TITLE:  Seven Days in November
SPOILER WARNING:  Hrmm.  Thinking about it...Minor ones for Anasazi/The
Blessing Way/Paperclip...canąt think of anything else off-hand...apologies
in advance if I've forgotten something.
RATING:  PG or PG-13, depending on your opinion of the "f" word.  No hanky
panky to upset Mrs. Grundy, but a fair number of PDA's.
CONTENT WARNING:  ScullyAngst, both Bill, jr., and Dana.  Also,
not-too-graphic presentation of a patient in a psychiatric hospital who has
been mistreated.
CLASSIFICATION:  C,A; also M/S friendship; Crossover is with "Seven Days in
May" by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II.  This story stands on its
own, however; you don't have to have read the book to "get it".

The book was also made into a damned fine film, written by Rod Serling,
starring Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and Fredric March; there was a remake
on HBO in the early 90s called "The Enemy Within", which wasnąt nearly as
good, but which was watchable.  Oh, and if you DO happen to be as much in
love with this source material as I am, be ye warned that I have taken some
liberties with Knebel and Bailey's plot and characters.

SUMMARY:  The second in an apparently continuing series as I attempt to
salvage Bill Scully, jr's poor, pathetic soul.  (The first was
INSURMOUNTABLE OPPORTUNITIES, but you don't have to have read that piece to
enjoy this one.  Of course, you OUGHT to read IO, as it is exceptionally
cool.  It will show up on gossamer eventually, or you can drop me a line
and I'll email it to you.)  In this story, Bill makes another visit to
Washington, and gets caught up in another X-File -- but this time the
investigation may have profound consequences for the future of the United

Well, that's enough crap; let's get on with the good stuff...


by Brandon D. Ray


Bill Scully was tired, and his joints hurt.

  *I'm getting old,  * he thought.    *MATS flights never used to bother me
like this.  *  But somehow spending six or eight hours jammed into a C-141
with a couple hundred Marines who clearly didn't appreciate his presence,
wearing those little yellow foam-rubber plugs to protect his ears from the
roar of the jet engines, just wasn't as much FUN as it had been when he was
25.  And the constant shaking, jarring and jouncing as the huge military
cargo plane plowed its way through the late afternoon sky hadn't helped
matters any.  For the hundredth time since receiving his orders on Friday
afternoon, Bill wondered why the Navy had refused to pop for a regular
airline ticket.

  *Oh, well,  * he reflected, also for the hundredth time.    *Mine not to
reason why; mine but to do and die.  *

Now he was limping through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, his
duffel slung over his shoulder.  As he moved along the concourse, he felt
his muscles start to unkink, and his stride gradually became more natural.

  *Wish I'd been able to get hold of Dana,  * he thought.  He'd tried calling
several times last night, and twice again that morning, but to no avail.
He passed a rank of pay phones, and briefly considered trying again now,
but decided against it.  She'd just feel obligated to drive out and pick
him up, he reasoned.  Better just to jump on the Metro or grab a taxi.

Twenty minutes later, Bill found himself standing outside his sister's
apartment, knocking for the third time.    *Hell's bells,  * he thought.  It
hadn't occurred to him that she still wouldn't be home.  She did do a lot
of traveling for her job -- maybe she was off somewhere on an assignment.

Bill fished in his pocket and brought out his keyring.  The key to Dana's
apartment, which Fox Mulder had given to him two months before, on Bill's
last visit to Washington, glinted at him suggestively.    *Dana really
wouldn't mind,  * he told himself, and he inserted the key in the lock and
let himself in.

The first thing he noticed as he stepped across the threshold was the sound
of the shower running; seconds later his nose informed him of wonderful
smells drifting in from the kitchen, and his stomach reminded him of
exactly how long it had been since breakfast.  So she was here after all.
Bill was relieved; he'd felt vaguely guilty about letting himself in.  It
somehow reminded him of the time he had found and read Dana's diary, back
when she was 13 or 14.  He'd made the mistake of trying to blackmail her
with it, and she'd gone straight to their father....

  *This isn't like that,  * he reassured himself, unconsciously rubbing his
buttocks at the memory of his father's ire, and wandering through the
apartment more or less at random.    *We're both adults now, and I wouldn't
dream of invading her privacy.  *

Then he saw the dining table.

Rapidly, his eyes flicked over the arrangements:  Linen table cloth,
Waterford crystal, the antique china that used to sit in his mother's
display case when he was a boy, gleaming silverware that looked like it
might actually BE silver, two unlit candles....    *Candlelight dinner,  * he
thought, feeling his face start to redden.    *For two.  Dana's expecting
company -- and I'll just bet it's not me!  *  The only things that didn't
really fit into the equation were the two bottles of root beer peeking out
of the ice bucket.

  *Root beer?  *

At that moment, the sound of the shower stopped.    *I think I need to be
elsewhere,  * Bill thought, and moved hurriedly back to the door.  Scooping
up his duffel, he was reaching for the doorknob when he heard a key in the
lock.  Instinctively, he took a step back as the door swung open.

It was Fox Mulder.

Mulder looked as startled as Bill felt.  The two men stood stock still,
staring at each other, for several seconds.  Then Mulder grinned his
patented irritating grin and stuck out his hand.

"Hi, Bill!" he said cheerfully.  "Fancy meeting you here.  Long time no
sea, as Lewis said to Clarke."

Numbly, Bill shook the FBI man's hand, and watched as Mulder shut the door
and moved past him into the apartment.

Mulder was dressed to the nines, Bill couldn't help noticing:  Dark suit,
snow white dress shirt, and his shoes looked as if they had been
spit-shined.  Bill hadn't seen their like since his Academy days.  The only
thing spoiling the effect was the necktie, which made Bill wish for a
volume control.

"I must say I didn't expect you to be here, Bill," Mulder continued,
walking into the kitchen.  Bill heard the refrigerator door open and close,
and then Mulder reappeared, a bottle of Rolling Rock in his hand.  "Dana
didn't mention that you were coming into town again," he continued as he
twisted off the bottle cap and sank down on the sofa.

"Uh, she didn't know I was coming," Bill replied.  "*I* didn't know I was
coming until yesterday afternoon."  His eyes shifted to the table setting,
and Mulder followed his gaze.

"Well, that would explain it," Mulder said lazily, and he looked back at
Bill, pinning him with his gaze like a butterfly on a display card.

Some seconds went by as Bill tried to think of something to say.  Several
alternatives flashed through his mind, but none of them seemed to be

"Mulder?"  Dana's voice drifted into the room from down the hallway.
"Mulder, I heard you come in."  Her voice was coming closer.  "I wonder if
you could do me a favor.  I forgot to get urk."  She stopped in
mid-sentence as she stepped into the living room and saw her brother
standing there.  She was dressed in a white terrycloth bathrobe which
didn't cover her nearly well enough for Bill's taste, under the
circumstances, and she had a towel wrapped around her still-wet hair.  She
now stood stock still, her eyes shifting back and forth between her partner
and her brother.

"Hi, Scully!" Mulder was the first to recover.  "You should have told me
you were planning a menage a trois.  I'd have brought extra condoms."

Bill stared at Mulder in disbelief.  He hadn't actually said that, had he?
But from the look of disgust on Dana's face -- which Bill found infinitely
reassuring -- it was clear that she had heard it, too.

"Not funny, Mulder," she said.  "Not even a little bit."  She glared at the
man on the couch.

"I'm sorry, Scully," Mulder said, putting on a face that made him look
alarmingly like a whipped puppy.  "Forgive me?"

Rather amazingly, the ploy worked.  Dana's face softened, and she said,
"It's okay."  She walked over to the sofa and ruffled Mulder's hair.  Then
she seemed to remember that her brother was there and turned back to face
Bill.  With an artificial air of nonchalance, she said, "So.  Bill.  What
brings you to...here?"  As if he lived in the neighborhood and had just
happened to drop by of a Saturday evening.

"Work," he said, desperately trying to find his way out of the situation.
"I, uh, I have meetings at the Pentagon starting Monday, and for some
reason they saw fit to send me out on a MATS with a bunch of jarheads."
The words seemed to tumble together in his mouth.  "I was hoping..." His
eyes flicked to that dinner table again, and once more he felt his face
growing red.  "Look," he said.  "It's pretty obvious I've intruded.  I'll
just get out of here, and find a room at HoJo's or something.  I'll call
you in the morning."  And he turned to leave.

"Wait, Bill."  Dana caught up with him in the hallway.  "Don't go; of
course you can stay here.  Mulder and I were just going to have dinner and
watch a movie; no big deal.  Come on inside."    *If she offers to set
another place, I'm going to run,  * Bill thought.    *My legs are longer than
hers; she'll never catch me.  *  But he let himself be led back inside.

Mulder was still sprawled on the sofa; he now had his shoes off and his
feet up on the coffee table, and he was watching the scene between brother
and sister with great amusement evident on his face.  "Sure, Bill," he
agreed, affecting a down-home hick accent.  "Come on in and set a spell."

Dana looked from one man to the other, and Bill thought he detected a faint
look of panic in her eyes.    *This is a really bad idea,  * he thought.
  *Even if the evening agenda is as innocent as she claims, I'm still in the
way.  *  He cleared his throat.  "Look, Dana...I really don't think I should
be here.  I --"

"Nonsense," she said, stepping forward and prying his duffel out of his
hands.  As she did so, he noticed with embarrassment that he had been
holding it in front of his body, as if to ward off a blow.  "You are always
more than welcome here; you know that."  She turned away firmly and carried
his duffel down the hallway towards the guest bedroom.

Bill followed after her.  "Look," he said quietly once they were alone in
the guest room.  "You don't have to do this.  I really can find someplace
else to stay, and I really don't want to interfere with..."  He waved his
hands helplessly.  "Things."

She stood and looked at him for a moment, her face an expressionless mask,
and he knew he was in trouble.  Then she turned away and placed his duffel
in the corner next to the bureau and started turning down the bedclothes.
"You are welcome to stay here," she said.  You are welcome to go to a
motel.  Whichever choice you make, it will make absolutely no difference in
what goes on in this apartment this evening."  She turned to face him, the
mask still in place.  "If you do decide to stay, you are also welcome to
join us for dinner."

Bill gulped, and closed his eyes, then forced them open again.  She'd
gotten a lot better at this than she had been at 14.  "I ate on the plane,"
he lied.  "And...and I am very tired," he added truthfully.  "It was a
long, bumpy ride.  If it's all the same to you, I think I'll just go to

"That would be fine," she said calmly, and went to the door.  As she pulled
it open, Mulder's voice drifted down the hallway.

"Hey, Scully.  What movie do you want to watch tonight?  I was thinking
maybe DEEP THROAT, but I know you're partial to Johnny Wad."

Bill saw her shoulders tense slightly.  "I'll kill him," she muttered, and
walked on out the door, and into her own room.

Bill shut the door to his room and sagged against it wearily.    *This is
not going to be a good week,  * he thought.    *But at this point I think
leaving would be worse.  *  Sighing, he stood up, and crossed over to the
bed.  He really was exhausted.  He kicked off his shoes and quickly
stripped down to his shorts, then stretched out on the mattress and pulled
the covers up.  Despite the emotional turmoil he was in, and despite the
gnawing hunger in his belly, it was only a matter of a few minutes before
he was sound asleep.


Bill Scully awoke in the pre-dawn darkness, feeling remarkably rested and
refreshed.  Turning over in bed, he felt a familiar, friendly urge rising
in his loins; sleepily, he reached across the bed, trying to find his wife.

She wasn't there.

Groggily, he sat up and looked around.  Right.  He wasn't in San Diego; he
was in Washington.  At Dana's.  He picked up the alarm clock and squinted
at its glowing face:  Five minutes after seven.    *Be damned,  * he
thought.    *I slept the clock around.  Haven't done that in a long time.  *

He swung his feet around and stood up, then groped along the wall until he
found the light switch.  Blinking owlishly at the sudden illumination, he
looked around and spotted his duffel in the corner where Dana had left it.

Dana.    *Really screwed the pooch last night, didn't you, William,  * he
thought, climbing into a pair of sweat pants and pulling a t-shirt on over
his head.  Well, plenty of time to make it up to her; he'd be here all
week, after all.

Stepping out into the hallway, he saw that his sister's door was still
closed.    *Probably had a late night,  * he thought, then winced at the
image that thought brought to mind.    *Bad, Captain Scully!  * he chastised
himself.    *Down!  Back!  Sit!  She may be your sister, but she's also a
grown woman, and she no longer needs your protection -- if she ever did.  *

He had a sudden vivid recollection of a young man abruptly leaving the
Scully home, his shoulders hunched and his hands clutched protectively
about his private anatomy, while 16 year old Dana stood by and announced
sorrowfully that Reggie had "taken ill" and had to go home.  The memory
made Bill feel better, and he padded down the hall towards the living room,
thinking that he'd make breakfast as a sort of peace offering.

As he emerged from the hallway, he realized that the TV was still playing,
the volume turned low.  Frowning, he stepped around the sofa, intending to
turn it off -- and almost tripped over his sister's feet.

Bill raised his eyebrows and backed up carefully.  Dana was curled up on
the floor, sound asleep.  Fox Mulder was there, too, also asleep, sprawled
in a spread-eagle half on and half off the sofa.  They were both still
wearing their dress clothes from the night before, which was at least some
consolation, but Dana's head was lying on Mulder's -- well, "lap" was the
polite term, Bill supposed.  The whole tableau looked extremely...intimate.

His first impulse was to drag Mulder off the sofa and throw him out into
the hallway, but he suppressed it.    *Not my business,  * he reminded
himself.    *Remember how much trouble you got into last night.  Let's not
make it any worse.  *

He turned and went back down the hall to take a shower, deliberately
leaving the bathroom door open so the sound would carry.

Twenty five minutes later, he emerged, to the smell of cooking bacon.  His
stomach rumbled, reminding him that he hadn't had anything to eat, aside
from a few Fig Newtons on the plane, for nearly 24 hours.  He ducked into
the guest room, pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, and then followed
the smells down the hall.

Dana was in the kitchen, working with a frying pan; Mulder was nowhere to
be seen.

"Good morning, sleepyhead," Dana said, smiling.  The tight-lipped anger of
the night before seemed to be gone.  Good.

"Good morning," he replied.  "Mmm.  Smells good.  Been up long?"

"A while," she replied.

"Where's Mulder?"  Bill wanted to bite his tongue out of his head, but the
words were already out there, hanging almost visibly in the air between
them.    *Maybe I should buy a muzzle,  * he thought in disgust.

Dana glanced at him, her face expressionless, and Bill steeled himself for
the explosion.  But all she said was, "He had to leave."

"Oh."  Bill cast about, trying to find something to say to that, but came
up empty.

"Bacon's ready," Dana said.

The meal passed in silence.  Dana sat watching him from across the table,
sipping at a cup of coffee and nibbling on a piece of toast, while Bill had
a somewhat more lavish breakfast.  Finally, he pushed back his chair,
leaned back and stretched.  "Good grub, Dana," he said, invoking the ritual
their parents had used at the end of every meal.

She didn't laugh at his witticism.  Instead:  "Thanks," she said.  Then the
bombshell:  "Do you think I'm ready to be a wife yet?"

Bill froze in mid-stretch, and stared at his sister.  "W-what --"

"It was a simple question," she said calmly.  "Do you think I'm ready to be
a wife?"

Bill continued to stare at her.  She sat on the other side of the table,
hands folded in her lap, a serene expression on her face.  "Why...why do
you ask?" he managed to stutter out.

"To see what you will say," she replied.  "I value your opinion."

She wasn't giving anything away.  Carefully, he searched her face, looking
for some clue, but there was nothing there.  He couldn't tell if she was
putting him on, or was utterly serious.

"You're joking," he said tentatively.

Silently, her face still expressionless, she started gathering up the dirty

"Wrong answer, huh," he said.

Dana didn't respond, but carried the dirty dishes into the kitchen.  Bill
had just decided to go after her when she came back out and sat down across
the table from him again.  He sat in silence, knowing that she would talk
to him again when she was ready.

"We need to have this out, Bill," she said at last.  "There are some things
you have to understand."  She seemed to think about that for a moment, then
amended her second statement.  "There are some things that I NEED for you
to understand."

Bill nodded, but didn't say anything.

"First and foremost," she went on, "who I spend my time with, and what I do
with them, is not your concern."  He started to agree with the flat
statement, but she cut him off.  "More specifically, whether or not I am
sleeping with Fox Mulder is none of your god damned business."  And she sat
back in her chair and watched him.

"I can accept that," he said at last, grudgingly.  "And...I'm sorry.  I
was...out of line last night."

But she apparently wasn't going to let him off that easily.  "Last night,"
she said in measured tones, "you were a horse's ass.  Even Mulder spotted
it, and he's not the most sensitive person in the world.  You humiliated
me, and I do not appreciate it."

"Mulder was --" he started to object, but she cut him off again.

"I have spoken to Mulder, and again, what we said on the matter, and what
we may or may not have done last night, is none of your business.   Right
now, at this moment, this is about you and me."

Bill sat in silence for a moment; then he nodded reluctantly.  "I can
accept that, too," he said quietly.

"Good."  She looked him square in the eye, and he braced himself for
another barrage.  "Now the second thing you have to know," she said, "is
that I love you very much."  And again, she sat back and watched him,
waiting for a response.

"I...I love you, too, Dana," he replied at last.

She slowly exhaled, and Bill realized that he had been holding his breath,
as well.  "That's the first sensible thing you've said since you got here,"
she said.

There was only one answer he could give to that, much as it galled him to
admit it.  "I believe you may be right," he said.

Dana actually smiled.  "Trust me on this one," she said, standing up
again.  She glanced at her watch.  "Now that that's settled, let me get at
the dishes.  If you're willing to dry while I wash, I think we can get them
done and still make 10:30 Mass.  Then, if you're up for it, Mother has
invited us to lunch."

Bill smiled in return, and stood up, and for a moment brother and sister
faced each other again over the breakfast table.  "Church, Dana?" he asked.

"That's right," she said.  "I've been...thinking things over, the last year
or so.  I've found church to be very helpful."  And she turned and led him
into the kitchen, to face the dirty dishes.

#          #          #

The drive out to their mother's house was quiet, brother and sister each
lost in their own thoughts.  At first Bill found it restful, but shortly he
started to feel uncomfortable.

Church had been pleasant, but had failed to provide the distraction he had
been hoping for, and which past experience had led him to expect.  He had
found it difficult to focus on the sermon, and twice he had fumbled on
responses which he had had committed to memory since he was a boy.  Now he
sat in the passenger seat of Dana's car, and despite his implicit promise
to her, he found himself brooding about her relationship with her partner.

His gaze fell on his sister.    *I wonder what she's thinking about?  *  The
question came unbidden to his mind.  Her face seemed so calm and serene,
and under her breath she was humming a little tune which was maddeningly
familiar, but which he couldn't quite place.

He shook his head.    *How can she be so happy?  * he wondered.  Not that he
begrudged her that happiness, but she'd been through so much in the past
few years -- and those were only the things he knew about.  He had a strong
suspicion that there had been other trials in her life, things of which
Bill had no knowledge.  But there she sat, humming to herself, a faint
smile on her lips as her imagination took her...somewhere.

  *Is THAT what's really bothering me?  * he wondered suddenly.    *Is it
really just that she has private joys and sorrows which she hasn't shared
with me, and so I feel shut out?  Could it really be that I'm that
selfish?  *  He hadn't considered that possibility before, and now he turned
it over in his mind uneasily.  If Dana was happy with her life, who was he
to second guess her?    *More specifically,  * he thought, unconsciously
echoing in his mind her words over breakfast,   *if she is happy with her
relationship with Mulder -- whatever that relationship may consist of --
why is that  so upsetting to me?  Shouldn't I be HAPPY for her, if she has
finally found a man who fulfills her, the way Tara fulfills me?  *

At length, they arrived at their mother's home, and both Bill and Dana
turned outward again.  Lunch was served, and for an hour the three of them
sat together over fried chicken, mashed potatoes and hot homemade bread.
There was one interruption which marred the occasion, however:  Part way
through the main course, Dana's cell phone beeped.

With a sigh of annoyance, and a briefly murmured "excuse me", Dana took the
instrument from her jacket pocket, turned half away and punched a button on
the phone.  Bill tried not to listen, but found that he couldn't help

"Scully."  A brief pause.  "Oh, hi.  Look, this is not a good time --
What?"  She listened for a moment.  "Yes, those results should be back by
now, but can't it wait until morning?"  Another pause.  "No.  No, I am not
going to -- Mulder, I am having lunch with Bill and my mother; we're about
to have dessert."  Her face reddened, and she glanced at Bill in apparent
embarrassment.  "No, I will not tell him that."  Yet another pause, longer
than the others.  Finally, she said, "Are you attempting to bribe a federal
official?...Well, then you're going to have to offer me something better
than that."  A smile crept across her face as she listened to the
response.  "Chocolate."  Pause.  "Two boxes, Mulder...No, TWO boxes.  And
GOOD chocolate, not Hershey bars, like the last time....Okay, I'll call you
right back."  And she hit the disconnect button on her phone.

Looking at Mrs. Scully, and then at Bill, Dana said, "I'm sorry; this will
just take a moment."  And she punched one of the speed dials on her cell
phone.  After a moment, she frowned.  "That's funny," she muttered.  She
hit disconnect, then tried the speed dial again.  She shook her head.
"Weird."  Then she tried a different speed dial.

"Mulder, it's me," she said.  "Look, first of all, you still owe me those
chocolate bars, because I did try."  She listened for a moment.  "No, I
wasn't able to get through....Yes, I do believe the tests must be complete,
but when I dialed the number all I got was a 'not in service'
recording....Yes, I know that it's unusual --"  She rolled her eyes in
exasperation, and shook her head.  "No, Mulder....No, I am NOT going to
drive down to Quantico just to satisfy your curiosity....No, not even for
FOUR boxes....No, I said 'no' and I meant 'no'."  Her lips quirked into an
almost-smile.  "No, there is NOT 'yes-yes' in my eyes....Mulder, I have to
go.  I'll see you in the morning."  And without waiting for a reply she hit
the disconnect button.

"Sorry about that," she said, and after a moment of embarrassed silence --
at least, Bill was embarrassed -- they returned to their meal, and to their

Bill was pleased at the opportunity to spend time with his mother, whom he
hadn't seen since her visit to San Diego the previous Christmas.  They
traded stories, brought each other up to date, and Bill passed around
pictures of the new grandchild, and everything felt warm, comforting and
familiar.  After the meal, Dana announced that she was tired, having had a
short night, and went off to her old room to lie down for awhile, leaving
Bill and his mother alone.

"She's looking a lot better," Bill remarked as he helped his mother gather
up the dirty dishes and carry them into the kitchen.  Setting the pile of
plates down, he turned and leaned up against the counter while she set
about filling the sink with hot water.  "She seems to be making a strong

Mrs. Scully nodded.  "The Scully women have always been fighters, Bill.
Remember your Grandma Scully?  She was a tough one."

"She certainly was."  Automatically, he stepped forward and took a
dishtowel off its hook, and prepared to start drying.  "I've been...having
some problems," he said, changing the subject.  "And I was wondering if I
could try to talk them out with you."

She glanced at him and smiled as she handed him the first of their luncheon
plates for drying.  "Of course, Bill.  What's a mother for?"

"Well, this one's kind of difficult," he said.  Not sure how to begin, he
concentrated on drying the plate she had handed him, and then put it away
in the cabinet and turned to take the next one from her, thinking about
it.  She seemed content to let him take his time.  Finally, he said,
"Actually, it's about Dana."

Mrs. Scully nodded.  "I thought it might be."

Bill raised his eyebrows, and gave a little chuckle.  "Telepathy, Mother?"

She smiled back at him.  "Of course.  It's something they issue to new
mothers before they let us go home from the hospital.  Didn't Tara get

"If she did, she didn't tell ME about it," he joked, and then turned
serious again.  "Mother, I don't know if it's quite right -- or fair -- to
say that the problem is about Dana.  It's actually more about my
relationship with Dana."

She nodded again.  "I know.  I could tell from the way you two were looking
at each other over lunch."

"I just don't get it!" he burst out.  "I mean, I love her very much -- I
always have, and I always will.  But the last few years she's seemed to
pull away from me.  She's gotten strange, distant.  I don't understand
what's going on; I don't know what's happening in her life.  And that
scares me."  Bill was shocked at his own admission, but his mother seemed
to take it in stride.

"I've often thought that it must be very hard to be a man, and have a
younger sister," she mused.  "There are so many duties piled upon men, and
they often seem to conflict with one another.  Among the more important
duties is to look out for your younger siblings, especially the girls.
Your father and I tended to stress that one to you and Charlie, and we
thought that we were doing the right thing at the time.  But times have
changed; women are more independent now.  Times have changed."  There was a
note of sadness in her voice.

"Yes, I know about that," Bill replied.  "But that's only part of it.  Dana
really has gotten strange, Mother.  Maybe you don't notice it as much,
because you're around her more often.  But from a distance, and only seeing
her a couple times a year, it really sticks out."

"Oh, I've noticed," Mrs. Scully said.  "Believe me, I've noticed.  But you
have to understand, Bill, that Dana has been through an awfully lot.  More
than the cancer scare, and more than losing Dad and Missy -- and certainly
those things were hard on the entire family -- Dana has been through some
very difficult life experiences."

"It's because of her job!" Bill declared in an accusatory tone.  "It's
because of her job, and that guy she works with."  He couldn't bring
himself to utter Mulder's name.

"Fox Mulder is a decent, honorable man," his mother responded quietly.  "He
really cares very deeply about your sister, Bill, I truly believe that.  I
also believe that he would do almost anything to protect her.  You haven't
been around them very much when they're together, but I have, and I've
watched them.  There is a bond between them that is practically
unbreakable.  I know married couples who are less devoted to each other --
and less intimate."  She looked at her son obliquely.  "But I suspect that
this is another thing that is bothering you."

Bill shifted his weight uncomfortably.  "You really know how to cut to the
heart of the matter," he murmured.

She laughed.  "I wouldn't be much of a mother if I couldn't," she remarked.

"Mother, are they sleeping together?"  He felt an agony in his chest, and a
sudden intuition of what a heart attack must feel like.  This was the
question he had been leading up to, he suddenly realized.  This is what he
needed to know.  He knew it was a terrible invasion of his sister's
privacy, and that he was possibly asking his mother to betray a very basic
confidence.  But he had to know.  He had to.

She paused for a long minute, thinking it over while she washed out a glass
and handed it to him.  Finally, she said, "I don't know, Bill.  I have
wondered about that -- I wouldn't be human if I hadn't, even though we both
know that it is a private matter."  She looked at him directly, and the
love in her eyes took the sting out of her next sentence:  "May I ask what
you would do with the information if you found out that they WERE sleeping

"I don't know," he muttered miserably.  "I don't know.  I just know that I
need...something.  Some reassurance, some confidence that Dana is okay.
That she is going to be okay."

"I think you can depend on that, Bill," Mrs. Scully said softly.  "Your
sister will always be okay."

And later that night, as Bill was falling asleep in Dana's guest bedroom,
he suddenly remembered where he'd heard the tune she'd been humming in the
car.  He hadn't heard it since he was a little boy, but it had been so
beautiful, and the words had seemed so true, that it had burned itself into
his brain.  He hadn't thought about that song in more than thirty years,
but he could still remember those words:

"A dream is a wish your heart makes, when it's fast asleep..."

#          #          #


Bill Scully had never been to Dana's office before, and so of course he got
lost.  The J. Edgar Hoover Building seemed like a rabbit warren, with
phones ringing, people bustling back and forth and a confusing welter of
signs directing him to various departments and divisions.  Unfortunately,
none of the signs said, "This way to the ghoulies and ghosties and things
that go bump in the night."

Finally, in desperation, he flagged somebody down.  Feeling uncomfortable
and out of place in his Class A uniform, he asked, "Excuse me.  Could you
please direct me to the office of Special Agent Dana Scully?"

The man stopped and looked him up and down.  His lips quirked.  "Dana
Scully?  Mrs. Spooky?"  With amusement in his eyes, he turned and pointed
back along the hall, the way Bill had come.  "Down the end of the hall,
turn left, and take the first elevator you come to down to the basement.
Then just follow the mysterious lights," he finished, wiggling his fingers
in the air.  "You can't miss it."  And he turned and walked away, chortling
at his own witticism.

Bill wanted to smash his face in but he suppressed the urge.  Moments
later, he stepped off the elevator into a basement hallway, and started
walking down it.  The third door on the left was standing open, and he
heard Dana's voice coming from inside.

"So what did Frohike want?" she was saying as Bill stepped across the
threshold.  She was seated at a desk with her back to the door.  Several
neat stacks of paper sat on the desk, as well as a computer console, a
multi-line telephone, and an open box of Lady Godiva chocolates.  As he
watched, Dana took a piece of candy from the box and popped it into her

"What does Frohike ever want?" Mulder replied.  He was seated at another
desk, this one facing towards the entry way.  His eyes flickered as he saw
Bill in the doorway, and he added, "Your body, of course."

Dana sighed theatrically.  "When will he understand that I only have eyes
for you, Mulder?" she said, and popped another chocolate into her mouth.

"Well, you have to admit it can be a bit of a burden, Scully," Mulder
said.  "You really wear me out sometimes.  I wouldn't mind having a night
off every now and then."  Dana snorted, and Mulder shifted his gaze back to
Bill again.  "Hi, Bill!" he added cheerily, and gave a little wave.

Dana spun around in her swivel chair, and her eyes widened as she saw her
brother standing there.  "Bill," she said faintly.  "I wasn't
expecting..."  Her voice trailed off and she turned back to Mulder.  In an
accusatory tone, she said, "How long has he been standing there?"

Mulder's eyes were dancing.  "Long enough," he admitted.

She shook her head.  "Well just for that, you aren't going to get any of my
candy."  And she put the lid back on her box of chocolate and slid the box
into a desk drawer.  "And don't think for a minute that I don't know
exactly how many are left."

"Aw, Scully..."

Throughout this exchange, Bill had been standing stock still in the
doorway, his mind working furiously.    *Now how in the hell am I supposed
to react to this?  * he wondered.  He was almost certain from their tones
that it was all a gag -- but this was a sensitive subject, and he had a
strong intuition that if his sister perceived him to be invading her
privacy again, she was going to rip his ears off and feed them to him.

Now she was rising to her feet and turning to face him.    *Think fast,
Bill,  * he thought.    *You're about to be in the spotlight.  *

"Bill," she said, spots of color visible on her cheecks.  "I'm sorry."  She
gestured towards Mulder with her head.  "My partner can be a real jerk at
times.  Sometimes I wonder why I put up with him."

"That's okay," Bill said, putting on what he hoped was a self-deprecatory
grin.  "I've known that he was a jerk for a long time.  After all, we were
initiated at the same meeting."  Dana snorted again, and Bill decided to
quit while he was ahead.

"Speaking of meetings," he said, "my afternoon session has been canceled.
Don't know why -- they certainly flew enough brass in to attend it.  But
apparently there's been some sort of snafu down at Quantico, and now the
whole Navy Department is in an uproar, and I'm at loose ends.  So," he
finished, "I thought I'd stop by and see if you were free for lunch."

"Quantico?" Dana said, and glanced at Mulder.  "Well that explains it
then," she told her partner.  Turning back to her brother, she said, "We've
been trying to call Quantico all morning.  Yesterday we just got a recorded
message claiming that the number wasn't in service; today we've been
getting a military operator who can't seem to put us through to any Bureau
personnel."  She shrugged.  "But if there's been a problem at the base, it
may have affected the phone system."  Dana stood up and turned back to
Mulder.  "Anyway, I'm sure it will be fixed soon.  Would you mind terribly
if I went to lunch with Bill?  Since he happens to be free?"

"Well..." Mulder gave his annoying, lazy grin.  "I'LL be okay, but Frohike
is going to be devastated.  He just called to invite us to lunch, himself.
Philly cheese steaks with all the trimmings."  Mulder made a lipsmacking
sound.  "Mmm-mm.  He also said he has some new data he wants to show us
from the DoD message traffic analysis he's been working on."

"Well, I guess he'll have to struggle along without me," Dana said, picking
up her purse and moving over to the coat tree.

Bill raised his eyebrows.  "The FBI monitors the DoD's comnet?" he asked

Dana hesitated, glanced quickly at Mulder, then back at Bill, and replied,
"Sort of.  It's still in the experimental stages.  It's
a...counterespionage initiative, and we're really not supposed to be
talking about it."  She glared at Mulder, who just smiled and shrugged.
Slipping on her coat, Dana walked over to her brother.  "Shall we go?"

They had a long, leisurely lunch.  All of the tensions of the last two days
seemed to drain away as brother and sister chatted companionably over soup
and sandwiches.  The only thing bothering Bill was Mulder's remark about
the DoD traffic analysis.  Something about it didn't sound quite kosher to
him; on the other hand, he knew that the FBI did have some
counterintelligence responsibilities, and if it really WAS some sort of
classified project of that nature, he shouldn't be sticking his nose into
it at all.

Finally, he decided he would have to ask.  He took a sip of water, cleared
his throat, and said, "Dana?  What was Mulder talking about, back in your
office?  About the traffic analysis?  And who is Frohike?"

Dana looked at him for a moment while she chewed a bite of her sandwich,
and seemed to be considering what to say.  Finally, she swallowed, and
said, "Well, that's a complicated question.  I can see why you would be
concerned, but it really isn't something I'm free to talk about.  Mulder
shouldn't have mentioned it in your presence, either."

Bill studied her face for a moment.  He had had enough involvement with
classified matters, himself, that he knew there was validity in what she
was saying.  There had been times when he was privy to secrets which he had
not been free to share with anyone, not even his wife.  He didn't think
Dana's work normally involved national security issues, but he didn't know
for a fact that it didn't -- which left him with the choice of either
trusting his sister or not.  He nodded slowly.  "Okay," he said at last.
"I guess that's fair enough.  You do understand my concern, though?"

She nodded, and seemed to be relieved.  "Absolutely.  If I were in your
shoes, I'm sure I'd feel the same way."  She glanced at her watch.
"Heavens, look at the time; I've got to be getting back, or Mulder will
think I was hit by a truck."

They walked back to FBI Headquarters in silence.  It was mid-November, and
the first snow of the year had started to fall.  When they reached the
building, Dana turned to face him.  "Want to walk me inside?"

Bill shook his head.  "No; I think I'd just as soon take a walk on the
Mall.  It's been too long."

Dana nodded, and seemed to hesitate for a moment.  Then she said, "Bill?"


"Thank you for not pressing me on that other matter.  I promise you,
everything really is...all right.  I just can't talk about it."

He nodded.  "I understand."

"You're a good brother," she said, and she raised up on her tiptoes to give
him a quick peck on his cheek, and was gone.

#          #          #

Bill Scully awoke to the sound of a ringing telephone.  Blearily, he sat up
and looked around.  Dana's sofa.  He had fallen asleep on Dana's sofa.
Outside, night had fallen, and on the television a football game was in
progress.    *That's right,  * he remembered.  He'd come back to the
apartment to find that she hadn't come home yet.  He'd puttered around for
awhile, then finally fixed himself something to eat and stretched out on
the sofa to watch Monday Night Football.

The phone rang again.  Bill shook his head to clear it, then leaned over
and grabbed the receiver.  "Hello?  This is Dana Scully's residence."

"Bill, this is Dana," his sister's voice said without preamble, and
immediately he snapped to full wakefulness.  Her voice sounded tense, on
edge.  "I need your help with something, and I need it now."

"Well...of, of course," he stuttered.  "What is it?"

"I can't explain it on the phone," she replied.  "Look, someone will be by
to pick you up in -- how long?"  The last two words were apparently
directed to someone else.  "In twenty minutes," she said.  "Look for a blue
Chevy.  In twenty minutes," she repeated.

"Twenty minutes," Bill said, confused.  "Dana, what's this all about?
What's going on?"

She paused.  Then:  "Bill, I CAN'T go into it on the phone.  It wouldn't
be...prudent.  I'll see you soon."  And she hung up.

  *Now what in the hell is THAT all about?  * he wondered, scratching his
head.    *That has got to be one of the stranger phone calls....  *  He
glanced at his watch.  Twenty minutes.  He'd better get moving.

A short while later, having changed his clothes and bundled up against the
cold, he stepped out on the sidewalk in front of her apartment building.
The blue Chevy she had mentioned was already waiting, its engine idling.
Bill started to climb in the passenger side, but the driver jerked his
thumb over his shoulder.  Bill caught a quick glimpse of glasses glinting
in the street light, but otherwise the driver's face was lost in shadows.

"Captain Scully," the man said, "I'm going to have to ask that you get in
back and lie down on the seat."  His tone was apologetic.  "It's for your
own protection."

  *In for a penny, in a for a pound,  * Bill thought, and followed the man's
instructions.  As he lay down and curled his legs up, he felt the car start
to move.

"If this were anybody but Dana, I'd think it was a practical joke," Bill
said, hoping to draw the driver into conversation.

"Believe me, Captain, this is no joke.  I wish it were," the man replied
grimly.  "We might not any of us be alive by morning."

"That's pretty melodramatic," Bill commented.

"That's the kind of world we live in, Captain Scully.  By the way, my
name's Frohike.  I'm a friend of Dana's."

"Yes, she's mentioned you," Bill replied.

"She has?"  The man's voice held a note of smug pleasure.

  *Jesus!  * Bill thought.    *Has every man in this city got the hots for
Dana?  *  Aloud, he said, "Just in passing.  Look, can't you tell me what
this is all about?  I'm not used to all the cloak and dagger stuff."

There was a pause, then the man at the wheel said, "I think it would be
better to let Dana explain it to you.  We'll be there in a few more

The rest of the trip passed in silence.  Finally, the car pulled to a halt
and the engine stopped.  Bill heard the driver's door open and shut, and
then his own door opened.  "You can get out, now, Captain Scully," Frohike

Bill climbed out of the car and looked around.  They were in a rundown part
of town, a commercial district of warehouses and decrepit office
buildings.  Silently, Frohike led the way into one of the latter.  They
climbed a flight of stairs, and Frohike paused in front of an unmarked
door.  He gave three sharp knocks, paused, and then gave two more.
"Frohike," he said.  "I've got Captain Scully."

Fox Mulder opened the door, his Sig Sauer in his hand, pointing at the
floor.  Mulder glanced at Frohike, then at Bill; then he stepped into the
hallway and looked both ways before finally holstering his weapon and
leading them inside.

"Pretty tight security," Bill commented.

"We couldn't be sure you would be alone," Mulder said flatly as he shut the

Bill took a moment to look around.  The room was actually fairly large, but
it was crammed full of computer terminals, sound and video equipment and
other electronic devices which Bill couldn't even begin to classify.  At
the far end of the room, Dana and two other men were bent over a computer

At the sound of the door closing, Dana looked up, and then turned and
walked over to Bill.  Taking both of his hands, she went up on her toes and
kissed him on the cheek.  "Bill," she said.  "Thank you for coming.  I'm
sorry about the way we did it, but it was...necessary."  Her voice was
strained and her manner distracted.  Searching her face, Bill realized that
she was afraid.  But of what?

"That's okay," he said, and glanced around the room again.  "This doesn't
look much like my conception of the FBI Crime Lab."

Dana smiled briefly, but then worry descended on her face again.  "It's
not," she said.  She gestured at a chair.  "Please, Bill, sit down."  She
waited until he had complied, then took another chair and pulled it over
next to his and sat down.  Mulder walked up behind her and rested his hands
lightly on her shoulders, as if he were somehow giving her energy by his
touch.  She glanced up him, and briefly squeezed his right hand with hers,
then looked back at Bill.

"Where to begin," she said, half to herself.  "I suppose I should start
with introductions."  She gestured at the three strange men -- and as Bill
took his first really good look at them, he realized that "strange" was a
very apt word.  But Dana was still talking.  "You've already met Frohike,"
she said.  "He was your driver."

Bill nodded, and his eyes provided a thumbnail sketch:  Short, stocky,
nebbishy-looking guy, wearing glasses and a receding hairline.  "Hi,"
Frohike said, almost shyly.  He extended his hand.  "Glad to know Dana's
brother."  Bill shook his hand, and Dana proceeded to introduce the other
two:  Langly, wearing jeans and a pornographic t-shirt, with stringy blond
hair hanging down past his shoulders, and Byers, a short, fussy-looking man
with reddish-brown hair, sporting a Van Dyke and wearing a three piece

Introductions completed, Dana leaned back in her chair and looked at Bill
for a moment.  Then she craned her neck to look up at Mulder again, still
standing behind her and gently massaging her shoulders.  "Where do I
begin?" she asked him.

Mulder smiled.  "Now you know how I feel sometimes, Special Agent Scully,"
he said.  Then he quoted, "'Begin at the beginning and go on till you come
to the end.  Then stop.'"

Dana actually laughed.  "So are you the Red Queen tonight, Mulder?  I would
never have guessed."  She lowered her eyes to look at Bill again, and her
smile vanished.  She looked at him intently for a moment, then sighed.

"I guess before we go any farther," she said, "we should make sure you
understand what you're getting yourself into, if you agree to help us."

"Of course I'm going --"

She held up her hand.  "Please, Bill; hear me out before you make any
promises."  His sister looked at him levelly, unshed tears in her eyes.
"Oh, God, Bill...if there were anybody else to ask -- anyone we could
trust."  She shook her head, and Mulder gave her shoulders an extra
squeeze.  Again she touched his hand with hers, and seemed to draw comfort
from it, and in that moment Bill did not resent the man nearly so much.

Dana continued, "What you must understand is that if you agree to join us,
you will be walking into a...supremely dangerous situation.  You will be
putting not just your own life at risk, but  those of Tara and the baby as

Bill felt his throat constrict.  "Dana," he said hoarsely.  "WHAT'S GOING

"We'll get to the details in a bit," she said.  "I want to make sure you
understand, first, because five years ago *I* walked into this situation
unknowingly."  She looked up at Mulder again, and he looked down at her,
and there was an almost visible link between them as they locked eyes.
"And although I would not change a single moment, even if I could,
nevertheless it is not fair to do the same thing to you."  Mulder nodded at
her solemnly, and she dropped her gaze to Bill again.

"How can I understand the risk if you won't tell me any of the details?"
Bill asked.

Dana nodded.  "That's a fair question.  The answer is, you really cannot --
you're being asked to buy a pig in a poke, and no one here will think less
of you if you decide to walk away."  She swallowed.  "We almost didn't call
you, Bill.  We've put you in tremendous danger simply by bringing you to
this room."  And she reached up and squeezed Mulder's hand again.

Bill shook his head, tried to push it away.  "No," he said.  "This is
nuts.  It's a movie script.  Things like this don't happen in real life."
He raised his arms in frustration.  "What am I saying?  I don't even know
what you're talking about!"

"Bill," she said, looking him in the eyes with love and sadness.  "I have
never been more serious in my life.  I know how this must sound; I know
it's melodramatic.  But this is my work; this is what I do, and you have
got to trust me when I tell you that we are all in terrible, terrible
danger.  And it is terribly unfair to ask this of you, but we are doing it
anyway, and you must decide, and you must decide now."

Bill felt a chill run down his spine.  She was serious.  She really was
serious.  She was staring at him, unblinking, and now the tears were
running down her cheeks, and there was only one answer he could give:  "Of
course, Dana," he said.  "Of course I'll help."

Dana closed her eyes, and nodded.  She looked up at Mulder, still standing
over her, and he nodded slightly, as well.  She looked back at Bill, and
went on, "Okay.  Well at least that much is settled," she said, and gave a
shaky little laugh.  "I have one more question which I...must ask you.  You
will probably find it offensive.  It will probably make you angry.  But I
must ask it, and you must answer it, or this can go no further."

Bill nodded slowly, and braced himself.

His sister looked him in the eye, and said, "Captain William Scully, are
you loyal to the United States?"

There was dead silence in the room.  Even Mulder's hands had stopped moving
on her shoulders.

Despite Dana's warning, Bill felt a surge of anger, but he forced it back
down.  Dana wouldn't be yanking his chain -- not about something like
this.  If she was asking this question, it was because she wanted an
answer, and that meant it deserved his full and sober consideration.

"I like to think that I am," he said at last.  "I've taken an oath to that

Dana looked into his face intently.  "And what, in your view, is the
foundation of that oath?" she asked softly.

That was an easy one.  "To defend the Constitution against all enemies,
foreign and domestic."

Dana looked relieved, and leaned back in her chair.  She tipped her head
back to look at Mulder, and smiled.  He smiled back.

"Told you," he said.  "Now you owe ME some chocolate."

"I take it I pass," Bill said diffidently, and Dana laughed and leaned
forward and wrapped her arms around his neck.

"Yes," she said, her voice muffled against his shirt collar.  "You pass."
And the tension seemed to go out of the room with an almost audible
"whoosh".  Dana leaned back in her chair with a smile, and patted Mulder's
hand once more.  "Now we can begin the briefing.  Frohike?  Why don't you
start with the traffic analysis?"

The little man stepped forward and placed a black looseleaf binder on
Bill's lap.  Bill opened it, and saw that it was filled with computer

Frohike said, "For the last year or so, I've been trying to track the flow
of communications within the DoD.  Not to monitor the content -- that would
be impossible.  There is too much data.  But by tracking who is talking to
who, what routing they use, and the frequency and length of the messages
sent, we can begin to get some idea of how things work inside an
organization.  Given enough data, it is even possible to create a model
which will actually give us some notion of the subject's future intended
actions.  Clear so far?"

Bill nodded.  "I've had some information theory, and I did a tour with the
Sixth Fleet's threat team.  I don't claim to be an expert, though."

"That's good," said Frohike.  "So we can assume you understand the basic
theory.  Now, what I've specifically been trying to do is get a handle on
how the Pentagon manages its black ops teams."

"Black ops?" Bill asked.  "You mean like Special Forces and Navy SEALS?"

Frohike waved a hand in derision.  "Hell no," he said.  "Those guys are Boy
Scouts.  I'm talking about the REAL bad guys:  No-name units.
Hunter-killer squads.  B&E, extortion, assassination.  The whole nine

Bill was shocked.  He looked at Dana.  "He can't be serious," he
protested.  "Assassination squads?  In THIS country?"  He was offended at
the very thought of it.

Dana leaned forward with a look of infinite sadness and gently laid her
hand on his knee.  "Bill, it's true," she said softly.  "I've seen these
groups operate.  I've watched them kill, and on more than one occasion
Mulder and I have barely escaped with our own lives."  Again, there were
unshed tears in her eyes.  "Bill, I know it's hard to accept.  I know it's
not what we were brought up to believe, or to believe in.  But it is true.
Our government has done, and continues to do, all the things Frohike said,
and more.  Bill --"  And here a special agony entered her voice, and Bill
was afraid for a moment that she was going to break down entirely.  "Oh,
Bill.  These men murdered Melissa!"

Bill closed his eyes and sat absolutely still.  He could feel the waves of
conflicting emotions surging through him:  Anger, fear, doubt, guilt.  He
knew that he stood on the brink of a precipice; it would take only the
slightest nudge to push him over the edge.  And he couldn't allow that to
happen; too many people depended on him.

Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes.  Dana was still staring at him,
her blue eyes boring into his and her cheeks once again streaked with
tears.  Fox Mulder had come around from behind her chair, and now knelt
beside her, his arms encircling her upper body as if to somehow shield her
from the emotional storm her own words had unleashed.

And everyone in the room was looking intently at Bill Scully.  Waiting.

He took another deep breath, and nodded.  "Okay," he said.  "Okay.
Let's...set that to one side for the moment."  He knew that they would have
to come back to this later, but now was not the time.  He looked at
Frohike; unconsciously, he slipped into his ship's commander persona.
"Show me what you've got," he said.

After the briefest of hesitations, Frohike nodded, and continued:  "As you
can see from the materials in the briefing book," he said, "even
disregarding the *content* of the message traffic, there was still a
tremendous amount of data.  I had to try a number of different algorithms
before I finally found one that seemed to work."  The blond man in the
pornographic t-shirt cleared his throat noisily, and Frohike added, rather
reluctantly, "Also, Langly made some minor contributions."  The blond man

Frohike stepped over to one of the computers.  "Then, two months ago, we
made our real breakthrough."  He tapped a few keys, and a map of North
America appeared on the screen.  A few more keystrokes, and two red dots
appeared, one on the east coast, close to Washington, and the other in the
general vicinity of El Paso.

"These two sites," Frohike declared, "are the central nodes for the
official state terror apparatus of the United States government.  This
one," and a pudgy finger jabbed at the one on the east coast, "is located
at Quantico.  The other one," and the finger moved to the other dot, "is a
previously undisclosed installation known as 'Site Y'."

"'Site Y'?" Bill repeated.  "I'm not familiar with that one."

"Neither is anyone else," Frohike replied.  "Site Y has been a closely-held
secret, and does not appear on any of the rosters of official U.S.
government military installations -- it's not even on any of the classified

Bill shook his head.  He was beyond wondering how the little man could
possibly be privy to such information.  "Go on," he said.

Frohike tapped his keyboard, and a collection of red and blue lines
appeared on the map, radiating out from the two points Frohike had already
identified.  "These lines," he said, "represent the message traffic to and
from Site Y and the terror node at Quantico.  Blue lines are outgoing
messages, red lines are incoming.  The thickness of the lines represents
the volume of the message traffic, measured in gigabytes per day.

"As you can see," he went on, "while both Site Y and Quantico have regular,
substantial contact with more than a dozen other installations scattered
around the United States and Canada, by far the heaviest traffic is between
the two nodes, themselves."  And Bill saw that this was true.

Frohike continued, "But most interesting of all is what happens when we
chart message traffic versus time."  He punched his keyboard, and the
colored lines disappeared.  "This dynamic display begins on December 1st of
last year," he stated.  "It processes at a rate of about one week per
second."  He tapped another key, and the display came to life.

Red and blue lines sprang into existence, flickered, thickened.  A few
disappeared, only to be replaced by other, thicker lines.  After a few
seconds, Frohike said, "We're coming up on the end of January:  Watch!"
The screen exploded with color, and Bill sucked in his breath; it was that
dramatic.  The colored lines coruscated across the continent, rippling and
proliferating, finding new terminuses.  Finally, the display stopped
moving.  "And here we are," Frohike concluded.  "Yesterday afternoon, 1700
hours EST."

Bill stared at the screen for a pair of minutes, then he looked back at
Dana.  "Okay," he said.  "It's all very interesting, but I still don't see
where we're going."

"That's only the first half of the briefing," she replied.  "Byers?"

The fussy little man in the three piece suit stepped forward and took
Frohike's place at the keyboard.  He rapidly typed in a series of commands,
and the colored lines vanished from the screen, to be replaced by symbols
which Bill recognized as standard military unit designations.

"Frohike brought me his preliminary findings about six weeks ago," Byers
said.  "Obviously, it was in a more primitive form than the demonstration
you just saw, but Langly and I were able to tweak it a bit in order to
develop the analysis to the point where useful conclusions could be
drawn."  Frohike rolled his eyes at this allocation of credit, but he
remained silent.

"Meanwhile," Byers went on, "I got interested in personnel movements and
logistics."  He continued to tap the keyboard while he talked.  "Obviously,
the data were harder to collect, but we were able to intercept personnel
manifests and the like, and so we had something to work with."  He pointed
at the screen.

The map was a confused welter of various colored lines crisscrossing the
continent.  Byers worked the keyboard, and said, "This display represents
movements of uniformed personnel in groups of fifty or more, for the past
six months.  As you can see, they're literally all over the map."  His
fingers flew across the keyboard.  "Now let's strip away everything except
the movements which pass through Site Y or Quantico," he continued, and the
familiar double wagon wheel pattern of Frohike's display reappeared on the
screen.  "Then we add in known exercises and alerts, with live fire
exercises marked in purple and the rest in yellow...and there you are."

Bill studied the screen, and as the patterns started to fall into place he
felt a chill race down his spine.  "My god," he whispered.  He glanced at
Dana, then back to the screen.  "What did you say the timeframe is for this

"Six months," Byers said flatly.  "May to November.  This year.  You're a
professional military man, Captain Scully; that's one reason we brought you
in on this.  I've already drawn my own conclusions; now you tell me what
YOU see."

Bill almost couldn't bring himself to say it, but the facts glowing on the
computer screen were damning.  In a last, desperate attempt at denial, he
said, "I assume the data you've presented are accurate."

Dana's voice echoed through the room.  "They're accurate.  Bet on it."

A sense of unreality swept over Bill, and he heard the words issuing from
his lips almost as if someone else were speaking them.  "This..."  His
voice faltered, and he had to start over.  "This is an extended rehearsal
of an operational plan for the military occupation of the United States."
He licked his lips.  "Holy Mary, Mother of Jesus, make it not be so."

But it was so, and in his heart Bill Scully already knew it.

Byers said, "Unfortunately, Captain Scully, that isn't all; the nightmare
gets worse."  He switched off the computer and stood to face Bill directly.

"We don't have graphics to show you for this part -- Frohike and I were up
all last night getting this much of it ready to show Mulder.  But nineteen
days ago we began to pick up an increased tempo in both electronic
communications and troop movements.  You yourself have already seen direct
evidence of this."

"I have?"

Byers nodded.  "Last night we spotted your name on a MATS manifest for a
C-141 which arrived at Washington National this past Saturday afternoon."
Bill nodded in agreement, and Byers went on, "On that plane with you were
197 officers and upper-echelon noncoms bound for duty at Quantico with the
8th Marine Division."

Bill was puzzled.  "There is no 8th Marine Division," he objected.  Byers
didn't say anything, and Bill's stomach started to hurt.  "You mean --"

Byers nodded, and said, "In addition to the message traffic and the
personnel movements, ten days ago the Army's Logistics Corps started
activating its Reserve units and deploying them throughout the country.
The official reason being given for this is a supposed need to test the
military's ability to interface with FEMA in case of widespread natural
disaster or some other national emergency."  Byers paused, and smiled
without humor.  "And now we find that for the past 36 hours it has been
impossible to call Quantico.  Even Agent Scully -- Dana -- has been unable
to get through to the FBI facility there.  Langly?"

The blond man took over.  "We had Dana try placing her call from here,
using some of our special equipment," he said, his eyes glittering.
"Ostensibly, calls to Quantico are being answered by military operators
attached to a Marine Corps unit stationed at the base.  But I put a
traceroute on the FTS 2000 lines, and guess what I found?"

Bill shook his head.

Langly said, "The calls are being rerouted to a set of numbers in Pentagon
City -- an exchange which just happens to be reserved exclusively for the
Pentagon's high-security vox lines.  I didn't dare check the line for
monitoring devices, but you can pretty well assume that they're there.  The
only good news is that apparently my own kung fu at this end was good
enough to fox 'em, or we'd all be dead by now.  Literally."

Byers concluded, "I think we have to assume, based on the evidence in hand,
that they are preparing to execute this plan as we speak.  D-Day may be
only a week or two away; it may even be only a matter of days."

A heavy silence hung over the room in the wake of Byers' statement.
Finally, Bill slowly exhaled, and said, "Well."  He looked around the room
at Dana and the others.  "What do we do now?"

"That's the question of the day, isn't it?" Byers said.  He stood up and
stretched.  "I for one am in favor of getting some rest before trying to
work out a plan of action.  I don't know about the rest of you, but my
thought processes are rarely improved by sleep deprivation."

Bill looked at his watch, and was startled to find that it was almost two
a.m.  The evening had become so intense that he'd completely lost his time

"I agree," Dana said.  "We're all tired, and tired people make poor
decisions."  She stood up from her chair, and Mulder rose from his kneeling
position next to her.

Langly said to Dana, "I don't think it would be very smart for you or
Mulder -- or Captain Scully -- to go back home tonight.  We don't KNOW that
your phone was tapped, but we didn't have an opportunity to check it,

Bill looked at his sister in surprise, and she nodded wearily.  "We --
Mulder and me -- we've been working in opposition to some very powerful
people, Bill," she said.  "Both Mulder and I have in the past found
monitoring devices in our apartments, on our phone lines -- even in our
office at work."

"Jesus," was all Bill could think of to say.

"What do you recommend, Langly," Mulder inquired.  "The YMCA?"

"I think I'd feel uncomfortable there," Dana said.

The lanky blond shrugged.  "Why not stay here?  It's not the Hilton, but
we've got plenty of blankets and pillows -- 18 hour days are pretty common
around here, especially when Doohickey here gets a wild hair up his ass
about something or other."

"I do not get hair up my ass," Frohike stated with wounded dignity.  "I
will admit to being a tenacious investigator, however."

Mulder nodded.  "I think that sounds best," he said.  "That way we have
mutual protection, too.  We can even take turns staying up, so someone will
always be on guard."

Byers shook his head.  "We're all beat, Mulder -- and besides, what would
be the point?  You know as well as I do that if they come for us they'll
come with overwhelming force."

"Guys, can we just get on with it?" Dana asked, leaning against a wall, a
look of utter exhaustion on her face.  "I'm about to fall asleep standing

The next few minutes were occupied with distributing bedclothes and moving
furniture out of the way.  Finally, Bill was able to stretch out and
relax.  He hadn't realized how tired he was until Byers alluded to the

He let his eyes flick around the room, looking at each of his companions.
By unspoken agreement, they'd left the overhead light on, as if by so doing
they could somehow keep the demons at bay.

Byers, he saw, was already asleep, snoring softly and wrapped up in his
bedroll as if it were a cocoon.  Langly and Frohike were conducting a
whispered argument over who was going to sleep next to the radiator.
Mulder was laying on his back, hands clasped behind his head, staring at
the ceiling.  And Dana....

His eyes blurred as he looked at his sister.  Despite her evident
exhaustion, emotional as well as physical, she was still sitting up, her
back against the wall, her knees drawn up to her chest, her forehead
resting on her knees; she looked utterly miserable.

He couldn't bear to see her like that.  His own heart ached for Tara; he
would give anything right now just to have her with him, and hold her
close.  His sister was also clearly suffering, but she was denying herself
the obvious solution, apparently out of deference to his own feelings -- or
perhaps just to avoid another scene when everyone was already so dreadfully

  *I am such an asshole,  * he thought.

Sighing, he rolled onto his hands and knees, and crawled over to where Dana
was sitting.  She didn't seem to hear him approach, and as he got closer he
saw that her shoulders were shaking.  Ever so gently, he reached out and
stroked her arm.

Her head jerked up with a start, and he saw her tear-stained features shift
from despair to joy to wary watchfulness all in an instant.  "Bill," she
whispered, too low for anyone else to hear.

"Dana," he replied, equally quietly.  He looked at her face, looked into
her eyes, and saw a complex mixture of fear and sorrow and exhaustion.
  *This isn't right,  * he thought.    *No one should have to face something
like this.  But since she does have to face it, at least she shouldn't have
to face it alone.  *

Bill was suddenly aware of Mulder's eyes on his back, watching every move
he made.  "Dana," Bill repeated, and swallowed.  This was turning out to be
harder than he had expected -- but it was the right thing to do, and Bill
was determined to do his duty, no matter how difficult or embarrassing.
"Dana, I think...I think you should do...whatever you need to do...to be

She searched his face for a long moment, and although she still looked
exhausted and afraid, now he saw a light behind her eyes as well.  At last
she leaned forward and kissed his cheek.  "Thank you, Bill," she
whispered.  And she took her blanket and pillow and crept over to where
Mulder lay, and Mulder opened his arms and tenderly gathered her into a
protective embrace, stroking her hair and whispering something to her that
evoked the first genuine smile that Bill had seen on her face in hours.

And when Bill Scully finally dropped off to sleep, he dreamed of Tara.


Bill awoke to the sound of gunshots.  For a groggy half-second, he wondered
what the hell was going on; then the instincts ingrained by half a lifetime
of military service kicked in, and he jerked to wakefulness.

As he rolled over onto his belly, he heard another fusillade coming from
the doorway behind him.  scrambling around to look in that direction, he
was briefly aware of Frohike, Byers and Langly, churning about frantically
on the far side of the room.  Then his eyes focused on the source of the

Dana was lying stretched out on her stomach next to the doorway, her Sig
Sauer extended in both hands and firing methodically at something in the
hallway.  As he watched, horrified, he heard the staccato ripping sound of
a machine pistol returning fire and chewing up the doorjamb and floor right
next to his sister's head.

Dana flinched, then fired again, and this time she was rewarded by a scream
of agony coming from the hallway.  Pausing to eject a spent clip and ram
home a new one, she yelled over her shoulder, "Mulder!  We have to get out
of here!  There are too many of them!"

Bill was suddenly aware of his sister's partner charging across the room
towards her.  Again there was the sound of an automatic weapon, and Dana
returned fire as Mulder was forced to dive for cover.

"Dammit, Mulder!" she cried again, desperation edging into her voice.  "Get
the fuck out of here!"  And she fired again down the hallway.

Something had to be done, and quickly, but Dana and Mulder had the only
firearms.  Casting his gaze about the room, Bill's eyes fell upon a nearby
chair.  He rolled desperately to his left, bringing himself to within arm's
reach.  He grabbed onto one leg, and twisting around and using all of his
strength he came to a half-sitting position and heaved the chair through
the nearest window.

The glass was still falling as Bill scrambled to his feet.  "Come on!  This
way!" he shouted, making a dash for the window.  Out of the corner of his
eye, he saw Mulder slither across the floor to Dana, and start firing in
the same direction she was.  He felt a pang of guilt that he was running
away, but all he had was his bare hands, and that was no match for a
machine pistol.

Disregarding the shards of glass still sticking up here and there, he
grasped the bottom frame of the window with both hands and vaulted through
it.  For just a moment he hung from the side of the building, then let
himself drop the eight or ten feet to the small parking lot below.  He hit
the ground and rolled, clearing the way for whoever might come next.  There
was a half-inch cover of new snow, and a frigid wind was blowing, but he
hardly noticed the cold.

He looked back up at the window just in time to see Frohike come tumbling
out.  The little man hit the ground with a dull thud, and lay there,
momentarily paralyzed by the fall.  Bill scrambled to his feet and dragged
Frohike away from the landing zone, just as Byers came hurtling out,
followed quickly by Langly.  Bill helped Frohike climb back to his feet
while the other two were brushing themselves off and catching their breath.

More gunfire sounded from inside the building, and Bill heard someone
scream, a bloodcurdling sound.  He turned to the other three men, and
shouted, "You guys better make a run for it; I'm going back in!"

"Wait!" yelled Byers.

"No!  There's no time, and somebody has to preserve what we know.  Now get
going before it's too late for all of us!  I've got to try to help Dana and
Mulder!"  The other man hesitated, and Bill screamed, "Dammit, Byers, she's
my sister!  It's my privilege!  But if somebody doesn't get away, it will
all be for nothing!"

Byers bit his lip, then nodded reluctantly.  "Okay," he agreed, and the
others nodded, too.  "If  -- when you get clear, we'll try to be at
Lafayette Park in two hours!"

"Got it!"  The other three scattered, and Bill turned to head back
inside...just as his sister and Fox Mulder came tearing around the far
corner of the building.  Dana was slightly in front, and as he watched,
Mulder turned and fired back along the way they'd come.

Dana made a beeline for one of the cars in the parking lot, holding her gun
in one hand and groping in a pocket for her keys with the other.  Bill ran
to meet her, and got there just as she pulled the driver's side door open.
Bill reached around and unlocked the back passenger door as she dropped
into the driver's seat, yanking his hand clear just as she slammed her door

Bill dived into the back seat as she cranked the ignition, gunning the car
for all it was worth.  He managed to sit up in time to see Mulder, who had
fallen behind Dana as a result of covering the rear, slip in the snow and
fall, just as a man dressed all in black, including a black ski mask, came
running around the corner of the building.

The man saw Mulder fall, and skidded to a halt.  He raised his machine
pistol and took aim, and through the closed car windows Bill could faintly
hear Mulder yelling, "Scully!  Get out of here!  It's too late!"

"Like hell it is!" she snarled, and threw the car into gear and jammed the
gas pedal to the floor.  The tires spun for an instant on the new fallen
snow, then they found their purchase, and the car lurched forward, rapidly
picking up speed.

The man in black never had a chance.  The front of the car struck him
squarely, sending him flying through the air and crashing into the side of
the building.  Dana was already slamming on the brakes and Bill was
reaching across to throw open the right hand back passenger door.  Dana
screamed, "Mulder!  Now now now now now!" and Mulder was up and running
again and diving into the back seat next to Bill.

Dana floored the accelerator again, and the car fishtailed wildly as she
took the turn onto the street.  Mulder almost fell out, but Bill grabbed
hold of the other man's belt and hung on until Mulder could pull his feet
inside and slam the door.  Looking back through the rear window, Bill saw
three more men running after them, and realized what they were doing just
as two of them opened fire.

He ducked down on top of Mulder as the rear window exploded inward in a
cataract of shattered safety glass, and Bill breathed a brief prayer to
whichever saint was responsible for protecting gas tanks and automobile
tires as Dana powered the car through a sharp left at the first
intersection.  They bounced off a parked car, and for a moment Bill thought
Dana had lost control, but she managed to steer into the incipient spin and
then the car was rolling forward again.

At the next intersection they turned right, then left, and finally Mulder,
who by now was crouched on the back seat, gun in hand and peering through
the empty rear window, announced, "I think we lost them."

Dana let up on the accelerator, and the car's speed dropped back below the
legal limit.  Turning around and settling down in his seat, Mulder said,
"Well that was fun.  Definitely an 'E' ticket."

Looking anxiously in the rearview mirror, Dana said, "Mulder, are you
okay?  You're not hurt, are you?"

"I'm fine, Scully," her partner replied.  "Although I think I just used up
two of my nine lives.  Bill's bleeding, though."

"Just some cuts," Bill said.  "Nothing serious; I took some glass on the
way through that window.  Let's not do this again anytime soon, okay?"

By now they were cruising through a fairly respectable-looking working
class neighborhood.  Dana said, "We've got to get rid of this car; they'll
have people out looking for it, and they may even put out warrants on the
police wire.  We wouldn't last ten minutes once they got us in the local
jail."  Putting actions to words, she pulled over to the curb and switched
off the engine.  She opened her door and got out, and Bill and Mulder
followed suit.

Dana went immediately to Mulder, pressed her forehead against his chest,
wrapped her arms around his waist and closed her eyes.  "Thank God," she
said.  "I thought I'd lost you."

"I was getting a little worried there for a minute, too," her partner
replied, giving her a gentle hug.  "But you saved me, Scully.  You always

The embrace had gone on just long enough for Bill to start to feel
uncomfortable when they broke out of their clinch.  Dana turned to Bill and
said, "Let me see your hands."  He held them out and she looked them over
carefully, then sighed with relief.  "You're going to be okay.  We need to
find some bandages and some disinfectant, but you should be fine."  She
turned back to Mulder.  "So now what do we do?"

"I was just thinking about that," her partner replied.  "Do you know if the
Gunmen got clear?"

Dana shook her head, and looked at her brother.  "Bill?  Do you know?"

Bill was confused.  "Gunmen?"

"Frohike, Langly and Byers," she explained.

Bill wanted to ask why they were called that, but decided that this wasn't
the time for it.  "I think they got away," he said.  "They took off running
in three directions, and I didn't see anyone going after them.  Byers said
they'd meet us at Lafayette Park in two hours."  He glanced at his watch.
"An hour and three quarters, now."

"That's our target, then," Mulder declared.  "First, though, we need to
find some winter clothes.  Not only is it fucking cold out, but we're going
to stick out like sore thumbs wandering around outside in shirt sleeves in
this weather."

"Three sore thumbs, Mulder?" Dana asked, smiling faintly.

"Better than three blind mice," he countered, laughing.  "Or three dead

She smiled and punched his upper arm, a glancing blow.  "The first thing we
need is some money," she said.  "We don't dare use our credit cards, even
if you guys have yours.  Everything but my car keys is still in my purse,
and somehow I don't feel like going back after it right now."

Bill nodded.  "I've got about twenty dollars," he said.

Mulder pulled out his wallet and riffled through the currency section.
Bill raised his eyebrows when he saw the denominations.  "Two hundred and
twenty seven dollars," Mulder announced.  That ought to keep us going for
awhile, as long as we don't insist on filet mignon."

"I don't know, Mulder," Dana said, deadpan.  "You promised me a good time."

Bill noticed an elderly black man standing on the stoop of the brownstone
across the street, looking at them curiously.  He gestured with his head.
"I think we better get moving," he said.

They turned and started to walk along the sidewalk, heading in the general
direction of the Mall.  Dana and Mulder walked side by side, their arms
brushing against each other every few steps; Bill walked a couple of steps
behind so that their party would not to take up the entire sidewalk.

"Mulder," Dana said, shivering slightly.  "Where are we going to find
clothes?  It really is damned cold, and I don't think this is the sort of
neighborhood to have a Lord and Taylors."

"We'll find something, Scully," he replied.  He put his arm around her
shoulder.  "I'll keep you warm until then."

#          #          #

Lafayette Park was cold and windy, but that hadn't kept the protesters
away, Bill noted with disgust.  Not as many as would be expected in better
weather, but there were still half a dozen of them, marching in a circle
and carrying signs with slogans like "RESIGN!" and "THE OVAL OFFICE IS NOT

"I don't think those guys like the president very much."  Bill jumped at
the unexpected sound of Mulder's voice.

He turned to face Mulder, who was standing next to Dana in the windbreak
created by the statue of the French general for whom the park was named.
"I'm not nuts about the guy, either," Bill admitted.  "But he IS my
commander in chief.  And this --" he waved his hand vaguely in the
direction of the demonstrators.  "This is embarrassing."

"Y'know," Mulder said, "just speculating, but it occurs to me that this
could be why the whole mess started."  None of them could bring themselves
to use the word "coup".

"What do you mean?" Bill asked.

"Well, look at it," his sister's partner replied.  "The president's caught
up in a sex scandal.  The VICE president looks like he might be in trouble
over the China campaign money scandal.  Maybe somebody just decided that
this would be a good time to do some housecleaning and install new
management."  He shrugged.  "Just speculation, like I said.  But it does
answer the one question that's been bothering me:  Why now?  This could
have happened anytime in the past fifty years; why did they wait until

"Where the hell are the Gunmen?" Dana asked irritably.  It had been a long
walk to Lafayette Park, and she had seemed to tolerate the cold less well
than the two men.  Even the secondhand coats they had picked up at a
Salvation Army store along the way hadn't seemed to make her warmer.

"Take it easy, Scully," Mulder said softly.  "They'll be here when they
can."  He tried to put an arm around her shoulders, but she shrugged it off
and took a few steps away from him.

"I'm fine, Mulder; just leave me alone, okay?" she snapped.  "I'm cold and
I'm tired and I'm hungry and I'm worried about our friends and I'm not in
the mood.  Just...leave me alone."  She was also, Bill observed, scared to
death -- as were they all.

A look of pain and frustration came and went on Fox Mulder's face, so
quickly that Bill wasn't sure they had really been there at all.  "Sorry,
Scully," the FBI man said.  "I'm worried about them, too."

Bill watched, an unwilling voyeur, as a complex series of emotions flitted
across his sister's face:  Fear, anger, fury, despair, exhaustion...love?
Then her shoulders sagged, and she turned and walked back to her partner.
"I'm NOT fine, Mulder" she said, laying her head on his chest and accepting
his embrace.  "I'm just so damned scared and I don't know what we're gonna
do.  Everything's going to hell, and I am fucking TIRED of having to be
strong all the time."  She sniffled loudly and buried her face in his

The two of them stood there silent and motionless for a moment.  Mulder
stroked her hair softly, then looked up and caught Bill's eye.  "Hey,
Scully," Mulder said, a slight smile on his lips.  "There's a guy over
there who looks like he's afraid the world is about to end; he also looks
like he's probably freezing his ass off.  Shall we invite him into the hot

Dana looked up and studied her partner's face for a moment, then turned
partway and extended an arm towards her brother.

Hesitantly, Bill moved forward, and gingerly slipped his arms around his
sister's waist.  She closed her eyes and leaned up against him, and for the
moment, at least, seemed to be utterly content.

Bill looked up at Mulder, and he could see the wheels spinning behind the
FBI agent's eyes.  "Don't say it, Mulder," Bill growled.  "Not a word.
This is strictly for Dana."

Mulder's eyes danced, and his lips quirked, but he nodded and didn't say
anything, and the three of them stood there for a few moments in an awkward

"You know, this is scarcely decent for third parties."

Bill hastily released Dana and turned to see Langly smirking at him from a
few feet away.  Behind him, Byers was making a great show of studying the
detail work on the statue of Lafayette, while Frohike was looking at the
ground and frowning.

"Langly!  Byers!" Dana let go of Mulder and sped to the other three men,
giving each of them a hug in turn.  "Frohike," she added, planting a gentle
kiss on the nebbishy little man's cheek.  He blushed brick red, but he also
gave her a shit-eating grin.

"Hi, boys," Mulder said with a casual wave.  "Frohike, I'd kiss you, too,
but I haven't shaved this morning and I wouldn't want to give you whisker

"It's good to see you, too, Mulder," Byers replied.  "I didn't think you
were going to make it."

"It was tight for a little while," the FBI man admitted, "but we pulled it
off, and here we are."  He paused, then added, "Now what?"

"We've got some ideas," Langly said.  "Why don't we go find a cup of coffee
and see what we can hash out."

Ten minutes later they were sliding into a booth at a small coffee shop on
a side street a few blocks from the Mall, Dana and Mulder on one side and
Bill and Langly on the other.  Frohike and Byers grabbed chairs from a
nearby table and pulled them up to the end of the booth.  They waited in
silence while the waitress brought coffee, muffins and bagels; then the
discussion began.

"To begin with," said Langly, "the good news is that Frohike managed to
save the zip disk we had those demonstrations backed up on.  The bad news,
of course, is that we've lost all of our equipment, so we won't be
collecting anymore data."  He pushed his glasses back up on his nose.  "Our
proposal is to log on to the Internet and do a data dump, and try to get
the word out that way.  It's the only thing we can think of that seems to
have any chance at all of succeeding."

Mulder frowned.  "It's not really much to hang our hats on, is it?" he
asked.  "I mean, sure, we can dump the stuff into alt.conspiracy.wingnut,
but who's going to listen?  It will get lost among all the drivel.  I
really don't see what that gains us."

Langly shrugged.  "What alternatives do we have?  You want to mount a
frontal assault on Quantico?  May I remind you that we almost got our nuts
munched this morning?  And that was against six bad guys -- there are at
least six THOUSAND out at Quantico, and that's only counting the ones who
have been brought in for the 'special operation'."

Bill spoke up.  "It's possible that there's another alternative.  I have a
friend, we went to the Academy together.  Now he's a colonel in the Marine
Corps, attached to the personal staff of the Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs."  He looked at Dana, and couldn't resist a little dig.  "You
remember Jiggs Casey, don't you, Dana?  You had a crush on him your senior
year in high school."

Fox Mulder looked interested, but Dana gave Bill a freezing look, and there
was a glint of warning in her eye.  "I did NOT have a crush on Cadet
Casey," she declared.  "I merely found him to be an interesting

Bill reflected that Dana's definition of "conversation" must be somewhat
broader than his own, but from the look that she was still giving him,
perhaps this wasn't the best possible time to be going into it.  "Anyway,"
he said to the others, "Jiggs is a real stand-up guy.  He's on the inside;
he can help us."

"'He's on the inside,'" Byers repeated slowly.  "That can be a two-edged
sword, of course."

Bill shook his head.  "Jiggs Casey is not like that," he said flatly.
"I've known the man for twenty years, and it is just not in his nature to
be involved in treason."

Mulder was shaking his head.  "I don't know," he said.  "I don't like it.
It seems like a big risk to be taking.  We'd be putting it all on the line
to this one officer, and if your judgment turns out to be wrong..."  He let
the statement trail off.

Bill said, "I understand that.  But it's a risk we have to take, and I am
confident -- I am POSITIVE -- that Jiggs will be on our side, once we've
explained the situation."

Mulder thought about it for a minute, then looked at his partner.  "What do
you think, Dana?  You've met this guy."

"Mulder, that was twenty years ago."  She shook her head.  "I really don't
know what to say.  We're in a very precarious situation, and we have to
move carefully.  On the other hand, we don't have much time, and we're
going to have to trust someone, at some point. -- or we might just as well
all go home and wait for the tanks to come rolling down Pennsylvania
Avenue."  She shivered slightly.

They all sat silently for a moment, as Dana's last comment forced them all
to look directly at their fears.  Finally, Mulder stirred.  "Okay," he
said.  "We'll give it a try.  Bill, go ahead and see what you can set up
with this Colonel Casey.  Be cautious, but as Dana said, we don't have much
time and we have even fewer options, so do the best you can."  His eyes
flicked across Langly, Byers and Frohike.  "You guys go ahead and follow up
on Langly's idea.  It can't hurt, and it might help, just getting the
information out in front of SOMEBODY.  Bear in mind that if Bill's idea
works out we will at some point want to show it to Colonel Casey, so for
god's sake don't let anything happen to that disk.  In the meantime, Scully
and I will be making some phone calls; there are still a few people who
might be able to help us."  He looked at Dana, and she nodded.  He glanced
at his watch.  "Let's try to meet back in the park in eight hours.  That's
six p.m.  Any questions?"  He paused, and no one answered.  "Okay, then.
Let's get moving."

Mulder left some money on the table and they filed out of the coffee shop,
Bill bringing up the rear.  As he approached the door, he noticed a small
rack of postcards standing by the cash register.  On impulse, Bill stopped
to look at them.

Most of the cards were standard pictures of monuments and public buildings,
and his eyes quickly passed over them.  Then his gaze fell on a card
featuring cherry blossoms in bloom.  Tara had always loved cherry blossoms,
and he really ought to --

  *Ought to what?  * he wondered.    *Write to her?  What do I say?  "Having a
wonderful time; sorry I won't be home for Christmas?"  How do you tell the
woman you love that you're sorry, but you will never see her again, never
again hold her in your arms?  *

His vision blurred as he thought about it.  They had had it all planned
out:  His Navy career, with ambitions for flag rank; their plans for
children; his eventual retirement and second career; grandchildren.  And
through it all, always, Tara by his side.  Now it was all ashes; it was
never going to happen.  For he knew in his heart that whether they
succeeded or failed, it was most unlikely that he -- or any of their little
band -- would survive the attempt.

How could he fit that onto a postcard?  He didn't dare call her on the
phone; it might help their pursuers.  Worse, it would draw attention to
Tara and the baby, and expose THEM to greater risk, and he was flatly
unwilling even to consider that.  He didn't even know if he would have time
to write a proper letter before the end came.  The few words he could fit
on this card might have to last Tara for a lifetime.

He glanced over at Dana and her partner, waiting for him by the door, their
heads bent together in intimate consultation.  As he watched, Dana brushed
a lock of Mulder's hair out of his eyes, and Mulder smiled at her.

He was suddenly angry.    *What right do THEY have to be together?  * he
thought.    *What right do THEY have to be happy?  *  He wanted to scream at
them, to push them apart.  No one should be like, like THAT....

Immediately he felt ashamed.  He still did not completely understand Dana's
relationship with Fox Mulder, but it was clear that Mulder was helping her
find peace, just as Tara did for Bill.  If she and Mulder were fortunate
enough to get to spend their last days together, that was at least some
consolation in the face of the onrushing darkness.

  *There isn't nearly enough love in the world,  * Bill reflected wistfully.

He sighed, and looked down at the postcard again.  While he'd been
thinking, he'd automatically written Tara's name on it; now he added the
address that he was already starting to think of as hers rather than
theirs.    *Just a few lines,  * he thought sadly.    *That's all I'll ever
have, now.  That's all I'll ever be able to give to her.  *  It seemed
hopelessly inadequate.

Then it came to him.  He nodded his head; it was right.  It would explain
everything.  Tara would be sad -- she would be heartbroken.  But at least
she would understand, and she would forgive him for stealing all those
years they had expected to have together.  Hastily, suddenly afraid that
even this might be taken from him, he scribbled on the card for a few
seconds, and it was done.  He gazed for a moment at his work, and a single
tear fell from his cheek and landed on the postcard, slightly smearing the
ink.  Bill smiled a melancholy smile; Tara would have that much of him, at

  *Should I sign it?  * he wondered.  But it wasn't necessary; Tara would
know his handwriting, and the dozen or so words he had written would tell
her everything he could say, everything she would ever need.  She was a
strong woman, and he knew that she would be able to carry on.

He bought a stamp from the cashier, and paid for the card.  He hesitated,
and felt the fear wash over him.  What if they were waiting outside?  What
if he never even had the chance to mail the postcard, his final epistle to
his best beloved?  He couldn't stand even thinking about that.

He caught the eye of the young woman behind the counter once again, and
asked, "Would you mind mailing this for me when you get a chance?  I'm in a
bit of a hurry."  And she agreed.

His mind finally at peace, Captain William Scully strode purposefully to
the door, and with his sister and her partner he went on out to fight the
future.  And in his mind the words he had written to his wife echoed and
re-echoed, and calmed his soul:

*I could not love thee, dear, so much, lov'd I not honour more.*


Bill Scully wearily climbed the hill leading to the carillon at Arlington
National Cemetery.  He had suggested this as their evening rendezvous, but
he was tired, and he was cold, and he wished he had thought of someplace
both flatter and warmer.

Dana was waiting for him when he reached the top of the hill, sitting on a
park bench and hugging herself against the cold.  The carillon sat before
her, a gift to the United States from the people of Denmark in the
aftermath of World War II.  For the thousandth time in his life, Bill read
the inscription carved into the marble, and he felt a shiver run down his
spine that was not entirely due to the cold and the wind:  "While these
bells ring, rest safely.  Freedom lives."

With a groan of exhaustion, Bill eased himself down on the bench next to
Dana.  He, his sister and her partner had spent the previous night huddled
around a heating grate in order to preserve their limited funds, then spent
most of today tramping around downtown Washington looking for some clue as
to the whereabouts of Frohike, Langly and Byers, who had failed to return
to Lafayette Park the evening before.  Idly, Bill wondered if any of the
three were still alive, but he was almost too tired to care.

Dana said, "You know, I haven't been up here in years.  I'd forgotten how
beautiful it is.  I've been here for, oh, half an hour or so, just sitting
and listening to the bells."  Her voice was dreamy and her eyes were

"You must be pretty cold if you've been here that long," Bill ventured.

She shrugged.  "It doesn't matter.  We won't be here much longer."
Suddenly, her eyes popped open, and she looked up at her brother.  "I'm
sorry, Bill.  I didn't mean to say that."

"Why not?" he asked quietly.  "It's what we've all been thinking."  A
vision of Tara's face flashed through his mind, but he quickly suppressed
it.    *Not going to go there,  * he thought firmly.    *It wouldn't do
anybody any good, and besides, there's no time.  *

He studied his sister's face for a moment.  She really had a remarkable
face; Bill had always thought so.  It had such character, and was so
proudly and completely...Dana.  He thought that if he were a woman he would
wish for a face like hers, and to hell with other female features.

She turned her head and caught him staring at her, and she arched an
eyebrow at him in question.  "What are you looking at?"

"Oh, nothing," he said.  "I was just thinking...There's a lot you haven't
told me, isn't there?  I mean, about your life and...everything."

She sat quietly for a moment, considering it, and suddenly Bill wondered if
she thought he was snooping again.  He was about to apologize and withdraw
the question, when she said, "Yes.  Yes there is.  I wish I'd been more
open with you, as well as the rest of the family.  But that's always been
hard for me.  And now, well, there's so little time."

Bill nodded.  "I know.  I know those things.  But it isn't all your fault,
Dana, not by a longshot.  We weren't -- *I* wasn't very receptive to some
of the things you did try to tell me.  I could have listened better."

"Yes, you could have," Dana agreed, but there was no accusation in her
voice.  She looked at him for a minute, her head cocked sideways; then she
put her arm around his neck and kissed him lightly on the cheek.  "But
you're listening now." Her lips quirked.  "As Mulder would say, you're
learning to respect the journey."

"He's very important to you, isn't he?" Bill said hesitantly.  She nodded
solemnly.  "I knew that; I just wanted to say it.  And I wanted to say
that, that I've come to know him better recently, and that I was wrong.
He's a good man.  Not that my opinion matters."

Dana smiled, and suddenly she had tears in her eyes.  In a small voice, she
said, "Your opinion has always mattered to me, Bill.  Thank you for
understanding."  And she hugged him tightly for a minute.

A few minutes later Fox Mulder arrived, but instead of coming over to Bill
and Dana, he leaned up against the monument, hands in his pockets,
obviously lost in thought.  After a moment or two, he started pacing in
slow circles around the carillon.  On his second pass, Dana wordlessly got
up from the bench and fell into step next to him.

"Hi, Bill."  Bill turned around to see Jiggs Casey standing a few feet
away.  Bill stood up and shook hands with his friend, and they both sat
down on the bench.

The two sat silently together for a few minutes, watching Mulder and Dana
walk around and around the carillon.  As they passed by for the third time,
Jiggs said, "Bill, are you sure about all this stuff?  Are you really
sure?  You don't think you could have been...misled?"

Bill sighed.  They had been over this ground twice the night before, at
their first meeting, and although he could understand why Jiggs would be
skeptical, it was still vexing.  "You didn't see those computer demos.  If
you had --"

"If I had, maybe things would be different," Jiggs cut in.  "But I
didn't."  He stopped talking as the two FBI agents emerged from behind the
carillon, and waited until they had passed by again.  "I didn't see it," he

"You didn't see it, so you don't believe it?"  Bill shook his head
quickly.  "I apologize; that was uncalled for.  If our positions were
reversed, I probably wouldn't believe you, either."

The Marine shook his head.  "I'm not saying I don't believe you, Bill.  But
think about this for a minute.  All you really saw was a display on a
computer screen, and we both know how easy it would be to fake something
like that."  He moved a little closer and lowered his voice as Dana and
Mulder made another of their slow circuits.  "I did a little checking this
morning, based on what you told me last night.  There is no record in JCS
files of a Site Y, nor is there any record of unusual troop movements
involving Quantico.  The bottom line is, I think you've been taken for a

Bill shook his head violently.  "Dana wouldn't do that!"

"Maybe she's been fooled, too."  Another pause.  Then:  "Look, I did some
checking on her friend Mulder, too.  This guy's a complete nutcase; nobody
takes him seriously.  The FBI barely tolerates him -- they call him 'Spooky
Mulder', and he -- and Dana -- get sent off on all the wild goose chases
and snipe hunts.  And as for those other three names you gave me -- those
guys are even worse."

"But Dana --"

"Dana's got a good, solid head on her shoulders, and normally I would take
her word as gospel.  But she's also obviously head-over-heels in love with
this guy, and that means her judgment in the matter is suspect."

"It's not like that."

Jiggs sighed in exasperation.  "Man, are you blind?  Look at them!"  Mulder
and Dana had stopped their pacing, and now were standing together in its
windbreak, talking quietly and seriously.  As Bill and Jiggs watched, Dana
put out her hand and gently stroked Mulder's cheek.  Jiggs went on, "Bill,
I'm not accusing you of lying or anything -- Christ knows I would never do
that.  I'm not even really saying that I don't believe you.  But even you
must realize that you have presented only circumstantial evidence.  And the
fact that I have been unable to confirm the key points just makes it

"What about Dana's car?" Bill said.

Jiggs shrugged.  "It was found just where you said it would be, rear window
shot out and everything.  I checked with the FBI, told them I was a friend
of the family -- which is even true, now that I think about it.  It seems
that they are very worried about the whereabouts of Special Agent Scully,
and they're treating it as a kidnapping.  As for Mulder, he's sufficiently
erratic that apparently no one has realized he's missing yet -- at least,
not officially."

Jiggs went on, "There have also been no reports in the papers of a shootout
at that office building you mentioned.  I even drove over to the place
myself at lunchtime, but there's nothing there.  No indication of a fight,
and the room you mentioned doesn't look like anyone has been in it for six
months.  The only thing I found that was at all out of the ordinary was
this."  He fished in his pocket, and brought out a single cartridge casing
for a nine millimeter handgun.  "But it could have been there in the grass
for months, if not years."

Bill said, "So what you're saying is that you won't help me."

"I'm saying that I CAN'T help you, unless you can dig up some solid
evidence.  What do you expect me to do?  Drop into General Scott's office
tomorrow morning and say, 'Excuse me, sir, but are you aware of any plans
for a coup d'etat this week?'"  He shook his head.  "You bring me evidence,
Bill, and I'll act on it; you know that.  But without evidence, my hands
are tied."  He stood to go.  "I'm sorry."

"I understand."  Jiggs started to walk away, and suddenly Bill thought of
something else.  "Jiggs!"  The Marine stopped and turned around, a
questioning look on his face.  Bill rose to his feet and walked over to
face his friend.  "Promise me one thing," he said.  "If anything happens to
me...look after Tara, okay?  Make sure she's okay."

Jiggs looked at him for a long moment, then nodded slowly.  "You can depend
on that, Bill.  No matter what."  And he turned and walked away.

"He didn't believe us."

Bill turned at the sound of Fox Mulder's voice, to see Dana and her partner
standing a few feet away.

"It's not that he didn't believe us," Bill said, returning to the park
bench to sit down again.  "It's that he CAN'T believe us.  It's all too
circumstantial, and there is no corroborating evidence."  He briefly
reviewed for the two FBI agents the substance of his conversation with
Jiggs, leaving out a few of the personal details.

Mulder nodded.   "So we're on our own.  Well, we're no worse off for having
tried."  He started pacing again, but instead of making circuits of the
carillon he walked back and forth in front of the bench.  Dana stood
quietly watching him.

"We've got to approach this from a different angle," Mulder said,
continuing to pace.  "We've got to figure out where that zip disk is, and
the most likely way to find it is to find the Gunmen."  Dana had finally
explained to Bill, earlier in the day, the meaning of this term.  "But
how?  We can't just knock on every door in Washington.  Yet there's
something there; I can feel it.  I just can't quite SEE it."  He shook his
head angrily.  "This is making me nuts --"

Abruptly, he stopped pacing, and stood with his back to Bill and Dana.
Dana said, "Mulder?  Is everything okay?"

"Yeah," he said slowly.  "Yeah, I think maybe it is."  He turned around to
face her.  "Scully, work this out with me.  Byers, Langly and Frohike have
been taken, check?"

"Well, yes, but Mulder, if the Consortium got them, you know as well as I
do --"

"Yeah, yeah," Mulder said, cutting her off with a wave of his hand.  "If
Cancerman and his pals got them, they're dead, and the disk has probably
been destroyed, and there's nothing we can do about it.  But let's think
about that a minute, shall we?  Let's work this problem as if it had a
solution.  Suppose this whole operation has nothing to do with the
Consortium at all?  Suppose it's just a bunch of generals who have a
hankering to have their mail delivered to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?  THEY
might be more reluctant to kill if they don't have to."

"But Mulder, the hit squad --"

"Sure, the hit squad.  But that was a surgical operation; a classic piece
of wet work.  They knew where we were, and they knew that at least some of
us were armed, and so they took no chances.  But they can't have a Krycek
on every street corner; more than likely the Gunmen just ran afoul of an
APB or something, and were initially hauled in to the local jail, and only
later were turned over to the bad guys."

Dana shook her head.  "I still don't see what this is gaining us."

"So the next question," Mulder went on, ignoring her objection, "is where
they would have taken those three AFTER the cops or whoever turned them
over."  He paused and thought for a minute.  Then, very softly: "And I
think I know the answer to that."

"Mulder," Dana said, "you're not making any sense."

"Yes, I am," he said.  "Yes, I am!  Come on, Scully, work with me on this.
Suppose YOU were running the coup.  D-Day is coming up, maybe only a few
more days, and you've got some people you want to make disappear, but you
donąt want to kill them.  What would you do with them?"


Mulder shook his head.  "Not likely.  There's too much going on there,
preparing for the big push.  You might not have anyone available to watch
them there.  THINK Scully.  Remember your counterespionage training from
the Academy.  What did the Soviets used to do with people who were
inconvenient but not worth the trouble of shooting?"

Suddenly she got round eyed.  "St. Elizabeth's!" she whispered.


Bill broke in.  "St. Elizabeth's?  I don't get it."

Mulder opened his mouth, but Dana cut him off.  "St. Elizabeth's is a
mental hospital, Bill."

"I know THAT.  But what's the connection with Langly and Byers and

"Under the Soviet regime," his sister explained, "psych hospitals were used
as places to warehouse people who had become inconvenient, but who they
didn't want to kill for some reason.  It had a lot of virtues, from their
point of view:  They could pretend that the individual was 'ill' rather
than politically dangerous; they could even let his family and friends
visit him, and since these 'patients' were usually kept drugged to the
gills, it wasn't hard to believe that they really were sick.  And, of
course, anyone with any savvy knew what was REALLY going on, and so the
deterrent effect was there, too, all the more effective because it was
almost subliminal."  She took a deep breath, and turned back to her
partner.  "But Mulder, do you really think the Gunmen are at St.
Elizabeth's?  Granted that it's an attractive notion, but --"

Mulder shook his head.  "I don't know for sure," he admitted.  "But I do
know that they'd pretty damned well better be, because it is just about our
last hope."  He started to tick points off on his fingers.  "If the
Consortium got them, they're dead.  Even if it isn't the Consortium, if the
plotters are more ruthless than I've surmised, or less squeamish, then
they're dead.  If they were taken to Quantico there is no fucking way we
will ever get them out; the place is just too well guarded, and right now
the base is probably under a maximum security alert because of the pending
operation.  They won't be left in a local lockup because of the risk that
the legal system might intervene and kick them loose.  The only place they
could conceivably be that we have any chance of getting at them is St.

Dana nodded slowly.  "I think you're right, Mulder.  It all makes sense.
It would be nice, though, if we could figure out some way to verify that
they're really there, BEFORE we go in with guns blazing."

"Yes, it would," Mulder agreed, "and I'm beginning to get a glimmer on how
that might work, too.  But right now it's just a glimmer, and I'm also
hungry.  My proposal is that we go find a cheap hotel room somewhere so we
can get in out of this damned weather and maybe get some decent food and
rest.  Then we can spend tomorrow planning and lining up whatever gear and
information we're going to need, including trying to find a way to verify
that they're there in the first place.  Then if all goes well, we can raid
St. Elizabeth's tomorrow night.  Come on; let's go."

And Mulder led the other two away from the monument and down the hill, just
as the carillon started to ring the top of the hour.

*While these bells ring...*


Stealing the ambulance turned out to be easier than Bill had expected.
They waited for sundown, then took the Metro to Georgetown University
Medical Center and loitered in the parking lot until an emergency vehicle
arrived.  Then, while the paramedics were inside unloading their charge and
giving report to the ER staff, they climbed into the ambulance, Mulder
hotwired the ignition, and off they went.

"The FBI Academy syllabus must be a fascinating read," Bill had commented.

"Your tax dollars at work," Mulder had replied with a smirk.

Now the three of them sat in the cab of the ambulance, parked on a side
street three blocks from St. Elizabeth's.  A return trip to the Salvation
Army store had scored black slacks and white button-down shirts for Mulder
and Bill, which they hoped would pass for uniforms for the few necessary
minutes.  They had decided that Dana's existing disheveled clothing would
allow her to get by as a distraught relative.

  *Best of all,  * Bill thought,   *I've got a gun.  *

He hadn't asked Mulder where he got the weapon; he knew that it was almost
impossible to legally acquire a handgun in the District.  The FBI man had
disappeared for twenty minutes while Bill and Dana had been picking up
carryout Chinese, and returned with a .32 automatic and half a box of
ammunition.  "Best I could do on short notice," he'd said quietly as he
passed the weapon over to Bill.    "Don't say I never gave you anything."

"Everybody ready?" Mulder asked, bringing Bill back to the present.  "Here
we go!"  And he threw the ambulance into gear and pulled away from the

It took less than two minutes to drive the remaining distance, and then
Bill and Mulder were wheeling a gurney towards the main entrance of the
hospital, Dana trailing along behind and wringing a handkerchief in her
hands.  They entered the building, and Mulder led the way past an elevator
bank, past an emergency stairway, and up to the main reception desk, where
a bored-looking clerk was reading a paperback with a picture of an
exploding spaceship on the front.  At the sound of their approach, he
looked up.

"May I help you?"

Dana elbowed her way to the front.  "Yes.  My name is Dana Byers, and I'm
here to pick up my husband, John."

The clerk looked puzzled.  "Byers?"  His eyes flicked over Mulder, Bill and
the ambulance gurney before returning to Dana.  "I wasn't told to expect a
transfer tonight."

"I don't care what you were told," Dana said sharply.  "My husband is here,
and I've come to take him to Georgetown Medical Center.  Byers is his name;
John Fitzgerald Byers."  She turned to Mulder and Bill.  "Explain it to
him," she said.

Mulder shrugged.  "It ain't up to us, lady," he said in a bored tone of

The clerk looked at Dana for a moment, then shrugged.  "Just a minute; let
me check."  His fingers flew over the computer keyboard.  Then he was
shaking his head.  "I'm sorry, Mrs. Byers, but there's nothing here about a
transfer tonight...and Dr. Van Ackerman has gone home for the night."  He
looked back up at Dana apologetically.  "I'm afraid you'll have to wait
until morning."

Dana's lips tightened.  "I am NOT going to wait until morning!" she said,
raising her voice.  "I am not leaving John in this, this awful place one
minute longer than necessary!  I don't know who this Dr. Van Ackerman is,
but I do know the law, and you cannot keep my husband here against his

The man looked annoyed, and shrugged.  "I wouldn't know about that, ma'am,"
he said.  "I'm just doing my job.  If you have a problem with it, you can
take it up with the Patient Rep.  At eight a.m."

"This is outrageous!" Dana shouted, and she banged her left fist down on
the clerk's desk.

Time seemed to stop, and Bill drew in a sudden breath.  The clerk was
staring at her hand, and Bill could almost hear the wheels spinning in the
man's head.    *Jesus!  * he thought.    *We forgot to get her a ring!  *

The clerk looked back up at Dana, and now his features were cool and
unreadable.  "Ma'am, could I please see some I.D.?"  Nobody said anything,
and after a moment, the clerk started to reach for the telephone.

Mulder's Sig Sauer seemed to appear from nowhere, pointed directly at the
man's head.  "Will this do?" he asked.  The clerk's jaw dropped, and Mulder
went on,  "Keep your hands where I can see them at all times.  Now stand up
and face the wall.  DO IT!!" he roared, and the other man jerked into
action, obeying Mulder's orders precisely.  "Okay, that's better," the FBI
man said.  "Now, hands behind your head."  Mulder stepped forward, produced
a pair of handcuffs and expertly snapped them into place.  "Now lie down on
the floor, and don't say a word; don't even think.  Scully?" he added over
his shoulder.  "Having any luck?"

While Mulder had been cuffing the receptionist, Dana had moved behind the
desk and sat down at the computer terminal.  Bill watched in vicarious
frustration as she stumbled her way through the unfamiliar menu tree, all
of her attention focused on the screen.

"Scully!" Mulder repeated sharply.

"Dammit, Mulder, I'm trying," she said tensely.  "Just give me a minute."

"We don't have a lot of minutes, Scully," he replied.  The clerk started
whimpering; Mulder turned back to him.  "Shut up, you!" he snarled.  Then
to his partner again:  "How about it, Scully?"

"I think..." she said, the tip of her tongue sticking out slightly between
her teeth.  "Got it!"  Her eyes rapidly scanned the words scrolling up on
the screen.  "Mulder, they're still here!" There was a note of triumph in
her voice.  "Ward 9 East.  Rooms...uh 23, 27 and 17C."  She jumped up from
the desk.  "Come on!"

"Just a second."  Mulder dragged the clerk to an upright sitting position.
He looked the man in the eye, and hesitated just an instant.  Then he said,
"I know you're scared, and I'm sorry."  Then he smashed the barrel of his
gun into the man's temple, and the clerk toppled over into
unconsciousness.  Bill helped him drag the man's limp body over to the
desk, and they stuffed him into the leg space.

"Come on!" Dana called again.  She was already standing in front of the
bank of elevators, leaning on the "up" button.

A moment later the three of them spilled off the elevator into the ninth
floor atrium.  There was a single door in the center of the far wall, with
a small button next to it and a sign reading, "Please buzz for
admittance."  The door was locked, of course.

Mulder swore, and drew his gun again.  The booming roar of the weapon
echoed and reechoed in the enclosed space, and splinters of wood and
plastic flew in all directions.  Mulder fired again, and this time the lock
flew apart.  Mulder pulled the door open, and they stepped through.

They found themselves in a long, narrow hallway leading off in both
directions.  A woman in a nurse's uniform was standing halfway down on the
right, mouth hanging open in surprise, her eyes big and round as saucers.

"Freeze!  Lie down on the floor!  NOW!"  The nurse's face went white, and
without a word she followed Mulder's instructions.  Running towards her,
Mulder called over his shoulder, "You two go find the Gunmen; I'll see if
there's anyone else wandering around!"

Dana turned and hurried down the hallway in the other direction; Bill
trailed along in her wake, trying to look in every direction at once.  They
went past a deserted nurse's station, and suddenly Dana skidded to a halt
in front of one of the doors that lined the hallway.  "Here it is!" she
said, and pushed open the door.

The room was small and cramped, with a single bed  and a small, rickety
bureau situated along one wall.  There were no windows, and no serious
attempt had been made to decorate the room.

Someone was lying on the bed, wrapped tightly in a thin, gray blanket.
Dana hurried to the bed, and Bill followed her.

"It's Frohike!" she said.  "Help me!"  And together they managed to turn
the man over so he lay on his back.  He stirred slightly, opened his eyes
and looked up at them blearily.

"Frohike!" Dana said.  "It's me, Scully.  Dana Scully.  Are you okay?"

Bill watched as the little man struggled to focus.  "Dana..." he said, his
speech soft and slurred.  "Dana..."  His eyes closed again.

"Dammit!" she said. "He's been drugged.  Frohike!  Wake up!  You have got
to wake up!"  Frohike's eyes fluttered open again and he stared up at her.
"Listen to my voice, Frohike," she said.  "Listen to me talking to you.
Listen to Dana, and try to stay awake.  Can you sit up?"

A goofy smile slid across his face, and he nodded.  "Bill!" Dana said over
her shoulder.  "This is going to take a few minutes; go see if you can find
the other two!"

"Gotcha."  Bill stepped back into the hallway, and continued down it in the
direction they had been going.  In seconds, he found room 23, and burst
through the doorway.

Langly was lying on the bed, hands locked behind his head, staring at the
ceiling.  When he saw Bill standing in the doorway, his eyebrows shot up.
"Captain Scully?"

Bill said, "We're busting you guys out of here.  Can you walk?"

"If I can't, I'll crawl," said the blond man as he swung his feet out of
bed and jumped to his feet and ran for the door.

"Come on," said Bill, leading him into the hallway.  "We've got to find

"What about Frohike?"

"Dana's with him; looks like he's been drugged."

"He always was a troublemaker," Langly answered.  Then they were in Byers'
room and dragging him hurriedly out of bed.  Fortunately, he was only
sleeping, rather than having been sedated, and it took him only seconds to
come to full wakefulness and grasp the situation.

As they exited into the hallway, Bill asked, "Do either of you know what
happened to the zip disk?"

Langly shook his head, and Byers replied, "Frohike had it. At least, he had
it when we were in the coffee shop.  But he did NOT have it by the time
they picked us up.  I don't know where he put it; we weren't together the
whole time."

They arrived at Frohike's door just as Frohike and Dana came stumbling out
of the room.  Frohike still looked as if he weren't entirely aware of what
was going on; one of his arms was draped around Dana's shoulders, and she
was obviously holding him up by sheer grit and determination.  Bill moved
forward to try to help, but as soon as he touched Frohike the little man
began to struggle.

"No!" Frohike protested.  "No!  'M goin' with Dana!  Dana!"

"It's okay, Frohike," Dana said, her voice calm and reassuring.  "I'm here,
and I'm not going anywhere.  But Bill needs to help us.  You remember
Bill.  He's my brother -- Captain Scully.  You need to let him help us."

Grudgingly, the little man allowed Bill to take some of his weight.  As
the group moved back up the hallway towards the elevator, Dana asked about
the zip disk, and Bill explained that Frohike had apparently hidden it
somewhere.  They passed back through the damaged door into the elevator
atrium, and Langly moved ahead and punched the elevator button.

"Where's Mulder?" Dana demanded, looking around.  The FBI man was clearly
not in the little room.  Still struggling to help support Frohike, she
staggered back to the door.  "Mulder!"  she yelled.  "Mulder!  We've got
them!  Where are you?"

"Mulder?"  Frohike was frowning.  "Is Mulder here?  I thought you came to
see me..."  His voice trailed off sadly.

"Mulder!" Dana shouted again, and this time her voice cracked slightly.
"God damn it, Mulder, we've got to go!  Now!"

Frohike looked owlishly up at Bill.  "She loves him more than she loves
me," he confided.  "He's a redwood among saplings."  And he started
singing, loudly and off-key.  "Now since my baby left me, I've found a new
place to dwell --"

"Jesus!"  Bill said.  "Frohike!  You've got to be quiet!  They'll hear

"Mulder!"  Dana turned back to the group.  "Langly, take this arm; I've got
to go find Mulder."  She transferred her burden and ran back through the
door and disappeared down the hallway.

"Down at the end of Lonely Street at Heartbreak Hotel," Frohike sang on.
"I'm so lonely, I'm so lonely --"

"Frohike!" Bill snapped, using his best commanding officer voice.  "Be

He looked desperately at Byers, but the other man only shrugged, and Langly
said, "You may as well save your breath, Captain.  Once he gets onto Elvis,
there's no stopping him."

"-- I'm so lonely that I could die."  Frohike took a breath, and then
launched into the second verse:  "And tho' it's always crowded, you can
still find some room --"  He broke off suddenly, and looked around.
"Where's Dana?" he demanded.  "Where'd she go?"

The elevator arrived, and Byers stepped into the doorway to hold it.  "Dana
will be right back, Frohike," Langly said soothingly.  "She just went to
look for Mulder."

"Mulder," the little man said glumly, and he started singing again.  "So if
your baby leaves and you have a tale to tell, just take a walk down Lonely
Street to Heartbreak Hotel, where you'll be lonely --"  He stopped and
frowned.  "No, thas not right.  Third verse.  What's the third verse?"

Dammit, where were Dana and Mulder?  This was taking too long; Bill could
feel it.  He looked over Frohike's head at Langly, and made a command
decision.  "Let's get him out of here," Bill said.  They'll probably catch
up with us by the time we get outside."

They started to wrestle Frohike into the elevator, and he began to struggle
again.  "Where're we goin'?" he demanded.  "Where's Dana?  I wanna see

"Dana's downstairs," Bill said desperately.  "We have to go to her."

"Oh."  The little man quieted down, and let them lead him onto the
elevator.  "Now since my baby left me, I've found a new place to dwell:
Down at the end of Lonely Street at Heartbreak Hotel --"

Bill groaned.  "Christ, isn't there some way to shut him up?"

"Just be glad he isn't on one of his Barry Manilow jags," Langly said as
the elevator doors slid shut.

The car started moving, and Frohike broke off singing to say, "I heard
that, Langly."  He turned his head and looked at his friend.  "You jus'
don' know good music when you hear it."  He cleared his throat, and started
on another song:  "This one'll never sell, they'll never understand.  I
don't even sing it well --"

"You can say that again," Langly muttered.

"-- I try but I just can't."  Frohike looked soulfully up into Bill's
eyes.  "But I sing it every night and I fight to keep it in.  Cause this
one's for you. . . this one's for you."

The elevator stopped at the first floor and the doors slid open.  Bill and
Langly hustled Frohike off of the elevator with Byers striding briskly
alongside.  Frohike continued bellowing out his song, while allowing
himself to be led to the front door.  They were almost there -- just a few
more feet -- when Bill heard a shout from behind.

"Hey!  Who are you?  Where are you going?"

"Shit!"  Bill let go of Frohike and whirled around to see a security guard
walking briskly towards them.  Out of the corner of his eye he was aware of
Langly staggering as he suddenly had to take Frohike's entire weight, and
Byers moving forward to help.  Bill moved towards the guard, and tried to
hang a conciliatory and embarrassed look on his face.

"I'm sorry," he said.  "We didn't mean to disturb anyone.  I'm afraid my
friend -- well, he's had a little too much to drink, and we're trying to
get him home."    *That story has more holes in it than a Swiss cheese,  *
Bill thought, wincing internally.  But the guard slowed his pace, and
seemed to be considering it.

Abruptly a thumping noise could be heard coming from behind the reception
desk, and Bill had a sudden visceral realization of how the captain of the
Titanic must have felt.  A few seconds later, the clerk Mulder had slugged,
his wrists still handcuffed behind him, squirmed painfully out from under
the desk.  He looked up, saw the guard, saw Bill and the other three men,
and started yelling.  "Stop them, Brad!  They're kidnappers!"

The guard's eyes widened, and he reached for his sidearm, but Bill was
quicker, and in an instant he had the .32 Mulder had obtained for him
pointed right at the man's heart.  "Don't move!"  Bill ordered.

The guard froze, and he and Bill stood transfixed and staring at each other
for a timeless moment.  Then the guard opened his hands and pointedly moved
them away from his sides.  Remembering what Mulder had done, Bill said,
"Now lie down on the floor, and put your hands behind your back, and no one
will get hurt."

At that instant, Mulder and Dana burst from the emergency stairway.  They
took in the scene at a glance, and almost as if by telepathy, Dana changed
course and ran up behind the guard, pulling handcuffs from somewhere in the
process, while her partner swept on by Bill to help Langly and Byers.  Dana
snapped the cuffs on the guard and forced him to lie down.  The clerk was
still yelling, but she gave him one ferocious look and he shut up abruptly.

Finally, they made it to the parking lot.  Mulder had the back door of the
ambulance open in an instant, and he heaved Frohike up and into the vehicle
by main force, turning away as the little man fell to the floor of the
compartment.  Langly and Bill followed, while Mulder and Byers raced around
to the cab.  Finally, Dana clambered into the back and pulled the door shut
behind her.

"Everybody in?" Mulder demanded, and without waiting for an answer he
turned the ignition and put the ambulance in gear.  He had had the
foresight to park facing outward, and so he was able simply to floor the
accelerator and head for the exit.

By the time they reached the street, they must have been doing forty or
better, and the rear end slewed wildly for a moment.  The passengers in the
back were thrown first one way, then the other, and Langly lost his balance
and fell heavily across Frohike, evoking an indignant sqawk from the
latter.  Then the tires took hold again, and they careened down the street,
leaving the hospital behind them.

Bill leaned back against the wall of the compartment and closed his eyes.
They'd made it.  They'd actually pulled it off.    *Now if Frohike can just
tell us where he hid the zip disk...  *

He opened his eyes and leaned forward.  Dana had slipped down on the floor
and was now cuddling Frohike's head in her lap.  The rocking of the
ambulance as it sped down the darkened streets of downtown Washington
seemed to have lulled him back to sleep.

"Frohike," Dana said softly, stroking his brow.  "Frohike -- Melvin.  It's
Dana.  You have to wake up now, Melvin."

His eyes fluttered open.  "Frohike," he muttered, looking up at her with a
frown.  "Frohike.  Not Melvin.  Even made my...parents call me Frohike."
He giggled.  "I learned that one from Mulder."

"All right, Frohike," she replied.  "Now Frohike, you have to concentrate
on something.  You have to think; you have to remember.  Can you do that
for me, Frohike?"

Frohike's brow furrowed, and he frowned again.  "I'll try."

"Frohike, we need to know what you did with the zip disk.  Do you remember
the zip disk?"

"Zip disk..."  Slowly his eyelids fell shut.  Dana shook his shoulder
gently, and spoke his name again, and his eyes popped back open.  "Dana!"
he said, sounding puzzled.  "When did you get here?"

"I've been here all along," she said soothingly.  "I'm here with you now.
I know it's confusing for you, but you've just been drugged, and you're
going to be okay."

His eyes narrowed.  "Rat bastards!" he said.  "They drugged me...Not enough
to kill Mulder an' fire Dana...beautiful Dana....hot Dana...."  His voice
was almost a croon, and his eyes seemed to drift almost at random.

"It's okay, Frohike," Dana said.  "That was a long time ago, and Mulder
didn't die after all."

He focused on her face again.  "He was a giant, you know.  He was a Redwood
among saplings."

"Yes, he is," she agreed, smiling down at the little man.  Then her face
got serious again.  "Frohike, tell me where the zip disk is."

"Zip disk," he muttered.  "Zip disk zip disk zip disk."  He looked up at
her and smiled; then he started to giggle.  "I hid it," he said.  "An' they
couldn't find it."  He continued giggling.

"I know you hid it, Frohike," she said.  "But now we need to find it now."

He frowned suddenly.  "Is okay that I hid it?" he asked anxiously.  "I don'
wanna make Dana mad."

"Dana's not mad, Frohike," she replied.  "Dana's very pleased; she's proud
of you.  You did the right thing."

"The right thing," he said, smiling again.  "The right thing.  Dana said I
did the right thing...."  His eyelids started to droop shut again.

Dana shook him awake, and said quickly but firmly, "Frohike!  Quick!  Where
did you put the zip disk?"

"Zip disk?"

"The zip disk, Frohike -- where did you hide it?"  She shook his shoulder
again, and a note of urgency entered her voice.  "Frohike, we don't have
much time!  They're coming, and we have to get away!  Where's the zip

"Zip disk."  His brow furrowed in concentration again, and then a light
came on behind his eyes, and he started giggling again.  "I gave it...I
gave it...."

"Who, Frohike?  Who did you give it to?"

"I gave it to the Gen'ral!"

Dana frowned.  "The General?" she asked.  "What general?  What general did
you give it to, Frohike?"

"The Gen'ral," he repeated.  "The Gen'ral.  That's who I gave it to."  He
nodded in satisfaction.  "Is safe there.  No one can find it."

"But we HAVE to find it, Frohike," Dana said.  "We have to find it now,
because they're coming and we have to get away.  Frohike -- where did you
hide the zip disk?"

"I gave it to the Gen'ral!" he repeated.  "Laughing."  And he started to
giggle again.

"Laughing?"  She frowned...and suddenly a light came on in Bill's head.

"General Lafayette!" he exclaimed.

Dana looked up at her brother, and her eyes widened.  Then she looked down
at Frohike again.  "Is that right, Frohike?  Did you hide the zip disk in
Lafayette Park?"

He looked up at her, puzzled.  "Gen'ral Laughingyet..  Gave it to General
Laughingyet.  He'll keep it safe...."  His eyes started to drift closed,
but then they snapped open again, and he looked up at Dana, a worried look
on his face.  "Dana!" he said.  "Dana...did I do okay?  Did we get away?"

Smiling, she replied, "You were wonderful, Frohike.  You've saved

"Did we get away?" the little man repeated.

"Yes.  Yes, we got away.  You go to sleep now."  And she planted a soft
kiss on his forehead, and within seconds he was snoring.

At that moment the ambulance slowed to a halt.  Bill looked up as the
communications window with the cab slid open, and Mulder's face appeared in
the gap.  "We're well away from St. Elizabeth's," he informed them, "and I
think we need to ditch the ambulance.  It's got to be on the hot sheets by
now."  He started to turn away, but Dana's voice stopped him.

"Wait, Mulder!" she said.  "Frohike says he's hidden the zip disk in
Lafayette Park.  We need to get there and find it before some tourist
stumbles over it."

Mulder hesitated, then nodded.  "To Lafayette Park, as fast as lightning!"
he said, and threw the ambulance back into gear and accelerated away from
the curb.

#          #          #

Bill sat quietly in the study of Jiggs Casey's home, sipping coffee and
trying to get his head around the fact that he was actually warm and
comfortable.  Jiggs sat at his desk, while Langly leaned over the Marine's
shoulder tapping commands on the computer keyboard in front of them.  Byers
was in another chair, leaning forward with his elbows resting on his knees,
while Fox Mulder sat on the floor, back against the wall.  Dana was tucking
Frohike into bed in the Caseys' guest bedroom.

"This isn't going to be as spectacular as it might be," Langly was saying
to Jiggs.  "You just can't get the kind of resolution and processing speed
on a Windows machine that you can on an iMac.  The Windows OS is so fucking
buggy it ought to be condemned.  But I think you'll get the gist of it."
He tapped a few more keys, then stood back as the show began to unfold.

The retrieval of the zip disk had gone like clockwork.  They'd driven to
Lafayette Park, and Dana had remained in the ambulance with Frohike while
the rest of them searched.  It had taken less than five minutes, and then
Fox Mulder had appropriated another vehicle, and they'd all piled in and
headed for Jiggs Casey's house.

The door to the study opened, bringing Bill back to the present.  Dana
slipped into the room and wordlessly sat down on the floor between Mulder's
knees, leaning back against his chest with a contented sigh and closing her


Bill looked back to his friend, and saw the familiar demo flashing across
the screen.  "Blue is for outgoing messages, and red is for incoming,"
Langly intoned, and Bill felt a tremor run through his body as he
remembered the last time he had heard those words.  He knew what Jiggs must
be going through right now -- knew it from personal experience -- and part
of him wanted to reach out to his friend.  But this was a journey each of
them had to take alone, and so he forestalled himself.

At last the demo ended.  Jiggs leaned back in his chair, staring at the
screen with eyes that were no longer skeptical and wary, but shocked and
haunted.  At last he stirred, and he turned to look at Bill, and Bill saw
on his face and in his eyes the same expression which he knew that he
himself had been wearing since Monday evening.  "I'm sorry, Bill," he said
quietly.  "I should have known not to doubt you."  He paused, then nodded
to himself, and reached for the telephone.

#          #          #

Forty minutes later, Jiggs and Bill were walking briskly down 15th Street
in downtown Washington.  Jiggs' phone call had been brief and cryptic, and
after he hung up he'd informed Bill that the two of them were expected
"downtown".  The others had had large question marks in their eyes, but
Jiggs' tone and the expression on his face had invited no inquiries.

Now they were approaching the Treasury Department building, which stood
across the street from the White House.  Jiggs had offered no explanation
on the drive downtown, and Bill had known better than to press him.  Bill
carried the zip disk in his coat pocket, having been rapidly briefed by
Langly on how to run the demos.

The night was clear and cold, and overhead the stars twinkled brilliantly.
It was well past midnight, and he and Jiggs were the only ones on the
street.  Bill felt a chill race down his spine which was due to more than
just the cold.    *This is it,  * he thought.    *One way or another, it ends
tonight.  *

Jiggs led the way to a side entrance of the Treasury building; much to
Bill's surprise, the door was unlocked, and the two men walked inside and
took a flight of stairs down to the basement.  Jiggs led the way along a
corridor, stopping at last in front of an unmarked, heavy metal door.  The
Marine produced a key -- it looked new and shiny, as if it had recently
been cut -- and unlocked the door, and they both stepped through the

The door opened into another hallway, but this one was plain and unfinished
looking, with bare concrete floors and walls.  Naked light bulbs dangled
from the ceiling every twenty or thirty feet, producing a garish

Jiggs led the way down the corridor.  There were no doors, no bulletin
boards, no decorations of any kind.  Just plain, concrete walls, and the
overhead light bulbs casting strange shadows as the two men strode briskly

At last they came to another door, identical to the first, but instead of
using his key on this one, Jiggs Casey pressed a small, unmarked button on
the wall next to the door.  After a moment's pause, the door was opened
from the other side by a Marine Corps sergeant, and Jiggs and Bill stepped
on through into the room beyond.

Bill looked around and gaped.  The room was laid out like a military
headquarters.  Telephones, computers and other electronic gear seemed to be
everywhere, and a map of the world hung on the far wall.  Half a dozen men
and women in uniform moved around the room performing arcane ministrations
to the equipment, and Bill felt his hair suddenly stand on end as he
realized what room this was.

"That's right, Bill," Jiggs said softly.  "This is the Situation Room in
the basement of the White House."

"Colonel Casey; thank you for coming so promptly."  They turned to see a
man dressed in a business suit walking towards them.  He was tall, with
dark hair, and had hawk-like features.  He reached out and shook hands with
Jiggs, then turned to Bill.  "And you must be Captain Scully.  My name is
Bruce Lindsey, Special Assistant to the President."  Bill shook his hand
numbly.  "Now if you gentleman will please follow me..."

Lindsey led them across the Situation Room and through a doorway on the far
side.  They passed rapidly down yet another hallway, and finally came to a
dead end with a single door in it.  Two men in dark suits stood guard over
the doorway, and Bill felt another jolt as he realized who must be behind
that door.

Lindsey spoke to the guards.  "This is Colonel Casey and Captain Scully.
They're expected."

Jiggs and Bill were quickly but expertly patted down by one of the Secret
Service men, then the other one twisted the knob and the door swung open,
and Bill found himself face to face with the president of the United

"Jiggs," the president said, then glanced at Bill.  "And you must be the
Captain Scully I've heard so much about."

"Yes sir," Bill said, a strangled feeling in his throat.  "Sir, I must
apologize for my appearance.  I --"

The president waved it away.  "Don't worry about it, Captain; I understand
you've been rather busy the last few days."  The man's lips quirked, and
Bill realized suddenly that he was standing in front of a human being and
not some political avatar.  It was a bit of a shock to him, and reminded
him of the first time he had been confronted with the fact that even
admirals sometimes had to use the head.

But the president was still speaking.  "Captain, I understand you have
something for us."

"Y-yes sir," Bill stuttered, and his hand flew to his pocket.  For a second
he was unable to find the disk, and he almost panicked, but then his
fingers closed on it, and he drew it out of his pocket and handed it across
the desk.

The president looked at the disk, fascinated, and turned it over in his
hands.  Then he looked up at Jiggs.  "Colonel Casey?  Have you reviewed the
materials on this disk?"

"Yes sir."

"And you concur with Captain Scully's analysis?"

"Yes, Mr. President."

The president sighed, and muttered, "Absolutely fucking incredible."  His
use of earthy language startled Bill, but somehow it seemed right, under
the circumstances.  The president handed the disk over to Lindsey.  "Bruce,
we'll want to have the staff review this, and I mean now."

"Yes, Mr. President."  And Lindsey took the disk and left the room, leaving
Jiggs and Bill alone with the president.

The president turned his gaze back on the two officers, and gestured at a
pair of straight chairs positioned in front of his desk.  "Gentlemen, why
don't you go ahead and have a seat; this may take a little while."  He
looked directly at Bill.  "In the meantime, Captain Scully, I want to hear
your story -- all of it."

The two officers complied, and after another prompt from the president,
Bill began to speak.

At first, he felt awkward, uncomfortable, as he had in Sunday school all
those many years ago when he was called upon to recite.  But as he got into
the tale, he found himself relaxing, becoming more confident, and the story
started to flow as he first sketched the outlines, and then began to fill
in the details.  He told the president everything:  The mysterious summons
from Dana on Monday evening; the chill he felt as he realized what the data
on the computer disk added up to; the hair-raising escape from death
Tuesday morning; the grueling search on Wednesday for the missing Gunmen;
his own despair when he realized that Jiggs didn't believe him; the
harrowing jailbreak at St. Elizabeth's; and finally the triumph of finding
the zip disk, hidden in some bushes in Lafayette Park.

Finally Bill fell silent.  He felt exhausted, drained, as if he had just
re-lived those events all over again.  The president rocked back in his
chair, and studied Bill's face thoughtfully.  At last he said, "Well,
Captain Scully, it sounds as if you've had quite a week."

Normally, Bill would never have dreamed of saying anything other than in
answer to a direct question from his commander in chief, but something in
the president's voice and manner seemed to invite comment.  "Mr. President,
I think that's a bit of an understatement."

The president barked quick laughter.  He seemed to be about to reply when
the door swung open and Bruce Lindsey came back into the room.  His face
was grim.  "Well?" the president asked.

"It checks out, Mr. President," Lindsey replied.  "Every bit of it."

The president let out his breath in a slow sigh, and Bill realized that he
had been holding his own breath, as well.  Without thinking about it, he
rose to his feet, and Jiggs followed suit.  The president seemed to be
meditating, and his gaze was quite evidently focused on something that no
one else in the room could see.  At last he looked up at the two officers.

"Colonel Casey; Captain Scully."  He took a deep breath and shook his
head.  "I want to thank you for bringing this to me.  I know the risk you
both took in doing so."  He turned to Lindsey.  "Bruce, I want these two
officers formally debriefed before they leave."

"Yes, Mr. President."

"In addition," the president went on, still speaking to Lindsey, "I want
their records cleared -- and the two FBI agents and the rest of the bunch,
as well.  Whatever they had to do to unearth this information just didn't
happen.  Got me?"

"Yes, Mr. President."

The president's eyes moved back to Bill and Jiggs, and he said, "I hope I
can depend on you men to be discreet.  It would be extremely harmful to the
country if any of these events were ever to be made public."  He hesitated,
then added, "In fact, let's just make that an order.  After the two of you
have been debriefed tonight, neither of you is ever to utter a word to
anyone about the events of the past few days.  There is no 'Site Y'; there
were no unexplained troop movements; there was no conspiracy against the
government.  Is that clear?"

He waited until the two officers had acknowledged the order from their
commander in chief, then he seemed to relax a little.  "Very well, then."
He stood and extended his hand.  "I can't say this has been a pleasure,
gentlemen, because it quite frankly hasn't been.  But I am glad you came."
He shook hands with both men, and Lindsey ushered them out of the office.

And as they walked back up the hallway to the Situation Room to be
debriefed, Bill Scully suddenly realized that he was going to be a

He was going home to Tara.

FRIDAY:  Epilogue

Dana Scully heard the TV playing in her apartment before she had even put
the key in the lock, and she knew that Mulder was waiting for her.  A soft
smile crept briefly across her face, the smile that she never allowed her
partner to see, and then she opened the door and stepped inside.

God, it was good to be home!  She had never expected to see this place
again, and it gave her a warm, happy feeling to walk through the apartment
and see all of her things waiting for her, just where she had left them
five days before.

Mulder was lying sprawled out on her sofa, watching the O'Reilly Factor.
She moved over to sit next to him, unceremoniously dumping his feet on the
floor to make room.  Earlier in the day, the president had held an
unscheduled press conference to announce the retirements of all five
members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and now the talking heads were
chattering on and on about What It All Meant.

  *They should have us on that show,  * Dana thought.  Aloud, she said,
"Haven't you had enough politics for one week, Mulder?"  He shrugged, and
didn't answer.  "Mulder, I thought we were going to watch DINOSAURUS!
tonight.  You said it was going to be on USA Network again."  Still he
didn't answer, and she slapped his knee.  "Mulder!  Are you listening?"

"I hear you, Scully," he said with a lugubrious sigh.  He picked up the
remote control and changed channels.  "But we HAVE seen this movie before.
Thirteen times, I believe."

Dana settled back in contentment as a brontosaurus appeared on the screen,
and she watched as it trampled through the tropical jungle.  She feigned
obliviousness as Mulder pulled his feet up off the floor and put them on
her lap.  After a few moments, though, she decided to take notice of the
feet, and started gently massaging them.  "Mulder," she said, "why do you
suppose we like this movie so much?"

He looked surprised.  "Why?" he repeated.  "Because it's about us, Scully.
This movie is about us.  I thought you knew that."

"It is?"  She raised her eyebrows and looked away from the screen, just
long enough to see that he wasn't joking.  "How is it about us, Mulder?"

He gestured at the screen.  "We're just like the dinosaurs.  We're
creatures out of time."

"Oh."  She thought about that for a moment as a caveman went running
frantically through the jungle, carrying a woman over his shoulder in a
fireman's carry.  "I hadn't thought of it that way.  I guess I see your
point."  Another long pause.  "Which one of us is the brontosaurus?"

"Which one of us would you like to be the brontosaurus?" he replied, humor
hanging delicately about the edges of his words.

"I'd like to be the brontosaurus," she said seriously.  "I've always liked
the brontosaurus; she seems so peaceful.  I'm always a little sad when the
tyrannosaurus kills her."

"So you envision me as the King of the Lizards?" Mulder asked.

She frowned.  "No, that doesn't seem right, either.  Maybe we can both be

"You'd make a great brontosaurus, Scully."  He paused for a moment, then
asked, "Did you get any root beer on your way back from taking Bill to the

She shook her head, still watching the screen intently.  "No; the store was
all out.  It must be getting popular."

"How about Rolling Rock?  Do you have any Rolling Rock?"

"All gone."

He leered at her.  "Iced tea?"

Laughing, she said, "No, Mulder.  No iced tea.  Maybe someday, but not

"That's okay," he replied, nodding wisely.  "Iced tea is hard to drink.
You either get too much sugar or too little; it's almost impossible to get
it just right."

"I guess that's true," she said.  And after that the two friends were
quiet, and they sat together on the sofa watching television, far into the