Chapter 01 Chapter 02 Chapter 03 Chapter 04 Chapter 05 Chapter 06 Chapter 07 Chapter 08
Chapter 09 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16
Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23+

Manips by NeoX. Found in chapters:16

Title: The Family G-Man

Authors: Neoxphile and FelineFemme


Written: November 18, 2003 to December 25, 2009 (yes, it's all posted now)

Archive: Link only please, using the url

Rating: R, and in spots we're shooting for NC-17, ya'll better take cover

Spoilers: Seasons 1-9

Category: Alternate Reality; Snark, plus a dollop Angst for the beginning; Babyfic

Disclaimer: So yeah, we're going to be borrowing CC's characters, and the idea behind "The Family Man," which put a twist on "It's a Wonderful Life"which blatantly copied "A Christmas Carol." We hope the print doesn't get blurry from being a copy of a copy of...

Summary: A double tragedy strikes Mulder the week before Christmas of 2003. What if he could go back and change things, save the son one lost and give the other the family she wanted? Could it keep them safe?

Visit the Title page for latest progress updates and an episode list by chapter.

Authors' Notes: The sections that look like this were written by Felinefemme and the ones that look like this were written by Neoxphile. We think it's neat to be able to see who wrote what...but you might not.

Plain text up through chapter 127 here

The Family G-Man

By Neoxphile & FelineFemme

Chapter One

December 24th, 2003

If events had ever set Mulder up for a worst Christmas than the following day would inevitably be, it had to be the one when he was twelve. That year had been agony, because his parents were still trying to put on happy hopeful faces that believed Samantha would be coming back to open the presents dutifully bought and laid under the tree. When she didn't miraculously show up, the day passed in stony silence, except for the weepy condolences everyone offered.

But that Christmas he'd only lost one important person, this year he'd lost two. One by accident, the other by hopeless design. It had been only a week since he attended John Doggett's funeral, and he was already facing another. At least Doggett's death had been none of his own doing.

Doggett had been on his way back to the beach where he and Barbara had scattered their son's ashes when he encountered a semi-truck driven by a man who had been awake so long that he fell asleep at the wheel. The car was a twisted ruin, and Doggett was already dead by the time the rescue workers were able to pry him from the wreckage. The only fortunate thing about the whole event is the fact that Monica Reyes had to work late that day, so she wasn't able to accompany him like she had the year before. From talking to her, though, no one dared suggest how lucky she was.

As stunned as he was by the loss of a man he was rapidly becoming to consider a close friend, Mulder had little time to mourn before fate dealt him two more crushing blows. The first of these lead to the second. On December 22nd, a court decided that William Scully Mulder was better off in the custody of his adopted parents. Mulder thought Scully might had been able to live with that, if William hadn't been right there in the courtroom. He had been smaller than Mulder was picturing, obviously taking more after Scully size-wise, and his hair was her bright red, long enough to curl at the ends. He also had her bright blue eyes, which had been completely empty of recognition. He knew his son was too young to remember him, but Scully had obviously thought he'd remember her. William looked at her like he'd never laid eyes on her before. Mulder was fairly sure that's what drove Scully over the edge.

She'd celebrated their defeat that night by leaving the house while he was sleeping, and driving to a high, secluded bridge. Her body washed ashore the next afternoon, the afternoon before the one he was living. When he'd driven by the bridge, just to tell himself it was real, he couldn't help but remember another bridge in another life, exchanging a clone of his sister for his partner. Only this time he'd had nothing to give to get her back.

A cloud of numbness had settled over him the day before, which is why he found himself walking through mostly deserted streets near their apartment. He didn't have any goal in mind, he just couldn't stand to be inside a minute longer, while the ghosts of things he'd done and said with his friend and his beloved dueled for his attention. In the living room he and Doggett had watched the Thanksgiving ball game; in the bedroom he and Scully had made love. Every room was marked, crowded, and he just couldn't stay there.

He'd vaguely thought of calling Reyes to see if she wanted company, but he'd nixed the idea. Two depressed people just makes misery grow, not lessen it, so he decided to take a walk instead. He didn't know where he was going, and he was so preoccupied he didn't even know where he was. If he hadn't accidentally bumped into someone leaving a liquor store, he might have just keep walking aimlessly until he froze to death.

Instead he blinked and apologized. "Oh! Sorry about that," he told the short blonde woman he'd just bumped into. She glared at him until he helped her pick up her things, none of which had broken he was happy to note.

"You should pay more attention," the woman scolded him.

"I know. I'm sorry, it''s been a really bad week," he said, not feeling like going into details.

"Two deaths in one week. That is rough," the woman agreed with a bird-like nod of her head.

Mulder blanched. "How did you...?" he stammered, his mind a sudden whirl of confusion. "Are you a mind-reader or something?" he asked, thinking of that fraud Yappi.

"No. It's just my job to know these things about people. You're Fox Mulder, FBI agent. Several days ago you lost a friend, and the night before last you lost the love of your life. That's enough to distract anyone."

Mulder's thoughts grabbed onto one part of the woman's words. "What do you mean, it's your job?" he asked her.

"Ok, you got me. It's only part of my job. My actual job is helping people fix the mistakes in their lives."

"Like a therapist?" Mulder scoffed. "I think it's a little late to for that sort of thing. My problem is the fact that people are dead, and no amount talking it out is going to fix that."

"I fully agree," the woman told him. "The only thing that would fix your problems is to make your friends undead."

"I really don't think turning them into vampires would be much of an improvement!" Mulder protested.

The woman looked slightly flustered. "Poor word choice. I meant if they weren't dead."

"Well, obviously!" Mulder exclaimed. "Except for the fact that bringing them back to life is impossible."

"That's true," she admitted. "You can't bring someone back to life after they've already died. But you could keep them from dying."

Mulder gave her a suspicious look. "You're not a genie, are you? I've already seen what happens through wish-granting, and I'm positive that nothing good could come from it."

She shook her head. "I'm not a genie. I don't deal in wishes, I deal in change."

"You don't look much like a pan-handler," Mulder replied, looking her over. Her coat and scarf looked pretty pricy to him.

"People changing, not currency, you idiot," she snapped, then immediately looked contrite. "That was uncalled for, I'm sorry. Look, if it was possible to keep your loved ones from being killed, what price would you be willing to pay to accomplish that?"

"Just about anything," he replied instantly.

"Would you give up the life you're now living to do it?" she asked in a wheedling tone.

Mulder gave a short sharp laugh. "Are you kidding? What do I have now? I can't get my son back, the love of my life is gone, and given that she and my friend are dead, my life's work is probably going to be dismantled as well because there aren't enough people left to keep it going. I have nothing."

The woman looked slightly taken aback. "This is usually a harder sell...Let me ask you one question, Mister Mulder. What do you think it would have taken to keep your loved ones from dying? And I don't just mean the car accident or the bridge, I mean what in their lives being different would have kept them from their fates?"

"Doggett is easy," Mulder said. "If his son hadn't died, he never would have been going to visit where the boy's ashes are scattered, so he wouldn't have been killed by the trucker."

"And Scully?" the woman asked, making him blink because he didn't think he'd mentioned her name.

Mulder thought hard. "I guess things would have been different for her if she'd had the family she always wanted. She was never the same after trying so desperately to have our son, then losing him."

"There you go!" the woman said with a look of triumph on her face.

"Huh?" Mulder asked, which was a completely legitimate response.

Instead of answering him right away, the woman reached into her coat and pulled out an envelope. Just an ordinary green one that Christmas cards came in. She thrust it into his hand. "Here. If you really think you can help them by changing those things about their pasts, open this card when you get home, and read it. As soon as you do you'll get the chance to help them."

Mulder gave her a skeptical look. "What's your name?"

"It's Elsbeth, why?"

"Because I like to be able to give the hospital a name when I tell them that a crazy person is wandering the streets of D.C. on her own. It makes it easier on the people responding to the APB."

"You won't call anyone, Mister Mulder," Elsbeth said firmly. "They never do."

"Ok, whatever. Just promise me you'll head on home without bothering anyone else."

"Oh, I promise," she said in a vapid tone, batting her eyelashes at him. He sighed and walked away, deciding that maybe the apartment wasn't such a bad place to be after all.

Back in his apartment, he thought a lot about what Elsbeth told him. She was insane, but it was something else to think about besides his heavy grief, so he let the ideas she presented consume his fears.

If Luke hadn't been kidnapped and murdered, he might never have met Doggett. Being unattached was probably the main reason he'd accepted the invitation to head up the task force to look for him when he'd been missing. If Mulder could go back and keep himself from being taken without letting Scully go in his place, he definitely would never have met the man. But that would be better than him and the kid being dead, that was for sure.

Scully was harder to think about. She wouldn't be dead if her only baby hadn't been kept from her, and... if he wasn't her only baby. It all went back to when Duane Barry grabbed her and let her go to the aliens instead. If she hadn't been taken, she wouldn't have gotten cancer or think she was barren, and her impossible daughter would never have been born to a life of pain...

Shaking his head regretfully, he pulled out the envelope. Nothing would happen when he opened it, but if there was a trillion in one chance that Elsbeth was a magical being rather than a crackpot, he thought he was ready. So he opened the envelope and -

Nothing happened. Smiling ruefully, he looked at the card. It was almost entirely dark blue, with a silhouette of the nativity being approached by the three wise men on camels. They reminded him a little of the gunmen. The only spot of brightness on the card was the star of David, which looked all the more brilliant because of its dark background. In all it's a nice enough card, but fairly typical.

He opened the card with a sigh, and read the words in it. Handwritten, it said only "Wish you were here." Giving an unhappy laugh, Mulder thought of who he wished was there just then. Depressed once more, he let his eyes close.

Chapter Two

March 7, 1992

When he opens them again, he's in the basement office. He blinks and looks around; it looks unchanged. Which is completely wrong, because it has seen many changes with the addition of three more agents in the X-Files. Yet it looks exactly like it did when he first started out. A glance at the calendar tells him that he is back to a day he's never forgotten- the day he met Scully. He doesn't understand how Elsbeth has given him another chance, he's just glad she has.

He hears the elevator ding, then a few sharp footsteps that don't sound like a man's. There's a knock on the door a moment later.

::What did I say last time? She seemed to think it was endearing, if memory serves me right.:: "Sorry, nobody down here but the FBI's most unwanted," he calls, remembering what he'd said.

Mulder notices that the first thing her eyes light upon is his "I Want To Believe" poster. Even before she notices him sitting there. He doesn't know how he feels about that, but he resists the urge to sigh over the unfairness of her not immediately noticing that he is hot.

"Agent Mulder. I'm Dana Scully, I've been assigned to work with you." She sounds very business-like as she extends her hand, and he can't help but think it's cute. He'd forgotten how young she was, they both were, when they met.

He pauses for a moment, trying to remember his lines. Oh, isn't it nice to be suddenly so highly regarded? So, who did you tick off to get stuck with this detail, Scully?"

She seems to do her best not to seem taken aback by his skeptical demeanor. "Actually, I'm looking forward to working with you. I've heard a lot about you."

He puts on his best smirk. "Oh, really? I was under the impression...that you were sent to spy on me." ::How did we ever get together?:: he finds himself thinking just then. ::The way I needled her in the beginning, it's a wonder we even became friends, let alone became so close:: "It's just been a matter of time before they sent a viper into my nest."

"If you have any doubt about my qualifications or credentials, th-" She trails off uncertainly when he stands up and looks for something, apparently no longer listening to her.

Before she has time to get too upset, he pulls something out from under his phone. "You're a medical doctor, you teach at the academy. You did your undergraduate degree in physics. Einstein's Twin Paradox: A New Interpretation. Dana Scully Senior Thesis. Now that's a credential, rewriting Einstein. At least they sent someone with something going on upstairs to be my babysitter," he adds, and he can see her trying not to respond to that.

He's surprised how easy it is to fall back into old events and conversations. He's pretty much on auto pilot during their first case, at least until they've taken their jaunt through the buggy woods. Then he finds himself paying close attention again when there's a frantic knock on his motel door.

Mulder opens the door to find a very shaken Scully, wearing a bathrobe. ::Hoo boy,:: he thinks, remembering what this is all about.. Funny, she got so worked up over mosquito bumps, which weren't anything really, but when she took that tiny chip out of her neck, she was curious and scientific even when she found out the consequences,:: he thinks, holding the candle. "Hi," is all he says.

"I want you to look at something," she says, trying to keep her voice steady.

He wants to shoot off a smart remark, but he doesn't want to shoot himself in the foot so early in the game. "Come on in," he says, stepping back.

She walks in, then turns around, slipping off her robe. He isn't surprised to see she's still wearing a plain bra and panties, she never really got into dressing up underneath until later. She glances back at him, then at her lower back. Holding the candle steady, Mulder tries to keep the gaze professional and, for now, purely platonic. ::Yup, she's bumpy, all right.::

"What are they?" she asks in a strained tone. She doesn't see him smile a little, more at the irony of the situation than at her fear. "Mulder, what are they?"

"Mosquito bites," he says in what he hopes is a reassuring voice.

Disbelieving, she asks, "Are you sure?"

He grins a little. Hard to believe this is the same Scully who'll put me through the wringer to underline the crazy evidence that's right in front of her face. "Yeah, I got eaten up a lot myself out there."

Relieved, she exhales, putting on her robe and hugs him tightly, more than a little mortified at her willingness to believe his theories and not wanting to really face him just yet.

"You okay?" he asks, not displeased to be hugging a woman in her bathrobe and underwear.

"Yes," she says, pulling away.

"You're shaking," he says, commenting more on her emotional state than physical.

"I need to sit down," she says, wanting a drink badly, preferably at least 80 proof. She sits down, gathering her robe around her modestly.

"Take your time," he says, sitting in a seat across from her.

"I think I need a drink." Scully sighs, not looking at him.

He gets up, rummaging through the dark mini-fridge, and hands her a small bottle of bourbon. She smiles a little as she takes it from him, then downs it in a few quick gulps. "Did it help?" Mulder asks.

She nods, feeling the alcoholic warmth moving from her throat to her stomach. "Mind if I take over?" She nods towards the bed.

He shakes his head. "Help yourself." He debates getting a small bottle for himself, but remembers what happens next, then grabs his coffee thermos, sitting beside the bed. Unscrewing it, he tilts the still-warm contents into his mouth, then offers it to his partner, who shakes her head.

Scully begins to close her large blue eyes when a question interrupts her calm. "Mulder, what got you into the X-Files? I mean, were you always," she pauses, "curious about UFOs?"

He smiles, but there's a bleakness to the smile. "I guess it all goes back to my childhood, just like the psychologists say. I was twelve when it happened. My sister was eight. She just disappeared out of her bed one night. Just gone, vanished. No note, no phone calls, no evidence of anything."

"You never found her," Scully says, and he knows this is moment, not when she undressed, is when she begins to understand his quest, understand what this is all about. And when she turns from following the FBI's agenda, the Syndicate's agenda, and standing on his side of the line.

"Tore the family apart," he answers, not letting his emotions get the better of him, "No one would talk about it. There were no facts to confirm, nothing to offer any hope."

"What did you do?" she asks, half-knowing what the answer will be.

"Eventually, I went off to school in England, I came back, got recruited by the bureau. Seems I had a natural aptitude for applying behavioral models to criminal cases." He pauses, remembering not only how spooked his colleagues were with his uncanny ability to crawl into a killer's mind, but also how he went from the manipulative Phoebe in college to the even more ruthless Diana after Quantico. "My success allowed me a certain freedom to pursue my own interests. And that's when I came across the X-Files." He turns to face her, wanting her to trust him, and knowing for all her scientific skepticism and professionalism, any mention of other women involved would send her through the roof.

"By accident?" Scully asks.

"At first, it looked like a garbage dump for UFO sightings, alien abduction reports, the kind of stuff most people laugh at as being ridiculous. But I was fascinated. I read all the cases I could get my hands on, hundreds of them. I read everything I could about paranormal phenomenon, about the occult, and..." He sighs, remembering how cocky he'd been, even though he'd only scratched the surface of the colorful world that had become his life's work, his life, period.

"What?" Scully asks, bringing him back to the present.

"There's classified government information I've been trying to access, but someone has been blocking my attempts to get at it," he says, almost by rote as he covers up his woolgathering.

"Who? I don't understand," Scully says, sitting up.

"Someone at a higher level of power," Mulder replies, remembering how frustrated he was, "the only reason I've been allowed to continue with my work is because I've made connections in congress." ::Or so I thought::, he muses, ::God, we were so damn naive.::

"And they're afraid of what? That, that you'll leak this information?" she wonders, and it was a reasonable assumption.

"You're part of that agenda, you know that," he says, with no ill will.

"I'm not part of any agenda," she says, believing it. "You've got to trust me. I'm here just like you, to solve this." And yet part of her knows the report she'll be turning in will reflect poorly on Agent Mulder's willingness to believe in farfetched theories rather than evidence that will surely reflect more mundane, if reasonable, explanations.

As if he can read her wavering thoughts, he leans forward, kneeling. Mulder says in a confidential, almost conspiratorial tone, "I'm telling you this, Scully, because you need to know, because of what you've seen. In my research, I've worked very closely with a man named Dr. Heitz Werber and he's taken me through deep regression hypnosis. I've been able to go into my own repressed memories to the night my sister disappeared. I can recall a bright light outside and a presence in the room. I was paralyzed, unable to respond to my sister's calls for help."

Moving closer, Mulder raises his volume as he gets into it. Even after all these years, even after all the retellings and the painful memories, the initial raison d'etre of his quest still moves him. "Listen to me, Scully, this thing exists."

"But how do you know," she starts to ask, when he interrupts her, carried away.

"The government knows about it, and I got to know what they're protecting. Nothing else matters to me, and this is as close as I've ever gotten to it," he says, the intensity overriding the fact that he knows this is just the tip of the iceberg. The phone rings, startling her and giving her a grateful respite from him going into any further detail as he picks up the phone. "Hello? What? Who is this? Who is," he tries, then hangs up, having gotten as much information from the reluctant caller as he could. "That was some woman," he says to Scully's unspoken question, "she just said Peggy O'Dell was dead."

"The girl in the wheelchair?" Scully asks, her eyes already wide.

He nods, also grateful for the interruption, because if he got any more intense on her, she might panic and run, or he'd mistakenly try to hit on her. Not yet, he thinks, handing her his coffee thermos to clear her head, and she nods before going to her room to dress.

Scully lies in bed, unable to sleep. Even with the terrific sex with Ethan, she finds herself remembering the odd case that's somehow gotten under her skin. Especially the part in the forest, the odd lightning and thunder that Mulder said was a UFO of some sort. Despite her skepticism, she knows Billy doesn't have those strange marks on his back anymore and he's no longer comatose, but not completely in his right mind, either. This whole case doesn't make sense, she muses, wishing they could have more evidence saved than that strange metallic device retrieved from the disfigured body. It's 11:21 p.m., and the clock flips to 11:22 as she watches it. The phone rings and she picks it up. "Hello?"

"Scully?" Mulder asks on the other end. "It's me, I haven't been able to sleep. I talked to the D.A.'s office in Raymon County, Oregon. There's no case file on Billy Miles. The paperwork we filed is gone. We need to talk, Scully."

The redhead blinks in assent, even as she shivers slightly. "Y-yes. Tomorrow," she agrees, grateful that her lover is asleep. Wouldn't want to have him thinking more than one man makes her shiver.

Hanging up, she settles back into bed uneasily. Maybe it's Mulder getting under my skin, she thinks flippantly, then chides herself for such a thought.

But it still takes a long time to sleep, and her mind is filled with strange, conflicting thoughts.

Chapter Three

June 1992

Mulder tries to stifle a yawn with his fist, but it escapes anyway. "Sorry. No rest for the wicked, huh, Scully?"

They'd just gotten a flight home after a doppelganger case, and are already being sent to investigate something else, less than ten hours later.

"No, no rest at all," Scully tells him. "Ethan keeps complaining that he barely sees me."

"Oh." Mulder tries hard to ignore any mention of her boyfriend. From the last time around, he knows that Ethan is history just months after Scully joins him on the X-Files. ::I hope I never have to meet the poor bastard. I'll have so much trouble not calling him "short-timer".:: "They don't even schedule us enough time between cases to hit the restroom," he says instead.

She looks amused. "If you need to pee, I can get a car from the motor pool myself."

Mulder is sure that he surprises her by taking her up on the offer. "Thanks a lot. I'll meet you down there."

"I thought you were just being figurative."

"Nope. I bought a Big Gulp at the airport, remember?"

"Okay, Mulder," she says, and he wonders if she realizes that she's wearing a small smile.

He darts into the men's room because he really does need to relieve his aching bladder. He almost moans when he's finally able to go.

"So you're working with Agent Mulder," a disembodied voice says as Mulder approaches the motor pool.

Mulder freezes when he hears the exaggerated way that the unseen woman says his name. Deciding to eavesdrop, he backs against the wall, where he's sure that shadows will hide him from anyone who happens to wander by.

"Yes, that's right." Scully's voice holds an uncertain note, clearly unsure about what the other woman is getting at.

"There are a lot of women at the bureau who envy you," the voice remarks to Mulder's great surprise. "Plenty of girls would like to have the chance to work under him, if you know what I mean," the woman continues.

"He doesn't seem to be dating anyone, or at least he's never mentioned a girlfriend, and I know he's not married, so what's stopping these 'girls'?" Scully asks.

"What's stopping them is that he rarely looks twice at any of them." The other woman sighs. "What a waste."

There's a pause, then Scully haltingly asks, "You don't think, he'"

"Gay? No. There was this woman a couple of years ago...If you'd seen them together, you'd know he's not. She took off on him without warning, from what I heard, though. No one much liked her, but he did, so most people figure that he's nursing a broken heart."

"Oh. That'd explain a lot."

There's the sound metal sliding across the top of a desk. "Well, here are your keys. It's in space 107."

"Great, thanks."

By the time he backtracks through the building, Scully is waiting for him in their newly acquired Ford Tempo. "Sorry, it was busier in the men's room than I expected."

"Guess we're not the only ones on a tight schedule," she says as she tosses him the keys.

"Scully, you're scientifically inclined. What is it that you expect to find when we land in Pittsburgh?" Mulder asks with a hint of a smile.

"Well, not a dragon," she says, also smiling.

"What, not even a Komodo or bearded?"

"I suppose it's possible that the dragon someone saw wandering downtown in Pittsburgh could be a Komodo dragon or bearded dragon, but it sure as hell isn't the twelve foot long dragon like the person who reported it claims."

"My money is on alligator," Mulder tells her.

"An alligator?" She looks like she's about to laugh.

"I hear that Pennsylvania has find sewer systems. Lots of places for a flushed baby alligator to grow up."

She's giggling by the time he turns on the car.

Hoover Building
October 31, 1992

Given that it's Saturday morning, very few other people are in the building. They wouldn't be themselves if their flight hadn't gotten back so late, and if Blevins hadn't insisted that he wanted a report on the case they had just finished within 18 hours, no exceptions. There is no way that Mulder can tell her, but he assumes that they are being punished for her not meeting expectations as a spy.

"So, Mulder, what are your plans for the night?" Scully asks, looking up from what she's writing. They have been taking turns writing reports, and it's her turn. He's mostly there for moral support, and to help remember details.

It's on the tip of his tongue to make a quip about trying to talk her into bed that night, but he doesn't.

:: Slow and steady, Mulder.:: He reminds himself for the 4000th time since finding himself back in 1992. Although it was his first impulse upon finding himself back in time, meeting Scully again, to immediately start hitting on her, he found it necessary to remind himself that in the past that strategy has worked out poorly for him. There were girls in college and afterwards that he was able to immediately charm. But they also almost immediately dumped him. :: Keep thinking about saving her from that nut Duane Barry. Come on to her too soon and you'll blow it long before you get the chance to put your plan in motion..::

"Um, I bought five of those big bags of chocolate at the grocery store, and a bowl three times the size of my head covered in ghosts and bats. I figure that I'll carve a pumpkin, prop the door open, and watch scary movies between trick-or-treaters," he tells her.

"Five bags of chocolate, Mulder? It sounds like you'll be the hit of the neighborhood."

He gives her a wry smile. "I give my landlord enough trouble without having him be pissed at me because somebody toilet papered or egged the hallway. How about you?"

"I don't know what I'm doing tonight."

"You don't know? I'm shocked."

"Ethan told me he bought tickets to something, but wants what they're for to be a surprise."

"Oh. You must trust him to know your tastes, then."

"Pretty much. Which horror movies?"

"What?" He gives her a puzzled look.

"You said that you're going to watch horror movies. Which ones?"

"I guess it depends on what's at the video store. I was hoping for a few 80s classics, like The Changeling and Poltergeist."

"Poltergeist?" She shivers. "I hate that movie."

"You do? I know the bodies in that movie aren't as fresh as the ones you're used to dealing with, but-"

"Not the bodies. The clown."

"You're afraid of clowns?"

"When I was three, Bill had a birthday party and my parents hired him a clown. Let's just say that it didn't go well for me."

Mulder nods. "If we ever encounter a clown on any of our cases, I promise I'll shoot it for you."

"My hero," she says sarcastically before getting to her feet. "It looks like this report is done. As soon as I drop this off upstairs we can get the hell out of here."

Mulder glances at the wall clock. "Maybe you'd better take the elevator."

Less than five minutes after Scully left, Mulder hears footsteps outside the door. They are much too loud to be hers, so he wonders who might be there. He doesn't remain in suspense very long, because a nervous looking man wearing a visitor's badge soon pops his head into the room. "Hi, I'm looking for Dana Scully."

Mulder does not have to read the name on the visitor's badge to know that this is Scully's boyfriend, Ethan. It only takes him a minute to assess the man. Even though it's Saturday afternoon, he's wearing a dress shirt and perfectly pressed khaki pants. His hair is raked back so severely that you can see teeth marks from the comb. :: He looks like he should be out giving people Watchtower magazines.:: Mulder thinks disdainfully before bothering to answer. "You've found the right place."

Ethan looks relieved. "You must be Fox Mulder then."

"I must be," Mulder says, flatly. "Scully didn't say that you were coming."

"Scully?" Ethan looks slightly puzzled. "You FBI people, calling each other's by your last names..."

Mulder stares at him.

"Um, I thought it would surprise her with lunch." Ethan says in a rush. It's clear that Mulder has put him on edge again.

"I've never taken her for the type of person who likes surprises, but I guess you know better," Mulder says. "So, speaking of surprises, where are you two going tonight? Don't worry, I won't spoil the surprise."

"The circus is in town this weekend. She told me once that she'd never been, so I bought us tickets. I suppose it's a little silly, but I'm hoping that she finds it endearing rather than cheesy."

"Good luck," Mulder says, trying to force himself to sound like he means it.


Two seconds later they both hear the sound of Scully's heels on the tile in the hallway. She looked surprised when she enters the room. "Ethan? What are you doing here?"

"I was hoping to invite my best girl to an impromptu lunch," Ethan says, with more confidence than he has displayed in his exchange with Mulder.

"That sounds great. You have good timing too, because we were just about to leave."

:: Don't ask me to lunch too. I don't think I can pretend to like this man long enough so you don't think I'm a jealous prick.:: Mulder thinks to himself before getting to his feet. He holds his hand to Ethan, and the other man gives him a startled look before shaking it. "It was nice to meet you, Ethan. But if you excuse me, I have several errands I need to run."

"Oh." Scully looks slightly disappointed, and he sure that she intended to ask him to join them for lunch. "Have a good Halloween then, Mulder."

"You too."

As Mulder walks through the Hoover building, he tries not to smile broadly. Scully is afraid of clowns, and her idiot boyfriend is taking her to the circus. He doesn't know what he was worried about. Ethan is sabotaging himself much more easily and creatively than Mulder ever could.

Hoover Building
November 2, 1992

"So, how was Halloween?" Mulder asks as soon as he and Scully enter the office in the morning.

At first she doesn't say anything, but slowly shakes her head. "There were clowns involved," she says flatly.

"Were you armed?"

This makes her smile. "Of course not."

"What I said Saturday, I meant it. If we ever see a clown, I will shoot it for you."

"I believe you. It's not comforting, but I believe you."

"Have you seen any ghosts today?" Mulder asks.


"I've been reading on Catholicism a little bit. Today is All Souls Day, right?"


"Doesn't that mean you see dead loved ones?"

"Mulder! You haven't done enough reading. You're supposed to think about your dead loved ones, not see them," she says, exasperated. "The point is praying for those in purgatory, not having an audience with them."

"That's disappointing. I thought it would be a little more hands-on, like than day of the dead down in Mexico."

"You sound like my brother Charlie," Scully says with a laugh. "He wanted all souls Day to be like the day the dead too. Of course, he was seven."

"Charlie, hmmm? I take it that's the brother you like best."

"Why do you say that?"

"Whatever you say your older brother's name, little worry lines show up on your forehead. Doesn't take a genius to figure out that there is some clashing there," Mulder says, teasingly.

"If you had an older brother, maybe you could understand."

"I am an older brother."

Neither of them say anything after that, both suddenly reminded of why Samantha Mulder hasn't had to worry about him being an overbearing sibling.

Bill and Margaret Scully's Home
Early December 1992

Around December, Scully is itching to get back to something like a normal life, so she escapes, albeit in the company of another man, to her parents' home. ::Away from the X-Files,:: Scully thinks, ::away from my crazy partner, away from the madness that has us running like chickens with our heads cut off month after month.::

"Mrs. Scully, good to see you again, Mr. Scully," Ethan Minette shakes hands with the captain after briefly hugging his wife.

"What brings you down here?" Margaret Scully smiles, not at all surprised or dismayed by the sudden visit.

Her daughter fidgets nervously, unlike her confident companion. "Just stopping by, since we were in the neighborhood, Mom," she says.

"I see," Her mother says, and nudges her husband. "Well, you're welcome to stay for lunch, we've got plenty of munchies since Bill and Tara are here."

"Bill's here, too?" Now Scully looks surprised, and she looks up at her father, who nods. Nodding a bit too proudly, she notes. "Well," she says, recovering her equanimity, "I guess Ethan will be meeting more of my family." She and her boyfriend follow her parents inside, where another couple is sitting comfortably in the living room.

"Dana." Tara smiles, standing, and Scully warmly hugs her sister-in-law. It still boggles her mind that this strong, loving woman is actually married to her bossy older brother, but then again, she counts the woman as a saint. "Can you believe they're letting him stay seven months? Perhaps they're afraid he's forgetting how to walk on land." She grins.

"Hey, little sister," Her brother envelopes her in a massive hug. Ergh. "Contrary to what some people believe, they're just giving me more paperwork to do, stuff I can do on land," he says the last two words to his wife, who grins back impishly. "Hi there, Bill Scully," he says, giving Ethan an over-firm grip.

Ethan doesn't wince as he shakes the other man's hand just as firmly. "Hi, Ethan Minette," he says.

"I like him." The tall, broad-shouldered man beams at his sister, "He's not like the other guys you used to bring home."

"Bill," Scully sighs, "high school was another lifetime ago." There's something unsettling about her brother liking her boyfriend, it just feels odd.

"No, Bill's right, you did pick some," her father pauses, "unsavory characters."

Ethan raises his eyebrows, as she pretends to let their insinuations roll off her back. Fat chance. Even her mother knew to change the topic. "Well, Dana, how have things been going lately?"

Scully smiles gratefully at her mother. "I just got back from a case in Georgia, and, and I just thought I'd like to see you guys again before I get sent goodness knows where."

Ethan nods. "I thought I'd be flying more for my international litigations work, but Dana keeps flying all over the place." He smiles at her, and she smiles back, a little tentatively.

"I guess all the Scullys have some wandering blood in them." Her father beams anew. "Bill's in the Navy, Charlie's a satellite engineer, Melissa's..." He sighs. "Finding herself, and Dana's in the FBI. I thought you'd be the one to settle down first." He looks at his youngest daughter.

"I am," she says, "as soon as things settle down at work."

"When will that be?" Bill wonders, in his blunt fashion.

"Good question," Ethan says, looking directly at her.

"Whenever it is, I hope you don't make Ethan wait too long," her father adds helpfully.

Ooh, kiss of death. Perhaps she hasn't outgrown her youthful rebelliousness after all. "I think I'll have some tea," Scully tells her mother, as Tara gives her a sympathetic glance.

Hoover Building

Familiar staccato clicks on the tile announce her arrival before she opens the door. Scully nods to her partner, taking a sip of coffee from the styrofoam cup before she puts her purse down. "Hey, how's the homies?" Mulder says, tossing another wadded paper ball into the trash. ::It's amazing how his game improves when he's not on a case, he thinks, that, or the ceiling gets full of lead.::

She raises that infamous eyebrow as she takes off her coat. Ooh, shpooky. "The 'homies', as you put it, are fine. In fact, I got to spend time with my brother Bill and his wife, as well as my parents."

Mulder suppresses a shudder at the mention of her brother. He wonders if the other one, Charles, would be any more mellow. Or less of an asshole. "...and I'm guessing everything was just peachy in the Scully household."

She smiles a little. "As a matter of fact, yes, it was. Well, there was that one thing," and her smile fades. "But didn't anything *unusual* happen here?"

He shakes his head vigorously. "No, nothing worthy to be sent down here. No, what was that one thing that happened?" He leans forward, curious.

She sighs, regretting having brought it up. "Well, it wasn't a big deal, really," she starts. When she sees him leaning forward on his elbows, his chin resting on his hands, she makes a face. "Jeez, nothing *did* happen around here, did it?"

"Come on, Scully, don't make me beg for the juicy details," Mulder whines, putting on the full puppy-dog eyes, complete with pout.

"Brother." She snorts, but, allowing herself the luxury of turning away from him, "Well, if you must know, I almost got engaged."

Mulder almost falls over. "What?" He blinks.

"Yes," she says, turning around to see her tall partner's jaw hanging. "But with your keen powers of observation, you might detect something missing here," she says, holding up her hand. "Ethan's a nice boy, but we were moving too fast, and I don't see myself getting married anytime soon." She chuckles a little and bends down to retrieve her purse, while her partner gathers his wits.

::Okay, so she's not engaged, she's just dumped her boyfriend, thank you God,:: he rejoices inwardly, while his face betrays nothing of his emotions, as usual. One of these days, he's gonna crack a smile and freak her out, but in the meantime, it's all he can do not to jump up and down, hug her, and yell at the top of his lungs, "You're not getting married! Yes! No little Minettes running around!" Aloud he says, "So should I say congratulations or sorry?"

She smiles. "Neither. I'd still be your partner, married or not, Mulder. You can't scare off a Scully that easily."

He smiles back. ::That's for sure,:: He nods, ::your mom stuck up for us God knows how many times, and Bill sure wasn't shy about expressing his feelings. Neither did Melissa, as I recall.:: At that last thought, he sobers up, remembering his mission. Nobody else should have to suffer, nobody else, like Melissa, should have to die. "Good to know," he says aloud.

"This is one of those times I'm happy to be a man," Mulder tells her.

"Oh?" she asks, arching an eyebrow. Her look is slightly defensive, as if she expects him to try to hit on her now that he knows she's single.

Which isn't what he has in mind at all. "As a man, I can say nothing at all about the demise of your relationship. Now, if I was one of your female friends, I'd have to tell you he's scum, I never really liked the guy, you could do much better, and I know this guy I'm sure you'd hit it off with," he says with a grin.

"But you and Ethan spoke to each other for all of five minutes the entire time I dated him, so how could you hate him?" she asks reasonably.

"Doesn't matter. The extra X chromosome would force me to hate him even if I didn't know he existed until you mentioned breaking up with him."

Scully smiles slightly. "You sound as though you've investigated this."

"I do have a degree in psychology, Scully," he says with mock arrogance. "And I've watched a lot of TV."

"That explains it."

"And, you know, the phenomena is an x-files. Much like the one about why women can't go to the bathroom alone. Which is another reason to be happy to be male."

"You wouldn't want to go to the bathroom with me?" Scully teases him.

::No, because I wouldn't get to see anything!:: "Well, maybe if you promised to bring a can of air fresher."

She throws a paper clip at him, but doesn't seem upset, which makes him happy for the rest of the day.

Chapter Four

Burlington, Vermont
February 14th, 1993

For once in her life, Dana Scully is more than glad to be kept busy on Valentine's day. A couple of months earlier, she'd believed that she and Ethan would be spending a romantic day together, but those brief daydreams had dissolved when she'd broken up with him. Two months later, she was still not regretting the decision, because Ethan just hadn't struck her as the type of man she'd be happy settling down with.

She's still thinking about this as she and Mulder drive to the scene of yet another crime in a small town. Mulder apparently notices her distraction, because he looks away from the road just long enough to ask, "Got something on your mind?"

Willing herself not to blush, she replies, "Have you ever stopped to think about how many of our cases could be summed up as 'agents investigate a horrible crime in a picturesque small town'?"

Mulder grins. "Maybe there's a dark hidden underbelly in all the pretty places, too."


"I guess that's better than the brutal places that are more than happy to roll over and show you their underbellies," Mulder concludes.

"Mulder, you better be careful. There are laws against abusing a defenseless metaphor like that," she tells him with a cheeky smile of her own.

"You going to rat me out, Scully?"

"To the literary police? You bet. If I turn in three more offenders, I earn double miles on Southwestern flights."

"Have we even been booked on one of their flights, yet?" Mulder asks her.

She shrugs. "There are plenty more pretty towns with dark underbellies out there."

"Yeah, and I'm sure we'll eventually see them all." He looks slightly annoyed. "I feel like we're on some bizarre tour sometimes."

"Minus the rhinestones."

"I think I'd look pretty good in them though. Maybe paired up with some cowboy boots."

Their easy banter has her thinking about Ethan again. He'd been a nice enough man, but things had never been all that fun between them. Scully glanced at her partner. Why couldn't she find someone who was witty and brilliant like him, but minus the paranoia?

"Here we are, the pretty scene of a gruesome murder," Mulder announces as they come to a stop in front of a white farm house.

It is rather pretty. Large pine trees lined the yard, and nearly every limb is bowed down with clean looking snow. If it wasn't February you could half imagine Santa touching down with his team.

Of course, it's also the scene of a disemboweling that no one had been able to figure out, too, so that quells some of inclinations towards fond feelings for the place.

Three hours later they are little closer to solving the murder, and much farther from breakfast. Mulder pulls over in front of a small diner, and turns off the car before looking at her. "I hope you don't mind, I'm starving."

She looks up at the diner and feels all hope of a healthy meal fade away. "After hearing those details, you're still hungry?"

"I am. It takes more than a discussion about strewn entrails to put me off my feed." He opens the driver side door and gets out before looking back in at her. "Come on, you're a doctor. You can't have lost your appetite over something like that. There weren't even any pictures!"

Rolling her eyes, she throws open her own door and steps out. Mulder's longer legs mean that it only takes him a few steps to appear by her side, and she's soon glad that he has, because one of her feet skids on a patch of ice.

"Whoa!" Mulder cries, grabbing her by the arm to keep her on her feet.

"Thanks, Mulder. I thought I was going to fall on my behind."

"Not when I'm around," he tells her gallantly.

"Oh no?" she asks, smiling up at him.

"Nope. I'll always be here to catch you when you fall."

"Isn't that nice?" a delighted voice behind them calls out.

They both turn around and spot an older woman beaming at them. Within three heartbeats the woman has joined them. "That was very sweet, what you said," she tells Mulder.

"Um, thanks?"

"It's so nice to see a young couple in love like that." The woman doesn't seem to notice that both FBI agents have immediately turned red. She pokes Mulder. "You had better keep your promise, young man."

"I will," Mulder replies in a dazed voice.

The older woman smiles again. "I hope it works out for you. Your children would be lovely."

"Um..." Scully starts to reply, but the woman has given them a final smile before crossing the street, heading in the direction of the library.

She and Mulder exchange embarrassed looks.

Eventually Mulder decides to break their mutual silence, "I hope she's not one of the people we need to talk to during this case, because it'd be a shame to have to crush her illusions."

"I hope not, too, because I'm willing to bet that she fancies herself a matchmaker," Scully mutters, watching the woman enter the building across the street.

He looks down at her to catch her gaze. "You know I didn't just mean I'd catch you literally, right, Scully? I've got your back."

"I know, Mulder. And I've got yours."

To their relief, they soon solve the case without having to talk to their new favorite busy body.

The Shops at Georgetown Park
Washington, D.C.
May 1993

"This is nice," Scully tells her friends Kathy and Ellen as they settle at a table with trays of food. All three have varying kinds of salads, but Ellen and Scully have also decided to indulge, and have bought milk shakes as well. They've been shopping for three hours, and their stomachs have finally demanded food so they've agreed to a quick break.

"What, the food court?" Kathy asks, looking around at all the weekend shoppers they're marooned in the middle of. "If so, you've got a strange idea of nice. This is okay once in a while, but I prefer eating somewhere with menus and waiters."

Scully laughs. "I don't mean the food court, I mean spending the day with the two of you."

"You thought your credit card could use a work out, right?" Ellen asks archly. She's the one who complains the most often that they hardly see her any more.

"No, I thought I could use a day away from the grind."

"I'm glad you decided that, because we hardly see you," Ellen starts in again until Kathy lightly swats her arm.

"She's here now, so maybe it's not the best time for a 'why don't you ever do anything with us' lecture."

"All right." Ellen looks slightly contrite, but it isn't long before she has a new thing to harp on. "If you weren't so busy, though, maybe you'd have a new boyfriend by now."

"I seem to recall it taking more than five months before you replaced Don," Scully coolly tells her.

"That's true. We heard you moon over him for eight months after you broke up," Kathy adds.

"Nine months."

"Oh yeah, nine," Kathy agrees. "But what about the guy you work with?"

"Mulder?" Scully asks blankly. "What about him?"

"Is he married?"

"Just to his work."

"Dating anyone?"

"Not that I know of."

Ellen turns to Kathy. "That means no. He couldn't be dating anyone without Dana figuring it out."

"What's that supposed to mean?!"

"You're a details person, Dana. Things like that wouldn't escape your attention."

"Uh, okay."

"Now the most important question," Ellen announces. "Is he cute?"

Scully grimaces. "Yes, he's cute." Kathy and Ellen exchange smug looks. "But I told you that he's married to his work."

"So you're jealous of that?" Kathy asks.

"What is this, 'gang up on Dana' day?"

Ellen pats her on the shoulder. "We're not trying to be mean. We just want you to be happy."

"And it seems like you're too busy lately to even look at anyone, never mind maybe getting a date," Kathy adds, her voice gentle.

"I didn't realize you were planning an intervention," Scully says a little stiffly.

Ellen holds up her hands in surrender. "Okay, okay. We'll drop it. Did I tell you what my wonderful son did in school last week? I was at work when I got a call from his teacher..."

Scully half listens to her friend's tale of first grade mayhem, more thinking about the earlier part of their conversation. She has been too busy for a relationship since breaking things off with Ethan. Would things even out for her eventually, or would she end up chronically single like Mulder apparently was? After more than a year on the X-Files she still wasn't feeling like things would ever slow down at work.

"You okay, Dana?" Kathy asks, looking concerned. "You look worried."

"I'm fine. Refresh my memory, which store did you say had a sale on silk sheets?"

The three of them finish their food and head back into the throng of shoppers, and for once Scully makes an effort to really look at the men around them.

July 1993

They're supposed to be writing up the report on the Victor Tooms case when she notices that he's staring off into space, even though he doesn't quite realize it himself. "Mulder, what are you thinking about?" Scully asks, looking up from a scattering of crime scene photos spread before her on a small table. Another small stack is piled on his desk in front of him, but he's not looking at them.

Instead of answering her, he glances at the door, making sure it's firmly shut, then approaches her from behind. Before she can ask him what he's doing, he grabs the hem of her FBI approved skirt, and throws it up onto her back. She gasps as he hooks his fingers in her panties and hose, but squirms in a helpful manner as he pulls them down for her. One of her hands brushes the front of his pants, and he's sure she can feel the erection that's straining against the teeth of his zipper.

He gives a soft grunt as he frees himself from the confines of his suddenly way too tight pants, and barely notices as the offending piece of clothing slitters to his ankles. She licks her lips and gives him an inviting look before swiping the photos off the table so she has a place to brace her hands.

It delights him to hear her moan softly as he guides himself into her warm body. When he's planted deep inside her, he moves his hands to her hips, and she whispers urgent and desperate demands. For a moment, the only thing that is important to him is the thrust of his pelvis, and it really does seem like his life depends on establishing a steady rhythm. As she pushes back at him, he wonders if maybe hers does too.

While he would love to draw things out, tease, he can't help but glance at the door every couple of strokes. Anyone could walk in, and that thrills him almost as much as it worries him. But just almost. What they're doing could cost them both their careers if anyone found out. As if reading his thoughts, she whimpers softly, and he's glad that they never put any surveillance cameras in the basement.

Much too soon he feels an exquisite tension, and knows that it won't belong before he comes. His only regret is that he can't wait long enough to make sure she does too. This time. It's only by gripping his lower lip in his teeth that he can resist the urge not to cry out and draw attention to them. That becomes all the harder to resist when he realizes that he was wrong about Scully. The steady clenching of her walls around his already spurting member tell him that he did an efficient, if by necessity quick, job after all. Together they-

"Mulder, what are you thinking about?"

He blinks and looks over at her, where she's still reading that stupid case report. ::What am I thinking about? I'm thinking that the only way you're going to be safe this time next summer is if you've got a bellyful of baby. I'm worried that I'm going to screw everything up, and not get you into bed on time, or worse yet, do bed you, but destroy our relationship so we don't end up happy anyway. I'm worried that I'm not up to the chore of seducing you, because I never was too smooth with the chicks and I know you'd never believe me if I told you the truth, so I'm going to have to blunder on, and hope I can turn daydreams into reality. Well, maybe not this particular fantasy, since the office is kind of a scummy place for a date, but-::

"Mulder?" Scully looks a bit worried, reminding him of the time when she'll find him in a strange motel room with no memory.

"Sorry. Woolgathering. I was thinking about the final frontier, going where few men have gone before..." He gives her a sheepish grin. :: I hope it's only a few men...note to self, find a way to tactfully bring up AIDS tests...::

"Star Trek, huh?" she asks, giving him an it-figures look.

"Something like that," he agrees, pulling his chair a little closer to the desk. Mostly, he's just hoping he won't be required to stand up in the next few minutes and have to display evidence of where his thoughts really were.

The calendar tells Mulder that he's got to go to New York very soon if he's going to spare Doggett the anguish of losing his only son. The only problem is, how does he tell Scully?

A voice in the back of his head reminds him that Skinner is always on his case about not taking vacation time, so he decides that it's the perfect cover story. He just needs to be very innocent seeming, so he doesn't raise her suspicions.

Skinner readily agrees to let him take the week off, mumbling something about "it's about time." So Mulder decides to wait until the last possible moment to tell Scully, since that's the sort of thing she probably expects from him.

He waits until they're packing up for the day to broach the subject. "Scully, you know how you're always going on about how you resent me making all the decisions in our cases?"

She gives him a startled look. "I've never said anything like that."

"Your eyes tell the story, Scully. Windows to the soul you know. Anyway, what would you think of being able to call all the shots for a week?"

"I'd wonder what the catch is," she says warily.

"Skinner has been hounding me to take some vacation time, and has threatened to not pay me for the week if I don't take it. Now."

"You're going on vacation?" She looks a little hurt, but he tries not to notice.

"I'll only be gone a week. You're probably sick of me anyway," he adds lightly.

"I'm-" She pauses, looking a little confused. "I hope you have a good time," she finishes lamely, obviously not saying what's on her mind.

"It'll be great. I haven't been to New York in years. Maybe," he says, grinning at her. "I'll bring you a souvenir. Do you need a paper weight?"

"Just be careful, Mulder."

"Oh sure. I'll be on my best behavior."

She looks unconvinced, but says nothing.

August 10th, 1993

At first he thinks that maybe all he'll have to do is to steal the kid's bike, but he knew John Doggett. He was completely devoted to his kid, so the first thing he'd do would be to dry the kid's eyes, and the second would be to buy him another bike.

Something much more drastic will be called for, in case the police don't nab Regalia as quickly as he hopes. He is going to have to make sure that the boy can't ride any bike, not just the one he has now. As much as he hates the idea of hurting a child, he decides it's the only sure way to keep him off his bike and out of the view of the pedophile monster who'd kidnap him.

He knows what Luke looked like, so all he has to do was wait for an opportunity to orchestrate an injury. After a couple of days of watching the boy carefully put his bike in the bike rack at the library near his home, he has an idea. There are steep granite steps that the kid had to climb up after he and his mother park their bikes, and the kid leaves his bike helmet on until he gets inside. All Mulder will have to do is knock him down the stairs and hope he breaks an arm or a leg.

Mulder's plan works perfectly, except for the fact that Doggett has taken Luke to the library today day instead of his wife. Noticing Doggett there does not change Mulder's mind. His prop is a large awkward box that is hard to see around, and as soon as he hears the man and boy's feet hit the first stair, he began to briskly walk towards the stair case himself. Luke is on the second to last step from the top when Mulder bowls him over, perfectly executing his plan. He drops his box with what he hopes is a surprised look on his face, and watches helplessly as the little boy tumbles all the way down the stairs. There's a sharp sound followed by a pitiful wail, the combination of which fills Mulder with both shame and pride. Luke is hurt, but there is no way he'd be riding his bike passed his would-be kidnapper in two days.

Pretending shock, Mulder rushes down the stairs. "Oh my God, I didn't even see him! What can I do? His leg..." Luke's leg is bent at an unnatural angle, which tells him he's definitely been successful.

"Do you have one of those cell phones?" Doggett asks, as he tried to comfort his son. The question strikes him as odd, until he remembers that cell phones weren't as pervasive in 1993 as they are in 2003.

"Yeah," Mulder says quickly dialing 911 for an ambulance. "I'm so sorry," he tells Luke as he bends to take a better look at him. The boy's pained grimace is the closest thing he gets to a reply.

"What the hell were you doin' anyway?" Doggett demands a couple of minutes later as they wait for the ambulance to show up. Mulder hovers with a guilty expression that he did not have to feign as he listens to Luke whimper in pain.

"I'm an FBI agent, and I was at the library doing a bunch of research, so they boxed the photo copies I need for my case for me, and I was running late..." Mulder does his best to sound nervous and apologetic- it doesn't require much acting. "I can't believe this happened."

"Do you have any kids?" Doggett asks, sounding a little less angry and a lot more weary.

"Not yet. My girlfriend and I are hoping for one soon, though." At least he's hoping for both a girlfriend and a baby.

"You'll soon learn that accidents happen, no matter how well you look after your kids. You can't protect them from everything," Doggett declares with a sigh.

Mulder nods, but he hopes he's made Doggett's job in that regard a little easier.

The paramedics arrive soon after, and proclaim that Luke Doggett has indeed broken his leg. Luke's thoughts are of his bike. "I won't be able to ride my bike, Daddy!" he complains, as he's loaded into the ambulance.

"Not for a couple of months," Doggett agrees.

::and thank God:: Mulder thinks.

Doggett is about to climb into the ambulance when Mulder stops him. "Look, I feel terrible about this. Give me your address and I'll drop the bikes off at your house, it's the least I can do."

Doggett gives him a suspicious look, but then relents and gave him the address Mulder already knows. Before the doors to the ambulance swing closed, he gives Doggett his business card. "If there's anything the insurance doesn't cover, send the bill to me. I'm so sorry about all of this..." Doggett nods, then a minute later he and his son are off to the hospital.

To Mulder's relief, Barbara Doggett isn't home when he pulls into their driveway. He unloads the bikes quickly, then leaves before anyone has the chance to ask him what he's doing. He starts to drive back to the highway, but on impulse drives to a toy store instead. Walking up the counter, he asks the man "Do you deliverer?"

The man nods. "But it costs 25% extra." He goes on to explain that Mulder's question isn't as unusual as he probably thought, since grandparents and other relatives often make impulsive buys on their way home from visits. Since it was the man's own business he's able to offer better service than bigger stores. "We even gift-wrap and add a card."

"That's great," Mulder calls over his shoulder, already looking over the toys. He isn't sure what he's looking for, just something a kid that is going to be spending a lot of time indoors could enjoy. His eyes finally wander across a display of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and he remembers how frequent the commercials for the toys were, or he supposes are. Mulder quickly gets a shopping cart and returns to the action figure isle. He puts one of every toy in the line in the cart and brings it up front. "I hope you've got a big box," he says to the man with a grin.

The man nods, and hands him a card to fill out while he rings up the sale. Mulder thinks about what to write for a moment, then jots down "I'm really sorry about your leg. I hope you feel better soon. Special Agent Fox Mulder."

The man takes back the card without reading it. "So... what did you do?"

"What?" Mulder gives him a puzzled look.

"When someone buys a kid this many toys, they usually feel guilty about something."

"Oh." Mulder gives him a sheepish look. "I uh... I wasn't looking where I was going and knocked a kid down a flight of stairs. He broke his leg."

The man nods. "Yep, I figured it was a doozy. I'll have this stuff dropped off early tomorrow. Don't worry, when the kid sees this, he'll forget all about his leg." Mulder flashes him a weak smile, then pays him and leaves.

When he gets back to his hotel room, he calls the police every fifteen minutes until they tell him that they caught Bob Harvey with a ton of child porn, just like his tip suggested they would. Then he stops by to make sure they haven't just said it to keep him from calling back, and to be sure it's the same man.

With Harvey out of the picture, he can relax. Regalli won't be getting what's coming for him for years still, probably, but Luke isn't in danger from him without Havey's interference. Congratulating himself on a job well done, he's anxious to get back to Scully and work on that end of the project.

Several Days Later

Mulder breezes into his office, in which his unflappable partner is sitting at his desk, deep into some thick scientific tome, her reading glasses perched on her nose. "Miss me?" he asks, with a little hopeful whine.

Scully looks up and blinks. "You know, it's amazing what I can accomplish when you're not around," she says, taking off her reading glasses but not moving out of his chair.

Mulder resists looking up at the ceiling for pencils. "Oh?" he says off-handedly.

She nods briskly. "Yes, I managed to catch up on all our paperwork, some of which you swore you finished before you left." She gives him a raised eyebrow, "and dig up some reputable sources." Another eyebrow raise. "And even found time to read up on some of the more, shall we say, 'colorful' cases."

Mulder knows if she were British, she'd sniff disdainfully at this point. "Glad to see you're as enterprising as ever, even though you held off on the room redecoration."

"Trust me, it was very tempting," Scully says, a smile playing on her lips. "So how was New York?"

He shrugs. "A little more eventful than I thought it would be, took in the sights, got my hard-working partner a souvenir..."

"What is it?" she asks, both hopeful and worried. "Would it help if I said I missed you?"

"It'll help," he says, knowing she'll kill him once he reveals his "gift." Grinning, he pulls out from his coat a green styrofoam crown, a la "Lady Liberty." "Ta-daaah!" he crows, mashing the tacky monstrosity on her perfectly-styled hair, as if he's crowning the next beauty pageant queen. "I feel patriotic already," he adds, putting a hand on his heart.

"I feel idiotic," Scully replies. "You really didn't have to get me anything," she says half-heartedly, glancing up at the pointed crown. She will never understand her partner, she sighs inwardly, nor does anyone on this planet.

"Man, I can't wait to see the look on Blevin's face when you walk in his office." He grins, and she pulls it off. "Hey!"

"Much as I enjoy amusing you to no end," the redhead says patiently, "we've got work to do. And I am not doing it with a styrofoam souvenir on my head."

Now Mulder's grin is wider. "You know, you should really fix your hair. People might think we're up to something down here."

To his disappointment, she races out of the room as if her head was on fire. "She missed me," he tells himself, walking behind his desk and reclaiming his chair.

Chapter Five

Late Summer, 1993

Mulder has been stressing himself out completely. A book he furtively copied pages from at the library - Female Fertility and You - told him that women ovulated every twenty-eight days, but which of those days might be true of Scully is a lot harder to figure that out than he first suspected.

It had seemed like an easy task - just keep track of how often Scully goes to the bathroom, and see which week that happened most often. Seemed easy, anyway... But since he can't know for sure when she is leaving the room to use the restroom, it's been a lot harder than he thought it was going to be. Sure, he could make it a habit to leave the room then too so he can see where she is headed, but she's an medical doctor and he's sure that she'd conclude his frequent potty-breaks are an indicator of something unpleasant, like a bladder infection, and insist he see someone. Worse yet, she could think it is an STD and never sleep with him. At least he's too young for prostate problems.

The only method he that he's felt safe try, then, is to keep a list of when she leaves the room. But after so many lines being crossed out when she has returned with a folder or a cup of coffee, it has gotten too messy to even read, so he's had to ditch it.

More recently he's thought about trying to figure out when she was moodier, but he has quickly realized the sad truth: she has less mood swings than most of the men he knows. That method isn't going to work either.

With great reluctance, he concludes that he's never going to figure out when she's fertile, and even if he does, it'd probably backfire and make him so anxious he can't perform. He perks up a bit at the thought of this being the one case that quantity is likely to serve him better than quality and precision, but he's careful not to smile, least Scully ask him what he's thinking about. There are only so many jokes about Star Trek that you can make before getting slugged for your efforts.

Mid-October, 1993

Mulder drops the file he's reading when the phone rings. Scully glances briefly at him, but makes no move to get it, so he does. "Fox Mulder."

"Agent Mulder?" a young voice asks, making him wonder what child could be calling him at work. The mystery is soon solved. "This is Luke Doggett. Do you remember me?"

"I sure do. How's your leg?" Mulder asks, cringing slightly at the memory of the little boy tumbling down the stairs.

"It's ok. Daddy said I could call you when the cast came off, 'cause he said you felt guilty." Apparently the man at the toy store wasn't the only one to figure that out.

"Your dad's right."

"It came off yesterday. It's this weird white color, and it was kind of dirty. You ever have a cast? Stuff gets in there, so it's kinda gross. Dad said I shouldn't have tried sticking things in there, but it itched."

"I can't say I've ever had a cast," Mulder says, grinning at the boy's description. "So besides being gross and white, is it ok?"

"Oh yeah. The gross stuff washed off anyway. I have to see a special doctor to make the muscles strong again, but she tells good jokes, so I like her."

"That's good to hear."

"My Dad says you're an FBI agent, is that true?"

"Yup," Mulder says, wondering if the next question is going to be "have you ever killed anyone?"

"So cool! My dad's a cop, you know."

"Does he work for the NYPD?"

"Uh huh.... Agent Mulder, my class is gonna visit the Hoover building in April, that's where you work, right?"


"We're gonna eat in the cafeteria and you think you could eat lunch with me?"

The little boy's hopeful voice makes him grin, and Scully gives him a questioning glance, obviously dying to know who he's talking to. "Sure, you tell me the date, and I'll make sure I'm there for lunch," he says. "As long as I'm in the building, that is. Sometimes I have to travel."

"Like when you were where we are. I know that you can't promise for sure."

Before the boy gets off the line, he's struck by a sudden impulse. He'd been trying to figure out how Bob Harvey had managed to get ahold of him the last time around, and had come up with two possibilities. "Luke, will you make me a promise?"

"I dunno... My mom says you should be careful about making promises to people you don't know well."

"Actually, it's a promise about being careful."

"Oh, ok," Luke agrees.

"When you're not with your mom and dad, like maybe when you can ride your bike, promise me that you won't go with anyone you don't know."

"Sure, but I know that you're not supposed to go anywhere with strangers," Luke scoffs.

"I know that you're a smart kid, but some times people will try to trick you. Some kids who get taken from their parents are told something like their mom or dad is hurt, and they need to go with the person so they can see them right away."

"That's mean!"

"It sure is. What a lot of parents do is set up a password with their kid, and give it to someone who needs to pick the kid up. If the stranger doesn't know the password, the kid knows they should run away from the person because they could be bad. Even if they say the kid's Mom and Dad forgot to give it to them, they could still be lying."


"And another thing is a stranger could try to make a kid go with them by grabbing them, because they're bigger and stronger than the kid. Do you know what you should do then?"

"Scream as loud as you can?" Luke guesses.

"Exactly. Even if there's no one right there, lots of times the person wanting to take the kid will get scared that someone will hear and let the kid go."

"Ok, I promise not to go with anyone, and to scream real loud if someone ever tries to grab me. But how come you're telling me this?"

Mulder isn't sure what to say, exactly. He decides on something close to the truth. "The reason I was down where you live is there was a bad man taking little kids in your town and hurting them. We put him in jail, but it makes me worry about the kids I know."

"That's scary," Luke says, but it sounds like he's taking Mulder's warnings seriously for that reason.

"It is. Luke is your Dad home? I'd like to talk to him about the password thing we just discussed if he is."

"Dad! Agent Mulder wants to talk to you!"

When Doggett picks up, Mulder tells him as much about Bob Harvey as he can, except for his connection to Luke. Doggett assures him that he and Barbara will make sure that Luke pays attention to Mulder's advice, and they'll pick out a password right away.

When he hangs up the phone, Scully is staring at him. "Who was that?"

"Remember the kid I knocked down the stairs?"

"Sure, but what was that about a child molester? I thought you were New York for a short vacation."

::Oops:: "You know me, Scully," he says lightly. "If I stumble across a case and think there's something I can do to help out..."

"You stick your nose in it."

"That's one way of putting it," he says, letting the matter drop. "I bet you're just glad I wasn't making lunch plans with a woman."

Scully doesn't dignify the question with a response.

First week of December 1993

"Aren't you going to thank me?" The large-eyed, buck-toothed, dark-haired woman smiles briskly at Mulder as he gets out of the car. Oh God, she just has to come in with a dramatic entrance, and wishes he'd picked another car that day. Way to make an impression.

"For what?" Just once, he'd like to forget he's a gentleman and slug her. Or maybe feign sudden and severe amnesia, and hope his past doesn't come back to bite him in the ass.

"Saving your life," Phoebe Green says, as if it were self-evident. "One tends not to make the same mistake twice."

Got that right, Mulder grumbles. "I'll try to remember that," he says without irony.

"Oh, come on, don't tell me you left your sense of humor in Oxford ten years ago," she teases him.

What the hell did I ever see in you, he wonders, not for the first time. "No, actually. It's one of the few things you didn't drive a stake through," he says with some bitterness.

Scully gets out of the car and looks at them. Mulder makes the mistake of not paying attention to Phoebe and gets smooched for his error. Aw, crap, he thinks, as Scully looks uncomfortably at Mulder, then at Phoebe.

"You know, some mistakes are worth making twice," the older woman grins saucily.

Mulder groans inwardly, No, they sure as hell aren't, and I just made one again. Thank God there was no tongue, that would've been really gross. With no measure of sarcasm, he introduces his past flame, so to speak, to his present. "Dana Scully, Phoebe Green, terror of Scotland Yard." He keeps his poker face on, knowing if he doesn't, there'll be hell to pay.

"Hello," Phoebe says brightly and professionally.

"Hello," Scully says, matching her tone.

"She hates me," the large-eyed Brit whispers to her ex-lover.

Duh, Mulder's about to say, but says aloud, "What brings you to the colonies?"

In their cramped little basement office, Mulder's looking at photos of a barbequed man, while Phoebe is sitting across from him in Scully's seat, and Scully is standing. "Some clever bloke has been giving the aristocracy a good scare," she says in her clipped accent. "Killed off a ranking member of Parliament or three for good measure. Set Windsor Castle ablaze in 1992."

"Your car bomber?" Mulder asks, while wondering if Phoebe had always had that bright shade of lipstick and odd shade of hair dye. I think it was longer a decade ago, he muses.

"No. This one likes to burn his victims alive," the Brit says with relish. "Can't figure how he does it, either. Not a crumb of evidence left at the crime scene. The last one died in his front garden, his poor young wife watching helplessly as he went up in smoke."

"The Irish Republican Army?" he prompts.

"Our suspect likes to send letters to his victims' wives." With that, she stands, a good head taller than the other woman in the room. "Sent one to the wife of some Malcolm Marsden a month ago. Three days later, he narrowly escaped a fire in his garage. Burned to the ground. So they're renting a place out on Cape Cod. Bringing the family over to the states for an extended holiday or until we can catch the dirty little bugger."

"You think he's that determined?" Mulder asks, knowing full well what the answer is, hell, the answer to the case is. It's hard being omniscient, he thinks, even as he fidgets under Scully's level gaze at the two of them.

"Judging by his success, he seems to take a certain delight in his work," she replies.

"So what brings you on this detour to Washington, D.C., Inspector?" Mulder asks seemingly guileless, while part of his ego is ready to get stroked, and then some.

"I figured my friend Mulder couldn't resist a three-pipe problem," Phoebe answers, practically leering at him.

"I'll run it by our arson specialist," he says placatingly.

"Splendid." Phoebe smiles, as if expecting that. "I'll call London, let them know." She takes her things and opens the door. Then she pauses and looks back at Scully. "Oh, goodbye."

Scully waves, and Phoebe leaves, but the room is no less tense. Dammit. "Three-pipe problem?" the redhead asks, her tone dangerously close to igniting.

"That's from Sherlock Holmes," he says, thinking, ::Come on, like you don't have issues with "Moby Dick"?:: "It's a private joke," he adds somewhat defensively.

"How private?" the petite redhead continues to press him.

::You wanna play that game, fine. Let's pretend like you're not jealous,:: he thinks, "We knew each other in school in England. She was brilliant and I got in over my head, and I paid the price." ::But obviously I didn't learn from my mistakes fast enough, since I got involved with Diana soon afterwards, another large-eyed, devious brunette. Do I know how to pick 'em or what?::

"Mulder, you just keep unfolding like a flower," Scully comments drily.

No, that's my porn collection, he's about to say. But the excuses come out instead. "That was over ten years ago, Scully," he says, grabbing his coat and standing. Which means forever in dog years. Honest!

"Yeah, I noticed how you couldn't drop everything fast enough in order to help her out," she says, jealousy dripping with each word.

Drop what? A case we were done with? A temporary drought in dealings of the bizarre? What? "Oh, I was merely extending her a professional courtesy," he says lightly to cover up the sarcasm, then realizes he just stepped in it.

"Oh, is that what you were extending?" Scully raises her eyebrows.

::If you want double entendres, I'll give you some,:: he thinks childishly, :: but somebody has to be a professional around here.:: "Look, I'm going to run this by the arson guys and then she's on her own." The unspoken question they both hear is, "Are you happy?"

She looks at him with skepticism on so many levels. "Something tells me you're not going to get rid of her that easily."

Later on, Mulder tries to have another chat with Scully in the same basement office to try to defuse the situation before it blows up in his face like it did the last time. If I stay out with Scully on this, L'Ively's gonna kill more people, but there's no way Scully will want to stick with me and Phoebe. Not that I wouldn't mind a catfight, he almost grins as he walks through the door, but hell, a mere mortal can only take so much.

"So, Sherlock, is the game afoot?" Scully asks, raising her eyes from the file she's reading at his desk.

He closes the door. Maybe this time she won't get jealous. Maybe this time she'll see some reason. And maybe frogs won't bump their asses when they hop, "I'm afraid so, Watson. But you're off the hook on this one."

She takes off her glasses. "What do you mean?"

Okay, she's not unsheathing her claws yet. "I mean I'm not going to put you through this." Not any more manipulation... except for the sex thing later on, of course. God, I hope that works out... He pulls out a file and walks toward her, trying to remember what he said, and hopefully saying the right thing this time.

"Put me through what?" Scully prompts him.

"Phoebe's little mindgame." There, I said it. Should be self-explanatory, right? That Posh Spice is a scary woman, I have no feelings for her whatsoever anymore, right?

"What are you talking about?" Scully says, and he almost hits his head. Guess I gotta spell it out, he groans inwardly.

"There's something else I haven't told you about myself, Scully," he says, hating to reveal another weakness. He sighs, kneels down and starts digging through another file cabinet so he won't have to look at her. "I hate fire. Hate it. Scared to death of it." He sighs again, not wanting to go on, but knowing he has to if he wants to make her understand, to make her not be so jealous. "When I was a kid, my best friend's house burned down. Had to spend the night in the rubble to keep away looters. For years, I had nightmares being trapped in a burning building." He pulls out a file and stands up. There, I said it, now do you understand? he wants to yell.

"Wait, and Phoebe knows about this?" Scully frowns.

Now you're getting it, Mulder almost crows. "This is classic Phoebe Green. Mindgame player extraordinaire. Ten years it's taken me to forget about this woman, and she shows up in my life with a case like this."

"So, she shows up, knowing the power she has over you, and then she makes you walk through fire, is that it?" Scully asks caustically.

Well, yeah. No, I mean, dammit! That's not what I meant! "Phoebe is fire," Mulder says, and that's the best explanation he has for this woman who consumed his college years, almost literally. But all I have is the taste of ashes in my mouth whenever I see her, he wants to add, not that you'll believe me or anything.

"Mulder? Are you sure you don't want me to help you on this one?" She sounds worried. Or jealous. Or maybe both.

But this is for the best, Scully. Really. "Sooner or later, a man's gotta face his demons," Mulder says, walking out. And better me facing it like this, than have you and Phoebe sniping at each other and not paying attention to the case. But it could work in my favor, you getting all jealous and everything, while Phoebe's left with a married man. Yeah, that's it, he nods, rationalizing his actions even as part of him is looking forward to dressing up and dancing with his ex-flame.

It's ex-flame, he repeats inwardly as he punches the elevator buttons, emphasis on "ex". Damn, I hope I'm right. Is it second-guessing or third-guessing if I'm doubting the second time around? Maybe I could get Scully to dress up when she crashes the party, he grins to himself as the empty elevator opens with a ding.

Later, at the Venerable Plaza, a little after 8 p.m., Mulder's all suave and James Bond in his tux, leaning against the wall as people pass him by, laughing and chatting. He takes a sip from his champagne glass, watching as the Marsdens walk up the stairs, followed by Phoebe. She can't pass the chance to give him a meaningful, if slightly bug-eyed glance, and he returns the favor. Sometime later, he walks into an empty room with a buffet table. He can still hear the crowd, just in case somebody happens to yell "Fire"or something to that effect. As he checks his watch, a voice interrupts his musings.

"Am I late?" she asks, and he looks up. Boy, she cleans up good, he grins, offering his arm. Scully beams up at him in a red floor-length gown, and his perspective makes it impossible to ignore the cleavage. Damn, it's good being me, Mulder thinks.

"No, right on schedule," he says, as she self-consciously brushes a lock of auburn hair from her face, trying to tuck it back into its chignon. "You look great."

"Thanks," she says, her eyes widening as Phoebe approaches in her black gown. "Hello."

"Hello." Phoebe barely glances at the shorter woman. "I was wondering if I might borrow Mulder for a dance." She smiles winningly and confidently at the tall man. With her dark hair, large eyes, buck teeth (which could be fangs), and black dress, she seems like the stereotypical black widow, minus husbands. Maybe there were some, Mulder muses, I don't doubt they could survive her.

Mulder glances down at his partner, who looks at him and then at the other woman, and already she's starting to pull away. They're both surprised when he says, "Sorry, I've got a dance partner. Maybe some other time." The look on their faces is priceless, and he wants to yell, Groovy, baby, shagadelic, yeah! Oh wait, reverse anachronism there, "Austin Powers" hasn't been seen yet. Bummer. As his twisted ex moves off, he leans toward his partner. "You said you had some information that couldn't wait?"

"It can wait," Scully replies, noting out of the corner of her eyes that Phoebe hasn't quite left the room yet. "I think you said something about a dance?"

He grins, wrapping his arms around her for a slow one. "I think I did, yeah." He nods, as she wraps her arms around his waist. "Thanks for rescuing me."

"Good to know Sherlock needs to be rescued once in a while." She smiles.

While they dance, gazing into each other's eyes and forgetting about a volatile firestarter, Phoebe huffs, then glances away to see the driver, smiling. A little unsettled, she looks away, only to see Mulder and his partner behaving rather unprofessionally. Crossing her arms, she turns away, only to find that the driver is gone. Curious, she goes to look for him and hears a beeping noise. Finding a panel with a list of floors and lights next to them, she sees the fourteenth floor is lit for smoke and fire. This fire should douse theirs, she thinks, and races back to the couple. "There's a fire upstairs, on the fourteenth floor where the children are!"

Horrified, they spring apart, and Mulder races upstairs while Scully, joined by Phoebe, calls for help.

Later, after the excitement and L'Ively's Superman act, Scully's sitting on the bed, with Mulder all shirtless and lying down. She's still in her fancy dress, while he's mostly undressed and weak, resuming his coughing fit.

After he drinks from the glass of water she hands him, she comments, "You were really out."

He blinks, not quite remembering where everyone was. "Where's Phoebe?"

"Down the hall," she says, completely unworried about the woman.

He sighs with some relief. "And the kids?"

"They're okay, the doctor checked them out," she says, as he gets up, wearing nothing but his boxers, and picks up his robe. "What happened to you up there?"

"I panicked," he says, wondering why he froze all over again. Dammit. "I couldn't move, Scully."

"It could've happened to anyone," she reassures him.

"Yeah, but it happened to me." ::After I should've known better, done better.:: "I hared out, plain and simple." He closes the bathroom door, and realizes he's in his underwear. ::Excellent,:: he thinks, ::she totally stripped me down. A hottie doctor for a partner, and it's all good,:: he thinks, until he hears Phoebe's talking to Scully. Realizing it's a bad idea to leave his catty ex alone with his still-distrustful partner, he steps out, ready to be Mr. Let's Play Nice Together For Now.

Much, much later, after they catch Sid Viciously Pyro, Mulder's sitting in his office, reading glasses on. I should really read some new case files, he thinks, because that bitch seriously messed me up good. Or I should really mess her up good, he ruminates, until a voice interrupts his thoughts.

"Care to take me for lunch?" a clipped British female voice asks. He jerks his head up, only to see his partner smiling impishly. ::Okay, she got me there,:: he grudgingly admits, ::but only because I let her::. "Scare you?"

"You have no idea," he says drily, thankful that a pair of big eyes and buck teeth aren't greeting him at the doorway.

"Where's Phoebe?" she asks, as if she's not particularly interested, sitting on the desk.

"I don't know," he says, relieved.

"You don't know? She didn't call?" she asks, disbelieving.

"No. She did messenger this to me last night, though." He holds up a tape.

She glances at it, then at her partner. "Did you play it?"

"No," he replies, looking at it.

"Why not? Aren't you curious what's on it?" Scully frowns a little, curious herself.

He grins. "Ten to one, you can't dance to it," he answers, repeating what he said about an earlier tape, then chucks it in the trash. "Besides, without that red dress, it probably won't be as much fun." Mulder looks at her hopefully.

"Fat chance, that was a one-time deal." She smirks at him, but gloats inwardly. "Besides, anybody can slow dance. You'd have to have some serious moves to really dance with me."

"Hey, I've got moves," he protests. "I got the skills that pay the bills."

She snorts. "Which reminds me, it seems our case reports are due, and if we want to pay our bills," she raises an eyebrow meaningfully.

He nods, sighing exaggeratedly as he hangs his head. ::Curses, foiled again,:: he thinks, as he pulls out some forms and mutters half-heartedly.

He doesn't notice her lips twitching upwards, or her eyes dancing.

Chapter Six

A Week Later...

A few condoms are lost to experimentation, but Mulder finally hits on a way to damage them without making it look like they are damaged. A sewing needle carefully inserted though the packaging renders the products useless. He's just glad that he bought them in bulk at Sam's Club, because of the number lost to the cause. An afternoon too is lost as he plays his videos so he can try on ruined rubbers. At least the needled ones don't seem damaged before it's much too late.

As soon as he has a few he thinks will fail to pass muster at the crucial time, he puts them in the pocket of his coat. He smiles to himself, thinking that the last time he carried around condoms "to be prepared at all times"was when he was a high-schooler with aspirations to be a ladies man. Since he doesn't know when he'll be successful, it seems like a good idea to keep them with him, though.

His bout of self-congratulation regarding his perfect sabotage is cut short when he accidentally turns to Lifetime while channel surfing - he finds himself watching a birth control pill commercial, one of the only commercials not trying to panic him about how few shopping days are left until Christmas. As he listens to the woman talk about how the pill cleared her skin while letting her sleep around, he feels a sinking sensation. The pill isn't even something he's considered. What if she's using it?

Surfing on the primitive internet - the one thing he desperately misses about his former life is the advanced electronics - tells him it is remotely possible that she is using the pill even though she dropped her ex Ethan like yesterday's news months before. For all he knows she has really bad periods and uses the pill to alleviate the symptoms. She wasn't using it when they were together, but then, she thought she was barren by that point, and she probably had very few problems with her periods if she wasn't ovulating.

He frets about the possibility for a few days, then thinks of a way he might be able to figure out if she uses it without having to rummage though her purse while she's on a bathroom break.

When Scully gets in the next morning, Mulder greets her with a bright smile. "Scully, I was reading a magazine last night-"

"Did it have a centerfold?" she asks archly. He nearly grins at the innuendo. The last time around it took her much longer to get to the level of those sorts of retorts, so he thinks he must be doing something right.

Instead of rising to the bait, he only shakes his head. "No, it's a health magazine. There were some eye-opening articles in it."

"Like what?" Scully asks, giving him a curious look.

"One was on how they're hoping to some day use electrical impulses to help people who are paralyzed walk again. I think that's pretty neat, it reminds me of the Six Million Dollar man. There was another one about a health risk for women that was pretty scary."

"What health risk is that?"

"They said that they're doing a study, and it seems like there's a huge increased risk of women under 35 having a stroke if they smoke and take birth control pills both. You better not take up smoking," he adds in a mock-stern voice.

Scully gives a short laugh. "I'd only have to worry if I also decided to take the pill. Those synthetic hormones are terrible for you."

"Good. I'd hate for you to have a stroke on me," he says with a grin.

"I know, who else could they pair you with that wouldn't kill you?" Scully smiles back.

December 29th, 1993

Scully sits at the foot of Mulder's hospital bed and gives him a look he can't quite interpret. She's gone through a lot the last few days, losing her father, then having her mind played with by Luther Boggs. Not to mention his own injury, at least it was only his leg, he keeps reminding himself. At least he knew it was coming this time, and moved slightly so the bullet didn't find bone this time. She could be thinking anything.

At last she speaks, dispelling the mystery. "I was considering Boggs. If he knew that I was your partner, he could have found out everything he knew about me. About my father..."

"Scully." He can't stand to see her torn up like this.

She gets up and walks around to him. "'Beyond the Sea' was playing at my parents' wedding. Visions of deceased loved ones are a common psychological phenomena. If he knew that my father had..."

"Dana. After all you've seen, after all the evidence, why can't you believe?" ::Don't you realize how much easier this would all be on you?::

She sighs and sits down on his bed. "I'm afraid. I'm afraid to believe," she says simply.

"You couldn't face that fear? Even if it meant never knowing what your father wanted to tell you?" he asks, grudgingly admitting to them both that perhaps Boggs wasn't a fraud after all.

"But I do know," she says softly.


"He was my father."

He reaches for her, and wraps her in a clumsy embrace. ::Oh Scully, I know it hurts. But we'll have a family. And you'll tell them all about their grandfather. I promise::

December 31st, 1993

They are panting by the time they get to the top of the stairs.

Scully's breath comes in gasps. "Mulder... You should... Have gotten...Crutches."

"Aww, but you're all I need to keep me on my feet," he tells her sweetly.

The effect is ruined when they trip over the doorstill and crash onto the floor. The way they land pins Scully's legs to the floor. "Mulder, get off of me!" Scully whines.

::Boy, I hope that's the only time I hear that tonight:: Mulder thinks, struggling to stand. "I'm up. Besides, you're the one who should sit on my lap," he tells her.

"Why is that?" she asks, raising an eyebrow.

"So we can talk about whatever comes up," he replies with a suggestive grin, making her groan. "Too bad I didn't buy that Santa hat I was eyeing a couple of weeks ago."

"Mulder!" She suddenly looks concerned, apparently thinking of their recent fall. "You didn't pop any stitches, did you?"

"I did not. And as you can see, I'm on my own two feet. And you thought I wasn't ready to go home," he scoffs. They'd gone out to dinner in at a Chinese food place after he checked out of the hospital, so it was already quite late.

"Sure, as long as you don't need to go up any stairs, you're fine." She grimaces.

"I'm not adverse to staying right here in this apartment until I'm back to one hundred percent." ::Preferably on my back... or you on yours.::

"You, wanting to hang out instead of looking for UFOs or other weirdness? I never thought I'd see the day," Scully says mockingly.

"I bet this isn't how you pictured spending New Years Eve," he says, turning puppy dog eyes on her.

"Oh, I don't know, this isn't so bad," she tells him with a small smile.

"Since it is New Years Eve, I think we ought to have a drink to celebrate," he says lightly. "I've got a bottle of champagne in the fridge."

"This isn't a set up, is it?" she asks, looking both amused and suspicious.

"Nah. It was a gift from my Dad to congratulate me for getting the X-Files started. I hope it ages well." He looks a little worried, since he never considered expiration dates.

"I'm sure it'll be fine," she assures him.

He limps slightly as he goes to retrieve the champagne and two glasses. Scully notices the limp as he returns. "Oh, Mulder you should have let me do that."

"No. Big strong man get drinks, ugh," he does his best cheesy caveman impression.

Scully accepts her glass. "So what are we toasting to?"

"You're letting me do the honors? I'm touched," Mulder says, then holds up his glass. "Here's to new beginnings and new opportunities." ::and new relationships::

They clink glasses, then drink deeply.

The count down begins soon afterwards, and they watch it on the TV. At the word "One" Mulder turns his head and surprises her with a kiss. At first he's afraid she'll resist, but her lips are warm and responsive. A brief kiss turns into a long one, but then her hand brushes his leg, and she jumps away.

He looks at her, confused, until he finally realizes that she must have felt his stitches. "Mulder, we shouldn't...your leg..." Her cheeks are flushed.

"Can I get a rain-check?" he asks hopeful.

For three heartbeats he's in agony, thinking that she's going to say no. Instead, she asks, "When do your stitches coming out?"

"In three days."

"Good. And Mulder, next time I'll pick out the alcohol."

"Champagne doesn't age well, does it," he asks, his expression sheepish.

"At least we gulped it down quickly," she teases him. "Next time buy red wine."

"I'll do that," he says, grinning at her.

While he's disappointed that things aren't going any farther that night, he's thrilled to get a rain-check. He just hopes she won't get cold feet.

January 3rd, 1994

"I can't believe I'm doing this," Mulder mutters under his breath. Bad enough that he's seducing his partner without her knowledge of their future relationship together. But that he's taking a page from Eddie Van Blundht, there's something abhorrent about that. Still, he and Scully really haven't talked since he told her about his sister's abduction while sitting in that powerless motel. Time to bite the bullet and open up a little more, he thinks, trying to calm his nerves. Then there's the fact that the closest he's gotten to this kind of action is from that lovely industry he's practically supporting single-handedly, in a manner of speaking. "You've faced mutants, monsters and aliens, how hard could a first date be?" he mumbles, then jumps as the doorbell rings.

"Coming," he calls out from the kitchen.

He opens the door to his partner, who is wearing a typically Scully look on her face, both questioning and bemused. "I have the results," she says, her blue eyes widening as she takes in the cramped quarters. He covers his grimace as she carefully steps into his apartment, while she surveys his living quarters with a critical eye. "Mulder, you didn't clean your place just for me, did you?" she asks, smiling.

God, how he's missed that smile, he thinks, saying aloud, "No, I had the mollies do all the gruntwork." He grins back, "they insisted." He waves vaguely at the aquarium fish, who have managed to survive all those years of neglect. I will never badmouth tank fish again, he vows.

Shaking her head, she makes herself comfortable on the couch. "Well, if they insisted," she says in the same light tone. "I'm afraid the news is rather disappointing, or would be from your perspective." Scully shrugs off her bulky winter coat, and, even in her dowdy work clothes, has quite the figure.

"How's that?" Mulder asks, making himself comfortable at the opposite end of the couch, resisting the temptation for the umpteenth time to remark on her looks rather than her work.

She spreads the files out on the coffee table. "It wouldn't have mattered if you took those photos with an instamatic or a zoom-in," she says, already warming up to her debunking, "I had the lab go through these with a fine tooth comb. These aren't UFOs, Mulder."

"They are unidentified, right?" Mulder asks, peering closely at one photo.

"No," Scully says, revelling in her quashing of his theory. He's letting her have her jollies, she's had so few of them while stuck with him, "And I called the FAA, the Air Force and National Weather Service to double-check. Mulder, these are lights from a commercial airline, what my father used to call a grasshopper flight because the plane was so small."

He raises his eyebrows. He knows he was bored during his New York vacation after the excitement with the Doggetts was over, but he couldn't have been seeing things that much. He leans forward, "Could a commercial aircraft be making those crazy maneuvers like those I described?"

She nods. "Especially when the pilot was drunk," she says smugly. "It was a miracle they landed safely, but some of the passengers are suing."

"Fine, fine," he stands, conceding defeat, "guess we'll be celebrating somebody else's victory, then."

She raises an eyebrow. "Celebrating?" Hearing the pop of a cork, and the sound of liquid being poured into glasses, she laughs. "You were so sure of yourself, weren't you?"

He makes a face, stepping back into the room and handing her a full glass, raising his in salute. "Congratulations, Scully, on debunking me. For once." She raises her brows as if to argue, but the corners of her mouth are twitching. "And for proving that vacations are useless."

She shakes her head, taking a generous swallow of wine. "This is good," she finally says after another swallow. "Maybe you should rethink your definition of vacation."

He smiles, tilting his glass back. "Maybe I should," he agrees. "What would be your dream vacation?"

She blinks, then answers when he's waiting instead of teasing her. "It's a little early to be thinking about that," she murmurs, but as he waves her on to continue, she says, knocking back another glass, "My dream vacation would be to stay at home, catch up on reading all those books I meant to finish, enjoy a nice cup of coffee or cocoa, and maybe have a bubble bath."

He smiles, thinking, Same ol' Scully. Mulder takes another gulp of wine, and they continue their conversation, Scully becoming less coherent after a while, for another few hours.

"Mulder," she says, her blouse as loose as her tongue, "did you want to be an FBI agent when you grew up? Or what?"

By this time, Mulder's almost as drunk as she is. Almost. "Yes." He nods gravely, and she snorts. "I guess," he pauses, searching for words that seem to escape him, "I just wanted to be someone who could find my sister. And that someone was an FBI agent."

"Why not CIA?" she asks, and it's a reasonable question.

He grins. "They never asked." And it's the truth, as far as he knows.

"Poor baby," she pouts her lips, patting him on the head mock-sympathetically. "So you were stuck with the FBI, and stuck with me." She giggles, and the sound tickles him.

"I like being stuck with you," he admits, smiling. She still hasn't removed her hand from his head. Now's the time, he thinks, she seems agreeable enough, and not too serious. "Scully?"

"Yeah?" she asks, still half-smiling. "What were you going to ask me?" she asks, and for a moment, it seems she's very sober and very serious indeed.

His heart in his mouth, he decides to reply in a light manner. "I was going to ask you," he says, his voice trailing off as his fingers trace her jawline to her neck, and she inhales sharply as his fingers pause at her collarbone before moving downward. Licking her lips, she watches in almost horrid fascination as he continues to fondle her, his hands doing things to her she knows she hasn't told anyone about enjoying. Slowly, torturously, he kisses her, and she tilts her head back as if waiting for a vampire to strike. Strike he does, and she moans involuntarily. Her eyes closed, she clutches him to her, and as his lips find their way back to her mouth, she finds her hands are fumbling for the fly on his jeans. Groaning, he responds to her touch, and he almost forgets the question.

"Whatever it is," Scully says breathlessly, her hands exploring upwards beneath his t-shirt before pulling it off, "yes."

He blinks, and she takes that moment to yank off his jeans. "Yes," Mulder repeats as he removes her loose clothes. ::Oy,:: he thinks, helping her out of her underwire bra, willing his hands not to tremble.

She inhales as his hands linger on her breasts. "Mulder," she says in that husky voice, and he gently brushes his lips along her chest, as if in worship. Smiling beatifically, Scully strokes his short brown hair, and he inhales the scent of her.

Then he lays her down on the couch, and she wiggles out of her dress pants and panties neatly, beaming proudly. Running his hands through her still-long auburn hair, Mulder smiles down at her. "Scully," he says, and she pulls him down for another deep kiss.

Her legs part, and he's about to close the deal when her eyes snap open. "Condom?" She may be drunk and passionate, but she's still got her head on.

Impatiently, he digs with his free hand through his discarded jean pocket. "Here," he says, and she takes it from him with the same impatience, putting it on none-too-gently, causing him to gasp and her to giggle. Covered with the doctored condom, he resumes what he was doing before he was so rudely interrupted, and is gratified to hear her gasp as she realizes what she's getting into, or rather, vice versa.

"Oh my God," she breathes, as she discovers that Mulder is as long as he is tall. Sometimes, even the tall ones come up short, as she complained to her friends. Well, she won't be complaining any more, she thinks, and it's the last coherent thought in her head for a while. Mulder, to his credit, continues to deliver, and Scully feels like she's got a new spine in an anatomically impossible area.

Her lips part as she pants, and Mulder, having fought the temptation too many times, covers her open mouth with his, and as he continues to thrust earnestly within her, they breathe the same breath. Clawing at his back, she rocks against him as she breaks off their kiss, inhaling fresh air and his musky scent. Excited, he thrusts harder, and she cries out, arching her back. Thanks to previous knowledge, Mulder knows exactly how to make her happy, and she responds in kind, her dazed mind not bothering to question particularly large and unusual phenomenon, her body occupied with the pleasures of his primal flesh. They gasp and call out incoherent words, but their tactile communication is all too clear, and finally, their ardor and stamina spent, lie exhausted on the couch.

Chapter Seven

January 1994

When Scully comes into work one morning in late January, she looks pale and slightly green tinged.

Mulder is hopeful that he knows why, but he pretends not to have a clue. "Scully, are you coming down with something? You don't look very well."

She pales even more, if that's possible. "We need to talk, Mulder. At lunch."

"Ok," Mulder agrees, pulling open a drawer in his desk. "I been giving what you said about organizing things better thought. But what do we do with something like these-" He spreads a handful of photos from their first case out on top of his desk. "Do they go under 'C' for cow, or 'M' for mutilation?"

Scully glances at them for approximately two seconds before covering her mouth with her hand and bolting from the room. As Mulder listens to the sound of her heels clicking down the hallway as she heads for the bathroom, he sighs. He feels guilty for such a trick, but the calendar tells him that Jack Willis is going to turn up missing, and he wanted to know if he was right. She returns looking even paler, and tells him that he can make that decision himself since they're his files.

At lunch he notes that she ordered soup, something easy on the stomach, and decides to be gallant and also order a soup too. The last thing he wants to do is to turn her stomach again on top of everything else.

Once they've got their steaming bowls in front of them, he gives her an expectant look. "You said there's something we needed to talk about?" ::as if I don't know what:: he thinks, suppressing a grin. ::Right on schedule too, by the time Duanne Barry lands in our lives you'll be so far along there's no way he'll have the heart to let the aliens kidnap you::

Scully gives him a shy look. "Mulder, I know that your family life was less than ideal, with losing your sister, and how distant your parents were after that, but have you ever longed for a normal family life?"

"I haven't given it a lot of thought," he says, thinking :: at least at this point in my life I hadn't.:: "I guess that's because I'd have to find a woman who could stand me, quirks and all, first, and I know that won't be an easy task."

She gives him a sympathetic look, and puts one of her hands on his. "Mulder, you really sell yourself short. You'll make a wonderful husband and father, and any woman who can't see that-"

The shrill cry of Scully's cellphone interrupts her, much to Mulder's chagrin. She was on a roll and he hated for her to lose her train of thought. Besides the fact that she's going to confess to being pregnant, like anyone else, he loves hearing nice things about himself.

Looking both annoyed and surprised, Scully pushes the phone's on button, and gives him an apologetic smile as she answers. "Scully." She listens, and he watches as her expression gets darker and darker. They're not going to continue their conversation.

Snapping the cellphone shut with a little more force than necessary, she tells him what the call was about. "That was section chief Blevins. He wants us to check out the morgue because there's problems with Dupre's body."

"What kind of problems?" Mulder asks, not pretending annoyance. If only she'd found out she was pregnant one day sooner!

"Problems like part of it is missing," Scully says with a heavy sigh. "We better get going."

"Sure," Mulder says, sounding equally bleak, but not because of the missing body parts. "Maybe we can pick up our conversation after work."

"Sounds like a plan," Scully agrees, but he can see a new tension on her face even though her mask of annoyance. ::She wanted to get it over with.:: He thinks as they pay the bill. ::Me too.::

Three days later, Mulder gnashes his teeth and wants to scream in frustration. He's supposed to be changing things to keep Scully out of trouble, but the only thing he's managed to change so far is that he put a bun in her oven. Not that they've even gotten to complete their little heart-to-heart on it yet.

Sighing, he admits to himself that he has managed to change one other thing - this time she's wired, even though she doesn't realize it. As soon as it became clear that Willis was going to be a problem again, he called in a favor from the lone gunmen and got them to lend him a bug he could insert in Scully's clothes. A well timed kiss and gentle pawing of her shirt masks that action on his part. He decided it was safer if she didn't know about it, so she has no idea that he's listening with a tiny receiver no bigger than a cigarette pack to every word that passes between her and the pair of criminals. And those words are not good.

He had to pretend when Willis called that he didn't know what was going on with her, but it's so damn hard to listen to what's going on now. As much as it kills him to be inactive, he's got to wait for a plausible moment to bring up where she is, so people don't catch on to his seemingly clairvoyant knowledge of what's happening.

Scully has tried to convince Willis that he's himself, not Dupre, but it's not going well. He's in mid-rant when Mulder hears something that gets his attention. "You left me to die on that table while you tried to save your friend!"

"You are my friend," she insists.

"Too bad he was gone already. I watched him go. I just saw him slip away down that long, black tunnel," Willis says, but as Dupre.

"No. We brought you back," Scully protests.

"You shot me dead! And then you let me die." Mulder pictures him turning the gun on her, though he has no way to see if that was the case.

"No. You won't kill me, Jack."

"You call me that one more time I'll make you stone-cold," he growls, making Mulder cringe.

"You wouldn't kill me, no matter who you are, or think you are," Scully says quietly.

"Why's that?" he demands harshly.

"Because I'm pregnant," Scully tells him. Listening, Mulder's heart breaks. "Even the man Dupre was wouldn't kill an innocent unborn baby."

"You don't look pregnant," Willis/Dupre accuses.

"I just found out," Scully admits. "I haven't even gotten a chance to tell the baby's father, because of this case."

"Congratulations, then." He sounds sarcastic. "Good thing for you I'm not your ex-boyfriend, or maybe I'd be insanely jealous."

"Good thing," Scully agrees.

"You believe I'm Dupre then, not this Willis fellow, then?" he belligerently demands to know.

Mulder holds his breath as he listens - Scully is as stubborn as he is, and he knows she doesn't believe the man is Dupre. He lets his air out in a whoosh of relief when she finally answers. "You've convinced me," she says, sounding utterly sincere. "Jack Willis is dead," she adds in a pained voice.

"That's right," Dupre says in a calmer, gloating tone. "You just keep that in your pretty little head, and you and me will get along just fine."

Eventually, it's all over. Mulder is able to hint to the tech guy listening to the tape that they're holed up near an airfield, and things move quickly after that. A short time later Willis and Lula are dead again, the same way as before. The only difference is as soon as Scully is uncuffed from the radiator, she clings to Mulder.

Mulder smoothes her hair, and tells her that things are going to be ok. As soon as she notices other agents around, she recoils from him with a sheepish expression, but those who noticed don't think anything of needing a hug after an experience that traumatic.

Mulder gives her a crocked grin as they walk out to his waiting car. "So, any woman who doesn't realize I'd be a great husband and father what?" he asks as soon as they shut the doors.

For a second she looks blank, but then smiles when she remembers what they'd been taking about. "And I thought they said women remembered every word of conversations."

Mulder pouts. "You're ducking. Are you going to finish your interrupted statement or not?"

"Not," she tells him with a mischievous grin.

"Scullllly!" he whines, grimacing.

"What would you give me for telling you?" she asks coyly.

He likes her playful mood. "I'll be your best friend."

"You are my best friend," she retorts, surprising him. Did she feel that way less than two years after meeting him the last time around?

"Well, I'll take you to dinner, then."

"That sounds like a vaguely familiar promise..."

"Hey, I'm not the one who canceled our plans by retrieving a ring in a macabre manner."

He sees her tense for a second at the word ring, but then she relaxes. "Nothing spicy, though, ok?"

"We can go anywhere you want, as long as you don't try to make me eat a salad."

"Men," she mutters under her breath.

Mulder can't believe how nervous he is an hour and a half later when a waiter finally seats them. From the man's snotty attitude, they ought to be grateful to have gotten a table at all considering they didn't call a month in advance.

At least they get complementary salads, which Scully toys with while they wait for menus. "Is your stomach still bothering you?" Mulder asks, looking concerned. "This is a stressful job, you could be getting an ulcer."

"I'm not getting an ulcer," she says with a shake of her head. "I know what's wrong with my stomach lately."

He gives her a long stare, silently willing her to tell him.

Her cheeks pink up, which he thinks looks very fetching, and her eyes are slightly downcast. "I think there's something I need to tell you."

"What?" he asks, keeping his voice as neutral as possible.

"I'm pregnant, Mulder," she confesses. "I know we used birth control, so I'm willing to accept it if you're not ready to be a father-"

"A baby, really?" He lets his delight fill his voice. "I've wanted a baby forever."

"Really?" She gives him a surprised glance. "I wouldn't have guessed that."

"I know, it's usually a female thing, but... I never really had a family after my sister disappeared, and I want that. A baby makes a family complete. That is, if the baby's Mommy is willing to give the family thing a go," he says shyly.

"I...of course," she says, flustered. "I want a family too, Mulder, I always have."

He reaches for her hand. "So, do we tell your mother that she's going to have a grandchild or a son-in-law first?"

"Does that mean you're proposing?" Scully asks.

"Only if it means you'd accept. Fragile male ego and all."

She smiles at him. "I think my answer wouldn't damage your ego at all."

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to day to wed this hound-dog and this hot momma into the sanctity of holy matrimony."

"Mulder, no."

"Come on, you know you want to be married by the King, Scully," Mulder pleads with puppy-dog eyes.

Unfortunately, she's having none of it. "Mulder, of all the things I want in life, being married by a fat man in a white polyester jumpsuit is not one of them."

"I suppose you want a big church wedding then, with lots of flowers and lots of people I've never met," he replies with a frown.

"Actually no. Melissa was forever planning her wedding when we were young girls, even buying those stupid bride magazines, but I've never liked the idea of a big wedding. There's just too much stress and planning involved."

"You've always been a cynic, then."

"I prefer to think of myself as a pragmatist, but yes."

"So what do you want to do, elope? I don't think that'd be as effective without me owning a motorcycle and you sneaking out the window of your childhood room in the middle of the night."

"How about something small? Just you, me, our parents and my siblings?"

"That's really small. I'd agree though, if I could have Danny there as my best man, and invite the Lone Gunmen."

"You'd really want those three there?" Scully asks, making a face.

"I don't have three siblings like you do." Mulder pauses for effect so he's sure she thinks of Samantha too. "They're my best friends."

"Well...ok. But keep a tight leash on that Frohike character."

Mulder snorts and agrees to keep an eye on her smallest admirer. "Aren't you glad I want Danny for the best man?" he asks, thinking about garter belts.

Chapter Eight

February 14th, 1994

The ceremony is held on Valentines' day, which is the only concession towards fairy-tale weddings that Scully is willing to make. It makes Mulder smile every time he thinks of how little a romantic she is he'd thought she'd be the one to come up with that date for their nuptials.

While his parents and her mother seem a bit nonplused about the haste of their wedding, given they'd not actually been told their children were involved, they are all three the picture of dignity, and refrain from mentioning the old adage about marrying in haste and repenting in leisure. They almost seem happy.

It's also to Mulder's vast surprise that Bill junior doesn't have any objections at all to the wedding, which he finds exceedingly odd given how much Bill hated him the last time around. But then, the reason for his dislike hasn't happened yet, and if Mulder has his way, never will, so it's not too terribly hard to understand when he thinks about it. He's still wary of his new brother-in-law anyway, though.

At last the ceremony is over, and they've exchanged rings, and kissed blushingly before their audience. Scully will keep her last name because two Mulders in the office would be confusing, and surprisingly enough, none of the parents object to this bit of modernism.

It's on, then, to the fun part as Mulder sees it, or at least the first fun part: the reception. It's quite amusing to watch the parents' dance, and he almost tears up when Byers shyly invites Mrs. Scully, who'd been watching the Mulders' on dance floor, if she too would like to dance.

Of course Mulder and Scully dance too, and she looks so happy he can hardly bear it.

"I wanna wish you the best of luck, Mulder, you lucky dog," Frohike says later into the reception, blinking owlishly since he'd been visiting the wet bar. "You better take care of that girl, 'cause I'm so jealous that I'll steal her away from you if you don't treat her right."

"You'd try, anyway," Langly snorts rudely. Frohike clumsily extends him a finger.

"I know a good thing when I see it," Mulder tells him. "No worries."

"Yeah...say, is her sister seeing anyone?" Frohike asks, sending a flirtatious glance in the other redhead's direction.

Eventually the happy couple bids everyone good-bye, and gets into their can and streamer-festooned car, heading off for their honeymoon.

"Mulder, I am not in the mood," Scully groans, her head resting on the passenger door, and she isn't. If she had the strength, she'd roll her eyes, or bang her head repeatedly on the door at the insanity of it all. She wonders if the talk show host is merely tapping into the boredom and paranoia that insomnia seems to bring out in even the best of people, like her husband, for example. Then again, Mulder was never clearly on this side of sane, anyways, and has only a tenuous grasp of reality, as opposed to the talk show host, who has no concept of reality, period. She sees the man she's pledged to spend the rest of her life with memorizing of-repeated phrases, and finally indulges herself in an eyeroll of massive proportions.

Yeah, she'd be in a better mood if this was happening during some other time than their honeymoon. It was enough to make a woman handcuff her man to the bedpost to remind him of what proper wedded etiquette meant. She's not sure what exactly happened, but somewhere between here and the airport, they'd taken a serious detour away from what she assumed was Las Vegas. Then again, she's not at her best, having battled and succumbed to several waves of nausea earlier that morning. She's feeling better now, but not by much.

So here they are, in the middle of Nowhere, Nevada, all because of some crazy late night talk show, driving a car still decorated with festive streamers. Still, she didn't trust him to go off by himself, because, God forbid, something horrible should happen to him and he's trapped by himself.... She sighs. Now she's trapped with him.

"Mulder," she tries again, "Just because this Ted Ringer guy says it's there, doesn't mean that it is. I mean, it could be like that Geraldo Rivera thing all over again." She puts a hand on his shoulder. "We don't have to go chasing after something just because a dubious source puts it out there."

"Or what if it is out there, and we could be the first people to actually see it for ourselves," he replies, his eyes on the road.

Forget eye rolling, she's wanting to bring on some serious concussions, first to his head, and then to hers, if it'll help. A jolt in the road, and suddenly her stomach reminds her that she's pregnant. "Mulder," she says in what she hopes is a firm voice.

"We're still going," he says in a sing-song tone.

"Then I'll decorate the glove compartment with a lovely shade of puke," she says in the same tone.

The car pulls to a screeching halt on the shoulder of the road.

"I cannot believe it," Scully says as they come to a stop an hour later. "It's got to be some kind of practical joke."

"Nope," Mulder says reverently, "it's just like what the callers on Ted Ringer's show said."

They're not the first ones at the scene, and they step out of their car carefully, just another couple in a crowd of what seems to be hundreds. All witnesses to the strange spectacle that has captured the imagination of a late-night listenership. The tall man looks at the red-haired woman, and, after a brief understanding, put their guns back into their holsters. Around them, people buzz, some in hushed tones, others in excited squawks. They are all pointing up at the sky - and ahead of them.

"What is it?" Mulder asks someone with binoculars. He squints to see what exactly the falling objects are, but with no luck.

The man puts down the binos and blinks up at the taller man. "It's unbelievable," the short man stutters.

"It's a hoax," Scully says, valiantly trying to keep her skepticism from turning into sarcasm.

"No, see for yourselves," he says, handing his binoculars to the red-headed woman whose frown he can see even by the moonlight.

Her mouth open, she finally puts the pair of lenses down. "I don't believe it," she says, handing it over to Mulder.

Now his mouth is open as he stares through the binoculars. A huge grin is plastered on his face as he hands them back to the short man, who resumes his watch. "This is a great honeymoon," he declares, hugging his wife to himself.

"You would think so," Scully says in a long-suffering tone.

He gives her a look. "Hey, be glad it's not aliens," he says as they make their way to the front of the crowd.

"Only you would decide to detour from our regularly scheduled honeymoon destination, to chase after 'shooting stars'." She makes quotation marks with her fingers, "and it turns out to be Elvis impersonators."

"Guess they made a wrong turn at Alburquerque." Mulder grins, and she shakes her head. "Wonder if they take requests."

"I've got one of my own," Scully drawls, "just tell me when is everything going to be sane again."

"C'mon, Scully," Mulder says, like a kid in a crowd at Disneyland, "this is almost as good as visiting Graceland. Or Dreamland, for that matter."

"Dreamland?" she raises an eyebrow.

He nods. "You know, Groom Lake, Area 51 - Land of a Thousand Rumors."

"Ah-ha." She nods. "Okay. So this is actually a publicity stunt gone wrong."

He looks shocked. "Or very, very right," he argues, holding her and attempting a few dance steps as the Elvises set up their sound equipment and lights. "If they sing 'Burning Love,' it's fate."

She grins suddenly. "If they sing 'Can't Help Falling in Love,' it's love."

He grins back, and twirls her as someone taps a microphone. Everyone looks up, and there is a hush over the crowd as they take in the vision of white sparkly and black leather-clad Elvii on stage.

"Ladies and gentlemen," a black leather Elvis declares, "thank you very much for coming this evening. We're gonna start off with something for the ladies," he leers at the already-shrieking women, and a slow melody makes itself heard over the loudspeakers.

"Wise men say only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you
Shall I stay
Would it be a sin
If I can't help falling in love with you," the Elvis croons, and already, a few impressionable women are swooning.

Nearby, Mulder smirks. "Guess it's love, then," he says, and the redhead in his arms doesn't argue with that.

"Can't Help Falling In Love," words & music by George Weiss, Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore

The biggest post-ceremony change in his life is having to clear out his bedroom and buy a bed so they have some place to sleep. Scully is anxious for them to find a place with another bedroom, but he keeps telling her that they have about a year for that, since a baby doesn't really need it's own room right away. Besides, he can't imagine her wanting their baby in another room at first, but he wisely keeps that insight to himself.

He isn't sure what he expected, but he thought there would be bigger changes in them both after swearing to stand by each other in sickness and in health, til death do them part, but really, other than the new past-time of baby shopping, they're the same people they've always been. Or she is, and he is again.

Knowing her as he does, it's hard to resist the urge to tell her to take it easy, to avoid certain cases, but resist he does. She's so stubborn, one of the few ways they mirror each other, that any suggestion of the sort would only make her more determined to prove that he's being silly, and she's still fully capable of doing whatever it is that he'd rather she didn't.

Which is why they're in the middle of the woods, having the same argument they had years before. He tried to convince the ranger that they ought to bring more gas with them, but to no avail since it was considered a "waste of daylight"so they're in the same spot they were in last time. And Scully still doesn't understand why he gave the gas to Spinney, and since he can't tell her how he knows the man is trust-worthy...


"Look, it's done. I shouldn't have let him go. Let's just move past it, okay?" he says, even knowing it won't be the end of it, not by a long shot.

"Fine. What do you suggest?"

"I don't know. We'll think of something," he says half-heartedly.

"Look, I think we both have a pretty good idea of what happened to those loggers and what happened to the group in 1934."

::Yeah...they got et.:: "We only found one cocoon," he says, trying to distract her with logic.

"It's a big forest."

"Look, Scully, what would you have done?"

"You mean, would I have made a decision by myself that would have affected the whole group?"

"Oh, will you cut the sanctimonious crap?" he gripes, knowing that it'll just anger her further. Angry is better than scared, he reasons.

"Well, what do you want me to say? Let's face it, Mulder, we might die up here! You, me, Moore, the baby... If we're lucky, they'll find our bodies spun up in a tree or they may not find us at all!"

"You're right. And we're wasting time arguing about it." But her point about the baby is something he never even stopped to think about before now. He thought of it as being something to keep Scully safe, and never stopped to consider their cases might put him or her in danger.

High Containment Facility
Winthrop Washington
Three Days Later...

Mulder slowly paces the room, looking anxiously at Scully and Moore, who are lying in beds. Spinney isn't there, he didn't make it. Mulder had argued with him, demanding he stay in the jeep with them, but he was too determined to meet his fate. At least Scully and Moore seem like they'll live.

"How are you feeling?" a voice asks, startling Mulder out of his thoughts.

"I feel a little less like I'm trying to breathe sand. How did the tests come back?" he asks, knowing what the man will say.

The man walks over to a desk and picks up a chart. "Your respiratory charts were good. We're more concerned with the extent of damage due to inhalation. There were large concentrations of the chemical determined as Luciferene."

"The enzymes we find in fireflies and other bioluminescent insects?" Mulder asks, wondering if the doctor will be surprised by his "knowledge."

He doesn't even blink. "Yes. Our entomologists are still trying to determine the specific epithet of the insects you encountered."

Mulder leads the man over to Scully. It hurts him to see the sores on her face and hands, but he knows that she'll be ok before long, and look like her old self again. "How is Scully doing?"

"She's still not out of the woods, so to speak. She lost a lot of fluids. Two or three more hours of exposure, she might not have made it."

"And the baby?" Mulder whispers, as if Scully might hear him if he speaks louder.

"Surprisingly enough, it seems perfectly fine. It's your baby, isn't it?"


"Looks like you two are going to have a strong kid some day soon."

::Not soon enough:: Mulder thinks, picking up Scully's limp hand. "I told her it was going to be a nice trip to the forest."

The man nods grimly, and that does nothing to alleviate his guilt.

A little while later, Mulder is banished to his room because he's seen as getting in the way of their care of Moore and Scully. Sitting in his room gives him a lot of time to think, and he'd rather not.

Until he argued with Scully, it never occurred to him to think about the baby's well-being. The point of having the baby is so that Scully would be kept safe, so why hasn't he thought before about keeping it safe too? If she miscarried, there could be big trouble, since it seems unlikely he could talk her into trying again before August.

Sighing, he collapses on his bed, his head full of new worries. Trying to keep the baby safe is going to require convincing Scully to take it easy, and how ever could he do that? A strong will is one of the things that attracted him to her in the first place, and impending motherhood hasn't tempered that in the slightest.

Chapter Nine

Spring 1994

Later on in March, Scully finds herself trying out a number of outfits, wondering which suit would suit her best. She'll be meeting with their new direct supervisor, Assistant Director Walter Skinner. She doesn't know much about him, but she's heard the rumors that he's a hardass from the military. She holds another outfit up by the hangar. Should she show off her stomach, her impending motherhood? Will it help her or hinder her testimony? Then again, this early in the game, she's not really showing at all, but still, she sighs. She finally opts for a no-nonsense, tummy-hiding outfit, even though he's probably read her records and knows of her marriage to and pregnancy due to her partner. Dammit. The redhead sighs, knowing she won't make it in time for the court hearing of Eugene Victor Tooms.

Who would you rather face, your new supervisor's wrath, or your husband's? Tough call, she sighs again, straightening out her blouse in the mirror and touching up her lipstick before she leaves the apartment. You're Doctor and Special Agent Dana Scully, you can put up with any man's crap and deal it just as much, she tells herself sternly over and over, finally ending up in front of a bald man with glasses, suit, and a linebacker's physique.

"Agent Scully, we have reviewed your reports and frankly we are quite displeased. Irregular procedure, untenable evidence, anonymous witnesses, inconclusive findings aggravated by vague opinion," he starts off.

And that was the good news, she groans inwardly, arguing aloud, "But sir, the very nature of the X-Files cases often precludes orthodox investigation." Already, she can tell the meeting will be too long, no matter what the clock says. And she's got a sinking feeling that, kid or no kid on the way, this Skinner will cut neither her nor Mulder any slack.

I can deal with Mulder, she thinks, as the bald man continues to interrogate her, I can deal with the very understandable concerns our supervisor has, but I'm not sure I can deal with the consequences this meeting may have on Tooms' court case, or on Mulder's psyche. She forces herself to pay attention to her supervisor's increasingly impatient tone. "May I ask, sir, what more you require?" she says, as politely as possible without sheathing the steel in her voice.

"What I require is increased frequency of reports," Skinner answers with his own steel. "Conventional investigation. In short, Agent Scully, it is your responsibility to see that these cases are by-the-book."

"I understand, however... conventional investigation of these cases may decrease the rate of success," she replies, as she watches the tall, silent man put out his cigarette. And who is that man, she wonders briefly, still annoyed by the fact she's had to put up with the secondhand smoke her child has probably inhaled. As quickly and as politely as possible, she takes her things and leaves the office, heading for the courtroom and for the more-than-likely release of a certain liver-eating, body-stretching mutant.

Later, at the Lynn Acres Retirement Home in Baltimore, former Detective Frank Briggs is looking at a clipping with the headline "Suspect Caught in Serial Killings" with a picture of Tooms below. He crumples and tosses the paper before rubbing his forehead and sighing. Scully is standing near him, knowing how he feels. "If Tooms gets away with this now, then the next time he takes a life, you'll be nearly my age," the old man says. Glancing at her stomach, he adds, "Your kids might have to be the ones to chase him down."

She smiles briefly. "Detective Briggs, you've helped us so much before. Now we have to prove that Tooms was involved in the killings you investigated thirty years ago. You've lived with this case half your life." The female agent sits down next to him. "There must be something, maybe a connection with the victims. Now, I know that we've seen all the evidence, but is there anything, anything at all amongst all the evidence that doesn't fit?"

His eyes flicker. "There was something that never did sit quite right with me. All of the victims that I investigated in '63 were found at the crime scene, liver extracted. All five."

"As were the four most recent murders," she agrees, wondering where he's going with this.

The old man wheels himself over to the bed with a box on it. "When I was a sheriff during the Powhatan Mills killings of 1933," he says, "only four of the victims were found at the crime scene. However, there was a fifth person who was missing and never found." As Scully walks over, he takes out a piece of liver in a jar marked "evidence." "But this, this was discovered at the Ruxton Chemical Plant when it was under construction." He hands the jar to her and she sits down gingerly. "But it doesn't belong to the other victims."

She looks at him after looking at the jar's contents. "That doesn't prove that it belongs to a person murdered by Tooms."

"I'm positive that Tooms hid this one victim because there was something about the body that could prove he was the killer."

A little surprised, Scully asks, "And what makes you positive?"

"A hunch," he answers promptly, "a good old-fashioned hunch. You've got to trust your instincts."

If Mulder were here, he'd probably give a thousand out-there testimonies about the same thing, she thinks. "And what does your instincts say about where Tooms buried the body?"

"In the cement where they poured the foundation of the chemical plant," the old man replies.

Much later, after Detective Briggs had pointed out the spot and a construction worker had drilled it out, Dr. Plith of the Smithsonian's forensic lab had examined the remains and ran a superimposed image of the last victim, it appears that they match. However, Mulder mutters, "It's not enough. It doesn't tie it into Tooms."

"Well, it's a start," Scully says, thinking, What the hell have you been doing all day? As he nods, she glances at the various take-out food trays. Ick. "Mulder, it's getting a bit ripe in here, don't you think?" She's glad she's pretty much over the morning, afternoon and night sickness, but Mulder is not helping things.

Oh yeah, the so-called gentlemanly part of his brain goes, air freshener! He digs around the glove compartment, startling her, and pulls it out, smelling it deeply before shoving it in front of her nose. "Pine scented," he offers.

Men, Scully thinks, while wrinkling her nose. "Ew."

"Better?" he continues in the same tone. "Tooms hasn't come out of the house all day. I sat through a Phillies game, an Orioles game, and four hours of Ba-Ba-Booey. When it got dark, I took a walk around the block. Do you have that sandwich I asked you to bring?"

We're married, and he's still a dork, she thinks, pulling out the sandwich from the brown paper bag. Glad I ate earlier, or he'd have no sandwich. "It's liverwurst," she says primly.

"Ha-ha," he says, unwrapping the sandwich. And is surprised to find that, yes, it is liverwurst. What kind of a she-devil did he marry?

"Mulder, you know that proper surveillance requires two pairs of agents, one pair relieving the other after twelve hours."

"Article 30, paragraph 8.7?" he pulls from his photographic memory.

She's ready to smack him upside the head. "This isn't about doing it by the book. This is about you not having slept for three days. Mulder, you're going to get sloppy and you're going to get hurt. It's inevitable at this point."

"A request for other agents to stake out Tooms would be denied. Then we have no grounds," he argues way-too-reasonably for a sleep-deprived mind.

But Scully's putting her foot down. Dammit, she wants to raise a child with him, not the liver-eaten remains of him! "Then I'll stay here. You go home."

He sighs. "They're out to put an end to the X-Files, Scully. I don't know why, but any excuse will do." Actually, I do know why, I just can't tell you yet, he thinks. "Now, I really don't care about my record, but you'd be in trouble just for sitting in this car on this 'unofficial' stakeout and I'd hate to see you carry a very official reprimand in your file because of me."

Now she sighs. "Fox," she starts.

He laughs and she looks at him. "Oh, don't start calling me that. It's still Mulder, please," he says, feeling odd telling the person he's married to to call him by his last name, "I even made my parents call me Mulder. So, Mulder." From her lips, however, it sounds just right. Not his father's middle name masquerading as a first name. Just Mulder.

"Mulder," she stresses the name, "I wouldn't put myself on the line for anyone but you."

How well I know that, he thinks as they look at each other. "If there's an ice tea in that bag, could be love," he says hopefully. Okay, just because they're married doesn't mean he's always gonna get lucky, but it doesn't stop him from trying.

"Must be fate, Mulder," she says smugly, "root beer." As he sighs dramatically, she rolls her eyes. "You're delirious. Go home and get some sleep."

He hands her the sandwich with the big bite mark. "Here, take my sandwich," he says gallantly, "I only had one bite." As she makes a face, he goes on, "You're gonna want it later, believe me. And you'll call me if anything happens, immediately. I'll be here." He holds her shoulder, but looks at her stomach. She nods reluctantly, starting to get out of the car. Grinning, he adds, "Oh, and 11:30, station 790, the Pete Rose Late Night Talk Sports Radio Show."

Scully snorts, "Wouldn't miss it for the world." She closes the door, getting into her own car to replace his spot.

He nods and starts the car, safe in the memory that nothing bad happens to her on stakeout. He doesn't notice, however, the trunk latch shut as he drives off.

Once inside her car, however, she makes a face as she looks at the sandwich. Ew. But something makes her take another look.

At 66 Exeter Street, which is now a giant shopping mall, Mulder and Scully make their way inside, thanks to the security guard. Flashlights drawn, they walk through the dark building, and Mulder comments, "He's got to be here." He almost said, I know he's here, which would have earned him more than just an eyebrow raise.

"If he is drawn to this location for some reason, maybe this nest is in the approximate location of his previous nest." As they stop, she notes, "This is the area. There's a storage facility on the second floor." They start up the escalator, but Mulder ahead of her, stops. "What?" He shines the light down at the door under the escalator. They open the door, only to find a narrow space. "There's only room for one." Forgetting her pregnant state, for once, she starts to take off her trenchcoat, but he stops her.

"Skinnier one goes in, guess that's me," he says, and she punches him because she's not really showing yet, but backs off reluctantly as he holds her gaze. ::Like I'd let a pregnant lady wrestle with a liver-eating monster,:: he thinks as he takes off his coat and tie and crawls into the narrow space, flashlight in hand. ::I will not lose my gun,:: he tells himself, ::I will not lose my gun.:: Shining the flashlight on the floor, he sees some bile and makes a face, and cautiously makes his way through the passage, which has the same bile and newspaper décor Tooms' former nest had. ::I will not lose my gun,:: he reminds himself, pulling out his gun and shaking off a loose grate.

"Mulder?" Scully's worried voice comes to him from a distance. Shining her own flashlight into the hole, she can see nothing helpful.

As Mulder comes up to the nest, he grips his gun tight, remembering what happened last time. A hand bursts through, and Mulder fires off a couple of shots, but none hit the growling, naked man who refuses to let go. As they struggle, Mulder loses his gun but breaks free. "Dammit!" he mutters, trying to shake off the snarling animal-like man.

"Mulder!" Scully calls out, ready to climb into the hole herself.

Mulder's determined to get out before she goes in after him, and smashes the crazed yellow-eyed mutant in the face with his flashlight, knocking down the smaller man for a moment, but only for a moment. Panicked, Mulder shimmies down the vent, followed by a very naked, very angry man. He finds the opening, and none too soon, as his wife and partner holds out a hand to him.

"Mulder! Come on, just a little-!" she breaks off as Mulder is dragged back in. She watches in horror as he struggles to free himself, smelling the noxious bile covering the yellow-eyed man in the tunnel. "Come on!" she hollers, pulling for dear life once Mulder's within reach.

Free, Mulder jumps forward and presses a button, turning the escalator on and turning Tooms into screaming hamburger meat. Gasping for breath, the two agents hang on to each other as blood rolls up the escalator stairs.

Trying to recover his cool exterior, he says, "Next time, you get to tussle with the naked, bile-covered mutant."

"You're sleeping on the couch tonight," she mutters.

He pouts, but smiles as she walks ahead of him, making their way to the security guard.

Later, in Baltimore, Mulder is looking at a caterpillar cocoon hanging off a branch. Scully comes up to him and taps him on the arm. "Okay, let's go," she says.

"It's amazing how things change, isn't it?" he says, commenting on so many things at once.

She looks at the cocoon. "The caterpillar?" she says, raising an eyebrow.

"No, a change for us. It's coming." He smiles a little, and she puts a hand on her still flat stomach.

"You think?" she says, smiling back.

He grins at her now, biting his tongue, wanting to say so many things, but not wanting to freak her out. We're going to face the Conspiracy head-on, get shut down, hopefully keep you from getting abducted by Duane Barry, and that's not including other monsters we'll run across. "Just a hunch," he says lightly.

She glances at the caterpillar, then at him before taking his hand in hers. "I'm starting to trust hunches," she says in the same tone, fingering his wedding band.

He nods, feeling that strange rush as they walk off, hand in hand. We're married now, it's okay, he reminds himself, but it's still a weird feeling. Weird is good, he thinks, and grins. Weird is normal.

Chapter Ten

April 1994

The normally dull Hoover building cafeteria has taken on an air of enchantment. At least for Mulder. Sitting there amongst the noisy comings and goings of fellow federal employees, he studies his lunch companions without their notice. He hopes. Still cheerfully and rapidly exclaiming over the tour he's just taken, Mulder is sure that Luke doesn't notice his scrutiny, but Doggett might be more aware.

Even with the threat of being obvious, Mulder can't look away. ::God::. He can scarcely believe that he's really sitting there with the two of them. Particularly the animated little boy who is busily describing the metal detectors as he shovels orange Jell-O into his mouth. A little boy who is supposed be dead. By this time, it's supposed to have been months since Doggett and Reyes were to have discovered his cold little body. Torn apart by their shared yet separate grief, Doggett and Barbara are supposed to be very close to calling it quits.

Yet here the little boy sits eating lunch, next to a father who is still devoted to his wife. He even looks different from the photo that Doggett enshrined on his desk in another reality. His blond hair is winter-darkened and his tan is gone. All in all he looks very good for someone who has supposed to have been dead eight months. It's the most incredible thing that Mulder has ever seen. ::I did this. How could I do this? Is it really real?::

And Doggett looks so young...and relaxed even. Without the crushing weight of his years of grief on him, he even looks different than the John Doggett Mulder once knew. No frown lines, no permanently furrowed brow, no sadly haunted eyes. It's not just that he's younger, Mulder realizes, it's that he's still happy. :: And let him stay that way::

"Did you always want to be an FBI agent, Mister Mulder?" Luke asks, breaking the spell.

Mulder shrugs. "I didn't think much about what I wanted to be when I grew up." :: At least not after Samantha was taken away. Before that I wanted to play baseball. After Samantha was taken I mostly wondered if I'd grow up without being taken too. Little did I know that it would be decades before I had that experience.:: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"Probably a cop, like daddy." Luke smiles as he says it, revealing a missing tooth that wasn't gone in Doggett's photo.

"Is your mom a cop too?"

"No." Luke giggles. "Why would Mommy be a cop?"

Mulder pretends to pout. "You know that FBI agents are a type of police officer, right? My wife is an FBI agent too, and lots of other women are agents and cops," he points out, wondering if there are women on Doggett's force, and if there are has Luke met any.

Doggett raises an eyebrow. "Married that girlfriend, huh?"

Mulder suddenly remembers telling him that he and his girlfriend wanted a baby. "On Valentines' day. The baby is due late September," he adds with a sheepish smile.


"Thanks." Mulder decides it's a good time to plant a suggestion. "What about you, did you ever want to be an FBI agent too?"

Doggett shrugs. "I've thought about it. But we're pretty happy in New York. We'd have to relocate at least temporarily if I was going to go to Quantico."

"That's reasonable. But don't give up on the idea entirely, we could use good people around here."

"If we ever move to D.C., I'll give it serious consideration," Doggett says, but he's clearly joking.

"Can we see your office, Mister Mulder?" Luke asks suddenly, giving him a hopeful look.

"I'm not sure, but I can call my supervisor and ask him," Mulder promises, wondering how Skinner will react to the idea of visitors to the basement office.

Skinner is fine with the idea, so Mulder leads the way down, listening contentedly to Luke's eager chatter in the elevator.

Mulder pushes the door open, and the three of them file in. "It's not much, but it's home."

"Basement, huh?" Doggett asks, a glint of humor in his eyes.

"My superiors don't like me," Mulder piously answers. "The cases we take are a little unusual."

"How so?"

"Mulder?" He turns and sees that Scully is giving their guests a curious look. She'd taken a lunch-hour doctor's appointment, and was just now getting back. From the look on her face, she's forgotten all about his lunch plans.

"Hey Scully. I'd like you to meet John and Luke Doggett," Mulder says, putting his arm around her gently rounded waist. "Scully is my partner here, and at home," he adds with a grin that only the adults appreciate.

"Mister Mulder broke my leg, you know," Luke earnestly informs her. "But it was an accident, and I'm all better now, so I like him."

"Oh, so you're the little boy that I've heard so much about," Scully tells him with a smile. "Are you here to become an FBI agent?"

"Naw, I'm only in the third grade. Maybe Daddy can become an agent though."

Doggett laughs and ruffles his son's hair. "I don't think your mom would like that, sport."

"I'm gonna ask her, though."

Doggett glances at the clock and gives a slight frown. "Hey, I think we've got to go find your class now, Luke, before we get left behind."

"Do we gotta?" Luke pouts.

"If we want to go see the dinosaurs with your classmates we do."

"Ok..." Luke throws himself at Mulder, hugging his waist. "Thanks for letting us visit. Maybe you can come see us sometime too."

"Maybe," he and Doggett agree.

"Keep in touch," Doggett adds, looking happier than Mulder had ever seen him.

"I will. Quite a kid, you've got there," Mulder says, watching Luke race for the door.

"Oh, I know. The wife and I treasure him. Good luck with yours too."

They disappear a moment later.

"They seem so nice, Mulder."

"Yeah, they are," he agrees. Life is full of weird wonder, he decides, and Luke is proof of that.

And it doesn't take long for weird to bite them in the ass. Granted, it's about a month later on a beautiful Tuesday, May 10, at the Emgen Corporation in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Mulder and Scully find themselves in the midst of another carrot-chasing, conspiracy-laden adventure, courtesy of Deep Throat. Mulder wasn't exactly thrilled to be woken up in the middle of the night, but he knew this night would come. And now, in the light of day, walking next to his partner flipping through pictures of a different dead man, he almost shudders with the remembrance of what this case will bring about.

Scully, however, proceeds unaware, as she should be, as she says, "The county sheriff's office is conducting the investigation. On the preliminary reports, it's being listed as a suicide." She's wearing a sensible-looking ensemble, but there is no doubt in anyone's mind that she's expecting.

"Suicide?" Mulder parrots back, trying to stay out of the way of various crime scene technicians. He wonders, not for the first time, how safe it is for the baby to be around all this lab stuff and chemicals.

"Yeah, they think that for whatever reason, he trashed his lab and then killed himself." She looks up at him from photos of a scientist they only met yesterday and is concrete splatter today.

"How?" he asks as he walks to a table on which numerous Erlenmeyer flasks and other lab equipment rests.

"Well, it says he tied one end of a roll of medical gauze around his neck and the other end to this gas outlet," she replies, putting her hand on a spigot with gauze wrapped around it. "Then he jumped."

"I don't suppose there were any witnesses?" Mulder asks, his tone completely doubtful.

She doesn't disappoint. "Nope."

Crossing his arms, he smirks, "The man we met yesterday kept this place like he was waiting for the people from Good Housekeeping to show up. I would have never pegged him as someone to do all this... or a Greg Louganis out the window." Then he turns, looking out the broken window.

"I know, that gauze is troubling." Scully frowns.

"It's a bit too calculated, huh?" he comments, holding the gauze. "Almost as if someone wanted to make doubly sure he'd break his neck before he hit the ground." He starts walking around the lab again, and she follows, folder in hand. "What else do we know about Doctor Berube?"

Dutifully, she flips through the folder. "Ummm... Terrence Allen Berube. Harvard Med., 1974. He was working on the Human Genome Project. Are you familiar with that?" she looks up again.

"Yeah. The mapping of all human genes. Maybe the most ambitious scientific endeavor in the history of mankind." He raises his eyebrows at her, knowing she's probably not all that impressed with the statement or the scientist.

And he guessed right. "Right, but there's nothing extraordinary about that. I mean, there were thousands of scientists working on that project," she states, her expression challenging him for a point, or better yet, a Mulder leap.

He looks at a glass, then puts it down before answering. "Yeah, but only one who owned a silver Ciera and went bungie-jumping with medical gauze wrapped around his neck," he says, opening up a metal container. Which means conspiracy, Scully, which means freaky world-dominating alien lackeys, which means we've gotta watch out. For ourselves and our baby.

Not knowing the implications, or the troubled waters under her husband's placid surface, Scully crosses her arms, "I'm sorry, Mulder. I'm seeing the pieces but I'm not seeing the connection."

Exactamundo, he almost tells her. He takes out the Erlenmeyer flask containing the red liquid. It has a label on the bottom that reads "Purity Control." "Well, maybe that's just it. Maybe we're not seeing it because it can't be seen, not in any obvious way. What do you think this is?"

She stares at the vial for a moment before looking at him. "I don't know," she says, wondering at the reddish color and what exactly Dr. Berube was working on, monkeys notwithstanding.

He hands her the vial. "Well, can you find out for me?"

"Maybe, if I happen to know any qualified scientists," she retorts playfully, taking the vial from him, and inspects the label underneath. "What are you going to do?"

"I'll see what else I can find out about Doctor Terrance Allen Berube," he replies, already heading out the door.

"Okay, Mulder, but I'm warning you... if this is monkey pee, you're on your own," she calls out.

He pauses at the doorway. No way is he gonna let her have the last word this time around. "If it's alien blood, will you stay on the case?" he asks innocently.

She makes a face as the crime scene people pause for a moment, and he ducks out of the room. Again, she's wondering why on earth she married the man.

Later, at the microbiology department at Georgetown University, Scully calls Mulder. "Mulder," he answers, and she closes her eyes briefly with relief.

"It's me," she says simply.

"He's alive," Mulder says, apropos of nothing, and the background noise indicates he's on the road.

"Who?" Scully frowns, wondering who on earth he's talking about. If it's Berube, this case will be another ballgame altogether.

"The fugitive, the driver of the silver Ciera. He called the doctor's house while I was there," he says, unsuccessfully reigning in his excitement.

"Where is he now?" Please, please don't be chasing down another mutant, she thinks.

"I don't know," he answers honestly. "Where are you?"

"I'm at the Georgetown Microbiology Department." She sighs with relief. No mutant, no undead fugitive. "I've got something for you."

"Is it smaller than a silver Ciera?" he wonders aloud.

"Much." She smirks. "And it's not silver, it's green."

"What is it?" he asks, although he already knows. Why spoil the fun and freak her out at the same time?

"Some kind of bacteria, each containing virus and it looks as if Berube may have been cloning them," she answers, staring at the odd picture of the freeze fracture on the computer screen. "They also contain something that looks like chloroplasts... Plant cells. But they, they've never seen anything like it here."

"Any idea what he could have been doing with them?" Mulder asks, making another turn.

Even if I wasn't pregnant, this thing wouldn't make sense, Scully sighs inwardly. "Well, the only reason why you clone a virus inside a bacteria," she's thinking aloud, on her tired and swollen feet, "is in order to inject it into something living. It's called gene therapy and it's still highly experimental."

Amen to that, Mulder thinks. "Well, maybe that's what he was doing with those monkeys. Can they tell you anything else there?"

"Yeah, they're just about to run some primary cell cultures and a DNA sequence," she replies, then walks away from Dr. Carpenter to continue the conversation and the veer towards the twilight zone this discovery may be. "Now, I may be understating the strangeness of this, Mulder. Bacteria like this... it may have existed, but not for millions of years, not since before our ancestors first crawled out of the sea." She pauses, wondering why he hasn't jumped at this statement. "Are you there, Mulder?" She waits another beat. "Mulder?"

He's heard her, but the excitement of what he's about to see is sending happy tingling jolts of adrenaline through him. And this time, he's got a camera. Yay, preparation. "Yeah, Scully. Keep up the good work," he says absentmindedly, pulling the car to a stop in front of Zeus Storage on the appropriately named Pandora Street.

The next morning at 7:30, he of the dark trenchcoat and she of the tan trenchcoat pull to a stop in front of Zeus Storage. His mind appropriately blown, he can't wait to show her what he's seen, what he's photographed. But he doesn't trust any 24-hour film developers since one-hour film developing hasn't happened yet, and not even the FBI labs are safe, so he's hid the film in a safe place. He hopes. Still, he wants Scully to see for herself, even though he knows at this point, they've cleaned house. She puts a hand on his arm. "Wait a second. Mulder?" He turns to look at her. "I, I just want to say that I was wrong."

He knows it took a lot to say that to him, and much as he'd like to savor the moment, he knows he's gonna eat it soon. So it's easy for him to say, "It's all right, don't worry about it."

"No, um... if you'd had listened to me, we wouldn't be here right now. I should know by now to trust your instincts," she says this so earnestly that it takes a lot for him not to hold her and say, No, Scully, always, always double-check me. Or else I might go off the deep end or who knows where?

Instead, he says in a self-effacing rejoinder, "Why? Nobody else does."

She smiles. "You know, I've always held science as sacred. I've, I've always put my trust in the accepted facts. And what I saw last night... for the first time in my life, I don't know what to believe."

"Well, whatever it is you do believe, Scully... when you walk into that room? Nothing sacred will hold." After that pronouncement, Mulder leads her into the storage facility, downstairs and into a locked room where he knows he'll crash and burn. Flicking on the switch, the light reveals nothing but a metal table and their own numb expressions. "There were tanks here and five bodies suspended in solution. There were computers monitoring them. They were alive, Scully, underwater." He knows how insane he sounds, how ready for the tabloids and daytime talk shows he seems.

Instead, she asks, "What happened to them?" As if she's expecting to see the bodies that he's yet to reveal on film. He hasn't told her about the film, though, just in case.

"God only knows," a familiar dry twang greets them from the shadows. Walking over to them, Deep Throat carries an envelope that piques both their curiosities. "Most likely, they've been destroyed." He nods at the redhead. "Miss Scully. I believe we met ever so briefly."

"Destroyed by whom?" Mulder asks.

"I don't know," the older Southern gentleman says simply.

"I don't believe you." The tall man scowls.

As if anticipating his protégé's doubt, Deep Throat explains almost smugly, "There are limits to my knowledge, Mister Mulder. Inside the intelligence community, there are so-called "black organizations." Groups within groups conducting covert activities, unknown at the highest levels of power."

"There were three men last night, I was chased," he accuses the older man.

"Hmmm," Deep Throat muses, smiling a little. "If you were chased, you would have been killed. Those men are trained for that sort of business and they are trained well." He looks contemplatively at Mulder, who stares back at him.

"Were those the same men who killed Doctor Berube?" Scully demands.

"Presumably," Deep Throat continues in the same almost amiable tone.

"Why?" she asks.

"'Why?'" he repeats. "Good lord, you've worked so hard and you still don't see it."

Time for a Mulder leap, the tall man thinks, jumping in, "Doctor Berube was conducting human experiments with extraterrestrial viruses."

"Yes, but that's been going on for years. We've had the tissue since 1947 but not the technology," the Southern man says in a congratulatory fashion.

"Roswell?" Mulder asks.

"Roswell was a smoke screen, we've had a half-a-dozen better salvage operations," Deep Throat corrects him. "Doctor Berube was killed because his work was too successful. You're standing in the room where the first DNA transplant took, the first human-alien hybrid was created." He puts the envelope down and spreads its contents, glossy black and white photos, on the bare metal table. "Six volunteer patients, all terminally ill." He holds up a picture of a particularly unhealthy-looking individual. "One, Doctor William Secare, an old friend of Doctor Berube's, was dying of melanoma cancer. And as a result of the E.T. gene therapy, all six patients treated in this room began to recover from their illnesses. Doctor Secare was able to live a more or less normal life. As normal as possible for a man who has developed inhuman strength and the ability to breathe underwater." He pauses, savoring the look of incredulity on the scientist's face and the look of discovery on the believer's.

Pacing around, Mulder thinks aloud, "That's how he was able to elude capture."

The older gentleman merely hmmphs in agreement.

"What was he running from?" The redhead stares at him.

"Doctor Secare was never supposed to have survived. Doctor Berube's research was part of a top secret government project being run out of Los Alamos. All they were interested in was the technology, the science. To have a hybrid living out in the real world? Too great a liability. What if he should need emergency medical procedure? The man has a blood chemistry that is alien and very likely toxic. That story should hit the press." He almost looks happy at the prospect.

"It was just easier to kill Doctor Secare," Mulder deduces.

Deep Throat agrees, "Of course, there was only one problem. He was Doctor Berube's old friend and he was able to warn him."

The look Scully gives the older man would flay other, lesser men. "There's just one thing I don't understand. Why you gave us so little to go on in the beginning and why are you giving us so much now?"

"I didn't anticipate the speed and precision of their clean-up operation. They're systematically destroying all the evidence... Doctor Berube, the bodies here. Without the evidence, you two have no case. Who would believe the story I just told you? You must put together everything that you have found and you must find Doctor Secare before they do. I'll have no further contact with you on this matter." And with that, he turns and leaves, disappearing into the light.

"I'm going to get back to Georgetown and get all the lab work," Scully says, after briefly pausing to determine where the strange old man went. Doesn't Mulder have any normal sources, she wonders, then thinks that would be an oddity in itself.

"I'm going to find Doctor Secare," Mulder says in an equally determined voice.

"Where?" She frowns a little.

"I don't know. I'm going to trust my instincts," he says blithely.

She puts a hand on his arm. "Mulder, be careful," she says seriously. "They've killed Dr. Berube, cleaned up a room full of-" She shakes her head. "Just, be careful."

He nods. "You, too," he says, making a mental note to pick up a gas mask along the way to Berube's house.

In spite of his precautions, Mulder still winds up trussed like a Thanksgiving turkey on the floor of Berube's attic. What sent him into momentary oblivion were a combination of concussion-inducing kicks to the head and a barrage of steady blows to various parts of his anatomy, none of which were padded. Unfortunately, the sound of his cell phone ringing brings him back to this plane of reality, and the man with the severe crew cut and none-too-gentle prisoner rapport leers over him. "Damn phone's been going off," the man says, and his look promises abuse for either the phone or the owner.

"I'm a popular guy. Why don't you answer it for me?" Mulder rasps. At least my eyes and lungs aren't burning, he thinks, but those kicks to the kidneys and groin aren't helping. So help me, if you've ruined any future babies for me and Scully, it's on your head.

"Oh, I don't like talking on the phone. I have this thing about unsecured lines. When you feel like talking, let me know, though." The man turns around, apparently bored with his torture toy.

"Evidence," Mulder groans, "we've got evidence." And his eyes roll back as blissful unconciousness reclaims him, freeing him from the pain.

At Fort Marlene, Scully bluffed her way through various security measures, thanks to Deep Throat's card and connections, but remembering the odd label on the Erlenmeyer flask brought her into a room full of cryogenically preserved specimens. As she pulled the metal bracket, she had no idea what exactly Deep Throat meant by "evidence"until she saw the bizarre, inhuman fetus and her mouth hung open. What have we done? she thinks, her mind on the contents of the brown cardboard box sitting next to her in the car. What kind of men have kidnapped my husband? What kind of man is this Deep Throat?

Her car parked at the bridge, the redhead continues to have unsettling thoughts, several times debating whether she should just pull out of this insane scenario where she and Mulder are only pawns. Finally, a car pulls up behind her, and she recognizes the craggy features from her rear view mirror. Sighing, she gets out of the car and takes the box with her.

And after debating with him and herself, she finally surrenders the box and its contents over to the man calling himself Deep Throat. And after she gets back into her car, watching a van pull up next to Deep Throat's car, she second- and third-guesses herself as to whether or not she made the right choice. Yes, Mulder's life is at stake, but so are a lot of other things, she realizes. And gets out of her car to take the parcel back, to take a lot of things back, and watches in horror as the man from the van pull out a gun as Deep Throat tosses the package over the bridge into the water.

"No!" she screams, bolting from her car. I'm not gonna make it, but I've got to make it, she thinks wildly, her feet moving towards danger of their own accord.

"No!" another voice yells from inside the van.

Various shots ring out, and Scully ducks instinctively behind Deep Throat's front bumper, holding her stomach protectively. Pulling out her gun, she squints against the streetlight at the small crowd of men, unsure who's friend and who's foe. Pistols continue firing, and she ducks again, until a hissed oath and the sound of a body hitting the ground causes her to peek out again.

"No!" She hears an anguished wail coming from one man cradling another. Then she sees the other men haul ass into their vehicle and drive off, the tires squealing against the pavement.

"Mulder!" she screams, recognizing the profile of her husband as he holds the bloody body of his source in his arms.

He looks up at her, horror and guilt written clearly on his face. "Help him," he begs her, his hand pressed against the other man's chest in a vain effort to stop the bleeding. It doesn't help that the Southern man's has been shot in the head as well as several times in the chest.

Quickly, Scully peels off her coat, but gives Mulder a look that speaks of no hope. She does what she can in these moments, but unless an ambulance arrives in seconds rather than minutes, she sighs, rooting around for her cell phone after wrapping the dying man with her coat. She puts a hand over Mulder's, and the blood continues to flow around and over their fingers.

"Mulder," the older man gasps, and the younger man leans over. "Trust," and he coughs, "trust no one."

And after exhaling sharply, the man only known to these two FBI agents as Deep Throat, dies.

Thirteen days later, Mulder stumbles into his apartment, still dressed in his work suit. Scully, hearing the sound, slowly cracks her eyes open. The digital display flips from 11:21 to 11:22, and she blinks sleepily up at him as he walks into the bedroom. "What happened?"

"They're shutting us down, Scully," he says in a monotone, sitting heavily on the bed.

Now she sits up, sleep forgotten with this new development. "What?" she says, eyes wide open. Her light blue gown looks almost ethereal in the semi-darkness, although her expression is very human indeed.

"They called me in tonight and they said they're going to reassign us to other sections." He peels off his jacket, then his tie.

"Who said that?" she says, temper already beginning to flare.

"Skinner," he says bitterly. His shoes and shirt have joined his jacket and tie on the floor, but she doesn't scold him. "He said word came down from the top of the executive branch." His tone says he clearly doesn't believe that, and, by the look on her face, neither does she.

"Mulder," she says, putting a hand on his arm.

"It's over, Scully." ::I tried, he thinks tiredly, oh God, I tried to save him, but I couldn't. And they found my film and Deep Throat went off worse this time around. How the hell did I think I could protect Scully, or her sister, or mine...::

But she's in a fighting mood. "Well, you have to lodge a protest. They can't-"

"Yes, they can," he interrupts her, nodding a little.

She leans against him, her arms around him. "What are we going to do?"

"We?" he blinks, looking down at her. She looks at up him steadily, her body a reassuring on his. For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do us part. She really does mean it. "We... are not going to give up," he tells her, matching her steadiness to his voice. "We can't give up. I want to believe he didn't die in vain."

Her eyes mirror his. "He didn't," Scully says, watching the same look cross his face as it did when he first told her about his sister. "He knew the risks, Mulder. He said your life was important enough to risk others who might have been affected by the contents of that package." As he closes his eyes and exhales, she adds, "I know he didn't die in vain."

He doesn't answer her, but wraps his arms around her, pulling her close to him.

Chapter Eleven

July 1994

Scully beats Mulder home, since her forensics class got out a little early, and takes a nap on the couch. It's already dark when Mulder comes home, and she sits up just as he walks through the door. The lights are still off.

"You know, Mulder, from... from back there, you look like him."


"Deep Throat." She blinks as he turns on the living room light.

Mulder sighs. "He's dead, Scully. I attended his funeral at Arlington through eight-power binoculars from a thousand yards away."

"Are you ok?" Her voice is filled with concern, because the flat sound of his voice frightens her.

He nods. "Just a bad day, that's all. You know they've got me on electronic surveillance. White-bread cases, bank fraud, insurance fraud, health care swindles. I hate it." All day he's been wondering if there's any point to going on. Maybe he should have left the X-files behind him the first time around. Maybe it wasn't fair to continue now that he and Scully were going to have a family...God knows William suffered for their involvement in the X-files after his birth. The maybes have haunted his entire day.

"Mulder, I know that you feel... frustrated that without the bureau's resources, it's impossible for you to continue..."

"No, it..."

"Well, what then? When the bureau first shut us down, you said that we would go on for as long as the truth was out there. But I no longer feel that from you."

"Have you ever been to San Diego?"


"Did you check out the Palomar observatory?"


"From 1948 until recently, it was the largest telescope in the world. The idea and design came from a brilliant and wealthy astronomer named George Ellery Hale. Actually, the idea was presented to Hale one night. While he was playing billiards, an elf climbed in his window and told him to get money from the Rockefeller Foundation for a telescope," Mulder explains, his face expressionless.

"And you're worried that all your life, you've been seeing elves?"

"In my case... little green men."

"But, Mulder...they're gray, you've said so yourself. During your time with the X-Files, you've seen so much, how could it all be just in your mind? Our minds, I've seen them too."

"That's just the point. Seeing is not enough, I should have something to hold onto. Some solid evidence. I learned that from you."

"Your sister's abduction, you've held onto that."

"I'm beginning to wonder if... if that ever even happened."

"Mulder, even if George Hale only saw elves in his mind, the telescope still got built. Don't give up. And next time..."

It's all he can do not to sigh. He made her believe, so now he has to go on. Maybe things will turn out better this time around, his thoughts brighten, at least this time there's no doubt in his mind that Scully is behind him all the way.

"You're right. I can't let one bad day get me down."

"That's the spirit!" She grins at him. "Now that you're feeling better, what do you say to us doing a little grocery shopping? Rocky Road ice cream has been calling my name all day."

"Why sure, just let me warm up the car, Miss Daisy."

"You are asking for it, Mulder," Scully threatens, and begins to contemplate which of his ticklish spots to attack.

Though he realizes that Scully will probably be fuming when she finds out, he steals her car keys when he sneaks off to the airport before she wakes up. In their place he left a note telling her not to worry, but he knows she will. At least with no keys she'll be slower in her efforts to find him, which is what he wants. The last thing he wants is her in the truck during the get-away he knows is coming; she probably won't fit under the dashboard this time. Not only that, he changes his computer's password to "luvmy1stbrn"knowing it's something she'd never think of while trying to use the computer to figure out where he went. By the time he boards his plane, he's pretty sure that she'll be safe at home until he returns. Pissed, but safe. Lingering doubts still prompt him to buy a roll of Tums in the gift shop, however.

Now, in the Astronomy & Ionosphere Center, he's still puzzled as to why the machines are lit up despite the power being off. However, it's no surprise when he realizes he's not alone. This time he knocks on the bathroom door from a safe distance, so he's less likely have something heaved at his head.

"Necesitas ayudar?" he calls for good measure, hoping an offer of help isn't perceived as threatening.

The door opens slowly, an a timid looking man blinks and comes out. "No me lastime!" he demands.

"I won't hurt you," Mulder assures him, but the other man looks dubious. "Who are you? Who are you? What are you doing here?"

The man looks blank, and Mulder figures he's pretended to think he might speak English long enough. "Que es tu nombre?" he asks, although he already knows his name.

"Me llamo Jorge Concepcion."

Things go better this time, mostly because he knows more Spanish now. At least until storm starts and the voyager message plays.

"Son ellos! Han regresaron!" Jorge shouts, telling Mulder that the aliens are back.

"It's just a tape machine, Jorge!" Jorge is unconvinced, and tells Mulder that they need to leave immediately. "Where are we going to go?" Mulder asks. "There's a storm outside."

Jorge is wild with fear, and he resists Mulder's attempts to keep him in the building. "No Jorge! Es peligroso! Usted morirá afuera!"

Despite Mulder's proclamation that it's dangerous and Jorge will die outside, the man bolts. Gritting his teeth, he follows Jorge out into the storm, wishing he could ask Elsbeth why some people can be saved, and others seem determined to meet their deaths.

He makes a half-hearted attempt to call for him, but he's sure it's too late. Jorge's body is where he expects it to be, and he still looks frightened to death. As frightened as Mulder knows he'll feel when "they" return in just a short while.

When Mulder comes to on the floor, he thinks he hears Scully calling his name. Groaning in despair, he opens his eyes. No one is there. Not Scully, not the alien he thought he saw before he passed out... he's completely alone, except for the machines.

Grimacing, he stumbles over to Jorge's body. "I'm sorry, pal," he says as he takes the first aid kit off the wall. Pulling out one of his ever-present baggies, he uses the kit's scissors to snip a few of the man's hairs, and clips all of his finger nails. Though he knows they're less likely to provide any sort of definitive proof of what killed him than a skin sample would, he can't bring himself to hack at the man's body. Even if he could stomach it, there's no way to keep the sample cool...hopefully there will be cells under his nails, if he made any attempt to defend himself.

Without Scully there to delay him, he takes the time to gather up the printouts he'd been fooling with before his impromptu nap. He takes the reel anyway, even though it will probably still be blank. Glancing at his watch, he leaves the building five minutes before the Blue Berets Crash Retrieval Team. His five-minute lead gives him a gunfire free escape.

Although there's hell to pay when he gets home. Even though Scully won't admit that she tried unsuccessfully to break into his computer, she does rant a while about her keys, and doesn't accept his story of having grabbed them "by mistake."

As bad as it is to be defenseless in that sort of argument, he's blissful about the fact that he managed to keep her away from the line of fire. This time.

A Week Later...

Mulder crumples up the report he got on Jorge's hair and nail samples and tosses it in the garbage. It goes in on the first try.

"What was that?" Scully asks, having walked in time to witness its perfect arch into the can.


"It can't be nothing, or you wouldn't have been able to throw it," Scully teases.

"Close enough to nothing to count," Mulder replies. The tape was also blank, but at least this time he's got the print out, not that he has any idea how to interpret it.

"Well...make sure you empty the trash before the 'nothing' overflows."

Mulder smirks and thinks of making a wise crack about her not being able to see the can past her feet, but thinks better of it. "No problem."

Chapter Twelve

On a balmy late July afternoon, Mulder, morose, sits and rewinds the tape, pen in hand. The man comes in from the wiretap again, ". . .Waitin' here like some stupid bimbo who ain't got nothin' better to do with her time than to sit around here waitin' for you." He wonders if he should just pull out his gun and get it over with, rather than having to suffer any longer.

"Agent Mulder?" a familiar voice asks.

"Yeah?" Mulder looks up. ::Damn. Wonder if I could plead self-defense. Maybe knowledge of premeditated on his part... nah. Damn.::

He looks weird, and then Mulder remembers the guy's not in his trademark black leather jacket but a regular FBI-approved suit and tie. "It's your 302. Assistant Director Skinner just approved it." Krycek hands him the folder file.

Duh, Mulder's about to retort, but having prior knowledge does not help him in this case. In fact, he's stifling an overwhelming desire to strangle the little prick right now, and looks down at the folder in hand to calm himself. "There's a mistake here. There's been another agent assigned to the case." A big, big mistake here, ladies and gents.

"That would be me. Krycek, Alex Krycek," the younger man says, proferring his hand, which is ignored.

"Skinner didn't say anything about taking on a new partner," Mulder says, not bothering to hide his displeasure.

"It wasn't Skinner. Actually, I opened the file two hours before your request so technically, it's my case," Krycek says proudly, playing the part of eager young agent.

Mulder plays along, for now. "So, you already talked to the police?" he asks, knowing the answer, but lulling Krycek out.

The other man does not disappoint. "Yeah, just hung up on the officer in charge a few minutes ago. A detective named Whorton. Turns out Grissom called 911 to report a fire."

They play a little give and take for a couple of more minutes, and Mulder gives him the old heave-ho. "All right, I'll tell you what, I got a little work to finish up around here. Why don't you go down to the motor pool and requisition us a car and I'll meet you down there."

Krycek leaps eagerly, for once as naïve as he seems. "That's all. I mean you don't have a problem with us working together," he asks, a little doubtful about Mulder's intentions.

Mulder shrugs a little. "It's your party," he says, as if a little bored.

"Well, um, I'll get the car," Krycek says, walking off with a smug expression on his pretty face.

Gotcha, Mulder thinks, hightailing it out of there when the younger man's out of sight.

Later, in Quantico's autopsy bay, Scully is placing an organ on the weighing scale when Mulder and Krycek walk in. Mulder's admiration for his wife swells, seeing her working above and beyond duty while very pregnant, even as he fights off the twinge of guilt seeing her doing so. Not like he could have stopped her, Scully would fight him and half the bureau if she were placed on maternity leave at this point. He wishes he could have shaken Krycek off the case altogether, but it wouldn't do to tip his hand this early in the game, and gives Scully a look as he asks, "Spleen or pancreas?"

"Stomach," she says, her tone almost bored, but her eyes understanding. "I was just about to start on it."

"This is Alex Krycek. We're, uh, working the case together," he says half-heartedly. He doesn't bother to introduce Scully, as he feels it's self-explanatory. This is my real partner, my wife, the one person in the world you are not going to mess with.

Her hands still full with Grissom's body parts, she glances up at Krycek. There's something slick about the fresh-faced young man she doesn't trust, with or without Mulder's hint. "Good to meet you," she says blandly.

"You, too," he says, holding out his hand, but she ignores it. He looks a little put out, but not surprised.

"Notice the pugilistic attitude of the corpse," she says, walking over to the body, stained gloves waving over it. Krycek coughs, as if it's his first time up close and personal with a corpse. She almost smiles, wondering if she should do the brain pan trick for fun, but decides to keep things professional. "This condition generally occurs several hours after death. It's caused by a coagulation of muscle proteins when the body is exposed to extremely high temperatures."

"Like fire?" Mulder questions, as if he's expected it.

She nods, but doesn't exactly disagree with him, even though it's clear she wants to. "This degree of limb flexion is observed exclusively in burn-related victims."

"But there was no fire," Krycek looks from the tall man to the short redhead.

"And no epidermal burns to indicate as much but when I opened up the skull, I found external hemorrhages, which can only be caused by intense heat. Some how, this man suffered all of the secondary, but none of the primary physiological signs of being in a fire." She frowns slightly, poking through the dead man's brains curiously, relishing the slightly green tinge the rookie's face has.

"Any theories?" Mulder asks, also enjoying himself.

"I couldn't even begin to explain what could have caused this," she says, half-exasperated. "It's almost as if..." her voice trails off, going where Mulder's prompting her.

"What?" he asks, almost ready to don gloves and join her in the brain pokes.

She looks at him, almost accusingly, as she puts to words what's surely going on in his devious mind. "It's almost as if his body believed that it was burning."

Later, after meeting with the steely black man whose moniker is the same as his files, Mulder debates his next moves. He knows Krycek will steal his and Scully's reports, and he knows there's no controlling what Cole will do. He'd like to talk to Salvatore Matola without Krycek, but that would only raise more suspicions, so, sighing, he trudges off and proceeds to let history replay itself without obstruction, for once.

After sharing his telepathic projection theory with Scully, which she, as usual, verbally shrugged off, their conversation goes to Krycek. "Sounds like your new partner's working out," she notes without rancor.

"He's all right," Mulder replies, aware of his "new partner's" listening ears. "He could use a little more seasoning and some wardrobe advice But he's a lot more open to extreme possibilities than-" He grins, not missing a chance to take a dig at his wife.

"Than I was?" she asks. He can almost see her raise that infamous eyebrow.

"Than, say, your average Quantico recruit," he finishes.

"Must be nice not having someone question your every move, poking holes in all your theories." She smiles, saving her document and leaning away from her computer.

He almost rolls his eyes. Please, debunk me any day, just don't make me sit with this asshole much longer, he almost begs her. "Oh yeah, it's-it's great. I'm surprised I put up with you so long." He grins, playing with the ring on his finger.

She, on the other hand, does roll her eyes. "You'd better go before I wring your neck." She smiles when he chuckles. "I'll read over this report again and see what else I can come up with."

"Okay, love you," he says before hanging up.

Scully blinks as she hangs up. Wow, he must really hate that guy, she thinks.

Scully's relieved today is a day off, she doesn't feel like she can handle even one class today. It feels like she's been sleepwalking lately, but doesn't want to worry Mulder. Even though she's been sleeping her usual hours, it doesn't seem like enough, and the weight of the child inside her is reminding her that she can't quite go running after her husband's wild goose chases. She envies Krycek the time spent with Mulder, even if she doesn't quite trust the man.

Still sitting at her computer, she closes her eyes for what seems like a brief moment, then sits up, her eyes wide as she inhales sharply. "Cole," she breathes, wondering how he got into their apartment.

"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles," the tall black man says, still in military fatigues. "But I'm so tired."

"How," Scully starts, then tries again, "what are you doing here?" Her hand reaches for a gun that is not there, and she almost cries in frustration. Of course, she's wearing a maternity gown, she doesn't have her gun and holster strapped on like she would at work.

He smiles sadly, his eyes half-lidded with either sleep or sleeplessness, as he approaches her, "Blessed are the children who obey and revere their mothers, for they shall live long and prosperous in this world." Then he places a hand on her head, and she shudders, but that movement causes her to wake up, and she blinks in confusion.

"What the hell just happened," she murmurs, her eyes scanning the empty room. Dammit. I am just suffering pregnant hallucinations, she tells herself, taking a sip of tea before resuming her search on Gerardi. And frowns slightly, seeing the answer on the screen, then hits the speed dial.

"Mulder," he answers.

"I think I found the Francis Gerardi you're looking for. He's a professor of neurosurgery at Harvard," she says, keeping her voice steady.

"Do you have his number in Boston?" he asks.

"Yes, except he's coming to New York for Grissom's funeral, tonight. He's arriving at Bronx station on the 7:30 train." She's not going to tell him about her dream, it would only indulge her hysterics and she does not want to be indulged.

"Try to have a photograph waiting for us at the security desk so we know who we're looking for, okay?" He sounds excited, relieved, and on the chase. How she longs to be with him, but bites her lip.

"Got it," is all she says, clamping down on her desire to be on the hunt. Then she prays for his safety, and for her mental health.

At the station, Mulder and Krycek split up, each with a photo of Gerardi in hand. "What the," Mulder murmurs as he catches a glimpse of red hair darting past, and follows it.

"Oh my God, no!" Mulder shouts, as he catches up to see Gerardi knocking out Scully and retrieving her weapon. "Federal agent, drop your weapon!" He fires, scattering the other commuters, who scream and run.

"Mulder!" Krycek runs over, wondering who the hell he's shooting at, and seeing no one to blame.

Mulder shakes off the younger man impatiently, then stares, seeing no crumpled wife, no gun-waving old man. "Where's Gerardi?" he shouts.

Now Krycek looks like Mulder's lost it. "He's not here," he says quietly.

"I saw him!" Mulder shouts belligerently, pushing aside the other agent.

"Mulder!" Krycek's voice is sharp, tinged with the anger soon to color his future conversations. "You were shouting and waving your gun around, but Gerardi never showed."

Mulder shakes his head. "No, Gerardi was here, and so was Cole. We just missed them," he argues. He knows if a man and a woman could disappear just like that, it's gotta be Cole, but wonders why he saw Scully, too.

Krycek's voice is insistent, almost oily in persuasiveness. "Mulder, if they had been here, I would have seen it. I'm telling you Mulder, they weren't here."

Mulder nods, then hits a couple of buttons on his cell. "Scully?"

She answers groggily, and he isn't sure whether to panic or be relieved. "Yeah?"

"Are you okay?" he asks, and he can see her sitting up, forcing herself to be coherent.

"I just woke up, but I'm fine," she says, for once honest. "What's wrong?"

He shakes his head as if she can see it. "Just checking," he says, already walking to the security office to check the tapes, "sorry, go back to sleep."

She chuckles, then hangs up, the dream world claiming her as soon as her head hits the pillow.

Mulder wants to talk to her about Cole's murder and his suspicions on Krycek, but when he gets home, she's fast asleep, and he's loathe to wake her. Instead, they end up talking the next morning at her office, which looks like a hurricane's hit it. Subtle, Alex, real subtle, he thinks. He watches her pacing around the room in frustration and anger, and is thankful he's not the one to blame, although he's ready to offer up Krycek as the sacrifice to appease her.

"They broke into my office," she says again in disbelief. "Went through my files, my computer...I came as soon as security called but the report was already gone," she mutters, signing off document after document affirming the break-in, and the poor guy with the clipboard runs out, thankful to leave.

"Someone went through a lot of trouble stealing both our copies to keep this a secret," Mulder agrees, wanting to do his impression of Mr. Subliminal and say "Krycek" every third word. Sitting on her desk, he lets her work out her anger. Trying to calm her down now would only get her more agitated, which would probably not be good for the baby.

Scully sighs, raking a hand through her longish red hair. "Without that report as evidence, Skinner's not going to authorize an investigation."

Even with it, I doubt he'd be willing to do so at this point, he almost tells her. "He said it's never been more dangerous," he says, changing topics.

"Skinner?" Scully frowns, pausing in midstride.

"No, the man who leaked us the report. The one who's been helping us," Mulder answers, not willing to divulge more about the mystery man, since he doesn't trust Krycek not to have bugged the office while he was busy stealing their reports.

Crossing her arms over her belly, she says accusingly, "You actually met with him." She feels left out, again, through no fault of her own. Of course, secret double agents want to meet with him, he's the one with the quest dealing with the paranormal and conspiracies, not her. Still....

"He said that closing down the X-Files was just the beginning. That we've never been in greater danger." He wants to hold her to him, but she'll just misunderstand, thinking he's smothering her during her pregnancy. ::I'll keep you safe this time, Scully::, he promises. :: I'll keep you safe from Duane Barry, Krycek, and the Smoking Man.::

"Do you trust him?" she asks, waking him from his reverie.

He smiles mirthlessly. "We'll see," he says, and promptly changes the subject again. "Speaking of trust, are you finally gonna tell me what our baby's gender is so I can think of properly humiliating names?"

She shakes her head, a long-suffering look on her face. "If anything, I can trust you to think of some horrible names, no matter what. So help me, if you call our child Spooky-"

"I was thinking more along the lines of Spooky, junior." He grins. "Or Morticia if it's a girl."

And doesn't see her left hook coming, knocking him off her desk and on to the paper-strewn floor. "That settles it, I am naming our child," Scully declares in a huff, grabbing her bag and lecture notes, heading out the door.

"I'll pass your sentiments onto whoever trashed your office," Mulder says, rubbing his jaw as she leaves, picking himself off the floor.

"You do that," she says airily, not looking back.

::Damn, I love that woman::, he grins ruefully, making a note to grab an icepack before he leaves Quantico.

Chapter Thirteen

August 7, 1994

It feels strange to deal with Duane Barry without Scully's influence, but Lucy Kazdin takes it upon herself to find out the same information that Scully had the first time, so the results are pretty much the same. He leaves unharmed, and Duane is rushed off to the hospital.

Later on, Mulder talks about the case with Scully. "Kazdin thought he was insane, but I'm not so sure. Everything he said sounds like classical signs of alien abduction."

The expression on her face says she doesn't believe that for a second, but she doesn't argue that alien abductions don't really happen. Instead she says, "If he was crazy, how could you tell what really happened?"

"I'd have to get proof."

"What kind of proof?"

"Physical evidence."

"That could be really hard to get, Mulder."

"True, since he could just be crazy like Kazdin thinks." He doesn't really believe that, but he knows that's what Scully would like to hear.

Of course, the fact that Kazdin is likely to soon call him about just that sort of evidence makes it much easier to pretend not to believe the man's tale until there's proof.

Mulder is seated across from Scully, who is seated at her desk. She is looking at one of the implants from Duane Barry put in a tiny glass vial.

"This could just be a piece of shrapnel. Duane Barry did a tour of duty in Vietnam."

"It was right where he said it would be, Scully. Along with the ones in his gums and sinus." He points to his gums and sinus as he says them.

"He could have felt where the shrapnel went into his body-" she starts to say, but Mulder shakes his head. Maybe he's right, people often don't remember the details of a traumatic injury. "You really think that this was implanted?"

"Well, if it was, that would mean Duane Barry is telling the truth."

"Or some version of the truth," she concedes.

Mulder rubs his eye, not wanting to look directly at her in case he gives himself away. "Look, I'll, I'll take this down to ballistics. First thing tomorrow, then it'll be all cleared up."

"Why don't you bring it there now? Then we won't be wondering about it all night."

"I'd really rather do it tomorrow-"

"Please, Mulder? I don't think I can take another night spent on wasted thoughts about things that aren't even possible."

He hoped his upset didn't show. "Ok. See you as soon as I get home."

Scully kisses his cheek. "You need to shave."

Gritting his teeth, Mulder rushes to his car, hoping he'll make it home before Duane pops by.

Mulder is on his way home when he hears the police APB that Duane Barry has just escaped Jefferson Memorial Hospital. Cursing, he pushes his the gas petal down harder, making his car lurch forward before racing down the wet street.

At the sound of breaking glass, Scully freezes, the glass of milk she's holding nearly falling from her nerveless fingers. She has just a second to lament that she left her gun on the dresser when she changed, before Duane Barry is in the apartment.

The water dripping from his clothes adds to his insane appearance. "Come on, lady..."

"Mulder!" Scully cries, hoping that Barry will think she's not alone. She desperately wishes she wasn't.

"Come on!" Barry says, tugging her by the arm. "Wait, what?" He stares at her belly in puzzlement. She crosses the arm he hasn't got a hold of protectively across herself. "No one said anything to Duane Barry about babies."

"Who told you?" she asks, hearing a car pull into the driveway. Faint with relief, she pretends that she hasn't heard anything but the man's raving.


"Them who?"

"The aliens," he says, giving her a look like she was slow. "They made a deal with Duane Barry - if Duane Barry could give them someone else to go in his place, they wouldn't take poor ole Duane Barry anymore." Duane paces as he speaks.

"That does sound reasonable," Scully says. She catches Mulder's eye as he opens the door quietly, and puts her fingers to her lips.

"But they said one person, not two people. And babies are people," Duane says with a frown. "They wouldn't like that."

"Probably not. Especially if they were hoping to be gone long, because they'd have to take care of it once it was born. My baby is due in less than two months."

"They always take Duane Barry longer than that," he mutters.

"What if we could give them someone else?" Mulder asks, finally clueing Barry in to his presence.

"What, you want to go?" Barry asks, looking hopeful.

"No, not me. I want to be here for Scully and our baby." ::but if it comes to me or Scully, I will go:: "I know someone might find being taken exciting."

"Then they're crazy," Duane Barry scoffs.

Mulder shrugs.

"Why don't we talk about this outside?" Mulder asks. From the expression on Scully's face he can tell she's torn between wanting to tell him not to, and wanting the crazy man out of the house. In the end she doesn't say anything, which he likes to think of it as a show of trust in him.

Once they're outside, Mulder speaks to Duane Barry in a low voice. "The guy is kind of crazy, but he's got a major hardon about the idea of seeing aliens up close and personal."

"Duane Barry could tell him it's no picnic," the other man mutters.

"You could," Mulder hastily agrees. "But you shouldn't. Let him go with them and see for himself what it's like. You know what people are one takes advice these days, they have to forge ahead and make their own mistakes. Besides... better someone who thinks they want that sort of experience than someone who knows he doesn't right?"


"Ok." Mulder takes a pen and note pad out of his coat pocket, and scribbles down Alex Krycek's home address. Technically it was wrong to "borrow" his personnel file to get his address, but he thought it could come in handy, so he'd taken the opportunity when it had presented itself.

Duane Barry takes the scrap of paper with the desperation of a drowning man grabbing at a lifesaver. "Duane Barry will see this man tonight."

"Great," Mulder tells him. "He will probably tell you he doesn't want to see the aliens, but that's just because everyone that he tells about it thinks he's crazy, and he won't want you to think he is too."

"He will go." Duane Barry's eyes gleam with something Mulder would prefer not trying to identify.

Scully is looking out the window as Mulder comes back in. They both hear the sound of his car drive, and breath sighs of relief.

"Mulder, what did you say to him?" Scully asks, her eyes wide.

"I just tried to convince him that he shouldn't take someone against their will. There are a lot of people who would like to see aliens, and he should find one of them. That way no one gets anything they weren't looking for."

"He'll never find someone who wants to go visit 'aliens'."

"Maybe, maybe not. At least he'll have something to do that'll distract him from his fears of being abducted, right?"

"I guess so..." But she looks doubtful.

It isn't until three days later that either of them find out what Duane Barry did when he left their home. Since they're both feeling a little casual, they're in the middle of eating dinner, seated at the couch like millions of other Americans a rerun of Roseanne is reaching its comedy climax when a newscaster breaks in.

"In late breaking news, kidnapping suspect Duane Barry has just been apprehended by state police-" Scully casts Mulder a questioning look that he pretends not to notice. "- As we reported earlier, Barry broke into the home of FBI agent Alex Krycek and forced him to leave at gun-point. Agent Krycek was able to make a frantic phone call to local police, but they arrived too late to help him."

A photo of Krycek is flashed on the screen before the newscaster continues.

"When Barry's vehicle was searched, they found a small amount of blood in the trunk, but officials say that they're not inclined to believe that the missing man is dead. Though Barry will not say where the man is being held, a search for him continues."

"Mulder, isn't Krycek the agent you worked with?"

"Um, yeah. Bad break, huh?"

"You don't sound very sorry for him," Scully accuses.

Mulder shrugs. "I don't like him, and the police seem convinced that he's going to be found alive, so..."

Scully looks less upset, but still suspicious. "How did Duane Barry find his house?"

"How did he find ours?" Mulder shoots back. "You weren't followed, he must have looked up the address in a phone book or something. You know how obsessed people are. When we buy a house, I want to get an unlisted number," he adds.

She nods. "Do you think Krycek will be ok?"

"Probably. The aliens probably won't kill him, they'd rather use him for genetics experiments."

"You have the most morbid mind."

"But you love it," Mulder teases. She doesn't contradict him.

Chapter Fourteen

Tamblyn Museum of Natural History
September 21st, 1994
10:30 p.m.

::You're supposed to be born in a hospital, not in a museum:: Mulder's brain insists. Resisting the urge to take out his cell phone and call Skinner again, he instead hits his shoulder against the door to the gift shop. Fortunately, since they don't really expect people already in the museum to attempt a break-in, the lock is flimsy and gives way without causing him to bruise himself too much.

He roams the small store, frantically trying to think of something that will help in this situation. It finally dawns on him that if there were a first aid kit, it would probably be behind the counter, not on the shelves with the merchandise. Looking under the display case he comes up with a large blue box. A glance inside tells him that the most important thing, the scissors are indeed in there. He takes the whole kit, though, stuffing it under one arm.

Looking around for other things that could be considered useful, he spots a bin of beach towels marked "50% off"which isn't incredibly surprising given how few people are going to the beach this end of the month. He scoops up an armful, and for a second is glad that it's discount merchandise that he's taking, even if the manager was the one who suggested that he break into the gift shop.

Mulder nearly trips over his own feet in his rush to get back to Scully. He dumps his booty on the ground and crouches down beside her. She's gasping like a fish out of water. "Hold on, Scully, they said that the locksmith is on his way."

Her face is contorted with pain for a few seconds, then she replies breathlessly. "I don't think that'll be soon enough."

Mulder gulps, and hopes he's the only one that can hear it. "That's ok. They said that a 911 dispatch person will talk me through the delivery, if it comes to that. It'll be ok."

"It has to be."

As her labor progresses, he can't help but think that they got into this mess because he has no script for this event to refer back to.

He thinks he remembers people calling it the "butterfly effect," a butterfly beating its wings in Cleveland is somehow connected to an earth quake in Japan... cutesy new-age theory or not, he's beginning to realize that changing the past is setting of a chain reaction that he could not really anticipate. Scully never got kidnapped, so he didn't sleep with the vampire woman, and somehow this case landed on his desk instead. The only thing he can't figure out is why Scully is here.

Well, he knows that she's here because she came with him, but it just seems so improbable to him that simply accompanying him while picked something up would lead to her being here, instead of in a hospital where she belongs right now.

It was a weird case to begin with, and he can't help but wonder if karma is punishing him for messing with the natural order of things. The museum's curator got in touch with Skinner to tell him that he was convinced that one of the mummies in the displays was coming to life at night. Mulder had expected that the man would offer minor evidence, like the mummy case being disturbed, or the mummy being in a different position, but no. The man held this conviction because he'd seen it moving.

At first Mulder was excited, since they'd never really had a case about mummies before, but it turned out to be an exercise in tedium. Three weeks worth of staking out the Egypt wing of the museum did little to improve his mood. Scully was on maternity leave before the case even started, so he quickly tired of not getting to see her while they were both awake.

The case's big break came not in the Egypt wing, but in the men's room shortly before the place closed for the night. There had been three of them in there- Mulder and a patron at the urinals, and the curator in one of the stalls.

Mulder and the other man were doing the typical eyes forward, don't speak to anyone order of operations when the shrieking in the stall began. It startled the patron so much that he peed on his shoes a little, not that Mulder made a point of making his noticing obvious. Zipping up quickly, they exchanged worried looks.

"The mummy! It's going to get me!" The curator's wails made them spring into action.

"Are you ok?" the patron yelled over the din, pounding on the stall's door.

The only response this got was another wail about the mummy.

Mulder looked around, wondering how a mummy might have gotten into the bathroom. "We've got to get him out of there," he told the patron.

He didn't even ask about the mummy. "But... what if his pants are down?"

The possibility of seeing the old curator in the altogether left Mulder horror-stricken, but he pushed that away. "We'll have to hope for the best. This could be life or death," he declared stoically.

It took three minutes to get the stall door open, and fortunately the curator was still fully clothed. Unfortunately he was shrieking and shying away from the thin air.

Later on, after the paramedics took the curator away, the manager of the museum apologized for wasting the FBI's time, specifically Mulder's, on a case of mounting mental illness, not the paranormal. Mulder grudgingly accepted the apology, but Skinner was less forgiving, and decided to bill the man for the wasted hours. Thoroughly cowed, the manager agreed to pay restitution. To Mulder's annoyance, Skinner ordered him to collect the payment in person.

Which is how he and Scully got to the museum three hours ago. He'd planned to drop by the museum quickly, and then go to the last Lamaze class with Scully. They were the star pupils in their class, but it didn't hurt that she was a doctor, and though she couldn't recall it, he'd done a similar class with her once before.

Everything would have been ok if she hadn't had to pee. But she did, so she accompanied him into the building. As they walked into the hushed building, Mulder found himself half wondering what it would be like to be there at a decent hour, with lots of lights and people. He wasn't sure that he cared enough to ever find out.

The transaction was fairly quick, quicker than Scully in the bathroom. The manager looked a little happier when he saw her, as if thinking a person with a lovely wife and a baby on the way wasn't the type to hold grudges. Shows what little he knew...

The three of them were on the way out when it happened. The manager set the door to lock behind them, and he got out the door before they did. Scully tripped over a bulge in the carpet, so Mulder paused to grab her arm. The door swung closed just as they reached it.

Speaking to them through the door, the manager said he'd just unlock it. Which he did. But the door didn't open. Frowning, he gave it a couple more tries, then resorted on yanking on the door. Finally he gave up and yelled against the glass that he was going to have to call a locksmith, don't worry.

Mulder nodded, but he noticed that this caused Scully's already fair skin to pale significantly. "What's wrong, Scully?"

"Remember I told you how badly my back has been aching?"

"Yes." He watched the manager talking on the phone. It was worrying that the man's face was turning red, and he seemed to be shouting. "Do you need another massage?"

She shook her head. "I'm pretty sure I'm in labor."

"So no Lamaze class tonight," he replied, before thinking out the implications of their situation. "Oh no."

"Maybe the locksmith will come quickly," Scully said bravely.

But watching the red-faced man jump up and down as he screamed into the phone, Mulder wasn't very hopeful.

The very upset manager wandered back to the doors a little while later, to do some more shouting at the glass. Apparently the locks on the museum's doors weren't just any locks, they were specially ordered from Japan, and had hardware that most locksmiths weren't equipped to deal with. None of the area's locksmiths could get it open, but one did know a man who specialized in those locks. Unfortunately, he was in New Jersey. A few phone calls later, the manager admitted defeat, and called on the man in NJ. He'd be there as quickly as he could, but it would still take him hours to get there.

It's at that point that the manager suggests Mulder raid the gift shop.

Scully asks about the doors, but the manager explains that the museum had them all replaced with bullet proof glass after a rash of drivebys, and he's already called the fire department, who told him that they didn't think they could help either.

At least the 911 dispatch person is very helpful.

The locksmith eventually does arrive and fix the locks, but by the time he gets the door open, Mulder and Scully's daughter is already ten minutes old. The first people through the door, besides the nearly hysterical museum manager, are the paramedics, who load Scully and the baby into the ambulance.

At first Mulder is panicky, assuming that they think that something is wrong with Scully or the baby, and they're not telling him, but one of them explains that all moms and babies go to the hospital after emergency deliveries.

County General Hospital
An Hour Later

::This is more like it:: Mulder thinks approvingly, seeing Scully tucked into a bed with clean white sheets. It's the sort of thing he imagined all along, just with the baby in the crook of her arm having been born here, not on the floor of a dark museum.

His heart swells, seeing Scully look so happy. When they first got to the hospital, the doctors pushed him away so they could examine her and the baby - although one did look up long enough to compliment him on the neat job he'd done on the cord- but now it's just the three of them.

"How are you feeling?"

"Like all women do after this. Sore."

He still felt anxious. "But other than that? I'm sorry that you weren't here when you delivered-"

"You did a good job, Mulder."


"You were calmer than I was the first time I had to deliver a baby on my OB rotation in med school."

He has trouble processing that, since he can't think of anything he felt more nervous doing. "I'm glad it worked out ok. That you and the baby are both ok." She nods. "But let's do this in the hospital next time," he adds with a grin.

"Next time?" she asks, raising an eyebrow.

Grinning at her, Mulder looks down at the baby. The little girl has almost no hair, and she doesn't look like anyone he's ever seen before, but he's sure that tomorrow will bring a barrage of "she looks just like you!" comments to both of them from the well-meaning. Actually, she does remind him a little of his grandpa Mulder...

"I think Missy and Mom are a little put out that I don't want them to come until morning," Scully tells him.

"If they don't like it, I'll tell them that you and Page need your sleep. Today was a big day for both of you, and you're tired out. No one will get past me," Mulder threatens jokingly. Page opens her mouth to yawn, as if to empathize his point.

"My hero," Scully murmurs with a sleepy smile.

Mulder watches them sleep, tired himself. Little Page, the beginning of a brand new chapter in their lives, he muses, but he promises to never tell anyone he ever had such a silly thought.

Chapter Fifteen

November 2, 1994
3:13 a.m.

His eyes still closed, Mulder picks up his cell on the first ring. It's a talent he's developed, especially in light of Page's near-nonstop overnight cries and Scully's zombie-like development. Already walking out the bedroom, he's ready to curse the caller out, even if it is important. "Yeah?" he mutters groggily.

A familiar voice, that of his new informant, isn't amused. "Mulder," he simply says, and now Mulder's wide awake and in the bathroom.

"This better be good," Mulder says, unsure of what the news will be.

"Consider it a good news/bad news scenario," the black man tells him.

Now Mulder's curious. "What is it?"

"Krycek's in a coma at the Northeast Georgetown Medical Center."

Mulder runs a hand through his messy hair, making it stand up in weird places. "Does anyone else know about this?" he asks after a beat.

"If you mean the consortium, they were the ones who brought him," the black man says, not mentioning his role in the delivery, "if you mean the FBI and other officials, no."

Mulder exhales loudly, closing his eyes. "Much as I'd like a chance to chat with a former partner and returned alien abductee, I don't think Krycek would be in a talkative mood."

"You wouldn't have much time for small talk anyways, he's dying," X says, and with that, hangs up.

Great, Mulder thinks, just great. If Alex Krycek's personnel files are to be believed, the man has no living family, no close or casual acquaintances, nothing to tie him down to this world. It makes for a perfect double-agent, and a neater mess to clean up when dead. Except he's not dead yet and no official outside of himself knows that Krycek is lying in a hospital bed, dying of some unknown alien experiments. "Dammit," he sighs, and that's when Page kicks up a good-hearted wail.

Inside the sterile hospital room, a dark-haired man lies unconcious on the bed, dressed in the usual hospital gown that doesn't quite close up in the back. But it wouldn't matter, since he's not awake or alive enough to bitch about it. A machine is doing his breathing, other machines and tubes are making his heart beat and helping his other organs and body parts to function. A monitor beeps, keeping in time with the artificially-induced heartbeat and brain waves.

A man stands nearby, putting a lit cigarette to his mouth. "I'm terribly sorry," the smoking man says after a few minutes of puffing, "it wasn't supposed to happen this way. After Mulder, you hold the most promise, Alex."

As the dark-haired man makes no reply either positive or negative, the gray-haired man shakes his head, his half-lidded eyes betraying no emotion. "You do realize that you're the first one who's enjoyed being probed and suffering the indignities of being a sperm donor. I shall have to speak to the doctors about that." Another puff, another glance away. "Enjoyment does not preclude consequences, however. You're finding that out now."

Mulder walks into the room and frowns when he smells smoke. Looking around, he finds the butt of a Morley on the floor and snorts, disgusted. Under false pretenses, or, as he puts it, charm, he's gotten here without flashing his badge or making a scene. He wants to keep this as low-profile as possible, especially since he has no idea what Krycek would want, anyways.

Flipping through the coma guy's charts, he finds some familiar anomalies and sighs. "Krycek, I hope you know what a pain in the ass you still are," he mutters, grabbing the blank papers under the filled-in chart papers. Against his better judgment, he's going to bring this to the Gunmen and see if their diagnosis will come up the same as Scully's with branched DNA. If it's different, then there's nothing to be done. And he doesn't know whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing.

Krycek is lying on a metal table, dressed in a nice white dress shirt and slacks. He's still pretty out of it, despite a huge spotlight on him, and doesn't notice a middle-aged couple approaching from a dark hallway. The man is burly, his gray hair, beard and moustache neatly trimmed, and in a business suit. The woman is plump and her dark-dyed hair is piled on her head in a bun, the dark red dress only adding to her matronly appearance. Her hand is on his arm when they walk in, but seeing the sleeping man, she rushes forward with a cry.

"Aloysha!" she gasps, holding his head tightly to her ample bosom as if that would help.

The older man sighs, watching his wife rock their son. "I wish you hadn't followed me into the KGB, although I was so proud of you at the time," he says sadly with a thick Russian accent. "The path you are going will lead to an early grave, but you're not supposed to join us now."

"My boy, my baby boy," the woman croons, her own accent as strong as her husband's, stroking Krycek's hair. She pauses in her ministrations as she looks up at her husband, then resumes rocking her son. "I love you, but if you die now, I swear I will make your afterlife a living hell." She kisses his head and gently lays him down on the table. "You be a good boy," she says, squeezing his hand as she leaves.

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do," the older man says, and his wife socks him in the shoulder. Rubbing it, he adds, "Take care of our grandchild, or I will join your mother in making your death a living hell."

Satisfied, Krycek's mother nods and takes her husband's hand. The couple turns and leaves the spotlight and their comatose son on the table, returning to the darkness of death.

The next day, in the Lone Gunmen's lair, having taken the information off the "blank" chart pages with a pencil, Byers is raising his eyebrows at the results from the John Doe. "This is quite a patient," he comments, "our newest Gunman, the Thinker, reports the protein chains are a result of branched DNA." He looks at the tall man holding his wide-eyed baby, thinking that to be a stranger sight than anything they've ever published in "The Magic Bullet."

Mulder frowns. "Branched DNA?" he repeats. He's not surprised, and at the same time, he is. Page hiccups, and he pats her back a few times as she rests on his shoulder. He and the Gunmen run through theories and options, coming up with the same conclusions as they did when it was Scully in the hospital. But this time, there is nothing he knows of to tie the dying man to this world, nobody to fight for. His ruminations are interrupted by his cell phone. "Mulder," he answers.

"Mulder," his wife says, "what the hell did you give me?"

"No STDs, as far as I know," he deadpans.

Scully sighs noisily at the other end. "No, the blood sample. Where did you get it from?"

"An alien abductee." He grins.

He can almost hear her rolling her eyes at the other end. "Great, well, I've found some anomalies," she says, "but nothing screaming 'alien'."

"Like branched DNA?" he asks, and he can almost hear her jaw drop.

"Mulder, whoever you've gotten this sample from," she says after recovering her composure, "if they're not already dead, they should be."

He nods. "I know," he says, "but I'm hoping you can find something useful." Or something that explains why you came back from the dead with no other side effects other than what the implants did.

Back at the Northeast Georgetown Medical Center, Mulder makes his way to Krycek's room. He knows he's been sitting on this long enough, and pulls out his cell. His thumb hitting speed dial, he opens the door, only to find the bed is empty. "Hello?" Scully asks.

"Hey," he says, walking out to look for a nurse. "Anything on the sample?"

"Actually, I was just going to call you about that," she says, a little worried.

"What?" he asks, already knowing the answer.

"It's been stolen," she says flatly, absently bouncing her daughter as she hears the start of another crying jag.

"Great, hold that depressing thought," he says, then waves a hand at an orderly at the nurses' station. "Hey, could you tell me what happened to the patient in Room 42?"

The orderly looks at him blankly, then ruffles through some papers. "Oh yeah," he says finally after what seems like ages, "his dad took him home once he opened his eyes."

He's alive, Mulder thinks as he says, "His dad?"

The orderly nods. "Yeah, smelled like an ashtray," he says. "You want his number?"

What the hell, Mulder thinks. "Sure," he says, and somehow isn't surprised to see the FBI's general office number listed. "Sorry," he says to Scully's worried squawking, "John Doe just went home."

Chapter Sixteen

November 13, 1994
Late at Night

::I was wrong, and Scully was right. There is a God.:: Mulder thinks as he peers into his daughter's crib. Page is curled up, sleeping soundly. ::The fact that colic doesn't last is a proof of that::

Getting over the colic has transformed their little siren into a sweet natured-cuddly infant, like those they've been observing enviously in other people's carriages. The fact that she's gone three entire days without any extended bouts of sleepless screaming feels like waking up from a two-month-long nightmare.

And it's just about time too, since there's been more than one night lately that Scully has tearfully consulted medical books, only to end up ranting that the doctors are lying to parents, and there's nothing that can be done to comfort the unhappy baby.

All of which only serves to make it difficult to keep himself from telling her that maybe she went back to work too soon. But hold his tongue he does; it took over a month for her to go back to work, and he knows that Reyes had talked her into helping her and Doggett less than a week after William was born, so he shouldn't complain, especially since her going into the lab to look at Krycek's sample was the thing that got her mind on work in the first place.

"She's an angel," Scully says, joining him.

"You've got to admit, though, for a while there we were worried that we'd spawned a demon," he tells her with a grin.

"Yeah... thank God that not all babies get this. It's most common in first borns and boys."

"Just girls after this then," Mulder teases.

"Ok, but you're having the next one."

"Aww... don't you want more kids? I always envied big families like yours."

"Brother Bill was nothing to envy." Scully snorts.

"Not a problem if we have all girls," he points out.

"I don't know, Mulder, a little boy might not be so bad." She suddenly looks serious. "I think Bill's problem was that Dad was gone so often. 'You look after your mom and the little ones' really went to his head."

"Good thing I'll always be right here."

"You better be," she says fiercely, drawing him away from the crib. He gives her a surprised look, but goes willingly enough. It's nice to know that not all women lose desire for their husbands after a baby.

"Mulderrr....Please," she pleads, something wild lurking in her eyes as her fingers dig into his shoulders, so possessively.

But he's nervous. "Are you sure? I don't want to hurt you." He's eager, but worried.

"It's been seven weeks. The recommendation is six," she points out.

"But that's just a guideline. Not all women are ready..." He trails off as she slowly unzips his pants. As her warm little fingers encircle him, he realizes that she's ready.

She gives him an impatient look as his hand reaches behind him, groping for the night stand drawer. "What?" she asks.

"Condoms," he says thickly. ::Oh God, do I even have any that I didn't "fix". Please please please-::

"Forget them," she tells him, giving him a squeeze that nearly obliterates all thoughts from his mind. Nearly.


"I'm breast feeding Page. Women use breast-feeding as birth control all over the world, because it suppresses ovulation. We'll be safe."

If her explanation wasn't accompanied by feather light touches that make him throb, he might come up with a better rebuttal than, "Really?"

"I'm a doctor," she tells him, which would be more convincing if she weren't standing there buck-naked with her hand still on his proudly pointing member.

Convincing or not, it's only a couple of minutes before he lets the doctor test his stamina.

The Next Morning

Scully wanders into the living room and notices that Mulder is having what sounds like a heated phone conversation.

"...but Page isn't even two months old! Scully won't leave her with anyone but her mom, who's visiting Charlie and his family for the next two weeks, and I'm not sure that I like the idea much myself. There has to be another solution," Mulder insists, wishing he could see Skinner's face.

She watches with interest as he makes a strangled sound and his face takes on a purplish cast. It occurs to her to wonder if he's choking on something, maybe he'd had sunflower seeds in his mouth, but he begins to speak again. "I'm sure she'll love that solution... yes, we'll be there, no need for threats." He slams the phone down.

"Skinner?" she asks, making him jump.

"Yes. Get this. His solution to not leaving Page with a stranger is we can have special permission to bring her along with us. He says she ought to get used to it when she's young, since your mother isn't going to be at our beck and call her entire childhood." He sighs deeply. "We can't afford a nanny, so is there anyone that you can think of that you'd feel comfortable leaving her with? I tried to talk him into letting just me go, but he said that there needs to be two agents on our cases-"

Scully interrupts. "Skinner's right. We'll have to take her with us."


"Like you said, we can't afford a nanny now, so this is what we'll have to do until we can."

"Some of our cases can be dangerous," he protests.

"What better motivation to keep ourselves out of trouble?" she asks.

There's no talking her out of it, and since she'll think he's a complete nutcase and leave him, taking Page with her, if he lets on what kind of trouble there's brewing in their lives during the coming years, there's nothing he can do but shut his mouth and grit his teeth.


Special Agent Moe Bocks is waiting for them in the graveyard.

Glancing at the sleeping baby strapped to Scully's chest, his only comment is "couldn't get a babysitter, huh?" They shrug.

If having Page there bothers him, he doesn't let on. Instead he launches into a spiel that Mulder remembers almost word for word. "I got the call from Minneapolis PD, saying they wanted the FBI to come out and have a look. Anything slightly freakazoid, that's the drill: call Moe Bocks. As if I'm tight with all the nut cases in town. So I shoot on down here to see what's-the-what and I'll be damned if I'm not knocked on my butt by what they show me. Twenty two years, I've never seen anything like it. I get one look at the corpse and I'm on the phone to my pal Andi Schnider down at the Mutual UFO Network. You know Andi?"


"Well, he knows you."

"Why'd you call Mufon?" Mulder asks.

"I wanted to see if there'd been much UFO activity in the area."

"You think this grave was unearthed by aliens, Agent Bocks?" Even Mulder looks skeptical.

"It has all the telltale markings, don't you think? I mean, according to the literature."

"The literature?"

"Y'know. The way the hair and nails have been cut away. Sort of like they do in cattle mutilations."

Peering down at the casket, Scully is clearly disturbed by the sight of the body.

"I hate to disappoint you, Agent Bocks, but this doesn't look like the work of aliens to me," Mulder tells him, enjoying being able to demonstrate to Scully that he doesn't think all crime is alien related.

Bocks looks disappointed. "No? How can you be sure?"

"I've seen this kind of thing before. When I was with the Violent Crime Section. Whoever dug this up probably used a backhoe. If you took casts of the ground in the area, you'd probably lift some clean new tracks off the garage around here somewhere. He may work here, but it's not likely. Though he's probably worked at a cemetery or a mortuary at one time or another. Probably been busted before, but you're not going to find any record of it. Not real good for business when these stories get around."

"You're saying some human's been doing this?"

" If you want to call him that," Mulder agrees.

"Well, don't I feel like a dumb butt."

The guy doesn't seem like a bad person and he didn't put up a fuss about the baby, so Mulder decides to throw him a bone this time. "Don't. This sort of thing is really uncommon. If it hadn't been for my work on the VC I probably would have thought of aliens first too."

"Yeah... thanks." Bocks looks less embarrassed.

Scully ventures one last look into the grave, the image giving her a cold shudder.

As they go back to their car, he asks, "You okay, Scully?" knowing she isn't.

"Yeah... I've read about cases of desecrating the dead, but this is the first time I've seen one." She busies herself with strapping Page into the car seat, but clearly she's still thinking about the body.

"Nothing can prepare you for it. It's almost impossible to imagine."

"Why do they do it?" She wants to know as they settle themselves into the front seat of the car.

"Some people collect salt and pepper shakers. The fetishist collects dead things. Hair, fingernails... no one quite knows why. though I've never quite understood salt and pepper shakers myself."

She gives him a curious look. "Sometimes you surprise me, Mulder."


"How that didn't shock you back there."

"I've prepared myself for it before we left Washington."

"You knew it wasn't UFO related from the start?"

"I had suspected as much," he admits.

"Mulder, we flew three hours to get here. Our plane doesn't leave until tomorrow night. If you suspected, why-"

He pulls two tickets from his pocket. "Vikings versus Redskins, in the Metrodome. Forty yard line, Scully. You, me and Page. I think it's a good time for her first sporting event. With all the fans screaming, no one will hear if she cries."

Even though he thinks it's unlikely that they'll get to this game, either, it's a nice dream.

To his shock, they actually do go to the game. He's not quite sure why, but Donnie Pfaster doesn't dig up the corpses until after the game is over. Maybe he was sick, or had car trouble, who knows. While it's nice to be at the game with his two best girls, it makes him feel uneasy too, knowing that he's not the only thing that can affect the outcome of the cases. With time restarted, anything can happen now, perhaps. It's almost a relief when Bocks calls their hotel not long after they get back from the game.

Other than the strange anomaly that allows them to actually catch the game, things continue in pretty much the same way they did in Mulder's memories, and that scares him. Things are going to happen all over again, and he's not sure that the outcome will be the same this time around. It had been bad, but it could have been much worse. He doesn't get much sleep that night, as his mind races, trying to think of how to keep Scully out of Donnie Pfaster's clutches.

They visit the jail, and it's all Mulder can do not to scream at Scully and Bocks that their man is right there in a cell for something else entirely. But he can't, not even though he wants to more than anything.

"Mulder, can I have a minute with you?"


Bocks gets the message that she wants to speak to Mulder in private. "I'll be out front."

"I think I might better drive this investigation if I focused on the evidence."

"What are you suggesting?"

"That I take the body back to Washington. I'd like to run it through the fingerprint lab there. You know those guys, they can pull a print-"

"If you're having trouble with this case, Scully, I want you to tell me."

"I'm not having trouble, Mulder," she insists. He still doesn't believe her.

"I'd understand, Scully. This isn't exactly easy to stomach. We'll tell Skinner where he can stick his two-agents rule."

"I'm fine with it. Really. I just think we're a long way from catching this guy. If we could get a print, we'd have something to go on. Right now we're at a standstill."

He feels completely helpless. "I think it's a good idea. I just don't want you to think you have to hide anything from me, Scully. I've seen agents with twenty years in the field fall apart on cases like this."

"I'm fine, Mulder. I can handle it."

"Leave Page with me, though," he says impulsively.

"Mulder, I don't know-"

"Are you suggesting I can't take care of my own daughter?" He lets his voice rise with indignation. Better a fight than letting Scully take their baby home.

"No! I just-"

"If you're going to be doing work in the lab, you're going to need someone to look after her anyway, since you're not bringing her to the morgue. I may just be doing a lot of thumb twiddling here, anyway, so the two of us will get along fine." He addresses the baby for affect, "won't we, sweetie?"

"Ok," Scully agrees. She looks apprehensive, but not half as much as he is, he's sure. At least without Page to worry about, she won't be handicapped by her need to protect their baby from Donnie too. If he can't make things better, at least he won't be making them worse this way.

Later on, he thinks that he might have a chance to change things, but he's foiled by her stubbornness. Though frustrated, he's hardly surprised- it's half of what he loves about her.

He's giving Page a bottle in Bocks' office when she calls. "Hi, it's me. We got a print."

"Scully got a print."

Bocks' is thrilled. "Fantastic!"

"I'm going to modem it out to you right away to see if you can run a match."

"Are you staying on there, Scully?" ::please please please:: he tries to send a subliminal message.

"No. I'm coming back tonight."

"Look, Scully. I know this is a pretty horrific case-"

"I'm okay with it, Mulder. You can use my help."

"Why don't you come back tomorrow? It's already late, and Page and I are doing fine-"

"I'd really rather be with you tonight, I miss you and my baby," she says, dashing his hopes. "Mulder? You or Agent Bocks didn't call here looking for me earlier, did you?"

"Did you call for Agent Scully?"


"Okay, I'll see you when I get there."

"Why don't I pick you up at the airport?"

"Don't be silly, I can rent a car. Bye Mulder." She hangs up before he argues any more about it.

Looking down at their daughter, he prays that everything will be ok.

Eventually they figure out where Donnie Pfaster is holding Scully, though Mulder gives into fear and recklessly makes a few "leaps" that might seem entirely illogical. Luckily no one is paying too close attention to how he comes to his conclusion. The ride to Pfaster's mother's home seems to take hours.

Mulder and the other agents break the door down just in time to see Donnie Pfaster get Scully's gun away from her.

"FEDERAL AGENTS! HANDS IN THE AIR!" Mulder shouts loud enough to make Page cry in fear. So fixated on helping Scully, he'd forgotten that Page was even with him.

Donnie slowly puts his hands in the air, and the other men take him forcefully. For one second Mulder is tempted to shoot the bastard in the head, so he'll never be able to hurt Scully again, but he knows that'd be a jail-able offense given the other agents already have him in cuffs. Still, his trigger finger itches. Finally, he holsters the gun and goes to Scully.

She's dazed, as she's trying to get up. "Let's get the paramedics out here!" he calls.

"I'm okay," she claims.

"Just stay there, Scully."

Being Scully, she insists on getting up, Mulder helps her. "I'm fine. Just help me get my wrists undone. How did you find me?"

"His Mother used to own the house, willed it to the sisters. I played a hunch. A patrolman spotted the car out front."

Her wrists untied, Scully rubs them. She doesn't want to meet Mulder's eyes. She's looking over at Donnie, who's being bound on the floor. "Why don't you sit down until someone can take a look at you."

"Mulder, I'm fine," she says, starting to reach for Page. But, probably sensing how shaken she still is and afraid she'd drop the baby, she lets her arms fall to her sides.

Mulder looks at her, and tips up her chin. She, then, meets his gaze, and that's all it takes. Her eyes well up, and she begins crying. Mulder's holding her now, though she keeps her arms crossed in front of herself. She, then, allows herself to hold him, to fully let her emotions out. Scully continues to cry in Mulder's arms, while he holds her tight and strong. They only loosen their grip when Page squawks, probably feeling squashed.

"It's ok, you're ok," he mutters, unsure which of them he's addressing. Maybe he's trying to reassure them all. "We're all ok now."

Scully gives him a misty look. "I bet this isn't how you expected Page's first case to turn out."

Shocked that she's making a joke he just lets his mouth drop. Then he laughs until tears come to his eyes. Page just looks from one parent to another with her still slightly unfocused baby gaze, and they swear her look suggests that she thinks her parents have lost their minds. That just makes them laugh harder.

Chapter Seventeen

"Chaney's a legend," Mulder says on a late November afternoon, picking up a file and hands it to his wife, who opens it and starts flipping through pages. "Forty years before the Bureau started profiling violent criminals, Chaney and his partner Tim Ledbetter would work on their own time investigating what were then called "stranger killings"- what are now called serial murders. They disappeared while investigating three murders in Aubrey, Missouri in 1942. Chaney's body wasn't found until two days ago by local detective, B.J. Morrow," he pauses, "a woman."

"What's your interest in this case?" she wonders, thinking the mystery's solved.

"During their time, Chaney's and Ledbetter's ideas weren't very well received by their peers. Using psychology to solve a crime was something like, um..." He shrugs a little.

She grins, filling in the blank. "Believing in the paranormal?"

"Exactly." He pauses, knowing she wants something deeper, something a little more substantial, and, dare he say, a little more paranormal for this decades-old case, or at least a decent reason why it would even be considered an X-File. "There's another mystery."

As usual, she bites. "Which is?" Ooh, infamous eyebrow raise. Yes!

"Well, I'd like to know why this policewoman would suddenly drive her car into a field the size of Rhode Island and for no rhyme or reason dig up the bones of a man who's been missing for fifty years. I mean, unless there was a neon sign saying "Dig Here"-, "Mulder deadpans, already knowing the answer to this particular mystery, even as he's dangling the question for his partner.

"I guess that's why we're going to Aubrey," Scully finishes, answering her husband's question. Even though she's feeling a little under the weather, but there's no way she's telling him that. Besides, her mother has already threatened to come to the Hoover building with baby pictures of herself if she wouldn't let a proud grandmother spend more time with her granddaughter.

He leers melodramatically, "Yes, and also I've always been intrigued by women named B.J."

She snorts. "Intrigued, nothing, I'm pretty sure you enjoyed it the other night," she says, sailing out the room with the x-rays and leaving him chuckling.

Later, sitting in front of the computer waiting for the images to load at the coroner's office, Scully and Mulder eat cookies companionably, although she's a bit more ravenous than her partner. "Mulder, I don't think B.J. was in the woods that night because of engine failure," she says, popping another cookie in her mouth.

He answers with his mouth full, "What are you talking about?"

She gives him a look, swallowing her own mouthful before answering with clear diction. "Well, the Motel Black would have been the perfect meeting place - away from town, away from his wife..." His look is unhelpfully blank, so she fills it in. "It's obvious BJ and Tillman are having an affair."

He doesn't want to give her the satisfaction of knowing she's right. "Let me guess, women's intuition?" He smirks.

She gives him a smug look right back, and is about to reply when the computer beeps, giving them their answer from the FBI. As she's moving things around onscreen, Detective Morrow comes in. "Agent Mulder? Have you made any progress in the investigation?" she asks, looking as brisk and professional as she can manage.

"Uh, we may have. It seems Agent Chaney might have been a victim of the killer he was trying to catch. We're trying to determine if the cuts on his ribcage spell out a word right now," he says, and they watch the detective almost sleepwalk into the room before staggering at something only she can see. "You all right?" he asks, worried.

"Must be something I-" she begins her apology, swallowing hard. "'Scuse me," she mumbles, fairly running out of the room.

It seems Scully's own stomach turns sympathetically, and she also rises, although leaving with less haste, so Mulder wouldn't worry.

The detective is washing her mouth out as Scully empties the contents of her own stomach. Quickly, the redhead leaves the stall as soon as she can. "You're pregnant, too," she notes, washing out her mouth.

Detective Morrow's eyes seem a little wild, worried. "Does it show?" she asks, her body posture signaling flight.

Scully shakes her head. "No, not yet," she says in as calm a tone as she can manage, considering the recent queasiness of her own stomach, her hands under the running faucet.

The longhaired woman seems to sag with relief at a fellow law enforcement officer in somewhat the same predicament. "Now I know why my mother only had one child. She told me about the nausea, but not about the nightmares."

Scully brushes her hair back from her face, careful not to look at the other woman. "Nightmares?"

The other woman seems to take her cues from the petite agent. "It's always the same," she says, arranging her hair, "I'm in a house, it feels familiar. There's a woman that's been hurt. There's a mirror... I see a man's reflection. I recognize his face, but I don't know it. What I remember most is the blood. There's a lot of blood."

"Have you talked to anyone about these nightmares?" Scully asks, not giving away her worry that the detective might need psychiatric help. She still hasn't told Mulder yet about seeing Cole in their apartment, chalking it up to something like a pregnant hallucination. Morrow seems to be confirming her worst fears, however.

There's a quick shake of the head, then the fingers resume tidying the long, dark locks. "I'm sure it's something about the pregnancy," she says, sounding eerily like Scully's inward self-justifying voice. "If anyone else knew I was pregnant... Brian would kill me if I told anyone." She sounds defiant and relieved not to have to have the burden of this knowledge alone.

"What are you going to do?" she asks.

Now it's the detective's turn not to look at the agent. "I don't know," she says, leaving the restroom without another word.

Scully stares after her, knowing both the pain of being in an extramarital affair with a coworker, and being pregnant in a high-pressure job, but not at the same time. She sighs. At least she has Mulder, and her family. B. J. Morrow doesn't seem to have anyone if she's willing to confide in a perfect stranger, especially not Tillman. And with that sobering thought, she decides to tell Mulder.

Scully had left on the pretense of going back to take another look at the x-rays, to see if she can make any sense of the rib cuts, but when Mulder's cell phone rings, he realizes that's not really where she'd gone.

"Mulder, it's me. I'm at the e.r. at county hospital."

"Are you ok? What happened? Was there an accident?" Mulder's mind is frantic, because this isn't supposed to be the dangerous part of this particular case.

Hearing her take a long shuddery breath, his fear rockets up. "I'm not hurt, Mulder. I, um, came for a blood test. To be sure."

"Of what?" he asks blankly.

"I'm pregnant." There's a lot of static on the line after that. "'amn bridge. We'll alk when I ge bac, k thi lin breaki up."

"Ok," he replies, wondering if she can even hear him.

Sinking onto the bed, Mulder's mind seems to be filled with a lot of static too. ::No, this is not happening! We can't have another baby before Page is even one. And especially not now, not with the trouble with the alien bounty hunter and the Samantha clone lurking just around the corner. How can an unborn baby survive that sort of abuse? I don't know if can keep Scully safe, dammit!::

He throws himself onto his back and covers his eyes. ::safe... Page kept Scully safe from Duane Barry, didn't she? Maybe this baby will keep her safe too. I don't know. Or maybe the baby will force her to take less risks, and accomplish the same thing. This could be a good thing, perhaps.::

Getting back up, he puts on his shoes. ::If she's happy about the baby, I'll play happy too. It's just as easy to believe that this will turn out to be a good thing, not a bad one. Why do I have to be so negative? Oh yeah, because I'm paranoid. But not this time. I'll try not to be this time.::

A couple of minutes later, he leaves the hotel room, intent on buying a bag of sunflower seeds and a quart of Rocky Road ice cream.

Later, in their motel room, Scully carefully makes her way through the mess of sunflower seeds and papers on the floor. "Mulder, if you don't learn to clean up after yourself, how will our children learn to do that?"

"Aren't kids supposed to be messy?" he asks, grinning in the face of danger as he casually spits out another sunflower husk on the paper-strewn floor. Either he's daring her to kick his ass, or he intends to remain something like an untrained puppy or typical bachelor, whichever. She really doesn't want to think too hard about his motivations, especially since that'll only throw her precariously balanced hormones into God knows where.

Sighing, she pulls out the results of her recent forage through time and the Aubrey police archives. She proposes Cokely as the killer, due to the recent rash of killings with his M.O., but Mulder's inclined to choose another suspect for reasons she isn't aware of. "Are you saying Cokely's grandson attacked B.J.?" she asks, not bothering to hide her disbelief.

He leans forward, alight with his theory, albeit a little inelegant. "It would make sense, Scully. Genetic traits often skip a generation. And that would explain the test results of the blood found under Verna Johnson's fingernails. PGM subtypes are similar among relatives. Did Danny call back with the adoption records yet? Did you get 'em?" He grins with a "I know I'm right" smile, which makes her dial faster.

"I don't think Mendel had serial killers in mind when he developed his theory on genetics." She rolls her eyes. "And unless you can prove that hypothesis outside of a single anomaly, that's all it is, an anomaly, *not* God-given proof." She flicks a sunflower seed shell at his head.

As Mulder begins his story about sunflower seeds and his father, he looks back with twenty-twenty hindsight. Perhaps some things were more nurture versus nature, he muses, and Dad was trying to get me to avoid turning into a chain-smoker like a certain conspiracy-related chimneystack.

She snorts, recalling him to her. "What does that have to do with Cokely?" she asks, as if waiting for a line of priceless bull and humoring him anyways.

Fine, then, he thinks childishly, "Well, on a basic cellular level, we're the sum total of all our ancestors' biological matter. But what if more than biological traits get passed down from generation to generation? What if I like sunflower seeds because I'm genetically predisposed to liking them?" And no matter what Cancer Man says, I'm Bill Mulder's son, he thinks.

She rolls her eyes, both at the sunflower seed-chewing man on the bed and the man at the other end of the phone putting her on hold. "But children aren't born liking sunflower seeds. Environments shape them; behavior patterns are taught," she says reasonably. "Traits like eye and hair color are passed down, but I doubt our children will be born with a fear of clowns or an inclination towards sunflower seeds." Please, please, let them take up a less messy habit, like physics, she prays.

"You're afraid of clowns?" he asks, and he holds his hands up in surrender to her glare. "Okay, but you can't dispute the fact that there are countless stories of twins separated at birth who end up in the same occupation, marrying the same kind of people, each naming their child Waldo."

"Waldo?" she arches that eyebrow again. Boy, is he making her give that eyebrow a workout or what?

"Jung wrote about it when he talked about the collective unconscious. It's genetic memory, Scully," he says earnestly.

She shakes her head, hoping to hear some sanity from Danny. Instead, she's given a shock. Hanging up the phone, she tells her husband, "Danny tracked down Mrs. Thibedeaux's son. He was a policeman named Raymond Morrow."

"B.J.'s father." And of course, Mulder goes on beyond zebra in his hunches. "She's responsible for the murders. Grab your coat, let's go."

She stares at him, but gets her coat nonetheless. "Do you honestly think she's capable of murder?" she asks, looking up at him.

He looks down at her. "Scully, this is what I think. I think that Cokely's memories, his compulsions have been passed on genetically to his granddaughter B.J. That's what's driving her to kill."

Now she looks at him like he's grown another head. "So you're saying that B.J.'s nightmares are real? That, that she's out there killing these women and carving 'SISTER' on them?" The look on his face tells her yes. But she refuses someone can simply go nuts for no reason, granddaughter of a serial killer or no. There's got to be a logical explanation for this. "Well, then how do you explain the cuts on her own chest?" she demands.

"I can't explain everything," Mulder replies, pouting a little. "Maybe she carved them on herself, or maybe it's some kind of weird stigmata. Whatever it is, B.J. is not herself."

"Or perhaps it's not B.J.," she argues, but they can both tell it's a half-hearted argument, as the evidence seems to be piling up against the detective. Besides, Scully hates the idea that B.J.'s feeding into the widespread-idea that pregnant women go nuts. In jobs like theirs, they need all the respect they can scrape together. "Mulder, wait up."

"Why?" he turns around, but seeing her fleeing into the bathroom gives him a pretty good idea of the answer. Hoo boy.

Later, back at home, Scully is breastfeeding Page, her daughter held up by a cloth sling while she types at the computer. "We are continuing with genetic testing on Detective Morrow. Evidence suggests the presence of a mutator gene that has activated previously dormant genes, but the results so far are inconclusive." She sighs, then shifts her daughter a little to make it easier for her baby and a little more comfortable for herself.

Resuming her report, she goes on. "Detective Morrow has not demonstrated any further physiological changes. Extensive blood work and psychological testing has been conducted in order to determine whether the pregnancy could have been a catalyst for the transformation. We have yet to determine the effects on the fetus."

"Amniocentesis results show no genetic abnormalities. Chromosome testing has determined the child's sex to be male. B.J. is on her second week of suicide watch after an unsuccessful attempt to abort her son. Lieutenant Tillman has petitioned to adopt the child, and the case will soon be presented to the courts." She looks down at the child suckling at her breast. "Will you be a doctor like Mommy? Or will you be," she pauses, "imaginative, like Daddy?" She makes a mental note to check on Mulder's parents, remembering them vaguely from the wedding as reasonably sensible, if a little cool towards each other. Her own parents, she knows, are grounded, if somewhat nomadic, people, and misses her father intensely with a pang of remembered loss.

I just hope they don't take after Melissa, too, she thinks suddenly, when the phone rings. "Scully," she answers automatically. "Melissa." She smiles. "I was just thinking of you. No, nothing like that," she shakes her head, thinking her sister is more incorrigible than Mulder sometimes. "I was thinking of what Page might be like when she grows up, and, no offense, but I hope it's not like you."

The rest of the afternoon is filled with shared remembrances, future plans, and peals of laughter.

December 25th 1994

"I would have thought you'd celebrate Hanukkah, Fox," Bill junior says, making Scully cringe.

Mulder, however, takes it in stride. "My mom's Protestant, so I grew up celebrating both holidays. Hanukkah began just after Thanksgiving this year, so I visited my dad that week to celebrate that then." It's the first time he celebrated it in a decade, because he'd given up acknowledging the season after his father's death. Though it's nice that they got to do it one more time, every time he lit a candle, he wondered if it would be the last menorah his father would ever see.

Bill junior seems to relax a little. "That's good. I'm glad that Christmas doesn't make you uncomfortable, then."

Mulder grins, and plucks Page out of Scully's lap. "Nah, it just means more presents, doesn't it sweetie?" Page looks faintly bewildered. Even Bill junior laughs at that.

Scully wanders out to the kitchen, looking for either her mother, or something to eat. Both would suffice.

She finds both. Maggie is piling Christmas cookies onto a tray. "It's too bad that Page can't have any," her mother says wistfully.

"I'm sure today is like any other day to her, Mom. She'll be able to eat cookies with us next year."

"I know. Even though babies don't know any better, there's something magical about baby's first Christmas. Maybe because they happen so infrequently."

Scully blushes hard, and looks at her feet. "I wouldn't be so sure about that, Mom. Next year will be baby's first Christmas too."

"You're not...?" Once the shock leaches from Maggie's face, she looks pleased. "You are. Why didn't you tell me?"

"I'm not sure." Scully shrugs. "I...I was worried what you'd think, since it's so soon."

Maggie gives her arm a squeeze. "Oh honey, you know that Bill and Melissa are just a year apart."

"I know. But I never did figure out how you felt about it."

"I loved it. You'll love it too, you and Fox both will."

Scully grins crookedly. "I'm sure we will. If only we knew how Page will feel about the whole deal."

Both women laugh.

"What's going on in here?" Mulder asks suspiciously, carrying Page over one shoulder.

"Congratulations, Fox," Maggie tells him with a knowing look.

"Oh boy," Mulder says to Page. "You're not going to help them gang up on me when you can talk, are you?"

"Of course she will," Maggie replies.

"Then the next one better be a boy," he grumbles to their giggles.

Chapter Eighteen

January 3rd, 1995

Skinner looks grim, and it's all Mulder can do not to squirm in his chair as the ex-Marine stares him down.

"Agent Mulder... I didn't say anything when you impregnated your partner. I even bent the rules and let you continue to work together after you married her. But this is too much."

"With all due respect, sir, I don't think there's any law that says one must get the approval of their work place before having a second child." ::And it's not as if I planned this! Just the last time.::

Skinner sighs deeply. "I know that, Mulder. But it does put stress on this office, as I'm sure you're aware."

"Of course I am. But it's not as though I'm incapable of going on without Scully in the short time she'll be out."

"Granted. But this job is very dangerous-"

"And it's up to Scully to decide if she feels comfortable on cases or not. You are her boss, and I'm her husband, but she's the one living in her own body. She's the only one who can properly gage how much stress she can deal with."

Skinner just stares at him with an angry glint in his eyes. Then he reaches out and grabs Mulder by the shoulder, shaking him.

"Mulder?" Hearing Scully's concerned voice, Mulder opens his eyes. "Having a nightmare?"

"Yeah, a nightmare," he says thickly. He sits up thinking the dream was odd considering that he and Scully had already married before Skinner came on board as their supervisor. Daytime worries about Skinner haunt his nights. "When are we going to tell Skinner about-" He places one hand on her still flat belly. "-this?"

She gives a helpless shrug. "I'm not sure I want to tell him right away."

He's not sure either. "He is going to figure it out, though," he points out.

"So we let him figure it out."

"Do you really think that's a good idea?"

"It's not, but it'll give him a shorter time to worry about it."

"That's my girl." Mulder wraps an arm around her, drawing her onto his lap. "Always concerned with causing people as little grief as possible."

She grins at him, but her voice is pious. "Someone has to look out for the mental health of people like Skinner."


A half hour later Scully frowns as she looks at the prenatal vitamin sitting in the palm of her hand. She'd hoped they were in her past, since she hated how they had a lingering...tastes, but here they are again. She gets a tumbler and fills it with water, swallowing it quickly.

Once she does, she wrinkles her nose. "Mulder, the water tastes terrible."

Mulder doesn't look up from reading in the next room. "It's tap water, what are you expecting?"

"I'm buying bottled water when we go grocery shopping."

"None of that fancy crap for me. You're paying for the label, you know."

"I know, but some times you have to splurge a little."

"That's what the bottled water companies want you to believe, Scully. Next they'll be charging you for air."

"Would you rather I not buy the water, and get sick to my stomach more often?" she asks archly, returning to the living room.

Mulder looks up from shaking a rattle for Page. "God no."

"Then shut up," she says in a sweet tone.

"I don't think the plumbing could handle any more acidic contents going through it without eating right through the plastic," Mulder mutters, to himself. He thinks it's under his breath...until Scully glares at him. "So, um, I'll buy a couple of gallons of water when I go to the store in a few minutes. Do we need anything else?"

"A large pack of diapers," she says promptly.

"For the Cue ball, got it."

"Mulder, don't call her that! Her hair is starting to grow, you know." She sounds indignant. Page, blonde and oblivious, doesn't seem to care that her mother has sprung to the defense of her short, almost colorless locks.

"I know. I mean it in an endearing way, you realize," he says, giving the baby's head a fond pat. ::I wonder if I could get away with calling her Asbaldas? If I say it quickly...Is it any odder than Starbuck? Hmmm.:: "Hey Scully, do you realize that it's been exactly a year today?"

She looks blank for a second, and disappointment begins to build in him. Does she really not remember? The date is pretty meaningful to him.

"Wine is a dangerous thing," she says, giving the baby a fond smile. Mulder's smile is even broader. "No wine today, though."

"No, but that wine was the best $50 I ever spent," he tells her happily. "Look how it changed my life for the good. How many people can say that?"

"Well, not the people at AA."

::Not my Dad either. I think we'll have to stick to drinking only on special occasions:: he thinks as he looks for his car keys so he can go to the store.

Jan 20th, 1995

With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Mulder follows up on the e-mail with the three mysterious deaths. He and Scully talked to the federal marshall, then the ever-militant Reverend Sistrunk, and just now, the helpful lady from "The Globe and Mail" paper. I just hope I don't turn into an icicle this time, he muses, as Scully interrupts his thoughts with, "I've got a bad feeling about this case, Mulder."

You and me both, he thinks, but feigns ignorance. "What do you mean?"

She sighs, shifting Page to her other shoulder. Scully had brought their daughter along, thinking there wasn't much to the goose chase at first, but now it seems they are dealing with Mulder's mysterious sources, and her motherly instinct wants to keep her daughter and themselves safe. "Well, nothing about it makes sense. We've got three deaths of identical victims, no bodies, a virtual non-suspect..."

He interrupts her with a grin, "Sounds like an X-File."

She holds a warning eyebrow up at the interruption. "You don't even know who sent you that information. I mean, we've been set up before."

Looking at a map, Mulder shoves aside the same doubts. Maybe this time, they can save his sister. Or his cloned sister. Whatever. "If somebody really wanted to set us up, would they give us this little to go on? There's something bigger here, Scully. I'd be willing to bet there are more of these guys out there."

Now her eyebrows are up in full force. "More victims?"

He's not looking at his wife, but at the map, not wanting to give away the previous outcome of this little jaunt. Who knows, they could change everything this time. "Unless we get to them first. The deaths follow a pattern... New Jersey, New York, Scranton," his finger moves on the map on each city, "and then an ad is placed here in Binghamton looking for a man exactly like the others. The killer's moving in a northernly direction." Then he remembers and goes back to the woman behind the desk. "The number in the ad, would that be a voice mail?"

The woman nods. "Yes, it is."

"How would you access that?"

The woman almost smirks. "You'd start by paying the bill." Okay, so some things haven't changed, he thinks, pulling out his wallet and handing the ad to Scully. "Dial the number, then press twelve-thirty six."

Scully does so, and as she listens in to the messages, she hands Page over to Mulder. Mulder paces around a bit, even more impatiently because he knows what's coming up next. Maybe amnesia wouldn't be so bad, he thinks, until his wife hangs up. "There's twenty four messages responding to the ad. The first caller has seen the man in the photo in Syracuse," she says, taking a pen and pad out to write it down.

Mulder nods. "That's north." Page takes that moment to soak her father's shoulder with drool. "Page, I hope you've got money in the bank to pay for dry cleaning. God, this is gross. Are you sure you're not related to Tooms?" he deadpans.

Scully shakes her head and takes their daughter as he attempts to dry off his coat. "That's what this is for, Mulder," she says smugly, pointing to the folded waterproof cloth on her shoulder. Then she remembers his earlier comment about more victims and the smirk disappears. "Maybe Mom should look after Page while we check this out."

When Mulder calls Agent Barrett Weiss, he remembers what happened last time, and his tone is more urgent. "I'm heading your way with Agent Scully. We have reason to believe a man in your area may be in danger. His name is Doctor Aaron Baker, he's living somewhere in Syracuse. We need you to find him and sit on him..." And frowns as he tries to think of the most diplomatic thing to say. Difficult, because it's not often he is diplomatic, so he says what he wants to anyways. "This is top priority, so get some backup," he lies smoothly, "we've already got three bodies and I'd hate to see the body count rise," he says, ignoring his wife's curious look.

He can almost see the other man nod. "You got it. I'll call you back with an address as soon as I track him down."

As Mulder thanks the man and hangs up, Scully frowns. "Mulder, there are no bodies. Neither is this officially a case. Why backup?"

He shakes his head as Page starts fussing. "Call it a hunch. I don't think we're dealing with a simple arsonist, or serial killer, for that matter." He's grateful when she leaves it at that as they drop their daughter off at her doting grandmother's place.

Despite backup, and despite all of his best intentions, Special Agent Weiss is on an autopsy table, with other agents in serious, and mysterious, medical condition. Scully is at her wits' end trying to frame an argument that would even sound plausible, as well as help the other agents in the ICU. She types in her findings at the computer, "There's no penetrating knife or gunshot wounds. No ligature marks or abrasions from strangulation. The toxicologocial is clean... and the blood work," she pauses, taking a look at the results, "shows evidence of polycythemia, excessive production of red blood cells." She frowns, remembering what the lab doctor said about the blood curdling like jelly. "Possibly a coagulating agent was introduced into the body to produce the curdling effect, but it would've shown up on the toxicological."

But that strange blood coagulation continues to bother her, and as she opens her net connection, an e-mail message blinks at her. And speed-dials her husband. "Mulder, it's me. Check your e-mail, there's another scanned photograph," she pauses, taking off her reading glasses, "and he's right here in Washington." She inhales again, then looks at the late Agent Weiss on the table, wondering what the hell is going on.

"I'll be right there, Scully," Mulder says at the other end of the line. "Don't move."

"I won't," she says, and reminds herself to tell Mulder about the strange bloodwork once he gets there.

Unfortunately, she doesn't have a chance, because they meet up with the mysterious CIA man Ambrose Chapel outside the autopsy bay. His talk about a Soviet clone project by the name "Gregor" as well as a Russian bounty hunter intrigues her, but she's not sure how that fits in with Agent Weiss' mysterious death, nor the suffering of the men in Bethesda Medical. Am I starting to draw lines where there are no connecting dots here, she thinks, why am I starting to think like Mulder? And with that sobering thought, her skepticism rears its head. "What makes you think we've been contacted by these Gregors?" she asks, folding her arms.

"Your inquiries into their deaths," Chapel responds, pulling out a piece of newspaper, "and your response to the ad I placed." He looks at both of them. "We're talking state-sanctioned murder. If we can find them first, maybe the truth can be known."

Mulder doesn't blink. "Well, if we have any more leads, I'll let you know," he says.

Chapel nods and hands them a plain business card with seven numbers. "I'd appreciate your help," he says, and walks off.

Scully looks at the card, then at her husband. "Mulder," she starts to say, but he drags her off.

"Let's go," Mulder says. "And hopefully, we won't have any company." To his relief, she simply nods and follows.

Once they're pretty sure they've lost the CIA man, they head to Dr. Dickens' apartment. "Dr. Dickens," Mulder says as he knocks, "It's Agents Mulder and Scully of the FBI."

The door opens partway, and, in unison, they flash their badges. "May we come in, Dr. Dickens?" Scully asks.

The doctor blinks nervously behind his glasses and opens the door, letting the agents inside. "I'm sorry, I," he starts, and his eyes widen as another shadow darkens the doorway. Quicker than a jackrabbit, he runs across the room, and the agents are bowled over by a seeming force of nature.

"What," Scully wheezes as she catches her breath, "Mulder?" She looks up to see Chapel chasing after the doctor. To her astonishment, the doctor jumps through the glass window as Chapel swears under his breath. Stalking away, the CIA man glares malevolently at the FBI agents, and Mulder rushes to the window.

As he steps away from the window, he asks, "You okay, Scully?" She nods as he pulls her to her feet. "Good, because so is the good doctor."

"What?" she asks, her cell phone out and ready to call 911.

"Let's try to catch Dr. Gumby before Chapel does," he says, and they race to the elevator and out the door.

Unfortunately, Chapel was about as quick on the uptake as they are, and the two agents see the edge of the doctor's white jacket disappear into an alley, followed by the CIA man. "Dammit." Mulder sighs under his breath, forcing his long legs to sprint faster - and running into and nearly over a car.

"Mulder!" Scully screams, automatically squinting for the hit-and-run driver's license plate as she rushes to his side.

"Don't lose him," he wheezes, holding his side. "Go!"

She takes off in her impossibly high heels, only to see Chapel walking wearily out of the alley. "Where is he?" she asks, only slightly relieved to see there's no blood, nor any scent of gunpowder.

Chapel shakes his head, "Lost him up the fire escape. I'm gonna see if there's a roof entrance," and he glares at the redheaded agent as if to say, It's your fault he got away.

Still not trusting him, she waits until he's gone, and walks into the alley. No sign of any living creature bigger than a rat, and she walks over to the fire escape ladder, then checks the dumpster next to it. The dumpster is full of everything she didn't want to see or smell, but no sign of Dr. Dickens. As she walks away, disappointed, she steps in a puddle of green goo and hurriedly wipes her shoe. She doesn't notice the green puddle bubbling and fizzing, since she wants to check if her husband's all right.

"Dammit!" Scully sighs angrily, looking over the two bodies in the autopsy bay. "I don't understand this!" According to their bloodwork, they died of the same mysterious blood coagulation, despite everything done for them. She's tired, frustrated, and hasn't seen her daughter in three days. When Mulder brought up Chapel's credentials, that only made her more wary of the so-called CIA agent. She'd remembered to bring up the strange bloodwork, but Mulder seemed to have tunnel vision regarding the clones they were inadvertently killing.

She's glad that Page wasn't around to see them fight, but she wonders if her mother's getting the wrong idea about her relationship. The last time they talked, her mother was thinking they were on the out-and-outs, rather than on a case. "A case that's got Skinner in a twist and me and Mulder twisting in the wind," she mutters darkly. "And it's not even a real case, but now six men are dead and one is missing, possibly dead." She sighs. "What the hell is going on?"

Then she sits down heavily, and her eyes fall on the doctor's bag she confiscated, albeit illegally, from Dr. Dickens' apartment. She opens it up, and finds nothing. However, there's an address on the tag that doesn't match the address of his apartment. She picks up the phone and dials Mulder's cell. "Mulder," she says, and pauses, since the connection seems lousy. "Where are you?"

"My dad's place," is all he says. "I gotta go."

"You're," she sputters, since his father is in Massachusetts. The line is dead, and she hangs up. "What the hell are you doing in Massachusetts?"

"Guess I'm on my own, then," she says, making another call to someone more receptive. "Mom, it's me," she says, "sorry, could you hang on to Page for one more night? Yeah, no, we're okay, I just have to check out this lead," Scully explains without really saying much. "Okay, love you, too. Bye."

In Martha's Vineyard, Mulder gets reacquainted with his father, who has gotten reacquainted with smoking, and his mother, who is getting reacquainted with a familiar stranger. "Who is Mom talking to?" Mulder asks, as if by rote.

Bill Mulder doesn't notice the deadness in his son's voice. "Your sister," he says, and watches a series of emotions flicker over the younger man's face that he wishes were on his own.

As he turns away, Mulder races into the house, despite his knowledge of what she really is, and his heart is still pounding. The woman has lighter brown hair than the Samantha he remembers, but it's still long and wavy, and his gut tightens when she says, in a calm yet unsure voice, "Fox."

He watches as his mother, in between bouts of weeping and hugging, as if to reassure herself this is real, tells the young woman about their family, about their search for her, about her fears and how glad she is that Samantha is finally home. All he can do is watch, really, since he isn't quite sure what to say, and doesn't want to join his father in the smoke-athon outside. And he watches as the woman calling herself Samantha alternately nods and hugs the tearful older woman, listening attentively and answering what few questions there are.

In the morning, after he tucks his mother in bed, Mulder finally gets a chance to talk with his sister, reappearing after all these years. As before, she's open, but up to a point. "I started having trouble several years ago. It was diagnosed as free-floating anxiety. Nothing worked for me. I hit rock bottom... until I underwent regression hypno-therapy. And it all started coming back..." Her large eyes well up with tears. "The abductions, the tests," and before he knows it, he hugs her as if she's his long-lost sister. She pulls away a little. "I'm in danger, Fox."

She looks away. "There's a man hunting my father and others like him. My adoptive father, I mean."

He looks at her sadly. "The Gregors."

She nods. "Actually, they're what most people would call 'aliens'." Samantha, or a clone just like her, looks at him straightforwardly now. "A bounty hunter's been sent to kill them. You've met this man. His lies to you have caused others like my father to die. He won't stop until he's killed them all and anyone who tries to stop him. He'll come for me soon."

Then he remembers. "Oh crap, Scully!"

Scully, in the meantime, is breaking into 3243 Edmonton Street, and sees a lab in shambles. Squashing down that feeling of dread, she splashes through the green liquid covering the floor, thankful that these are only work shoes, and hoping this gunk won't eat through her heels like that other green crud did. Then she sees a bag still attached to some tubes and picks it up. It looks like a sea monkey, or at least, something more human-like than the brine shrimp advertised as sea monkeys, and starts as it moves within the bag. "Oh my God," she breathes, and wonders if it's God or someone else she should be commenting on.

Out of the corner of her eyes, she notices someone watching her, and puts down the bag when she turns to see it's one of the Gregors. "Stop right there!" she shouts, pulling out her weapon.

The Gregor turns slowly, putting a hand on the wall, which slides away. "It's all right," he says, as three more Gregors join him from the other side of the hidden door. "We are the last remaining. Unless you protect us, we are already dead."

After her jaw drops, she calls for the FBI, who promptly swarm the area, and for Mulder. She frowns when told the line is busy and to try again. "Mulder, where are you?" she says, watching as the Gregors are taken away to protective custody.

Mulder switches off his cell phone in frustration. "It won't even let me leave a message," he complains.

"She may not be able to recognize him," Samantha says. The apartment seems too strange, too unfamiliar, without Page, without Scully. And Samantha's presence only serves to underline the strangeness. "He has the ability to disguise himself."

Got that right, Mulder thinks sullenly, debating whether throwing the phone would improve the service. "Disguise himself how?"

"As anyone," she says simply.

"Anyone. Okay," he sighs, "so how do we find this chameleon killer?"

"You can't recognize him, but I can," Samantha replies, which ordinarily wouldn't help, but he takes some small comfort in that.

Rather than wearing a hole in the floor pacing, Mulder decides to try another number. Please, please, please be there, he prays, and he exhales when a female voice answers. "Hi, Maggie? This is Fox," he says, shaking his head at his sister. "No, she's not with me, I was hoping she was with you. No, we're fine, we're just having cell phone problems." He runs a hand through his short hair, "No, I'll try her on her cell again. Um, how's Page?" he asks, and his heart constricts. "Yeah, I miss her, too. Once I get a hold of Scully, we'll take her off your hands. Okay, bye." Mulder's hung up on a lot of people, but Maggie Scully's one of the few he wouldn't dare not saying "goodbye" to.

"Page?" Samantha asks.

"My daughter." Jeez, I remember to tell her about me and Scully getting married, but not about Page! "And Scully's expecting another baby," and now his throat is dry. Oh God, maybe she's in that crappy motel, and his finger almost misdial as he tries her number again. "I hope she's okay."

Scully is rescrewing the gas cap on her car when she sees a familiar, tall figure loping towards her. "Mulder," she says. She doesn't know whether to hug him or slug him, so she does neither. "Where have you been?"

He nods. "Things have been kinda crazy," he says, when her phone rings.

Just to show that she hasn't entirely forgiven him, she answers. "Scully."

"Scully, it's me, where are you?" Mulder asks from the other end of the phone. Her eyes widen slightly as she looks at the Mulder in front of her. "Scully?"

Chapter Nineteen

"Where is he?" the man looking like Mulder demands when she hangs up, grabbing Scully by the throat and shoving her against the cement pole next to the gas pump. Then his eyes narrow. "You're pregnant."

If she wasn't so damn scared, Scully would roll her eyes at him. "Now I *know* you're not Mulder," she hisses, clawing frantically at the iron grip the man has. It seriously freaks her out how much like Mulder he looks, save for the apathy in his eyes. She knows he's got a poker face, but he'd never look at her like that, like she's an insect that could be crushed.

Any more thoughts are wiped out as he slams her head into the pole again, and as she slumps into unconsciousness, the man morphs into the face and shape of an alien bounty hunter. He picks her up and puts her into his car, and drives off.

Only twenty minutes later, and Mulder's car squeals to where Scully's is parked. Leaping out, Mulder tries to calm the hysterical gas attendant, despite his own fears. "So you're saying a guy looking like me slammed this woman," he holds a photo of Scully, "picked her up, then drove off in his car?"

The attendant nods, still shaken. "I swear, he looks like your twin," he said, "although I think there was another guy with him. Also tall, build like a linebacker, slicked back hair. He was the guy who hauled the lady off and drove away."

Mulder looks at Samantha, who looks as if she has been expecting this. "Thanks," he says and walks towards his sister, the lump in the pit of his stomach growing, to be joined by a burning anger. Impersonating a federal agent was the least of that shape-shifting bastard's crimes.

Inside the car, Samantha tells him, "He's going to use Scully and the child as leverage, their lives for mine."

Once, Mulder thought, in hindsight, if he ever had the chance, he'd willingly trade a clone's life for his partner's. But now, seeing and hearing this flesh and blood woman, he isn't so sure. Maybe blood really is thicker than water, at least when it comes to siblings. Or maybe it's the fact that he's still spent much of his life and part of this next one looking for her, that he doesn't want to give up on her so easily. Either way, it's hard to let go, and it's just as hard thinking the alien bounty hunter has his wife and unborn child in its clutches. "Oh God," he mutters involuntarily.

"If only God would kill him," Samantha says mirthlessly, and Mulder wonders if deadpan delivery is also genetic. "Unfortunately, you must pierce the base of his skull to do it. I think."

"That would kill anyone," Mulder says, that feeling of déjà vu never having left since he first laid eyes on his sister. Or his sister's clone.

She shakes her head briefly. "He's got powers I've never seen before. If it doesn't work, there's a chance you could die," she answers his questioning look. "Their blood is toxic, human exposure to it is fatal." She sighs, looking away. "I know this must sound crazy to you...."

"The crazy thing is," Mulder also shakes his head, "it doesn't. So how do we find him?"

Now she looks at him with those same solemn eyes. "We don't. He finds us."

At the Old Memorial Bridge in Bethesda, the trade seemingly goes off without a hitch. Aside from a couple of goose-eggs on her noggin, Scully seems to be shaken but fine, and Mulder holds her close to him. He watches with his heart in his mouth as Skinner and a sharpshooter train their rifles on the man holding his sister. She's just a clone, he tells himself, that's all. But his heart tells him otherwise as he watches the bounty hunter get shot and drags Samantha into the icy waters with him. "Samantha!" he screams, running to the edge of the bridge.

He doesn't realize how far he's leaning until a pair of hands drag him back. "Mulder," Scully says, "don't!"

He reluctantly allows himself to be pulled away. "She's down there, Scully," he says, "Samantha could still be alive."

She nods, then pulls him close. "Why didn't you tell me it was your sister?"

"I was afraid you'd try and talk me out of it," he says sadly.

"Are you sure that was your sister?" she asks quietly.

He pulls away from her. "Why?"

"I," she pauses, "there was a man who looked like you. Even talked like you. But he wasn't you."

He says, just as quietly, "Well, it was her." Reconstituted DNA and all, but she's my sister. He starts to walk away, even as ambulances pull up and a Coast Guard boat makes its way over with a huge floodlight.

"Where are you going?" Scully asks his retreating back.

"To tell my parents I lost my sister again," he says.

Dammit, Mulder, the redhead seethes inside, even as well-meaning paramedics bundle her up into the ambulance. She could've been my sister, too.

Scully opens the apartment door, hoping it was Mulder on the other side. We shall have to get a lower peephole, she thinks as a smile crosses her face. "Dana, honey, are you okay?" Maggie Scully envelopes her daughter with a hug. "The hospital called-"

"I'm sorry, Mom, I'm okay." Scully hugs her mom back. "I'm fine, the baby's fine," her voice trails off as she takes her fussing daughter from her mother's arms. "Oh, Page," she coos, "I missed you so much." She almost smothers her daughter, so happy and relieved to see at least part of her family alive and okay.

"Where's Fox, I mean, Mulder?" Mrs. Scully corrects herself, seeing nobody else.

"Mom, sit down," Scully says, walking over to the couch. "This is going to sound incredible. I'm awake and I lived through it, but it still seems incredible to me."

Mrs. Scully sits, an expectant and concerned look on her face. "What is it, Dana?"

"He found his sister," she starts off, thankful to have Page in her arms to distract her from the hard news. As she goes on, she sees her mother's face becoming more and more distraught, and stands to make them a pot of tea. "I'll get that," Scully says when the phone rings. Then her face darkens. "Are you sure you found her?"

Meanwhile, having dealt the news a second time to his father, Mulder had walked away with an address in hand, hoping and praying he can change things this time around. So far, nothing has, except for Scully being pregnant and worrying about her this much more. Let me do something right, he prays as he walks into the Women's Health Services Clinic in Rockville, Maryland. "Mulder," he answers, walking down seemingly empty sterile hallways.

"Mulder," Scully says at the other end, "they found your sister."

"I see," he says, which makes him walk that much faster. "Did they find a second body?"

"No," she says regretfully. "Mulder, please. It's time to come home."

"I'll be there," he says, and hangs up. Just not yet. Just let me save my sisters this time. Please, he thinks, as he sees a familiar figure ahead and calls out, "Federal agent! Hands where I can see them and turn around slowly!"

"After being treated for smoke inhalation, Agent Mulder was released from Samaritan Hospital in satisfactory condition." Scully purses her lips as she types, then pauses to look at the mobile spinning over her daughter's crib. "My report on this case remains incomplete. Many aspects continue to defy explanation including the identities of the identical men. Agent Mulder's claim of alien origins cannot be substantiated."

Page gurgles, she shakes her head. "Your daddy may be a nutcase, but Mommy still loves him." She smiles at her daughter. "Mommy would love it more if Daddy would say more than two words to her, too, you know." Then she sighs, resuming her report.

"The man suspected in their disappearances is still at large and has now been charged with the death of F.B.I. Special Agent Barret Weiss and Agents Carman Licciardello and Dino Kartsanakis, whose bodies have been quarantined at the U.S. Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Their cause of death involved a thickening of the blood. It is now believed that they were subjected to a virulent strain of virus whose origin and behavior are also unexplainable. It is my hope that further analysis of this contagion will aid in the solution of this case."

Scully exhales, then cracks her neck before adding, "It is my hope that further analysis of this contagion will aid in the solution of this case." She saves her document, then goes over to her daughter's crib. "Come on, big girl," she cooes, lifting her daughter out, "let's go check out some dead bodies and plasma samples. You'd like that, wouldn't you?" She smiles. Page gurgles back happily. "I knew you would!"

Later, when they meet at the U.S. Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases with Dr. Able Gardner, who looks somewhat disapprovingly at the child, Scully asks, "This is a retrovirus?" She double-checks the view in the microscope. Weird. In fact, Mulder-weird.

"Yes, but none of us here have ever seen anything like it. Do you recognize it?" he asks, eager in a way that he hoped she'd say no.

"Was the thickening of the agents' blood an immunological response to the virus?" she asks, not quite willing to give him the satisfaction yet.

Gardner walks to a computer. "Apparently. When the body's exposed to it, it triggers a massive production of red blood cells. Now, take a look at this." He clicks the mouse, and another picture comes up onscreen. "We took a second culture and were able to control its growth."

She looks at him, then at the picture. "How did you do that?"

He beams. "It was surprisingly simple. All we did was lower the temperature by five degrees Fahrenheit. For some reason, this retrovirus goes dormant at cold temperatures."

"I see," she says, remembering what Samantha Mulder's body looked like minutes after it was pulled from the freezing water. "If you find out anything else, you let me know as soon as possible," she says, already hauling her baby girl out of the room when she sees a man in a decontamination suit walk in.

After Scully reads the e-mail her erstwhile husband left her, she swears, then remembers Page might repeat it someday, and simmers. She confronts Skinner, even asking him to utilize "unofficial channels," but that came to naught.

"Dammit, Mulder, stop trying to protect me," she grumbles, even as her common sense reminds her of her current pregnancy and their small daughter. Then an idea comes to her and turns his desk lamp on, shining it on the "x" in the window. If Skinner isn't up to the job, she might as well be the one to contact Mulder's contact.

She dozes off, only to be woken up by a knock at the door. Not wanting Page to be up, she answers it, to see a well-groomed black man in a beard and mustache at the door. "Sorry, I must have the wrong apartment," he says, walking away.

She runs after him and grabs his trenchcoat as he's waiting for the elevator. "Where is he? Dammit, we're losing time!"

He easily pulls her fingers off his clothing. "I'm sorry, you've mistaken me for someone else." And he steps through the open elevator doors, to watch her disappointed face disappear as they close on her.

Scully drags her feet back to the apartment, tearing off the stupid masking tape. "Fine, I'll try again," she mutters, dialing his cell number and getting the same retarded voice message about not being in the area. She's about to throw the phone at the wall when there's another knock.

And steps back in shock when her supervisor, looking for all the world like he's been in a street fight, leans against the frame and tells her, "Agent Mulder took a commercial flight to Tacoma, Washington. From there, he caught a military plane to Deadhorse, Alaska." As she goes to the sink to get some towels and ice, he goes on, "He used his F.B.I. credentials to charter a Rollagon all-terrain vehicle. It's still a ten-mile hike across the ice." As she applies an improvised ice pack to his head, he writes Mulder's coordinates to his final destination. "Get him back, and kick his ass for me when you do."

She smiles, reminding her of her dad, for some reason. "Aye, aye, sir," she says, grabbing a cell phone and a bag of baby things at the same time.

On board the submarine of dead men, Mulder comes across the man calling himself Lieutenant Terry Wilmer. He pretends to play along, and for the first time, wishes he brought some kind of backup with him. How did I manage to stay alive all those years? he thinks as he hustles the cowardly crew member ahead of him, his gun trained at the base of the "man's" neck. Unfortunately, things repeat themselves as "Wilmer" morphs into the Alien Bounty Hunter, and Mulder gulps. "If I wanted to, I could've killed you many times before," the no-neck alien declares, and inwardly, Mulder wholeheartedly agrees.

Still, for the sake of his wife and kids, he plows on. "Where is she?" he bellows.

As if picking up a small child, the bounty hunter hauls him up and throws him to the floor. "Is the answer to your question worth dying for? Is that what you want?" it asks implacably.

"Where is she?" Mulder wheezes, as if a broken record like Inigo Montoya facing the Six-fingered Man. "Just tell me. Where is she?" For his troubles, he's picked up and thrown again.

"She's alive," the alien lies to him. "Can you die now?"

Mulder tries his damndest to shoot the bastard in the base of his neck, he really does, but misses, and screams as the green blood hisses out. The bounty hunter drags him to the top and leaves him on the ice, while Mulder continues to writhe and turn colors from the cold and poison in his bloodstream. Just in time, he sees the wing coming down as the sub sinks, and rolls out of the way. Then everything goes black, even the ice, as he passes out.

February 4th, 1995

At Eisenhower Field's ICU, Scully types in the last of her report on her laptop. Or what she hopes is the last. There are so many things she wants to ask, but so many things she doesn't want to hear. "Transfusions and an aggressive treatment with anti-viral agents have resulted in a steady but gradual improvement in Agent Mulder's condition. Blood tests have confirmed his exposure to the still unidentified retrovirus whose origin remains a mystery. The search team that found Agent Mulder has located neither the missing submarine nor the man he was looking for." She sighs, looking down at the man who'd go chasing after a kidnapper and killer, for what? she wants to yell at him.

"Several aspects of this case remain unexplained, suggesting the possibility of paranormal phenomena, but I am convinced that to accept such conclusions is to abandon all hope of understanding the scientific events behind them. Many of the things I have seen have challenged my faith and my belief in an ordered universe, but this uncertainty has only strengthened my need to know, to understand, to apply reason to those things which seem to defy it. It was science that isolated the retrovirus Agent Mulder was exposed to, and science that allowed us to understand its behavior. And ultimately, it was science that saved Agent Mulder's life." If only it would save his sense of self-preservation, she thinks wryly, her thoughts interrupted as he groans.

"Hey." She smiles in spite of herself. "How are you feeling?"

Like the luckiest man alive, he thinks. Like I did something right this time. "Like I got a bad case of freezer burn," he whispers hoarsely instead. "How did I get here?"

"A naval reconnaissance squad found and choppered you to Eisenhower Field," she says evenly. "Thanks for ditching me."

He winces as he hears her knuckles pop. "Sorry," he wheezes, "I couldn't let you risk your life on this."

So you risk yours? she wants to yell, her fingers itching to strangle him. But he looks sorry enough. Damn him and his puppy dog eyes. "Did you find what you were looking for?" she asks instead.

"No," he turns away slightly. "But I found something I thought I'd lost. Faith to keep looking."

She smiles, and he smiles back, but for an entirely different reason. Faith to keep looking for the grown-up clones of his sister, who, unlike the Gregors, are still out there and for now, still safe.

Chapter Twenty

February 14th, 1995
6:30 p.m.

Even before Scully opens her eyes, she's deep in thought, thinking about something that has been on her mind a lot the last couple of days.

She used to hate Valentine's day.

When she and Missy were just little girls, they would argue every holiday about whether or not the holiday was romantic, or stupid. She, of course, thought the latter, but Missy - filled with the arrogant sureness born of being two years older- would insist that it was a day filled with love and romance. These arguments never ended with either of them convinced of anything new.

All of which served to make her reluctant to pick Valentine's day as their wedding day, but Mulder seemed so charmed by the idea, so she gave in. And now it's an entire year later.

It startles her a little to hear her sister's voice "Is she awake?"

"No...she decided she needed a nap after work. You know how tired being pregnant makes women at the beginning." Mulder seems to be trying to keep his voice low, but Scully can hear clearly, so they must be in the next room.

"From observation, yes," Melissa's voice floats back. "She must enjoy being pregnant as much as mom did to have another one so soon."

For a second Scully hears Page fussing, but before she decides to get up it stops abruptly. "Well, I hope she doesn't hate it, anyway. I think it's worth it, but she's the one who has to lug the little monsters around so..."

"You're not a monster, are you Page? Nooo..." Scully smiles, picturing her sister making faces for the baby. There's a gurgle in reply. "I'll bring this one back by before you leave for work tomorrow. We're going to let Daddy get on with his plans, yes we are!"

"I really appreciate this, Missy. Now if only she stays asleep until I'm done..."

Melissa chuckles. "I bet you'll have to wake her. If I recall, there's few things my sister likes to do more than sleep." Scully pouts in the dark room. "Congratulations, Fox. Who knew my little sister would actually find her match?"

"Bye. Bye baby, be good for your auntie."

The door closes, and Scully stretches. She has no idea what Mulder has planned, but she doesn't want to ruin it, so she curls back up, resting her hands on her belly. It's too soon to feel anything from inside, but it's comforting, since it reminds her that the baby is there. Sleep soon reclaims her.

When she wakes up again, she sees than about an hour has passed. She'd been having a dream, something about Mulder and the kids a couple of years into the future. It had been strange, but kind of nice too, so she was reluctant to let it go.

"You're awake."

"Yeah...guess I was really tired."

"That's ok." He leans down and kisses her forehead. "Why don't you get dressed? I made dinner."

He's turning on the cd player as she comes into the room, fully dressed.

Come to my window
Crawl inside, wait by the light
of the moon
Come to my window
I'll be home soon

"It's been a whole year, can you believe it?" He tickles her nose with a long stem rose she didn't even know he was holding. She smiles, but pulls away. "Do you regret that moment of insanity, Scully?"

I would dial the numbers
Just to listen to your breath
I would stand inside my hell
And hold the hand of death
You don't know how far I'd go
To ease this precious ache
You don't know how much I'd give
Or how much I can take

Just to reach you
Just to reach you
Just to reach you

"What moment of insanity is that, Mulder?"

"Actually, I'm not sure. Maybe it's the moment you stepped into the basement office and didn't run away screaming. Or when you visited me a few days after New years, and didn't pull away when you could have. Or when you said you'd marry me."

Come to my window
Crawl inside, wait by the light
of the moon

Come to my window
I'll be home soon

Keeping my eyes open
I cannot afford to sleep
Giving away promises
I know that I can't keep
Nothing fills the blackness
That has seeped into my chest
I need you in my blood
I am forsaking all the rest

She pretends to consider this for a moment. "Nope, I don't regret any of those moments. Not a bit."

Just to reach you
Just to reach you
Oh to reach you

"Ah, I see. Then we're talking about years of insanity, then, not just a moment. Though it obviously dove headfirst into sheer madness a year ago."

"You're right, Mulder. I am crazy. Crazy in love." It sounds silly to her ears as she says it, but his face lights up, so she knows it was an okay thing to say.

"Good, since that makes two of us." He pulls a small box out of his pocket. "This is a small thing, but I want you to always remember that you have my heart."

Come to my window
Crawl inside, wait by the light
of the moon
Come to my window
I'll be home soon

I don't care what they think
I don't care what they say
What do they know about this
love anyway?

Inside the box is a silver necklace with a heart-shaped locket. She fumbles with the clasp for a moment, and he takes it from her, handing it back open. There's a tiny picture inside of the two of them at their wedding reception. "Oh, Mulder..." Her eyes brighten with unshed tears.

He decides that means she likes it, and he suddenly becomes embarrassed. "Come on, let's eat before it gets cold. You know I'm not a great chef, but I asked my mom for a few recipes than even I can't screw up. Oh, and I got us sparkling grape juice, since we can't have alcohol this year." The words leave his mouth in a nervous rush.

Come to my window
I'll be home

Come to my window
Crawl inside, wait by the light
of the moon

Come to my window
I'll be home soon

"What did I ever do to deserve you?" she asks, throwing both arms around his neck.

"Something terrible, I'm sure," he jokes, but she doesn't mind. She needs to get his gift too, but it can wait. Being in his arms is what she wants most of all.

I'll be home soon
I'll be home
I'll be home
I'm coming home


"Come to my Window" by Melissa Etheridge

Late February 1995

Scully wonders what the hell she was thinking when she decided to bring Page along for the case. Oh yes, something silly about visiting the zoo, how that might be educational and entertaining. Yeah, sure, right. Instead, it's become another case of "When Hysterics Attacks," featuring uncommunicative zookeepers, wild-eyed witnesses and now this. I'm sorry, Page, she murmurs inside, I really wanted you to have some fun. And once we solve the case, we'll go through the zoo like regular tourists, she promises her child, pointing out the animals and resisting the urge to lock Mulder up with them.

In the meantime, she really hates the way this so-called animal liberator, Kyle Lang, is practically smirking at her, as if being a mother makes her less of an FBI agent. Scully simmers inwardly as she pats Page absently on the back, wondering if her husband is as oblivious as he pretends.

"Whatever Willa Ambrose's intentions, she's too preoccupied to really know how Meecham operates," the scruffy man folds his arms, and gives Mulder a look that infuriates the redhead.

"Preoccupied with what?" Scully asks coldly as her husband crosses his own arms and leans back.

The activist sighs, then condescends to answer. "A lawsuit she's fighting against the Malawi government over a lowland gorilla named Sophie. Willa rescued her from a North African customs house ten years ago. Raised her like a child. Now the Malawi government wants her back." He sets his jaw, clearly unhappy with the disclosure.

"Will they win?" she asks.

The man is now on fire, in his element, baby or no baby in the room. "This is a perfect example of man's imperialism over the animal kingdom - this craven impulse to turn animals into objects for our own selfish pleasure." He stalks the room, as if ready to turn the agents into new converts.

Scully shifts Page to her other shoulder. "I thought you said she rescued this gorilla."

Lang sneers. "Yeah, rescued her so she could spend a life behind bars. Her obligation should have been to return the gorilla to the wild. All animals should run free." He waves his arms to illustrate.

"Even if that means trampling a man to death?" she asks, raises her eyebrow.

"Maybe he should have gotten out of the way," Lang answers obstinately.

"I'm sure he would have if he'd seen it coming," Mulder says, ignoring the question on his wife's face. "Thanks for your time, sir, and we'll get back to you soon."

On their way out, they notice a video camera on the shelf, but say nothing until they're out of sight and sound from the animal rights leader. "It's all happening at the zoo, Scully." Mulder grins, and pats his daughter fondly on the head. "Isn't that right, Page?"

Scully is not amused. "Well, we found our suspects," she says, relieved that things are taking a turn for the better, and, who knows, they might even have a pleasant day at the zoo. Yeah, right.

They continue exchanging theories, which quickly deteriorates into an argument, and finally she snaps, "Fine, you know what?"

"What?" Mulder says in the same "I'm going to humor my pregnant wife" tone he's been using for their argument. He's surprised when she practically throws their daughter into his arms, followed by the blanket and the bottle.

"You take Page, follow whatever insane ideas you have. I'm going to stake out W.A.O. and get things done right."

"Scully!" he calls out, but she's already turned her back on him. With the abrupt change of bodies, Page hiccups, then starts to cry. "Aw, sorry, honey, Mommy just got mad at me," he says in a reassuring voice, bouncing her in his arms. "But we'll be okay. We're gonna be just like Batman and Robin, Page, fighting crime with the help of some shadowy informants." His daughter looks up at him, her sobs slowing down to a sniffly inhale. He grins, a goofy look on his face. "The Mulder charm never fails."

He could almost swear she raised her eyebrow just like her mommy for an instant.

At a local xerox shop, Mulder opens up communication once he gets Page settled in her baby seat. "Hey, guys, try to keep it down for the kid's sake," he says, putting a finger to his lips as two of the three conspiracy theorists show up onscreen.

The short balding man sighs dramatically, wiggling his fingers at the sleeping baby. "She could've been mine," he murmurs as his compatriot supresses an eye roll. With a glare at the real father, he asks, "So what are you doing in potato country, Mulder?"

"I'm in the town of Fairfield." He grins. "What do you know about it?"

"They have a little zoo there. Lots of strange lore - animals escaping, disappearing without a trace," Byers says in a faintly interested tone.

Mulder leans forward. "Any idea why?"

Frohike stares at him suspiciously. "You're not far from the Mountain Home Air Base. Major UFO hot spot."

The man in the business suit gives him a glance, then adds, "Weird fact, Mulder. No animal at Fairfield Zoo has ever brought a pregnancy to term."

"Not a cub or a chick," Frohike chimes in.

"The woman who runs the zoo has a gorilla that knows sign language - supposedly with a vocabulary of 1,000 words," Byers continues, "a remarkable accomplishment-"

His praise is cut off by Mulder's cell phone, and Frohike steps closer to the camera. "If that's the lovely Agent Scully, let her know I'm willing to look after her and Page if you're ever out of the picture."

Mulder grins and shakes his head. "Mulder," he answers in a hushed voice.

"Mulder, it's me. I was right. I just followed the kid from the W.A.O. to the zoo. He's just about to make it over the fence," she says, excited, but keeping her volume down.

"I'll be right there, Scully," he says, and hangs up. Then he shrugs at the two Gunmen before bending down to pick up his daughter. "Shhhh, shhhh," he says, "we gotta give Mommy some backup." Jostled from her nap, she starts to wail wholeheartedly.

"Good luck, Mulder," Byers grins and Frohike merely shakes his head as they sign off.

"Yeah," Mulder sighs, trying in vain to calm Page down, then gives up as he hauls ass to the car.

Later, Mulder, Scully and their daughter walk into a dark room labeled "Sick Animal - Restricted" led by an agitated naturalist. "About six weeks ago I had to take Sophie out of her public habitat," Willa Ambrose says, sitting on her haunches as she looks at the caged gorilla. "She'd become so withdrawn and depressed, she'd curl into a ball in the corner of her cage and just shiver."

"Did you ask her why?" Mulder asks, looking from the woman to the animal.

"All the time," Ambrose says, still facing the gorilla.

"What'd she say?"

"'Light afraid.' Literally, she's afraid of the light," she says, standing and facing the agents.

"She speaks to you?" Scully asks, both eyebrows up.

The naturalist nods briskly. "Over 600 words using American sign language. She understands over a thousand. I'll show you her vocabulary list," she says, going over to her desk.

Scully steps closer to her partner. "Is this who you wanted to talk to?" she asks, letting one eyebrow drop.

Now he nods. "It's basic investigative procedure, Agent Scully - interview all possible witnesses." He looks down to the baby strapped to his chest. "Got that?"

Scully is about to retort when Ambrose comes back, handing them a paper. "Gorillas are highly sensitive creatures, and Sophie's use of language skills makes her even more so," she says.

"Why would she be afraid of the light?" Scully frowns.

"Well, you've obviously heard about the trouble with the Malawi government. There's a chance that Sophie could be taken away from me, and I think that she knows that," she says, but Scully isn't quite satisfied with the answer.

Page gurgles and waves at the drawings on the wall, and Mulder nods. "Are these Sophie's?" he asks, wondering if Page will have Mulder-leaps like her dear old dad. Ambrose nods briefly. "What do you think they mean?"

"Well, until recently Sophie desperately wanted a baby," she says, turning to look at the scribbles. "The brown object in the center," she points to one of the drawings, "is her expression of that."

"Have you tried to mate her?" he asks, and now Scully looks at him, wondering where he's going with this.

Ambrose sighs, looking at the moaning gorilla. "We were looking for a partner but under these stressful conditions I didn't want to put her through it."

For a moment, he thinks of Scully and the stressful situations he's put her through, pregnant or otherwise. "Do you have a veterinary facility here?" he asks, shoving the guilt to the back of his mind. Again, Ambrose nods, so he goes on. "All right, this may seem like a rather strange request, but it might help explain what's been going on here." He spins to his wife. "I'm gonna need your help on this, too, Scully." He grins, and she gives him a "What the hell are you getting us into now?" look, but says nothing.

And about an hour later, Scully voices her question, if not her recurring doubts about his sanity. "I hope you know what you're getting us into, Mulder," she says, as they stand on a scaffold overlooking Ambrose hacking into the remains of Ganesha the elephant. She's wearing a hardhat with a flashlight, as well as gloves and coveralls, while her husband is still in a suit with a baby strapped to his chest.

"Don't worry about it." He nods, then tilts his head down. "Look, Page, Mommy's gonna bungee jump into elephant guts and hack into it. Can you say 'elephant'?"

She glares at him. "Mommy's gonna hack into Daddy if he doesn't watch out," she says sweetly to her daughter, ignoring the look of mock horror on his face. Tilting her hardhat back, she kisses her baby's forehead. "And if Daddy continues to be an ass, Mommy's gonna make his life hell, yes, I will."

From below, Ambrose calls out, "Okay, the elephant's cavity is clear. I'm ready for you!"

"Saved by the bellow," Mulder mumbles under a grin. "Do your thing, G-Woman."

She glares, but doesn't want Page to hear certain words, and turns away in a huff. Rather than bungee jump, however, Scully makes her way down the scaffolding slowly until her feet are solidly planted on firm elephant innards. Ew. Helpfully, Ambrose hands over the butcher knife. "Thanks." Scully nods, making her way through elephant guts, no, they're the rib cage, lungs, heart, intestinal tract... Dammit Mulder. I hate you.

Overhead, Mulder sits down on the scaffold and says, "I've been told there's never been a successful pregnancy at the Fairfield Zoo."

"Sounds like you've been talking to Kyle Lang," Ambrose makes a sour face.

As his wife disappears from sight, boldly going where no man's gone before, he asks, "Is it true?"

"Yes," Ambrose finally says. "But I don't think for the reasons Kyle claims - not because Ed Meecham has done anything to these animals."

"Why, then?" Mulder asks.

"Because bringing a pregnancy to term in captivity is always difficult." She sighs noisily.

"But a perfect failure rate?" he frowns.

"I know," Ambrose says impatiently. "It's one of the things I was determined to change when I came to the zoo."

"Was an attempt ever made to mate Ganesha?" Mulder asks, swinging his long legs. Page also swings her own legs, and fortunately, doesn't kick as hard as her mother does.

"No," she says, shaking her head. "Mating an elephant out of the wild is rarely successful. There have only been six elephants born in captivity over the last ten years."

Scully emerges with a nasty bit of business in her hands. Ambrose looks at it, then tells her, "It's uterine tissue, but I'm not clear on what you expect to find."

From a pocket in her coveralls, Scully produces a magnifying glass and is inspecting it. Then she squints up at Mulder with an accusatory look. "You're right, Mulder. The signs in the uterus and ovaries are unmistakable."

"What did you find?" Ambrose is curious, and steps closer to the redhead.

She looks at the woman. "Ganesha was pregnant."

"What are you talking about?" Ambrose stares at her.

"There's evidence of hyperplasia and the corpus luteum is ruptured," Scully says calmly, thinking, there's got to be a reasonable explanation for this. There has to be. Perhaps someone with W.A.O. introduced artificial insemination to Ganesha, or Ambrose had incomplete records, or....

"We never," the naturalist stops, shaking her head stubbornly. "That's not possible." She frowns.

"Neither is an invisible elephant," Mulder comments.

No comments from the peanut gallery, Scully is also frowning, looking at the tissue in her hand. She almost feels sorry for the zookeeper as the taller woman stares at the exposed elephant's innards with disbelief. "What is going on here?" Ambrose wonders aloud, voicing the very same thing Scully has thought over and over every since working with Mulder.

"Whatever it is it's been going on for some time, and I think you'll find evidence of the same thing when your tiger returns," Mulder says from above.

Later, after Ambrose has been fired by the board of directors, Mulder confronts her with information about the tiger's pregnancy. Page is back on his chest after a diaper change and bottle feed, and her mood is significantly brighter than the woman facing him. If her disbelief with that fact hasn't been enough, he adds, "What do you know about alien abduction?"

She laughs, the first reaciton that comes to mind. "You're... you're... you're kidding me." He gives her his patented poker stares. "You think these animals were taken aboard some spaceship?"

"I don't know where they're being taken but there's obviously some problem getting them back. Due to what is probably an astrological variation, a trouble with the time-space continuum - these animals that are being taken from locked cages are being returned roughly two miles westsouthwest of the zoo," he says, delivering his theory as if it's gospel truth.

She scoffs, "Aliens impregnating zoo animals? I didn't realize FBI agents read tabloids."

He shakes his head, smiling. "Aliens are also harvesting the embryos."

Ambrose is staring at him like maybe *he's* the one that should be in the tabloids. "Why?"

He shrugs, and Page giggles. "Maybe their own Noah's ark? To preserve the DNA of these animals that we're depleting to extinction." He holds out his hands. "Whatever it is, that's probably the reason why you've never had a successful birth at this facility."

"I think that's the most ridiculous thing I've heard," she says, unsmiling.

Mulder nods. "I understand that you might think it's ridiculous. Maybe you should ask Sophie."

"You think this is what she's so afraid of?" Ambrose asks, clearly humoring him.

But he doesn't care. He knows about the aliens' callous disregard for human life, how they'd harvest and engulf it as only unfeeling parasites would, but there's something seriously weird about impregnating animals. Or maybe we're just animals to them, he thinks, and supresses a shudder. "I believe she's pregnant, and she's afraid of them coming for her baby."

In front of Sophie's cage, Ambrose leans forward and signs to the gorilla as she speaks, "Sophie, come here. I want to ask you a question. It's okay, Sophie. Come here."

Sophie seems to be waving wildly, and Mulder wishes he'd brushed up on ESL as well as Espanol. "What'd she say?" In front of him, Page gurgles, her eyes wide on the hairy creature behind bars.

Ambrose turns to face him. "She says, 'man - hurt baby.' She thinks you are going to hurt her or the baby." She frowns at Page before turning back to the gorilla. "Sophie..." she signs again, "Man, here to help you. They want to know about your baby."

Mulder squats down, as if it would ease the fears of a gorilla of unknown intelligence. "Can I ask her a question?" he says, as Page waves to Sophie.

Ambrose nods. "Go ahead."

"Ask her if she wants to leave here."

"Sophie," she repeats, signing, "Do you want to leave here?" After a pause while the animal communicates with her hands, Ambrose translates, "She says 'light afraid.' "Not looking back, she signs again, "Sophie, what are you afraid of? Tell me."

"What did she say?" Mulder squints at the gorilla, then the woman.

She turns around, a frown on her face. "She said, 'baby go flying light.'"

Mulder protectively puts a hand over his daughter, and is surprised to see Sophie protectively holding her stomach before doing more hand waving. She knows, he thinks, she really knows. But before he can say the words, Scully comes in with a warning, followed by the deputy himself.

Later, nursing a helluva headache, Mulder sits in the back seat with Page and her baby seat, with Scully driving and Willa Ambrose practically biting her fingernails off. They make their way through a herd of police cars, flashing lights, curious bystanders and all.

"Where is she?" Ambrose practically mauls an officer.

"Over there." He points, and quickly straightens out his uniform when she lets go.

As she runs off, Scully, baby in arms, asks, "What happened here?"

Relieved to see she's more stable than the previous woman, the officer replies, "Animal got hit by a car. Ran off in the field."

With the barest of glances at each other, Mulder and Scully run after Ambrose across the field. They find her, cradling the dead animal in her arms, as a mother would her child. "Sophie," the naturalist cries, rocking back and forth, "no, oh, Sophie, no, no...." She lays her head on Sophie's, continuing to sob.

Wordlessly, Scully holds Page closer, and Mulder wraps his arms around them both. None of them turn away, but stand silent as witness to a loss that could have, or might have, been prevented.

Less than a week later, Scully looks up from her reading to hear Page gurgling happily. "Page?" she asks, smiling as she takes off her reading glasses. "Whatchya doing, honey?" Thankful for a break from reading about animal insemination, she stands and stretches, and walks over to the crib.

The baby continues to smile, and waves her hands. "What's that, Page? What's that?" She smiles back at her daughter, and waves. Page drools, still repeating the hand motions. She tries to imitate her daughter's gestures, since it's really nothing like a wave, or a clap, it's something else...

And then she remembers and opens her laptop. Quickly, she types in a few words, then scrolls through her options. After some time of staring at various images, she finds what she needs. "Love," she reads, "baby."

Dialling familiar numbers, she smiles when he picks up. "Mulder, you'll never guess what Page's first words are. Yes, plural." She nods, watching her daughter repeat the signs. "I think she picked it up from Sophie."

Chapter Twenty-One

Mid-March 1995

Mulder wishes they didn't have this case. Teddy Holvey's death had seemed a sad waste the first time around, but this time it's a fear inducing tragedy. He could tell that Scully felt the same way as they stared at the picture of the smiling blond toddler. It won't be more than six or seven months before Page is old enough to toddle herself, and the thought of anything happening to her is almost beyond imagining.

All of which serves to put them both in a very dour mood when they go to talk to the Holveys. Scully is still reluctant to consider the idea that someone helped Teddy to his death, but her objections are subdued, so she doesn't protest much when they speak to the boy's family.

Maggie Holvey seems bewildered by their presence, so Mulder tries to explain. "We're here apart from that investigation. We have reason to believe something may have been overlooked."

"Like what?"

"The possibility Teddy may have been helped onto the tracks."

"Oh my God," Maggie gasps, then covers her mouth.

Steve Holvey, however, is not as affected. "There were over a hundred witnesses. We saw Teddy ourselves." The fire in the fireplace suddenly flares up, making them all flinch. "He was chasing a balloon. There was no one else around..."

Mulder and Scully notice the Holvey's older son, Charlie, standing in the doorway.

Steve doesn't and keeps talking "... It was an awful accident. But that's all it was - an accident."

Charlie looks up and to his left, then runs away as if called by someone. Scully wanders over to the door.

"Do you have any reason to suspect someone may have wanted to hurt Teddy?" Mulder asks gently.

"He was just a baby. Why would anybody want to hurt him?" Maggie cries out.

Steve looks upset too. "Look, I don't know what you're getting at. We loved Teddy. If you're suggesting that this is anything like that woman who drowned her kids in the lake, you're way out of line."

Scully sees that Charlie has gone to the old woman, Golda, who is on a landing midway up the stairs. She is drawing a symbol on the back of Charlie's hand - a reverse swastika with four dots around it.

"Mrs. Holvey, did you hear anything in the bathroom right before Teddy disappeared?" Mulder asks. He wants to tell them that he doesn't mean them, but it won't make things easier to hear.

"I already told the inquest. I heard nothing."

Scully returns to the others. "Mrs. Holvey, at the time of the accident, did you have any hired help?"

"No. My mother came to live with us once Teddy was born."

"Around the time of Teddy's death, had you noticed anything strange happening around the house, uh, things moved, odd objects appearing, anything like that?" Mulder asks.

A loud, shrill alarm sounds. "It's that damn smoke detector. I'll be right back." He walks out. As he exits, the lights go out.

Mulder looks around the room. "Ah... does this happen often?"

"It's an old house. We have a problem with the wiring." Maggie's tone is defensive.

The lights come back on and Golda is standing in the doorway with Charlie. "Diavol lol... diavol lol... nu ieste el cauza!" the woman shrilly proclaims in another language.

"Mother!" Maggie admonishes.

"Diavol lol."

"Mother, it was just a false alarm."

"No. Asea este problema ta baiatul este blestemat. "[We must perform the ritual or the killings will continue.]

Mulder notices the reverse swastika on the back of Charlie's hand and a red string tied around his wrist. The two women continue to argue, one in English one not.


"Ye dracul!" Golda shouts.

"Stop it!" Maggie shouts back.

"What is she saying?" Scully asks. Mulder shrugs.

"Maggie!" Steve calls as he returns to the room.

"You marry a devil. You have devil child!" Golda proclaims. She leaves pushing Charlie in front of her.

"I'm sorry," Steve says, making them wonder who he's apologizing to.

The next morning, Mulder shows Scully reverse swastika in a book. He would have done it at home, but it had been a rough morning, since they'd over-slept because Page had kept them up. Scully's thoughts were more on the posiblity that their daughter was teething than the book until he waved it in front of her.

"You recognize this?" he asks.

"Sure, it's a swastika."

"It's also known as a gammadion or a fylfot. It's an ancient symbol used for protection or good luck. It's been used by various cultures since the middle ages. The Holvey's child had one on the back of his hand last night. My guess it was drawn there by the old lady, to protect the boy."

"You're right. I saw her drawing it."

"And you didn't think that was strange?"

"Well, I think this boy needs as much protection as he can get- but just not from ghosties or beasties. Take a look at this. "Scully hands him a folder. "Have you ever heard of Munchausen by Proxy?"

"Yeah, my grandfather used to take that for his stomach."

She doesn't even roll her eyes."It's when a parent or caretaker brings harm to a child by inducing medical symptoms, usually as a way of getting attention or status. If you take a look at Teddy Holvey's medical history, you'll see that he was admitted to various hospitals ten times during the two years that he was alive. That's once every three months."

Mulder reads aloud "Projectile vomiting at three months. Diarrhea at four months. Vomiting... diarrhea... diarrhea... yikes, and I thought Page's constant drooling was bad."

Scully shoots him a 'don't start' look before going on. "Each time they were unable to determine the cause of the illness."

"And no one questioned this?"

"Well, the family moved around a lot because of Steve's job, and records take time to transfer from hospital to hospital. But this kind of abuse is not limited to just one child, so I checked out Charlie's history as well." She hands him a second folder.

"Charlie had medical problems, too?"

"Since his brother was born, which is right when Holvey's mother-in-law moved in. Often the perpetrator of Munchausen by Proxy will view the child as evil. The old woman would be a likely candidate, but it could be any family member."

"Do you feel like taking a walk over to the State Department, Scully?"

State Department
Washington, D.C.

"Things have been strained since Golda - my mother-in-law - moved in with us. I met Maggie in Romania in 1984. Golda forbade our marriage - said I was the devil. After I transferred back to the U.S., things got somewhat better, until Teddy was born and she came to live with us. That's when the strangeness really started," Steve tells them.

"What kind of strangeness?" Mulder asks.

"Superstitions rule Golda's life. She'll spit when anyone compliments the kids. Once she moved in with us, she started pouring hot water over the threshold to ward off demons, tying red strings around the kids' wrists. One day I caught her throwing chicken guts on the roof. Then Teddy and Charlie started getting sick - a lot."

"And you suspect Golda?" Scully asks.

"She'll call Charlie evil right to his face. But at the same time, she dotes on him like she's afraid of him."

"Afraid of him or for him?" Mulder questions.

"I just don't know."

"Are you familiar with Munchausen by Proxy?" Scully asks.

"Are you accusing us of child abuse?"

"Teddy's medical records have raised some questions."

"I can never say this to Maggie, but I've wondered if it wasn't Golda who snuck in and let Teddy out of the bathroom that day." Steve sounds more tired than anything else.

"I'd like to interview your son Charlie, Mr. Holvey, but with a professional counselor."

She hands him a card on which is printed "Karen F. Kosseff, L.C.S.W., Psychiatric Social Worker, FBI."

"Oh boy. This is gonna be hard," Steve says, but he takes the card.

As they leave, Mulder takes Scully's arm. She looks up at him. "That didn't go as badly as I feared. I know I wouldn't have taken the thought of your mother abusing Page so calmly."

"Like my mother would spend ten minutes alone with her." He smirks. "This case is far from over."

Mulder knows Scully believes he was right just a few days later, when both Golda and Steve are dead. She doesn't bother to ask him how he knew, and he's just glad that she's willing to chalk it up to one of his "hunches."

They are looking around the room where Golda died when they hear shouting coming from the floor below.

"I told you before. Get out of my house!" Maggie shouts as they approach her voice.

A man says something in Rumanian but Maggie cuts him off. "I am not interested in your superstition. Now get out. Now!!!"

The men go out the front door as Mulder and Scully enter the room. "Mrs. Holvey?" Scully asks, concerned.

"It's all right."

"Who are they?" Mulder asks, looking out the window at the men.

"They are the Calusari. In Romania, they are responsible for the correct observance of sacred rites," Maggie explains.

"What did he say?" Scully asks.

"He said it's not over. The evil is still here."

Mulder excuses himself and goes out the front door and runs to catch up with the Calusari. He speaks to the first man, who is the head Calusari.

"Sir? Can I have a word with you? Sir, I'm with the FBI. I'd like to ask you some questions." He flashes his badge but the Calusari continue to walk toward their car. "You were trying to protect the family, weren't you? You said there was still evil here. Sir?" He grabs the head Calusari by the arm as he reaches the car. "I can arrest you if I have to."

"The evil that is here has always been. It has gone by different names through history - Cain, Lucifer, Hitler. It does not care if it kills one boy or a million men. If you try to stop us, the blood will be on your hands."

When he goes back in, Maggie explains that Golda thought they were being plagued by evil because they didn't keep up the old ways, and protests the idea that her son could be evil because he's just a little boy. Mulder wishes that being a child really meant one was innocent. Unfortunately, he's seen too much to believe that.

St. Matthew's Medical Center
Arlington, Virginia

Karen Kosseff is talking to Charlie in a playroom in the center. Charlie sits quietly, playing with an Etch-a-Sketch. Mulder, Scully and Maggie Holvey are in an adjoining room, watching and listening.

"Charlie? I was told they found you in your grandmother's room yesterday. Can you tell me about it?" He shakes his head. "Do you remember how you got there?"


"Your mother said you were there. Don't you remember?"

He speaks sharply. "I wasn't there." He gets up and walks away from Karen.

"Many people saw you in the room."

"It wasn't me! I wasn't there! It wasn't me!" He kicks some toys across the room.

"Who was in the room?"


"Was there someone else in the room?"

"No! I didn't hurt her!"

"Charlie? Charlie? Who hurt your grand... Charlie?"

"It was him!" Charlie shrieks.

"Who? Charlie, who?" Karen asks.

Charlie continues to shriek. "It was Michael! Michael! Michael!"

Mrs. Holvey gasps and turns away from the window.

"Mrs. Holvey?" Scully walks towards her.

"We never told him. It was agreed upon. It was our secret."

"What secret, Mrs. Holvey? What are you talking about?" Mulder asks, mostly for Scully's benefit.

"Michael. He was Charlie's twin. He was stillborn. Steven and I agreed never to tell Charlie about it. My mother, she wanted to perform a ritual of separation when she heard of Michael's death, to divide their souls. She said if we didn't, the world of the dead would follow Charlie. But it was just a superstition."

Scully's eyes widen, and her hand goes to her belly without forethought. The baby gives a reassuring kick when it feels the pressure of her hand, so she breathes a little easier. But only a little.

In the other room Charlie is on the floor and Kosseff is trying to help him. They determine he's having a seizure of some sort, and call for an ambulance.

Mulder walks up the stairs to Scully, who is on the same stairway landing as earlier. Something out the window catches her attention.

"What are you looking at?"

"Is that Mrs. Holvey?"

"Where?" he asks, peering out.

"There. I think she's got Charlie with her."

Down below, Mrs. Holvey is getting into her car. Charlie is in the front seat as well.

Mulder and Scully pull the curtain in Charlie's room to see that Charlie is still in his bed. They hear Nurse Castor, who is lying on the floor in the corner of the room.

Scully steps out into the hall to summon help while Mulder helps her up.

"Are you all right?" Mulder asks the nurse, noticing the blood on her forehead.

"He hit me."

"Who? Charlie?" Scully asks as she comes back in.

"No... not him, the other one. There were two of them, two boys."

Another nurse arrives to help Nurse Castor. Mulder and Scully walk out and down the hallway.

"You gotta get to Mrs. Holvey's house," Mulder tells her.


"That boy you saw leaving with Mrs. Holvey - that wasn't Charlie."

"You're saying Mrs. Holvey left here with a ghost?"

"A spirit, a ghost - I'm not sure but it's what we saw in the photograph. It's what the old woman was trying to protect the family from."

"But, Mulder...Don't you think it's possible that Golda told Charlie about his twin, and that's where the idea of someone else came from?"

Mulder shakes his head. "It wasn't an idea that just drove off with Mrs. Holvey. Whatever it is, it's killed three people, and you've got to get to Mrs. Holvey's before it happens again." She starts to walk away, but he grabs her arm. "Be careful, Scully."

She shakes her head and kisses his cheek, totally unconvinced of the danger. "What are you going to do in the meanwhile?"

"Get help."

Mulder waits in the hallway outside Charlie's hospital room. Four Calusari enter the hall and walk toward him. He motions toward Charlie's room and they enter the room. Mulder follows.

"Guard the door," the head Calusari demands. Mulder closes the door.


Scully enters the Holvey's house. It is dark.

"Mrs. Holvey?" She steps in, turning on a flashlight. She tries the light switch but the lights don't come on. She walks into the foyer and hears a noise from upstairs. "Hello?"


At the hospital, the Calusari surround Charlie's bed and chant in Rumanian and pray. The head Calusari tears open Charlie's pajama shirt. Charlie seems to be asleep. As they continue to chant, one of the Calusari sprinkles a powder on Charlie's chest, and he awakens suddenly and hisses at them. The Calusari restrain him, two holding his arms while a third holds his head. The fourth, the head Calusari, sprinkles a herb into a bowl of liquid and it bubbles. Charlie continues to hiss and starts to thrash on the bed.

Charlie shouts out, "Fie newt, avet a plaratariat. New potex... new potex... new potex. Suffragettes agitaball. Pulley tot allso puritay from freeditay. Suffragette a agitaball. Ohh saaa... pu chette... agitaball... boy gotz."

Mulder can't figure any of it out.

The head Calusari adds a red powder to the bowl of liquid. The liquid turns red and bubbles more violently, emitting smoke. Charlie continues to thrash about, while the other Calusari continue to chant. He turns to Mulder. "Come. Hold him down."

Mulder comes to the foot of the bed and holds Charlie's feet. Charlie continues to struggle, growls and gives Mulder an evil stare. "Don't look at him. Look away, or it will recognize you." The man tells Mulder. Mulder turns his head, seeing an orange liquid now covering the walls.


Back at the Holvey's, Scully opens the door to Golda's bedroom. The stained glass with the reverse swastika shakes, and both windows then blow in. Scully steps back and shields her eyes, then enters. A strong wind howls through the windows. She enters and pans the room with her flashlight. A glass object breaks at her feet. She hears faint chanting in Rumanian, and as she walks along the wall, her head is suddenly touched by a pair of feet. Startled, she spins away and looks up, seeing Maggie pinned against the ceiling by an unseen force. Maggie is chanting. Scully sees a shadow move across the wall and turns quickly back toward the window, but she sees no one. The door to the room suddenly slams shut. She gasps and turns toward the door.

Scully gasps. "Charlie?"

Charlie's voice comes from Maggie. "Mommy?"

Scully shines her flashlight up at Maggie, who resumes chanting in Rumanian. Scully is picked up by an unseen force and slammed into the corner of the room, next to the window. She falls to the floor, and is then slides, along with some furniture, into the other corner.


Back at the hospital, the head Calusari unsheathes a large knife over the bowl of bubbling red liquid. Charlie now screams at them in Rumanian. Mulder continues to hold his feet. The bed starts to shake and rises several feet off the floor.

Charlie screams. "It hurts!" Mulder lets go of his feet.

"Do not let go," the head Calursari admonishes. "He tricks you."

Mulder grabs Charlie's feet again. One of the Calusari squeezes a liquid into a small cup and hands it to the head Calusari. He adds the contents to the other bowl of liquid and picks up a white feather. As Charlie continues to scream, the head Calusari dips the feather into the red liquid and starts to paint a reverse swastika on Charlie's chest. He continues to scream, as the rest of the Calusari continue to chant.


At the Holvey's, Michael also screams and picks up the large knife from the floor. He advances toward Scully, the knife held high over his head. Scully shields her head with one arm, her belly with the other, and tries to twist away.


At the hospital, the head Calusari completes the reverse swastika on Charlie's chest. Charlie's body relaxes and the bed falls back to the floor with a thump that's sure to draw attention to the room.

Mulder quickly plans to say he clumsily upset the screen and knocked it over it anyone asks.


At the Holvey's, the knife falls harmlessly to the floor next to Scully. The wind stops. Maggie falls to the floor as well. Scully goes to Maggie's aid.

"Are you all right?"

"Charlie?" Maggie asks, looking confused.

They look across the room but no one else is there. There is gray ash on the floor and a small wisp of smoke drifting across the floor.


At the hospital, Charlie lies quietly on the bed with his eyes closed. He is covered with perspiration, as well as the reverse swastika painted on his chest in red.

"Let the boy rest. We must find the mother. The boy needs her," the head Calusari declares. The Calusari step away from the bed, leaving Mulder staring at Charlie.

Later, Mulder stands in the hallway outside Charlie's room. Scully and Maggie come off the elevator and run toward him.

"Scully, you all right?"

"We're OK. How's Charlie?"

Maggie runs past him and enters Charlie's room, brushing past the head Calusari. It is now daylight outside.

"Charlie! It's OK! Charlie!" Maggie cries, running to his bedside. Charlie is still sleeping but seems OK.

"It is over, for now. But you must be careful. It knows you," the head Clusari tells Mulder.

Mulder and Scully stare at each other for a moment. "Let's go down to the e.r. Mulder," Scully tells him, putting an arm around his waist.

"Why, did you get hurt?"

"I don't think so. But I...fell. This will be more of a peace of mind sort of check up."

"Ah, as opposed to a 'Mulder does something stupid and ends up in the hospital sort of visit'?"

"Something like that," she agrees, but then feels bad when he looks hurt. Of course then he breaks into a grin.

An hour later they're on the way home with the good news that neither Scully and the baby have been harmed, though Scully is to expect a sore back and a few bruises.

They're on the way to Mrs. Scully's to pick up Page when Mulder laughs.


"This case brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'evil twin.'"

She gives a crooked grin, too overwhelmed still to be really amused. "That's one way of looking at it."

He gives her a suddenly worried look. "The ultrasound did show just the one baby, right? I mean, I only saw one, but I'm not really good at figuring those things out..."

"Yes, Mulder, just the one. One little baby who refused to turn the right way for us to see if it'll be a boy or a girl."

"You wouldn't just say that would you? So I wouldn't keep asking like last time?"

"Nope." She lets her hand rest on her belly. "This kid is a mystery."

::It sure is.:: he thinks. ::Our little wildcard.::

Chapter Twenty-Two

April 13th 1995

It's been a rough week for everyone. First a neighbor shoots her husband, then the gunmen call, Mulder gets an encrypted document he blows up over, and worried about the associate who gave it to Mulder before suddenly going missing. To top it all off Mulder gets into a fistfight with Skinner in the hallway. So Scully is more than a little apprehensive to be meeting with the directors; she can't tell if the roil in her stomach is morning sickness or nerves.

An unfamiliar director asks the first question, almost before she's fully seated. "Agent Scully, you heard about the incident here, in the hallway yesterday."

"Yes, sir." She's tempted to ask him how he thinks Mulder could have kept something like that from her, but decides to keep her mouth shut. As satisfying as sarcasm might be, it's not going to improve anything.

"Do you have any explanation as to Agent Mulder's bizarre behavior?"

"No, sir. Agent Mulder has been having trouble sleeping."

One of the directors raises an eyebrow at this, and Scully bristles. They're married, it's not like her knowing this is illicit knowledge.

"Do you think Agent Mulder confides in you, Agent Scully?"

"Of course, he's my partner. And my husband as well," she adds.

This raises another eyebrow. Clearly the depth of their "partnership"isn't as well discussed as they assumed from all the tittering that went on before they announced their engagement. The director doesn't seem to want to discuss that aspect of her relationship to Mulder. "Your partner. Weren't you originally assigned to agent Mulder to debunk his work?"

"Yes, sir. Three years ago. I've been writing regular reports stating the validity of Agent Mulder's work on The X-Files."

The other director asks, "Would you lie to protect him?"

Saying "of course I would" doesn't seem wise, so instead she asks a question in return, "Am I accused of lying?"

A third director gives her a bleak look. "Agent Mulder has been advised of a disciplinary hearing. If there's something we learn at that meeting that you haven't stated today, you could be subject to the same summary action."

"What action is that?"

Skinner too looks grim. "Dismissal without chance of reinstatement."

She narrowly holds onto her temper. "Is that all, sir?"

"Yes, Agent Scully, thank you," Skinner dismisses her.

Hurrying away, Scully finds the basement office empty. She wishes she could go home and talk to Mulder, to get to the bottom of whatever is going on with him. The X-Files are his baby as much as Page is, so she can't for the life of her figure out why he'd be putting them at risk.

6 p.m.

Page is yawning in Scully's face as she brings her to her crib. Lying on the bed, Mulder is sleeping . Just as she walks by him he wakes up and reaches for his gun. Scully sticks out her hand to calm him.

"I thought you'd hear me come in."

"Oh. I took a sleeping pill."

She frowns, it's not like him to take medication for his insomnia; it's seemed to have gotten better since they began sleeping together. "I couldn't find you at work. I was worried about you."

"I came home. I must be running a fever. Maybe it's the threat of being burnt at the stake."

"They called me in today."

"What did you tell them?"

"That nothing was wrong." The expression on her face makes him think she's worried that she inadvertently lied.

"Well, you told them the truth then."

"Mulder, you opened the door for them, they're just looking for a good reason now."

He doesn't sound contrite. "Okay, I'll say I'm sorry."

"Mulder, these files. Who knows you have them?"

"Why?" Mulder gives her a suspicious look.

"Because I had to lie today. And I put my job in jeopardy in order to do so. If they find out about those files..."

"How would they find out?"

"Maybe they already know. The question is, is it worth it? Is this cassette worth risking everything?"

"I'll tell you when I find out what's on it. Now just tell me who I can talk to about breaking that code."

"I'm meeting with someone in an hour. I might know something later tonight, I just need some kind of assurance that they're not going to let us hang ourselves with this. That I'm doing the right thing. Are you going to be ok to look after Page, or should take her with me?"

"She's sleeping, we'll be fine. I promise not to cough on her." He gives her a small grin that quickly fades. "...and I'll try to give you the reassurances you need." He gets out of bed and tapes an X to the window

"I need to know one more thing, Mulder. Why did you attack Skinner?"

"I've thought about that, Scully. I honestly can't say."

After she leaves he tries to remember why he hit Skinner, but his head feels so damn strange he can't even begin to figure it out.

Scully has been gone an hour when the phone rings. Sighing, Mulder reaches for it. "Mulder."

"Fox, this is your father, I need to see you right away. "

"Where are you?" Something wiggles at the back of his mind. There's supposed to be something significant to seeing his dad tonight, but what is it? He begins to worry. ::What happened last time?::

"I'm at home. How soon can you be here? Fox, it's very important."

"Scully not home, and I have the baby." He glances over at Page. Is she the significant thing? ::No, no, there was no baby last time. Think, dammit!:: "I'll have to drop her off at Maggie's before I come over."

Bill Mulder sighs. "I wish I could see her...but come as quickly as you can."


Scully arrives home to an empty apartment, and it brings an unpleasant déjà vu of that afternoon in the office.

"Mulder..." She notices a note taped to the TV. "Gone to see Dad, brought Page to Maggie first."

She walks to the window, a gunshot is fired and the bullet grazes her head. Trying not to panic, she gently touches the wound, grateful that there wasn't more blood.

Bill Mulder's House

Bill answers the door a few seconds after Mulder begins to knock.

"Fox." His father looks half-relieved, half-surprised to see him.

"Dad. What is it?"

"Come in." Mulder enters and Bill shuts and locks the door.

"It's... It's so clear now. Simple. It was so complicated then. The, the choices that needed to be made."

"What choices? Dad?" ::That's it isn't it? Something about his choices.::

"You're a smart boy, Fox. You're smarter than I ever was."

"About what?" ::What's going to happen? I remember it's bad.::

"Your politics are yours, you've never thrown in. The minute you do that, their doctrines become yours and you can be held responsible."

"You're talking about your work in the state department."

"You're going to learn of things... Fox, you're going to hear the words and they'll come to make sense to you."

"What words?"

"The merchandise. Look I, I've been taking some medication. You'll have to excuse me for a moment." ::No Daddy, don't go!::

"Dad! Hold up!" All at once, Mulder remembers. ::He gets shot!::

Bill hesitates a fraction of a second, but goes to the bathroom anyway and opens a medicine cabinet. Mulder hears a gunshot even as he's racking to the bathroom.

Bill Mulder is lying in a pool of blood. "Dad? Dad. Dad..." Outside, tires screech. Mulder puts his hand under his father's head. "Oh, Dad."

"Forgive me..." Bill says, then his eyes roll back. Mulder thinks he's dead that very second, but grasping at the older man's wrist, he feels a faint pulse.

"Don't die on me, Dad. Not this time."

He puts a folded towel under Bill's head and whips out his cell phone. "Hello, 911? This is Fox Mulder with the FBI. There's been a shooting, I need an ambulance." ::Please God, don't let him die again. Please, please please...::

Mulder watches as the load his father in the ambulance. Despite his pleadings, they won't let him ride along with them. He's a little bit hopeful, given his father never got a hospital visit the last time around, but he's too confused to do anything but call Scully.

"My father's been shot, Scully."

"Where are you?"

"They shot him and now he's on the way to the hospital, and they wouldn't let me go with him."

"Mulder, where are you? Just tell me where you are."

"I'm at Dad's place."

"Who shot him, Mulder?"

"I don't know."

"Mulder, were you arguing?"

"I didn't do it, Scully, he was trying to tell me something You gotta believe me, Scully." His voice sounds broken, like a little boy's and her heart breaks.

"Mulder, I believe you, just listen to me, you've gotta get out of there, you have to leave immediately."

"I can't leave the crime scene, it'll look like I'm running, make me look guilty."

"Mulder, they're gonna suspect you anyway, you've got no ID on the shooter, you, your behavior has been irrational recently, Mulder, can't you see that everything is pointing directly at you?"

"He was shot with somebody else's weapon."

"Damn it, Mulder, you're an FBI agent, you have access to weapons other than your own."

"All right. I'll come home."

"No. No you can't come home. Someone shot through our window tonight, they almost killed me, they might be trying to kill you."

::Or you.:: He thinks, slumping into a chair.

Maggie Scully's House

Maggie opens the door as Scully struggles to get Mulder inside. The pallor of his skin shocks her, and she can't help but blurt out. "Fox...My God. Look at you. You're sick."

::Hey, that's Scully's line!:: He's filled with a compulsion to giggle, but doesn't. "I'm okay. I'll just get some coffee, ok?"

"No come on," Scully insists. "I want you to lie down on, woah, come on I want you to lie down, let me take your coat off."

"Dana, let me help you get him to bed. I don't want you to exert yourself."

"I'm pregnant, not an invalid," Scully snaps, then immediately looks sorry. "Sorry."

"You gotta find them, Scully," Mulder protests as the pilot him into the living room.

"Right now you have to lie down. Come here." She and Maggie manhandle him until he's sprawled on the pull out bed in the living room. Upstairs had a comfortable guest room, but neither of them felt they could get him up there.

"We gotta find out who hurt my father," Mulder says, his eyes heavy. "Promise me."

"Well, right now you need to rest okay, rest. It's okay. Okay."

"What's wrong with him?" Maggie asks not long after Mulder has fallen asleep.

"The flu, I think."

Maggie nods. "If you need to look for his father's shooter, I can look after him and Page."

"You're too good to me, Mom," Scully says, getting up to give her a hug.

"Family is important, Dana. I never told you this before, but I used to have these dreams that you'd let work take over your life, and never find anyone." She glanced towards the doorway, where she could just barely make out Mulder's sleeping form. "I'm so glad I was wrong."

"Do Mulder?" Scully asks, wondering why it's never come up before.

"I do. He adores you, that makes him a good man in my book."

"He is a good man," Scully agrees softly.

Unfortunately, Mulder tests the limits of her patience the very next day when he calls her up ranting about how she doesn't trust him and is always taking her little notes. It's his strange paranoia that leads her to wonder if he's really sick with the flu after all. A perusal of her medical books, suggests that something sinister might be at work, and there's only one way to know for sure.

Going back to their apartment she someone delivering water filters and is suspicious enough to go to the basement and snag one to analyze. To her complete exasperation, she sees Mulder jump out of a cab, and run around behind the building. Tucking the filter into her coat, she dashes after him.

Mulder grabs Krycek as he walks by and punches him in the face.

"I'm gonna kill you anyway, Krycek, so you may as well tell me the truth. Did you shoot my father? Did you try to kill him... answer me." Mulder punches him again as Scully skitters onto the scene.

"Mulder, don't shoot him. Just back away." She points a gun at Mulder.

"He tried to kill my father, Scully."

"I have him, Mulder."

"No, Scully..." ::It's different now. You wouldn't really shoot your husband.:: He doesn't let up his aim at Krycek, so Scully shoots him, Krycek runs off. ::You would.:: He thinks, crumpling to the ground.

A woman's voice cries out, "Oh my God. Somebody call the police." Scully grits her teeth and wonders if pointing out she is the police would do any good.

When Mulder wakes up, Albert is peering down at him. "He's awake."

Scully comes to Mulder's side. "Mulder, Mulder it's me. Here drink some of that, you haven't had any water in over 36 hours. Your shoulder's going to be fine. The round went through nice and clean."

Mulder drinks, then looks up at her accusingly. "You shot me."

"Yes, I did. You didn't give me much choice, you were going to kill Krycek."

"You say that like it's a bad thing...Why'd you shoot me? He's the one."

"If he is, then his weapon is probably the same one that shot your father."

"What are you talking about?"

"If you killed Krycek with that weapon there would have been no way to prove that you didn't attempt to kill your father. I'm sorry about your father, Mulder."

"Oh, God, is he dead?" Mulder cranes his head to look around. "And where's Page?"

"Page is with my mom. And your father is doing ok. They don't think there will be any permanent damage to his heart, but it was touch and go for a while."

Mulder slumps back, looking relieved. "How'd you know Krycek was the shooter?"

"I didn't. I went back to the apartment to pull the slug from the wall, and I noticed an unmarked van delivering soft water and I found this in one of the tanks servicing our building," she tells him, glossing over the fact that she was already suspicious about his symptoms not adding up. Then she holds something out for him to see.

"What is it?"

"It's a dyalysis filter. It's a device used in the transmission of substance to solution, considering the level of psychosis you were experiencing, it was probably LSD, amphetamines of some kind of exotic dopamine."

Fear stabs through him. "Oh my God. Did you or Page-"

"No. They seem to have only changed it within the past few days, and you're the only one who'd drink that nasty tap water. The babies and I are just fine."

"Thank god. Who knows what that crap could do to an infant or fetus."

"Mulder, these men are quite possibly the same ones who shot your father and who systematically tried to destroy you by turning everyone you could trust against you. I don't think I have to tell you why."

"I'd gotten too close to the truth." He looks around in puzzlement, suddenly aware that he had no idea whose home they were in. "Where are we?"

"We're in Farmington, New Mexico."

"New Mexico? How'd you get me here?"

"We've just driven two days across country, I had to put you out to let the side effects of the psychosis abate. This is Albert Hosteen, he's been translating your files."

Mulder snorts. "Someday you're going to tell me how you managed to care for me alone for two days in the car. With a bullet wound."

"You're lucky she's a good shot," Albert opines.

"Or a bad one," Mulder retorts, making Scully grimace.

"Albert was a Navajo code talker during World War II. He helped encode the original government documents."

"How'd you find him?"

"Through a woman in Washington. But he claims he knew you were coming."

Albert speaks up, "Last week we had an omen."

Scully changes the subject. "Most of these files are written in jargon but apparently there was an international conspiracy of silence dating back to the 1940's. Albert says that evidence of these secrets are buried on a Navajo reservation not far from here. He says that he'll take you as soon as you are able."

Mulder's a little wobbly on his feet when he gets up. "What about you?"

"I'm afraid you're on your own with this. Page and I have doctor's appointments I don't want to miss, not to mention that I didn't show up for a meeting with Skinner the day before yesterday and I don't know what the repercussions will be."

"You've taken a big risk."

"I was certain they would have killed you, Mulder." She stares at him. "Thirty-one is far too young to be a widow."

"Thank you. Thank you for taking care of me."

"Someone has to." She smiles at him. "There's something else. Krycek's name is in those files. It appears in the latest entries with Duane Barry's."

"In what context?"

"It's not clear, but it has something to do with a test. I think we should find out why."

"Hopefully it's something bad," Mulder mutters. :: Wonder if Alex is going to get a visit from the cancer fairy.::

She gives him a reproachful look for the suggestion, but hugs him too. "Try to stay out of trouble while you're here."

"Me?" He adopts an innocent expression. Scully just sighs, and Albert gives her a sympathetic pat on the back.

Navajo Nation National Reservation

"You said you knew I was coming."

"In the desert, things find a way to survive. Secrets are like this too. They push their way up through the sands of deception so that men can know them. Here, this is my house."

"But why me?"

"You are prepared to accept the truth aren't you, to sacrifice yourself to it."

"I don't understand."

"There was a tribe of Indians who lived here more than 600 years ago. Their name was Anasazi, it means ancient aliens. No evidence of their fate exists. Historians say they disappeared without a trace. They say that because they will not sacrifice themselves to the truth."

"And what is the truth?"

"Nothing disappears without a trace."

"You think they were abducted."

"By visitors who come here still." Albert gets out of the car, Mulder follows him.

"What's buried out there?"

"Lies. You will see for yourself."

Albert's grandson agrees to bring him to where they'd found the body, so Mulder gets on the back of Eric's bike. Eventually Eric brings the bike to a halt and points to a spot.

"It's through these rocks. It's down there."

Eric makes no move to go with him, so Mulder climbs down the rockface. His cell phone rings.


CSM sounds detached. "You're a hard man to reach."

"Not hard enough apparently."

"Where are you?"

"I'm at the Betty Ford center, where are you?"

"I need to talk to you, Mr. Mulder, in person. There are some things to explain."

"Funny, I'm hearing that a lot lately. The trend is that phrase a bad omen. I'll save the government the plane fare, I just need to know which government that is."

"Your father may have told you things, Mr. Mulder. I should warn against taking those things at face value."

"Yeah, which things are those?"

"He was never an opponent of the project. In fact he authorized it. That's what he couldn't live with."

"No, he couldn't live with it because you had him shot."

"We weren't involved in that."

"Now listen to me, you black-lunged son of a bitch, I'm gonna expose you and your project, your time is over. And so help me God, if my father dies..."

"Expose anything and you only expose your father." Mulder hangs up on him.

Bending down in the red pit, Mulder uncovers a plaque in the dirt which reads Sierra Pacific Railroad RTC - 567 480.

"Over here," Eric calls.

"This is a boxcar." Eric nods, and he and Mulder open the hatch into the boxcar.

"Refrigeration car."

"You're a man of few words, Eric." Eric just shrugs.

Washington, D.C.

Scully's cell phone rings while she's in the middle of spooning baby cereal into Page's unusually willing mouth. With a feeling of regret, she puts the spoon aside, hoping that Page will still be hungry after the call. Weaning Page before her little sibling's birth is high on Scully's list of priorities.

"What do you bet it's Daddy?" Scully asks before grabbing the phone. "Scully."

"Yeah, it's me."

"Where are you?"

"Nowhere I ever expected."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm in a boxcar buried inside a quarry. There are bodies everywhere."


"Stacked floor to ceiling."

"What happened to them?"

"I don't know." Mulder looks at the hybrid bodies piled in a corner one on top of the other.

"Mulder, in these files I found references to experiments that were conducted here in the US by Axis Power scientists who were given amnesty after the war."

"What kind of experiments?"

"Some kind of tests, on humans. What they referred to as merchandise."

"But these aren't human, Scully. From the look of it I'd say they were alien."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm pretty damn sure. Wait a sec..." Mulder looks at the arm of one of the merchandise. "This one... has a smallpox vaccination scar."


"Oh, my God, Scully, what have they done?" The hatch closes.

A couple of minutes later an incendiary device is thrown into the box car and it bursts into flames.


Thus ends Season Two. To get to seasons three and four click here: Go to chapters 23+

NeoX's Author's note: This came up on the message boards, so I thought I'd c&p this in here too:
"If it helps certain readers, a big part of the idea for this fic came from a statement that CC and Spotzy made around "William." They said that they decided to have Scully give up William since the kid would be a hinderance in the second movie, because 'Mulder and Scully couldn't chase aliens around with a baby in tow.'

And, being the brat I am, I thought to myself "They could so!" Fortunately FF agreed, and thus the idea for a snarky take on the show was born.

Would they really bring their kid with them on a case? I don't know. But this is snark, so they do. Ah, the beauty of snark...

Resources used by authors:
The X-Files Timeline All Things X Transcripts The X-Files Game Centeral Transcripts Inside The X-Files Transcripts Colic and Colicky Babies The Due Date Calculator- 40 week method Baby Milestones: The First Year Infant Development by Month Contraception - LAM

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