Title: Closer
Author: Crowdreamer
Author's Page: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/3662844/
Completed: 12/08/2012
Category: X-Files
Genre: Horror/Sci-Fi
Words: 14664
Rating: NC-17
Setting: Season six
Spoilers: Milagro and Emily, and I'm not sure what other episodes.

Summary: After Scully is attacked in Milagro, the agents get sent on an assignment to a creepy town in Florida filled with mediums to investigate a series of murders, and Scully meets some people from her past. Meanwhile, the malevolent forces present in the town become more and more powerful, and the agents get trapped until they can track down an evil medium.

Author's comments: As usual, this is a remake of a story I originally wrote over a decade ago. I just had to re-write this story, because it is such a fun one to write. This story was originally called Cassadaga, because it is based on a real town in Florida of the same name—a town that is populated with psychics and mediums, spiritualists who believe they can speak to the dead. I visited the town once, and found it to be very eerie, and some of the descriptions in this story are real. The new title is from a song of the same name by Kings of Leon—love that song!


A man with a hoodie was on top of Scully, and she felt like she could not breathe. Yet the pain was so awful that a series of bloodcurdling screams managed to escape her lips. She could feel her heart being ripped right out of her chest, and as hard as she fought to keep it from happening, she knew it was a losing battle. If several gunshots straight to the chest would not take this man down, her own scrawny hands would be like limp rags against him. Still, she thrashed around, trying to escape the torture being inflicted on her. Unable to tolerate the pain anymore, she passed out.


Mulder rushed into his apartment, scanning the room for the source of the gunshots. But he saw no one—that is, until he caught a glimpse of something on the floor in front of him, and realized it was Scully. Panic set in as he saw that she was bleeding from the chest, and that she was not moving.

He knelt down over her, putting his hands on her limp shoulders and saying a little prayer in his head to a god he did not believe in. His face contorted when he realized that she was probably dead. He was about to call her name, as if that would bring her back, when her body jerked in a startled motion and her eyes shot open. At first the movement scared him, as if she had awoken from beyond the grave. But it only took a few moments for relief to set in—she was alive! Scully was alive.

He watched her face contract as she began to cry from the terror of her experience. He still did not know what had happened to her, or if she was injured, but he wrapped his arms around her in a comforting shield, and held her against him while her body began to wrack with sobs.

They stayed this way for what seemed like hours. He buried his face and one hand in her hair while waiting patiently for her to cry out the trauma. He could feel her nails clawing at his back as she tried desperately to hold him even closer. Even after she stopped sobbing, he could still feel her body trembling violently, and he held her until her vice of a grip loosened just a bit. Finally, he began to pull away from her, but he kept his body close to her and pressed his forehead against hers in case she still needed his reassuring touch.

Her face was wet with tears and she was still shaking, but she looked as if she had calmed down a little. "Scully," he said gently, "are-are you okay? Are you hurt?"

She sniffled. "I—I don't—"

She looked confused by the question, so he took the initiative and put his hands on the lapels of her shirt. She looked down in shock at her blood-soaked shirt, and wrapped her hands around his, as if to guide him. He pulled her shirt apart just enough to see her chest, and stared in awe as he discovered that there was no wound there—not even a scratch. Scully stared at her chest as well, horrified, as if she was looking at a gaping hole.

"We better get you checked out anyway," Mulder said.

He called in an ambulance from his cell phone, and then returned his attention to the shell-shocked partner before him. He guided her up to the couch, where she sat down while he pulled out a blanket and covered her. Her gaze darted around the room, as if someone would jump out at her at any second. Mulder squatted next to her and asked, "Scully, what happened? Where did your attacker go?"

Her eyes met his for a second, but then they went blank as she stared into space. "I—I don't know. He was-" she stopped to get her emotions under control once again, trying not to cry. "He was on top of me, with his hand—in my chest—it hurt so bad that I passed out." She was gripping her chest with her hands now, as if to protect her vulnerable heart.

Mulder stood up, remembering that Pageant was in the basement still. "I have to get Pageant," he said, but he was stopped by Scully's hand wrapping tightly around his wrist.

She looked up at him with wide, pleading eyes. "Not yet," she said. "Please," she whispered.

He sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulders. "Okay, I'll wait until the paramedics get here," he said softly.


Still in shock, Scully stuttered when she tried to explain to the paramedics what had happened. They gazed at her in disbelief, and found nothing wrong with her when they examined her. Still, one paramedic felt sorry for her in her obviously distressed condition, and said, "Let's get you checked out at the hospital—take an x-ray and make sure there isn't a broken rib or something."

She half-smiled in gratitude. "That's okay," she said. "I appreciate it, but I think I'll be okay now."

The wound that was not a wound still hurt, and Scully could not tell if it was all in her mind, or if she had some bruising from the assault. Obviously the attack happened—there was blood to prove it, but no injury to produce that blood. Maybe Mulder was right after all, maybe it had been a form of psychic surgery.

Whatever it was, it left Scully feeling confused and frightened, and the entire series of events had shaken her confidence to the point where she no longer trusted her own instincts. Why had she stood up for Pageant, a man who was obviously not right in the head and consumed with obsessive thoughts about her?

Mulder came back in the room then, interrupting her thoughts. He looked at her with worried eyes. "Are they going to have you checked out at the hospital?"

She looked down, embarrassed that she was the object of his concern. "No, I—I'm not going." She looked back up at him. "I'll be fine, Mulder."

He acted as if he was about to protest, but then closed his mouth, perhaps realizing that it was pointless to argue with her, a doctor. But then he opened his mouth to say something else. "I found Pageant in the basement—he's dead, Scully. It looks like he finally imposed the same torture on himself that he inflicted on all his victims."

Scully dropped her head at the words. She tried so hard to keep the tears from coming again. She was grateful that Mulder had been there to hold her when she was recovering from her attack, but she always felt humiliated when crying in front of him, as if that showed her weakness as a woman.

But why was she so upset that this man was dead? She guessed that a part of her still felt like he was innocent, that he did not cause the murders, but instead had imagined them before the fact somehow. But there was something else at work here too, and she couldn't quite put her finger on it. It was as if she felt a connection with Pageant, like she had some sort of sick feelings for him because of his misplaced adoration of her. She guessed anyone would feel flattered by such misguided attention, even if it was a little scary.

But she brushed off her feelings and stood, still feeling a little shaky. "I want to go home now," she said to nobody in particular.

Mulder nodded. "I think that's a good idea. You want me to stay with you?"

Scully nodded back at him without looking him in the eye. "Thank you."

He held her chin in his hand and smiled slightly. "You didn't have to go to all this trouble to get me over, you know." She met his eyes now, and smiled back at him, feeling the tension release just a little.

 


Scully was relieved to have Mulder with her that night, but she still had trouble sleeping. It seemed like every time she began to drift off to dreamland, Padgett's face came to her in a haunting manner, and she started awake again. Mulder must have heard her tossing and turning, because he came into her room at 2 a.m., yawning the sleepiness out of his voice. "Trouble sleeping, Scully?"

"Yeah."

He looked down at her, apparently contemplating whether to say his next words. "I have some muscle relaxers left over from when I pulled my back—would that help?"

Scully was not one to turn to pills to help her, but she decided it couldn't hurt just this one night. "Maybe. Okay." And within an hour, she was sound asleep.

She awoke to light pouring onto her face, hurting her eyes, and to the sound of Mulder getting ready in the next room. It was apparent that he was trying not to wake her. She dragged her heavy limbs out of the bed and stumbled towards the bathroom, where he was buttoning his shirt.

"Hey," she said, staring bleary-eyed at his face in the mirror.

"Hey, sorry," he said, turning to face her. "Did I wake you?"

She took over the job of buttoning his shirt. "No, not really. Wanna ride to the office together?"

"Scully—" His voice was almost a reprimand.

She stopped buttoning to look him in the eye. "I'm okay, really, Mulder."

"You shouldn't be going back to work this soon," he said, his voice almost a whine. "You need to take a few days to recover."

"Mulder—"

"Scully—"

"Just listen, please." She sighed. "It's going to be much worse for me just sitting around here. I'll probably jump at every shadow that moves. I'd much rather be around…people."

Mulder sighed and shook his head. "Alright. Like I could do anything to stop you." He smirked.


Mulder was not at all certain that Scully had made the right decision by coming to work today. He noticed that her hands were still trembling, even though she tried to hide it. And she had dark circles under her eyes, a sign of the sleep deprivation from which she was suffering.

His plan was to make it a nice, quiet day at the office, full of report-writing and maybe a "debriefing" session with Skinner.

But plans have a way of changing.

There was a pressing file waiting in his office—a case that could not wait. "What's that?" Scully asked, but he wanted to read it over before revealing the contents. She tried to pull the file towards her so she could see it too, and for a second he engaged in a tug-of-war with her before giving in.

"Scully, it's nothing you need to be working on right now."

"Oh? And what about you? You're going to work a case without me?"

He looked down at the file, dejected. He could tell she already knew what the answer was to that question. Finally, he said, "It's all the way in Florida."

"When would we have to leave?" He prayed that she would change her mind, decide not to go. Maybe if he made it sound as undesirable as possible.

"Right away—by tomorrow morning at the latest."

She turned her tired eyes towards the ground, and for a second he thought she was going to give in and let him take the case by himself. "Okay, let's get going, then."

He wanted to shake her, to yell some sense into her—she had just gone through an extremely traumatic event, and she was in no condition to be working this kind of case. Maybe if it wasn't him making the decision… "You'll have to get permission from Skinner. I think he's going to want you to take some mandatory time off—remember, it's required of agents—"

"I know, I know—agents who have been involved in a shooting or injury of any kind. But I'm not injured, Mulder."

Obviously, she was not going to listen to him. He shrugged. "I guess you'll just have to take it up with him."


Scully found herself in Walter Skinner's office, staring down at her hands and feeling like a kid in the principal's office. She thought Skinner must have no idea how to start this conversation, because he kept rifling through the case file, which she was sure he had already read from cover to cover already. "Agent Scully," he began softly.

She was feeling the need to pre-empt their little talk. "Sir, I know what you're going to say." He looked up at her quizzically, as if surprised that she could possibly know what he was thinking. "You're going to tell me that I need time off. But I would feel better if I could immerse myself in my work. It would help me take my mind off—" She looked down at her lap again. "-off what happened."

Skinner sighed and ran a hand over his hairless head. "Scully, you know that if you're not ready yet—emotionally—and we've all been in this situation before—you could put not only yourself, but your partner in jeopardy as well."

"Yes, sir."

She thought that this would put an end to any possibility of her going, but then he said, "I will allow you to go on this assignment on one condition."

"Sir?"

"That you allow Agent Mulder to take the lead, and if he decides that you are becoming too affected by the case, he has the authority to take you off the case and send you home."

She sat straight as a board to show her submission. "Yes, sir." To be honest, she was not much more confident than Mulder or Skinner that she was ready for this assignment, but thoughts of the alternative—staying home by herself while Mulder flew several hundred miles away from her—made her stomach churn.


Scully was asleep in the seat next to the window. She felt herself coming to as the pilot announced that they would be arriving in the next half-hour. As she slowly opened her eyes, she could see a face in the airplane window—the familiar face of her dead stalker, Philip Padgett. She jumped, her eyes wide with surprise. Her sudden movement startled Mulder, and when she looked back at the window, the image of Padgett was gone.

Her breathing quickened. "Scully, what is it?" Mulder asked, sounding worried. He put his hand on her arm.

She looked at him, trying not to appear as alarmed as she felt. "N-nothing." She rubbed her eyes. "I must have been sleeping." She tried to consciously slow her breathing, and it started to work.

Shaking off feelings of dread, she grabbed a manila folder filled with papers from Mulder's hands. She skimmed through it, and then glanced out the small rectangle of a window, completely clear now, and gazed at the distant squares of farmland far below her. "So what is the X-Files here, Mulder?"

Mulder leaned in close, not so much to avoid drawing attention to their conversation as to get a closer look at the part of the file she was examining. "Did you read about the murders?"

"Yeah, it looks like ordinary, albeit gruesome, slayings of two girls from towns close to Daytona Beach, Florida. Both of them were homeless, both were teenagers, and both were killed by asphyxiation. Maybe a particularly brutal pair of homicides, but nothing about them suggests that we should be involved in any way."

"Except-" Mulder took the folder out of her hands and shuffled through it, looking for one document in particular. He pulled out a mug-shot of an Asian man and pointed to it. "Both girls were seen with this man shortly before the murders. This is Wong Lin. He was in custody for the rape of another girl, but was released on bail and is now a fugitive. Does this story sound at all familiar Scully?"

"Not ringing a bell, no." The normal routine of their back-and-forth banter made Scully feel a little more secure.

"Well then you must not be up on your Singapore news, Scully. Ever hear of the Toa Poyah ritual murders in the early 1980's?" Scully shook her head. "Well they were very similar to these murders—two girls and one boy, not yet teenagers, were murdered by a man named Adrian Lin."

"Lin? Are the two men related?"

"Were, Scully, and yes they were. Adrian Lin was Wong Lin's biological father. And apparently Wong Lin decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, because they were both self-proclaimed mediums."

"Okay, so they were mediums. So what?"

"Sooooo-Wong Lin has been spotted in the town of Cassadaga, a town made up of mediums and psychics. I've been contacted by one of the mediums there who claims to know him and may have information about him. She says that he has been in contact with his father, who was put to death in Singapore after a trial for the murders he committed."

The conversation was interrupted by an announcement from the pilot to prepare for arrival. "That's kind of a far-fetched claim, don't you think, Mulder? I still don't get why the local authorities can't handle this one."

"Because nobody wanted to touch the 'medium' part of this, and even the local officials are afraid of investigating in the town of Cassadaga." He paused. "Besides, ever been to Daytona Beach, Scully? I hear it's beautiful."

Scully sighed. "Sounds like as good a reason as any, I guess."

 


Mulder turned their silver Ford sedan onto a quaint suburban street and parked. He and Scully walked through a town that looked like something out of an old Western. It had an ancient hotel on one side of the street, and a post office and church on the other, with covered wooden walkways in front of both. They entered the hotel to check in, and saw several portraits hanging on the walls. Scully looked closely at one, and jabbed Mulder with her elbow to draw his attention to it. The picture had several people posing in what looked like a family portrait, but in the background, above two of the people, were fuzzy round objects that were lit up. Examining the other pictures more closely now, Scully saw that all of them had similar objects in them, some which looked eerily like faces. Scully shuddered, despite herself.

"Excuse me Sir," said Mulder to a tall, white-bearded man behind the counter. "We need to check in."

As the man looked up their information, Mulder asked him, "Can you tell me about the portraits on the wall?"

"Oh, those? People come to have their pictures taken with their loved ones who have passed on. Sometimes they just show up as orbs, other times you can see their faces real well."

It had become routine lately for the agents to share a room, and Scully was glad. She could not bear the thought of sleeping alone in such a strange place, especially since images of Padgett seemed to be stalking her. She thought about confiding to Mulder about the visions, but she felt that they were probably to be expected, and usually they were centered around sleep, and therefore probably just dreams.

Mulder's phone rang. When he was done with the call, he said, "That was a medium who I contacted about this case, Scully. Her name is Gina Ramses. She says she can meet with us right now."

Gina lived just a few blocks away from the hotel, and they decided to walk. As they left the hotel, Scully could hear part of a conversation between two women. "…so I thought it was Jesus, but then we realized it was actually my uncle coming through…"

They crossed the street and walked past the post office, and came to a church. Scully wondered what kind of church the members of this town would attend. There were several people standing around talking out front. As Mulder and Scully walked past one group of people, a woman with wild hair and wide eyes grabbed Scully's arm. Scully's eyebrows shot up in surprise, but before she could say anything, the woman spoke. "Did someone in your life recently pass?"

"Excuse me?" Scully's voice betrayed the alarm she felt.

"I'm a medium." The woman closed her eyes but maintained her grip on Scully's arm. "There's someone who passed recently—it's a man."

"I don't—there's been nobody close to me." Scully was beginning to get irritated, and Mulder grabbed her other arm, getting ready to steer her away from the woman.

The woman nodded now. "Yes. He says you broke his heart after he tried to steal yours."

A chill went up the back of Scully's neck and her head and hands went numb. Her mouth gaped open in shock, and she felt Mulder emphatically tugging her away from the crowd of people and down the street.

"Don't listen to her, Scully. She's just doing a cold reading."

"But she was so—so right." Scully kept feeling little tingles all over her body.

"It's a method that self-proclaimed psychics use every day," Mulder said, brushing over Scully's words. "They throw out little guesses to everybody they see, and eventually one of those facts matches up with somebody's situation. She probably guessed wrong a hundred times before getting a match this time."

"But—" Scully started to protest, but decided that maybe, as spooky as the words the woman had spoken were, maybe Mulder was right and it was just a coincidence. "It's just odd, is all."

They walked in silence for a while through empty streets leading down a suburban neighborhood of modest homes. Halfway there, Mulder commented, "Did you notice how quiet it is, Scully? I don't even hear any birds."

Scully had noticed that it was quiet, although she had merely attributed it to the peaceful nature of the place. But now that she was paying closer attention, she observed that lots of yards had no pets, and there were no barking sounds from any dogs. The rest of the way to Gina's house, she saw not one cat or squirrel or other creature. 'How strange,' she thought, but she forgot about it as soon as they arrived.

A plump, red-haired woman who was refreshingly shorter than Scully invited them into her modest-sized ranch-style home. Gina explained that she was also a medium, which meant she could communicate with entities in the spirit world. Mulder nodded his head knowingly, and Scully wondered why he trusted this woman over the other self-proclaimed medium. Scully asked, "So, what's the difference between a psychic and a medium?"

Before Mulder could answer, Gina said, "A medium is a psychic. We are able to gain information through supernatural means, but we often get the information from spirits. We are able to communicate with ghosts and disincarnate spirits."

"Ah…" said Scully, and pursed her lips.

"I can tell you're not a believer," said Gina.

Scully folded her arms and looked around the room, trying to avoid eye contact. "Well, you'll have to excuse me, I just got bombarded with unwanted information from someone else in town."

Gina nodded and said, "I have to apologize. Some of the people here, they get a little carried away with their own powers sometimes. Not everyone wants a reading just because a loved one is trying to talk to them through a complete stranger."

Scully did not mean to seem aloof around this new person, and it was not even because of her skepticism this time, but more because she was edgy following recent events. She tried to relax a little. "It's okay, I've seen much stranger things."

She glanced at Mulder, who was relishing this moment of civility between the two women. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, Gina cocked her head at Scully and said, "I hate to even ask this, but—I really am getting a strong signal from someone close to you. Would you be interested?"

Scully's mouth opened to speak, and remained open, struggling to say anything at all. Finally, she said, "As long as it's not somebody named Philip."

Mulder chuckled nervously.

"No." Gina closed her eyes now, and Scully got a nasty feeling of déjà vu. But she patiently waited, hoping they could stop this nonsense soon and get on with the real matter at hand. "It's a little girl."

Scully furrowed her brow, and then her jaw dropped as she made the connection.

"She says her name is—Emily."

 


 

"Emily?" Scully whispered.

Gina opened her eyes. "Yeah. You wanna hear more?"

Scully swallowed hard and glanced at Mulder, who looked just as shocked as she felt. She looked back at the medium and nodded, despite the critic in her brain telling her this was all a set-up.

Gina closed her eyes again. After a few seconds, she spoke. "She says she's sorry."

"Sorry?" Scully fought hard against the tears she felt ready to let loose. "What could she possibly be sorry about?" And why am I even falling for this? She asked herself, remembering what Mulder had said about cold readings.

"She's sorry because she won't be with you until a long time from now. She says you can't die."

You can't die. The words replayed over and over in Scully's head, and she began to remember other words she had heard in the past. "How do I die?" "You don't."

"Scully?" Mulder's worried voice snapped her out of the trance she had been in.

But Scully ignored him. "What else does she say?"

Gina was still in a trance of her own. "She says she loves you, and that things are beautiful where she is, but that she is right here for you whenever you need her."

Scully was speechless. Despite her best efforts, she felt a few errant tears running down her cheeks. She turned her head away from Mulder and Gina and wiped them away.

She felt distant from everyone else in the room, but she heard Gina's voice say, "That's all—she's gone. Something disrupted the signal."

Scully said, "Thank you," and then walked to another part of the room to be by herself for a few minutes. She could hear Mulder's voice reassuring Gina that she had given a good reading, and then she felt his hand on her shoulder.

"You okay, Scully?"

She turned her head towards him and said, "Yeah. I'm fine. I'm just a little on edge. Can we just talk about the case now?"


Gina rubbed her head like she was suffering a sudden migraine. "I think the reason the message from Emily stopped was because of Wong Lin." Her eyes were still closed, and her brow furrowed in concentration. "His vibrations are so strong they block everything else."

Mulder's interest perked up. "So he's definitely here—in town?"

Scully was having trouble maintaining her focus on their conversation—thoughts of Emily and Padgett mingled in her mind. There was so much to ponder—was Padgett really stalking her even after death? Was Emily truly making contact with her? Was she herself immortal? Or was all this just a series of coincidences?

"Oh yeah, he is here. His energy is so strong—there's no denying it." Gina's brow lowered even further, this time out of concern about something. "And—" Her eyes popped open. "I think he knows you're on to him!"

"Us?" Scully decided to enter the discussion. "How could he possibly know about us?"

"Don't get me wrong—he doesn't know who you are specifically, but somehow he knows that the authorities are after him and that they are in this town."

"And if he knows that," Mulder chimed in, "then he will figure out who we are real quick. I'll bet strangers stand out pretty bad in this town."

"That's right," said Gina.

"Which means we don't have much time," said Scully. "But how are we going to find him? Do you know who could be harboring him?"

"Well I have my ideas," said Gina. She gave them some names of mediums who may be dabbling on the dark side, and Mulder and Scully spent the rest of the day knocking on doors. But they did not get any solid leads, and if one of the people whose names Gina gave them was providing cover for Lin, they did not give it away.

By nightfall, the agents were no closer to finding him than when they started. Gina said she would try to sense in on his whereabouts, but Scully did not trust that her methods would be any more reliable than throwing a dart at a map.

Resigned, they made their way back to the hotel. One question was nagging at Scully on the walk home, and she had to express it. "Mulder, why did you believe Gina's reading but not the other medium's?"

Mulder became animated at the topic. "Are you kidding? Scully, she gave you her name and everything."

"Yeah, but like you said, she could have said that name a hundred times before and just now got a hit."

"But she knew it was a little girl, too. What are the chances of getting both those facts right? Besides, I just get a good feeling about her, like she's genuine." Mulder paused. "Don't you believe it was really Emily, Scully?"

Scully hesitated before answering. "If I believe that it was real, then I can't rule out the other medium either, which means—"

Mulder's eyes gentled with empathy when he realized what she was getting at. "Which means that Philip Padgett is also trying to make contact with you—"

"Right."

Mulder took a moment to process this information, and then put a hand gently on Scully's back. His voice softened. "He can't get to you Scully. He's gone."

Scully sighed, releasing air from her lungs that it felt like she had been holding onto since the attack. "I know. But I wish—" She stopped, not wanting to reveal everything she had experienced just yet.

"You wish what?"

"I just wish I knew he was gone for good."

Mulder stopped walking and waited for Scully to stop and face him. He took one of her hands in his. "Scully, I didn't realize you were that spooked about him. I thought you'd be more afraid of Ken Naciamento. After all, we never did find him, or whoever it was that was working as Padgett's accomplice."

Scully looked down at the ground. "I can't help feeling that it was Padgett's obsession with me that caused his accomplice to go after me though. After all, the assault wouldn't have happened if Padgett hadn't been so fixated on me."

Mulder studied her face. "True," he said. "Look, Scully, is this getting to be too much for you? I mean, maybe you should—"

Scully's eyes snapped up to meet Mulder's. "No. No, I'll be okay Mulder. I want to be here."

Mulder hesitated. "Okay." They never released their hold on one another, and they walked hand in hand back to the hotel.


It was late by the time the partners crawled into their respective beds. Scully would not have been able to get to sleep if she had not called for a prescription for Xanax from her doctor before she left. She still had bouts of shaking at times, and although she had not told Mulder, she suffered a couple of full-on panic attacks before they left, times where she had felt like she couldn't breathe.

But with the help of the anxiety pills, she was able to fall asleep fairly easily, after the thoughts began to settle down in her head.

A little after 3 a.m., Scully woke to the sound of Mulder snoring. She lay on her back and sleepily opened her eyes, only to see Phillip Padgett, wide-eyed, lying just over her bed and facing her. She tried to scream but found that she couldn't. In fact, after a Herculean effort, she found that she could not move at all—she was paralyzed. Padgett opened his mouth as if to say something, but no words came out. Scully watched in horror as his hand reached down to her chest and entered her. Helplessly, she felt his hand grip her heart and start to squeeze. She kept her eyes on him, too terrified to look down at the psychic surgery being inflicted on her once again.

The pain was there too, and she squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block it out. But it persisted, and it became so intense that she felt like she might throw up. Then she felt the sweet relief of unconsciousness beginning to wash over her, and as soon as she did, she could move again, and Padgett was gone.

She sat straight up in bed and took a huge gulp of air. Immediately, Mulder woke up and said, "Scully, what's wrong?" But she was breathing so fast and hard that she could not get any words out.

Mulder was at her side in a flash. "Hey, take it easy—deep breaths." He rubbed her back until she was no longer hyperventilating. When he saw her lungs slowing down he asked, "What is it Scully?"

She fought back tears and managed to blurt out in between gasping breaths, "Padgett—was here."

"Padgett? What do you mean?"

She felt her lower lip trembling, and she wiped away a tear that had escaped from the iron grip she had maintained over it. "He—was—here. I don't know—how. Trying to reach into my chest and steal my—" But she had to stop, because she felt her grasp on her emotions crumbling, and the waves of fear made the tears unstoppable.

Mulder wrapped his arms around her and buried his hand in her hair, and it felt like they were back at his apartment all over again. Only this time, there was no proof—no blood-stained clothes to back up her story. Now she felt like a recreant—a hysterical girl over-reacting to a bad dream.

But she knew it was not a dream. She had heard Mulder snoring. She had been able to look around the room. And she could feel her body. But couldn't she hypothetically do all those things within a dream as well?

Mulder didn't seem to think any less of her for breaking down into a shaking, crying puddle, at any rate. She was beginning to realize that, while he didn't want her to suffer, he loved this. He cherished being the one to console her when things got tough. And she was glad, because without him, she would just be a sniveling, lonely mess right now.

As soon as she was collected enough to dialogue with him, he said, "You're going home this morning."

"Mulder, I—"

"Don't argue, Scully-Skinner put me in charge of that decision, and I am not taking no for an answer. I know I'm not your boss, but I—"

"Mulder, it's okay. I'll go."

With that, Mulder was silent. He gently nudged her back down onto her bed, and wrapped his arms around her. She did not protest, and to her surprise, she was able to get back to sleep within the safety of his arms, her head pressed securely into his chest.

 


A single black candle burned in the middle of a small dining room table. On one side sat a middle-aged Asian man of short stature, but with penetrating black eyes and an expressionless face that did not betray the obsessive psychopathic thoughts that begged for expression. On the other side was a young woman with hair black like coal, intent on studying the man's every word and movement, in hopes that she would learn what made him so powerful.

"Maggie," he said, eyes shut so tightly that little creases formed around the corners of them. "I feel my father coming through."

Maggie turned on the tape recorder and waited with excitement to hear what Adrian Lin had to say. The paranormal had always fascinated her, and she had studied Voodoo and "Black" Witchcraft before finding the town of Cassadaga near her hometown of Flagler Beach, Florida. She had lived among the mediums for years, but soon after she came to live in the town, she found most of them to be boring and predictable, performing the same old tired acts for the purpose of helping a few unknowing strangers "talk" to lost relatives. When she spotted Wong Lin at a séance, he exuded a magnetism and confidence that she had not witnessed in others of his kind. He talked with a recently deceased businessman, and Maggie was blown away when he was able to predict several upcoming financial disasters that later struck the local economy.

Maggie soon teamed up with Wong, and he was unimpressed but tolerant of her hero-worship of him, and accepted her offer to come stay with her. She soon found out that he was involved in the darker aspects of spiritualism, and rather than scaring her off, she was taken by him even more. Even after she found out he had killed three children, she stuck to him like glue and made sure that nobody knew he was still in town. He had explained that the murders were sacrifices to the Goddess Kali, in exchange for her protection against the authorities, who were trying to track him down on a rape charge. She now knew that his channeled father had done the same thing to escape capture when he was alive.

A cold draft blew through the room and caused the flame of the candle to waver. Maggie looked around the room for an open window, but they were all shut tight. She shivered. After a long silence, Wong Lin began to speak, but in a lower voice than his own. "They will be coming for you both soon. They have help. You need to work with the spirits and the Goddess to help you."

Maggie did not ask questions of the elder Lin—she was too afraid of him. But as soon as his spirit was gone, she interrogated Wong. "What are we going to do? I can't go to prison—I'm too young!"

Wong did not seem disturbed. He sat like a statue, his stoic face betraying no anxiety whatsoever at their predicament. "Go get the chicken," he said, his piercing eyes glaring at Maggie.

She started to move, but he closed his eyes and said, "Wait, there's someone else trying to come through." He shook his head. "Interesting. Not a very powerful spirit, but very persistent."

Maggie hesitated, waiting for a direction. When she received none, she said, "Should I turn on the recorder?"

"No. I will not channel him. But I will tell you what he has to say." Wong's eyebrows shot up, and then he snickered. "He says he's looking for his soul-mate." Wong nodded as if listening, and opened his eyes. "Now I see why he's contacting me. His love interest is one of the FBI agents trying to track us down. He says he will help us get to them if we will make sure she joins him in death."

"What did you tell him?"

Wong smirked. "I told him we'd do it, of course. They can't arrest us if they're dead."


Just two hours after Mulder fell asleep, at 5 a.m., his phone woke him. He slid his arm out from underneath Scully's head, trying not to wake her. She mumbled something, but then rolled over and fell back asleep.

Mulder answered his phone and exchanged a few words with the person on the other end, and then hung up. "Shit," he whispered under his breath.

Mulder could not see Scully in the dark, but he heard her voice in the blackness from the direction of the bed. "What's going on, Mulder?"

Mulder was actually relieved that he did not have to wake her. "I have to go see Gina." He began to change into his work clothes, knowing she would not be able to see him. "She says she knows where Wong Lin is."

He heard Scully rustling around under the covers, and then the noise stopped, and the outline of her petite body stood next to the bed. She groaned. "What are you doing, Scully?"

"Getting ready."

"Uh-uh." Mulder fumbled around and switched on the light, and they both squinted as their eyes adjusted to the light. Mulder faced her and said, "Go back to bed, Scully. I got this."

"I don't know about going back to bed, Mulder. I'm not going to be able to get back to sleep."

He gave her his best pleading look and placed a hand on her arm. "Please, Scully. Just let me go find out what's going on. I won't try to reel him in just yet."

Her eyes rolled up to meet his face. "Promise?"

"I promise."

She sat back on the bed and sighed. "Call me if anything goes wrong."


Mulder worried about Scully all the way to Gina's house. She seemed distracted, at the least. Even in the aftermath of a brutal attack, he would not expect her to be so affected by a nightmare. It was not like her to crumble so quickly. He wondered if there was something else going on with her that she was not sharing.

After arriving at Gina's, she greeted Mulder with a somber look. "I can feel where he is now," she said before he even got in the door. After he had entered, she said, "I have a neighbor, three doors down. Her name is Maggie. You'll find him there."

"But how do you know that?" Mulder stared at her quizzically.

"I just sense it."

But Mulder knew that even he had limits when it came to bending legalities. "Gina, I can't just barge in there on a hunch—I have to have something more solid to go on."

Gina seemed incensed by his hesitation to act. "But it's a strong feeling—I can almost taste him." Mulder sighed. Almost as an afterthought, Gina added, "Besides there are other signs that he's there."

"What other signs?"

"Well, Maggie has never owned a pet before. But all of a sudden, a few days ago, she got a chicken. I've seen it out in her back yard."

Mulder threw his hands up. "Why didn't you say so?"

"I didn't think it was important."

Mulder sighed again. Working with mediums had its drawbacks. He began to pace, thinking through his options. He could conduct surveillance of the neighbor's house, but he would stick out like a sore thumb. He thought about using his usual method of barging in and asking questions later, but he would hate to see both the suspect and the woman harboring him walk free on a technicality. Besides, he had made a promise to Scully.

He probably had time to make a trip to the local sheriff's office to work on getting a warrant. And in the meantime, he could drop Scully off at the airport and send her home. He started back to the hotel, hoping she was managing okay.


As the first rays of sunlight spilled over the horizon, Wong Lin held the bleeding chicken over a glass bowl, collecting the red liquid so that he could drink it. He had slit the chicken's throat while saying a prayer to Kali, hoping that the sacrifice was sufficient to invoke her protection even though it wasn't a human. After the ritual was over, he would meditate for a while. He was in no hurry. He knew better than to go out in public, but he had a plan to get to the couple that had been sent to hunt him down without jeopardizing himself. But first he had to make sure they did not leave, or get reinforcments.

 


 

Mulder came back to the hotel room to find Scully on the couch, her knees drawn up to her chest with her arms wrapped around them. Her head was resting on her knees, and she had her eyes closed, as if she had been resting but really just wanted to sleep. Her head rose when he entered, and she sat up straight, fully releasing a yawn. "What did you discover?" she asked.

Mulder set the room key down on the table next to the couch. "I think I have a pretty good idea where he is—I just need to get a warrant."

Scully's eyes widened in surprise. "You—a warrant?"

"Always a first time," he quipped. "Why don't you go with me to Daytona Beach, and we can get you a flight out of here?"

Scully looked hesitant, and he waited for her protest so he could argue with her about leaving. But instead, she got up and started to pack. As she placed the last of her clothes into her bag, the lights went out. Mulder went to the window to open the drapes and let in more light. "Huh," he said. "Wonder why the power's out. It's a clear day—no sign of a storm."

Scully just shrugged. They were able to see well enough with the sunlight streaming in through the window to find the rest of Scully's stuff, and they went down to the street and put her suitcase in the trunk. Mulder got behind the wheel and turned the key, but the ignition did not turn over. He tried it again. "Maybe it's out of gas?" Scully asked.

Mulder sat dazed, staring at the dash. "No, Scully, it had at least half a tank when we got here."

They sat in silence, contemplating their predicament. There were no rental car agencies anywhere nearby. Finally, Scully spoke. "Maybe we should call for a taxi from Daytona Beach."

Mulder nodded. "I'm on it." He put his cell phone up to his ear, then pulled it away from his face and wrinkled his nose. "It's—not working." He looked up at his partner. "You sensing a pattern here, Scully?"

They got out of the car and walked back to the hotel. Mulder looked all around and said, "Looks like nobody has any power."

As they walked into the hotel, Scully said, "But even if it's a power outage, how could that affect our car? And your cell phone?"

"I don't know."

But sure enough, they checked around, and there was no electricity, no cars were running, no cell phones working. The entire town was completely without any sort of electrical power whatsoever. They went up to their room to come up with a plan of action.

Scully stood staring out the window. "It's too far to walk anywhere," Mulder said, eyeing her for signs that she was going to hold up emotionally. But she was always able to put on a mask of confidence, even when she was feeling vulnerable. "Might as well make the best out of a bad situation."

Now Scully turned to look at him. "What do you mean, Mulder?"

"How would you feel if I kept tabs on this guy's hideout while we wait for the power to come back on? At least I could be making sure he doesn't commit any more crimes in the meantime."

Scully's face still showed no signs of emotion. "You want me to go with?"

"No, it's okay, Scully. No reason for both of us to be there."

She looked unsure, as if debating whether she trusted him alone with a beautiful red-headed medium. But she caved, and he reluctantly left her alone once again.


Scully thought she was doing a pretty good job convincing Mulder that she was coping well—that she was tough as nails and handling their situation fine. The truth was—she wanted nothing more than to get out of this town. This place was too close to death, and death was too close to the man responsible for the most personal and brutal attack she had ever suffered. She was tempted to put on her best walking shoes and start hoofing it until she could hitch a ride back to a bigger city.

She paced for a while, trying not to obsess over thoughts about Padgett, about Emily, about death. But the thoughts whispered, and then shouted, in her mind until she got swept away in them, before finally becoming aware that she was getting lost in them once again.

First, there was Padgett. She had thought his interest in her was innocent, even if creepy. But he was turning out to be the worst kind of stalker—unwilling to leave her alone, even after his own death.

And then there was Emily. She had said something about Scully never dying. It wasn't until now that Scully made the connection with her past—Clyde Bruckman had told her she couldn't die. And then, just recently, Alfred Fellig had taken a picture of her after she was fatally shot, and had ended his own streak of immortality. Had he "stolen" death from Scully, thereby rendering her immortal?

Scully looked down at her hands, which were shaking again. She had to do something. She was going to go insane if she sat in this hotel room for one more minute. But where could she go?

Then it came to her—the church. That was the only safe place she knew. And perhaps while she was there, she could find someone who would be able to help her answer all her questions.


As Scully approached the church, she passed groups of people standing outside, furiously debating why the lights were out and none of the electronics were working, and what to do about it. She was not at all sure that anyone would be inside the church, as it was probably pitch black inside. As she approached the massive front door, she saw a sign that read, "Colby Memorial Temple."

Opening the door, she noted that the interior was lighter than she had expected. Sunlight streamed in through large rectangular windows that extended halfway to the ceiling. Candles were lit throughout the sanctuary, even though Scully did not see a sole present in the room. She walked down the aisle and up to the front, passing rows of wooden chairs that folded down like movie seats.

Then she realized there was someone else in the church—a thin figure of a woman sitting in a wooden chair close to the pulpit. As she approached, she could see that the woman had her head down, her black hair covering her face. "I'm sorry," Scully said to the woman, who raised her head to reveal a twenty-something year old face with pale skin. Scully asked, "Are-are you a medium?"

The woman smiled at the question. "No. But I've worked with many of them, recording messages from the other side." The woman's eyes narrowed. "Are you looking for a reading?"

"I-I'm not sure what I'm looking for," Scully replied. "Answers, maybe."

And with that, Scully poured out her soul to a complete stranger about the events of the past few days—the scorned admirer who haunted her, her lost-and-then-found daughter who never made it past age three. The only detail she left out was the part about her own immortality.

Through it all, the young woman nodded her sympathy. "I think I might know someone who can help you." She held out a hand for Scully to shake. "My name is Maggie."


Scully looked around the church, but saw nobody else in the sanctuary. "So where is this person you want me to see? And who is it?"

Gina shook her hands in excitement and said, "Oh, it's a medium. Probably the most tuned-in psychic I know. Let me go get—" She did not finish her sentence, but disappeared into a back room in the recesses of the building.

Scully had an eerie feeling that she was being watched, and the hairs stood up on the back of her neck. She knew better than to ignore her intuition when it was giving her such strong signals, so she got up and began to walk back towards the front doors of the church. About halfway there, she turned and looked behind her, not wanting to walk out on Maggie, even if she didn't know whether to trust her. But when she saw no sign of the girl, she kept right on toward the exit.

A few steps later, a voice stopped her in her tracks. "We're a lot alike, you and me."

Scully sucked in her breath and forgot to let it out, until she felt herself go dizzy. She turned slowly, not wanting to discover the familiar figure that matched the voice. She blinked several times when she saw the goatee and intense eyes that she dreaded, peering out from the shadows of the room.

Her eyes met his, and she did not have to say a word. They both knew what thoughts were silently being thrown around at this moment, into the plane of mental processes.

"Padget?"

"You know I couldn't stay away."

And then she knew it was time to escape, by the fastest route possible.


This was the worst kind of surveillance for Mulder. Sitting around in someone's house, trying to keep track of a suspect three houses away that was not in his line of vision, was a nightmare. He wanted to be in his usual spot, in a car right outside the house.

Finally, he got impatient sneaking a peak out the front of the house every few minutes, and he decided that this mission was impossible—he needed to get closer. So he crept through two lawns and parked himself in the bushes of the suspect's next-door neighbor's house. Being in a community with no barking dogs had its benefits.

But he would have to wait there, in cramped quarters, hoping nobody would find his hiding spot, for hours on end. There was no movement at all in or out of the place, and if Mulder didn't know that Lin would never risk leaving the place where he was safely bunkered, he would have thought that maybe the man had fled.

As he sat waiting for any signs of life in the house, Mulder wondered how Scully was holding up. It was still daylight out, but when it got dark, she would be alone in a room with no light except for a candle or two, and Mulder would have to be there for her. He decided to get a closer look into the house where Lin was staying, to move this process along faster.


Scully dashed towards the front door of the church without looking back. She grabbed the handle and pulled, but the door did not budge. She tried pushing it instead, and when that failed, she tried the other door, but she could not move it either. Scully felt panic rising up in her chest as she turned her head to see Padgett approaching her, only five pews away. "I'm sorry this is upsetting to you," he said, looking as solid as a living person now. "If you would just join me, I think you'll find that I can be what you're looking for—"

She bolted to the right and began to run down the side of the church, heading straight for the back. She could hear Padgett as she ran. "I'm passionate about you, Agent Scully, and I will win your heart in the afterlife-"

She could not hear anything else that was said, because she burst through a door that went deeper into the heart of the church, and slammed the door behind her. She did not know why the front doors were suddenly locked—had she been tricked? But she knew that she had to get out of the building some other way.

She saw a back door down a hallway and started towards it, when a movement to her right caught her attention. She had just enough time to bring her right arm up before she felt a chair smashing into her right shoulder. She supposed it had been meant for her head, but the slight lifting of her arm had diverted it just a hair. Still, it hurt like hell, and her other arm instinctively rose to grab the injured shoulder. And then she saw who had swung at her—a surprised Maggie, staring, eyes wide with guilt.

The state of limbo only lasted a moment before Maggie raised the chair to strike Scully again. Scully anticipated her move and grabbed the chair with her left hand as it was on its way up, and then pushed it, hard, knocking Maggie off balance. Scully backed up and drew her gun. Her right arm hurt too bad to raise it, so she held the gun as steady as she could in her left hand, and scurried backwards toward the back door.

Scully reached toward the door with her free hand and jiggled it, wincing from the pain. It would not turn. She looked back down the hallway where she had left Maggie, but the girl had scampered off into the shadows again. Scully swung her gun quickly to the left, and then to the right, sweeping the hallway as she made her way back through it. But her vigilance failed her, she realized, when something heavier than a chair slammed against the back of her head. And then there was no Maggie, no Padgett, no pain, no gun, no church, only darkness.


Author's notes: Brace yourselves—it's about to get intense. Don't read if you get squeamish at all (although if you did, you probably wouldn't be watching XF to begin with, lol).


Mulder kept his head low as he snuck around the suspect's house, peeking into windows whenever he could. Most of them were covered by blinds or curtains, but he found one in the back that was uncovered, and he could see through to several rooms. Cautiously, he peered in, and he spotted the back of a smallish man sitting in one corner of the kitchen, a candle and a stick of incense burning on an altar in front of him.

Mulder watched the man for a while, knowing that it was Lin. He did not see any other movement in the house. But he was not concerned about the woman who was harboring Lin—he was mainly trying to make sure that Lin did not escape again. He went back to his hiding spot and kept vigil for a while longer, figuring he would give up and leave once dusk was here.

Just when Mulder was about to call it quits as the sun dipped below the horizon, he heard the front door of the house open, and soon, Lin emerged into view, booking it into the business section of town. Mulder waited for the man to get a safe distance ahead, and then followed, darting from one form of cover to the next.

As soon as Lin made it into town, he made a beeline for the church. Mulder watched him enter, waited a minute or two in case he came right back out, and then readied himself to sneak inside. His hand gripped the front door handle, and he called out in surprise as the door did not budge.

 


Scully awoke to a blur of candles around her, and her nostrils flared at the smell of frankincense. The room was silent and dark, and it took her a few seconds to get her bearings. When she did, she realized she was lying flat on a large fold-out table. She tried to roll over on her side, but found that she was bound at the wrists and ankles and around her waist.

Frantically, she turned her head from side to side, but saw nothing but tiny flames throughout the room. Her eyes began to adjust to the dark, though, and she could see that she was once again in the sanctuary of the church-only now the sun had set, and she was no longer free.

A shadow alerted her to the presence of someone behind her head. She did not recognize the voice that spoke next, but she was pretty sure she knew who it belonged to.

"Agent Scully."

Scully startled at the sound of her name. Wong Lin stepped into her line of sight, off to Scully's right side. Lin's voice was even, but Scully could hear madness around the edges of it. "Your soul-mate, as he calls himself, has told me about the psychic surgeon he sent after you." Lin's voice was heavily accented, but Scully understood every word. "Unfortunately, I could not contact Mr. Naciamento—he has moved on."

Scully breathed a sigh of relief, but only for a moment. Lin continued, without even glancing down to see her reaction. He held an object that she could not see in one hand, while the fingers of his other hand glided over it. "Which means, I have to remove your heart another way."

Scully turned her head when she saw movement on the other side of the table, and Maggie was standing there with a bucket in her hands.

Scully looked back towards Lin, and saw that the object in his hand was a scalpel—and a quality one too. It reminded Scully of the kind she used the most in the lab, and she realized exactly what it was capable of. Scully felt herself begin to tremble, and she felt like she couldn't take air into her lungs fast enough.

 


Mulder tried unsuccessfully to break into the church, but it was sealed tight, and he did not want to break any windows to get in just yet. He looked down the street at the hotel, and thought perhaps he should check in on Scully before taking any drastic actions.

 


Scully closed her eyes. Maybe this was all just a hallucination from the medicine she was taking. Or maybe it was just another one of her bad dreams, if that's what they had been. She listened for any sign of Mulder's snoring breaking into the dream to wake her.

She opened her eyes when she felt Lin's cold fingers on her chest as he unbuttoned her shirt. Instinct took over, and Scully fought against the restraints, to no avail. Her vocal chords strained against the gag in her mouth, which caused her to try and scream even louder.

Scully averted her eyes just as the scalpel entered her flesh, just above the sternum. As a doctor, she would have been afraid that the deep cuts into her chest would accidentally slice into a vital artery, but she could think of nothing but the pain at this moment. She hoped desperately that she would pass out so that she would not have to feel anymore, but it did not happen, and the stinging was almost unbearable. She bit down on the gag for relief.

When Lin stopped for a few seconds, she opened her eyes, and through a sweat-induced haze she could see Padgett standing beside her. She saw her pain reflected in his eyes, and he honestly looked like he sympathized with her. He put his ghostly hand on hers, and she did not feel it, but instead, an icy chill ran up her arm.

"It will all be over soon, and then you will know how I really feel about you," Padgett said.

Scully was still not sure what was reality and what was a trauma-induced delusion. But she knew that Lin was cutting her skin for real when she felt the knife enter her again, and the tear of sharpness carving a line down her chest.

After several agonizing seconds, the first incision was completed, and Maggie held the bucket against Scully's bare torso to collect remnants of dripping blood. Scully's breathing stopped involuntarily for seconds at a time, and she would feel like she was going to pass out, only to wake again when she remembered to breathe.

Scully braced herself for the next incision, which she knew would be a T-shaped cut across the top of her chest, if Lin knew how to properly remove a heart from its chest cavity. She wondered how long she would live through this process, and felt sick to her stomach at the thought. She hoped she would bleed out sooner rather than later.

Scully opened her eyes at the sound of a little girl's voice. "Mommy," it said.

Scully was afraid of the pain that any movement might cause now, but she turned her head slightly, regardless. Emily was standing beside her, as plain as could be. Now Scully knew she was most likely hallucinating, but it gave her some comfort anyhow.

"Mommy," Emily repeated as she grabbed Scully by the hand. This time, it felt like a tiny hand really was holding hers, and Scully let out her breath. She tried hard to only focus on the girl, blocking out everything else.

"Mommy," Emily's eyes pleaded with her, "You can't die, remember? Don't be scared, Mommy. You can't die."

Scully wondered what that meant—she was going to die. Lin had not cut open her chest cavity yet, but he was about to, and then she would bleed out from the incisions even if he did not follow through on his promise to remove vital organs. Lin's cold hand touched Scully's skin again, and she felt his scalpel poised at her right shoulder, ready to slice again. She braced herself for the impending sting.

 


Mulder turned away from the front door of the church, convinced that he should check on Scully before he barged into the church to retrieve Wong Lin. He stopped dead in his tracks when he heard a muffled cry from inside the building—a voice he recognized as Scully's.

 


Scully closed her eyes and sucked in her breath, waiting for the impact of the knife. A door burst open at the front of the room, and a dark figure with outstretched arms clutching a gun emerged from the shadows. "Drop the knife!"

Beads of sweat slid off Scully's forehead as she breathed deeply for the first time tonight. Lin deliberately tossed the scalpel in Mulder's direction. His expression did not register any surprise as he raised his hands over his head. Mulder looked at Maggie. "You—untie her. And you," he said, nodding his head toward Lin. "Move away from her. Don't you try anything or I will blow your head off."

Lin's face was expressionless still, but he did as Mulder asked. Mulder turned his attention back to Scully as Maggie unfastened the bindings from her arms. "Are you okay, Scully?" His eyes widened as he saw her blood-soaked shirt. "You're bleeding!"

Scully's voice was weak from weariness. "I'll be fine, I think." And she believed her own words—as long as they could stop the bleeding, she was in no danger.

She started to get up as soon as Maggie untied her waist. Mulder's voice stopped her. "Don't move, Scully—let me help—"

His words were interrupted by the blast of a gun, and Scully stared, horrified, as she saw the gun—her gun—held out in front of Lin, puffs of smoking exiting the barrel. He spoke to her while looking straight ahead at Mulder's fallen body. "Your daughter is right—you can't die." Matter-of-factly he said, "Which means I have to pay Mr. Padgett back by taking away the love of your life."

Mulder was on the ground, and nothing else mattered to Scully at this moment. The pain, the threat of the gun—all of it faded in the background as she rushed to him and knelt beside him. "Mulder!" She turned him over and watched in horror as copious amounts of blood poured from his chest. "Oh my God, oh my God, Mulder—" She barely noticed the tears beginning to stream down her face as she whispered, "Don't go, Mulder." But despite her pleading and the pressure she was applying to his chest with all her might, she watched as his eyes went dark.

 


Stranded in this spooky town
Stoplights are swaying and the phone lines are down
This floor is crackling cold;
she took my heart I think she took my soul

With the moon I run,
far from the carnage of the fiery sun

Driven by the strangle of vein,
showing no mercy I do it again

Open your eye, you keep on crying baby,
I'll bleed you dry

Skies they blink at me,
I see a storm bubbling up from the sea

And it's coming closer
And it's coming closer

-Closer, Kings of Leon


 

Unable to bear the sight of Mulder's lifeless face any more, Scully closed her eyes and rocked on her knees. "No, no, no, no, no," she chanted, first in a whisper, followed by a crescendo into a desperate howl. "No, God no."

She couldn't look at him, couldn't accept that he was gone, but she could feel his hand, still warm, nestled into hers in a grip she thought she might never release. She wanted to get up—to escape from this moment, to move around so she could shake off the surging adrenaline. But she was held down by the weight of grief, heavy as a boulder. All she could do was put her free hand over her eyes and weep over flashes of memories—of Mulder holding her, of his smile when he talked of plans to visit the beach, of his hand holding hers while they walked back to the hotel…

They would never share those moments again. She would never kiss him, or wrap her arms around him, or share a special "look" with him. And then she remembered that "never" meant forever—all of eternity, because she might never die.

Scully wept until her misery was disrupted by the accented sound of Wong Lin's voice saying, "And now it is done. My debt to Padgett is paid, and so is yours." She looked up at him through eyes clouded by tears, and saw Padgett standing next to him, translucent and scowling. "He says you broke his heart, and now he has broken yours."

Scully's heart was more than broken—it was stabbed by a hatred sharper than any dagger. But she felt something else mingled with the grief—an icy chill in her chest beginning to freeze the searing burn of sadness. She saw something shiny on the floor, glinting in the candlelight. Lunging for it, she picked up the scalpel and was upon Lin in a flash. A primal scream emerged from her lungs as she plunged the instrument deep into his chest. "Go to hell," she shrieked, holding the scalpel in place until the stunned medium fell into a heap.

The gun fell from Lin's hand, and Scully kicked it away from him in case he had any life left in him. Then, head low, she returned to Mulder's body and carefully covered his head with a piece of cloth that had bound her hands, so that she would not have to see death in his half-open eyes any more.

She glanced up to see Maggie cowering in the darkness, eyes wide with shock. When Scully looked down again, the blanket was flat on the ground, with no sign of Mulder's body. Scully blinked, but Mulder was still gone. She shot darting glances around the room, her mind racing with questions.

Out of the corner of her eye, Scully caught a glimpse of Padgett's transparent figure fading into nothing. Then the lights came on, and the sound of the front door of the church slamming open rang in Scully's ears. Blinking back the sudden brilliance of the light, Scully felt a sense of déjà vu. 'This can't be happening,' she thought, staring at the man who had just burst in, holding a gun in outstretched hands.

Their eyes met for a brief moment before she stood and ran to him and threw her arms around him. "Scully?" Mulder asked, bewildered.

 


Mulder was surprised when, after a herculean effort, the doors to the church finally flung open with almost no effort at all. He drew his gun, not knowing what to expect. The first thing he saw was the flash of lights turning on, which almost blinded him. Then he saw Scully kneeling on the floor, her eyes wide as she realized it was him. As she rushed to him, he noticed her shirt was mostly unbuttoned in the front, and he caught a glimpse of a frightening amount of blood down the front of her. And then she was gripping him as if her life depended on it.

"Scully, what happened here?" he asked, alarm slipping into his voice.

She looked up at him and put a hand on his face, as if she needed more proof that he really existed. Wrinkles formed around the corner of her lips and eyes, and she silently answered him with her tears.

Still confused, Mulder looked around the room and saw signs of the events that had taken place—Wong Lin lying motionless on the floor, a dark-haired girl huddled on the ground, clinging to a table with blood-soaked restraints.

Concerned about Scully's physical condition, Mulder pried her off him. "Scully, you're injured," he said matter-of-factly, although he felt a wave of fear rising up in his chest that maybe she was hurt worse than she let on. He swallowed hard. "Sit down—let's see."

He guided her into a chair and knelt in front of her, and his fear turned to panic. "Oh my God, Scully—we've got to get you some help."

She nodded. "I know," she panted, "but I'll be alright."

Her final words were slurred, and Mulder doubted that she was anything but fine as he watched her struggling to stay conscious. He whipped out his phone, which now appeared to be working, and called 9-1-1. He found a piece of cloth lying where Scully had been sitting when he burst in, and he held it hard against her chest to stop the blood loss. Her eyes were fluttering, trying to stay open.

When she could no longer stay awake, he laid her on the floor and kept applying pressure. Her pulse was still strong, and the paramedics came just a few minutes later. As they took over, one of them turned to Mulder and said, "I think she's going to be okay. There's some blood loss, but no wounds deep enough to do internal damage."

Just before they whisked her away to the hospital, Mulder grabbed her hand one last time and mumbled softly, "What happened to you, Scully?"

 


The rising sun highlighted Scully's pale face, which stood in contrast to the dark circles under her eyes, but Mulder thought she still looked at peace. He had been holding her hand for a half-hour, ever since she came out of surgery, and he felt anticipation as she started to rouse. "Hey, you," he said as she opened her eyes.

She looked around, taking in her surroundings, and then hid a smile when it finally dawned on her that Mulder was sitting next to her. Then she closed her eyes again, her forehead crinkled in concentration. "Mulder," she said drowsily, "I don't know how much of what I saw in that church was real and how much was a hallucination."

Mulder started to tell her not to worry about it—just to rest, but Gina's voice turned both their heads towards the door as she walked in. "None of it…or all of it, however you choose to look at it." She approached Scully's bed cautiously. "I hope you don't think poorly of all mediums after this."

A half-smile appeared on Scully's face. "No," she said, flashing a weary glance at Mulder. "If Mulder trusts you, you must be a decent person, at the very least."

Gina smiled in relief. "I'm sorry if you're trying to rest—I just wanted to see you and reassure you that you're not going crazy."

Scully's forehead wrinkled again, this time in confusion. "How did you—"

Gina shook her head. "I don't know what happened in that church, but I've seen Wong Lin's powers cause people to lose their sanity before."

Scully looked down to where Mulder's hand met hers. "I don't know what happened either. It was all so strange." Her eyes narrowed as she looked at Mulder. "Lin shot you, Mulder. You were lying dead on the ground." Her voice started to choke up at the end of the sentence.

Mulder shook his head. "No, Scully. I was outside the entire time before I came in. I swear."

Scully put her other hand on his now, as if she could not risk him withdrawing it. But he had no desire to break that bond with her anytime soon. "And I saw Padgett. He even spoke to me." Her chin tilted just a bit, betraying her embarrassment at witnessing such a crazy scene.

Gina said, "Lin has the power of mind control—he can create unexplainable events that seem real." Her voice softened. "But it wasn't just you, Agent Scully. We all lost power, and cell phone service and power to our cars—those weren't just coincidences. And let me guess—it all ended right after Lin died." Scully's eyes flashed towards Gina.

Gina looked so sure of her beliefs, but Mulder knew that Scully would doubt Gina's claims until she could find a scientific basis to back them up. Until then, she would stubbornly question her own sanity that night. But for now, Scully merely nodded and politely listened to Gina's explanations without protesting.

The medium left shortly after, and Mulder adjusted Scully's pillow so that she could get some more rest. But she interrupted him by grabbing his arm. "What, Scully?" Her eyes were sadness and fear and relief all rolled into one.

"I—I thought I lost you, Mulder." She paused, but he waited, because he knew she had more to say. "It was the worst moment of my life."

He sat down on the edge of her bed and placed his hand on her cheek. "I'm sorry I didn't get there sooner, Scully."

She shook her head as her the corners of her mouth crinkled and tears began to pool in her eyes. "No—don't be sorry. I'm—I'm just really glad you're alive."

He smiled and caressed her hair. "Get some rest, Scully," he whispered, bending down to kiss her gently on the forehead. Here she was thinking about how lucky he was to be alive, when she was the one who came close to dying. He was so grateful—so grateful in this moment that the scalpel blade had not gone an inch deeper. It would have been the worst moment of his life.

 


The partners were inseparable for the week following the events at Cassadaga. Scully thought Mulder was over-reacting just a bit—he never left her side for a moment, presumably because he was worried about her mental state, just as she doubted her own saneness. But surprisingly, she felt better than she had since the attack in Mulder's apartment, perhaps because she felt like Padgett was finally gone for good.

There was so much she wanted to say to Mulder, but didn't know how to say it. Mainly she realized how much she really cared about him—loved him, really. She couldn't find the words, so she hoped that he would read it in her looks, her voice, her body language.

She had been released from the hospital a couple of days ago, and the doctor had given her the okay to fly home in two more days. She had rested all week, and was itching to get out of the hotel room. To Scully's surprise, Mulder came out of the bathroom wearing only a red Speedo. "You ready to go, Scully?"

"Go?"

He pulled her one-piece bathing suit from the suitcase and handed it to her. "We have to hit the beach at least once before we leave."

She raised one eyebrow, but inside she felt a surge of excitement, and she knew she was going to let him have his way this time.

 


Scully shut her eyes and felt the wind spray drops of water onto her face while the waves knocked her off-balance, causing her to take a step backwards. She was waist-high in the water, hands resting just above the surface. The saltiness stung her wounds a bit, but not enough to make her want to get out. The sun beat down on her face, and it was the most inspiring moment she had felt in a long time. For once, she felt that it would be a blessing rather than a curse to live forever.

She jumped just the slightest bit when she felt Mulder's arms grasp her around the waist from behind. His voice spoke into her ear. "Scare you?"

Smiling, she said, "No."

She could feel him smiling back. "Liar."

She turned to face him, and wrapped her arms around his neck. Their faces were only inches from one another. "You look—peaceful," he said.

The sun glinted in his eyes, but she thought she detected something more—a sparkle perhaps. "Mulder?"

There was definitely something in his look. She had seen that expression before, but it had only lasted a moment or two. Now, he couldn't take his eyes off her. "Hmmmm?" he asked.

Her eyes flashed away as she became unsure of herself. Could she risk telling him the truth? She pinched her lips together, but pried them apart, forcing herself to speak. "This trip—this whole ordeal, has made one thing clear to me."

He cocked his head to the side, eager to hear more. She continued, looking him straight in the eye. "You mean so much to me, Mulder. I—" She shook her head.

"What?" he said, his eyebrows lowering with concern.

"I—" she said, just before a wave smashed into her back, throwing her up against Mulder, hard. He caught his balance just as she wrapped her legs around him. She was as close as she could be to him, and the moment felt right to close the last bit of distance by leaning in to kiss him. The taste of his mouth was salty, which swept her breath away like the wave of a few seconds ago. But she didn't care—right now, he was her breath, filling her body with life. The world around them disappeared—the water, the sand, the impossibly blue sky. His lips pressing gently against hers were all that existed. Her awareness spread out to her body, which was molded into his, and then to his hands, which made their way through the wet hair plastered to her head and sent tingles surging throughout her face.

Finally, finally, she gulped air into her lungs, but the pause in their frantic attempt to absorb each other only lasted a second before their lips grabbed at each other again. A pulse of electricity shot up the back of her spine, and she wished she could teleport both of them together, just like this, to their hotel room with the blink of her eyes like a genie.

The embrace went on for quite some time before they realized that action would have to be taken to get to a place with more privacy. Scully knew that, even though they had pried themselves apart, neither one of them was done with this. She leaned back into him and spoke directly into his ear so that he would hear her over the crash of the waves. "I love you, Mulder."

He closed his eyes, taking in the words like a present. Then he hugged her deeply, and said, "I love you, Scully."

Scully's head spun and she felt like she couldn't breathe. She examined Mulder's face, placing a hand on his cheek. "You know, I've been told that I'm immortal." Mulder looked curious. "But I don't want to everyone I care for to die around me," she continued.

He studied her expression, looking for signs that she was joking. Finding none, he shook his head, and said, "Why don't we just enjoy this moment, while we're both still here."

He was right, of course. She decided to put off any more thoughts of death for another day. They waded through the water, arms wrapped around each other. Then Mulder practically sprinted back to the car, dragging her by the hand. She became giddy at the thought of what might happen back at the hotel room.

The End


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