Disclaimers in Part 1

        At the edge of the park parking lot a purposely rustic sign read:
       Beyond, little orange flags staked out the Mine Bank Trail winding 
through the great expanse of trees and snow.
       Scully was grateful she'd opted for comfortable shoes. Mulder, park map 
in hand, simply stepped out of the car and started for the path like a man with 
a long way to go and a short time to get there.  A ranger on duty stepped from 
his little booth at the far end of the parking area.
        "Sir, I'm sorry but all guests are required to sign--"
       Mulder flashed his badge and kept walking.  Scully, double stepping 
behind him did the same.  Bill reached for his wallet, then stopped and shrugged 
        "I'm with them," he explained.
        After two miles of hiking, Bill had to concede that Special Agent Mulder 
was obviously in much better shape than he was. Sure, the trek had been a fairly 
steady descent and the little creek they were following was pleasant enough but 
since leaving the parking lot, Mulder hadn't slacked his pace in the least and 
showed no sign of doing so.  And he hadn't spoken a word. Bill heard his sister 
panting behind him and was ready to call for a rest stop when Mulder broke into 
a run.
        Bill looked back at Dana and her look told him that at least one of them 
had to keep up with this madman. Bill took off after him. 
        Scully caught up with them in a clearing. Somewhere up the trail, the 
frantic whispering of a waterfall echoed through the trees. Beside them through 
the brush, a cry cut through the quiet. It was very like a scream, but too 
grating and hollow to be human. Metallic and raspy, still it sounded like 
someone--no, there were  several--crying out in unison. Crying out for help with 
no hint of hope.  She shuddered, even as she gasped for air, watching Bill watch 
Mulder silently.
        Fox stepped off the trail, quietly, deliberately and Bill followed 
several feet to his right.
        Mulder waved him back. "No, Bill, that's  path in, get behind me, 
you'll be less likely to destroy evidence."
        Bill complied with a glance back at his sister who followed hard behind 
        The underbrush was thick here, even in the winter; dead limbs and barren 
bushes pulled at clothing and skin alike. But after several yards, Mulder had 
stopped again. Bill peered round his shoulder a moment then turned to Dana. His 
face was pale and he pushed past her back to the clearing, ignoring her 
        She approached her partner and fell against him, tripping on the 
undergrowth. Mulder caught her on instinct, his eyes never leaving the sight in 
the clearing beyond.
        It wasn't really much of a clearing: just big enough to showcase a giant 
hemlock wrapped in snow and it's pale little guest below.
        "Mulder," she said quietly. "How did you know she was here. I mean 
        "The cry of the peacocks."
        And there, stepping cautiously in the underbrush was a peacock with his 
hen. The peafowl regarded them in all  its regalia, then his long bright 
feathers folded with a raspy whisper. Mulder watched the birds retreat into the 
forest: a fluttering of feathered eyes, blue-green and silver set in a field of 
deep iridescent blue. There was another screech and Scully shuddered again. How 
could such a beautiful creature possess such a terrifying voice? A voice of 
multi-throated fear?
        Next to her, Mulder was speaking, his own voice terrifying in its 
stillness, his eyes still locked on the little form before them.
        "Out of the window,
        I saw how the planets gathered
        Like the leaves themselves
        Turning in the wind.
        I saw how the night came,
        Came striding like the color of the heavy hemlocks.
        I felt afraid.
        And I remembered the cry of the peacocks."
        Scully stood quite still in the midst of eerie calm. High above, a 
thousand trees whispered, voices of angels conferring on the secrets of God. And 
here she stood, in the middle of nowhere with a man quoting poetry over a 
decomposing body.
       She studied Mulder's profile, asked quietly, "You heard poetry in your 
        He shook his head like a man in a trance. "Wallace Stephens."
        , Scully told herself.  She tugged Mulder's arm and tugged it harder when there was no 
reaction. "Let's get a team out here, Mulder. We need to do this right."
        He nodded and allowed himself to be pulled away and led back to the car.


       Bill'd had enough.  Five hours after the arrival of the Ident Team, no 
one seemed in any kind of hurry to leave. He was hungry, he was tired and God 
knew, he was cold. If this was the kind of thing his sister did all day, she 
could have it. He'd been alternately run over by, run off by or generally 
ignored by more badge carrying individuals than he'd ever seen on or off a 
military base: FBI, sheriff's department, coroner's office, the parks service 
and--of all things, the Fish and Game Commission. He'd never heard so much about 
the process of decay, seen so many photos of body parts or smelled so bad in all 
his life.
        He'd always heard there was a sickening sweet smell about a decaying 
human body.  There was nothing sweet about this; this was acrid and hateful, 
something that had no business in the world. At least not his world. It had 
woven itself into his clothing, soaked into his hair, permeated his nose, clung 
to him since that first horrified glimpse over Mulder's shoulder. Every deep 
breath made him want to gag.
       Where was Mulder anyway? He hadn't seen him for well over half an hour by 
now. He made his way back up the trail to the parking lot, found Dana deep in 
discussion with her boss--what was his name... Skinner. Yeah, that was it.  
Skinner was standing listening, his arms crossed, staring impassively at the 
rental car Dana, Bill and Mulder had arrived in.  Bill blew into his hands to 
warm them and followed Skinner's gaze: Mulder was sitting in the car, passenger 
side, seat reclined.  One arm slung over his eyes. The car didn't look like a 
half-bad place to be to Bill either. At least he could turn on the heater and 
warm up a few minutes.
       Mulder didn't even glance over when Bill opened the driver's door and 
slipped inside.  The keys were in the ignition; Bill helped himself to the 
heater. After a few minutes of thawing, he reclined the seat and tried to relax.  
Presently he was sitting up again, gagging.
       "The heater only makes the smell worse, Bill," Mulder said, his arm still 
shielding his face.
       "This is awful," Bill gasped, reaching for the switch and cracking the 
window. "How do you get rid of it?"
       "A good shower helps. Lemon shampoo will get the smell out of your hair. 
Once it's in your sinuses, though," Mulder shook his head, rubbing his face 
tiredly, "you just have to wait it out."
       The two men sat in silence a few moments, struggling quietly with their 
own thoughts.
       "I couldn't do this, Mulder.  I mean, what kind of cold-hearted son of a 
bitch could tolerate this--" he stopped. 
       Mulder was quiet, half smiling, still reclined, his eyes still closed. 
When he answered his voice was soft. Even in the quiet of the car, Bill had to 
concentrate to hear him. "Go back into the woods, Bill.  Go look at her again. 
She's somebody's kid. Go look into those milky eyes and tell her that she isn't 
worth your time. That the justice due her is not worth the threat to your  
sanity. Look into those eyes and see your own kid. Then say the words. The man 
that can do that, Mr. Scully: That's  definition of a cold-hearted son of a 
       Bill regarded Mulder in the quiet.  There had been no animosity in the 
voice, no anger, no detectable emotion at all and yet more passion than Bill had 
felt about anything in his own life in years. Except maybe the birth of his son.
       Bill looked over at Skinner and Dana. They were looking at photographs. 
He watched his sister's face: nothing but quiet, academic interest, impartial 
detachment. Her medical training stood her well.
       "Dana says you started out in Violent Crimes right out of the FBI 
Academy. Stayed with it for years. I can understand now why you went to the  X-
Files. I'd have to get out of it, too.  I mean, looking at this kind of thing 
day in and day out... it has to destroy a man's faith in humanity."
       Again that sleepy half smile. "Actually, I have a great deal of faith in 
humanity, Bill.  Given the opportunity to screw someone over, stab someone in 
the back or cut them open and cannibalize their liver, someone'll do it.  I have 
complete faith in that."
       Several more vehicles arrived; the funeral home had finally shown up 
followed by--Bill shook his head--a catering truck.
       "Do you ever have nightmares about this stuff, Mulder?"
       That prompted a soft laugh. "Yeah."
       "So why do you keep doing it?"
       There was a pause. "Because I can."
       Bill considered that a moment. "Dana says it's like a calling," he said. 
Do you feel that? Like you've been called?"
       Behind his closed lids, Mulder saw his sister that last night, long dark 
braids hanging down, her nightgown glowing in the eerie light. Heard her voice 
calling for him. "Fox! Help me, Fox!"
       "Yeah," he said quietly. "You could say I've been called."
       Dana was waving to them, pointing at the catering truck. Bill grimaced. 
"You hungry, Mulder? You didn't have anything but coffee this morning, did you?"
       "Are you hungry, Bill?"
       "Go get you a 7-Up. It'll probably settle your stomach."
       "Yeah? Can I pour it on my hair and get rid of the smell?"
       "Whatever. Just don't try to snort it. It doesn't clear the sinuses."
       It was hard to tell if Mulder was kidding and he looked so genuinely 
tired Bill decided he should probably just let the man sleep. He'd always liked 
7-Up, anyway.
       With Bill out of the car, the world was again wondrously still. Mulder 
chanced a brief peek from under his forearm: it was snowing again. Through the 
frosted glass of the windshield, it was surreal and beautiful. Like a dream.
       No. He wouldn't think about that just now.  He grunted to himself softly. What 
was it he had told Bruner?  It was crap. 
But it was true. Sometimes he thought that maybe if he didn't think so much he'd 
be happier. Maybe if he could just shut it all off for a short while, it would 
do him good.
       The snow whirled outside and his mind, as always in overdrive, whirled 
with it, even as he told himself he was not really thinking at all, that he was 
calm and relaxed. Even as he told himself all these lies his cerebellum shifted 
gears, not down but up, and suddenly his mind was wandering far from Augusta 
County, Virginia, wandering in counties of the soul, territories of ruins.                                     
        He heard as with physical ears Samantha's baby squeal of terror at her 
first real encounter with snow. <"Fox! The sky! It's falling in on us!> He heard 
his own older, wiser-at-six-years-of-age laugh. Felt it in his throat. Felt her 
chin in his hands, her tears drying on his fingers, felt the weight of her on 
his knee, saw her glittering, attentive eyes as he told her the story of Chicken 
Little. Saw her smile, felt her quick hug--in the car he gasped, his chest 
suddenly too tight--then she was gone. Off to play in the dazzling new land of 
snow. "Oh Sam," his voice echoed in the empty Ford, "I miss you." Then the car 
was silent again. It was his mind that was screaming.
        Years of fear and wonder and hope. And here he sat 
at the other side of six years' fruitless work. No EBE's. No Little Green Men.
       No Sam. No hope for Sam.
       And no more wonder.
       It frightened him, this new state of being he'd found outside his warm 
cocoon of extreme possibilities. So this was "normal." He couldn't say too much 
for it, but then he couldn't say too much about it, either, being such a recent 
arrival. He was still struggling to find his place in it. To decide whether he 
wanted a place in it. Both worlds could not be the truth.  But which was the 
       Bruner was right. He had no test tube.
       Mulder closed his eyes against the snow, saw Bruner's unblinking gaze 
roaring maniacal joy as Fox swallowed his own blood there on his floor. Bruner 
had found his place in this world of the normal. Locked up in the psych ward. 
But Bruner didn't believe in UFO's. That would be crazy. 
       As a psychologist, Mulder had spent most of his adult life observing in 
amazement his own latent psychopathic tendencies:  denial, repression, 
manipulation, fear of boredom. He wondered now how close he stood to that 
magical border of sanity, how  soon before he, too, joined the select society of 
the sociopath. Whether there was even such a border left.
       Because he was back in the snow again. Kneeling. Holding her hand. No. He 
would not lay down. This time she registered no disappointment to his refusal.  
This time she was colder than she had ever been.
       Despite the whirling snow, his peripheral vision registered a movement: 
the creature--man, he corrected himself-- with the seeds. He was coming again. 
And she was scared.
       "Fox. Help me."
       But she had hold of his hand and refused to let go.  He struggled with 
her but it was no use and the hateful seed was getting closer.  He buried the 
fingers of his free hand in the snow and reaching around her, circumscribed a 
circle of sorts, containing them both. He connected the lines just as the dark 
figure approached.  It stopped short of the circle as though hitting a wall of 
glass, retreated into the hypnotic dance of snow.
       Somewhere beneath her left side, near the heart, where the heart should 
have been, a snake emerged. Bottle green skin reflected electronic fire as it 
traveled slowly, pulling it's glassy slick body onto her chest and raising its 
emerald head to regard him. It's eyes were the color of  sea water. Bruner's 
       Within the charmed circle, enwrapped by her serpent, she turned her head 
to regard him. Her eyes were the color of milk. The jaw, slack now that rigor 
mortis had loosened, moved, jerking, painfully.
       "You will hear the words. And they will come to make sense to you." The 
voice was not Samantha's. It was his father's.
       He pulled away, his heart pounding, but her hand held him fast. The jaw 
jerked hideously.
       "Forgive me."
       He screamed. With everything in him, he screamed. There was no sound.  He  
struggled in earnest now, too terrified to think, just wanting to be free of 
this snowbound hell. Just wanting to hear the sound of his own voice, to know he 
was alive. The snow was alive around him, writhing and whirling, gathering 
light, sucking it up like a thing possessed. The force of the maelstrom pulled 
lightening from the ground, swirling it up to the impassive stars. And threw it 
back down at him.
       It hit his chest with an explosion.

       Scully was approaching the passenger side of the car with a thermos of 
coffee when she saw him jerk. Then jerk again. She ran. 
       "Mulder!" She tapped on the misty glass as she opened the door.  Fox 
threw himself out of the car like he'd been shot, knocking her back against the 
fender.  He hit the pavement stumbling, holding his chest and gasping.
       "Mulder!" She circled him warily, arms out to catch him if he would let 
her.  He was trying to speak but not to  her, trying to breath, trying to stand. 
She was afraid to approach him, afraid he would injure himself if she didn't.
       "Oh God," he finally gasped, "Oh God, please make it stop." His erratic 
pacing slowed and she reached out cautiously. He jerked away, stumbling in his 
       "Mulder, it's okay. It's Dana. It's okay." She kept repeating the words, 
matching his pace until he slowed and finally stopped.  His eyes saw her at 
last, registered the parking lot, then focused back on her again. He took 
another deep breath, dropped his hands from his chest to his knees and 
concentrated on breathing a moment.  She approached slowly, touched his 
shoulder, leaning over to study his face.
       "Mulder, is it the sunflower again?"
       He shook his head and straightened painfully, wiping his eyes. He tried 
to smile and failed. "My chest hurts like hell," he gasped.
       She took his arm and led him back to the car, all too aware of the 
scrutiny of Bill and various members of local law enforcement.  And Skinner.  
She was grateful Skinner had let her handle this. So far.
        Mulder was still not too steady and had to stop several times to catch 
his breath.  An EKG would not be a bad idea, she decided. She helped him back 
into the passenger seat then knelt down outside the car beside him, the car and 
the door shielding them from too close an inspection.
        She told him to shut up and breath as she slid her stethoscope under his 
sweater. He didn't argue and she wasn't certain that was a good sign.
       Mulder sat quietly, breathing, watching Skinner watching him through the 
tinted windshield. Skinner was on a cell phone. Fox waited for Scully to pull 
the stethoscope from her ears before he spoke. "Everyone thinks I'm a nutcase."
       "No, Mulder, we do not think you're a nutcase. You're under a lot of 
stress and you haven't been able to rest. Which only exacerbates the problem. If 
you could just sleep without having these damn dreams--"
       He was only half listening. "In the waking state we check reality against 
memory. In sleep: memory against memory. Ghost against ghost."
       "Carl Jung?" she asked.
       "Ray Bradbury."
       "Mulder are you saying you've seen this before, like when you reopened 
the Paper Hearts case--"
       "No, " he shook his head. "No. But I've heard the words."
       He was still staring at Skinner, but without seeing.
       She frowned. "I don't understand."
       "Neither do I."
       She sighed, frustrated. "Mulder, I don't know what to tell you."
       He was silent a minute, his eyes still vacant. "I never told you the 
first dream, Scully," he whispered. She waited. "There was the snow. The stars. 
The cold hands. Only the hands stretched out in the snow were not one of these 
kid's." He looked over at her, rolling his head against the headrest, eyes too 
green, too hollow. "They were my hands. It was me in the snow. Dead. Then the 
other dreams started. That was a week before we knew this case existed."
       "You're convinced these are some form of precognitive dream? Not just the 
mind processing evidence?"
       His eyes were closed again. He shook his head, his voice tired. "I don't 
       Her reply was cut short by Skinner's voice close behind her. She jerked 
to her feet guiltily. Skinner's eyes rolled off her and onto Mulder.
       "Agent Mulder, step out of the car, please."
       Scully moved aside to let her partner comply and followed the two men 
across the parking lot to the spot where Mulder had stopped his retreat. A look 
from Skinner kept her at a respectful distance.  It was amazing, however, how 
well sound traveled in a forest.
       "Agent Mulder, with all due respect, I realize that most people go to a 
psychiatrist when they're having some kind of trouble. That's fine.  That's what 
they're for." Mulder was regarding him patiently. Skinner's voice hardened. 
"It's just that most people don't choose psychiatric help from a doctor who's 
been committed to his own institution."
       "Sir, with all due respect, most assistant FBI directors are not in the 
habit of having psychopaths call them on their direct phone lines.  And order 
appointments for their agents." Scully was surprised  by the sudden hardness of 
Mulder's voice. From being bone-weary and resigned he was angry and calculating. 
She didn't like the implications of the moodswing.
       Skinner didn't seem to appreciate it either. "I told you to get in, see 
this nut and get back out. Not call him back. Repeatedly. I specifically recall 
ordering you NOT to let this son of a bitch into your head--"
        "Sir, I believe he has information on this case--"
        "Damnit, Mulder, that's just what he wants you to think. If he thought 
he could play you along, he'd tell you were his secret love child, for 
Chrissake.  *I* called you in on this case. I called you in because I thought 
you'd be the best person to handle it. Well, from what I've seen here and in 
your partner's reports, you're not handling it--"
       "And just what do you think you get when you try to out think a 
psychopath? Stability? Order and propriety?"
       "Do you hear yourself?" Skinner hissed. "We've been over this ground 
before, Agent Mulder. How many times do you think you can put yourself in some 
wacko's shoes, and then just waltz right out of them again when you're done?"
       Mulder was as angry as Scully had ever seen him, it was all she could do 
to remain where she stood. "I'm the investigator here," he growled. "Hell, I'm 
the damned psychologist! I am sick and tired of everyone telling me what I can 
and cannot think about this case--"
       "Agent Mulder," Skinner warned, "You're losing it."
       "Damn right, I'm losing it," He was shouting. "Spooky Mulder lost it 
somewhere back in November of 1973 and I'll be damned if I'll lose her again." 
He brushed past Skinner and was on his way to the trail when Skinner's voice 
stopped him cold at the edge of the parking lot.
       "Agent Mulder!"
       The two men regarded one another in full view of all assembled personnel.
       Skinner's growl was loud. "Just find this SOB."
       Mulder didn't smile. "Yes, sir."
       As Skinner turned to her, Scully picked up her jaw and followed her 
partner back into the forest. Mulder was already shouting for a shovel.


       "A snake." She graced him with one of her more provocatively speculative  
looks. "Mulder, isn't that a phallic symbol?"
       He sighed. "Only to little Freudians such as yourself, Scully. In fact, 
in many ancient cultures, the snake was a symbol of wisdom and knowledge." He 
looked at her  pointedly. "That's why its on the medical staff of life symbol. 
Unless of course, they're teaching a more hands-on comparative anatomy than I 
       "And the knowledge this serpent enticed you to  was to look for this?" 
She held up  the evidence bag containing the little dirt encrusted vial.  The 
vial dug up from just seven inches of dirt below Jane Doe Five's heart. Or where 
her heart should have been.  For good  measure they'd dug under the area 
approximate to the missing liver as well.  Nothing. Not even six feet down.
       Mulder was talking. "There was probably a vial at every site.  Probably 
is one at every site."
       "Skinner's contacted the authorities at each location. We should have a 
full report by morning." She frowned at the medical vial, felt Mulder leaning 
over to whisper in her ear.
       "I'll hand you a thousand dollars with a smile on my face if that vial 
does not contain the same substance we found in the Erlenmeyer flask."
       She looked up sharply.
       "You'll hear the words," he quoted, "And they'll come to make sense to 
       Scully glanced back down at the hateful vial then she was watching him 
again. "Is that what you think these girls are, Mulder? Merchandise? Experiments 
in genetic  manipulation?"
       He began counting off his fingers. "Clear evidence of medical testing, 
cryogenic freezing, no matches in FBI and CMEC data bases. Not to mention that 
someone pops up and claims all four bodies and manages to erase the records? 
Stop me when I come to something that seems just remotely improbable to you."
       "Look, let's at least get the analysis on this vial before we jump to too 
many conclusions here."
       "Fine with me. I've got the Center for Missing and Exploited Children 
checking their data bases and microfilm for eight year old females missing since 
       She blinked. "Mary Regina 55. Information you obtained from a  certified 
       "He's not schizophrenic, Scully, he's sociopathic."
       "So on what basis do you insist that he is a reliable informant?"
       "On the basis of finding a dead body in the same park he identified."
       As much as she would have liked to, she couldn't argue with that. "I'd 
just feel a lot better about all of this if you knew something about this--who 
is it again, Dr. Bruner?"
       "I'll feel a whole lot better about this when we solve this case," Mulder 
countered. "As for Bruner, Skinner's made arrangements for me to see him as soon 
as we land."
       Scully glanced back at the Assistant Director and Bill sitting cozily 
musing over military life in the seats behind them. Mulder glanced past her at 
the gleam of evening sun reflected on the Washington Monument.  They'd be 
landing at the DC/Baltimore Airport in a few minutes. He was grateful. God, but 
he hated sitting still.
       Scully was watching him again.  That always made him slightly nervous. 
When other women stared at him like that he was usually flattered and often a 
little excited.  With Scully, though, he was never too certain. He certainly 
knew better than to get excited. At least in that way.
       He smiled and hoped he emitted enough charm to dissipate any ill-will he 
may have created. "I saved my peanuts for you, Scully," he patted his jacket 
pocket and winked.
       She frowned but held out her hand. "I'm still going with you to see 
Bruner. Ooh, these are the dry roasted ones."


       "Hey, sis, don't stay up too late, okay?"
       "Okay, Bill.  Sweet dreams."
       Scully smiled after her brother as he retreated to her spare bedroom. She 
could almost hear Mulder sing out his favorite "Goodnight" sign-off: "Goodnight, 
John Boy." She leaned  back into the couch, autopsy reports and chemical 
analysis data shuffling across her lap. She rubbed her eyes wearily then stared 
down at the phone. "Come on, Mulder. Call already."
       She should have never let him talk her out of going with him to the 
institution. But given their track record for being unable to hold on to 
concrete data regarding the Erlenmeyer project, she'd agreed that analyzing the 
vial was her first priority.
       "I'll be satisfied," she'd told him, "if you could just get him to tell 
us what the fascination is with Virginia parkland. If I have to see Skyland 
Drive one more time--"
       He had shrugged. "Maybe these guys are members of the Sierra Club."
       Just now, it didn't help that he had been right about the vial. And it's 
four counterparts.That they could have just as easily been labeled for them.
       She bit her lip ruefully there on the couch.  The face of the clock 
returned her gaze. Eleven twenty-one PM.  The phone 
beeped abruptly and her grab for it sent papers flying.
       "Hey." With just one word she felt the tension raging through the line.
       "Mulder, where are you?"
       "Try out your front window."
       "What?" She scrambled to the curtain to see Mulder's car parked, lights 
off, at the curb.
       His voice filtered painfully even through the cell phone connection. It 
was deceptively light. That damned self-depreciating tone she so hated: "I've 
been driving around for hours, Scully. Then it finally occurred to me that I 
just didn't know where else to go."
       She was out the door, closing it quietly behind her for Bill's sake, but 
running to the car, the phone forgotten in her hand.
       She slid into the passenger seat, holding the door ajar a moment, using 
the light to assess her partner. Physically he seemed uninjured. Emotionally he 
looked like he'd been dragged through hell and forgotten the way back out. He'd 
been crying at some point not too long before. It worried her that he made no 
effort to hide the fact from her. She closed the door and they sat in the silent 
       At last he spoke. "Bruner's dead."
       She watched his profile, a bare outline and glint of moisture in the eyes 
highlighted by the street lights. She didn't speak, waiting.
       "It's been ruled a suicide. I've seen his cell, Scully. If that man 
committed suicide--like --," he didn't elaborate on what  was and 
she didn't ask. "It just wasn't possible." He shook his head. "There wasn't even 
a note. Megalomaniac that he was, there's no way he'd have even entertained the 
idea of offing himself without taking out a full page ad in the Washington 
Post." His eyes closed  against his own sigh. "It happened about four." He 
looked over at her, the line of his jaw tight, "Just after Skinner called to set 
up my meeting. It was no suicide, Scully. I made them show me his cell. It's 
been stripped clean. They'd already cremated his body. They'd dismissed his 
regular orderly and have been blocking my attempts to contact him."
       "Mulder, I'm sorry--"
       "I smelled cigarette smoke in the cell, Scully."
       Scully shuddered in the darkness, Mulder's gaze on her was cold as the 
winter chill. What he was saying wasn't possible. Cancerman was dead. The body 
had not been recovered but the blood...
       "Mulder, I'm sorry," this time he didn't interrupt her. "I didn't realize 
you and Bruner were so close--"
       He sighed and looked away. "It's not that... I'm sorry. Why don't you go 
back in and get some sleep, we can cover this in the morning--"
       "Only way I'm sleeping tonight is with you in the same room."
       He didn't even bother to make any of the usual remarks that kind of 
statement would have left her wide open for. The idea didn't even occur to him 
just then.
       "Come on," she opened the car door. "You're staying here. Bill's already 
asleep. And I'm not leaving him here alone to be another Melissa."
       He followed her quietly into the apartment. Stood quietly by the door 
while she went through turning off lights, checking windows and the back door. 
She returned to the living room to find him still standing where she'd left him.
       She stopped a moment and returned his gaze. He was looking through her.
       "Mulder, take off your coat."
       He complied numbly and she switched off the last room light in favor of 
the table lamp at the window.  Now they would cast no shadows. She cleared the 
couch and called to Mulder, still standing by the door, his coat in his hand. He 
came over obediently and she sat him on the couch, tossing his coat over the 
back of a chair.
       "What else, Mulder. What haven't you told me?"
       "CMEC called." He managed to look tough and courageous and like a half-
drowned pup that'd been kicked one too many times. It was a talent, Scully 
decide, but one he wasn't aware of. One honed from too much practice.
       "Center for Missing and Exploited Children found us a match?" She sat 
beside him, drawing her chilled legs under her.
       "Five matches."
       "Mary Regina?"
       "Mary Regina Pitnam. Missing since November 1955. Elizabeth Anne Baron.  
Missing since 1948. November. Angela Unger. November 1951. Genevieve Elliot. 
November 1960. Miranda Bergen. November 1968." Throughout the recitation his 
voice was flat, lifeless. Without his speaking it, Scully could still hear the 
conclusion of his list: 
       He jumped when she laid a gentle hand on his arm. She left it there and 
he looked over at her. There was no life in his eyes. No light. No hope.
       "Mulder, we need to contact these families--"
       "The Bergens were killed in a car wreck with their second child in 1982. 
Mr. Elliot died of a heart attack in 1991; Mrs. Elliot of cancer two years 
later. Angela Unger's father died in combat in Korea. The mother's in a mental 
institution. A total vegetable. The Barons: murder suicide pact on the 
anniversary of their daughter's =
disappearance. Mrs. Pitnam died of breast cancer in 1957. Mr. Pitnam's is in a 
nursing home in Arlington, Virginia. About two miles from my apartment. I went 
to seen him, Scully." He looked  down at his hands. They were shaking just 
slightly. "He has Alzheimers. I showed him a photo of his daughter that he and 
his wife had given to police in 1948. He cried." Mulder closed his eyes against 
his own tears, sitting forward to shake her hand away but not trusting his legs 
enough to rise.
       She gave him a minute. "You were right about the vial, Mulder." There was 
no response. He sat, his elbows on his knees, his face in his hands a long 
while. At last he ran his hands down his face, steepling his fingers together, 
staring at them hard.
       "You believe God is good, don't you, Scully?"
       She didn't answer.
       His voice was remote and soft. "So why does He allow suffering like 
       She had no answer. She stood.
       "Lie down, Mulder."
       When she returned with blankets he was asleep. She slipped off his shoes, 
covered him with a blanket and wrapped herself in one. She settled beside him on 
the floor, her head resting on the cushion at his chest. She fell asleep to the 
beating of his heart.


       He didn't sleep through the rest of the night, of course. The previous 
dream had repeated itself and by 2:17 AM he was struggling to escape Samantha 
       Samantha with his father's voice. In his mind he was screaming, fighting 
for his life. Scully woke as these events
translated into a whimper and a soft shuddering of his body against her arm. She 
watched him, his face running with sweat, his breathing tight and too rapid. She 
was shushing him again in the twilight of the room and laid her hand on his 
chest just as the dream's lightening bolt slammed into it. His body convulsed 
and this time she had enough on the ball to jump away.
       He hit the floor with a thud, his body jerking compulsively. Scully ran 
for her medical kit.  A moment later she was back and he was still. He was no 
longer breathing rapidly.
       He wasn't breathing at all.
       Scully searched for the pulse in his neck: thready and overly rapid. She 
left her hand on his neck, rubbing just below the angle of his jaw to stimulate 
the carotid sinus while she dug in her bag. She released him to load a syringe 
with verapamil and inject him with it. He took a shallow gasp of air when the 
needle entered his arm and she bowed herself in relief over the syringe even as 
she pushed the plunger. 
       A few minutes later she was threatening to sit on his chest to keep him 
on the floor. And threatening to break his arm if he came up with any sexually 
suggestive remarks about that threat.
       "You'd better be glad you cleared your physical last month or your butt 
would be in the back of an ambulance right now, Mr. Mulder."
       "What happened? I remember the dream--"
       "Paroxysmal atrial tachycardia triggered by an anxiety attack. In your 
sleep, no less. Mulder, we really need to see about having you evaluated for 
anxiety and sleep disorders."
       "I'm not living on a bunch of drugs, Scully," he sighed from his position 
of surrender on the rug. "Besides, it's not usually this bad and you know it. 
It's just this damned case." He shook his head, stopped shaking it and looked at 
her. Even sleep starved and disheveled she managed to be one of the most 
beautiful women he had ever met. His throat hurt suddenly and he didn't think it 
had anything to do with the dream.
       "Mulder, are you okay now?"
       He closed his eyes to clear his head, nodded. "I'm just really tired." 
And cold. His chest still ached and the pain lingered in his arms. Clinically, 
he knew she was right. Emotionally... He pushed it down deep somewhere, wherever 
it was he pushed all the crap in his life, all the sadistic shit he dealt with 
in his cases.  The I'll-Deal-With-It-Later Pit. Phoebe  had called it the 
Scarlet O'Hara Syndrome: "I'll think about it tomorrow" (Southern accent not 
optional). Come to think of it, Phoebe was down there somewhere too. He didn't 
want to think about that just now either. The pit was getting awfully full....
       He heard Scully's voice, that silk voice, felt one satin hand on his 
chest, the other pushing that one stubborn damn lock of hair away from his 
forehead. He'd been thinking of getting a hair cut.  It could wait a few more 
weeks. Maybe she'd do that more often.
       "Tomorrow--," she corrected herself: "Today is Sunday. No case. No files. 
I don't care who dies. And we're declaring a moratorium on dreams." Her hand 
thumped his chest imperatively.
       He smiled at her through veiled eyes. "Yeah, sure. Whatever."
       She was digging in her bag again. "Take this," she ordered. "I'm putting 
you in my bed. And that original offer of a broken arm still stands."
       Mulder sat up and regarded the tablet. Triazolam. Well, he'd be out for a 
good six hours, and in short order, too. He accepted water glass and swallowed 
obediently. By the time Scully had him undressed and tucked in he was pretty 
well numb.  It wasn't an unpleasant experience; at least nothing hurt for a 
change. He watched her flit in and out of the room, hauling his clothes to the 
laundry room, turning off lights, asking if he were warm enough, bringing in 
another blanket, saying something. Saying something else. Yeah, sure. Whatever.
       By her fifth trip into the room he was out cold and she turned off the 

       Four hours later his eyes jerked opened, abruptly aware that he was in an 
unfamiliar room.  After all the cheap hotels he'd had to stay in doing field 
work, you'd think that wouldn't be such a shock. He was also immediately aware 
of a soft familiar fragrance of shampoo and Heaven Scent and the even softer 
pressure of a woman's arm across his upper abdomen. Scully.
       She lay modestly on top of the quilt she'd covered him with, wrapped, 
fully clothed as far as he could tell, in a blanket of her own, her breathing 
deep and even, her hair glowing amber in the bright morning light spilling 
around the drapes.
       This was no time to revel in fantasies, however. Mulder heard Bill 
tiptoeing around in the kitchen. The current situation was ripe with 
possibilities. Most of them ending with Mulder attending a funeral. His own.
       Mulder looked down at the little hand dangling at his side, and tried to 
work out the physics necessary to disengage himself without waking her. 
Thankfully, her arm was far enough down his chest to rest predominantly on the 
quilt. With cautious maneuvering he managed to hold the quilt level and slip out 
of the bed sideways, gently shoving the pillow into roughly his sleeping 
position before lowering her arm.  Her breathing never even broke it's rhythm 
and he slipped off into her bathroom more than a little impressed with himself. 

       He found she'd set out the knapsack he kept at her place and fished out 
toothbrush and jeans.  The turtleneck  had always been a little tight across the 
chest but the knit  was comfortable and besides the stretch cleared out most of 
the wrinkles. 
       He waited, listening for Bill's footsteps before he emerged. Nothing. 
Bill'd probably gone back to bed.  Mulder stepped out into the living room and 
Bill greeted him from the couch.
       "Morning, Mulder." He said it like it was the most natural thing in the 
world: Fox Mulder sneaking out of his sister's bedroom. Mulder was caught too 
far in left field to worry about blushing. He took a deep breath.
       "Hey, Bill."
       "I made coffee. Hope you like it strong."
       In the kitchen Mulder contemplated a quick dash for the porch but 
realized he'd left his keys in his coat pocket. Which was in the living room. 
With Bill. He heard Scully's voice: 
       "Cluck, cluck," he whispered, staring into the Maxwell House. 
       He walked back into the living room and settled in a chair. Bill was 
staring into a corner. It was either politeness, anger, or the man had the worse 
case of early-morning-stares Mulder had ever seen.
       It wasn't that early.
       Mulder couldn't for the life of him come up with anything to say so he 
       It was Bill who broke the uncomfortable silence. "The stuff you guys 
do..." He stopped, looked at Mulder directly. Mulder swallowed. "It's a 
difficult job."
       It dawned on Mulder that Bill wasn't referring to anything that might 
have transpired in the bedroom and he blinked slowly then allowed the man the 
courtesy of full eye contact. "Yes," he said.
       "It's not for everyone."
       "And you think it's not for Dana."
       Mulder's eyebrows scrolled up just a tad. "I've never said that. She's a 
good agent, an objective investigator. She's tough and determined and, despite 
anything you may have heard about talent, nine-tenths of the job is just so much 
graceless determination. She has that. And a hell of a lot more grace than most. 
Certainly more than me."
       "Then why have you asked her to give up?"
       Mulder took a minute to wonder where all this was coming from. "Has she 
told you that?"
       "She told me that you've asked her from time to time to consider leaving 
the X-Files, of going back to teaching at Quantico. Are you denying that?"
       Mulder regarded the man. "No, I'm not denying that. You've seen what it's 
done to her. God, Bill, you've sat enough hours with her in the hospital 
wondering if she was going to pull through--"
       "And she did."
       "Yes, she did. But look at what our work has cost her. Jeezus, Bill, 
she'll never have children--" Mulder cut himself short, glancing toward the 
bedroom and lowering his voice again. He was gripping the coffee cup in both 
hands, the heat radiating into his fingers was intense and he accepted it as his 
due just then. He looked back at the man on the couch. "She lost her--your--
sister while following me around trying to find mine. There's just too much of 
this shit that seems forever to keep turning back to me. To my goddam family.  
It shouldn't destroy her and her family.  I shouldn't let it do that.  I 
shouldn't allow her to continue working with me--" His voice was a just short of 
a dull hiss now and he stopped abruptly.  He had no words to explain his 
frustration with himself. That he had never been able to convince Scully to 
leave the X-Files.  Had never wanted her to leave them, really. Had often 
wondered if he could go on with them if she did ever opt to leave. He stared 
down into the blackness in his cup. Little stars of liquid light reflected back 
up at him in the silence.
       "But what if it's important?"
       Mulder looked up to find Bill watching him.
       "What if it's important, Mulder?" he repeated. "I mean, to more than just 
you. From what little Dana's been able to tell us, some very powerful people 
seem to be expending a great deal of energy hiding things everyone swears don't 
exist. Keeping you and her from certain kinds of information. And someone, 
somewhere's expending a great deal of energy keeping you two alive. Why all the 
sabotage and double talk? The cover-up--I mean, if there's nothing to cover-
up... why bother? That's what this is all about, isn't it. That's what these X-
Files are. Like these kids you keep finding. They've been missing, what? Twenty, 
thirty, forty years, some of them?" Bill shook his head. "Listen, I'm not saying 
I believe in UFO's and little green men or five-headed hydras of whatever the 
hell it is you think you're chasing but if your sister was abducted or kidnapped 
or whatever, there was a reason. My sister's dead--and there damned well better 
be a reason. I want to know why. Dana wants to know why. I don't know how to 
find an answer like that." He leaned forward. "I asked you yesterday why you do 
this and you said, because you can. I believe you, Mulder. I don't believe a lot 
of the hair-brained crap I've heard you believe or used to believe, and I don't 
care.  But I do believe you know how to find answers. That you'll keep at it 
until you do."
       Mulder was suddenly staring at his coffee again. Bill glanced back at the 
bedroom door.
       "Mulder, I don't understand a lot of things about you and my sister, but 
I do know that she can't do this on her own. She needs you. And when you do find 
the answer, she wants to be there. " He looked back at Mulder and there was no 
love in the man's eyes but there was something of a grudging respect Mulder had 
never expected and didn't feel he deserved under the circumstance. "As much as I 
want to protect her, as much as it would hurt to loose her, I can't deny her the 
right to try."
       Bill poked a thumb at the photos and autopsy reports of the Jane Doe's 
littering the floor by the couch. "You're so worried about not silencing the 
voice of the dead. And you're probably right." His voice was soft. "Try and have 
the same mercy on the living now and then. Let Dana keep looking for her truth."
       Mulder had closed his eyes, his head bowed. He took a deep breath and 
found himself smiling as he looked up again. "Yeah," he said with a lightness he 
didn't feel, "like I could run her off."
       Bill gave him a reluctant chuckle and shook his head. "She always was the 
pitbull of the family."
       , Mulder thought. He didn't doubt 
that destined-for-sainthood Mother Scully didn't have her share of fangs as 
well, when pushed.  Sounded like his kind of people. He was smiling at Bill when 
Dana emerged abruptly from her bedroom, a hairbrush forgotten in her hand.
       She took in the scene with her heart pounding. Mulder and Bill in the 
same room. Alone.
       And smiling at each other.
       She blinked rapidly for a minute. Now they were both staring at her. And 
smiling. Weirdness.
       "Who wants breakfast?" she asked sweetly before cutting her eyes to 
Mulder. "You raise your hand with a yes or I'll--"
       "--break my arm, I know, I know." He waved a hand obediently.
       Bill laughed. "Jeez, you two argue like you're married or something."
       "Well, the way I have to watch after him sometimes we might as well be."
       Mulder nodded to Bill. "Suits me just fine. From what I hear, married 
people don't have sex, either."
       Bill's witty reply was cut short by the explosion of the hairbrush 
impacting the wall above Mulder's head with a bang a little too hard to be 
       Both men regarded her in shock but it was Mulder's eyes she caught: his 
look of bewildered amazement became just a glint of something else and his eyes 
smiled ever so slightly, intrigued on a level that sent a thrill through her. It 
was not a sensation she was certain she was comfortable with. She felt a warm 
blush rising from other areas she was not comfortable with at the moment and she 
left the room as abruptly as she'd entered it, muttering something about a 
shower, the door thudding firmly behind her.
       Bill regarded Mulder thoughtfully. "I think you hit a nerve there, Fox."
       Bill obviously had his sister's gift for understatement. It must have 
been in the Scully gene pool somewhere.


     She refused to allow him to go home.
     "What's the problem, Scully? Don't you trust me?"
     "No, Mulder, I don't. Not when it comes to knowing when to stop." She 
glanced through the kitchen back into the living room where Bill was sprawled 
over the couch with the phone. Tara and Mom were checking in with all the news 
fit to tell and then some from their adventures in New York. She'd probably need 
to take out a small loan to cover the phone bill. She turned back  to Mulder, 
found him staring out the kitchen window, his body wired with more nervous 
energy than any man had a right  to on four hours  of sleep.
     "Mulder, listen to me.  Last night should have been a warning to you. 
You're body is screaming for down-time and if I have to tie you to the hood of 
my car, you're going to listen to it. You're staying right here where I can keep 
an eye on you."
     "I'm not a child, Scully. It would be nice if you could remember that ever 
so often."
      she thought. But aloud she 
said, "I mean it, Mulder.  Don't bother arguing."
     He sighed and rubbed his eyes. "I don't want to argue with you, Scully. I 
haven't had enough sleep for that."
     "And who's fault is that?"
     He looked her dead in the eyes and she instantly regretted the pettiness of 
the statement. 
     "It's not anybody's fault, Scully. I just don't  sleep very well sometimes. 
I'm sorry if that suddenly comes as such a shock."
     Bill interrupted her answer. "Well, the girls'll be back in Baltimore 
tomorrow and I'll be out of your hair, sis." He rubbed the top of Dana's head 
playfully then stopped, finally noticing the tension in the room. He glanced at 
Mulder, back at his sister and decided it was time he started making some of the 
     "You look like hell. Why don't you go take a nap while Dana and I get out 
and spend a little quality time together?"
It was slightly more than a request and Mulder smiled, much to Dana's surprise. 
Well, Mulder could see she came by her drill sergeant manners honestly.
     Dana was shaking her head, "Bill, I think--"
     Mulder cut her short. "I think it's a great idea." He looked at his partner 
pointedly. "If I can prevail upon the good doctor for another sedative, I'd like 
to catch up on some sleep."
     She looked from Mulder to Bill and back again. She didn't know what Bill 
had threatened Fox with to get him to cooperate but if she could find out, she'd 
be bargaining with it for all it was worth.

     This time he managed six hours sleep before the dreams began.
      Dreams. Well, same dream anyway. Again. Sam holding him urgently in the 
snow. The lightening exploding in his chest. This time he'd been through it 
enough times to expect the blast and caught himself before the full impact of 
the panic set in. He woke on the couch, sweating and shaking, his breathing 
labored, his chest on fire and pain radiating down both arms. Clinical 
diagnosis: anxiety attack.  He rose shakily, 
wrapping his arms around his chest. Where was that damned blanket? He was 
     Scrounging Scully's bedroom, he heard the faint ring of his cell phone 
coming from her bureau draw. She'd hidden it under some very pretty lacy items 
and he smiled as he answered the phone, holding one of the more interesting 
little numbers up for closer inspection.
     "The bench, Mr. Mulder. Five o'clock. Tonight."
     "Who is--" The line was dead. Mulder stared at the little nightie without 
seeing it. Something he'd heard in the background. A song. He hummed the snatch 
of tune softly, then closed his eyes in realization. The Stones.  .
     He found his old leather coat  in Scully's closet--he'd wondered where he's 
lost it--but had no such success locating his keys. Knowing his partner, she'd 
taken them with her as insurance that he'd be there when she got back. 
     His timing was lousy. Scully Incorporated met him on the porch.
     "Going somewhere, Mulder?" Dana asked.
     Mulder recognized a rhetorical question when he heard one and sighed, 
looking at his watch. It was just now one. He had four hours and only a twenty 
minute drive. He looked up smiling. "Yeah. How about lunch? I'm starving."
     "Well," Bill answered while his sister was at a loss for words, "I was kind 
of hungry for Chinese, myself."
     That did it. Mulder was beginning to like Bill more every time the man 
opened his mouth. Of course, he had little doubt that Bill still thought 
Mulder's middle name was Onesorrysonofabitch, but hey, the man had a beautiful 
sister and he liked Chinese. He couldn't be all bad. He wasn't far from wrong on 
the name bit, either, sometimes...
     "How about it, Dana?"
     "Bill, Mulder's favorite Chinese restaurant is Oodles Noodles in DC. Almost 
to Dupont Circle--"
      Mulder smiled. "That's okay, Scully. Bill 
doesn't mind. Hey, Bill, after lunch we can stop just a couple of blocks over 
and take you on a tour of the Woodrow Wilson House. It's great, you've gotta see 
     "Okay," Dana knew when she was out-gunned. "But we take my car." She pulled 
Mulder's keys from her coat pocket, shook them ominously and repocketed them.  
Mulder had seen less formidable guardians at the front gates of Fort Dix.  If he 
argued, she'd be even more suspicious than she already was, and he wisely 
estimated she'd already reached the upper limits of her credulity scale.
     "Sure, fine. Whatever." He smiled.  
     Minutes later, a delighted Bill was climbing into the backseat of her car 
and Scully grabbed Mulder's arm. "And just how many times have you seen the 
Woodrow Wilson House, Mulder?"
     "Scully, I'm just about to make it my second favorite site in Washington."
     "I don't know what you're up to, but whatever you're hauling us to DC for 
had better not be stamped official business."
     "I promise, Scully. This is not official business." He took the passenger's 
seat.   Bill thought, *I miss Tara.* What he said, more to himself than to 
the table at large, was, "I'm glad I don't have to live like that anymore." He 
glanced up, caught Mulder's eye without really intending to.  Mulder looked over 
at the couple in question, then looked away. Bill wondered just how closely he'd 
hit a mark.
     The exchange had not gone by Dana unnoticed. She fielded the attention away 
from her partner--she was a pro at that lately--by smiling, saying, "I know men 
look at sex a lot differently than most women, but personally, I never saw the 
attraction of a one night stand."
     Mulder surprised them both by answering, "Well, Scully, some men like sex.  
They also like women." He shrugge. "And sometimes they just like to have them 
both together in the same room." He regarded his Heineken, his voice softer. "Of 
course, most of us anticipate having something slightly more enduring by the 
ripe old age of thirty-six."
     Bill realized just how sore a mark he'd hit and played with his napkin, 
considering his response. "Well, sometimes life just doesn't work out the way 
you want, Mulder. Sometimes it takes all you have just to pursue what matters 
most to you."
     Mulder closed his eyes, rotated the tension in his neck. "Then when you 
find out what that all important thing really is," he said, still in that soft, 
flat voice, "you realize you've used up all your energy.  And your nerve."
     Bill caught Mulder's eye and held it, then looked pointedly at his sister. 
"I don't know, Mulder. Maybe it doesn't take as much nerve as you think."
     Scully felt innuendo the size of a Boeing jet slide over her head.  Mulder 
was staring hard at Bill. Bill was returning the gaze, but not unkindly.
     Mulder could feel his heart pounding suddenly, felt Scully's confused 
expression. Some highly analytical nerve in his brain registered the fact that 
she had stopped breathing temporarily. The nerve twitched and he felt the memory 
of a soft arm across his upper abdomen. He dropped his gaze abruptly and excused 
     "Mulder, are you okay?" Her voice made him wince but he only nodded and 
made his way to the men's room. Sometimes that woman's voice was nothing short 
of pure silk. He wasn't quite out of earshot when he heard the voice turn hard: 
"Okay, Bill, just what the hell was that all about?" Good, let Brother Bill 
sweat a little.  It'd do him good.
     Apparently Scully hadn't gotten her answer by the time he got back to the 
table: the two greeted him with tight smiles.
     The smile of the waitress was more genuine as she sat a plate with a single 
fortune cookie on the table. "Your friend near the door said you needed this."
     "What friend?" Mulder stretched over in his seat to see the area near the 
door.  No one he recognized.
     "An older gentleman." She shrugged, baffled by the intensity of the look 
Mulder gave her. "Hey, just an old guy in a business suit. You don't want the 
     "No... Yes, thank you."
     She shrugged at Scully and Bill, leaving the table as Mulder snapped the 
cookie open and pulled out the slip of paper. Scully remembered him giving that 
same look reading another little slip of paper...
     "What is it, Mulder?" She was talking to his back again. By the time she 
could react, he was halfway out the restaurant, running for the door, the 
fortune clutched in his hand.  She two-stepped after him, not totally oblivious 
to the people staring.  Good thing he'd already paid the check, she thought.
     Cold air blasted into her face and she found Mulder striding down the 
sidewalk after a car just speeding away from the curb. Diplomatic plates and 
heavily tinted windows. She noted the number on reflex, realizing the odds were 
good that they were bogus. Mulder had stopped at the corner, realizing the 
futility of his situation. He jerked when she touched his arm.
     "What is it?" she repeated.
     Wordlessly, he presented her with the paper. She read: "If a shark stops 
swimming, it dies. Never stop swimming." She looked up at her partner's profile.  
He was still staring after the long gone vehicle.
     "Mulder, Deep Throat is dead."
     He was silent a long moment then looked at her quietly.   "Not everything dies, Scully." He looked at his 
watch: 2:47. Just over two hours. He looked up again and smiled at Bill standing 
over Dana's shoulder. "Well, kids, looks like the next stop is Mr. Wilson's 

     The tour of the Georgian town house turned out to be interesting enough to 
keep Mulder from being too fidgety. But by the time they reached "the dugout," 
as Wilson had apparently termed his private office, Scully had grabbed Mulder by 
the left wrist, yanking just a bit too hard to be friendly.
      "Look at that watch one more time," she hissed under her breath, "I'll 
pull that arm off and beat you with it."
      Mulder feigned innocence and smiled.  Scully shook her head.  It was a 
good thing he was unaware of the effect his smile had on most people.  Otherwise 
he'd be using it  as a weapon.  She was watching him like the proverbial hawk. 
The problem was, she knew he was well aware of that fact and seemed to be 
totally unconcerned about it. Oh, he protested his innocence, certainly, but he 
was making no real effort to convince her of his sincerity, something he often 
had no problem doing when he really tried.
      Bill was delighted, pointing out the chair in the drawing room purchased 
in 1812 for the White House by President Monroe.
      Mulder raised an eyebrow.  "You know Bill, most people just steal the 
towels and ashtrays." Any other time Mulder might have found this enjoyable. 
Wilson had, after all played a large role in drafting the United Nations 
Charter. But right now,  the nicest thing about this place was the fact that it 
closed at four.  Time enough to lose the Scully's, and walk to the Metro stop at 
Dupont Circle.  He could transfer trains to the Blue Line at Metro Center and 
get off at the Smithsonian.  From there it was a pleasant jog over the 
Fourteenth Street Bridge and on to the Memorial.
      The problem would be making a clean get away from Scully.  The female 
version thereof, anyway.  But even she couldn't hope to track him once he was in 
the press of human traffic in and out of the Metro station.  She was good.  But 
he'd been playing this game much longer than she had.
        So why hadn't he figured out a good excuse to get Scully out of his hair 
for the evening? He had exited the building quickly after the tour and was 
standing on the sidewalk, hands buried in his coat pockets against the cold, 
considering simply walking off when no one was looking.  Scully looped a gloved 
hand through the crook of his elbow and interrupted the thought.
        "Mulder, are you okay?"
        "I'm fine," he said too abruptly. He sighed. "Sorry. I just really wish 
people would stop asking me that."
        Scully regarded his profile as he gazed up the road. The tightness of 
his jaw, the twitch of movement around the mouth, the darkness across his eyes. 
She'd come to know him more intimately in some ways than she had ever claimed to 
know anyone.  And yet he was himself still a mystery deep enough to be an X-File 
of his own. Mulder was a =
unique man, full of little quirks and subtle shifts, all of which were standard 
operating procedure.  It was when he was playing "normal" that she got worried.  
And he had played normal just a little too well today. 
        "So," she said, "just how do you intend to ditch me this evening?"
        He lowered his head and looked at her sidelong, not trusting himself to 
turn his head to view her fully. He shook his head and shrugged.
        "I thought I'd take the Metro over to Frohike's. Have a beer, catch up 
on the latest conspiracies and get him or Langley to drive me home."
        "Why don't you let me drive you to Frohike's?"
         He sighed. 
"I'd rather take the train, Scully."
        "You're not going to Frohike's, Mulder, and we both know it."
        He pulled away from her abruptly, pacing a few yards away before turning 
back to her. His voice was level and soft but firm.
        "As you so considerately pointed out to me once, not everything in your 
life is about me.  Well, that's a two way
street, Scully. This is my life.  You've chosen as much of it as you want. You 
might have the decency to leave the rest of it to me, okay?"
        The words tumbled out as though someone else were speaking, there was a 
prophetic ring to them as they hung in the air and although he had spoken them, 
he knew he would be days deciphering their exact meaning. But that was later. 
Right now his gut was churning and there were sharp pains in his chest and arms. 
And he'd hurt her. Hell, he'd hurt himself. But Fox Onesorrysonofabitch Mulder 
had a date with a park bench in half an hour and just enough cash for the ride.
        She was watching him. He was in pain, she knew, and in more ways than 
emotionally.  Wherever it was he was headed, she didn't want him going. She 
considered her options.
        "Don't you trust me enough to let me drive you to Dupont Circle?" She 
felt Bill step up behind her, quietly, realizing something incomprehensible to 
him was happening between his sister and this man.
        Mulder stood regarding her, his eyes screaming incoherently, precious 
seconds ticking away. "I'll walk. Bill, thank you for the day. Take your sister 
        He turned on his heel and proceeded up the street, hands still deep in 
his pockets, shoulders set.
        Dana fairly pushed Bill to the car and got in the driver's seat. She 
gunned the car away from the curb, making as much of a scene as possible.  Maybe 
he'd think she was pissed off and dumping him there. Maybe he'd think she was 
driving home. Maybe he wouldn't guess she'd be waiting for him at the terminal.
        Problem was , if she were Mulder, she wouldn't be fooling her. If she 
were Mulder, she'd---
        She slammed on her brakes, making a very illegal U-turn in the middle of 
Massachusetts Avenue.
        Seconds later she slammed her hand against the steering wheel. Too late. 
In the precious minutes it had taken her to get back to Decatur Place Road, he 
was gone.
        Bill didn't bother to interrupt the screaming silence.


     Mulder made the bench with five minutes to spare. He sat, half turned, eyes 
squinted in the gathering of evening twilight.  They'd be turning on the lights 
shortly. Mulder knew what he would see: soft white lights shining up from the 
grounds, casting the shadows of pines against glowing granite. The interior 
lights would reflect soft green, and great bronzed Jefferson himself, all five 
tons, would look down at him from his lofty heights. God, but he loved this 
place.  This took him back. Back to when Scully had first joined the X-Files. 
When he himself was new to the basement office--
     A figure approached across the grounds from the monument, proceeded down 
the steps. A figure in a battered gray trenchcoat. Mulder's heart beat faster 
and he stood. He heard Scully's voice in his ear: 
     Halfway down the steps, the figure turned and headed away from him. Mulder 
opened his mouth to call out and stifled a yelp as a hand was laid on his 
     He spun round and found himself looking into the dark eyes of Wallace 
Elliot, Bruner's orderly.
     "Dr. Verber?"
     Mulder couldn't tell if the question was sarcastic or not and let it go.
     "Good evening, Wally. You're a hard man to find."
     "I hope so. There seems to be somebody out there who would like to make 
certain that I'm permanently unavailable." His eyes were bloodshot with dark, 
heavy bags. He blinked wearily. "Anyway, thanks for coming."
     Mulder nodded. "The Knicks  are playing Cleveland tonight. Anybody planning 
on missing that, I figured it had to be important."
     Wally didn't smile. He sat down on the bench and leaned forward like a man 
trying to make a smaller target. Mulder watched him a minute, took his own 
nervous glance around.
     "Who told you about the bench, Wally? Who told you how to reach me?"
     "The man at the Institute that night. He said I needed to find you. To tell 
you what I knew--"
     "The cigarette smoking man?" He sat down. "What is it you know, Wally?"
     Wally looked away nervously toward the Tidal Basin. It was getting dark 
fast. "I don't know what you think you know, man--"
     "I know you've been dumping those bodies. And I know you didn't kill those 
     Wallace jerked and stood, towering over Mulder. He was sweating profusely 
in the chill night air, tiny snowflakes pelted his immense shoulders. "It was 
something Bruner was into. Something from way back. Something he wanted known--"
     "So why didn't he just take out an ad in the Post?"
     Wally shook his head.  "He said there were a lot of people in on this, 
people that he couldn't touch. He wanted them to hurt. Even if it was just to 
make them sweat--"
     The sudden roar of rifle fire cut across the lawn and as in slow motion, 
Mulder saw Wally's knees buckle, his body convulse, knocking Mulder back and to 
the ground.  Mulder stumbled for the shelter of the Memorial,  running low, 
vaguely aware of the sound of squealing tires, a vehicle approaching across the 
bridge and more gunfire.
     Suddenly he was on the ground, tumbling onto the steps, the marble 
brilliant in the twilight. The colder part of his mind told him the floodlights 
has come one. He gasped, rolled onto his back, one hand clutching the pain the 
lightening bolt of the rifle had delivered to his chest, the other held his gun.  
It was too heavy and he heard the Glock slam into the marble as he dropped his 
hand. He opened his eyes and regarded the stars looking down on him. Stars 
involved with the business of darkness. Like him. They had no choice. Like him. 
He moved weakly against the ridges of the steps, they were oddly slick with 
something... The hand on his chest reaching out for--for what? He lay there 
quietly and considered, a dark shape against the cold expanse of white, a 
negative of the lights above him, drifting into a darkness of his own.
     From very far away, he heard Scully scream.

     Bill had manned the cell phone starting with their return to the Wilson 
House. This time he'd seen enough not to question the need for the search, nor 
her urgency. And far from feeling they were chasing after some errant child, his 
heart beat faster with wondering just what it was Mulder was trying to protect 
Dana from that he would proceed alone.
     First phone number she'd barked at him was a dead end: guy had answered the 
phone in a laid back surfer kind of voice and Bill could have sworn he'd said 
"Lone Gunmen." He'd promised to call the minute Mulder showed up and to not give 
her cell number to someone named Frohike. Next call was to security at the J 
Edgar Hoover Building. She'd handled that one herself, rattling off her badge 
number and leaving orders for someone to call if Mulder checked in.
     By the time she'd shoved the phone back to him, they were in front of the 
Smithsonian's Museum of Natural  History.  Dana bailed out with Bill close 
behind. She flashed her badge to the guard on duty and showed a photo of her 
partner.  Bill wondered if she carried it out of affection or because she 
frequently needed it for occasions such as this. Knowing Dana wasn't the type to 
even carry photos of her own mother, Bill settled on the latter.
     "Damn," she whispered, walking back to Bill, her eyes scanning Constitution 
     "Where else?"
     She considered DC's layout, as best she knew it and wracked her brain for 
other "Mulderish" locals. She pursed her mouth, turned back to the guard.
     "Excuse me, could you tell me how I get to the National Aquarium?" She knew 
he'd met Deep Throat there once. The guard shook his head.
     "Closed at two on Sunday, Miss."
     Bill started to ask if the guy ever visited anything other than museums in 
his off time but the desperation on Dana's face closed his mouth.
     She was thinking out loud. "Deep Throat used to meet him at the Jefferson 
Memorial--Jeezus, Dana, Deep Throat is dead. Think!"
     Bill sighed. Said nothing.
     She whispered. "Think, think... The Thinker met him at the US Botanic 
Garden-- Come on, Bill!"
     And they were off again.
     The Garden greenhouse areas were closing for the evening and Dana hauled 
Bill through the park, petite, dainty little legs fighting to cover ground 
rapidly. Bill mused that should he ever convince her to retire from the Bureau, 
she could open a tourism guide: Washington DC in Two Hours or Less. Bill breezed 
past statuary and carefully labeled plants of all kinds. He'd have to bring Tara 
here in the spring...
     At the rose garden, Dana swore again.
     "Maybe you should take him up on that shooting offer," Bill quipped. Then 
seriously again. "He acted like he didn't have much time, right? So this place 
he went had to be in DC... Or maybe he just went back to his apartment---"
     She shook her head.  "That just doesn't feel right... Okay, one more spot." 
She was jogging this time. "And if he's not there, I just may take him up on 
that offer."
     *If someone hasn't beaten me to it.*

     Bill saw the dome of the Jefferson Memorial from the moving car just as the 
lights came on. The marble lit up like light through amber and he had to force 
himself to look away, sweeping the great manicured lawn for some sign of Mulder.     
	Then the first shot rang out. Dana brought the car to a squealing halt 
just off center from the front of the Memorial. Then the second shot and she 
exploded with a scream, jerking frantically at her seat belt.
     "Call 9111," she managed to gasp then, "Oh God!" and she was running, 
stumbling across the lawn to the Memorial.  Bill relied on his service training 
to keep his mind clear as he gave the location to the dispatcher even as he 
followed. He could see where his  sister was running in the twilight: past a 
great slumped body against a bench, up to the steps where Bill could see Mulder.  
The phone went slack in Bill's hand. Something about the way Mulder lay against 
the cold white expanse of marble, the cross position of his arms, the whiteness 
of his face, the open, vacant eyes. But there were no peacocks here. The only 
thing screaming was Dana.


     There was a bright light suddenly.  Not flooding everywhere like light does 
but focused, like a laser beam. He  jerked, struggling to get away.
     They were back! Coming for him like they'd come for his sister--
     The shadows pressing around him, shouting dully, distantly, unfocused as 
the light approached. He  stopped struggling. This was brighter than the light 
that had come for Samantha. He'd heard of this light. Descriptions from hundreds 
of case files of near death experiences floated briefly through his head, 
floated gently away.  There was no tunnel here, no figure in this light.
     The figure was the light.
     Suddenly there was no fear. Just a great sense of peace. A sense of having 
arrived at someplace he'd struggled to reach all his life.
     The light spoke to him. Assured him that someday he would remember the 
     That they would come to make sense to him.
     He turned his head to another presence beside him. Through the press of 
shouting, probing shadows, Melissa Scully reached out to touch him gently, 
     "Hello, Fox."

     The surgeon made several more notes before closing the chart and handing it 
to her.
     "We lost him twice in the ambulance and again in the OR Considering the 
nature of his injuries, his recovery is remarkable."
     Scully nodded, looking over at Mulder's sleeping form. The steady blip of 
instruments were a sweet song. They had removed the trach tube four hours ago 
and still the rhythm of his breathing had remained steady, his oxymeter good. 
They'd moved him to a private room after only eighteen hours in the ICU. World 
record for Mulder. She still didn't know where his parents had come up with a 
name like Fox but after this little side trip, he needed to consider changing it 
to Lazarus.
     There was a rustling at the door and she turned to see Skinner peering in 
hesitantly, the security detail he'd posted at Mulder's door looking over his 
shoulder curiously. The surgeon excused himself to finish rounds and the 
Assistant Director  entered.
     They stood in silence a moment watching Mulder breathe.
     "I understand I'm witnessing a miracle," Skinner kept his voice low.
     "The bullet penetrated one lung, narrowly missing the aorta, exited his 
back a little too close to his spinal column for comfort, but... He should make 
a full recovery. Of course, he hasn't regained consciousness yet. We can't be 
certain that there aren't further complications from the blood loss..."      
     Skinner nodded, sparing her the necessity of elaborating. "You were right 
about those diplomatic plates,"  he said. "The car was found in Chinatown this 
morning. Torched. The body in the park was Wallace Elliott, an orderly at the--"
     "Maryland Institute for the Criminally Insane. Yes, I know."
     Skinner gave her a hard look. "He told you about Bruner?"
     She sighed, crossed her arms. "I know Bruner was some kind of doctor. That 
he was a patient at the Institute and that Mulder was convinced that he had some 
knowledge of the disposal of these bodies. Have there been any more recovered?"
     "No. As far as the Bureau is concerned the case is closed."
     Her jaw dropped. Skinner kept his masked face on Mulder.
     "These killings took place some twenty years ago--"
     "Sir, may I remind you there is no statute of limitations on murder--"
     "Leichman closed the case this morning, Agent Scully."
     "And as his superior you have every right to demand it be reopened."
     "You have not been apprised of all the facts, Agent Scully. I will not 
allow you to pursue this case any further. Not alone."
     "Had Agent Mulder been apprised of all the facts?"
     Skinner didn't answer.
     "How did Mulder come in contact with this Bruner character."
     Skinner ground his teeth momentarily. "Bruner called me requesting contact 
with Agent Mulder on a personal matter."
     "Personal to Mulder?"
     "I was told that is was important for Mulder to pursue the matter. That I 
should also refer Leichman's case."
     "Did you tell Mulder there were outside influences prompting your 
decision?" Skinner was silent. "You sent him into this with no prior 
understanding of the situation." It was not a question.
     Skinner squirmed briefly under her steady gaze. "That's about the size of 
it, Agent Scully. I took a chance."
     "And almost cost Mulder his life."
     "Your partner knows the risks inherent in continuing his work." He looked 
at her coldly. "And so do you. If the risks are unacceptable, walk away."
     "I can't walk away."
     "No, Agent Scully, you just won't walk away."
     "Not until they let Mulder walk," she closed her eyes briefly. "And we both 
know they won't let him do that."
     Skinner watched the single tear track down her face, disappear around her 
jaw. His first meeting with her, a fresh idealistic instructor from Quantico, 
was a lifetime away somehow. He should have sent her back to her classes, told 
Blevins to go to hell.
     Her eyes were granite as she stared right back. Her voice was barely a 
whisper but tough and cold. "Mulder was once offered the chance to avenge me. To 
become  a player in this game instead of a damned pawn. He refused to sell out. 
What was it they bought you with?"
     Skinner allowed her gaze to sear him a moment more then turned to the door. 
Before pulling it open he turned back briefly. "Agent Mulder would be interested 
to know. Pitnam died last night. Self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He 
was holding his daughter's picture."
     Scully waited for the door to close before she allowed a second tear to 
fall.  She sat heavily in the chair next to Mulder's bed, struggling to pull 
herself together. She studied his hand, so still there on the bed. Her mind's 
eye  remembered it moving, fidgeting, playing with the pen in the car. 
Remembered his questions.
     "Why does God allow all this suffering?" she whispered.
     Mulder's own voice answered, a gravelly whisper. "Maybe he's in pain. Maybe 
he just wants to share his heart."
     Scully stood, searched his face. Coming from anyone else, that would have 
sounded like so much sentimental dribble. But from Mulder.... >From Mulder, she 
could believe it, accept it.
     "Welcome back, Mulder."
     He tried to smile, managed a weak grimace. "So, is this your way of getting 
me caught up on my sleep?"
     She sighed, laid her forehead on his shoulder. Neither spoke for a long 
while. Finally she felt his hand on her arm.
     "Go home and rest, Scully. I'm not going anywhere for a while."
     "I am home, Mulder." She didn't raise her head, felt him tense suddenly, 
then just as suddenly relax.
     "You're a sick woman, Scully." His voice was warm against her hair.
     "Must be the company I'm keeping," she said.

     When he woke again, he was alone and the phone was ringing. In the process 
of reaching for it he realized they had removed more tubes while he was out. 
Especially the more painful one they always insisted on shoving in his groin. 
That being discovered, he answered the phone delightedly, ignoring the low roar 
of pain the movements  caused.
     "DC Morgue. You stab 'em, we slab 'em."
     "And good evening to yourself, Agent Mulder."
     Every hair on Mulder's arms rose to attention. He laid back as much to 
absorb the shock as to relieve his pain.
     "I see the reports of your death have been grossly overstated," he said. 
"Damn my bad luck."
     An appreciative chuckle filtered through the receiver. "I understand your 
reticence to believe this, Agent Mulder, but you're going to be glad we had this 
little chat. Very glad. Maybe even grateful."
     "Grateful enough for what?" Mulder snorted, "To hunt you down and finish 
your execution? Sure. I can do that."
     "Same rules still apply as last time, Mr. Mulder. I die, the truth you need 
dies with me. Nothing's changed."
     "Oh, but things have changed, you black-lunged bastard--" The venom he 
threw into the receiver made him wince with pain and he had to lay back a minute 
to recover before continuing. The man on the other end of the line waited 
    "I'm not playing this game anymore," Mulder gasped. "I want out."
     "Do you?" The voice was condescendingly patient. "Where's your partner, 
Agent Mulder?"
     Alarms went off in Mulder's head that had nothing to do with his EKG. He 
glanced round the room. A blanket lay rumpled across the recliner, Scully's 
shoes tucked under it. Her overnight case was open on the cabinet. The silence 
was deafening.
     "Are you there, Mulder?" The voice was light. Carefree. But then it always 
was. Suddenly it dawned on Mulder why he hated that tone so much. Because if he 
had nothing left to lose that's how he would speak. Like it didn't matter.  Like 
nothing would ever matter again. The voice spoke again. "Has it never been a 
source of speculation to you, Mr. Mulder, that all the other women you and Agent 
Scully have encountered from the project were taken more than once? Some of them 
many times. All of them at least several times. All but Agent Scully."
     Mulder didn't trust himself to speak. He didn't really think he could at 
the moment.
     "You always believed her disappearance was intended to keep you in line. 
Perhaps you're right. Or perhaps it was intended to keep you moving; not to 
drive you away but forward." There was a lengthy pause. "Or has that fact never 
occurred to you."
     Mulder found his voice as the receiver went dead. He lay quite still a 
moment longer, gathering his wits, breathing hard. Once in another hospital room 
he'd told Scully he had found the faith to keep looking.  Now he'd been handed a 
reason to do so.
     Ignoring the near blackout level of pain, he sat up on the edge of =
the bed, dialed Scully's cell number. The blanket rang. Mulder's heart sank as 
he caught sight of her coat hanging from the back of the chair. The phone was in 
her pocket. She wouldn't have left it here if she'd gone home. Hell, she 
wouldn't have left her shoes. Not even to step out for coffee...
     Mulder hit the power buttons on the monitor and the IV pump and 
disconnected himself viciously. He found his bloodstained jeans in the closet; 
his leather jacket wasn't much better and there was a new hole in the back. No 
shirt. What the hell, maybe people would mistake him for a rock star.
     He found his gun in the false bottom of Scully's overnight case. He 
searched her overcoat and found hers in the pocket. He upholstered it and 
slipped it into his waistband.
     It was the night shift, thank God; the corridor was fairly deserted. Mulder 
noticed a folding chair with a table presenting a cup of coffee just across from 
his door. Where were Skinner's guard dogs? Mulder touched the Styrofoam. Coffee 
was still warm. The realization sent his chest into an entirely new level of 
pain and he had to concentrate to remind his body how to walk to an elevator.


     Mulder was certain Scully couldn't have been gone long when he found the 
body on the elevator. Nightshift or not, bodies don't generally travel up and 
down too many floors before being discovered. Mulder recognized the man from his 
days in the bullpen. Rick Barclay. General Assignment. Wife and three little 
girls, last Mulder had hear. His neck  had been snapped. His gun was still in 
it's holster.
     Mulder punched the garage level button. Looked like Barclay was going to 
have to take another trip and wait for someone with just a little more time....
     By the time he stumbled out into the garage, Mulder was sweating profusely.  
God, but his chest hurt... He tracked his gun slowly, efficiently, scanning the 
cavernous floor.  An echo of a car door being shut very softly.  He turned, 
ducked low to run, cringed with pain, slipping slightly on his own blood 
dripping silently on the concrete. 
     He ran anyway, grateful for the quiet rubber soled boots, bloodstained as 
they were. He rounded a column, brought his gunsite to bear on the man just 
stepping into the car.
     "Federal Agent, freeze!"
     The man paused, one hand on the car door, the other on the roof, his back 
to Mulder.  The car's interior lights shone through the darkly tinted glass 
revealing a familiar head resting in the backseat. She wasn't moving.
     "Step away from the car and keep your hands where I can see them. I assure 
you I am armed."
     "You're making a mistake, Agent Mulder."
     The voice was familiar and his gut rolled over.  But he'd run across one 
too many formerly dead acquaintances today to be too excited. "If she's dead or 
hurt in any way, your biggest mistake will have been not remaining dead."
     X turned and regarded him, keeping his hands on the roof of the car. The 
young man was too easily agitated....
     "She's alive. Merely drugged."
     "Too bad we can't say the same for the guy in the elevator." He interrupted 
X's reply, "Yeah, I know, I'm just a naive schoolboy who still insists on 
calling murder 'murder' instead of 'business as usual.' Just part of my charm, I 
guess." He nodded at Scully. "What do they want her for this time? They forget a 
few tests? Want to do a follow-up? See if she has anything left they can 
     X did not answer.
     Mulder's voice was quiet, flat and hard. "You know you're not taking her 
out of here. I'll kill you were you stand."
     X stepped away from the car, hands to his sides but still in plain sight. 
"Now," he said. "Or later. It's all the same to me. And if not me, they'll send 
someone else for her."
     "Why? What do they want from her?" Mulder's voice cracked. He was trying 
hard not to choke on the blood bubbling in the back of his throat.
     X tilted his graying head, watching him. "They don't want anything from 
her, Mr. Mulder. HER life is not important to them."
     The words brought Mulder's rage up several levels and he felt his finger 
tighten the trigger, felt the trigger responding. Then suddenly he hit that 
plateau where his thoughts suddenly cooled and condensed, the excess blowing 
away like steam when lava hits the sea. Cancerman's words echoed in his head, 
light and laughing. He experienced a epiphany. 
     X stood motionless, watching the younger  man's finger relax, watching 
those intense eyes turn a sleepy, deep green. Mulder took a step back, his gun 
level, his face visible only as a half-silvered image =
in a view finder. Mulder was smiling. Not the sweet smile of delight, but a 
genuine smile nonetheless that made X shiver involuntarily.
     "It's not her life that is important," Mulder repeated the phrase. X 
waited. "But you seem to have a vested interest in mine, don't you?"
     "Mr. Mulder--"
     "I'm your tool, right? That's what you always said."
     X nodded warily.
     "Well, tonight we put that glove on the other hand, sir."
     X stiffened. "You go to hell, Agent Mulder--"
     "That's exactly where I plan on going." Mulder moved his weapon: the barrel 
under his own chin, his finger still on  the trigger.
     X took an instinctive step forward, stopped. "What the HELL do you think 
you're doing--"
     "Dealing. We both know there are some lines I won't cross. I won't take 
human life at random even to find the truth.  But MY life is quite another 
matter. That's a field on which I think I can handle being a player."
     "Why?" Mulder hissed, cold rage the only thing keeping him on his feet. 
"Why is my life so important?"
     X shook his head, shaking his fists in frustration. "You are the key!  
Damnit, you die and the truth dies with you!"
     "What do you care? What is the truth? Why is it important to you?"
     The older man was sweating. He held his hands out to Mulder, palms down. 
"You said you would deal.  Just put the gun down and we'll talk."
     "I'll leave the gun where it is and we'll still talk."
     "Agent Mulder, you're bleeding--"
     "And I'm about to bleed a hell of a lot more. What's it to you?
      "Mr. Mulder," X growled, "you will NOT DO THIS."
      Mulder regarded him dispassionately, tired.  "I read once that once a 
man's hit thirty, there's not a day that passes that he doesn't think about his 
own death, at least at some level.  It's what drives us forward.  That day hit 
me when I was twelve.  So I've had at least as much time as you to get used to 
the idea." He paused to breathe.  It was getting harder. "This is no bluff. You 
know better. How about it? What is it worth to you? What'll you give me for not 
pulling the trigger?"
     X was having an epiphany now. It seemed to be catching. He turned his gray 
head to the motionless figure in the car.
     Mulder nodded. "Now your catching on."
     X looked back at him. "She lives," he said.
     Mulder pushed. "She lives and she remains here with me. Untouched."
     X regarded him. Mulder could almost see the gears turning behind those 
dark, intelligent eyes. "You forget, Agent Mulder, I'm not the only player in 
this game. Should--"
     "Should someone else have any problem with the terms of our agreement, 
you'll just have to convince them."  Mulder's body was weakening, but his eyes 
had not so much as blinked. "Anyone," he hissed, "Anyone touches her and it's 
     X smiled. "But, think, man. If you blow yourself away, who would she have 
left to rescue her?"
     Mulder returned the smile. "I'll make those arrangements. Don't worry." He 
paused to breathe again. "That's the deal. Take it or leave it. Now."
     X straightened to his full height and regarded the pale shaking man with 
eyes of cold steel. He nodded. "Her life is yours. She lives." His voice was 
hard. "YOU live. And you KEEP MOVING."
     Mulder lowered the gun, slumped against the column. He raised the site 
again as X reached into his pocket. The black man showed him the cell phone, 
punched in a number. Mulder slid to the floor and lost consciousness as X called 
for emergency personnel to the garage level.


     "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, 
who hear the word, retain it, and by preserving produce fruit with patience."
     The minister closed his book and looked up. "Let us join in a moment of 
reverence for our dear brother, Walter Pitnam."
     Mulder looked over at Scully; her head bowed, eyes closed, red hair glowing 
in the sunlight. He bowed his own head to stare at the coffin being lowered 
slowly into it's plot. He inhaled deeply, slowing the intake as a whisper of 
pain shot through his chest. The hospital had released him only a few hours 
before and he was still trying to assure Scully he was well enough to go home 
     She'd even suggested his calling one of the Lone Gunmen in to babysit. But 
he'd talked to the guys two days ago, when he'd woken back in his hospital room, 
tubes intact. All the tubes...
     No, the Gunmen were working on... other things. Contingency plans.
     They weren't his only ace in the hole, although he hadn't told them that. 
Should they ever need to implement one of those plans, they would find a little 
more help that they would have expected. Formidable help.
     Mulder shook his head. It was so simple. He couldn't believe he hadn't 
thought of it before.
     Scully didn't know, of course.  He could never tell her.  She'd never 
forgive him for connecting his life so completely with her own. Never stop 
worrying over herself for his sake.
     Since the cancer had gone into remission, she had reveled in her 
independence, distancing herself emotionally from all the people she had relied 
on through her illness. Especially him. It wasn't a conscious decision on her 
part, certainly, but the fact that it was an unconscious reaction didn't make it 
any less human, any less true. Any less painful.  Right now, he was simply a 
reminder of death.  And she wanted to live.  
     And that's just what he wanted her to do. So he'd told her the kidnapper 
was part of Wallace and Bruner's team. That he'd frightened the man off. That as 
soon as he'd heard Wally and Bruner were dead, he would slip away into the 
network of lies and disappear.
     What was that Deep Throat had told him?  That a lie was best hidden between 
two truths?
     He felt her hand reach over and settle itself into his. He peered out at 
her sidelong from under dark lashes. Those brilliant liquid eyes asking if he 
was okay. He closed his eyes, squeezed her hand gently, rubbing her fingertips 
easily with his thumb.
    *	I'm fine, Scully. Everything's going to be okay.*
     As she took his arm and he allowed her to lead him back to the car. She 
looked down at the hand she held, quiet and strong. Alive. She wouldn't tell 
him, of course. Wouldn't tell him that she was drugged motionless in the car 
that night.  Motionless but not unconscious. He wouldn't worry about her so much 
if he believed she didn't know. And she knew he would never tell her for the 
same reasons.
     "Hey," he said, slipping into the driver's seat.  "I never asked you how 
Bill was doing."
     "Oh,  he's alright.  Glad to be home, I think."
     Mulder smiled.  "I bet."
     "He did strongly suggest that we both remain with the X-Files."
     Mulder paused before turning the key, regarding her warily.
     She smiled. "Apparently, he doesn't think Washington's tourism industry is 
quite ready for us."
      "So, which part of the weekend seems to have been the determining factor, 
the Institute or St. Mary's Wilderness?"
      "Apparently the Wilson House was a little more excitement that he's used 
      He laughed. "Jeez, Scully, I can't take your family anywhere."
      "That's just what Bill said."


        It was quiet. In a forest of virgin pine the hemlock bowed it's branches 
against the wind and sun.  A cloud passed lazily above, trekking across the sky 
in leisurely fashion, gazing down at the lush land below. Spring was fast 
        Grass pushed its way through the soft earth, wrapped around roots and 
rock, reached up to tickle at the skeleton lying stretched full length upon the 
ground. Dainty little foot bones rested very ladylike side-by-side. The remains 
of  outstretched arms warmed in the sunlight bathing the tree.
        Winds whispered and branches responded in hushed tones high above. Far 
below, the pale little remains lay quiet on an expanse of green.
        And stared unblinking into the sun.

"To believe in one's dreams is to spend all of one's life asleep." --Chinese