Title: Vortex
Author: Truthwebothknow
Written: February 2004
Category: MSR, A, X, MT
Rating: PG for adult themes, etc. Spooky activity
Disclaimer: CC owns them all along with Fox, Devonshire belongs to the UK. I just pack them off to haunted places. Borasic housewife so no point in suing. No profit except maybe occasional nice feedback.
Archive: anywhere after VS10 two week exclusivity. Please let me know.

Summary: "Scully looked at his face carefully, noting that the familiar Mulder excitement glittered in his eyes like fireflies. Relieved beyond belief to see something in him she hadn't seen in a while, certainly not since his enforced medical leave after the terrible accident 3 months ago."

Written for IMTP VS10 Halloween special event challenge Thanks to Vickie Moseley for the encouragement in the first place and wonderful insightful beta This is a sequal to "IF I CLOSE MY EYES FOREVER" to be found at Gossamer or Mulder in Jeapardy http://mulderinjeopardy.com/new.htm

"Impressive!" Fox Mulder watched Dana Scully's lips moved exquisitely around her exclamation, making Mulder's heart turn over in his chest like a gymnast flipping over a parallel bar. He felt giddy. He reached for her fingers to steady him. She squeezed back.

"Spooky," he corrected, huskily in her ear, clearly delighted. His mouth was slightly agape both at the sight of her and at the foreboding Gothic monstrosity glaring down at them from over the swaying oaks like several ugly decaying teeth.

Scully looked at his face carefully, noting that the familiar Mulder excitement glittered in his eyes like fireflies. Relieved beyond belief to see something in him she hadn't seen in a while, certainly not since his enforced medical leave after the terrible accident 3 months ago.

"Shall we?" Her arm slipped around his. His grin was almost feral in intensity.

"Can't wait."

Scully gripped his arm firmly as he started to move forward across the grass courtyard, cane in his other hand to assist his awkward, unsteady gait. His body still ravaged by the unnatural, brutal collision of bone against unforgiving metal, glass and granite that had heralded the end of his FBI career and the X files. Nothing was written in stone but Scully knew the medical hearing was just an unhappy formality that still hung over them. The X files, dark, ominous, full of mystery and wonder, a precipitous piece of their history together, like the monument they were about to enter. Defunct now, just like this.

Scully studied him closely, a warmth fluttering briefly across the inherent chill she felt inside, seeing the exuberant 12 year old inhabit his all too thin adult body. The grin on his face, classic Mulder in paranormal radar mode, leaning into her shoulder as they slowly made their way through the ancient portcullis into what the tourist brochures had proudly claimed as, one of the most haunted castles in England.

Her laughter sounded good to both their ears as it echoed off the old gray walls as Mulder began whistling the "Ghostbusters" theme.

"Who ya gonna call, Scully?" His partner pulled him into a tight embrace and she kissed him, feeling the fresh caress of a late English fall breeze.

The day before
October 30th

Everything was so green and pretty, so different than anywhere else she had ever been, a complete contrast from the sleepless metropolis that was the every day circus of professional downtown D.C. The pace of life seems so tranquil here. You could breathe.

The fall was just beginning in the leaves that undulated and whispered in a kaleidoscope of orange, green and cinnamon against the side of the train as they passed through a tunnel of trees. She couldn't believe the countryside could be so many vivid shades. It was like she had been seeing the world under a veil and someone had suddenly removed it, seeing it fully for the first time. Where the sun kissed the rain earlier, there was now a rainbow to complete the effect.

Scully's eyes were glued to the endless tapestry of colors punctuated by fields, valleys, forests, streams and the odd waterfall outside the window of the Waterloo to Exeter Intercity, as it nudged its way through Somerset and into the lush Devon scenery.

An unbidden smile curled her lips at the image of a young, impressionable Mulder spending several formative years in this wonderful place steeped in mystery. What could have been a Crop circle caught her eye as they passed a golden wheat field. She grinned, shaking her head. The true culprit appearing in the form of a yellow combine gathering in the summer's crop in a haphazard line down the field.

Mulder stirred from his relaxed slumber against her shoulder, joining her eyes at the window, blinking in the autumn sunshine that bathed the carriage. Feeling his breath on her neck, she let out a sigh of contentment, closing her eyes against the bright sun, letting the train's gentle rocking bathe her with deep relaxation.

"...Hi Scully, you okay?" She knew how proud he was of this country that had adopted him while he studied at Oxford. Apart from the unfortunate specter of one Phoebe Green, for the most he loved this country like a native. He'd gushed like a Jewish mother over all the other places they'd seen. London, York, Oxford. Oxford! His heart truly beat again for the first time since the accident had silenced its passion and spirit, leaving it lost in his chest. Only she could hear it and she had to really listen.

He was so excited at the thought of revisiting his old haunts and he hadn't really come down since. He called it his Oxford beat. Scully had nearly fallen out of the boat, laughing as he said it. They nearly both ended up in the river. Good memories, he was going to need them, they both were. A sudden slither of melancholy caught her in the ribs. His hand tugging gently at hers brought her out of her reverie.

She opened her eyes and met his, basking in the love she found there. He was here, alive. Right now it's all that mattered.

..."Mmmmmnnnn. England is wonderful, Mulder. So different. Think I'll pull up stakes and move over here, buy one of these trains and just travel around like this. Better than a massage. Can't believe I left it so long to visit."

"Should have seen the state of the old bone shakers they had back in the late 70's when I was last here, Scully." Mulder pulled her close, kissing her, his arm snaking further round her waist. "They were often dirty, invariably late, served coffee that would burn a hole like the bounty hunter's blood and were staffed by sadistic nazi-ite ticket vendors that made cancer man look like a pussy in comparison."

"So from that I take it you got caught without a ticket occasionally?" The famous Scully eyebrow crumbled the denial perched on his tongue. His shy smirk confirmed her suspicion. ...

"Um, busted."

Scully laughed, noting that his eyes matched the color of the leaves outside as they twinkled with amusement.

"Hey, I was a poor student living on baked bean lasagna; and something calorific and hideous called Scouse that my Liverpudlian roommate always made me. I got from London to Edinburgh once with only 33 pounds in my pocket. Got the rag week prize for audacity and deviousness."

He suddenly had an unbidden flashback of his own naked ass, some funny herbs and a horribly stained British railways blanket on the sleeper to Arbroath. God, he hadn't known there nuns were aboard, or that the blanket had slipped when the door to his sleeper swung open, revealing to the nuns a part of his anatomy his mother hadn't laid eyes on since he was 9 years old. The nuns were probably still in therapy. He giggled at the thought. God that felt good. He squeezed Scully's hand. Wondering what she would think about that particular escapade.

"I always knew deep down under that FBI hotshot persona there was a criminal element, Mulder. Thankfully you swapped it for innuendo as you matured, well got older. I don't know about matured."

"I'm wounded, Scully!" he clutched his heart, trying his best to look mortally insulted. "No backrub for you tonight..."

She shot him a kilowatt smile, planting her lips firmly on his, effectively silencing his next thought. Mulder relished this new openly affectionate Scully that had been taking shape over the last year and since the trauma of the last few months.

"Look over there " Mulder used the bogus distraction to wipe the tear that slipped down his face.

Mulder hated how his emotions betrayed him now. He didn't quite buy the skull fracture theory they gave him for the often embarrassing and unbidden tears that plagued him sometimes.

"What was it?"


"What did you see?" His eyes settled on a moving brown figure he'd previously missed. Something caught his vision, exciting his paranormal chip, then he relaxed, it wasn't what he thought he saw, or was hoping for.

"There." Scully watched his eyes as they tracked a fox making its way across a hilly field. Mulder felt a knot of sadness at the pronounced limp he saw as it disappeared into a deep pine grove. "Lame Fox!" The second that Scully squeezed his fingers he realized he'd said it aloud. "Just like me." A sad smile answered her worried expression. Fighting a lump in her throat, she pulled his head against her shoulder. A trembling hand stroked his cheek. Lips brushed his neck.

"Another hour and we'll be there, Mulder,you okay?"

"Tired,where are we staying?" He sighed, pressing the heel of his hands in both eyes, rubbing.

"Latchmere Inn, 2 minutes from Darkmere castle. We can get a cab from Totnes station according to the tourist brochure. " Mulder allowed himself a small smile at her change of subject, focusing on the reason for their trek to the West Country. He couldn't wait to see her reaction to this bygone haven of ghostly excellence straight out a Lovecraft play. Just the two of them, in their own time, on their dime, like old times. Somehow he didn't feel the usual pang of sadness in his heart. She may not be his partner for much longer but they were partners in an entirely more profound way. The best way, his heart told him.

Their eyes closed for the rest of the journey, fingers entwined tightly, the world passing the endless quilted greens of Devon, Scully's eyes only flickering open at the two toned horn, signaling an approaching tiny station and to reassure herself that Mulder was still breathing. She marveled at the candy box perfect thatched cottages dotting their journey westward, indulging a fantasy that she and Mulder could leave behind the chaos and tragedy they'd suffered, coming here to heal and live in one them. Open fire to make love in front of, hot soup when the wind blew across the Dartmoor peaks. Toasting marshmallows, listening to Mulder's rich voice read Hound of the Baskervilles aloud. How perfect would that be? Mulder could thrive in this little slice of English heaven, far from consortiums, case files, distain, ridicule from his colleagues and the smell of fear that tainted his every breath,every day.

They could start again, make this their bolt hole, be free to love and actually live beyond the horror of their old lives, the paranormal aspect here could keep him amused indefinitely.

If he sold his Armani's, not that he would need them much longer, and their apartments, they could maybe snag one of those thatched dreams. She watched the rise and fall of his chest, dwarfed in a blue Oxford, smiling at the dream right beside her, one she could hold and touch right now. It didn't matter where they were or what was in the future, as long as they were together.

He was still so frail, little things reminded her of that every day. When she got to the village where they would be staying she would scope out the local church and light a candle for him, like she had done in Oxford, Canterbury, the chapels in the tower of London and St Paul's, all unbeknownst to the sleeping miracle next to her. She felt a sudden urge to feel his heart, caressing the fabric until the strong beat filled her hand like a captive bird. She let out the breath she'd been holding. He looked so much like a little boy. It took her breath away.

Latchmere Inn Devon. England.

The Latchmere Inn turned out to be a 12-century coaching Inn built by the first squire of Darkmere. Charles Seymour. Much of the old charm had stayed,the old timberwork intact. Old prints of the castle and village artifacts on the mantle over the fire and on the shelving around the Inn spoke of its true age like something trapped in another time.

Scully was glad to see a real open fire in the bar downstairs. It was warm and welcoming, everything they needed. Mulder was rather taken with the real ale selection to be had and managed to get Scully to relent on the no alcohol rule his own doctor had imposed. The beaten puppy look melted her resolve again.

"Just one", she told him pointedly as he pulled his wallet. He was still on painkillers after all. He breathed in the atmosphere, noting the two old timers jovially discussing farm business and the odd joke over their own pints.

Scully gave him a playful scowl as he informed her his pint of choice was something called "Pigs breath", something he'd come across in his Oxford days. Mulder swigged his pint and nodded thoughtfully, the long absence of any kind of alcohol zooming strait to his brain with a mule like kick. He was definitely in a buoyant holiday mood now. He waved at the two old guys in the corner as they turned and gave him the newcomers the once over. The natives seemed friendly even if they stared a bit.

They had a great lunch, salad for Scully while Mulder enjoyed the house steak, much to Scully's delight he was actually eating well, the months in the hospital making his skin hang on his bones.

While Scully was booking them in, Mulder spotted another beer called "old spooky." An evil leer crept across his face at the irony and ordered a pint of that and fruit juice for Scully. `What the hell I'm on vacation. I'll atone later,' he though with a leer at the sort of atonement he could expect if Scully got wind of his indiscretion. He couldn't resist. He stood at the bar, eyes darting towards the reception room next door where he could hear Scully talking to the manager. He swallowed his pint in record time, anxious to hide the evidence before Scully caught him red-handed. The landlord, Doug, gave him a knowing wink, he was a robust apple cheeked guy who put Mulder in mind of an obese Frohike, and only this guy had a Devon brogue and was a good deal taller. The sort of guy who could pull pints with his teeth.

"American?" he grunted cheerfully whilst pulling the pint, showing teeth as he watched Scully come back into the bar. God, he even leers like Frohike, good job Scully left her gun Stateside.

"Yeah, just here for some country air and a little sightseeing. Going up to the castle tomorrow. "

"It be haunted well, you yanks love that sort of stuff, don't ye." Mulder nodded, enjoying the country lilt in the man's voice. " Watch out for the blue lady, she is the evil one. Don't look at her eyes if you see her. The white lady is sad one. Tomorrow's Halloween, it's said she walks the tower and can be seen jumping off. Don't go following her though, she attracts souls that are lost. Several people followed her over the years and they were found dead in the ravine by the east side of the castle. It's a creepy place to behold. I get an odd feeling up there. Never from one night to another do you know what you might see, you mind yourself, half crippled and all." Mulder nodded his thanks, eyes dropping to his ruined legs and the cane that was the only thing between him and a wheelchair. "Keep to the marked pathways in the grounds and don't stray too far in the woods."

Mulder's mind worked overtime at the thrill of the description the landlord gave him. Wondering if he really meant it or if it was a well-rehearsed spiel for tourists like him and Scully. As luck would have it, they might actually be here at the optimum time to see something, and let Scully see it too. That would turn him on.

"Thanks, I'm really hoping to see something. I've heard all the local legends." Doug nodded knowingly, an odd spark in his eyes.

Mulder moved away from the bar to go back to the table. Scully caught him when his legs threatened to buckle. Scully glared first at Mulder and then at the smiling landlord who seemed to be enjoying their silent exchange. Mulder grinned stupidly at her. His sudden attack of hiccups made her blue eyes narrow in suspicion. Then her eyes fell on the incriminating empty glass on the bar.

"Mulder!!! Your meds, I can't believe you did that. I don't even have to tell you that English beer is far stronger than the stuff we get at home."

"Sculleee, it's full of carbohydrates, you wanted me to put weight on."

"Of course I do but if you do actually see a real ghost it will be put down to an alcoholic hallucination. Besides, I don't want you keeling over in a foreign country, it's quite bad enough when you do that at home. I don't think the English health service is quite ready for you, Mulder."

Mulder wasn't listening suddenly. He peered past her shoulder, noticing for the first time that the table in the corner was empty, the glasses were gone and the old guys that he'd seen there all afternoon had vanished as if they were never there. " ...That and I worry about you........ Mulder, did you hear me?"

"Scully, did you se where those guys went?"

"What guys?" Mulder's brow knitted in confusion. He shook his head, must be the beer.

"There were two old guys sat talking when we came in, did you see them go, Doug?" The landlord shrugged, "But you served them?"

"First customers we have had in all day, you and the lovely lady there" Mulder gaped first at Doug and then at the vacant table.

"Scully, you must have noticed them when we came in. They were there talking...drinking " She rolled her eyes at him. Skeptic as ever.

"You're pulling my leg, Mulder. I didn't see anyone. Just Doug, here and us. Are you sure you only had two pints of that stuff?"

"Your kidding me, I saw them. I waved at them, they acknowledged me." He was clearly confused now as Doug and Scully grinned at him, sure he was pulling a fast one. It was his style after all.

"Sorry Mulder, I didn't see them. I did wonder why you were waving at thin air but we had a long trip from London. I thought you were swatting at a fly or something. Let's get you up to the room, G-man," She decided, seeing he was more confused than ever.

He must have been swaying slightly. Before he could protest, her arm encircled his waist steering him towards the brass sign that pointed their way to their room. On the way up he spotted some imposing prints of the castle. Wild, he thought, anticipation and alcohol fighting for dominance in his brain cells, still trying to make sense of what happened in the bar.

Mulder lamented over each step, how when he was at Oxford he'd spent many a happy Saturday night downing copious amounts of the local laughing water, and how `warm fuzzy vacation Scully' had turned into `spoilsport Scully'. His legs were starting to protest now at the relentless climb. He almost missed her squeezing his ass on the way up.

Scully was delighted at the renaissance decor in the room. Mulder commented that the wallpaper looked like one of his mom's old beach dresses. He loved the look of the huge king sized bed, the antique pine furniture. The open fire from downstairs continued up into their room. The bed felt like lying on a big fluffy cloud. Much to Scully's chagrin, Mulder threw himself down and bounced on it a bit, delighted that the springs were sturdy and didn't creak like some of the other places they stayed in. He leered at her bemused expression until she laughed. No mistaking what he was thinking. They'd christened each guesthouse, pub and hotel on their travels. Mulder pondered on writing a tour guide in a moment of post coital glee.

Mulder soon dozed off. He still tired quickly and sometimes it was easy to forget that. He needed time to build up his stamina again. She'd take the opportunity to have a long soak while he slept. Scully undressed him, tucking him under the covers, pausing to watch as he turned in his sleep, uncovering his bare chest that spoke volumes of the hell it had been through. A runway map of pain that had only just begun to fade. He still looked beautiful despite all the new scars from the intensive care and surgeries. They didn't look angry any more, just sad.

Scully relaxed in a haven of scented steam and candlelight, sighing in contentment in the big claw foot bath. This holiday had been a huge success and for Mulder, just what the doctor ordered.

Was it only 12 short weeks ago he lay in a coma in Colorado, unable to breath on his own? Hooked up to more machines than she'd ever as a doctor, seen anyone's body play host to?

His body broken like an egg after a drunk driver hit his car on a lonely road, catapulting him through the windshield and leaving him bleeding out in a part of the Grand Canyon that no tourist usually saw. She remembered his horrified face as he came round to find metal where there had been bone. Fixators that protruded through his already abused skin like frightening Meccano creations that held together his legs and hips because they were now in two dozen crazy pieces instead of how nature intended.

He hyperventilated during the few times that amputation was brought up. Fortunately that hadn't happened, Mulder's amazing recuperative powers, and the prayers of those who loved him saving the day. He got to keep his legs but he would never walk again with out a limp, or some kind of walking aid, not to mention constant pain, possible blackouts.

The real blow that scared Dana Scully for him more than anything was the inevitable loss of field status. Since taking his first unaided breath, she'd harbored the fear that they could discharge him altogether. He wasn't going to fully recover, neither would he be chasing anymore Reticulans anytime soon, but it was quite something else to hear it confirmed that they were suspending the X files indefinitely, pending the medical review and Mulder's recovery.

She'd feared for Mulder's spirit; his driving passion and beautiful mind would break all over again like his bones, something that could never heal. She wasn't fooled by the dispassionate stare he gave Skinner as he delivered the final nail to her lover's heart, and hers by proxy.

As soon as the bureau knew of his condition, the metal work he was now sporting inside his shattered body, they were ready to shove him all the way out the door. Here's your pension, so sorry Spooky, have a nice life.

The pain in Skinner eyes told of his own sorrow at the decision, but also spoke volumes of how he felt about the higher echelons viewing this as a convenient excuse to rid themselves of their Maverick agent once and for all. The medical hearing was a flimsy hoodwink for due process, but Mulder and Scully had mentally packed up the office and moved out in the part of their minds that had already begun to reluctantly accept defeat.

Only the Gunmen, her mother, and Scully's own unfailing love had stopped him from finding a more permanent career resolution as Mulder spiraled into clinical depression. God bless Frohike's idea.

She almost drowned herself when the muffled shriek from the bedroom hit her.

Scully flew through the door dripping, towel clutched to her body to find the bed empty. Her panicked eyes soon fell on the naked back of the man she loved and she sucked in a deep breath. He was leaning white knuckled against the windowsill. The window was wide- open, full moon casting him with an ethereal glow. Mulder seemed to be in a trance. She put a wet hand out to touch him, calling his name softly so not to scare him.

"Mulder? What was it, a nightmare?" His heart raced against her hand on his back. He kept staring at the courtyard outside.

"There was a girl, Scully, Did you see her?"

"Not one you smuggled in while I was in the bath I hope," She chuckled, fingers tickling him. It was then he trembled. He was bone cold. He wasn't laughing, his eyes held a far away quality.

"A little girl. She... She was in here..."

" What? Look Mulder, you've had a long day. You're freezing, come back to bed. It was a nightmare that's all. The atmosphere, our location...no wonder you dreamed." She was rubbing his hands now trying to get warmth into them. He turned, pupils dilating wildly like he'd just had a shock or seen a gh..?" No. She shrugged that notion aside trying gently to pull him from the window. He wouldn't budge.

" She wasn't a dream, she was real. It wasn't some psychosomatic trace memory either, she was here. Believe me, Scully. She was in here. ...I ...I woke up and she was sitting on my chest." Fingers rubbed at his sternum, as if he were trying to erase the sensation, frowning when he found the staples the thoracic surgeon had put in.

"...Mulder, there's no one here, just me. Come back to bed. You'll catch pneumonia." He was beginning to scare her now. Her hands soothed against his skin to calm him. "Mulder? Please? C'mon sweetheart. Ghost hunt's tomorrow, partner."

"I'm not imagining things. I can see her outside. She was here. She spoke to me." Why couldn't Scully see her?

"What did she say?" Scully squinted past his shoulder trying to see what he was still staring at below. A cow mooed in the distance and a flock of geese flew across the full moon. Braying in noisy unison. No girl. He was silent for a few moments, still staring out into the night air. Goosebumps covered his bare skin, trying to hold back the shiver that passed through him.

"She said she knew I was coming. She called me,.. Fox. " Mulder sought out Scully's eyes and she saw at once how alert he was, how much be believed what he'd seen. Oh God!

".. Samantha?"

"No, not Samantha, Scully. She was a blond, about 6 years old. She wants me to go with her. She wants to help. I have to see..."

"If you think you're ditching me to go chasing around rural England in the night, half naked, we need to change your meds. Come on, come back to bed. And don't give me that look. You're not long back from circling the drain. You're frozen and I am too. " She reached over him to close the window, and pointed him towards the bed. He sighed as she gave him her famous look. Reluctantly he followed her, watching as she turned the bed down and got, still damp, into it.

What the? His attention went to the object that he just stubbed his toe on. His eyes widened as he bent slowly to pull out whatever it was. Mulder let out a humorless laugh, whistling "Twilight zone" as he produced a... ouija board.

"Scully, did you ever see that film with Patrick Swayze and Whoopee Goldberg?"

"Oh we are so not going to go there, Mulder." She gave her patent Scully glare that quickly tuned into a coy smile. Her arm reached for him. "Mulder make me warm."

Mulder crawled awkwardly into his side of the bed and drew her to his body. Kissing all the cold spots he could find. Neither of them saw the ethereal lightshow or the blue luminous figure that bent over them after they drifted off to sleep. The frozen smile that didn't reach the obsidian eyes.

"Sleep, broken Fox" She dissolved into a speck of pin light that moved slowly over the wall, and she vanished under the door.

Mulder looked over the castle wall from the kitchens. Some of the cooking stacks were the original ones and stood majestically from the flagstone floor. He felt tiny looking up at them. A pinprick of light moved across the stonewalls and followed him as he wandered slowly around, leaning heavily on his cane. Scully was doing her own perusal of the 15th century architecture at the other end of the castle.

The investigator in him had been drawn to the east side where the sheer drop had claimed several lives according to Doug at the Inn. The wind had picked up now; all the trees down below in the ravine were swaying in some slow motion dance. The clouds looked ominous too coming from the coast a few miles away. A child's laughter reached his ears suddenly and he swung round.


His head snapped round and he tripped, the cane went flying and before he could stop himself, he felt a rush of air at his back and landed awkwardly against the stone bantry, fingers groping tightly for purchase. A rush of air left his lungs in a painful blast, his ribs connected with the hard surface. Heart pounding, he pushed himself backwards then felt the sickening sound of the rock cracking beneath his fingers like a demonic screech. Oh God, Scully. It was then he realized he couldn't see her. He just looked up in time to see a huge black cloud descending on him like a twister. There seemed to be a pair of black eyes at the heart of it that seem to lift him up and made him weightless. The fusion of wind, rain and leaves pounded against his body and his eyes noticed the stick flailing in the air against his legs.

"Scully... " He got her name out once before something squeezed his lungs and found himself falling up and over the edge of the wall then sucked him into nothingness.

Scully rounded the corner in time to see Mulder's abandoned stick hit the flagstones with a violent clatter. He was nowhere in sight as she spun around frantic. "No!!!!!"

"Oh my God, Mulder,!!!! Mulderrrr. She could hardly bear to look over the wall where it had fallen away in a huge chunk. Trying to hold onto her strength as her legs threaten to buckle with weight of her grief. He had to be dead from that height. Please God no. Not her Mulder.

Several other people and the castle warden ran over to her hearing her horrified cries, several grabbed her gasping body to stop her falling over the edge with the masonry that littered the valley below the wall. There was no body. The clouds that had glowered so ominously before had vanished along with Mulder.

Somewhere on the peripheral of his consciousness, he became aware that something was licking his hand. His eyes opened onto two sharp brown ones that studied him with great interest. It took him several seconds to register it as a fox. It shied away, limping as Mulder sat up testing his limbs to see if they still functioned, head swimming in cotton. It couldn't be the same one he saw earlier, could it? Surely it wouldn't have made it this far. The Fox took one look back at him and vanished into the woods that bordered the meadow. Mulder looked around. He was under a blackened tree by a lake with a mill at the other side of the reeds. The seasons seemed to have changed. It looked like late May. The sun was all wrong.

"Hello" Mulder startled at the little girl's voice.

"You...you came to me last night. Where am I? Where's Scully."

"Is she your love?" The child's English accent sounded like birdsong. Mulder nodded. Watching as the Fox came back into view and tentatively came to the girl. " She will be fine." Mulder stifled a laugh at that. "You came here looking for answers. I knew you would come. You are Fox, just like my friend here. He told me."

"What...where. How did I get here?" He vaguely remembered a wall giving way and falling. He was dead that was it. He pressed a hand to his chest. No. His heart still beat furiously against his fingertips. What the hell...

"I'm Bethany., " she muttered as she stroked the fox's head, deep blue eyes like Scully's never leaving Mulder's. "I'm the keeper of the wishing tree. You had a wish."

"Wishing tree?" he glanced back at the huge black skeleton behind him. "I don't have a wish, I need to find Scully. Bethany, where is this place, I was in Darkmere, the castle. How...how did I get here? Do you live around near here?" His head was growing fuzzier by the second. He let his eyes wander over the lake, the solitary swan that swam there and the hot still air that made the water look like glass.

"I died in there" Bethany said matter of factly as Mulder struggled for a breath; all air suddenly leaving his lungs. "My mother came to you, she did not want you to be well. It's all right, Fox, you are safe from her. You have too much love surrounding you. She killed me but she can't get to you. Not now. The Vortex brought you to me first."

"What, what are you talking about," This child either had a vivid imagination for a kid so small or he hit his skull harder on the way down. Bethany suddenly pulled at his sleeve to get him up.

"Come on Fox, I'll show you. What you seek is here. You came to Darkmere as a seeker. You have found what you seek and will go on seeking. Nothing can stop you now. You must walk around the wishing tree three times but you must not tell anyone about it. The fox knows. He is your spirit. He guided you to me. The dark haired girl who watches over you too. Come."

"Wait, Bethany, I'm crippled, without my cane I can't walk so good." Amazingly he was able to get to his feet without difficulty.

"Lean on the Fox and hold my hand, I'll help you walk. It won't hurt, I promise. Close your eyes. Remember to wish Fox, remember to wish... Tell no one ...Trust no one..............."

A loud beeping sound cut into his consciousness like a sharp slap. Warm fingers felt for his, Voices that sounded strange floated over him until he grasped the one he wanted to find.

"Mulder? Hey, sweetheart, it's okay now. I'm here." Tear laden blue eyes gazed hopefully into his when he opened them." There you are. God Mulder, what you put me through." She was trying very hard to summon up the famous Scully control but failing miserably.

"Oh shit.... What...where?" Mulder swallowed over a dry throat. No ventilator. That was always a good sign. For a few seconds he thought he was back in Denver but the privacy curtains were flowery, some strange Laura Ashley print and they looked odd. England, his brain supplied, you're in England you jerk. He must have groaned by the look of worry on Scully's face. Fingers weaved through his hair.

"Mulder. You're in Derriford hospital in Exeter. No one can explain what happened to you. We found you in the castle tower. You were unconscious and no one could wake you. RAF Culdrose airlifted you here." Scully's face told him that she was hiding something. Shit, the wall giving way, his fall over the side. The storm. Oh God!!!

"Scully...am I ...paralyzed? The girl...." His breath stilled.

"No...No Mulder. That's the oddest thing about this. You went over the wall, I was so certain. When I found your cane," She stopped for a moment, her words vanished, remembering the horrific shock of finding him gone and it all pointing to... She gained control quickly, looking back in his eyes, "I was sure.... so certain you'd been killed. Mulder, when you were brought in, they gave you a whole slew of X-rays. Nothing showed up."

"I guess I must be rubber man, huh...I..."

"No. You don't understand. Mulder, that's just it. NOTHING showed up. The pins, the plates in your hip, your legs, all of it are gone. Its like the bones were never broken."

"What?" he pushed himself to a sitting position.

"Mulder. You're a little anemic and you need to put on some weight but apart from that you're perfectly healthy. They're keeping you in overnight for obs, and that fox that led us to you... I am at a loss to find a logical answer, so if you have a better explanation?"

"It's vague, I remember a girl, the fox, and I must have banged my head or something. Sorry Scully, what can I say, it's a X file." His fingers wiped her tears away as she finally smiled at him. "So it's official. I'm no longer a Borg then. Going back through Heathrow will be a breeze, eh? What?" She gave him a wan smile.

"Mulder. I called Skinner. In light of this er...new development in your health status, I faxed him your X-ray results and consultation from the doctors here. He called me back this morning....."


"They are reopening the X files. They have no excuse to keep them closed now. They are waiting for us when we get back and the first case they want you to investigate is this one, so we get to stay a bit longer." The flood gates finally opened and they both wept with joy in his arms. Mulder smiled into her hair, breathing words of love, silently thanking whatever forces had brought this about.

"Scully, I think I'd like it if you start calling me Fox."


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