over it in my mind, and I can't get the idea of the fact that there was alcohol involved.... you heard what she said; she couldn't remember much--"

"Yes, but she was gone for five months."

"But I wonder... I mean, there was this Dan guy involved... isn't it possible that she could have run off for five months?"

"But what about the nine other people? Including the Sheriff's daughter?"

Scully didn't have an answer for that.

"I know what your point is, Scully..."

"I'm just saying," Scully broke in, "that it's possible that she could have gotten pregnant by normal means." Even as she said it, she wondered if she believed it, though.

"I'm... Emily's mother..."

"I'm... Emily's mother..."

Scully shut her eyes for the moment, forcing the images out of her mind. Mulder saved her from her thoughts.

"I believe that's how it happened," Mulder said, surprising Scully.

"What?"

"Sure... she has sex with the fiance-- not all that strange. I don't know, Scully..." He glanced over at her, a playful gleam in his eye.

"Maybe <i>you're</i> saving yourself?"

She didn't even grace that statement with a reply, but instead said: "You think that all nine women became pregnant by normal means, though?"

"I don't know," Mulder said. "We still have eight more to interview, and half a day left. Don't you think we should be getting going?"

Scully threw her hands up, pushing her plate aside.

"I'm all yours."

He glanced at the half-eaten sandwich, and then over at his partner. "I meant... after we were done, of course."

"We're done," she answered, flagging down their waitress. "Check, please."


"To die, to sleep
To sleep-perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come. . ."
--William Shakespeare, "Hamlet" Act III Scene i

Scully pushed away the dreams and tried to focus on the interview, still not very sure about what she herself believed to be going on with these nine abducted women.

Caroline Adams sat with her back stiff and sore, despite the showing of the life, whatever it might be, within her. Her husband as of three days sat uncomfortably beside her, his arm tightly around her. Occasionally she would turn to him and mouth his name in protest. Scully heard these soft "Robert's" and wondered what was going on. Maybe Caroline was a very independent women and felt she did not need Robert to constantly hover over her... or it could possibly be anything... She shook off her curiosity, merely noting the observation in the back of her head.

"Can you remember anything else?" Mulder asked, his eyes roving the girl's face for some sign of hesitancy that he could pounce on.

"Well . . . I'm sure I remember more than the others. I mean, I stayed and made sure they were all right, you know?"

"Did they need you to make sure they were okay?"

"Well," Caroline twisted and looked to Robert with a sudden flash of fear. Robert's eyes drilled into her, easily saying she did not have to answer if she was uncomfortable.

"Well-- yes. The others were really drunk. I was the designated driver that night. I didn't want to be, really, but I don't drink as much as they do, and I don't get into it as much. I never really have. I don't know why: I guess it's because it all tastes bad to me. Burns, you know?"

 Fire and lions roaring in the back, licking his house in flames.....

 "Mr. Mulder?"

"Huh? Oh, I'm listening, go ahead," he murmured.

Caroline gave him a funny look and sighed.

"Well, I wasn't smashed and so I remember more. I saw what it was, the light, huge and bright and it was really . . . really . . ."

Her voice faltered and she turned in pain to Robert, who touched her cheek with the most tender glance of the fingers Scully had ever seen.

"It was beautiful," Caroline said softly.

Mulder blinked once.

Blinked again.

"Beautiful?" he repeated.

Caroline's face was ashamed and she shook her head. "It was. I know it's horrible. I was raped; I mean..." Her voice shook and came out in whispery gasps that barely made it to his ears. "I

was raped, but it was wonderful."

Mulder didn't react, but felt his insides go cold at her words. 'It was wonderful'... he found himself thinking about Scully. It couldn't have been... wonderful... for her... Mulder frowned unconsciously, stealing a look in her direction.

Her face was barren; it spoke nothing to him. Mulder wanted Scully to leave, he didn't want her to hear this... but she sat, still, seemingly unaffected by Caroline's words. Still, Mulder

knew.

Storms brewed beneath those cool blue eyes. He forced himself to pay attention again.

Caroline shuddered and then stood, her back to the window. "I don't think you should go to the others, Mr. Mulder. It isn't a good idea."

"Why?"

"Because they don't remember it. And I'd rather keep it that way," she said ominously, eyeing the FBI agents for another moment before then turning her back on them, her eyes searching for security in the winter-hazed sun of the Mississippi sky.

"What would be so wrong about remembering?" Scully said softly, her voice also trembling... Mulder glanced over at her quickly, his own stomach churning violently.

Caroline turned and her bright blue eyes pierced Scully's own. "I think you know why," she said.


"I'm her mother..."

"I'm her mother..."

No, no! she repeated in her mind. Not her mother... She could not be a mother, not now... not with her baby gone. She was only a woman scarred, a woman plagued by bright flashes and broken memories that meant everything and nothing all at the same time...

But she wasn't... she was not--

"Scully!"

She jerked from the fugue to catch Mulder's fright, and shook her head. "I'm fine Mulder. I was just... thinking."

"Hell, no, Scully. I *shook* you and you wouldn't come out of it... I-- I think there's something really wrong--"

"Mulder." Her voice was the same normal tone, but the inflection made him want to wince.

"Scully. I'm not going to let you do this--"

"Mulder, you have no say over what I do. Understand?"

Her eyes were icier than Caroline's had been when she'd spoken of the others and keeping them in the dark. But it wasn't the eyes that scared Mulder as much as her lowered voice. It was all in the tone she used.

"Okay," he finally said, nodding, and backed off to give her some space. There was a short pause, and then Mulder said: "But tell me one thing."

She only stared at him, her eyes willing him not to ask the question she knew was coming.

"Why does Caroline seem to know what happened to you, and why does she think you have memories about it?"

Scully sighed, her shoulders slumping so that it seemed to Mulder that she had shrunk a full three inches, making her seem even smaller, more fragile than before.

"I don't know, Mulder. I don't know. All I know is that this place is bringing back things I don't want to remember and ... so, I perfectly understand why she would say that."

"Yes, it is, Scully... and you know it is..." His eyes were upon her, burning into her skin. She could almost read the thoughts coming out of his head. Scully kept herself from revealing the frown that wanted to surface upon her face.

Were they actually talking about this, she wondered? About this tenseness that had between them ever since Emily?

Her eyes turned to him as if to say, 'I told you, now you tell me,' but Mulder didn't seem to be making the connection. What about these flashbacks that Mulder was having? He needed to tell her...

"Mulder," she said softly, something in her voice adding a plea to the end of his name, as if she badly wished they were facing this great evil together. "Mulder, do you feel like me? Are you afraid to sleep at night?"

Her voice wrenched from her throat and she moved to the motel bed, away from the door that he could possibly walk out in lieu of her very revealing question.

There was a long pause that lingered in the air for what seemed like several minutes, even though it was only a few seconds.

His eyes seemed to shrivel and he shuddered, almost imperceptibly. But Scully noticed.

"It's almost as if--" he began, "there's something about this place that causes all the things I thought I'd forgotten to resurface."

She nodded, pleading silently for him to continue. She'd told the social worker she had cut herself off from emotional attachment: it'd been too long for her to open up to anyone without them first opening.

"There was a fire in our first house one summer. It was hot and Sam was pretty clumsy and she knocked over a pan and it caught in the gas and... everything kind of exploded. And suddenly, there were flames and smoke, and... I couldn't get out, couldn't even see Sam to get her out."

He shuddered again, his face wrenching with emotion. She wanted to touch him, to pull his mind from it, but she also needed his confession, she needed his openness.... she needed him to continue.

"I think . . . I think that Cancer Man pulled us out, Scully," he said softly as if that made no sense to him at all.

She did not question, did not analyze, and he was grateful. All he wanted was to get it off his chest, to clear away the incredible haze, the ashes falling around him from that one event.

Mulder continued on.

"I saw him as he laid me on the grass and all I could think was that somehow... he had set the fire. Something in me told me that he was evil and-- ever since then, fire has made me panic."

She nodded, thinking back on the case Phoebe Green had needed their assistance on.

. . . Fire. . .

She shivered and looked up at him.

He seemed to be much better, untroubled, calm, now that he had aired his problem. "I've been having nightmares that are more like waking dreams."

"About that? The fire and Cancer Man?"

"Yeah. Stupid for it to come now...."

She shook her head. "No, Mulder." She let out a breath, looked up at him. "Do you... remember what you told me once, Mulder? That dreams were answers to questions we don't know yet how to ask?"

He squinted at her as the sun started setting, glaring in at the window and he felt the lions roaring for him, the flames stretching out their claws for him.

"Mulder?"

"Yeah, answers..." he said distantly.

"So, maybe this dream is your unconscious telling you something about this case."

His head jerked up to see her and she saw raw fear swirling in their depths.

"Mulder?" she said softly, tentatively, feeling for the first time that day, very afraid for him. "Mulder!"

His head snapped away and his eyes squeezed shut. " It's back, Scully," he said hoarsely. "Things I saw.....the things I've seen...."

"Mulder, you're scaring me," she said softly, hoping to bring him around with that. "Come on, Mulder. Snap out of it."

"No. No. No. I need it. It'll tell me something, like you said. Tell me something..."

"Mulder, stop it!" she said, standing and starting for him. As her form rose, her body blocked the light streaming in harshly Her slight figure started to bring back other things...

Aliens in the light and Sam in the light ...

CancerMan backlit by the light ...

<Walk in the light, as he is in the light.....>

"Mulder!"

She soon came close enough to completely shadow him and his eyes focused back on her face, her pale, fearful face.

He sighed. "I almost had it, Scully. The light-- the heat they talked of."

She started. "Mulder, they weren't *burned.* There would have been definite evidence of that. Each of the victims was given a physical exam.. there were no burn marks... nothing like--"

He shook his head, interrupting her. "No, no-- that's not what's important about the memory. It's Cancer Man . . . . and wait, your memories... Scully... "

She turned away suddenly, unable to look at him. "Mulder, I can't. I can't-- can't do that now."

"Scully..." He seemed hurt and upset by her denial.

She shook her head. "Not.... no. I mean, it won't come now, Mulder. Later, when it does, I'll tell you. I'll go to you and tell you everything. I promise."

He studied her with guarded eyes.

"Mulder." She begged with her expression. "Mulder, I need to figure it out first."

He nodded.

But in the distance, off in his head, lions roared.

"I think we need to visit Caroline Adams again, as soon as possible."

Scully seemed relieved that he had changed the subject, when in truth, he really hadn't.

"Why?" she asked.

"Because she knows more, and I need to know what she knows ...since you can't seem to tell me."

Mulder saw by her face that he had hurt her with those words, but he didn't want to care. He needed to know... and she had hurt <i>him</i> as well by turning away when he had finally opened

to her.

"Mulder," she said softly, "I *will* tell you. As soon as ... as soon as I can figure out <i>why</i> this is happening."

"Scully, you'll never find out why it's happening.... you can't explain why memories come back when they do-- the brain's defense mechanisms just..." His voice trailed off as he saw her turning away again. Mulder reached out and touched her arm, causing her gaze to return, her eyes locking upon his. "Scully," he said, "This whole thing... these memories... they just are. You just need to go with it."

She stared back up at him and her eyes reflected his own personal hell: fire and brimstone, damning him to eternal torture.

He covered her hand with his own, tracing the lines of her knuckles with his pinky finger, trying not to see her soul, stark naked before him within her burning eyes.

Finally, slowly, he nodded. "Scully," he whispered, barely above his breath. "When you want to ... when-- it's right. I'm ... here. I promise."

It seemed to be more than a promise; more than an ear and a mind there for her when she needed to tell her dream.

More like a man, ready to accept her as a woman.

First, though, she needed to accept it herself.

<I'm Emily's mother...>


"The truth is the light and light is the truth."
--Ralph Ellison, "The Invisible Man"

They had decided to split up and work the town, each going to local places that were frequented often to illicit information about the girls. Scully, after going to four places and hearing

that a man had been there before her, grew angry with Mulder for not sticking to their plan and going on ahead and working her territory as well.

But she dutifully asked pertinent questions, raising local gossip along the way, then left to allow the townsfolk a chance to whisper among themselves their own personal version of what

might have happened to the nine girls that night.

Scully met Mulder at the same diner again, right in the middle of town, for breakfast. She was somewhat miffed at him, but eager to share the news she'd discovered.

It would change things quite a bit.

"Hey, get anything?" he asked, setting down before her a bowl of fresh fruit and a blueberry muffin as she sat down. "I ordered for you."

She nodded her thanks and speared a strawberry to keep her temper in check. Finally, she had to say something.

"Mulder, why did you do the ones I was supposed to cover?"

He frowned and slurped at the glass of milk he had ordered. "What are you talking about, Scully?"

"I mean, when I went to the barber shop just down Lennox, they told me you had already been there."

"But I didn't have Lennox," he said dumbly.

Her mind caught on faster than his. "What? You didn't do any of Lennox?"

"No, remember, I told you this morning to do it because it was--"

He stopped and eyed her, his face suddenly dawning while the confusion melted away under the rays of understanding.

"Someone else has been asking questions," he said. "Did the people say it had been me, or just another man?"

"Another man. They said he was a stranger so I assumed you, but..."

"No, no. I haven't-- Scully, someone else *is* looking after this, too."

"Well, that sort of ties right into what I found out this afternoon," she replied, raising an eyebrow at him.

After the morning interview with Caroline Adams, Scully had a bit of trouble collecting herself, but when she'd heard this most recent piece of information, her mind had focused

immediately.

"What did you find?" he said, his eyebrows teasing her with the seriousness of what she said and the lightness of what he felt.

Scully lowered her voice, and leaned across the table.

"Apparently, Mulder, there's a top-secret government-operated laboratory back through the Jefferson Woods. No one is supposed to know about it, but everyone here does. A lot of people have

been speculating on what it is, but everyone agrees that they've tested on animals... and maybe humans." She paused significantly, and added, "I think there might be something there worth

looking at."

"Agent Scully... I like the way you talk. And I think I'm in the mood for some funky kind of poaching, how about you?"

Scully grinned at him, a rare sight. "You up for a nice trip to the forest, Mulder?"

Mulder paused, trying to think of a good line to follow that. "Just as long as there's a low chance that we're going to run into any prehistoric moth men," he finally quipped.

"Oh, don't worry, Mulder. We're bringing <i>matches</i> this time."

"And sleeping bags?"

His eyes taunted her and she turned her face back to the fruit that was slowing diminishing. "So, what did you learn?" she asked, changing the subject.

He paused a moment to bring everything back into the forefront of his mind, pushing back the image of her lips sliding over the canteloupe she was eating.

"Well, first, and this is really the most interesting--"

"Uh-oh," she interrupted, causing Mulder to barely look up at her.

He continued on as if she hadn't said a thing. "Those girls were out that night, celebrating their high school graduation with some guys when they were abducted--"

"Kidnapped..."

"Po-tay-to, Poh-tah-to..." Mulder's eyes flashed ruefully at her.

"Anyway, Scully.. so were those young men."

"Wait-- hmmm?" She had lost him after the potato thing.

"The guys they were with, Scully-- they were abducted as well -- for about two days. Then, later, all nine of them were discovered together, walking in the road, completely dumbstruck. They

were interrogated and thought to have killed the girls, but that blew over for lack of evidence and such. Then---" Mulder's gaze grew even more intense upon hers, and she knew this was

something he wanted her to pay attention to, "-- when the girls were returned, each one of the guys went to a girl's hospital room and *stood guard* the entire time they recovered."

"That's what I'd call devotion," Scully said.

"No, that's just crazy," Mulder said. He paused. "I'd do that for you, but you're my partner. A few of these young men-- they *hated* the girl they stood guard over. Hated, Scully."

Her mind had blanked with the 'I'd do that for you' and only on the last few words had it come back to her. "So, you mean, these guys kind of... " The words rolled over her lips

skeptically. " ... paired up with a girl?"

"Yeah, in a way," Mulder said. "Hadn't thought of it like that. Like partners, I suppose. I heard from a neighbor of Collin James that he was sort of a loner in the group. And he also was

ready to get out of town, marry a big city girl, have a career, not a family. Now he's waiting hand and foot on a girl named Lisa Altrock who this neighbor swore he absolutely hated before

then. Was always ranting and raving about how shallow she was. I mean, Jesus, Scully-- now they're engaged. What is that?"

Scully sighed. "People change their minds all the time, Mulder.

Maybe everyone got closer because of what they experienced, and--"

"No. Not like this..."

"Mulder--"

"No, Scully. Every one of those guys who were taken that night is now engaged or married to one of the girls also taken."

Scully closed her mouth. What <i>was</i> going on? For a second, her mind deviated: maybe she could somehow get that magic powder for Mulder, make him *stay* for once... She shook the

thought off and changed subjects in her head. "So, Mulder, what happens now?"

"Now? I think we need to talk to Caroline again and then -- that woods adventure is looking kind of tempting from here."

His eyes were focused solely on her.

She almost blushed, but simply turned her head and looked at the empty bowl.

Her muffin sat untouched.

"You gonna eat that muffin, Scully?"

She shook her head and slid the plate over to him. "Go ahead."

He smiled seductively at her and then grabbed the fork. She watched in amazement as Fox Mulder proceeded to <i>cut up</i> his muffin before eating it.

"Mulder? Prim and proper?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Don't mess with a man when he's eating his food, G-woman. Didn't they teach you that in the Academy?"

"Actually, my mother taught me that."

His eyes jumped up to look at her, surprised she was returning the banter.

She had been out of sorts lately and he had tried to give her space, but that had only made it even worse. Mulder was sure that he was going to get hell for messing with her now, but she

almost seemed to be enjoying it.

He shrugged.

Dana Scully, the mother of all puzzles.


"We need your help again, Caroline," Scully said softly, conducting the interview while Robert and Mulder were having an informal staring contest. Somehow, though, Scully knew it was more

than just that. She focused her concentration about getting the questions out to Caroline. She had to do this.

"I'll try, Miss Scully," Caroline said.

"Okay, can you try to tell us again, what happened that night?"

"Up to a point, maybe," she said, taking in a deep breaths and nodding.

"Where were you, for starters?" Scully said, still talking to her as if she were fragile glass ornament that would break at any moment.

"In Jefferson Woods, the south end. It's where we always went to drink-- you know, have fun, what-not. Well, um," she swallowed. "I guess... then we kind of went off into little groups, but

Jennifer Sheffer and I stayed together by the car. She was throwing up and I remember holding her head."

Caroline paused as if done with the story. She looked to Robert who continued to still stare coldly at Mulder. Taking Robert's hand, she continued on.

"I remember flashes-- and .. a sort-of strobe light, so that it seemed like it was all in very slow motion, almost." Her face took on a dreamy, almost-catatonic look that she had seen on

Mulder when he'd been recalling the house fire. "Then something was in my head, in me, and it was... it was....oh, Gooddd, it was ... wonderful. I can't-- I hate that--- that I loved it,

but I did, and it was...."

Her voice let off into a shudder, and she sighed, a low noise that surrendered her soul up to the air, it almost seemed.

Scully looked to Robert, who seemed to have taken no notice that his wife was effectively saying that a <i>light</i> had done better for her than he seemed to have.

Scully had heard enough. They hadn't gotten anywhere, and Caroline's husband practically seemed a mannequin, save for the fact that he had been blinking and lowering his eyes at Mulder even

more so with every minute that had passed. She wanted nothing more than to leave...

"Okay," she said, standing up. "Thank you for all your help, Caroline." She reached across the table and touched her other hand that sat upon the surface. Scully subconsciously noticed as

the girl jerked slightly at the foreign contact. She cleared her throat, signalling Mulder to stand. "We may need to, uh, talk to you again, if you can."

Caroline nodded, and the two agents headed out the door. As they reached the front walkway, Scully shot Mulder a look. She had figured something else out that she hadn't yet said aloud.

After they got back in the rental Ford and strapped on their seat belts, Scully spoke up. "Mulder, she knows exactly what happened, but she's not telling us anything at all."

He nodded. "I know. And so does Robert. I know he does. But what are they hiding?"

"I think, Mulder, that we need -- more than ever-- to check out that lab. It's the key to this. I can feel it."

"Ooh, Scully... Relying on gut feelings, are we?"

"Start driving, Mulder."

"Scully," he said with feigned horror. "You wound me."

"You just wait, Agent Mulder."

His little grin sparked on his face and she wanted to suddenly laugh at how great things seemed to be between them now. "I'll be awaiting anxiously, Dr. Scully," he replied.

 **

". . . fire consumes the forest . . . flame sets the mountains

ablaze . . ."

--Psalm 83:14

Driving up to the lab seemed the best way to get there-- or at least, driving as far as they get before the road officially ended. The locals had pointed out the road they saw government

cars drive by on; the same road Army convoys sometimes lumbered on through, waking up the entire town in the early morning darkness.

Scully had wondered if they should wait, but as the darkness was starting to fall, and the sun getting ready to set, Mulder told her it would be an ideal time to snoop around.

Scully hadn't actually been planning much snooping around without an invitation.

But she reluctantly changed into jeans and a dark fitted shirt, pulling on her hiking boots and then a warm jacket. It got very cold in the Southern winter nights, and she wasn't going

unprepared this time.

Mulder tapped on her door a couple seconds before letting himself in. Actually, Scully was becoming slightly annoyed that he was getting more bold with her than before: like ordering her

breakfast and now, walking in her room without her even saying anything.

She wondered what he would have done if she'd been in the midst of undress. Scully shook her head, supposing that wasn't something she wanted to consider at that particular moment.

"You ready?" he asked.

"Yeah, I have matches, even," she said, pulling the motel set out of her pocket.

He laughed. "And, actually, I really do have a sleeping bag in my car."

Scully resisted the urge to roll her eyes, and stuffed a couple more books of the hotel matches in her pocket. "All right, then. I'm ready, Mulder. Lead the way."


Mulder instinctively knew this was turning out into a bad idea as soon as he caught sight of a car in his rearview mirror-- faint and indistinct, tailing them.

Scully was asleep in the seat next to him, her head resting against her jacket and her hair falling across her face. He had thought earlier that she looked exhausted and now, she was out

for good.

He was glad she was getting some sleep. She wasn't used to nightmares as he was: Mulder had long since gotten used to operating without a good night's sleep.

The car grew closer, and he grew a little more concerned. What if it was one of the government people who had been asking questions before? They were sure to be found, if anywhere, along this road. Mulder then knew that the employees at the lab would be prepared for them and they'd end up with nothing.

He was tempted to wake Scully, but recognized her need for sleep, and overruled any urgency right then.

He glanced back and almost jerked the wheel off the road as he saw the grey car almost riding his bumper.

Just seconds ago it had been quite a few yards away.

Suddenly, he felt the slight nudging as the car pushed into his sturdy rental. In a flash he calmly turned the wheel and slid away from the car.

He felt like one of the Hardy Boys for some stupid reason at that moment: it had always seemed like they were constantly getting run off the road by some unidentifiable man in a black cap.

Story of my life, Mulder thought ironically, trying to keep his eyes focused and his brain working out a defense.

He felt the nudge again, but before he could get away, it turned into a violent shove.

The car surged and he twisted the wheel, a panicked look flung to Scully, and then they were off the road-- .. grass shooting past -- .. bumping ...  Scully's startled shout -- his knees

jammed into...

  ... darkness.


The car was twisted horribly, and she lay in the front seat unmoving and stiff, fearful to shift around because of the incredible pain throbbing in her head.

The darkness was absolute now, coming down like rain and washing away all rationality. She was stuck: all she could do was wait for Mulder--

Mulder! she thought suddenly, her head jerking. She felt a pain against the top of her forehead-- she was unable to place it-- it hurt...

Instead of trying to move again, Scully's eyes strained in the looming dark, for once understanding the meaning of atmospheric pressure, searching for Mulder's breath which she heard

exploding out of him.

"Mulder?" she said weakly, her voice constricting in pain and fear. She was cold and numb and her fingers were stuck under the dashboard, her toes were tingling with lack of blood.

"Mulder?"

Nothing came to her: no sound of him, no breath of him, no essence of him. She wished the shock would overtake her, let her sleep.

She wanted to slip away into the nothingness opening up in her...


He looked up and saw green, dark ... and images of the hulking tree flashed before him just as his life had when the car had raced for the grass.

All he saw now was this green -- and the red splotches before his vision.

He had woken to something: moans assailed his ears before he realized they were his own.

He let out another to show the world how much he really hurt.

He yanked the keys from the steering column and jabbed at the airbag with the pointy ends, using his office key because it had always managed to prick him in his pocket. Incredible, the

annoying things you someday found a use for, he thought strangely. Mulder was actually surprised at how lucid he was, considering the ache that seemed to be penetrating every cell of his

being.

When the bag deflated he caught sight of Scully.

His breath caught along with it.

Oh...God, he thought... please, no...

Her body lay warped into the metal of the door, the dash hitting her in the chest and pinning her to the twisted seat. She was crushed against the airbag and he anxiously ripped it,

frightened it was suffocating her.

It deflated and he wiped away the blood trickling down into his eyes.

He saw her face and at that instant:

Rome fell

worlds collided

... his life burned.

Bruised and swollen and bloodied, her once beautiful pale skin was like the photos found in his case files of the victims of rape and abuse.

His heart crashed against his chest and he reached out to touch her.

The tears spilled and mixed with the blood covering his face and he tried to wake her, gently touching her and calling her back to him.

For long agonizing minutes, she did not respond. And in that time he swore viciously to kill whoever had been in that car. She wasn't dead... she was okay... he checked her pulse again...

slow, but strong...

Then her eyes flickered slowly, and rolled beneath her lids. Mulder took her hand gently, still pressed by her side and called her name. Finally her eyes fluttered open and she looked at

him with those strobe-light blue eyes, trying to smile.

It came out as a whimper instead.

It killed him to hear that pitiful sound come from his strong partner.

"Scully?" he whispered, a grin spreading across his face despite himself. He was overjoyed she was awake.

Her lips moved and finally words came.

"Rejoicing in my suffering?" she managed to croak out, her lips cracking into a half-smile that barely made it.

He shook his head, hating the humor, loving that she was still there.

He tried to speak, but couldn't. All his stunned body would allow was for him to stroke her blood-matted hair from her face.

"I'm okay," she said, her voice almost too low for him to hear.

"Scully . . . you're mangled," were the words that ripped from inside of him.

She grunted and turned her face to look outside. "I'm okay. Just, just have to get out of here. See if you can open this door, Mulder."

He moved from her and slithered out of the car and over to he side. He pulled on the door handle and the entire frame sort of collapsed around him.

"Easy enough," he said weakly.

She nodded and he could see the pain in her face by the light of the door-ajar reminder.

Her legs were twisted under her almost and the dash securely fixed in her lap.

"Mulder, lower the seat, all right? I can get out like that--" she said, but her voice rose and fell with the waves of pain riding through her.

He shook his head. "Scully, where's your cell phone?"

"In my pocket... I think. Where's yours?"

He sighed. "Somewhere in the mangled floorboard."

"Get me out. Now, Mulder. Please."

The hint of desperation made him act and he carefully braced his knee below her seat.

He pulled the lever and it popped the seat, causing her to make a noise that barely escaped her lips. Then he lowered it until the seat was flat and she was free from the weight of the

dash.

She sighed and stayed very still, her eyes closed. "Okay," she whispered after awhile. "Pull me out."

"*What?*" he yelled. "Are you crazy? I might break something!"

She grimaced and looked up at him. "Mulder, we can't wait for someone to come by this road and help us. And the only people that are likely to come by are those who we really don't need to meet, right? So, c'mon, Mulder... *pull me out.*"

He sighed and climbed into the backseat, ready to pull straight back, the only way possible.

He took hold of her shoulders, then carefully slipped his hands under her arms. The way he was holding her made him able to see right into her face, see the incredible pain twisting her

features. "Scully, maybe we should--"

"Mulder. Just do it, all right? I have my legs as untwisted as possible. Now you have to pull and pull hard. Quick and fast ... like a Band-Aid."

He nodded and her eyes drilled into him the importance of this.

She captured his eyes and smiled softly. "You can do this, Mulder. I trust you."

He nodded and pulled, yanking with all his might, even when her breath exploded out into a pained wrenching kind of scream and her eyes rolled shut.

He felt it give and then she was on top of him in the backseat, both of them trembling.... but she was free.

She clung to his arms and her face went pasty white. "Scully?" he asked, shifting her as gently as he could.

"I-- I'm fine," she mumbled. And then blacked out, her lips pressed tightly together.

He laid her on the seat, remaining in the floor board to give her room, and began searching for her injuries, wondering if he should use the time to bandage them.

An ugly gash ran across her hairline. Taking a closer look at it, he realized it was only superficial, and sighed in relief. It was still bleeding a little, but she'd be okay.

Other than that-- and some bruises and scratches along her face and legs, there were no major injuries. He knew she was very lucky.

Hell, they both were lucky.


Scully felt cold and her eyes opened, confused and dilated from the darkness.

She could feel Mulder's hand on her thigh, and his head against her stomach, and so she ran her fingers along his hair.

He looked up and her hand fell away.

"Hey you," he said softly. "You okay?"

"I'll live."

"That's all I'm asking for."

She smiled slightly and touched his head. "That's a nasty cut, Mulder. It's still bleeding."

He gave her a sheepish look as she sat up, carefully holding onto the front of his shirt.

She pulled on his T-shirt and said, "Rip some of this and I'll use it to bandage your head."

He pulled at it for a few moments until it came apart, and Mulder used his strong fingers to pull apart a few strips. Mulder watched in fascination as Scully let her gentle fingers work. He

delighted in the light, butterfly touch she used in her careful ministrations.

"Looks like we are spending the night out here," she murmured, glancing to the darkness.

He flashed her a grin that she saw only because the white of his teeth contrasted so strongly against the deepening nightfall. "And I have do that sleeping bag."

"Well, I have the matches, Mulder. Come on, Indian Scout, show me how to make a fire."

He leaned in very close to her and said softly, "Well, we can wait until we get cold... or we could do it now."

She wondered if his mind was still stuck on the sleeping bag.

She felt her hair on the back of her neck rise and she looked away from him.

"Oh, it might be best to start the fire now."

<Sam!>

"Mulder?"

"Huh?"

"You suddenly looked very far away..."  

<Lions roaring for blood, for fire blood to lick their house, to devour the weak young, devouring....>

  "Mulder, I'll make the fire, all right?" she said, recognizing the vapid look coming back into his eyes. He nodded and let her get up, move out into the dark away from him.

"Scully!" he yelled, suddenly panicked.

"I'm here, Mulder. Don't worry ..." she said, taking a step back so he could see her again. She continued to reassure him. "We'll sleep out here tonight and then start walking tomorrow when

we can see, all right?"

"All right..." he said, unsure still of what was going on.

Getting up, Mulder walked over to where she was striking a match on a piece of rock.

It ignited and he shivered, drawing away.

<Those bright sparks leaping, reaching for Sam... caught in the light, Scully, caught in the light You little spy..>

  "Mulder! Mulder!"

"Ah, Scully... I'm here, I'm here."

She touched his knee and pulled him back from the flames. The sleeping bag was there, she had gotten it from the car while the memories had resurfaced.

"Mulder, lie down. You may be going into shock."

He shivered. "No, no ... You're the one who was hurt; you lie down."

The ended up sitting together, as Scully had opened the sleeping bag so it covered the both of them.

He shivered and drew them closer to the fire, despite everything in his gut telling him to move away.

She very slowly leaned her head against his shoulder.

Then she was asleep.


"The night
Shows stars and women in a better light."
 -- "Byron," Don Juan, 1824  

Sitting there, the sounds of the forest surrounding him, Mulder couldn't sleep. Scully was fast asleep, leaning up against his shoulder, but Mulder eyes wouldn't close for a moment. Whether

it was an automatic response to protect his partner, or a fear of releasing himself to the demons of his dreams, Mulder couldn't drift off.

He slowly drew his gaze down to where Scully was resting up against him. Her breath blew out her mouth, repeatedly blowing the strands of hair that lay in front of her face out a few inches

into the air. And then they would fall back down. And blow out again. Mulder was almost intoxicated by the sight of her sleeping so peacefully, so calmly. He traced the outline of her

forehead with his forefinger and middle finger, softly, feeling the smooth skin against his fingertips.

"Dana..." he murmured softly.

He would do anything to protect her. He <i>had</i> to protect her here.


Her eyes fluttered gently, revealing nothing of the torment that lurked inside. A beautiful facade that would not speak of its rotting, hellish interior. Somehow, though, as Mulder woke up

in the middle of the night for seemingly no reason, and glanced over at his sleeping partner, he knew.

He knew.

Mulder wanted to tap her awake, but he couldn't. He wouldn't allow himself to do that. And suddenly, she shuddered.

<Fire... ashes... heat -- no, no... there was nothing-- pain-- no, no-- screams which did nothing; could do nothing-- no, God... no ... she was ... no... burning, burning ... people ...>  

"Oh!"

She awoke without warning, sweat pouring down her forehead, creating a cold chill. Instantly, she felt pressure on her arms, and something being pulled up farther to her chin... soft

fabric..

"Scully?"

The voice startled her.

Scully turned to see her partner eyeing her carefully. She swallowed so that she could speak, but he caught her first.

"Scully... you were shaking, I ..."

"Mulder, I .."

Her voice was strange. Small and scared and vulnerable. Where had Agent Scully gone? she wondered suddenly. Now she was only little Dana, cold and afraid, and exposed to her partner whose

eyes burned little holes into her head with all his worry.

"What, Scully?" he asked. His hand reached up, and plucked away a few strands of hair that were sticking to her forehead. The ministrations were small but they were so tender and carried

with them a potency of something that she couldn't quite place.

She wasn't sure if she wanted to at the moment ... her raw desire just to have him close to her was all that she could handle as it was.

"Mulder," she said again. Her voice was still small, and as if possible, Mulder brought her closer to him, touching his face to her hair, gently snuggling up to her in a gesture of warmth

and friendship.

"What is it?" he asked softly, bringing his hand up to pull more loose strands of hair behind her ear.

"I had another nightmare, Mulder."

She felt his form stiffen behind her, and there was a short pause before he spoke. "What was it, Scully? More memories?"

"No.." Another pause.

Scully tried to articulate what she could remember. It didn't make any sense... She hadn't realized she had spoken the last thought aloud until Mulder said, "What doesn't make sense?"

Scully jolted in surprise, and Mulder instantly was on guard.

"Scully, are you okay?"

"Yeah... um ... I just, I can't figure out what it was ..."

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, Scully."

"No," she said defiantly. "I wanted to tell you."

Her head rotated just slightly so that she could glance up at him.

He looked back down at her, his face revealing the degree of emotion in his reaction to her statement.

"Thanks," he said softly.

She began. "There was fire, I just remember a lot of fire... and pain-- Mulder--" Her throat practically closed up as she felt it again. "-- the pain, Mulder ... it was..."

"Scully, it's okay." Soothingly his voice caressed her, calming.

She continued. "And ashes... Mulder... ashes ..."

  <Ashes, ashes, we all fall down... >

"No!"

This time, the shout came from Mulder.

"Mulder!" Scully said suddenly, turning around and putting her hand on his leg. "What?"

Mulder's hands came over his eyes.

"Nothing..."

"That wasn't *nothing,* Mulder," Scully said, affording him none of the gentility that he had given her. "What happened?"

Mulder paused. "When you said 'ashes,' Scully..."

He looked up at her, his eyes brimming with invisible tears. She felt it, too.


"When the head aches, all the members share the pain."

 --"Cervantes," Don Quixote, 1605  

A groan broke the relative silence of the early morning. A few birds chirped happily with a morning song, but the spirit was broken when the figure that accompanied the groan rose with a

sour expression on his face.

"Urrghhh..." he mumbled.

Every muscle in his body ached, including ones that he had forgotten were even there.

"That's the last time I sleep on a log ... again," he added to himself aloud and grimaced.

Instinctively, he turned to his left, where Scully had been sleeping.

He found her curled up against the log as well, the sleeping bag they'd had covering only her feet now.

"Oh, Scully..." he whispered.

Mulder took the bag, and kneeling over her, gently covered her with it. However, as soon as he had done it, she awoke.

"Mulder?" she said groggily, seeing his blurry face set before hers.

"Yeah," he said softly.

As if a sort of ritual, he reached down and brushed the hair of out her face. Scully blinked a few times to orientate herself. Suddenly, she shot into an upright position.

"Mulder-- the car!" she said suddenly. Her second immediate reaction was to cringe in pain-- she'd almost forgotten about the injuries.

Mulder glanced over sheepishly, his mouth curling up. "Yeah, uh... that was kind of totalled."

Scully simply looked at Mulder, and then the car, lying toe-up in the ditch on the side of the road. It was an incredible sight, all right, she thought. They were lucky nothing more had

happened, actually.

"What are we going to do, Mulder? Both of our phones were crushed by the impact, weren't they?"

"Yeah," he said softly, still kneeling near her.

Again was that strange emergence of this quiet, diminutive Mulder. She wondered what to make of it. Instead of thinking about it, she said, "We need to find someone... maybe you should go

back into town..."

"No," Mulder instantly replied. "I'm not going to leave you here."

"Mulder, we can't stay here another night... we haven't eaten since lunch yesterday ... it's cold and both you and I are probably injured and need to be looked at."

At the word 'injured,' Mulder's expression instantly changed. Scully was right; she was hurt, and possibly had sprained or broken bones. She should have been treated right away, he thought,

and he had carelessly left her out there for the night. He hadn't wanted to leave her...

"Mulder, don't worry about it," she replied, as if reading his mind.

"We just need to get someone out here."

"Yeah," Mulder said, squeezing her shoulder. She tried not to cringe at the pain as he stood up and headed towards the road.

Mulder glanced down one way and then the other. He didn't think anyone came down these roads-- or for that matter, anyone they could count on for help, he thought.

Mulder glanced back at where Scully was sitting, and then up the road.

It was only a few miles to town...


"Scully, are you sure that you want me to do this?"

"Yes," she said firmly. "I think your only injuries occurred in your arm and on your forehead, there." She reached up and touched the tied shirt strips that they had used to bandage it.

"I'm more worried about your legs, Scully."

"They haven't been bleeding, Mulder... and they don't ... ah--" she said, her face wrinkling up. "-- they don't hurt as much as they did before."

Mulder shot her a look that said he didn't believe a word she was saying.

"I'm not kidding, Mulder. You can't stay here. Just make sure you're careful with yourself. And if you hurt too much, sit and rest for a couple minutes. It's a longer walk than I think you

think..."

Mulder didn't say anything. Oh, he knew how long it was going to be. That's what he was worried about. He was uncomfortable with the idea of leaving Scully that long.

But if he was going to get her injuries taken care of...

"All right," he said to her. "I'm not comfortable with this, Scully..."

"Mulder." Her voice stopped any further protests.

He was torn between leaving Scully by herself and doing what he knew she wanted and what he had to do for her. He reminded himself that she was in a lot of pain...

Hell, he didn't need to remind himself. The reminder was right there in her face before him.

Mulder felt a sharp stab poke at his chest. He clenched his fist and looked at Scully, sitting there. Mulder came over and wrapped the sleeping bag around her more tightly.

"Are you sure you'll be able to stay here?" he asked.

She nodded, saying nothing.

"And you should sleep, Scully... you need to sleep when you're in a condition like this, especially after..."

He didn't even need to finish the sentence with "... last night," since they both knew what he was talking about. Somehow, though, Mulder worried that the emotional pain was going to be

harder than the physical. Particularly if the nightmares came back while he was gone.

Mulder didn't want to think about that. He would be there and back with help before either of them knew it.

Before he could stop himself, Mulder was leaning down and gave her a quick kiss on the lips, startling them both.

He stepped back promptly. "I'll be back soon," was all he managed out before starting off down the road.


"Most people, Kamala, are like a falling leaf that drifts and turns in
the air, flutters, and falls to the ground. But a few others are like
stars which travel one defined path: no wind reaches them, they
have within themselves their guide and their path."
 --"Siddhartha," Hermann Hesse

It was hot and the leaves were very still above her, like hands reaching, stretching towards her. The woods were too silent and she tried to ignore the lack of birds and wildlife. Curling up in the only position that did not make her want to pass out with pain, Dana closed her eyes and thought of Mulder.

He was so sure of himself most times, but lately, he'd been reluctant, almost afraid to search out the truth. She wished she could give him back his confidence; but as it was, she didn't have much herself.

A tiny breeze lifted her hair and she sighed with the wonderful coolness of it.

It hurt too much to think, and it hurt too much to try and stay awake. Her head spilled forward into the sleeping bag and she breathed out softly.

Mulder would make it.


He couldn't believe he was actually walking away from her.

Scully was all alone in that forest, the car sticking up like a red flag, and he had actually agreed and walked off. At the time, it was the only thing he could do.

Now, his head exploded and his arms ached and his legs were rotting away under him, and he knew this was an incredibly bad idea.

An image of her face flashed before him, the pain and fear and hidden whimpers riding in with it. During the night she'd had her nightmare, and it was that face that kept him going.

He remembered her words and stopped, leaning against a tree for support, breathing in deeply and wincing.

Maybe some bruised ribs there.

He propelled himself forward though and kept close to the road, yet far enough away that he could jump back and stay hidden. The sun was hot and the air muggy and his hair stuck to him in sweaty locks.

His breathing was too loud.

All he could see was her face as she looked up at him after her dream.

All he could hear was her pitiful voice trembling.

And he had left her!

He angrily kicked a rock over the road and stirred up the dust.

He had left her . . . and he had kissed her.

He was messed up from the accident, that was all.

It was just the heat and the fear and the pain making him just a little screwy.

Right?


<<"Oh God..."

It was so hot, and the trees were on fire . . . on fire all around her and ash falling--no--*floating* up and the light was intense and it ==hurt==

"Dana?"

"No, no, no...."

"Dana? Just stop trying to move. Let it take you..." A woman's voice.

Penny?

"Oh God, no....."

"Dana, it will hurt more if you try to resist."

"Oh God....Mulder.....Mulder......You have to stop them .....you have to stop them.....this isn't right...."

Her voice sounded hollowly faint in her ears, depressingly pitiful.

"Dana! They're setting them on fire!"

"They're back...."

Another whimper and the woman talking with her was in flames, her kind face filled with blackened flesh, her hands crumbling around Scully's arm.

She ran, screaming for Mulder, for God.

They were back and they would catch her and it would be the same as before, oh God, not like before-- >>

  She woke in heat and fear and panted, even as pain shot through her lungs and into her chest.

Laying back down, Dana tried to shake off the horror she could feel around her like a spider's web.

It had been too real.

She remembered now. It was too real. The fire at the bridge. The people burning around her, and the fear that they'd find her and take her back and she'd be tested again.

She shivered despite the sleeping bag and the heat and curled closer around the log. She couldn't fall asleep.

She prayed Mulder would get back soon.


His breath stung every pore of his body and the ache in his side had been growing increasingly dangerous. He stopped and sat down, gasping in huge lungfuls of air, but none seemed to make it to his blood.

"I'm sorry, Scully." he murmured and closed his eyes.

He had to rest. He had to stop.

He felt the ground shake.

Jumping to his feet with more energy than he could have ever summoned, Mulder backed away from the road. The vehicle was heavy and was definitely not civilian.

It rumbled past and did not see him.

He breathed out and sighed.

He started to walk again and thought about the Army truck that had just shot by.

And then he turned back and began to run.


She had woken again to find that she had been able to sleep after all.

And she was much more lucid this time.

Their car stuck out of the ground ahead of her like a beacon and she realized that if anyone came by, they'd see it for sure. And they'd stop and investigate.

The thought made her dizzy with fear, and she knew that her reaction was not normal, nor was it something she would originally feel. It was as if her dreams had unlocked a strange new world for her - one of Mulder's paranoia and a never ending fear.

She attempted to stand and collapsed back down to the sleeping bag, biting her lip hard enough to draw blood with the pain of it.

She managed to get up on her hands after some maneuverering, but she could not keep any pressure on her legs for any length of time without her knees giving out on her.

She was fairly certain her shins were split, and possibly, her knee joints were sprained or even torn, but all she could think about was someone coming by on the road and finding her and taking her back there.

She dug her nails into the ground and crawled forward, her teeth grinding as she attempted to relocate the pain and forget the agony it was doing to her muscles.

Exhausted, she lay finally in some bushes, knowing somewhere in her that this would do no good, but she was too tired to really think.

A wave of pain threw her back into darkness.


Mulder had just found their campsite when he saw the truck rumbling off down the road.

His heart beat wildly in his chest and he rounded a bend in the road and came to the car.

It was quiet, the kind of fallout quiet that comes after the bombs have been dropped and the enemy destroyed.

He did not see Scully.

He found the sleeping bag and it had been sliced with a knife, cut to shreds and torn apart at the seams. His blood raged within him and he shook in fear and guilt.

He saw the tracks of boots, moving along to a little grove and there he found where Scully had probably been.

It was bloodied and churned by feet and hands.

Her hands.

And her desperate attempt to escape was depicted upon the ground, here a frantic dig at the loamy earth, there a deep imprint of military boots.

He felt his throat constrict and he vomited into the bushes, clutching his stomach and choking on the acid stinging him.

Lying on the ground, he saw her blood before him and felt the lifedrain out of him.

But he pulled his ragged body from the ground and started for the road mechanically, thinking only that this was all his fault.

<You little spy.>


"But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself."
--"The Picture of Dorian Gray" Oscar Wilde

He had been walking mindlessly for five minutes when he came back to himself.

He stopped.

And turned around and looked at where he was and realized he had acted foolishly.

It was suicide to run after that truck now, while his bones were beaten in and his head thundering and his body damaged. He could do nothing for her by getting caught himself.

He started walking back to the town, to help. He needed to understand everything that had happened if he wanted to get her out of there.

He walked quickly, thinking of the case to help him ignore the painful jolts riding through him.

First, what did he know?

Eighteen people were abducted. Nine women, nine men. They paired up when the women were returned. The women were pregnant.

What did that mean?

His mind raced along, taking a running start to make the huge leaps he was known for.

Breeding.

It was the first thing to come to mind.

He remembered the nursing home, the elderly women lying in rows and rows and that cooling cabinet holding the fetuses. That had been while Scully was in the hospital, when he still thought he would lose her forever.

He could still lose her forever.

He chided his lack of concentration and tried again.

Okay, so the government needed more breeding mares. The elderly women were at risk, or the implanting wasn't successful and more times than not it failed. So they turned to younger, more vital, women. And sort-of programmed the men to act as protectors . . .?

<"Mulder, you have no proof of this.">

He heard Scully in his head, reminding him that leaps like this made no sense to the outside world and sounded odd, off-base to most.

Whatever the women were needed for, Mulder was certain it had something to do with that lab.

And the lab was where Scully was.


She groaned when she felt the heat against her forehead.

Her eyes flickered open and rolled, then she caught sight of her prison.

White walls, white floor, white sheets on a white bed that she slept on in a white nightgown.

She shivered and stared around.

It was her dream.

She curled up into the corner and stayed as far from the door as possible.

It was her dream . . . oh God . . . .

<Let Mulder find me....>


It took him five hours of ceaseless walking to reach the town, and as he did so, the sun began to set and the birds came back to the trees.

He managed to convince the Sheriff to give him a more sturdy four wheel drive truck and allow him to go back.

The Sheriff himself would not go.

He claimed Mulder's ideas were lunatic and that he would have no part in raiding a federal laboratory.

Mulder wondered if somehow, someway, the Sheriff had been told not to help him.

Maybe Caroline Adams was orchestrating things for the government from this side?

After packing into a bag his binoculars, some first aid supplies, and food, Mulder himself ate.

He felt guilty with every bite.

But he knew he had to be prepared for a fight over there. He was going in blind, with no knowledge of the terrain, the layout, or even where Scully was being held.

It was a crazy thing to do alone.

But he had promised himself that he would protect his partner.

And he was going to get her back.


The room faded from view and Scully slipped into relief.

Her eyes were tightly shut and the waking nightmare was ending again.

The visions of needles and lights and fear was dissipating, to be left with the exhaustion of too many memories.

The door opened.

She froze.

"Get up," came a sterile cold voice that made her bite her lip to keep from whimpering.

She didn't understand why the memories had her so afraid, so utterly helpless to do anything but cower. She wanted to bedignified, calm, reassured in the face of this, but she couldn't.

It was as if some part of her remembered what was to come, and remembered all too well.

A hand forced her to her feet and she was led, or rather dragged, into another white room, placed on a table and bound.

She felt the fear beat through her blood, course into her nerves, and scream with the intensity of the emotion.

She knew she would not die.

Oh, no, it would be much, much, worse.


His hands trembled as the wire snapped and he paused, waiting for alarms or sensors or cameras to pick up on the trespass.

He slipped inside the fence when no one came and still, nothing happened.

He frowned. Something wasn't right.

This was too easy.

He pressed the binoculars to his face and wished for night goggles instead of cheap, baseball-watching lenses.

He scanned over the main building and saw bars on the upstairs windows, clearly announcing that they had something in there they didn't want getting out.

Mulder took a dodging path to the building, making his way through shrubs and silently around other facilities.

The night was dark and the crickets chirped too loudly for anyone to really notice him, but still, it was <i>too easy.</i> He slipped inside the building, then to a bank of elevators that required a security card. Prying a credit card from his wallet, Mulder slid it through the slot.

Havoc played through the computerized lock and quickly Mulder punched in random numbers until one was recognized.

The elevator doors opened.

No one was around.

A small bell dinged as the door closed and he knew it was still too easy. For this place to be doing such things, it was too easy to compromise.

The car rose and deposited him into an empty hall. Again no one.

He sprinted briskly down the walkway, peering into each locked room as he went by, eyes trained for red hair and a small frame.

She was in the last one.

Arms bound to her sides and feet bound to the table, she was lying perfectly still, almost death like.

He tried the lock scramble again and the door slid open and spilled him inside.

It was hot in the room.

He went to her and checked for a pulse, finding it strong and steady.

Her eyes opened.

She did not see him.

He panicked; he touched her face and ran his hands through her hair and yanked on the cords that bound her.

"Scully?" he hissed, his voice frantic, drenched with fear and worry.

She said nothing, but her eyes continued to stare out past him, in the same flat expression as she'd had when she had woken from her dream.

"Scully, I'm getting you out of here," he said, trying to reassure her, and himself.

He pulled her up, her dead weight heavy in his still weak arms. Her face slumped into his shoulder and her body fell completely into him.

"Wake up, Scully. We have to go, and I need you to walk for me."

She remained lifeless so he picked her up and started back down the hall.


The room was too white. She tried closing her eyes, but it leached in and destroyed her vision. Everywhere she looked was white and bright and hurting. She heard bits and pieces of her nightmare come back to her and she shut it out. She could not feel the bed anymore, she could not feel anything anymore.

She was too afraid to move.


It was when he tried to slip her under the fence that all hell suddenly broke loose.

A guard yelled and a spotlight was flashed on, bathing them in bright, stunning light.

He heard Scully whimper and she buried herself further into his arms.

He was so relieved at hearing any noise at all from her, that he

forgot she was making the noise out of fear.

He pushed her through and came tumbling out himself, picking her up again as he began to run.

Pain stitched through his side with needle-like accuracy and he almost dropped her, but kept going, refusing to let it be the end. But no one was running after them. No one stopped them.

His head kept chanting 'It's too easy, too easy.'

It was too easy.


The hospital was quiet that night.

He sat stubbornly in a chair by her bed, letting the nurse redress his bloody side from where the wire had cut into him. Scully's eyes remained resolutely shut.

After their escape, he had put her in the truck and when he had looked over at her, her eyes were closed and she had slipped into a coma.

He now knew why it had been so easy.

They didn't expect her to ever wake up again.

The bitter refusal rose stubbornly in Mulder as he pushed the nurse aside and scooted closer to Scully's thin, pale body. The monitors beeped and held vigil with him, but she breathed on her own. He held out on that hope.

"Scully..." he whispered softly, taking her cool, small hand into his large encompassing one. She seemed so cold, Mulder thought with a shudder. Why? he thought. Why again, why now?

She was so quiet.

So very silent.


She could feel the fire closing in around her, the white hot blaze burning into her eyes.

It had come back.

For her. For <i>her.</i> To do things again. To hurt her again.

She needed Mulder. She needed Mulder to save her.


He felt the slight pressure on his hand and was immediately awake, dispelling his reoccurring dream of a house engulfed in flames along with the sleep.

Her eyes had opened ...

"Scully?"

"Mulder..." Her voice was pitiful, shallow, and tight. He frowned.

"Mulder?" she asked again.

Her eyes would not focus on him and they seemed tormented, terrified.

"You're safe, now, Scully. Safe."

"Mulder...."

Her eyes rolled back and forth, resting on nothing, and a feeling of doom settled in his stomach.

She was having another nightmare.

She whimpered again and threw her hands up, covering her face

and hiding behind the sheet.

He could only watch. It tore at him to see her so afraid and not be able to comfort her. Mulder's fists clenched again and again-- he wanted to reach out to her... to help her ...

"Scully? Come on out-- it's a dream. You're okay, Scully. You're okay..." his words were soft, and they prodded gently at her, slowly pulling her out.

Her hand flailed in the air and Mulder took it, greedily wrapping his warm fingers around hers, entangling his fingers within hers. She immediately relaxed and curled up around his arm, resting her head against his elbow.

Mulder sighed contentedly, pushing the hair away from her sweaty face, and then kissed her forehead.

Her eyes opened.

He could not bring himself to look at their blank stare.

"Mulder?" she said.

He squeezed his eyes shut and prayed she was not having another nightmare, so soon after the first one.

A hand touched his cheek and he jerked up, startling both her and himself.

"Scully..."

"Where am I?" she said, her voice weak and raspy as a result of her ordeal.

"At the hospital. Scully . . . " His voice was laden with pain and anticipation. Mulder wet his lips and brought himself to look down into her eyes.

She still had his hand in hers. "What happened to me?" she asked.

A pause.

"What do you remember?"

She sighed. "Dreams. . . nothing much else."

Her eyes closed and he made a sound. "No, no, no ... please, don't close your eyes, Scully," he whispered.

She raised her eyebrow and the action was so wonderfully familiar that Mulder instantly bent down and kissed her forehead. That caused her to be even more surprised. "Mulder, what

happened?"

"Do you remember the car crash?"

She nodded. "Yes. My legs hurt. I couldn't walk. They came back for me, Mulder-- in that van-- I was so afraid they already had you . . ."

"No, no. They didn't see me. I ran back, Scully. I ran back to the site, and I saw all your blood in the dirt--" Mulder's words cut off as the agonizing memory of that moment ripped through

him again.

Scully let out a breath, and looked up at Mulder, where he stared back down at her. His eyes were moist with unshed tears. She didn't want to keep him in suspense any longer.

"I did that to myself, Mulder," she explained. "I-- I was trying to get away from the road ... and I dragged myself across the ground -- cut my arm on a branch."

He smiled as her lips quirked.

"I don't remember anything else. Where did you find me?"

"I went to the lab and got you. They let me, really," he said, his lips curling up in a matter of disgust. "I wouldn't have even gotten close to the place unless they had wanted me to. I

think they knew... they knew you wouldn't remember anything."

"Is the case closed?" she asked suddenly.

His face hardened. "Yes. Unsolved."

"But... Mulder--"

"No, Scully. I'm not going to continue this. I talked to the sheriff, and he's not offering any more support whatsoever ... you almost got killed--" Mulder's voice began to crack. "I'm not

letting this go on. No more."

"Mulder. If you do that, they've won," she said quietly.

He shook his head and leaned forward. "No, I've won," he said and his lips ghosted her cheek. "If you're safe, I've won."


Epilogue

"Our fathers and ourselves sowed dragon's teeth.
 Our children know and suffer the armed men."
 --Stephen Vincent Benet

  Ashes fell soundlessly into the molded ceramic mug. Years of smoke inhiliation tainted the vocal chords of the man who spoke calmly. "She was abducted and fell into a coma?" he asked. His voice almost held a trace of concern.

"Yes, sir." A blazing red beard practically covered up the lip movements of the uniformed man who stood before him. A reflective gold badge which read "Shrike County Sheriff's Office."

"You were supposed to merely do the job... I didn't want her injured, Mr. McDonald."

"Look, sir, my men took care of the business. Everything is fine."

Violently blowing out a stream of smoke, he spat, "We're lucky everything went okay! Agent Scully fell into a coma. You don't realize how valuable she truly is."

McDonald raised an eyebrow. "How important is that, if you don't mind me asking, sir?"

He was getting more and more annoyed with this man's grating voice and stupid questions. "More important than you could ever realize," he simply replied, taking a long, slow drag of the

cigarette.

"There's something weird I noticed, though," McDonald said.

The man resisted the urge to pull out a pistol and shoot this insipid sheriff right then and there. That was to be taken care of later, he thought, keeping himself in check. "Yes?" he said.

"That Mulder guy-- he was acting like all those other young men were, but he wasn't even brought up like they were."

The man didn't reply. Mulder had a bond with his partner that no amount of "conditioning" could have created. He simply nodded and blew out more smoke, creating rings in the air.

"So what now?" McDonald asked.

"Now we wait," he said.


Mulder noticed something strange as Scully walked in the office that morning. She had been out for a couple weeks, as Skinner had ordered mandatory sick leave to give her time to

recuperate. However, as she headed in that morning, Mulder didn't think she looked so well.

"Scully--?" he said, immediately coming to her side.

She looked at him as if his skin was purple. "What?" she asked.

"You ... you don't look so well."

"Yeah, well, I guess I'm still a little under the weather," she replied.

Mulder looked at her, concerned. "Scully, if you're not well, I don't want you working here."   "No, no, no ..." she said, touching her hand to Mulder's arm. "I feel fine-- I've just had a bit of a problem keeping stuff down these past couple days."

Mulder appeared confused. "What do you mean, Scully?"

"Oh, I've just been throwing up a few times in the morning ... it's really strange, actually. I almost never get sick to my stomach."

"Scully, you should get it checked out-- especially after what you just went through. You have no idea what it could be."

"Mulder, I'm sure it's nothing. I feel fine otherwise."

"Scully ..."

She sighed in resignation. She never she would never win with him on her back. "Fine," she finally said. "Fine, I will go."


Scully really wished Mulder hadn't insisted on coming along. She felt slightly embarrassed sitting in the examination room with him, though she wasn't sure why. Scully had just had an odd

feeling about the entire thing ever since they had arrived at the medical offices.

They'd been waiting for about fifteen minutes for the doctor to come back with some results. Scully had gotten some samples taken earlier, and the doctor had since checked her out. But

nothing else appeared strange or odd.

Neither Scully nor Mulder had any idea what could be going on.

Suddenly, there was a clipped knock at the door, bringing them both out of their silent reveries. "Dana?"

Scully looked up as her doctor headed through the door, holding a clipboard with her medical records on them.

"Yes?" she asked.

She noticed Mulder instantly straighten up out of the corner of her eye. He was in as much anticipation as she; probably more so, than they thought. A thousand worst-case scenarios sprung to her mind-- could the cancer possibly have returned? Maybe they had reactivated it when she'd been abducted again? she wondered.

Scully instantly felt sick at the thought of it.

Again, the doctor interrupted her tormented thoughts. "We ran these instantaneous tests, and while they can't tell us everything, you seem perfectly healthy, Dana."

Scully immediately let out a huge breath she hadn't even realized she'd been holding and looked to Mulder who wore the exact same expression she did. Pure, unadulterated relief. Scully even

allowed a small smile.

"But--"

The doctor's voice cut into Scully's chest like a knife, ripping through it. She felt an instant pain stabbing into her. Scully swallowed, telling herself it was all psychological.

"What?" she asked.

"We did notice something, uh--" The doctor looked over at Mulder. "Is this your husband?"

"Oh, no," Scully said, feeling her cheeks start to burn even as she replied. "He's my partner at work."

The doctor nodded. "Well, I don't know if you want to take this news alone, or .."

Scully shook her head, looking over at Mulder again. "I want him to be here," she said.

"Okay," she said with a small smile. "I guess-- you'll have to start seeing an obstetrician soon."

"What?" both Mulder and Scully asked in unison.

"Yes, Dana. Your urine sample revealed the fact that you're pregnant."

Scully's mouth hung open. That was impossible. She couldn't be pregnant. Shainaeh Burkowitz had said it herself: "You can't plant seeds in a barren field." She couldn't be...

"But..." Scully struggled to speak. "I was told I was infertile. Th--that's impossible."

 "Improbable," the doctor replied, "but obviously not impossible.

You have a life growing in you, Dana. Congratulations."

 Scully instantly turned to where Mulder was sitting. She saw him hanging onto the sides of the stool for support, but his eyes were completely locked onto hers and they spoke volumes that

words never could.

She was a mother...

end epilogue

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