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And Death Shall Have No Dominion by Jean Helms (JeanLHelms@aol.

com)
TITLE: "And Death Shall Have No Dominion"
AUTHOR: Jean Helms (JeanLHelms@aol.com)
WARNING: Explicit sexual violence/rape of a character. Character death,
although if you're like me, you won't weep for this one.
ORIGINAL POST: 12/12/1999
ARCHIVE ENTRY: "And Death Shall Have No Dominion"
CLASSIFICATION: SRA, MSR.
RATING: Mostly PG, but overall NC-17 for language, chapters dealing with
explicit and implied sexual violence and for explicit consensual sex.
SUMMARY: Mulder and Scully, off the X Files for now, investigate a possible
bioweapons facility. What they find there puts their partnership, their
investigative skills, their love and even their sanity to a test neither could
ever have imagined.
ARCHIVE: Anywhere you like; just please keep my name and addy on it and let me
know where.
FEEDBACK: Yes, please.
SPOILERS: U.S. sixth season; to be safe, let's say up to but not including Two
Fathers/One Son.
DISCLAIMER: "The X Files" and the characters therein are created by Chris
Carter and are his property or the property of 1013 Productions, Fox
Television or 20th Century Fox. Also, the murders investigated by Fox Mulder
in this novel are based on the writings of John Douglas, father of criminal
personality profiling. The facts of the cases and John Douglas' investigations
are adapted and used without permission -- but with the utmost admiration. No
copyright infringement is intended, and this work is being distributed free,
without any remuneration whatsoever to its author.
See further acknowledgments and disclaimers at the end of Chapter One.
DEDICATION: To Lee, my faithful beta reader and friend, for all her help,
suggestions and most of all, for her unending enthusiasm and encouragement,
and to my husband, David, and to my children, Mary, Emily and Karen, for their
patience, love and support over the many months that it took me to write this.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"And Death Shall Have No Dominion"

by Jean Helms
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.
"And Death Shall Have No Dominion"
-- Dylan Thomas

Chapter 1
FBI Headquarters
Monday, Dec. 21
8:11 a.m.
Now and then, the guiding principles of the universe seem to turn inside out
and the impossible happens: Effect precedes cause, parallel lines intersect,
energy is created or destroyed.
What was happening this morning was less cataclysmic, but no less impossible:
Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully, M.D., couldn't get her mind on her work.
Even as
Federal
She was
agents'

she walked into the lobby of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, home of the
Bureau of Investigation, work was the furthest thing from her mind.
on autopilot as she held out her credentials and walked through the
security checkpoint.

It was December, less than a week until Christmas. The weather was lousy:
slushy, muddy snow everywhere, gray and cold. She hadn't finished her
shopping. She could have been forgiven for thinking about any of those things.
But she wasn't thinking about anything so mundane.
She stepped onto the elevator and pushed the button for her floor, ignoring
the condescending smirks of her fellow agents. She was used to that. The other
G-men might as well have been on another planet for all the notice she gave
them.
The elevator headed up. That was a change; a big one. For the previous five
years she had shared the only operations office in the basement with her
partner of six years, Special Agent Fox Mulder; or, as he called himself at
their first meeting, the FBI's Most Unwanted.

Now, she did grunt work in the bullpen, upstairs, as though she were a newbie
fresh out of Quantico.
She wasn't concerned about that right now, either. She had other things on her
mind.
Pizza.
Specifically, the pizza she and Mulder had shared two nights earlier as they
wrapped up their latest case over mushrooms and pepperoni, sitting side by
side in a dismal little hotel room in Podunk, Nebraska.
Okay, so it wasn't called Podunk, she thought. What the hell was it called?
The towns were all beginning to run together in her mind. Small,
superstition-ridden, gloomy, under-educated, depressing -- that was all most
of them were. And all populated with the crummy hotels that were all they
could afford on the Bureau's measly travel allowances. Useless towns,
suspicious of science and almost every other form of learning.
Mulder was the only Rhodes scholar most of those towns would ever see, and he
was at the heart of the pizza problem.
It shouldn't have happened: They shouldn't even have been in a hotel room
together, but neither of them paid much attention to the rule against it. The
rule was intended to prevent problems with sexual harassment, and that was
never going to be a problem between them. They were entirely comfortable
together, and had been since their first field operation together.
That was six years ago; Mulder was conducting an investigation into the
mysterious deaths of several of the town's young people, all of whom were
found with two strange bumps on their lower backs.
When they got to their hotel, there was no power; a thunderstorm had knocked
out electricity all over town. She was dead tired, rain-soaked and already
half-crazed by the realization that she had let a man she hadn't even known
the day before talk her into conducting an exhumation and autopsy on a body
that wasn't even recognizably human. She was in her underwear, readying her
bath by candlelight, when she noticed the bumps on her own back.
Suddenly, she was terrified. Frightened out of her wits, if the truth be told.
The worst part was knowing that she was afraid of ridiculous things, illogical
things that she didn't believe in.
Didn't _want_ to believe in, she amended.
In a blind panic, she had run to Mulder's room and, without thinking, dropped
her bathrobe and insisted that he examine her back. The doctor in her hadn't

seen anything wrong with that.


The doctor, however, realized too late that this wasn't a medical setting.
This was a hotel room, and he was a male agent, and she was in her underwear.
Scully saw her reputation crumbling right before her eyes. She could not
imagine her new partner not taking advantage of this, spreading all around the
Bureau the story of how she came to his room and threw off her clothes less
than one day after they became partners.
All the struggle for respect and equality was going to end right here. She was
about to become a standing joke.
Only it hadn't happened that way at all. Mulder hadn't mocked her or made
crude remarks. He simply examined the marks and reassured her that they were
only mosquito bites.
He won her heart that night. Pulling the robe back up, she had impulsively
thrown herself into his arms. He held her just long enough to comfort her,
letting go as soon as she began to pull back.
He met her anxious look with eyes that were calm, kind, understanding.
Hazel eyes. Warm, deep, their colors shifting with the light.
The eyes of a friend.
Sighing, she relaxed. She was safe with this man. She could stay.
They spent the rest of that night talking. She lay on one of the beds. He
covered her with a blanket, and sat near her on the floor, and they began what
had become a six-years-long process of opening their deepest hearts to each
other. They were friends.
After that, there was no reason to flee to the political rectitude of the
restaurant or the bar. Mulder was perfectly capable of amusing himself at her
expense ("Scully, what are you wearing?" "Oooh, if you were that stoned,
what?" "I think it's remotely plausible someone might think you're hot."), but
he was also perfectly capable of treating her as a partner and fellow agent.
And he did. That was rare in the Bureau's old-boy bastions of power.
That was why, that night in Podunk, they felt no qualms about sitting on one
of the beds, their bodies comfortably touching as they talked, munching pizza.

The pizza was hot, for once, and gooey, and so good that Scully, Miss "Green
salad with lemon and a cup of yogurt with a little bee pollen" Scully, had
greedily downed about half of it, much to her partner's amusement. She wound
up with a big blob of tomato sauce on her face, although she didn't realize it
until she saw those hazel eyes focus on her left cheek.
Without a word, he had picked up a napkin and gently wiped the sauce away,
like a father wiping a baby's face. He had done that before, but that had been
in a restaurant; this time they were alone, sitting on a bed in a hotel room,
and the touch of the rough white paper felt disturbingly intimate,
affectionate, possessive.
She pushed him away, took the napkin in her own hand and walked to the mirror.
In its reflection, she saw his eyes, saw the hurt in them, although he tried
to hide it.
He wouldn't try it again anytime soon.
Now, as she rode the elevator, Scully turned the incident over and over in her
mind. Why did she push him away, she wondered. Why did it hurt him so much
that she had?
And why was she suddenly afraid to walk into the office and face him?
Her intellectual mind told her there was no reason to worry. All that had
happened was that she had re-set the professional boundaries between them.
That had to be done from time to time in a male-female partnership. He would
understand and respect it.
But in her innermost thoughts, Dana Scully knew her intellect was serving up a
big, hot plate of bullshit.
Because the truth was that she wanted him. Badly.
And there was not a single doubt in her mind that he would be good in bed. She
knew, instinctively, that Mulder as lover would be much like Mulder as
partner: respectful, careful, passionate, intuitive, athletic, even creative.
And tender, the way he was when he wiped her face.
The thought made her a little dizzy, and she put a gloved hand against the
elevator rail for support.
She wanted to know him that way. It had been a long time since she'd last been
with a man, so long that she could scarcely remember how it felt, not that
there was much to remember, for her at least. Her ex-lover had even given her
a nickname, one that she later learned had spread all around the Bureau: The

Ice Queen.
But if there were any man on earth who could melt that ice, it would have to
be her partner. And Mulder was a man, all right; by any objective standard,
Fox Mulder was a damned attractive man, tall, lean and muscular, with a mouth
that begged to be tasted and those eyes ...
She could have had him then, in that little hotel room, but it had not
happened.
Dana Scully, The Ice Queen, had not allowed it.
That was that. Mulder had said something about getting an early start in the
morning, gone back to his own room and closed the connecting door behind him.
Still, he did not lock it; that was something. Had she wanted to, Scully could
have opened that door and gone to him. Hours later, when she heard the
all-too-familiar sounds of Mulder's awakening from yet another nightmare, she
nearly did go. It would have been so easy.
But she did not move. She lay awake, listening to the sounds on the other side
of the door: the water he poured for himself, the pseudo-excitement of the
infomercial audience, the click-click-click of his laptop as he once again
resigned himself to the lonely world of his perpetual sleeplessness.
She hurt for him then, but she did not go to him. She, who could stare down
the barrel of a gun without flinching, turned utter coward and left him to
fight his demons alone.
That had been cruel, and she knew it. He had come to depend on her friendship
in those grim times, but she had denied it to him that night.
Be honest, Dana, she thought as the elevator slowly rose. It wasn't friendship
you were denying him.
It was love.
The love between them had never been expressed, seldom even hinted at. They
tiptoed around it, but it was like tiptoeing around an elephant: too big to
ignore, too big to do anything about.
Almost too big, she amended. He had almost kissed her once, although he
probably thought she didn't remember it. No sooner had his lips brushed
against hers than that damn bee had stung her, sending her into a nightmare
world of ice from which she had barely emerged alive.
That she had lived was entirely due to him. He had risked his life to save

her, crossing the icy wastes of the Antarctic to rescue her from her
captivity.
Sex couldn't even come close to showing her his love the way that journey had
done.
Still, she wanted it. She wanted him.
She wondered if she ever would, ever could, be truly naked before Mulder.
Physical nudity wasn't the issue; it wasn't even close. Circumstances had
forced her and her partner to deal with one another's unclothed bodies more
than once, and they had done so with professional detachment: rendering first
aid, calling the ambulance, finding clothes or a blanket for a cover.
She didn't fear his touch, either; scarcely a day went by that he did not
touch her, sometimes several times, placing a guiding hand on her back, or
holding her carefully by the upper arms to get her attention. More intimate
touches were rare, but not unheard of: an embrace, a fleeting hand clasp, a
kiss on her hand, or on her face.
His touch bore overtones of danger, hints of the sensuality that she knew
burned within him, of the passion for all things alive and living that
impelled him onward in his quest. To have that passion turned toward her -- to
draw him to her, to become the focus of his relentless energy -- she could
imagine no pleasure greater, no fulfillment more certain than that.
No, the barrier had nothing to do with any physical fear. The hands-off policy
was her armor against the utter and shameful nudity of her inner self before
him. So long as he thought of her as a partner, a co-worker, completely
separate from himself, she was safe; he was too well-bred to push his
inquiries further than she was pleased to allow.
So for six years, she had doled out intimacy between them like a man rationing
his water supply in the desert. She could never risk letting him take as much
of her as she wanted; if she did, she was certain, he would swallow her whole.
She would have nothing left in that safe space inside her, no part of her soul
that was not open to his review, and that was dangerous.
Too dangerous even to consider.
~~~~~
The "bullpen"
8:15 a.m.

Mulder, as usual, was already at work when Scully came in, leaning back in his

chair with his feet propped on his desk.


No wonder he's early; he was probably here yesterday, and I don't believe he
went home last night, either, Scully thought, as she tucked her lustful
thoughts away into the lock-box part of her brain.
Not that Mulder was a sight to inspire lust right now, at least not to anyone
else. He was wearing the same blue shirt and god-awful maroon-and-green tie
he'd worn the day before, but the shirt was wrinkled, the tie was loosely
knotted around his neck and the eyes behind the wire-rimmed reading glasses
were red and tired.
"Hey, Scully, take a look at this," he said, greeting her as usual without
preamble. "We may have a real, honest-to-God FBI case."
"Good morning to you, too, Mulder," Scully said, taking off her coat and
hanging it carefully on a coat hook. "What have you got?"
Tossing a file folder onto Scully's desk, in the cubicle behind his, Mulder
grinned. "A factory outside Mobile, Alabama. Lots of mysterious shipments in
and out, lots of men in black hanging around, scaring the workers. A source
who says what's being grown down there could be a biological weapon, and that
we ought to pay Mobile a visit -- I hear the winters are mild and wonderful
down on the Gulf Coast."
"Who's the source?" Scully asked, sitting down at her always tidy desk and
picking up the folder.
"One that I think we can trust," Mulder said, his tone daring her to argue.
Scully wasn't in the mood for that game. "You always trust your sources," she
said calmly, ignoring Mulder's wounded-puppy expression. "That's why they're
still your sources. That doesn't suggest to me that they should automatically
become mine as well."
Opening the folder, she scanned quickly over the file, down to the bottom line
on the 302: Originating agent: SA Mulder.
Haven't seen that for a while, she thought.
Closing the folder, Scully looked up at Mulder. "Assuming your source is to be
trusted -- and right now, it's only an assumption -- why would they send us?
And why Mobile? I've been to Mobile, years ago, when my father was on TDY at
NAS Pensacola."
"What's a TDY?" Mulder asked. "Sounds like a frozen yogurt cone"

"Temporary duty, Mulder," she said, rolling her eyes. "And don't change the
subject. Mobile is not a big town. What possible reason could they have for
locating a highly secret factory there? Why not somewhere bigger, where they
could go unnoticed?"
"That's just it," Mulder said, the wounded look gone. Scully wouldn't have
asked for all those details unless she was in, and she was in on this one -he could tell.
"When you look at all the facts, Mobile is perfect," Mulder went on, warming
to his subject. "Think about it, Scully: It's not actually a town, it's a
city, about a quarter million residents, so it's big enough to get lost in but
not big enough to be obvious. And as you yourself noted, it's not the first
place you'd suspect."
"I think what I was implying was that it was the last place you'd suspect,"
Scully replied. "I.e., that you're off base."
"But it's got advantages," Mulder answered, undaunted. "It's a fair-sized
commercial seaport and it's also at the junction of two interstate highways,
one of which is the infamous I-10 drug pipeline. Add to that the fact that the
smokestack-chasing city fathers have filled the surrounding area with big,
smelly chemical plants, and you've got Black Ops Pharmaceuticals, hidden in
plain sight."
"Mulder, be careful," Scully said, dryly. "You're giving me facts and logic,
and I'm not sure your brain can take it."
Mulder smiled, acknowledging both the joke and the truth behind it, but Scully
could sense the tension building inside him.
He's chomping at the bit, Scully thought. Why? Who was his source? X was dead;
so was Deep Throat. Marita Covarrubias from the United Nations? Probably. His
old girlfriend, Special Agent Diana Fowley? It had better not be, she thought
grimly.
The real reason, she thought, is that he thinks somewhere down in all this,
there is an X File. Mulder hadn't reconciled himself to being taken off the X
Files, and she was morally certain he never would.
In the end, it didn't matter who the source was or whether Mulder was trying
to sneak in an investigation of paranormal phenomena under the guise of
fighting domestic terrorism. She could never really trust any of Mulder's
informants, anyway, but she could trust the bond between herself and her
partner, if it was undamaged.
Belay that relationship stuff, she ordered herself in her father's voice,
focusing her eyes on the file again. Think about the problem at hand, which is
another trip to Nowhere, and the probabilities of being killed because we
found something real versus the chance of being misled by another carefully

constructed lie.
Either way she calculated the probabilities, they came out the same way: You
lose.
When she looked up, Mulder was regarding her with what she always thought of
as his profiler's expression. He always knew when something was wrong,
although just how he knew was still a complete mystery to her.
"You don't have to go along on this one if you don't feel it's right, Scully,"
he said, and the seriousness she heard in his voice reassured her. "But I
could really use your expertise on this. This is a disease-causing organism,
and diseases are your field, not mine."
"Thank you, but medicine has less to do with it than Christmas, which is
coming soon and for which I am not ready," Scully replied, not entirely
truthfully but unwilling to expose her real thoughts. "Or had you forgotten?"
"Well, now that you mention it, I believe I did see a Christmas decoration or
two around the District," Mulder said. "But you know I don't pay much
attention to holidays, not even my own. I couldn't begin to tell you when the
first night of Hanukah is this year."
"Well, I do pay attention to holidays, Mulder, and especially to Christmas. My
brothers are coming home, and I'm supposed to be off starting the day after
tomorrow. I want to spend some time with Mom and I also need to finish my
shopping." Well, that part was true, at least, she thought.
"Go, then, if you need to go," Mulder responded, his face carefully neutral.
The last thing he wanted was to get into a discussion about Scully's brother
Bill. The big Navy commander blamed Mulder for most of his family's troubles
over the past few years and Mulder couldn't blame him. Scully's abduction, her
cancer, her infertility, the death of her sister, Melissa -- none of these
would have happened had Dana Scully not joined the X Files.
The profiler in him couldn't resist thinking that underlying that big-brother
concern was more than a hint of jealousy and male territoriality, the alpha
male fighting off rivals for the females, the hero protecting the virgin from
seduction. Bill Scully was not a complicated man.
Unfortunately -- or maybe fortunately -- he has no reason to worry, Mulder
thought. Wonder what he'd do if he did?
Now it was Scully's turn to study her partner's face. I am going to regret
this, she thought.
"I still have a few days," she said, resigning herself. "If you need my help

..."
"Always," Mulder responded automatically, drawing a slight smile from his
partner.
He's forgiven me, she thought. He never even held it against me. He just wants
me with him.
He needs me with him.
No more to be said, is there, Dana Katherine? she thought.
Scully stood, picking up her coffee cup. "So when do we leave?" she asked.
A hint of triumph crept into Mulder's broad smile as he put his feet on the
floor and stood. "Soon as you finish your coffee. Of which, by the way, there
is none. You'll have to make it."
Scully set the cup back down. "I'll get some at the airport," she said,
sighing.
"You're going to drink airport coffee? You really have lost the will to live,"
Mulder said, lifting her coat from the rack and holding it for her.
Scully slipped into the coat and turned to face him. "What I have lost is any
hope that I will ever again spend more than one night in my own bed before
leaving again."
"Where's your sense of adventure, Scully?" Mulder teased, as he took his
service weapon from the desk and holstered it, then shrugged on his suit coat.
Such a simple act, Scully thought. Pick up the coat, right arm goes through,
left hand reaches back to grab the collar and swing it over the left shoulder.
Left arm through. Straighten the lapels. Check the pocket, make sure the
credentials are there. Nothing to it. He does it every day, several times a
day; he doesn't even have to think about it. But every single time, I watch
him. And I do think about it, about how he moves, how he looks ...
Does he know what it does to me?
He couldn't, she thought. It's too silly even to contemplate. I've seen him
naked and I'm getting turned on watching him dress? Ridiculous.
She willed her face to show nothing as she picked up her briefcase and walked
to the door. Mulder held it open, guiding her through with his usual brief
touch on the small of her back.

~~~~~
En route to Mobile, Ala.
1:15 p.m.

Flying into Mobile was every bit as bad as Scully thought it would be.
The first leg of the trip, from Washington to Atlanta, wasn't bad; at least,
not by the standards of the everyday business traveler.
Scully was not an everyday traveler. Scully hated flying. Being seated next to
6-foot-2-inch Mulder made it just that much worse. He had no trouble at all
getting comfortable on a plane: he either plopped his long legs in her space,
or he took up the armrest between them. Either way, he quickly nodded off,
leaving her to deal with a chancy stomach and white knuckles on her own.
Scully never harbored darker thoughts about her partner than she did onboard
an airplane.
The second leg, flying from Atlanta to Mobile on a tiny, cramped, noisy
commuter plane, was infinitely worse. By the end of the 50-minute flight,
Scully's too-upright posture was beginning to tell on her. Walking off this
airplane was going to be an effort; her legs were asleep, and the butt of her
gun was digging painfully into her back. She couldn't take it out and risk
causing panic among the other passengers, and she didn't have room to turn so
that she wasn't lying against it.
She hadn't drawn a deep breath since Atlanta.
Mulder, of course, was sound asleep, his head slumped
breathing deeply. Even the thud of the landing didn't
herself in a momentary thought of what a sharp rap of
that peaceful expression, and almost immediately felt

against her shoulder,


wake him. She indulged
her knuckles could do to
guilty.

He sleeps on planes, she thought, because he can't sleep anywhere else. Give
him a break.
Gently, she shook him awake. "Mulder, we've landed," she said quietly.
Mulder opened his eyes, blinking. "Landed where?" he asked, puzzled.
Scully smiled in spite of herself, and in a moment, Mulder returned the smile,
sheepishly.

"I know where we are, Scully," he said. "I was just testing you."
"As they say in Russia, Mulder, bullshitsky."
~~~~~
Mobile, Alabama
1:32 p.m.

A few minutes later, the agents had rented a car and were on their way, each
in the accustomed role: Mulder drove, Scully looked at the map. He never
willingly gave up the wheel unless he was falling asleep.
"Theodore Industrial Park is home to several plants, some of which are
chemical. It's south of the city," she told him. "On the other hand, there are
several chemical plants in the north part of the county as well. Did your
source give you any idea where we should try first?"
"First stop is the Mobile field office," Mulder said. "We're going to need
some contacts with local agents and probably with Customs, too, and that's the
best place I know of to find them."
"If there is a bioweapons facility here, it's not likely Customs will know
about it," Scully said. "Given the current state of affairs at Customs, I'm
not sure I want them to know our business anyway."
"Me, either," Mulder agreed. "Customs is in a shambles. I'm just going to ask
about some things they might have seen or intercepted, things that wouldn't
make sense to them but would to us."
"Such as?"
"Such as barrels full of black oil, unlabeled containers of corn, bees -- that
kind of thing," he said, teasingly. "After all, Scully, what greater bioweapon
could there be than an alien virus?"
"Mulder, this is not an X File, this is a conventional investigation into a
possible biological weapon of terror," Scully said, letting her head fall
against the headrest and closing her eyes. "And if I'm wrong, and there are
bees, you're on your own."
Mulder looked at her carefully. "I'm not letting a bee get within 100 feet of
you, Scully," he said, in a tone that was just a little too serious. Scully
opened her eyes and turned to look at him.
"I know you won't," she said. "And you know I'm not serious about leaving you

on your own."
"I am," he said. "Dead serious. The first bee that shows up I'm sending you
back to D.C. Once is enough for that shit."
Mulder, if you only knew, she thought. Did you notice, when you came for me,
that my eyes were open? Did you know that I was awake and praying that I would
die quickly? No, you don't -- because I've never told you, and I never will.
Never.
"You're right, Mulder," Scully said, looking out the window, away from him.
"No more bees. Once is more than enough."
~~~~~
Steve Penn, special agent in charge of the Mobile field office, proved to be a
gold mine of information about Customs and DEA contacts as well as officers of
the Alabama State Docks. With his help, it only took one afternoon and part of
an evening to learn that a cargo container of bacteriological medium had
recently moved through the docks headed by rail for the small town of
McIntosh, outside Mobile, home to several chemical plants.
The only question was which one. The docks workers couldn't help them with
that.
"Once it leaves here, I don't worry about it," as one longshoreman put it.
"There aren't that many plants up there, Scully," Mulder said as they walked
toward the car. "All we have to do is go find the one that doesn't want us
there, and we've got it."
"And then what, Mulder?" Scully replied. "Once we do that, they know we're
here, and the whole thing is packed up and out of town six hours before we can
get a warrant."
"Who said anything about a warrant?" Mulder said as he unlocked the car door
on her side before walking around to the driver's side. "I just want to go
look around. We don't need a warrant for that."
Scully got in the car and buckled her seat belt. "I doubt sincerely that all
you're planning to do is look around. I also doubt that the local judges will
take kindly to a couple of federal agents from out of town committing an act
of breaking and entering."
He wasn't listening. As usual.
Six years of trying, and she still couldn't change Mulder's infuriating

tendency to ignore the rules.


That was something she herself could not do. Too many years as a Navy brat,
moving from one naval station to another, had taught her the virtues of being
self-contained and going by the book.
~~~~~
"You idiot," the sixth-grader had sneered. "That can's for paper. You put your
lunch in there."
Dana cringed.
The other kids in St. Benedict's lunchroom had laughed. She could hear them
talking about her as she shamefacedly retrieved half a peanut butter sandwich
from the pail.
It was February, and it was her first day at St. Benedict's. It was her
seventh school in six years. Her father was in the Navy, and she was always
the new kid in school. And she hated it.
When you were always the new kid in school, you learned quickly to keep quiet,
keep to yourself, and do nothing until you were sure you understood the rules.
She knew that. But she still made mistakes, sitting on the wrong swings at
recess, getting up from her desk when the first bell rang, unaware that the
first bell was for bus-riders, not students whose parents picked them up. Like
yours.
And when you made a mistake, no one around you would ever let you forget it.
Dana wasn't stupid; she knew how the pecking order worked. The bottom-rung kid
in the school, the one who had been low man on the totem pole before her
arrival, would almost always zero in on her and get a few cheap laughs out of
her ignorance. She understood the principle: If you can't climb in the
hierarchy, you can at least try to put someone else on the rung below you.
No one was an easier target than the new kid.
The only escape from this, Dana discovered, was knowledge, observation,
evidence, perfect obedience to the rules. She watched, and waited, and watched
some more; she didn't move until she was certain, beyond all doubt, that she'd
figured it out. One student tossing a half-eaten roll into the pail wasn't
enough; they all had to do it, or she couldn't be sure.
Evidence. Observable, measurable, repeatable events that, together,
constituted sure evidence. Find the evidence, follow the rules, do what's

expected of you -- that, she soon learned, was the only way to be safe.
~~~~~
She tried again.
"They still fly the Confederate flag around here, Mulder. Federal authority is
not popular, to say the least. We've got to play by the rules or we risk
getting into trouble that no one will help us out of."
"I don't think the citizens of Alabama are ready to secede from the Union over
two FBI agents conducting a questionable search of a chemical plant, Scully,"
Mulder said, steering the car down Water Street toward I-10. "They may not
have forgotten the Civil War, but they're a law-and-order bunch around here."
"All the more reason to go by the book and seek a warrant," Scully said. "The
federal courthouse isn't far from the field office. It wouldn't take 15
minutes to present this to a magistrate and get a warrant."
"I tell you what, Scully," Mulder said. "You go ask the judge for a warrant.
Wake him up, interrupt his dinner, or his Monopoly game, and tell him we
suspect someone is growing killer germs in a factory in McIntosh, only we
don't know which factory and we haven't seen the germs, but we know it's just
got to be there. If -- I repeat, if -- you get a warrant, then I will execute
it as lawfully as possible. But if we do, I promise you, all we're going to
find when we get there is an empty warehouse or a fully operational plant
manufacturing environmentally friendly baby food. How many times do they have
to disappear the evidence before you understand?"
"I understand, Mulder," she shot back, angry. "I'm the one who buried a casket
full of sand after they disappeared my daughter's body."
"Scully, I didn't mean it like that," Mulder said. He started to apologize,
but Scully stopped him.
"I don't think I want to discuss this any more tonight, Mulder," she said,
icily. "We can decide this in the morning after we're rested and we've had a
chance to think it over."
"I don't need to think it over, Scully," Mulder said. "I'm going out there
tonight."
"No."
"What do you mean, no?"
"I mean no. I mean that if you go, I'll have to back you up, and I would not

be adequate backup because I'm tired, and I'm angry, and it would be dangerous
right now. Let's just go get some sleep."
"You do not have to go," Mulder said, and Scully could hear the controlled
anger in his voice. "I am not asking you to go. But I'm not asking for your
permission, either. I don't need it."
"No, you don't," Scully said, equally angry but outwardly cool. "I have not
forgotten who's the senior agent here. But I would have hoped that after six
years as my partner you would begin to trust my judgment, just a little. Or is
that asking too much?"
Mulder said nothing for a long time. Scully looked out the side window,
watching the drizzly rain drip down the glass. When she looked ahead again,
she saw that they were on an elevated bridge, crossing Mobile Bay.
"This isn't the road to McIntosh," she said.
"No, it's the road to Daphne, which is where our hotel is," Mulder said. "I
figured maybe we would get some sleep, tackle this in the morning. What do you
say?"
Scully looked at him for a moment. The tentative look in his eyes told her all
she needed to know.
"I think that's an excellent idea," she said, her tone just warm enough to
tell him she was over being angry. No real warmth, not when they were en route
to a hotel.
That would be against the rules.
~~~~~
Daphne, Alabama
8:43 p.m.
The hotel, for once, was not half bad, and best of all it looked westward over
Mobile Bay. Scully was delighted to see the battleship USS Alabama in the
distance, cast into sharp silhouette by the floodlights behind her.
Years ago, her father had brought her here to see the once-mighty ship while
he was temporarily stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Her grandfather,
his father, had served on a ship just like this during World War II, he told
her.
She had been so happy as he showed her around, feeling his pride in her and
the pride of being a Scully, part of a Navy family, heiress to an ancient and

noble tradition of service.


For her, everything about that day was perfect.
Now, here she was, carrying the badge of the federal agency her father hated
worse than any other, resting, relaxing, getting in shape to conduct an
illegal search, violate the law, spy on what American citizens were doing, and
all in the name of a greater good.
Stop it right there, she thought. You do what you have to do, day by day.
Tomorrow will take care of itself.
She looked at her watch; it was late, but not too late; Scully began to think
there might actually be a real dinner in store tonight. This place had actual
restaurants nearby, places where the food came on china plates instead of in
cardboard boxes.
No such luck. Mulder, as usual, had gone to his room, turned on the TV and
begun channel-surfing. From the sound of things, he had found an all-sports
channel and she knew that meant he was in for the night.
Ruefully, Scully put aside thoughts of a social evening; she put on her
pajamas and bathrobe and morosely scanned the hotel's plastic-laminated list
of nearby take-out chains.
Then she heard the faint sound of Mulder's cellphone ringing. He answered it,
and immediately muted the TV.
"Are you sure?" she heard him say. Then, "We'll be right there."
A moment later, he rapped twice on the connecting door. She opened it.
"Scully, get dressed, we have to go out again."
"Not a chance, unless you have some truly compelling reason," Scully said,
folding her arms over her chest. "I haven't eaten, you haven't slept, and we
agreed we would talk about this in the morning."
"Scully, I wouldn't ask you this if it wasn't important."
"It's always important, Mulder," she said, unmoved. "Can you at least tell me
who called you and motivated you to drag me out again into this ' mild and
wonderful' Gulf Coast winter, which has proven to be cold and rainy and
disgusting and doesn't even offer the esthetic benefits of snow?"
"I never claimed to be a meteorologist, Scully," Mulder said. "But there's not

much time, and I don't want to talk about it here. The walls in this hotel are
too thin. I promise, I'll tell you on the way. Just get dressed, okay?"
With a sigh, Scully turned away. Will I ever learn to turn him down? she
thought.
"Give me 10 minutes, Mulder," she said. "And close the door on your way out."
"That's my G-woman," Mulder said. Halfway through the door, he stopped. "Hey,
Scully?" he said.
"Yes?"
"Got a flak jacket?"
"Do I need one?
Mulder nodded. "Yeah. And bring an extra magazine." He closed the door.
Scully stared at the door. She could not remember Mulder's ever making such a
request before, and it worried her. If he thought there was danger, there was.
It was that simple.
She hadn't always trusted his instincts; when she met him, she subscribed to
the popular opinion that Spooky Mulder was at least a little bit nuts. But
then, he had been a behavioral profiler; the whole science of profiling, such
as it was, was based on in-depth interviews with known serial killers, picking
their brains for the reasons behind what they did. That took its toll on the
interviewer; most of the original FBI profilers left the field in less than 10
years and wrote books, gave lectures, or went into private detective work.
Anything, in other words, but what they had been doing.
So when Mulder first began to talk to her of alien abductions and government
plots, it should have been easy for Scully to dismiss his theories as the
products of a slightly deranged mind. But slowly, over the next six years,
Scully learned the truth, and it was worse than anything she could have
imagined.
The truth was that Mulder wasn't crazy.
When she met him, although she did not then know it, Mulder was nearly at the
breaking point his tormentors had so carefully led him to. Debunking him was
the last step, leaving him with nothing to show for all the years of work,
discounting all that he had learned about the conspiracy of which his own

father was a part.


Her assignment to the X Files was part of that plan, but it turned out to be a
mistake, a big one, from the conspirators' point of view. Instead of
completing his destruction, she became his salvation, gave him back his
sanity, won his trust, and gave him the will to go on. Somehow, simply because
she was at his side, it had happened.
When these powerful men had taken a more direct approach -- convincing the
attorney general herself to take Mulder off the X Files, then burning the
files for good measure -- still, she had stayed with him. It was where she
belonged.
Just how that had happened, she did not know.
But they were partners, they had been through hell together, and she knew,
now, that his instincts were sound.
~~~~~
She dressed quickly in an undershirt and jeans, pulling a T-shirt over the
Kevlar vest to conceal it. She unholstered her service weapon, slid a round
into the chamber and checked the clip. Fully loaded. She reloaded the weapon,
slipped it back into its holster and slid another 10-round magazine into her
jeans pocket, along with her FBI creds and a pair of handcuffs.
God help her if 21 rounds weren't enough.
She threw on a windbreaker, effectively concealing the weapon, and shoved two
cotton swabs and two small stoppered test tubes into one pocket, two pairs of
latex exam gloves in the other, then left the hotel room, locking the door
behind her.
~~~~~
North Mobile County, Alabama
9:47 p.m.

"All right, Mulder, I'm here. I'm armed to the teeth. Now talk," Scully said
as Mulder drove through the cold drizzle.
"That phone call was from Marita Covarrubias," Mulder began. From the corner
of his eye, he saw his partner's jaw muscles clench. Jealousy or professional
disdain? He couldn't be sure. He hurried on.
"Covarrubias said the rail activity in McIntosh has jumped about tenfold in

the past 24 hours. Her sources say it looks as though the old Monsanto plant
is being emptied out at a rapid rate."
"So I take it we are en route to the Monsanto plant?" Scully said. "On the
word of the Uniblonder?"
"I just want to check it out," Mulder said. "I don't actually trust her any
more than you do. What I do trust is that if she sticks to her usual pattern,
there will be something there, something significant. I just want to know what
that something is. It wouldn't surprise me if Old Smokey greeted us at the
front door. I'm not letting down my guard, Scully, believe me."
"Aren't you? Aren't you proving, just by going here, that you've let your
guard down? If you really don't trust her, why are we here in the first
place?"
For a moment, Mulder didn't answer. In the darkness, Scully couldn't see his
face well enough to tell whether his silence came from anger, doubt or just
reflection, and that worried her. They needed to be together if they were
heading into danger; anger could kill them both.
Scully was opening her mouth to apologize when, finally, Mulder spoke.
"It's not anything I can quantify, Dana," he said.
As always, his use of her first name got him her full attention. He seldom did
it, and then usually only when they were alone, as a prelude to something very
important or deeply personal.
"It's based on some interior mental process that even I don't know how to
describe," he went on. "But I believe that going to this factory is the right
thing to do. I believe there's something there that we need to know, whether
it's that they're growing smallpox, breeding gray aliens or something even
worse."
The frightening thing, Scully thought, was that he probably did know. He knew
a lot.
There was a slightly uncomfortable silence in the car until Mulder spoke
again. Not taking his eyes off the highway, he said, softly, "I wish you could
trust me."
"Mulder, I do trust you," Scully said, quietly. "I trust you with my life. But
something is wrong here. I'm not a believer in intuition, or whatever you want
to call it, but I cannot escape the feeling that something about this is more
dangerous than you think."
"I don't think so," Mulder said. "You wouldn't believe how dangerous I think

this is."
~~~~~
It was
hidden
engine
gravel

past 10 p.m. by the time they reached the abandoned Monsanto factory,
down a narrow road inside the tall Alabama pines. Mulder killed the
and headlights as they neared, letting the car roll down a sloping
drive toward the rail entrance to the grounds.

Scully felt her stomach tighten as they


the factory's rail car unloading point.
getting to her, and she was having some
for an abandoned facility. There should
keep away vandals.

walked as silently as possible toward


Mulder's premonitions of danger were
of her own. It was dark; too dark even
have been some lights on, if only to

Mulder scrambled up the four-foot concrete loading dock on his own, then took
Scully's hands and helped her up after him. Slowly, silently, he dusted his
hands on his T-shirt and took his weapon from its holster. Holding it up, his
finger lightly resting on the trigger guard, he walked into the silent
building. Scully drew her weapon and followed, staying slightly behind and to
his left, covering his unarmed side.
Their footsteps echoed loudly, the sound indicating a large, empty area.
Scully could see nothing. There were no lights, not even moonlight through the
windows. She strained her ears, but heard nothing but a slight scratching
noise. Mice, she thought, or insects. There was a sour smell -- spoiled grain,
or maybe sulfur -- hanging heavily in the air. Whatever it was, it was making
her sick.
"What the hell is that stench?" Mulder whispered in her ear.
"I don't know," she whispered back. "I've smelled it somewhere before,
though."
"Could it be bacteria growing?"
"Certainly, but what kind? It's cold in here, too cold ..." She edged forward,
then laid her hand on his arm, pointing him toward what looked like a
refrigerated compartment about 15 feet in front of them. "In there," she
whispered.
The chilly air was humid and still as they inched forward, and Scully felt the
trickle of cold sweat running down her back and into the valley between her
breasts, soaking into the band of her bra. It wasn't a good feeling. The gun
felt heavy in her hand.
"Mulder," she whispered, her voice sounding loud and harsh in the silence. "We

need some light."


Mulder nodded, switched on a penlight, aimed it toward the door handle. He
tested it; it wasn't locked, and he pulled the latch back, opened the door.
The smell hit both agents at the same time -- a foul smell of corruption, like
the smell of a corpse. Scully was repelled, but she at least was used to it;
Mulder was nearly overcome.
"Oh, God," he said, very low.
"Breathe through your mouth," Scully advised, still in a whisper. "Shine the
light ahead."
When he did, she saw that they were in a room about 100 by 20 feet. The room
was lined with shelves, each holding beakers full of cloudy, foul-smelling
liquid. The air was warm, almost hot; around 37 degrees Celsius, she thought.
Body temperature. The ideal growing temperature for disease-causing organisms.
"Looks like your informant was right, Mulder," she said, very quietly. "This
room appears to be a giant incubator for some kind of bacterial culture. We
can't stay here; it could be an airborne pathogen. Don't touch anything."
Scully holstered her gun and quickly pulled on the gloves. She picked up a
beaker and held it in the beam of Mulder's flashlight to examine it.
"What is it?" Mulder whispered.
She shook her head. "Can't tell without a culture." She reached into her
pocket for the test tubes, unstoppered them and dipped first one swab and then
the other into the nasty liquid. Setting the beaker back on the shelf, she
dropped the swabs into the tubes, replaced the stoppers and put the tubes back
in her pocket.
"We need to get these to a lab quick before whatever's growing in here dies,"
she whispered. As quietly as she could, she pulled off her gloves, turning
them inside out, and stuffed them back in her pocket.
Mulder nodded. "I just want to look around the rest of the factory for a
minute," he said, aiming the flashlight back toward the door.
"Let's make it quick," Scully said, drawing her weapon again. "I don't want to
carry these samples around any longer than I have to."
Just as they reached the door, Mulder snapped off the light, putting his hand

on his partner's arm so she would stop. She felt his warm breath close to her
ear.
"There's someone here," he whispered. "About 10 yards ahead, to the right."
"I don't see anything."
"Listen."
Scully listened. She heard the scratching noise again, and the sound of rain
dripping from the eaves.
She was half turned toward Mulder, readying to whisper in his ear again, when
she saw a muzzle flash in the darkness just ahead of her. There was a
deafening noise, and she felt the sledgehammer impact of the bullet in her
chest.
Her gun flew from her hand and clattered across the concrete floor as she
collapsed, doubled over in pain and shock, unable to speak.
"Federal agent! I'm armed! Drop your weapon!!" she heard Mulder call, heard
him hit the dirt. "Drop it now!"
"Fuck you," a growling voice replied. Scully heard a clicking noise. Revolver,
she thought, distantly. Watch out, Mulder, he's gonna fire. Still breathless,
her stomach heaving, she felt around for her gun, knowing she couldn't fire
now but still needing to have it ready should the chance come.
But Mulder had heard the sound, too, and it was all he needed. Aiming toward
the source of the sound, he fired. Once. Twice.
There was a ghastly cry, and a sound of something heavy falling, then nothing.
"Scully!" Mulder called, and although she heard the near-panic in his voice,
she couldn't answer. "Scully, you all right? Answer me, Scully!"
She tried to make some sound, find some way to reassure him, but could only
manage a whimper.
But he heard it. He was moving toward her, staying down but edging nearer. He
was almost there.
She heard the sick sound of something heavy slamming into bone. Mulder groaned
in pain, and collapsed on the floor beside her. He didn't move.

A bright light shone directly into Scully's eyes, blinding her.


"You two just never learn, do you?" said the voice behind the flashlight.
I know that voice, she thought, her thoughts becoming fuzzier as the pain
intensified. Who is it? Given time, she was sure she would figure it out. She
lay still, thinking, until a booted foot landed forcefully in her abdomen,
then drew back, crashing into her head.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
NOTES:
If you've read this far, you deserve better than to be greeted with all this
stuff, but I figured if I put it at the beginning, absolutely no one would
read past the first page. My apologies.
1. Identifying information about suspects and victims in the murder cases has
been changed; any errors are mine and not Mr. Douglas'.
2. Mulder's inner musings on the cases, except where otherwise attributed, are
my own creation, and any flaws therein are entirely my fault. None of the
real-life victims in any of Mr. Douglas' cases had any connection -- except as
victims -- with any criminal or terrorist activity. Such connections in this
novel are purely the author's own conceit.
3. Dylan Thomas and other writers quoted at the start of each chapter are
quoted without permission, but likewise with admiration.
4. The names of certain people and places in Mobile and Daphne, Ala., have
been changed; the geography remains intact.
5. The USS Nassau, during the time this novel takes place, was in the Aegean
Sea, helping with the UN effort in Bosnia, and I mean no disrespect whatsoever
to her or to her gallant crew by making her, in this novel, the unwilling
transport of a traitor.
6. Thanks and lavish credit to police chaplain Hal Brown, for his insightful
and compassionate work on law enforcement officers and post-traumatic stress,
upon which I have relied heavily in researching this novel. Thanks also for
his humorous insights into the FBI's responsibilities where doughnuts and toys
are concerned.
7. Characters created by the author, including SAC Daniel Prescott and Officer
Willie Mack, are her property.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You looked at me with eyes grown bright with pain,


Like some trapped thing's. And then you moved your head
Slowly from side to side, as though the strain
Ached in your throat with anger and with dread.
And then you turned and left me, and I stood
With a queer sense of deadness over me,
And only wondered dully that you could
Fasten your trench-coat up so carefully
Till you were gone. Then all the air was quick
With my last words, that seemed to leap and quiver.
And in my heart I heard the little click
Of a door that closes -- quietly, forever.
"Parting After a Quarrel"
-- Eunice Tietjens

Chapter 2

Ahab was there. He was there to take her with him, and to do that, he had to
put her in a coffin, using his cold, dead hands.
But Mulder wouldn't let him. He was screaming at her father, over and over.
"Don't do that to her, you son of a bitch!" He sounded as though he had been
crying.
It's all right, Mulder, it's my father. I have to go.
She couldn't speak, couldn't make him understand how important it was for Ahab
to do this.
Mulder, she wanted to tell him, Ahab is here to take me. He has to dress me
first, and he is dead, and that is why his hands are so cold. He never touched
me like this when I was alive, but now that we are both dead, it's necessary
if I am to go with him.
"She could go any time now," Ahab was saying. "All I have to do is press a
button. That's my little gift to her."
Is it a Christmas present? What is it?
"You like it, don't you? Oh, yes, she likes it."
What is it, Ahab? Can I take it with me when I go?

"No, no, no!" Someone was screaming at her. Who was it? "I'll do whatever you
want. Just don't ... don't ... please ..."
"I'm sorry, Dana," Mulder was saying, as she struggled to stand. She had to
get up; she had to walk with her father. "I'm so sorry," Mulder said again. "I
tried to stop him. I tried."
"It's all right, Mulder," she said, at last able to speak. "It's all right
now. You don't have to stop him, he's my father. I'm going with him. He knows
what's best for me."
"No, Dana, don't go," he was pleading. "Stay here with me a little longer,
okay? Just a little longer."
She tried to answer him again, but it was too loud. Someone was screaming in
the background, and Ahab was buzzing, loudly, probably because he was so cold.
She tried to explain it to Mulder, but he faded away, and there was nothing
left but the cold, and the screams ...
and then it was dark again, and the pain was gone, and she was flying, flying
upward, on her way to meet Ahab again.
~~~~~
Am I awake?
Where am I?
My hands hurt.
And my head.
Where's Mulder?
I feel sick.
Scully drifted away again, only dimly aware that she was very, very cold.
~~~~~
The pain in her abdomen woke her. She felt it, felt herself shivering in the
cold.

She tried to move her arms, but then she remembered: They had always
restrained her for this part, so that she wouldn't move as the needles bored
into her. It hurt so much when the machines inflated her abdomen, but they did
it to make it easier to take what they wanted. That was all they cared about;
immobilizing her. They were completely indifferent to her helpless cries of
pain.
But it's dark, she thought. What happened to the light? Where is Penny, where
are the men?
She tried to move her hands again, and pain shot through her arms like an
arrow, bringing her fully awake.
She wasn't spread-eagled on an examining table; she was face-down in the cold,
hard-packed Alabama clay, and her hands were cuffed behind her back.
The cuffs were painfully tight, cutting off the blood flow to her hands. Her
feet were tied tightly at the ankles. There was a foul taste in her mouth, and
her hair was matted and stuck to one side of her face. Blood, she thought.
Something else, too.
The wind whistled in the distance, and she shivered again. She was really
cold, colder than she'd ever thought anyone could be in the Deep South.
Someone had removed her shoes and most of her clothes, leaving her in nothing
but a thin cotton T-shirt and panties.
She couldn't move. Not at all.
It was her worst terror, and it was happening again. She was exposed, she was
helpless, and worst of all, she knew that someone had done something to her -some unspeakably intimate act -- and that she had no memory of it at all.
Again.
She took in a shuddering breath, trying not to cry, but her struggle set off a
spasm of pain in her abdomen, and she cried out involuntarily.
"Scully?" she heard Mulder's voice behind her.
"Mulder, where are you?" It was a frightened voice, a little girl's voice.
"Get me out of here, please get me out of here!"
"Hang on, Scully, you're okay," he said. "I'm right behind you."
"Are you hurt?"

"Not bad," he said. "Just can't move."


"I can't, either," she said, struggling to control her voice. Panic wouldn't
help. "Mulder, where are we?"
"I don't know. A basement or something." She heard the whispery sound of his
clothing as he dragged himself over to where she lay. On his stomach, she
thought. He's crawling on his stomach.
"You're hurt," she heard Mulder say. How could he tell? "Open your eyes,
Scully," he said.
With difficulty, she forced her eyes open, felt the dried blood flaking away
from her swollen eyelids. Must've kicked me right in the face. Bastard.
It took a moment to get both eyes looking in the same direction; there was
barely enough light to focus on anything. When her vision cleared, she saw
Mulder lying next to her, his bloodied face just inches from hers. There was a
large abrasion on his forehead, and a reddened area on his cheek that told of
a huge bruise forming. His shirt and vest were gone, too, but he had his jeans
on; still, he was shivering.
"You look awful," she whispered, and saw the worry lines on his brow ease a
little.
"Back at ya, Red," he said, then inched forward just enough to plant a quick
kiss on her forehead. "You didn't move for a long time. I thought you were
dead until I heard you vomiting."
"Did I?" Scully swallowed hard, feeling the metallic taste in her mouth again.
"Yeah," Mulder said. "Blood, mostly. I thought you'd been shot."
Scully shook her head. "The vest stopped it, but there may be some internal
hemorrhage. I can't tell where." Speaking made her throat feel clogged, and
she coughed, and again cried out with the pain. She saw the fear in Mulder's
eyes, but she couldn't speak, couldn't reassure him as the coughing spasm took
her.
When it stopped, she opened her eyes and saw the tiny flecks of her blood
dotting her partner's face. He hadn't moved away from her.
You'd never pass a course in infection control that way, Mulder, she thought,
but she was grateful for his dogged loyalty. Aloud, she said only, "I'm fine,
Mulder. But I need to get to a hospital."

Mulder nodded. "I know. It sounded like a big round."


"Felt like it, too." It was a weak attempt at humor, but Mulder smiled anyway.
"You ought to know, Scully. Can you move your hands at all?"
She shook her head. "No. The cuffs are too tight. You?"
"Not an inch," he replied. "I couldn't reach the keys even if I still have
them, which I doubt. There's no room here to stand up, either."
"Our weapons?"
"Gone. Phones, too. And, most likely, your samples."
Scully looked above them, and saw that the ceiling of their prison was only
three or four feet above them. "This is a crawl space, Mulder," she said.
"They don't have basements around here; the whole city is built on a swamp.
We're under a house or something."
"What difference does that make?"
"It means that if we can crawl, we may be able to get out from under here."
"I don't think we can, Scully."
"We've got to," she said, and her voice shook, just a little. "We can't stay
here. What if they come back?"
"Scully, you can't even move."
"No, but you can," she said. She was about to say more when another coughing
spasm took her, shook her painfully. She coughed and coughed until finally her
stomach rebelled and she vomited yet more blood onto the dirt beneath her,
then collapsed, tears running from her eyes. Whether she was crying from pain,
from fear or from embarrassment, she could not tell.
Still, Mulder did not back away, just shifted his position a little. He stayed
close to her, waiting until her breathing returned to normal before speaking
again.
"Scully, I'm not going to leave you here," he said. "You're right; the people
who put us here may come back. The ones who are still alive, anyway."

"Unless they've left us here to die," she said, shakily, and again that shock
of helpless fear raced through her. She forced herself to concentrate. They
had to get out of here; she had to stay in control. "Mulder, I have a feeling
I know one of the men who attacked us. I knew his voice from somewhere."
Mulder laughed, but there was no humor in it. "You know him, all right," he
said, bitterly. "It was Alex Krycek."
"What would Krycek be doing here?" Scully asked.
"That," Mulder said grimly, "is a question I very much want to ask him. But
the first order of business is getting out of here and getting you to a
hospital."
"Then you've got to go without me, Mulder," Scully said in a whisper. "Go get
some help."
"No," Mulder said. "We go together or not at all. I'm not leaving you here."
"I can't move," she said, the panic rising in her voice again. "Don't you
understand? I can't move at all!"
"Can you roll over on your side?" he asked, quietly. "You need to get your
weight off your stomach. If you can, then you can push yourself along with
your feet."
"I -- maybe," she said. "I'll try."
"Okay," he said, "but take it slow. Don't aggravate your injuries."
"I'll try," she said.
It took her a moment to gather her courage, to force her bruised muscles to
flex and pull her up. She gasped as her weight settled on her shoulder and
lightning bolts of pain shot through her swollen hands. Her shoulder was a
mass of agony, as though someone was trying to wrench her arm right out of its
socket.
Stifling a cry, she forced herself to keep going until she finally achieved a
shaky balance on her side. She lay still, her eyes clenched shut, trying to
breathe normally. "All right, Mulder," she said at last, in a trembling voice.
"I'm on my side. Now what?"
"Now you use your feet to push forward," Mulder said. "Can you do that?"
"I think so," she said. She dug her bare toes as deeply as she could into the

dirt and pushed. Her foot slid on the hard-pack, the rough surface taking some
of her skin with it. Her breath hissed into her lungs, but she dug in and
tried again.
And moved forward, about six inches. She let out a shuddering sigh. She could
move again.
But it hurt. It hurt a lot. She was struggling against the pain for each
breath, and finally she began to cough again, spasms of pain shooting through
her with each harsh breath.
"Scully?" Mulder said behind her. "Scully, you all right?"
"I can't do this," she whispered, her voice catching on the last word.
"I'm right behind you, Scully," Mulder said. "Hang on, we're going to make
it."
She felt Mulder behind her, felt his breath against her neck and she reached
for his hand, blindly, without thinking. Her swollen fingers brushed across
his chest, and she felt the dirt and blood that covered him. Dirty wounds, she
thought, her fear rising again. He needs medical help as badly as I do.
And I can't let them find me here, take me away again and make me forget. They
did four years ago, and they did it again today. Who knows whose hands have
touched me, and where, or what they've put in my body this time?
She could feel her self-control flying further away with each passing moment,
leaving her mentally blinded and careening wildly toward the insanity of utter
panic. With an effort, she forced herself to speak.
"Mulder," she whispered, "stay close to me, please?"
"I'm right here, Scully," Mulder said. "I won't leave you. Let's keep moving."
~~~~~
Scully lost all track of time as the nightmare lengthened and deepened. She
kept pushing forward, scrabbling for purchase, until her feet were scraped raw
and bleeding. She couldn't control her breathing, or the coughing, couldn't
get control of the pain or of her emotions. Whatever had been bleeding into
her stomach was still bleeding, and she could feel her flesh growing colder,
her pulse faster and yet weaker than before.
Shock, she thought. I really may not make it. Lying still began to seem far
more attractive than this painful shoving along on her almost-bloodless hands.
The world seemed very far away. There was a pounding noise in her ears.

"Scully?" Mulder called, just behind her. She wanted to answer him, but it was
so difficult. Her mouth wouldn't move.
"Scully?" he said again, this time right into her ear. "We have to keep going.
You hear that thunder? It's going to rain again, and I don't think we want to
be down here when it does."
"Can't ..." she said. "Mulder, I can't." Her voice was weak. Could he even
hear her?
"You can, Scully," he said. "You've got to."
He was nearly exhausted; she could hear it in his voice. What if he collapsed?
Or what if they kept going, only to be stopped when they reached the outside
world, to be taken for more tests, more experiments, more memory obliteration?
She would rather die down here than face the vanished months again, the
knowledge that she had been probed like a lab rat, touched in the most
intimate places, and discarded, tossed aside like garbage to die when they
were finished with her.
And then, to face the horror of remembering again.
Death would be a blessing compared to that; yet she knew she didn't want to
die, either. She shuddered, fighting to keep from weeping, but it was no use.
She felt the tears rolling down her face, tracking through the thick, gritty
dirt that covered her. She had never felt so helpless, so out of control, in
her life.
"Scully," she heard him whisper behind her. "Scully, don't. You can't give up
now. We're at the bottom of a slope, we'll be under water if we don't move."
"I can't," she said, her voice breaking. "I can't move anymore. Please don't
make me. Please."
Then she felt Mulder's body against hers, felt his lips press gently against
the back of her neck. He was warm, his muscles hard and lean, and she pushed
back against him, wanting what little comfort he could give her now. "Stay
with me, Scully," he said, softly. "We're headed out. We're going to make it."
With a grunt, Mulder pressed his feet against the hard-packed dirt, pushing
himself against her. They barely moved. Pushing again, harder, Mulder managed
to gain a little ground, edging forward toward the growing dawnlight just 20
feet or so ahead of them.
"We're going to get out of here, Scully," Mulder repeated, but she could no

longer answer. Dazed and hurt and sick as she was, she couldn't even summon up
the strength to encourage him. His strength would have to save them both.
But it was raining now, raining hard, too fast for the packed clay beneath
them to absorb, and Mulder's feet began to slip as he pushed forward, and he
toppled over. Scully, leaning against him, lost her unsteady balance and fell,
face down, into a small, water-filled depression.
She lifted her head, coughing and choking, remembering the horror she'd seen
frozen on the faces of countless drowning victims. There wasn't much water
here, but there was enough; she knew it. She knew she had to keep her face out
of the water, but it was getting harder and harder to move at all.
In a minute, she thought, barely coherent, I will put my face down in the mud
and die. The mud will fill my nose and my throat, and they will find me with
that same look of terror on my face.
The outside world seemed tantalizingly close. She tried to move forward a
little more, but the effort was too much. She could feel Mulder behind her,
pushing her forward so slowly, using the last of his strength. Then even the
feel of him was gone.
The buzzing noise grew louder, and her vision blurred and grayed. As her eyes
closed, and she sank into the grayness that surrounded her, her face slowly
came to rest in the cold, red Alabama mud.
~~~~~
St. Catherine's Hospital

Scully awoke amid the familiar sounds and smells of a hospital emergency
department. A man in dark blue scrubs bent over her.
"You're in a hospital, ma'am," he said. "I'm a doctor. You've been hurt, and
you're going to need surgery. Is there someone we can call for you?"
Scully tried to speak but found she couldn't. Nothing would come out. She
struggled harder; the doctor leaned closer to her, listening intently, then he
looked up, startled.
"What did she say?" asked the nurse standing next to him.
"She said, ' Call the FBI, and tell Ahab I'm okay,' " the doctor said, staring
down at his patient.
"She's delirious," the nurse said. "She was talking out of her head all the

way here, they said; kept talking about Moby Dick."


"I guess so," the doctor said with a shrug. "Let's get her prepped."
~~~~~
St. Catherine's Hospital
3:51 a.m.

Scully awoke again in what she recognized as a post-surgical recovery room.


She was groggy, and her throat hurt, but she could think at least somewhat
more clearly now.
I've had inhalation anesthesia, she thought. Her wrists were bandaged, and she
could feel the pull of an adhesive dressing on her face. The hands looked
okay, though, bruised but not seriously damaged; she could flex her fingers,
albeit painfully.
Running her hands down her body, she found a short length of tubing emerging
from just below her tightly wrapped ribcage. A surgical drain. Must've had
some serious repair work done. Laparascopic surgery; small incision, too small
for a laparotomy.
What happened to me?
She looked at her hands. The nails were torn and broken, and stained with red
clay.
And then she remembered.
"Where's Mulder?" she said, her voice croaking, as she tried desperately to
sit up.
A paper-capped nurse came over to her.
"You need to lie still, ma'am," she said. "Can you tell me your name?"
"Scully, Dana Scully," Scully said. "Where's my partner?"
The nurse didn't answer; she was putting a stethoscope to Scully's arm, around
which a blood-pressure cuff was already wrapped. Scully felt the cuff inflate,
tightening, making the pain in that hand spike higher.
Scully bit her lip, knowing the woman needed to hear. The minute she felt the

cuff deflate, she spoke again.


"Tell me what happened," she said. "Tell me where my partner is."
"You had surgery, Miss Scully," the nurse said. "You're in a hospital. You
were bleeding inside and they had to operate to stop it."
"Bleeding where?"
"In your lungs, a little, and in your duodenum. That's the little tube at the
end of your stomach ..."
"I know where it is," Scully interrupted, feeling her self-control slipping
away. "I'm a medical doctor. Please, just tell me if my partner's okay. Didn't
they bring him here?"
"Is he on the staff here?" the nurse asked.
Scully shook her head. It hurt. "He's not a doctor. He's a federal agent, FBI,
Agent Mulder, Fox Mulder. He was injured along with me, probable closed-head
trauma with multiple septic abrasions. He should be here."
"One hundred over 50," the nurse said, more to herself than to Scully, as she
wrote on a chart. "You're still a little shocky, but I think it's okay." She
picked up a syringe and injected the contents into Scully's IV line.
"What is that?" Scully asked.
"Something for pain," the nurse said. "Your doctor ordered it."
"I don't want it," Scully said, frantically, but the drug was already speeding
its way to her brain. She could feel herself fuzzing out of consciousness. She
had to fight to get one more sentence out. "Nurse," she whispered, "Please
listen to me. I need someone to call the FBI and tell them I'm here, and find
if my partner's okay. I have to know ..."
"I'm sure someone has called already," the nurse said. "You sleep now."
The nurse's words were coming from a great distance, and Scully couldn't make
sense of them. She tried to speak again and found she couldn't. She had only
one coherent thought left as the narcotic took her down into drugged sleep.
She had to get to Mulder.
~~~~~

When Scully awoke, she was in a private hospital room, with no memory of how
she got there. She was still being monitored; she could hear the slow, steady
beeping of an ECG, and the cuff was still around her upper arm.
God, what was IN that hypo? she wondered. I've got to get that nurse's name.
She had no business giving me pain meds when I was that shocky ... I must have
been out forever.
How long?
She looked around. There was a clock on the wall. It was almost 4 p.m. How
long had she been here?
Mulder.
Oh, God, where is he?
Her heart was racing; she could hear the beeping speed up as the machine
measured her rapid pulse, but she couldn't be bothered with that now. She
wrapped her hands around the side rail, wincing as the injured muscles flexed
and tightened, and pulled herself a few inches closer to the night stand.
She stretched as far as she could, a whimper escaping her as the strain on her
injured abdomen increased. She stopped for a moment, her breathing shallow and
rapid, waiting for the pain to subside. Finally, she managed to get close
enough to the side table to get one hand on the telephone. Picking it up, she
fell back against the bed, suppressing a grimace as the pain shot through her
again.
What was the local field office number? She couldn't remember. Skinner's
office? Nothing was coming to her. Drugs, or panic, had driven every phone
number she ever knew from her, except Mulder's cell phone, and that was gone.
Then she remembered the emergency number, the toll-free number that would
connect her directly to FBI headquarters, to an operator assigned to find help
for agents in the field who were in trouble. She dialed it quickly.
The phone rang only once before it was answered. When you called this number,
you never had to wait very long.
"FBI," the voice said.
"Assistant Director Walter Skinner, please," Scully said. "This is Special
Agent Dana Scully, badge number ..." She thought for a minute ... "Badge
number JTT0331613."

"Hold, please," the voice said.


A few moments later, Skinner's secretary came on the line. "Assistant Director
Skinner's office," she said.
"Kimberly, it's Dana Scully," Scully said. "I need to speak to the assistant
director right away."
"I'm sorry, Agent Scully, he's not in," Kimberly said in her usual friendly
tone. "May I have him return your call?"
"Kimberly, I don't even know where I am," Scully said, helplessly. "I'm in a
hospital, probably in Mobile, Alabama. Mulder is also injured. He may be here
somewhere, but I don't know, and no one will tell me."
"Hold while I start the trace," Kimberly said, all business now.
There was a clicking noise; a few minutes later, Kimberly was back on the
line.
"You're at St. Catherine's Hospital, in Mobile as you suspected," she said.
"You should be safe there. I'll call the Mobile field office; they can start
looking for Agent Mulder. The assistant director will also call shortly."
"Thank you, Kimberly," Scully said, and hung up. She was beginning to shiver;
she pulled the thin hospital blanket closer around her with her left hand. In
her right, she clutched the phone, her finger on the switch hook.
She was still shaking when the phone rang.
It was SAC Penn, sounding genuinely concerned when she told him how they had
been attacked. He was even more concerned when he realized that Mulder,
although presumably in better shape than Scully, hadn't called first. Penn
ended the call quickly, promising to call back as soon as he knew something.
Only a moment later, Penn called back. Mulder had been found; he was also in
the hospital, in better shape than she was, but he had a concussion, several
deep scrapes and scratches, and like her, was suffering from exposure. Still,
he hadn't needed surgery.
Scully let out a long, shuddering breath. "Thank God," she said, weakly.
"I don't know yet how you got there, and no one in the hospital seems to know
either," Penn said. "I'll try to find out. Meanwhile, sit tight. I'll have a
couple of agents over there in no time."

"Which room is Mulder in?" Scully asked.


"He's on the same floor you are," Penn said. "But don't try to go down there
yet. Just stay where you are."
"Sir, I have to see him," Scully said, in a near whisper. "I just want to know
if he's all right."
"I understand, Agent Scully, but you wait until my agents get there. That's
for your protection as well as his. Are you armed?"
"No, sir. Whoever jumped us got our weapons."
"Damn, I'm not sure I'd've told me that, Agent Scully," Penn said, laughing.
"That kind of thing gets known around the Bureau, they start calling you
names."
Scully smiled faintly. "Don't want that to happen, do we?" she said.
"Hell, no," Penn said. "Those nicknames'll stick. You try to rest now. Your
partner's okay. There'll be an agent outside your door when you wake up. I'll
call Skinner and brief him."
Penn hung up the phone. Scully lay back against the crisp white sheets, and
drifted into an exhausted, restless sleep.
~~~~~
It was night when Scully woke again, her interior radar warning her that
someone was in her room. She tried to sit up, but found she couldn't -- she
was too weak, and in too much pain.
"Shh," she heard a voice say. "Don't try to move yet."
"Mulder?" she said, weakly. Relief flooded through her. It was him, at last.
He was sitting in the chair next to her bed, dressed in sweatpants, T-shirt
and a hospital robe, leaning toward her. His wrists were heavily bandaged, and
his face was bruised and covered with abrasions.
He'd never looked so good to her in his life.
She reached out her hand, and he took it, holding it gently in his two larger
hands.

"How you doing, G-woman?" Mulder said. "They said you were nearly dead when
they got you here."
"Hardly that, but I won't be eating for a while," Scully said, wincing as she
heard the roughness in her voice. Coughing and vomiting will do that to you,
she thought. So will intubation.
So will screaming in pain and terror, she thought, and then frowned. I wasn't
screaming, she thought. Where did that thought come from?
Now that her eyes had adjusted to the light, Scully could see that Mulder was
pale, and there were lines of pain in his face, but to her physician's eyes,
he looked good. He would recover -- again. The tight knot in her guts relaxed
a little.
"Mulder, where have you been?" she asked. "I was so worried about you."
"Out like a light," he said, his smile small and self-deprecating. "I
collapsed. Didn't wake up until about half an hour ago."
"What day is it?" Scully asked.
"It's Tuesday," Mulder said, still with that trace of a smile. "You haven't
lost any time. Don't worry about that."
"Thank God," Scully said, and Mulder thought her expression eased a little.
"How did we get here?"
"Don't you remember?"
She shook her head.
"None of it?"
"I remember being shot," she said, slowly. "I woke up under that house, or
whatever it was. I remember we almost drowned." She shuddered. "We almost died
down there."
"Very nearly," Mulder said, and his voice was grim. "Fortunately for us, there
was a gentleman out in the woods near where we were. Apparently he was doing
some slightly illegal hunting with his dog, who smelled us, evidently, and
here we are. That dog saved your life, Scully."
"You saved my life, Mulder," she whispered. "We would have drowned if you

hadn't gotten us to higher ground."


He grimaced. "Not much credit due there, Scully; you wouldn't have been down
there if it hadn't been for me."
"Don't start ... " she began, but the words stuck in her throat and she
coughed again. It hurt; but it was better. She cleared her throat and started
over. "Mulder, how did Krycek know we were going to be in that factory?"
"Who the hell knows?" Mulder said, with a shrug. "Maybe he didn't; maybe
getting a chance to kill us was just a lucky chance occurrence for him. Or
maybe Smoking Man told him. Maybe it was the tooth fairy. He was there, that's
all I know."
"It had to be Covarrubias," Scully said. "She sent us there."
"Maybe, but I doubt it," Mulder said, shaking his head. "Marita Covarrubias
was found dead in her bathtub this morning. Apparently she committed suicide."
"Suicide? How?" Scully asked, genuinely shocked.
"Opened the radial artery," Mulder said, "and with surgical precision, I might
add. No hesitation cuts." He didn't have to tell Scully what that meant -Covarrubias' death was anything but suicide.
"She was dead within minutes," Mulder continued. "Very convenient for all
involved."
"Except us."
"Yeah, except us. And maybe a few other people, but I don't know who yet. She
placed a call to our hotel room last night, not long after we left. Maybe she
was trying to warn us."
"How did you find that out?"
"Skinner called just a little while ago, he's the reason I woke up," Mulder
said. "He asked about you."
"Nice of him," Scully said. "What have they found out?"
"The local agents said there was no one in that factory, alive or dead, when
they got there. No blood stains, either, except one that appears to be yours.
They found a spent shell, which is probably from my weapon, and sent it to
firearms identification, but I'm not likely to face a shooting board when
there's no evidence to indicate that I shot anyone."

"You did shoot someone," Scully said. "I heard it."


Mulder nodded. "I heard it, too. And let's face it, I know what it sounds
like. But there's no trace, so far as anyone can determine. Too bad you can't
examine the scene. You'd find something."
"Maybe not," Scully said. "But we can work on that later." She was getting
tired, but Mulder still hadn't told her all she wanted to know. He was keeping
something back; she knew that look in his eyes.
"Mulder, did something else happen?" she asked.
He shook his head, dropping his gaze at the same time. "No, nothing," he said.
"Not that I can remember."
"Why do I not believe you?" Scully said, holding his hand a little tighter.
"I don't know," Mulder said, looking up. He shook his head again, reaching for
the Mulder smile and almost succeeding. "If there was anything else, we both
missed it. I wasn't thinking too clearly at the time."
"Neither was I," Scully said, squeezing his hand. Let it go, she thought.
"Mulder, we both got a boot in the face. That kind of trauma can cause changes
in level of consciousness, disordered thinking."
"I know plenty of people who would tell you my thinking's disordered already,"
Mulder said.
"Well, at least try to think clearly for a minute," she said, smiling faintly,
then turning serious again. "Mulder, why would Krycek be involved in a
domestic terror operation?"
"I don't know, Scully," Mulder said. "But the answer is here, somewhere. In
the factory, or at the port of Mobile, but somewhere in this part of the
world. I just have to find it."
"We'll find it, Mulder," Scully promised him. "Just as soon as I can leave
here. And maybe we'll find Alex Krycek as well."
"Oh, I'll find Ratboy, all right," Mulder said, the cold look back in his
eyes. "However long it takes, that two-faced son of a bitch is mine. But you
won't be with me. I'm taking you to Baltimore, to your mother's house. You've
got some serious recuperating to do."
"You can't go without me," she began, but Mulder reached through the metal bed

rails and put a finger over her lips, stopping her in mid-sentence.
"I can, and I will, if it kills me," he said. "You could have died down there,
and it would have been my fault. You told me earlier that you were in no shape
to go, and I ignored you, once again chasing my own hollow, personal cause.
I'm not going to do that to you again."
Scully suddenly felt cold, felt as though her heart would stop beating. She
took his hand from her face, held it tightly. "Mulder, that sounds ... almost
final," she said, trying to be matter-of-fact. "You're frightening me."
"Maybe it should be final," he said, quietly. "The X Files are gone. My career
is shot, but there's no reason yours should be. And there's absolutely nothing
here worth dying for."
"Mulder, you can't be serious," she began, but he interrupted her.
"I've never been more serious," he said, and now he was looking at her,
willing her to know the truth of what he was saying. "How many times do you
have to be hurt before I learn my lesson? And it was all for nothing; as
usual, we came away with nothing at all. It's insane for you to risk your life
on these wild-goose chases of mine, and I'm not going to let you. Not again.
This is the last one."
"Do I have anything to say about this?" she said, tears coming into her eyes.
"It's my job, too."
"Yeah, it's your job, too," he said. "I'm not telling you to quit the FBI,
Scully. I'm just saying that this is the time to make your move, get back to
real FBI work, stop risking your life for nothing. You could go back to
Quantico."
"Thanks for the recommendation," she said, and there was a flash of anger in
her eyes. "And just where will you be?"
"I don't know," Mulder said. "And maybe we should just leave it at that.
Wherever I go, it won't be BSU and it won't be anywhere near the Hoover
Building."
"No," she said.
"Yes," he said, and the finality in that one syllable nearly undid her.
"Mulder, don't," she said. She brought his hand back to her face, held his
rough, warm palm against the uninjured cheek. She needed to make him focus on
her; she needed his touch to take away the terror he was causing her.

"Don't even suggest it, Mulder," she whispered, leaning into his hand. "I'd be
dead now if you hadn't been there."
"You'd be out shopping for Christmas presents if you hadn't gone there in the
first place," Mulder said, but his eyes were softer, and his thumb was gently
stroking her face.
"I was doing my job," she said, and she could feel the tears coming up in her
eyes. "I was where I was supposed to be -- with you."
That almost got through to him; she could tell. The struggle inside him was
intense, but he continued to caress her cheek.
"Look, we won't talk about it now," he said, finally. "You get better, I'll
take you to Baltimore, and then we can talk about what we're going to do."
But he hadn't relented,
feel his hand. His mind
the way he was touching
when she lay near death

not really; she


was made up; it
her. It was the
from cancer. It

could feel it as clearly as she could


was in his voice, and his eyes, and in
way he had touched her a year earlier,
was goodbye.

"Don't leave me," she whispered, her voice breaking. She knew she was too
emotional, but that didn't seem to matter right now. "Say you won't. Please,
Mulder."
Mulder grimaced, each nearly inaudible word hitting him like a blow. He was
breathing too slowly, and his eyes were closed. He took one more deep breath,
then looked at her, and as she saw his face, she knew.
"I won't leave you here, Dana," he said, softly, still stroking her face. "I
wish I could promise you more, but I can't. But I will not leave here without
you. I'll stay until you're well enough, and then I'll take you home. All
right?"
The hesitation was gone; he was sure of himself now. It wasn't all she wanted,
but it was all she was going to get.
She looked up at him, letting her eyes speak for her, willing him to
understand what she couldn't say aloud.
I love you, her eyes said.
I know. I've always known.
It hurts. And I'm afraid. Make it better. Please.

I will. You know I will.


Rising from the chair, Mulder bent toward her; gently, so gently she almost
couldn't feel it, he kissed away her tears, brushed the damp red hair away
from her wounded face.
"Sleep now," he said, and kissed her forehead, let his lips linger for a
moment. She reached for him, put a hand on the back of his neck, and held his
face to hers. He felt her warm, uneven breath in his ear. He kissed her cheek,
then straightened, stood over her.
"I'll see you in the morning," he said. "First thing." He started to walk
away, but she wouldn't let go of his hand. He let her stop him, bent forward
and brought her fingers to his lips for a last kiss, then slowly took his hand
away.
She felt his fingers slide out of her grasp, and he was gone.
Scully turned on her side, away from the door, and pressed her face into the
pillow. She was going to cry -- hard -- and she didn't want the agent outside
her door to hear. No one in the Bureau would ever hear that from her.
Except Mulder.
And he was leaving her.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Should I grow bold,
Say one dear thing to him,
All my life fling to him,
Cling to him -What to atone
Is enough for my sinning!
This were the cost to me,
This were my winningThat he were lost to me.
Not as a lover
At last if he part from me,
Tearing my heart from me,
Hurt beyond cure -Calm and demure
Then must I hold me,
In myself fold me,
Lest he discover;
Showing no sign to him
By look of mine to him
What he has been to meHow my heart turns to him,

Follows him, yearns to him,


Prays him to love me.
Pity me, lean to me,
Thou God above me!
"A Woman's Thought"
-- Richard Watson Gilder
Chapter 3

Maggie Scully's Home


Thursday, Christmas Eve
3:32 p.m.
Scully had barely spoken on the plane, just sat looking out the window.
The silence had started in the hospital.
Mulder had been discharged the next morning, and right away had gone to work
with the local agents, trying to track down Krycek, find some hint of where
they'd been after the attack. They found more blood spatters inside the
abandoned plant, which testing indicated were his and Scully's. They also
found Scully's weapon, scratched up but still fully loaded, hidden between two
wooden pallets.
Other than that, they found nothing: No footprints, fingerprints, tire tracks
or anything else, except for those that could be traced to the agents
themselves. To all appearances, no one else had ever been there.
The incubator was empty and cold, and smelled of gasoline. The reek of
whatever bacteria had been growing there was gone, along with Scully's
samples. The agents swabbed the shelves, door and floor, but the lab could
grow nothing from the samples except ordinary dust-borne bacteria.
Krycek, and the body of whoever had been with him, had vanished. The
investigation was at a halt, and nothing that Mulder or any of the Mobile
agents could do would budge it.
When he came to see Scully that night, to deliver the bad news, to talk over
the case, she had been distant; not cruel, just not really there, not
communicating except on the most superficial level. She answered him when he
spoke, but otherwise gave no indication that it mattered to her at all.
He tried not to think about what that meant.

If asked about her health, he got her signature kiss-off answer: "I'm fine,
Mulder." She accepted his visits, his concern, even his touch, but never
seemed to seek or to return any of it.
He had checked her out of the hospital this morning, to the accompaniment of
no more conversation than it took for her to tell him where her toothbrush was
and how long it would be until the orderly wheeled her down to the discharge
ramp.
In the airport, she hadn't even protested at being placed in a wheelchair. She
just sat in it, letting him push her, but giving him no sign that he was
anything more to her than another orderly.
For the first time, Mulder thought, he was getting a good look at what had
earned her the name of Ice Queen, then was almost immediately ashamed of the
thought. Maybe she was remembering ...
No. She would have said something if she had. Her silence, he decided, was
self-defense, a pre-emptive strike to end things on her own terms. It was the
only way she had left to protect herself. From him.
That hurt. He couldn't blame her, though.
Still, he kept trying to break through. He still needed her, maybe more now
than ever. That, he thought, was just borderline crazy, needing her to give
him strength right now, because they both knew what he was summoning the
strength to do: to leave her.
She sure as hell wasn't going to help him with that.
All through the airport, during the flights, the inevitable Atlanta layover,
he pelted her with questions, asking if she wanted a soft drink, offering to
get her a book to read, anything just to keep the silence at bay.
Nothing. Nada. Nichts. No response at all, except that steady, disengaged,
infuriating reply:
"I'm fine, Mulder."
Now, as Mulder pulled into the gravel driveway of her mother's home, she still
wasn't looking at him. When her eyes chanced to meet his, they skittered away,
focusing elsewhere, as now they were focused on the wintry Baltimore
landscape.
These were their last moments together, and she was far away, living somewhere
in her mind, and not really with him at all.

He wanted to memorize every line of her face, every movement she made, the
scent of her hair, the graceful way she walked, the deep blue of her eyes,
made even more painfully beautiful by contrast with her wounds, healing but
still ugly, and the fading bruises on her cheek.
She gave him nothing.
It was killing him.
Better me than her, he thought, as he cut the ignition and got out of the car.
He walked around to open her door, but she was ahead of him. She was halfway
out before he could reach her.
"C'mon, Scully, let me help you," he said, too low to be heard by anyone but
her. "You just got out of the hospital."
"I'm fine, Mulder,' she responded automatically. "Would you please get my
bags?"
Mulder was opening his mouth to protest when he heard the front door open. It
was Margaret Scully, her face haggard with worry. She stopped for a moment on
the front step -- sampling the atmosphere, he thought -- before rushing down
to embrace her only living daughter.
"Oh, Dana, I'm so glad you're all right," Maggie murmured, holding her
daughter close. "We were all so worried when we heard."
Mulder heard the hitching sob in Scully's breathing as she relaxed in her
mother's embrace.
"Mom, I'm so sorry," she was saying. "I'm sorry I worried you."
"No, baby, don't cry, it's all right," Maggie cooed, rocking Dana in her arms.
"You look fine, really, it's just that you're just so thin, and pale. Come
inside and rest."
Mulder turned away, feeling uncomfortable as always in the face of Maggie's
maternal love. Not for the first time, he found himself wishing he'd never
seen it, never had to witness the proof of how his own mother's love fell so
far short of the warm, selfless affection that Maggie Scully lavished on her
children.
He opened the trunk and took out Scully's two suitcases, carried them to the
step and placed them carefully just inside the open front door. Inside stood a
brightly decorated Christmas tree strung with what looked like hundreds of
twinkling lights. On the topmost branch was a golden-haired angel, holding a
lighted cross.

The cross cast its dim outline toward the door where Mulder stood.
He couldn't imagine what it meant to the Scully family, but to him, at this
moment, it meant only one thing:
You don't belong here.
"Come on," Maggie was saying, her arm around her daughter's shoulders, leading
her to the door. "It's freezing out here; you must be chilled to the bone."
"I'm just tired, that's all, Mom," Scully said. "It was a long flight, and we
had a long layover in Atlanta. Holiday traffic. Are Bill and Charlie here?"
"Tara and Matthew are upstairs napping, and Bill is on his way to join them.
He'll be here any minute. Charlie is stuck in Denver, and may not get here
until midnight. But everyone's so eager to see you," Maggie said as they
reached the step. Not until then did she seem to notice Mulder, standing
there, hands hanging at his sides, torn with indecision.
"Hello, Fox," she said, but perhaps not as warmly as she had in the past. He
didn't blame her. He'd nearly lost her a daughter several times now.
Hell, what was he thinking? He did lose her a daughter, just not this one.
"Hello, Mrs. Scully," he said. For the life of him, he couldn't think of one
more word to say. There was something he should say; something conventional.
What was it?
Then he remembered.
"Merry Christmas," he said, the words feeling even more strange than usual.
"Merry Christmas to you, too, Fox," Mrs. Scully said, then laughed, slightly
embarrassed. "I mean, happy Hanukah, of course. Would you like to come in for
a while? There's some hot mulled cider on the stove, and I was just taking
some gingerbread cookies from the oven."
Mulder looked at his partner, unable to decipher the look in the ice-blue
eyes. He decided to take Male Option #1: Get while the getting is good.
"Thanks, Mrs. Scully, but I'm afraid I have to get back to D.C.," he said
carefully.
"You're not going home for the holidays?"
"No. Hanukah's not a big going-home kind of holiday, and Mom never celebrated

it anyway," he said, trying to sound as though he were being facetious. "Too


Jewish, I guess."
Good, Mulder, he thought, wincing at his own flippancy. Let's rip that wound
open while we're at it. I'm sure the Scullys would love to hear all about how
your mother treats her ancestors' religion as though it were some
embarrassingly demented relative who lives in the attic.
"Anyway," he said hurriedly, just to break the uneasy silence, "I need to get
some work done; Skinner will be wanting a report on all this."
"Not on Christmas," Mrs. Scully said. "I'm sure he won't be working now."
Mulder shrugged. One more excuse, Mulder, he told himself. Come on, you can do
it. Say something believable, just don't say anything stupid, and then get out
of here. Now. Say something, damn it.
He couldn't think of a thing. He just stood there.
Why won't he stay? Maggie thought. I've never seen him so ill at ease with
Dana before. Is it Christmas? Surely he's used to that. But he really doesn't
want to stay, even though Dana wants him here; I know she does, I can see it.
Why can't he?
Aloud, she said, "Just for a few minutes, Fox, just long enough to get the
chill off. We won't keep you long, I promise."
Mulder looked at his partner again, then dropped his eyes. He gave in. "Thank
you, Mrs. Scully," he said. "I'd like that."
Was it his imagination, or did some of the tension leave Scully's body? He
couldn't tell; her mother ushered her inside too quickly, and he couldn't see
her face.
"Sit here, Dana, and I'll bring you both something to drink," Mrs. Scully
said, taking her daughter's coat and gloves and guiding her to a sofa. "Fox,
can I take your coat?"
"No, thank you," he said. "I really can't stay long."
"Well," Mrs. Scully said, then paused. "Is cider all right with everyone?"
"Actually, Mom, I think I'd like some coffee, if there is any," Scully said.
"There is, but it's old," Mrs. Scully said. "I'll make some; it won't take a
minute. Fox, make yourself at home. I'll be right back."

Scully watched her mother disappear into the kitchen. Mulder sat at the
opposite end of the sofa, every muscle tensed, keeping his distance. Scully
kept her eyes focused carefully on the kitchen door.
At last, she turned to face him. Oh, God, Scully, he thought, please don't do
this. He closed his eyes, waiting for the blow to fall, wanting to get it over
with and get out of here, away from the pain, away from the guilt, away from
the boundless, unquenchable need for her that threatened to rip away his
reason and his self-control.
But there was -- this -- to get through first. He supposed he owed her this
chance to wound him, to get in her last licks before it all ended, so she
could hate him and finally, let him go.
And then she spoke.
"Mulder," she said, in a shaky voice, "please tell me you're not really going
to leave me."
Direct hit, Mulder thought. And I was right -- it hurts.
He laced his fingers together and studied them for a moment.
"I have to, Scully," he said, finally. "I told you, I'm not going to risk your
life again. This isn't the X Files; that's over. This is just day-to-day FBI
bullshit, and there's no excuse for my dragging you into a dangerous situation
like that. Not now, not when there's so little to be gained from it."
"And who are you to decide what's best for me?" Scully said, angrily.
Anger. He hadn't expected that, not so quickly, but it had to be. And she was
angry; there was fire in those fathomless blue eyes, but there was also love,
and deep hurt, and -- something else, something powerful yet altogether
elusive.
"If you weren't working with me ..." Mulder began, but Scully interrupted him.
"I've been working with you for six years, and I'm still here," she said, the
tears overflowing now. "I don't care whether it's the X Files or the manure
detail; it's my job, it's what I do, and I still love doing it, I still love
working with you, and ..."
She put her hands over her face and fell silent. He could sense the struggle
within her: She was fighting for the strength to get the next words out.

He almost hoped she would fail, be unable to say it, because it was going to
hurt; it was going to do worse than hurt, it was going to damn near kill him.
But it would also be the last blow, and he knew that if he could find the
strength to lie to her, to reject her love, it could all end. He could leave,
and she would not want him to return.
It had to be this way. It had to.
Say it, Scully, he thought. Say it, get it over with, and complete my
damnation.
As though he had spoken aloud, she dropped her hands into her lap, and looked
at him.
"And I love you," she whispered. Then she waited, her chin and mouth still
quivering, the tears ready to come back.
This was the moment he'd been preparing for. He thought he knew what to do,
what to say to her: a cruel joke or a cold rejection, a flippant dismissal,
something that would anger her enough to send him away forever.
But now that the words were finally spoken, he found he couldn't do it. No
matter how much he needed to, he couldn't let her down again.
Not now, not when it was goodbye.
"You know how I feel about you, Scully," he said. A shadow of the Mulder smile
showed fleetingly on his lips, and was as quickly gone.
"No, actually, I don't," Scully said, and her voice, although faint, was
steady. "You're leaving me, Mulder. If you love me, how can you leave me?"
"I have to leave," he said. He looked down at the floor, shaking his head in
frustration. "Scully, I -- I don't know how to explain it to you any better
than I already have. You know I would kill anyone who even tried to hurt you."
He twisted around to face her again.
"Shit, Scully, I did kill someone for hurting you, just last week," he said.
"And we both know it wasn't the first time. But it's not enough, Scully. It
comes too late, after they've hurt you. It comes after they take you away,
take away your chance to have children. Maybe I'm a coward, but I can't go
through that again: seeing you, lying there hurt, bleeding, maybe dead, or
grieving your heart out over Emily. I can't kill enough people to keep those
things from happening."
His voice was shaking with helpless fury; he heard it, and stopped, took a

deep breath to steady himself. He was getting too close to the real truth
here, and that couldn't happen. He began again, forcing himself to speak more
calmly.
"Scully, I -- care about you. I care a lot," he said, looking down again, and
then back at her. His eyes bore down on hers. "But if you really love me, if
you really mean that, then please just let me go. I can't deal with any more
of this."
For a brief moment, he thought she might give in, might let him go without any
more of a scene -- and for Dana Scully, this was already one hell of a scene.
But he saw the look in her eyes, and knew she wasn't feeling that benevolent.
"All right, Mulder," she said, so calmly that it was almost frightening. She
looked up at him. "Will you at least kiss me goodbye?"
Just kill me, Scully, it would hurt less, he thought, but he leaned over to
kiss her unbruised cheek. With a raised hand, she stopped him.
"No," she whispered. "No, Mulder, not like that. I want a real kiss; the kind
of kiss you give a lover, not a friend. You owe me that much."
"Scully ..." he said, then stopped. He knew that look; she wasn't going to be
argued with. A lover's kiss was a non-negotiable demand.
Get over it, Mulder, he ordered himself. Just do it, and get out of here.
Jesus, it's just a kiss.
He knew he was lying. The Dallas bombing was nothing compared to the wall that
was about to fall here. But he could keep it chaste, he thought, bending
toward her again, could make it a quick, brotherly peck on the lips ...
... and then her mouth was on his, and her lips were warm and soft and
welcoming and salty with her tears, and in that instant, Fox Mulder knew that
he was done for.
All his good intentions vanished like smoke as he slid his hands into her
hair, crushing her mouth against his, kissing her hard, kissing her
desperately. She wrapped her still-bruised arms around his neck, and he felt
her mouth opening under his, letting him in, taking him in.
Scully, Scully, he thought wildly, what are you doing to me?
He plunged his tongue into her mouth, drew her breath into his lungs, inhaled
her sweet, spicy scent, tasted the secret depths he had dreamed of for so
long.

She moaned softly under his mouth, turning to let him in more fully, and he
put his arms around her in a fierce embrace, his hands moving restlessly up
and down her back.
She felt him growing hard against her, and felt the answering wetness between
her own legs, a flash of heat suffusing her entire body. She breathed in
sharply, stunned to realize what she had done to this man with just one kiss,
and what he was doing to her in return.
Her soft gasp startled him, and he broke the kiss, afraid that she was angry,
that he'd let it go too far. Jesus, all she'd asked for was a kiss; what she
was getting was the unmistakable pressure of the biggest hard-on he'd had
since junior high, right up against her leg.
He laid one hand lightly on her cheek, searching her eyes for the disgust, the
revulsion, he was sure must be there.
It wasn't. What was there was that elusive something he'd seen before, blazing
from her eyes, as welcome and as dangerous as a flame in the night. Desire.
She wanted him, wanted this, wanted ... everything.
Am I really seeing this, Scully? he asked her with his eyes. Can you possibly
want this from me? and she nodded, yes. Yes.
He bent toward her again, kissing her more roughly now, feeling in her every
movement her invitation to him to go further, to take her fear away, to make
her ready for him, and then to do more, and more ...
~~~~~
Ten seconds ago, she thought, I thought I would be happy with just one kiss.
But I can't. It's not enough. I want him. I want his hands on me. I want him
in me. I want all of him.
She knew his touch so well, knew the feeling of his arms around her, but
nothing that had passed between them before had ever awakened her senses so
strongly. Her body was demanding more; not just his loving embrace, but the
almost painful ecstasy of drawing him into her, of allowing her softness to
yield to his strength, to envelop him completely.
Her breasts felt swollen and aching, the soft flesh of her sex was swollen and
aching, and she pressed herself closer to him, needing to feel him, wanting
him to feel her. She tasted his mouth, his lips, drawing him ever deeper, and
it was dizzying, it was wonderful, but it was not enough, not nearly enough.

Touch me, she thought, oh, please, please touch me, I can't stand it if you
don't, but she knew he would not, not here in her mother's house, maybe, not
unless ...
Scarcely daring to breathe, Scully took his hand in hers, guided it to her
breast and held it there, pressed his palm into her flesh, feeling the welcome
warmth of his hand even through her clothing. She felt the tension in his
muscles, felt him tremble with the force of his need as he caressed her,
gently at first and then more firmly, running his thumb over her hardened
nipple.
The sensation shot through her, hot, wet and delectable, and her rational self
exploded, melted away to nothing under his hand. Yes, she thought, the words
jumbling together in her brain, yes, now, Mulder, now, want you, I want you,
want you to ... let's go somewhere ... I have to be with you, I have to be
naked in your arms.
All at once, he jerked away, as though her flesh had burned him. He sat up,
leaning away from her, pulling his overcoat around him.
She was confused, her mind still spinning. She reached for him again, but he
shook his head slightly; he wouldn't come to her. Then she noticed the icy
draft from the front door and turned to see what was wrong.
No wonder Mulder was covering up.
There, filling the doorway with his massive frame, stood her elder brother,
Bill, Lieutenant Commander William Scully Jr., in full Navy regalia, his face
a mask of rage and disgust.
~~~~~
"What the fuck is going on here?" Bill Scully demanded in his quarter-deck
voice.
"I should think that was obvious," Mulder said, rising from the couch.
Scully reached for Mulder's hand, touching him now not for pleasure, not even
for reassurance, but because it was their way, it was her way, of bringing
Mulder back to himself, grounding him in reality, when he was on the edge of
violence.
But Mulder had never let Bill Scully push him into losing control, and he
wasn't going start now. He didn't move, either toward Bill or away; he simply
stood there, closing his fingers around Scully's hand, although he knew the
sight of his hand in hers would enrage the big sailor even more.

Not that he gave a damn what Bill Scully thought of him, but the man was
Scully's brother.
He was right. Bill's eyes narrowed even further, and he took a menacing step
toward Mulder.
"Bill, don't," Scully said, and although Mulder could hear the warning in her
voice, her brother apparently did not. Mulder still did not move.
"I don't know where the hell you get off coming to this house, let alone
pawing at my sister right in front of God and everyone else," Bill said, and
he was practically snarling now. "You've done enough to her, and to the rest
of us. Why don't you just get the hell out of here and leave her alone?"
"That was exactly what I was doing," Mulder said.
His voice was too controlled, too level, considering the extreme insult, and
Scully's apprehension grew. Bill was underestimating Mulder, and that was a
mistake. Any other man would have been in grave danger; she knew what that
tone meant.
Scully tightened her grip on his hand. She felt a reassuring squeeze back, and
knew she had assessed the situation correctly. Mulder was angry, all right,
and ready to defend himself if he had to. But for her sake, he wouldn't let it
go that far.
Deliberately, Mulder turned his back on Bill Scully. Still holding his
partner's hand, he spoke softly, too low for Bill to hear.
"I think it would be best if I left now," he said, and she felt the tears
start again. "Please give my apologies to your mother. You rest, and get
better, and get back to Quantico."
"Don't go, Mulder, please don't go," she said, and she was really crying now.
He shook his head, gently, took her hand up to his lips and pressed a kiss on
her fingers.
"See ya, Scully," he said, trying to keep his tone light.
Carefully releasing her hand, he walked to the door, sidestepping Bill, who
made no attempt to get out of his way. Mulder didn't even seem to notice.
A single sob broke from her throat, loud as a gunshot in the silence, and just
as piercing. Mulder froze in the half-open doorway, one hand on the knob. He
bent his head, as though he were studying his shoes; he seemed to be weighing

something in his mind.


Scully held her breath, hoping, praying.
Finally, Mulder turned to face her, all the violence gone from his eyes.
"I love you, Dana," he said, quietly. "I've always loved you. And I always
will."
She opened her mouth to answer him, but he turned away; without another word,
he left, closing the heavy front door behind him. Scully heard his footsteps
as he walked to his car, heard the sound of the ignition, heard the crunch of
ice beneath the tires as he drove away.
She dropped her face into her hands and wept, her face contorted in harsh,
wracking sobs that were terrible to hear.
~~~~~
Maggie Scully's home
Christmas Day

Christmas was a disaster.


Between Bill's smoldering anger and Dana's complete withdrawal, there was
little room for the rest of the Scullys to navigate between them. Bill was
past speaking, and Dana was nowhere near it. He glared; she kept her eyes cast
down.
It was like trying to have a Christmas dance in a minefield, as Charlie put
it. Nobody dared to move.
If Bill's wife, Tara, knew what had happened, she wasn't saying anything.
Charlie, the younger brother, didn't know, and didn't want to know; he made
that clear.
Maggie knew. She just didn't know what to do about it.
It had all seemed to be going so well on Christmas Eve. Fox had allowed her to
persuade him to stay for a while, and that was good, because that was so
obviously what Dana wanted. He must have wanted it, too, despite his protests,
because he stayed.
Pleased to have persuaded him, Maggie had gone to the kitchen to make coffee.
The last of the coffee was dripping into the pot, and she had put the cups,

cream and sugar on a tray with cider and cookies, and was heading back into
the living room when she heard Dana speaking very low.
Her daughter was telling Fox Mulder that she loved him, that she didn't want
him to leave.
Quickly, Maggie stepped back, hoping they hadn't heard her come in. Dana was
such a private person, so self-contained; she would hate to know that anyone
had heard what she was saying. For herself, Maggie couldn't decide whether she
was more surprised at what Dana was saying or at the fact that she apparently
hadn't said it before.
Not wanting to interrupt, she waited a few minutes until she was sure they had
finished speaking, then peered around the kitchen doorway.
There was Dana, in Fox's arms, and he was looking at her with such tenderness,
touching her face with such reverence, that it almost broke Maggie's heart. He
does love her, Maggie thought. You can see it.
Dana's face was flushed, her eyes were bright, and she was breathing rapidly,
looking at Fox with eyes full of love and sorrow, moving toward him, her lips
coming closer and closer to his.
It was obvious this was not a good time to serve cider.
Maggie looked away, quickly, while there was still a little space between
them, but the soft sounds and the rustle of clothing from the other room left
little to her imagination. She wondered what she ought to do. Every instinct
told her to stay where she was and give them a little privacy, but from the
sound of things, if she didn't interrupt them, she could be in here all night.
Then she heard shouting -- was it Bill Jr.? -- followed by Fox's dangerously
soft reply, and a door closing, and then Dana weeping, sobbing in a way she
had never done before.
Setting down the tray, Maggie walked into the living room. There stood Bill,
looking at his sister contemptuously. Dana was still sobbing loudly into her
hands, not looking up even when her mother sat next to her, but she nestled
against Maggie and her weeping began to subside, just a little.
"Bill, what on earth is going on here?" Maggie demanded.
"I came in and I found Mr. Mulder," he said, practically spitting the name,
"with his hands all over Dana. I don't know what's wrong with either of you. I
can't believe you let him in this house after all he's done to her."
Dana looked up at that, and her eyes were blazing, but she said nothing,
although her hands clenched briefly into fists. Maggie wrapped her arm around

the too-thin shoulders in a protective embrace, trying to calm her daughter.


"Bill, I have no idea what you saw, or what you think you saw, but Fox is
Dana's friend and he was here because I asked him to come inside," Maggie
said.
"What the hell did you do that for, Mom?"
"Because he brought Dana home, and because your sister wanted him here,"
Maggie replied. "Because it's Christmas, and I wanted to make him feel
welcome."
"Since when is he welcome in this house?"
"I don't think she, or I, have to answer to you for that," Maggie said,
coldly. Blessed St. Bridget, she thought, does Bill have to be so dense?
"Well, he's some kind of goddamn friend," Bill said. He stalked toward the
staircase, practically slamming his uniform hat onto a coat hook. He spun
around, hands on hips, facing his mother. "I'll say this for him; he's always
around when my sisters are in trouble. Hell, maybe that's because he's the
cause of all the trouble."
"How can you say that, Bill? He saved Dana's life!"
"Like hell. Did you really think that science-fiction voodoo crap he was
ladling out, sticking a fucking computer chip in her neck, had anything to do
with Dana's cancer going away?"
"I don't know, and neither do you," his mother replied. "But she did get
better. You saw that yourself."
"That didn't have a damn thing to do with him. He's nothing but trouble. He
got Melissa killed, and he's come damn close to getting Dana killed. What do
you want, Mom -- another grave to cry over? Just keep ol' Fox Mulder coming
around, and you'll have one, because one day he will get her killed."
"That," Dana said, "is enough."
Bill and Maggie stared at her. They had almost forgotten she was there.
"Whatever is between me and Mulder is personal," she said, her voice steady
although her eyes were red and swollen from crying. "I am not going to discuss
it, and I do not want it discussed."
"You don't need to discuss it," Bill said. "It was pretty plain when I walked

in here. I've got to admit, Dana, I never thought you were the kind of woman
who would throw her life away for a good romp in the sack. Is that what they
teach women at the FBI academy?"
Maggie gasped, her hands flying to her face, too horrified to speak.
Dana's reaction was quicker, and more decisive. She was on her feet in a
flash, and slapped her brother across the face. Hard. The blow rocked Bill
back on his feet, and he staggered, lost his footing. He put out a hand,
grabbing at the banister, but one foot landed on a throw rug; he slipped and
went down hard, landing solidly on his butt.
Well, she is a trained agent, of course she can knock a man down, that's
logical, Maggie thought, but another part of her brain was already shrieking
with panic. How was she going to fix this mess?
She saw Bill getting back to his feet, fire in his eyes; he wasn't going to be
caught off guard again, she thought, and he was never one to let an insult go.
Dana was breathing rapidly, her eyes narrowed, her face a deadly white, and
she was still poised to spring at the brother who outweighed her by a hundred
pounds and towered over her by more than a foot.
And then Maggie's eyes fixed on her daughter's back, on the outline of the
holster, the grip, the barrel, scarcely concealed by Dana's thin sweater.
Dana is an agent, she thought, horrified. Dana carries a gun. Oh, dear God,
don't let this go too far.
But Maggie's fears were unfounded; Dana was angry, angrier than her mother had
ever imagined she could be, but she had control of herself. When she spoke,
her voice was clear, distinct and as cold as death.
"I've told you before, Bill, and by God I meant it," she said, looking up at
him, unafraid. "What I do with my life, and with my body, is my decision. Stay
out of it."
Then she had turned away, and walked up the stairs without help, although it
was perfectly clear to Maggie that Dana was weak and in pain. She had not come
down again that night, and she and Bill hadn't spoken a word to each other
since.
Bill had nursed his anger all through midnight mass. Neither Maggie, his
mother, nor Tara, his wife, could get a word out of him. He refused to stay
afterward to greet Father McCue.
Charlie had arrived, laden with packages, shortly after they returned from
church and was startled out of his wits when his mother, his strong, wonderful

mother, greeted him with a hug and a sudden shower of tears. He patted her on
the back, looking around at the grim faces.
"Have I landed in the Christmas Twilight Zone?" he asked.
No one answered him.
Dana came down the next morning, and opened her gifts with the others, but it
was like having Christmas with a ghost. She thanked everyone, but the words
were perfunctory and without feeling. As soon as the last gift was opened, she
said she was tired and went back to her room.
She didn't come down for Christmas dinner, either. Maggie, Charlie and Tara
tried to get a conversation going, but Bill's presence, and Dana's absence,
soon defeated them and the meal was eaten in silence, accompanied only by the
clinking of silverware and china and the babbling of 1-year-old Matthew.
No one wanted seconds.
There was no other word for it. It was a disaster.
~~~~~
Maggie Scully's home
3 a.m.

Dana lay awake. She had dozed, fitfully, after her mother had practically
forced a pain pill on her, but she awoke as it began to wear off and she
hadn't been even close to sleeping since.
She was past crying. There was no point in it, anyway; it wouldn't bring him
back, wouldn't undo what had happened, wouldn't give her back what she had
lost.
Why does this have to happen, why can't the men I love be friends, or at least
be polite? Mulder's always been polite to Bill, and Bill is never like this
about anyone else. He's my big brother, and I love him, and I hit him, I hit
him so hard that if I'd had him in custody when I did it, I'd be up on
charges. I'm sorry, Mom, Bill, I'm so sorry, I love you both.
I love Mulder, too. And I want him. I have a right to want him, don't I? I
know you think Mulder is the kind of man you warned me against. He may be. He
looks at me that way. He touches me that way.
And you know what, Bill? I want him to be. Give me half a chance, and he will
be.

And I think you know that; it's the real reason you hate him so much.
I know the rules Mom taught us: Kiss, hug, touch only above the waist and save
the rest for marriage. I think it's wonderful that you lived up to that. But
that's not how it's been for me.
I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I know you're all so disappointed in me. But I'm
not sorry, not really.
I trust
hands a
treated
touched

him with my life, Bill, even if you don't. I gave my life into his
long time ago, and he's never failed me. Six years, Bill, and he's
me the whole time as though I were something sacred; he's never once
me like that, the way a man touches a woman -- not until yesterday.

I've made so many mistakes. But which ones were mistakes? I was wrong. I just
don't know what else I could have done.
The time for warnings is over, Bill. It was over a long time ago. You've got
to let me go.
I'm sorry I hit you. I would give almost anything if that hadn't happened. But
I couldn't take any more. No more. No one will listen to me. Not Bill, not
Mulder. Why don't I have a say in this?
Do a profile on me, Mulder. Get into my head, figure out what I want to do
next.
And after you do that, tell me, please?
I'm still a federal agent. He's not going anywhere I can't find him. When I
get back to the office, I can track him down, make him listen to me.
Except that I can't. I just can't. It would trap him, give him no room to
escape. Emotional rape. It can't be like that. I can't do that to him.
I have to let him go.
And then Dana Scully found out that she wasn't really past crying, after all.
~~~~~
Maggie Scully wasn't sleeping much, either.

She couldn't understand what had happened, how Bill Jr. or Dana had allowed
the breach to form between them, or how they could let it go on like this.
It's Christmas, she thought, tears coming into her eyes when she remembered
all those long-ago Christmases when Bill was just a boy, and Dana was a sweet,
red-headed angel.
Melissa was with them then, and Bill Sr.
Involuntarily, Maggie looked over at the empty space in the big bed beside
her. He's been gone six years, she thought, and that is still his side of the
bed. It was his side of the bed when he was at sea. It will always be his
side.
Sometimes it's as though he's just on another long sea voyage, and I'm waiting
for the day I go down to the dock and welcome him home. I wish that were true;
I wish he were here to tell me what to do.
"You know what to do, Maggie. You always knew."
Maggie jumped as the loud bass voice rang out. Was it in her head, or was
there really someone in her room?
No. There was no one there.
I couldn't have heard that, she thought. That sounded like Bill. I really must
be upset; I'm hearing things.
Or am I?
Do I know what to do?
~~~~~
"Dana?"
It was her mother's voice. Mom.
"Dana, are you awake? I thought I heard ..."
"I'm awake," Dana said, sitting up. "Come on in."
Maggie opened the door, walked to Dana's bed, sat on the edge and took her
daughter's hand. She could see Dana's face clearly in the faint moonlight
slanting through the blinds.

"You've been crying," she said, brushing Dana's hair back from her face.
Dana nodded. She seemed about to speak, but her lips were trembling. She
closed her eyes and swallowed hard, willing herself back under control.
My poor baby, Maggie thought, feeling the tears coming up in her own eyes. Why
does she struggle so hard against normal, human feelings? What did I do that
made her feel that it wasn't all right to cry?
"Dana," Maggie said, just above a whisper. "Dana, it's all right, baby, it's
all right."
Dana's face crumpled, and she surrendered to her mother's loving arms. "Oh,
Mom, I don't know what to do. I'm sorry I hit Bill, I'm so, so, sorry. I'm
sorry I ruined Christmas for everybody. I don't know what's wrong with me, I
just keep messing things up for everyone."
"Shh, Dana, hush," Maggie said, patting Dana's back the way she had so many
years ago when Dana was a child. "Bill knows you didn't mean it."
"Oh, but I did mean it, Mom," Dana said, sitting back and wiping her tears
with her hands. "I was angry, and I wanted to hurt him, so I did. I never used
to be like that."
"You're not like that now," Maggie said, stroking Dana's hair again.
"I am," Dana said. "I'm worse. I hope you never see what I really am now."
"I do see you, Dana," Maggie said, a little hurt. "You're my daughter."
"No," Dana said, shaking her head. "You don't want to see. No one wants to."
I don't know what she's going to say, Maggie thought, suddenly uneasy, but I
think she may be right. I don't think I do want to know. But whatever it is,
it's not what Bill Jr. thinks.
I am not going to like this. But if she wants to tell me, I'll listen. I will.
"Dana, what is it that you think is so bad that you can't tell me?"
Seconds ticked away on Dana's alarm clock. Maggie waited. Dana looked at the
window. No one spoke.
"Dana?"

More silence.
"Mom," Dana said at last, then paused again. "I -- Mom, this is not something
I talk about."
"To me, or to anyone?"
"To anyone," Dana said, shaking her head emphatically. "Not really even to
Mulder. I've always been -- so cold to him, so heartless sometimes."
"Oh, Dana, you're not heartless," Maggie said, encouragingly. "That's just the
way you are. Even when you were a little girl ... Missy used to talk for
hours. You? You were always somewhere inside yourself, and you almost never
let anyone in."
Dana nodded slowly. "I know that. And I do try. But I can't, sometimes, no
matter how much I want to."
She looked away again, fixing her eyes on the closet door.
"I've kept so much inside. I haven't said half of what I wanted to say. Dad's
gone, and Missy's gone, and now Mulder's gone, too, in a different way. I left
so much unsaid with all of them, and knowing that, I still can't say what I
want to say."
"You're afraid, Dana," Maggie said, gently. "It's all right to be afraid
sometimes. But for reasons I don't understand, this is killing you."
Dana was silent again.
"Dana, what went wrong yesterday?" Maggie asked. "Not with Bill. I can guess
that for myself. What went wrong with Fox?"
"He left," Dana said.
"I know that. Why did he leave?"
"No, I mean he left, forever," Dana said, the words coming with difficulty.
"He left me. He's going to ask for a transfer."
Maggie's eyes widened in surprise. "Is it because of Bill?"
"No," Dana said. "He told me while we were in the hospital. He said he

couldn't stand to see me get hurt again. I suppose if you wanted to, you could
blame Mulder's decision on Bill. God knows he's tried hard enough to make it
happen."
"So what Bill did yesterday ..." Maggie said, her voice trailing off. Dana
looked uncomfortable.
"Bill saw -- he came in while I was -- while we were kissing goodbye. Mulder
was ... he was ... touching me."
Oh, Dana, sweet Dana, Maggie thought, repressing a smile. You're a grown
woman, a physician, an FBI agent, and you squirm like that over telling me
something so innocent?
"So that's what Bill saw," Maggie said. "You, being touched -- I can guess
where, not that it matters -- by the man you love."
Dana barely nodded. She still looked uncomfortable.
"Don't tell me you're feeling guilty about that," Maggie said.
"Not guilty, exactly," Dana said, searching for the words. "Maybe a little.
Mostly just -- invaded, I suppose. Bill could have ... looked the other way.
He should have."
Dana bit her lower lip. "Maybe if Bill hadn't interrupted, I could have
changed Mulder's mind. I really think he was hoping I would."
"It's not as easy as you think to change a man's mind, not when he believes
he's right, Dana," her mother said, gently. "If he's an honorable man, and I
think Fox is, he'll stay his course even if it means acting contrary to the
desires of his own heart. It's just the way men are, good men, anyway, and you
can't defeat that, no matter how hard you try."
"I could have," Dana said, stubbornly. "I just needed a little more time."
"You've had six years, Dana," Maggie observed, not unkindly. "Why did you wait
so long?"
Dana sighed, acknowledging the truth in her mother's question. "The Bureau,"
she said. "My reputation, his; our work. Our partnership. And the danger.
People use me to hurt him. If we'd become --" Dana hesitated over the word.
"If we were -- lovers -- they would use that to hurt him, too."
"Dana, I don't understand what you're saying," Maggie said, troubled. "Who is
using you? And what for?"

Dana looked at her mother, and smiled, but the smile never reached the pain in
her eyes. "I told you," she said. "You don't want to hear it."
"I want to understand. And right now, I don't," Maggie said. "I don't
understand how loving each other can be so frightening to you both."
"I don't know how to tell you," Dana said. "I'm not sure I understand it
myself. I know he's dangerous, that loving him is dangerous, and worse, I know
that I've become dangerous, too. I don't even know myself anymore; I look in
the mirror sometimes and wonder who that is looking back at me. How can it be
me? I'm a doctor; what kind of doctor kills people?"
She's killed people? Maggie thought, horrified. She couldn't even bear to hurt
a snake. How could she?
Then she saw the guarded look in Dana's eyes.
"I'm sorry," Dana said. "I shouldn't have said that."
"No," Maggie said, shaking her head. "It's just -- you've never talked about
that part of your job, Dana."
Dana shook her head. "No. And I didn't mean to do it now. But it happens."
There was another long pause before Dana spoke again.
"You want to know why I waited, and I can't tell you. I had a lot of reasons.
He had his, too. I guess ... at first, it seemed inappropriate, and later,
there was too much pain between us. Too much horror. Too many things to
regret."
Dana twisted a corner of the sheet in her hands.
"Sometimes, I just don't like myself anymore, and I used to feel so proud of
being a doctor, of being a federal agent. It was fun, like being able to dress
up in your evening clothes when I was little. Remember, right after I
graduated from Quantico, when you and I flew to San Diego to visit Bill?"
Maggie nodded. "You set off the metal detectors at the airport, and people
came running. But when you showed them your badge, they let us go through."
"That was the time," Dana said. "You were so proud of me, so impressed that I
could carry a gun onto an airplane, and in a way, I was, too. But that was
playing FBI, Mom. Real FBI is when you find out why they let you carry that
gun."

Where is this going, Dana? Maggie wondered, then felt a sudden flush of shame.
The old adage was true, she thought: Be careful what you pray for; you might
get it. Well, she'd prayed for Dana to open up to her. Now, she wasn't sure
she could bear to hear it.
"If you knew the whole truth ... but I don't want you to know," Dana said, as
though she'd read her mother's thoughts. She shook her head emphatically. "I
don't want anyone to know. What I do now ... it's as though I'm part of a wall
between hell and humanity. Talking about it is the same as tearing that wall
down."
Dana looked toward the window. Faint streaks of dawnlight were showing through
the slats now. "I'm tired, Mom," she said. "And there's no one out there I can
trust, except Mulder."
Dana turned then, and looked directly at her mother. The blue eyes were clear
and steady.
"I don't know why, but I keep thinking about what would happen if I were
killed in the line of duty. I know you would all mourn for me. But you would
be angry, too, and you would never forgive me. You would never understand why
I let it happen."
"And you think Fox would?"
"Mulder -- Mulder would zip up the body bag himself, stand there over my
bleeding corpse and tell me that it was all worth it, that I didn't live and
die for nothing. And he would mean it."
"Do you think he could accept your death so easily, Dana?" Maggie said, a
little wounded at the turn of her daughter's thoughts, but determined to see
it through. "Because I don't."
"That's not what I meant," Dana said. "I mean that he would know, he would
understand, why I let it happen. He wouldn't be angry at me. He would take his
anger out on the person who killed me; if it took him 50 years, he would find
that person and shoot them down in cold blood. Then, I think, he would go
home, hang up his coat, sit down on his couch and eat a bullet out of his own
gun."
She closed her eyes again, covered her face with his hands. "Is that why he
left me? Because I can't keep the demons away anymore? Am I bringing them
out?"
Maggie felt herself becoming numb. Dana was right, she thought. I didn't want
to hear this. I didn't want to see Dana this way. I never wanted her to be
like this. And this is just the part she's willing to tell?

If that's true, then I never, ever want to know that other part.
But I have to hear it, Dana, I have to let you talk. Maybe it will make it
hurt less that I've failed you so badly, that I really don't understand how to
help you. And worse, that you know it, too.
Then she heard Dana laugh, and the sound chilled her.
"Did I ever tell you that I shot Mulder?" she heard Dana asking.
"You shot him?" Oh, this really is more than I can bear, Maggie thought. "Why,
Dana?"
"To keep him from committing murder," Dana said, simply. "He was going to
shoot a suspect in the head; the man he thought had killed his father."
"I can't believe that of him, Dana," Maggie said, shaking her head. "It just
doesn't sound like the Fox Mulder I've come to know."
Dana shrugged. "He wasn't entirely himself that night, certainly, but he's
perfectly capable of killing; I've seen him do it. More than once."
"Oh, my God, Dana, why are you telling me this?" Maggie burst out in anguish.
Dana thought for a minute, then looked at her mother. "I don't want to hurt
you, Mom. I just need you to understand. Shooting people, even killing them,
risking that they'll do the same to me -- it's part of my world now. So much a
part that I shot Mulder because it was the only way I had to protect him, not
let him go too far. He would do the same for me."
I don't understand you, Dana, Maggie thought. I don't understand this at all.
I don't know you when you're like this.
Dana looked up at the ceiling, then closed her eyes and sighed. "If I hadn't
fired when I did, if I had let Mulder kill that man, I would be just as bad as
the people I'm trying to stop. But I can't help wondering if you don't already
see me that way."
"No, Dana," Maggie said. "Never think that. You did what you thought was
right, even it meant killing Fox."
"I was never going to kill him," Dana said. "And he knew I wouldn't kill him.
I just don't think he ever considered that I might shoot him anyway."
"And he forgave you?" Maggie said.

"He thanked me for taking care of him," Dana said. "He trusts ... he used to
trust me to stop him before his -- his anger, his rage -- got out of hand. He
understood what I did."
"I'm glad someone does," Maggie said, realizing her mistake as soon as the
words left her mouth. "No, Dana, I don't mean that, really ..." She broke off
in mid-apology, startled and frightened by the cold smile on her daughter's
lips.
"Mom," Dana said, "it's all right. It's like I said: How can you understand me
when I don't understand myself?"
"But you say Fox does."
"As well as anyone can. Yes."
"Do you really love him, Dana?"
"More than anything, Mom," Dana whispered. "More than you can imagine."
"Oh, I don't know," Maggie said, lightly. "I can imagine quite a lot. I wasn't
always ancient."
That got a little bit of a real smile. Good, Maggie thought.
"I'm sorry, Mom," Dana said. "Even at my age, it's not easy to think of you as
a woman and not just my mother."
"It's not easy for me to think of my little girl having to -- do what you've
done, be hurt the way you have been," Maggie said, gently touching Dana's hand
as it lay on the bedspread. "I honestly don't know what to think about all
this. I haven't seen that side of Fox, but it's not easy to accept that you're
in love with a man who's as violent as you've just described. It frightens
me."
"He could never harm me," Dana said, almost fiercely. "I may be the one person
on earth he could never hurt."
"Dana, I can't feel certain of that. I wish I could. But I love you, and I
will try to trust that you know what you're doing."
"That's not enough," Dana said. "I have no reason to fear Mulder. I don't want
you to fear him, either. There is no question in my mind that he would die
before he would hurt me."

"I don't know what else I can tell you," Maggie said, lifting her hands in
resignation. "From what I know, violent men are violent all the time, and
never more so than at home."
"Mom, you don't understand," Dana said, quietly. "You haven't heard what I've
been telling you. If you're going to be afraid of Mulder, you should be
equally afraid of me. We're not that different."
"Dana, don't say that," Maggie said.
"It's true. I know what his mother thinks of me. She doesn't say it, but I can
see. She thinks I'm violent, that I drive her son to violence. That I can't
protect him, that I'm bad for him and dangerous to her family. And maybe she's
right. I did shoot him, after all."
"But you're not like that, Dana!" Maggie protested indignantly. "Anyone can
see ..."
"Anyone?" Dana said. "Not Mrs. Mulder. She's afraid, for her son and for
herself. But she gives him nothing, not really; he can't go to her the way I
can come to you. She tries not to let it show, but I know that she's ashamed
of him, and she despises me for staying with him. I don't want you to feel
that way about me, or him."
"I don't," Maggie said, earnestly, urgently, praying that this was the key to
let her love reach Dana through this terrifying mood she was in. "I am proud
of you. So was your father. He was proud of your commitment, proud that you
put yourself in harm's way for a greater cause, and proud that you acquitted
yourself bravely under fire. He could never say it. But it was there."
"I hope so, Mom," Dana said softly. Her face crumpled; she fought against the
tears, but they came anyway, and Maggie put her arms around her, gently.
"I'm not brave, Mom," Dana whispered against her mother's shoulder. "I wish I
could be. If I seem brave, part of that is Mulder. How do I make Bill
understand that?"
"Maybe you don't," her mother said. "You can't always get people to change, to
be the way you think they should be, no matter how much you love them. But
what you can do, and I think you have already done, is let Bill know that he
doesn't have to like your choices, but he does have to respect them. That
includes medicine, and the FBI, and, I suppose, it includes Fox Mulder."
"Always," Dana whispered, wiping fresh tears from her eyes. "I love my
brother. I don't want to hurt him. But I love my job, and my partner, even
more. And I wanted Mulder to hold me, to kiss me -- and to touch me. I wanted
it so badly. Am I so wrong to want that?"
"No," Maggie said. "That's as it should be, if you truly love him, although I

still believe that anything more intimate than touching belongs in marriage.
But don't be too hard on Bill, Dana; big brothers don't like to think of their
sisters as sexual beings, whether they're married or not."
Dana didn't answer, but she pulled away from her mother, and Maggie saw her
face harden.
Maggie sighed. "Dana, I don't want you and Bill to part enemies. He's got to
fly back to San Diego in one week, and then they ship out again for three
months. That can be a long time. Try to talk to him before that. Tell him how
you feel. Maybe you can work things out between you."
"I don't think so," Dana said.
Maggie thought for a minute. "May I talk to him, tell him some of what you've
told me?"
"Yes, if you want to," Dana said. "But I don't think he's ready to hear it."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"The greatest gift that Oxford gives her sons is,
I truly believe,
a genial irreverence toward learning,
and from that irreverence love may spring."
"Shakespeare over the Port"
-- Robertson Davies

Chapter 4

FBI Field Office


Birmingham, Alabama
Tuesday, Dec. 29
11:15 a.m.

What the hell have I got myself into, Mulder wondered as he sat waiting
outside the office of SAC Daniel Prescott.
Eleven years in the Bureau, and he'd never once been assigned to a field
office before, which was where most agents started out. He wasn't even
entirely clear about what field offices did; they were just there when he got
to town, ready to lend manpower, telephones, laboratories. What the agents
there did the rest of the time, when they weren't helping him, he couldn't

imagine. Wiretaps? Fertilizer detail? Security clearances for the National


Guard?
Probably all of the above, he thought, grimly. Get hold of yourself, Mulder.
It's not the first time you've trashed your FBI career.
But leaving BSU for the X Files had only meant moving from Quantico to the
Hoover building. This wasn't the Hoover building; it wasn't even Salt Lake
City, Utah. This field office, whatever its mission, was so far below the
sightlines of the brass in DC that a field agent assigned here could easily
spend the rest of his career in obscurity.
That was what you told Skinner you wanted, kid, he thought, twiddling his
thumbs as he often did while waiting to see higher-ups. You told him to send
you away from the X Files, away from Behavioral Sciences, away from the
District altogether. And you got it.
Big piles of manure, he thought, and the thought almost made him smile. That
was Scully's remark when the X Files were first assigned to other agents and
the two of them were earning Uncle Sam's money by checking out large purchases
of fertilizer, the kind used to build the Oklahoma City bomb. Big piles of
manure await you in the cotton fields of Alabama.
It didn't matter. Birmingham had an allure that few other field offices could
offer him. Birmingham was only about a five-hour drive from Mobile. Four, if
you had a badge and weren't shy about showing it. Mulder wasn't.
He wondered how much Skinner really knew about his and Scully's capture in
Mobile, about his reasons for requesting a transfer. Skinner had a knack for
decoding what was, and wasn't, in Mulder's field reports. Even though AD Kersh
was Mulder's official superior, he had a notion that Skinner was keeping up
with his career.
That was why he'd bypassed Kersh and come to Skinner with this request. Kersh
would have been all too happy to assign him to the field office in North
Dakota for the winter, hoping to make him quit, but if Skinner sent Mulder
elsewhere, Kersh wouldn't care.
Skinner had to know what was up.
So was the transfer to Birmingham encouragement to continue searching in
Mobile? Not likely, Mulder thought. If Skinner wanted me in Mobile, he could
have put me there. Of course, if he'd wanted me to stay away from Mobile, he
could have sent me to Cincinnati, or Boise.
Birmingham, he decided, was Skinner's way of leaving the decision up to him.
Searching for Krycek would be extra-curricular activity. Skinner didn't want
to know about it, not officially, anyway, and maybe not at all.

This assignment represented opportunity for Mulder, deniability for Skinner.


Mulder did smile at that. Pure Bureau politics, played as well as it could
ever be played. Skinner was good at it. That's why he was an assistant
director. He never said too much.
Even when Mulder was leaving Skinner's office for the last time, just
yesterday morning, Skinner still hadn't said too much. He'd read the field
report, listened to Mulder's request, asked a few questions.
After a long silence, Skinner had scribbled a few words on the form used for
transfers, signed the papers and shot them across the top of his polished desk
for Mulder to pick up. "Birmingham Field Office, Northern District of
Alabama," he said. "Report at the earliest opportunity, and not more than 48
hours from now."
Mulder had stood, feeling a heaviness in his soul he hadn't expected.
He had known that leaving Scully would be bad; in reality, it was worse than
bad, it had left him bleeding, flopping around like a fish that had been
gutted and left to die slowly. But he'd expected that. He hadn't expected this
feeling of regret at saying goodbye to the granite-jawed ex-Marine who'd
chewed off so many pieces of Mulder's ass over the years.
"Something wrong, Agent Mulder?" Skinner had asked, leaning back in his chair,
his expression as tight and unreadable as ever.
Mulder had shaken his head. "No, sir," he said. "I appreciate your taking care
of this for me."
"If you want to send your career down the crapper, that's your business, Agent
Mulder," Skinner had said. "I'm not in charge of keeping you from being
stupid, just keeping your stupidity from screwing up the Bureau's mission and
my career."
Mulder had only nodded. There really wasn't anything else to say. He walked
toward the door to the outer office.
"Agent Mulder," Skinner said, abruptly.
Mulder turned. "Sir?"
Skinner stood. He took one step toward Mulder, then extended his hand. Mulder
took it.
"I hate to lose you," Skinner said. "Good luck in Alabama."

"Thank you, sir," Mulder said. Skinner released his firm grip on Mulder's
hand.
"Now get the hell out of here," he said, sitting down and picking up a file.
Mulder did. He had left Skinner's office and gone straight to the bullpen,
forcing himself not to look at anything belonging to Scully as he packed up
his few things in a cardboard file box. There wasn't much he wanted.
Mulder was halfway out the door when his conscience (his heart, he thought,
and immediately quelled the word) got the better of him. Setting down the box,
he walked over to her desk, took a pen from the top drawer and scribbled a
message on a pink Post-it note. He pulled the note from the pad and stuck it
under her coffee cup, where he knew she would see it.
And if anyone else saw it, it wouldn't matter. Not now.
Retrieving the box, Mulder had walked out of the bullpen. He made eye contact
with no one as he walked out of the Hoover building. He walked to his car, got
in, and drove straight to Birmingham without stopping for more than a few
minutes, keeping himself awake with coffee, cold air and Pink Floyd played at
ear-splitting volume.
As he sat in the Birmingham office, Mulder reflected that it might have made a
better impression if he'd at least taken a nap before coming here. He was so
sleep-deprived he was nearly hallucinating, but all he had done was find a
motel, shower, shave and change before reporting here for his first day.
"Agent Mulder?" The drawling male voice shook him from his reverie. He looked
up. There was a balding, middle-aged man with eyes the color of cooked liver
and leathery skin that had been out in the sun too long, but there was a
muscular physique stashed under his plain white shirt and he exuded authority.
He's a lot like Skinner, Mulder thought, rising. And he's different.
"Daniel Prescott, special agent in charge," the man said, extending his hand.
His handshake was quick and almost painfully hearty. Dominance behavior,
Mulder thought, and put the thought away. What did you expect?
"Fox Mulder, sir," Mulder replied. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Uh-huh," Prescott said, but his expression clearly communicated another word:
Bullshit.
"Come on in, Mulder, have a sit-down," Prescott said, leading the way.

Small office, Mulder thought. Get used to it. He sat opposite Prescott's desk
in a leather side chair that had seen better days.
"You've had quite a career, Agent Mulder," Prescott was saying as he flipped
through Mulder's personnel file. "What'd you do to get sent to the minors?"
"Sir, I'm not sure Birmingham is the minors," Mulder began, but Prescott's
grin stopped him.
"Oh, it's the minors, all right," Prescott said. He's enjoying this, Mulder
thought. But there's nothing sadistic about him. "BFO is so minor-league they
won't even let us be bat boys for the big guys. But don't worry about that.
We'll find plenty here to keep you busy."
"I wasn't told what my duties would be, sir," Mulder said, the profiler part
of his brain already sketching out his first impressions of Prescott. Smarter
than he looks or even wants to look, Mulder thought. Plenty of pavement under
his feet. And he likes being here. I didn't know it was even possible to enjoy
this kind of exile.
It was a puzzle. Mulder was good at those. And he welcomed the challenge; it
would keep his mind off ...
Other things.
"Well, Mulder, you have landed yourself in the state that calls itself the
Heart of Dixie, the state with one of the lowest high-school graduation rates
in the nation," Prescott said. "You being a BSU veteran, I'm sure you know
that an uneducated population goes along with a fair amount of violent crime.
Now, the ABI does a good bit of work here, but they mostly work for the
governor. There's a pretty good state forensics lab, but they're backlogged
from here to Christmas, and it won't be getting better as long as the property
taxes stay as low as they are. You hear me?"
"Yes, sir," Mulder said. Violent crime, he thought, with an inward groan.
Isn't that just great. Right back where I started from.
Prescott must have read Mulder's mind.
"You got nothing to worry about, Mulder," Prescott said. "With your
background, I'd be a damn fool not to use you when we have violent crimes to
investigate. But there's not near enough of that to keep you busy full time.
We're still part of the Centabom team. Eric Rudolph bombed an abortion clinic
right here in Birmingham, and it ain't that far to Centennial Park in Atlanta,
either. We also got bank robberies, security clearances, wiretaps, and even
that damn fertilizer you hate so much."

Mulder did smile at that. "Is that in my folder?"


"Plain as day," Prescott said. "You spent exactly one day tracking down an
ammonium nitrate purchase and then you were off on some high-speed chase
across the desert Southwest. Never did hear a good explanation for that one."
Mulder said nothing.
Prescott eyed him sharply.
Spooky Mulder, he thought. Eleven thousand agents in the Bureau and Spooky
gets assigned to me. Unbe-fucking-lievable.
Not that he minded; quite the opposite.
Sure, he'd heard all the weird stuff, and he'd read the man's file, which was
even weirder. He wasn't worried; Prescott was born and raised in the South,
and he'd met people with a hell of a lot more blind faith in UFOs and
government conspiracies than Mulder ever dreamed of. There were people back
home who swore on their mothers' graves that they'd been taken up in
spaceships and raped by aliens. Several times.
Anyway, if Mulder was nutty, he still had a solve-rate on his cases that would
pop your eyes right out of your head, good enough to make any SAC with half a
brain glad to get him. In BSU, and on several special assignments since,
Mulder had shown he was still capable of real police work. Terrorists, serial
killers, even a hostage situation, for which he hadn't even been trained -Mulder had walked in and done the job expertly, like he'd never left BSU.
But the man just wasn't saying enough for Prescott to get a handle on who or
what he really was, or why he had voluntarily left Washington, where the top
rungs on the career ladder inevitably led. Leaving voluntarily was career
suicide, especially for a maverick like this guy.
Still, he would be a hell of an asset to the BFO, could be an asset, Prescott
amended, if he'll get his ass in line. And I'm just the man to do it, Oxford
boy.
"Mulder, let's you and me talk plain for a minute," Prescott said, swiveling
back in his chair, one hand cocked on his hip. "Whatever you think about
Alabama is probably wrong. This isn't 1960, and nobody's going to shoot you
and bury you in a ditch. But there's a power structure in place here, and it
won't be too accommodating if you come in here acting like Mr. Big City
Federal Agent. They won't care if you do have a degree from Oxford; they won't
trust you."
Prescott's eyes were as hard as agate, and Mulder could feel them bearing down
on him, challenging him, showing him the whip hand.

But Mulder wasn't ready to yield -- yet.


"Sir, I don't really care whether anyone trusts me or not," Mulder said. "I
have no intention of trusting them, anyway; I stopped trusting people a long
time ago." Mulder sat back in his chair, just a little. "At this point, I am
constrained to point out, sir, I have no reason to trust you, either."
(You still trust someone, said the soft voice in his head, but he forced
himself to ignore it. Later, he told himself. Play with that pain later, when
you're alone.)
"I don't give a shit whether you trust me or not, Mulder," Prescott said,
easily. "Just so long as you don't forget who's giving the orders. I know your
record, and I can tell you right now, you need an attitude adjustment. The
rules are different here, some of them, but this is still the Bureau. Don't
forget it; and don't go off on some wild goddamn goose chase without telling
me about it. That dog won't hunt."
"Sir, I've solved a number of ..." Mulder began, but Prescott cut him off.
"I know about the work you did on the X Files, chasing your little green men,"
Prescott said, holding up a hand for silence as Mulder once again started to
speak. "I think it's horseshit, but from what I hear you did a workmanlike job
on ' em, and managed to work a few real cases along the way. Word is you're a
good agent, or you used to be."
"I still am, sir," Mulder said evenly, but his eyes were narrowed in a way
that Scully would have understood if she had been there.
Prescott indulged himself in another smile, pleased that he hadn't been able
to get under Mulder's skin. That was a good sign. Still, he had to give it one
more try; Mulder wasn't quite ready to knuckle under to Prescott's authority
yet, and that was a situation Prescott wasn't about to tolerate.
"Mulder, stop the bullshit, all right? You may be a good cop, but you're also
a loose cannon. You've been in trouble most of your career, even got referred
to the director for dismissal and demotion, and the only reason you're here
instead of frisking teeny-boppin' shoplifters at the local Wal Mart is that
you've apparently got friends in high places who didn't let that happen."
"I never asked anyone to save my career," Mulder said. "To this day, I don't
know who countermanded OPR's ruling. Happened way too far above my pay grade."
It was way above your pay grade, too, you son of a bitch, Mulder thought.
Let's see how you respond to that one.
Prescott leaned forward, and his gaze was level, but Mulder sensed the threat
behind the eyes.

"Agent Mulder," Prescott said, "I don't give a fuck who it was, because it
doesn't matter. You ain't Rod Serling or Efrem Fucking Zimbalist Jr. anymore.
You ain't at Hoover with six thousand other agents; you're just one of 71
agents in Birmingham, Alabama, in my goddamn FBI. People who screw up in my
FBI don't go back to BSU, Agent Mulder, and they don't go back to the fucking
X Files, either. They go out of the Bureau right on their lily-white asses,
but they leave their balls hanging on my wall as a souvenir. Think you can
deal with that?"
"If I didn't think so, I wouldn't be here," Mulder said, still keeping his
voice even. "Is that all, sir?"
"Go," Prescott said, waving a hand toward the door. "You've got some paperwork
to do, and then I'll get Cheryl in admin to give you some pointers about
finding a place to live. Be here at 8:15 tomorrow."
Mulder nodded and rose. Standing before Prescott's desk, he said, "Sir, I've
got 11 years in the Bureau, not all of which was spent chasing little green
men. Believe it or not, I'm a damn good investigator when you get to know me."
"Oh, I'm sure of that, Agent Mulder," Prescott said, drawing out the words.
"Cause if I didn't believe it, you can bet your sweet ass you wouldn't be
here."
Mulder nodded again, then looked at Prescott, his expression sharp, analyzing.
"Marine?" he asked. "Vietnam, perhaps?"
Prescott shook his head. Profilers, he thought. Jesus H. Christ.
"Navy SEAL," Prescott said. "Classified. Way above your pay grade."
Mulder raised an eyebrow, nodding almost imperceptibly, and left, closing the
door behind him. Prescott leaned back again, satisfied. Keeping Mulder in line
was going to be a challenge, and Dan Prescott hadn't had a challenge this good
in a long damn time.
Roll over and bare your throat, boy, then run along and do your job, and maybe
I will let you keep your balls a while longer.
~~~~~
Maggie Scully's house
Two days later
12:30 p.m.

"Mom, if we don't leave soon, I'm going to miss my flight!" Bill yelled up the
stairs. He was dressed in class A uniform, his cover on, bags in hand, ready
to leave, and his mother was still upstairs getting dressed.
"Just one more minute, Bill, I promise," Maggie called down. "Go put your
things in the car, I'll be right there."
"Mom, I can't miss this plane. They've canceled my leave. That means trouble,
and it means I have to be there yesterday!"
"I know that, Bill," Maggie called back, unperturbed. "I'll be right there!"
Exasperated, Bill walked to the door, grappling with the knob with three
fingers as he held the carry-on handle with the other two. With some
difficulty, he worked the knob open and walked to the car, slowly, so as not
to slip on the thick sheet of ice that covered the step.
Throwing the bags in the back seat, he climbed into the passenger side,
reached over and put the keys in the ignition and started the engine, letting
it warm up. Then he sat back to wait for his mother. He almost regretted
having sent Tara and the baby to her mother's house, but she'd been upset, and
she would be happier with her own family.
But she also wouldn't have made him late for his flight, he thought, his
irritation rising. God, Mom, come on!
He had hoped that Dana would go with them to the airport, but he knew that was
asking a bit much. They had both lost their tempers, but that had happened
before and they'd always been able to make it up again quickly. This time was
different.
Dad always used to say, look in the dictionary under temper, and there's a
picture of the Irish Scully family right next to it.
Dad knew what he was talking about, all right.
~~~~~
Last night, just about a week after the apocalyptic scene between Bill and his
sister, Maggie had asked him to take a walk with her. Right away, his radar
went up. It was snowing outside, and colder than hell, and Maggie hated to be
cold. She wasn't leaving her fireside just to get some exercise.
Just around the block, she had said, airily. She just wanted a breath of
outside air.

Bill had groaned as he put on his cold-weather gear, knowing this was going to
be one of those goddamn female "oh we've just got to talk this out" things.
Why the hell couldn't everyone just let it alone, let Dana calm down and him
calm down and everyone just forget it ever happened? That's what Dad would
have done.
Bill and his mother hadn't gone half a block from home when she hit him with
the dreaded phrase.
"Bill," Maggie had said, "We really need to talk."
"Oh, fucking Christ," he had muttered. That got him a sharp look from his
mother. "Sorry, Mom. Sailor talk."
"Well, save the sailor talk for the sea," Maggie had said. "Bill, you must
know how worried I am about the trouble between you and Dana. This can't go
on."
"Nothing's going on. We're not arguing anymore. She just needs time to calm
down."
"Bill, you're not arguing because you're not talking to each other at all.
She's not calming down, she's retreating. What happened was much worse than
anything I've seen happen between you two before. You've never shouted at Dana
that way, and I've never seen her hit anyone before."
Bill snorted. "She's got a strong right. If her left's any good, we ought to
put her in the ring." He sounded almost proud; proud, but not happy at all.
"She and I talked the other night ..." Maggie began, but Bill interrupted her.
"So that's what this is. You're carrying messages from Dana? I thought
she'd've had the guts to talk to me herself."
"It's not a matter of courage, Bill," Maggie had said. "Dana is one of the
bravest people I've ever known. She's been under fire, and she's faced it and
she's still here. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
"That's what they pay her for," Bill said, gruffly. "What do you want me to
do, applaud?"
"No," Maggie said, sharply. "I want you to say that you admire her for what
she does. That it matters to you that she puts herself in harm's way, takes
the risks she takes to keep things safe for those of us on the home front."
"Chasing aliens is not my idea of keeping the world safe for democracy. It's
my idea of crazy, and Dana is crazy for following that Mulder idiot around."

Maggie put a hand on Bill's coat sleeve, stopping him. She stepped just in
front of him, looking up at the big, tall sailor and, not for the first time,
marveled that she could have borne him in her own small body, so many years
ago.
"Bill, I don't know everything about Dana's work. She keeps a lot from us;
that's how she wants it. But the other night, she told me a lot of things
she'd never said before. And it frightened me -- it frightened me a lot. It
just isn't like Dana to talk so openly."
Maggie stopped for a moment. Talking about her fears for Dana was only going
to make things worse. She changed course.
"Dana is -- an enigma. She always has been. But now more than ever, because
although she wants us to know her and to appreciate what she is, wants us to
be proud of her, she keeps so much hidden," Maggie said. "She tries to protect
us from seeing her as someone who's -- hardened herself to human agony,
someone who hurts and kills."
"She's not like that, or she never was before," Bill said. Maggie didn't have
to ask what he meant by ' before.'
"She's alive, and in a very dangerous profession," Maggie said. "I suppose
she's adapted to it. She's learned to defend herself. She has changed, Bill,
and in a way I'm sorry for that. But where it really matters, she's still our
Dana."
"Mom, Dana's job is one thing. Her partner is another, and he's nearly cost
her her life. Melissa was killed by people who wanted something Mulder stole,
from what I understand. DOD property," he said, using military shorthand for
the Department of Defense. "This is the man you want her working with? She was
in the FBI for two years before she met him, teaching at the Academy,
perfectly safe, and still doing her bit for God and country."
Bill's teeth were gritted and the cords of his neck stood out. "What was wrong
with that job, Mom? Why am I the only member of the family who thinks this
bastard Mulder is bad news, for Dana and for the rest of us?"
He was angry, although under the anger Maggie could hear his genuine concern
for Dana, his endless grief over Melissa -- he had arrived home on emergency
leave two days after she had died -- and, most of all, his guilt.
Maggie was well-acquainted with career Navy guilt. It was endemic in the
blue-water crowd. They stayed away for months at a time, building their
careers, loving their jobs, then arrived home to wallow in guilt over all the
things they hadn't been there to do, the things that had gone wrong in their
absence.

Since his father's death, Bill Jr. seemed to have assigned himself
responsibility for the entire family, and that meant he had more than enough
Navy guilt to go around.
The solution, of course, was to get out of the Navy, stay home and take care
of things. None of the Scully men would ever entertain that thought. And Bill
couldn't see the connection? Maggie shook her head.
"Let's keep walking; we're getting snowed under," she said, taking his arm
again. They walked another half block before Maggie spoke again.
"Bill, do you know what the suicide rate is among law enforcement officers?"
"No," he said, only half listening.
"Well, it's atrocious," Maggie said. "I looked it up yesterday, because I'm
finding that I have a lot to learn about police work. According to what I
read, police officers, and that includes FBI, are far more likely to kill
themselves than most people are."
"And?" Bill shot back. "You're telling me Dana's going to kill herself?"
"No, I am not," Maggie said, getting a little riled. "I am telling you that
the experts say people like Dana, and Fox, are in constant danger of falling
apart, of not being able to take it one more day. That's why it means so much
to Dana to have a partner. And that's why they -- either one of them -- would
die, or would kill, to protect the other."
Bill still wasn't speaking, but at least he was listening now. By the tilt of
his head, Maggie could tell that he was beginning to catch on.
"I don't understand what Dana does," Maggie continued. "I don't understand how
she can bring herself to examine a child who's been tortured to death by some
psychotic killer. I don't understand how she can be shot, burned or beaten and
still get up, ready to go out and do it again the next day. But it is
affecting her. When we talked, she kept talking about death, and about
killing. No matter what I said, she kept coming back to that."
Bill shuddered at that, but Maggie wasn't stopping now. Like many women, she
had to speak her thoughts in order to know them; she was clarifying things as
much for herself as for Bill.
"Bill, I actually told Dana the other night that I don't understand her, and I
feel terrible for that, but it's the truth, and she seemed to accept it. In
case you hadn't noticed, Dana values the truth," Maggie said, and he could see
the pride in her eyes.
"I know she does," he grunted. "I never doubted that."

"Then try to understand that Dana needs your support now," Maggie said. "She
deserves it. She does what she does because she believes that it's right, and
necessary. That's not so different from you. You're in the Navy because the
Navy is part of what keeps us all safe from enemies abroad. Dana helps protect
your home and your family while you're gone. Both of you are prepared to use
force, to kill if need be. Both of you know that your jobs could cost you
everything you have. But you both go on, in spite of what it costs you or the
people you love."
"What have I cost you, Mom? Melissa didn't die because of me," Bill said,
keeping his eyes on the sidewalk.
"I'm glad you realize that," his mother said. "I wasn't sure you did."
That hit home. She could see it. He had been blaming himself. Navy guilt, she
thought again.
"Bill, do you want to know what your job really costs the people you love?"
Maggie asked. "Because I can tell you: Plenty. I know what Tara's life is
like. I've lived it; being at home with a small child, waiting for my husband
to come home from the sea, hoping he'll get home before the child is old
enough to be frightened of him, hoping and praying that nothing happens to
keep him from ever coming home again. No, Bill; you and Dana are not that
different."
"Mom," Bill started in, but again his mother shushed him. They were almost
home, and she needed to finish.
"Bill, when you're at sea, you have your shipmates, and your mission, and your
traditions, to sustain you. Dana's job puts her outside the FBI mainstream;
all she has to keep her going is her partner, and her belief in the rightness
of what he's doing. I know you don't like him, and I know why. I have
reservations about him myself. But I believe Fox would give up anything,
including his own life, to keep her safe. Would you expect that much from your
shipmates?"
"That's what Mulder is to her? Her ... shipmate?" Bill said.
It was a question, not a challenge. For once in his life, he was actually
listening to her, and she repaid him by giving him an honest answer, one it
had taken her all this talking to find.
"He's her partner. Her lifeline," Maggie said. "She needs him. She relies on
him. And quite apart from that, she loves him, Bill, deeply and sincerely. But
what I think is far more important to Dana, what really sustains her, is
knowing that he needs her just as much. And right now, they're separated; he's
being reassigned."

"For what? He let a little green alien get away?"


"No, he's doing it for Dana," Maggie said, ignoring the jibe. "Apparently, he
feels he's been putting her in danger, and he asked for another assignment."
"I can't say that bothers me," Bill grunted.
"I know," Maggie said. "But it bothers Dana. It's killing her."
"Not literally," Bill said, looking at his mother in amazement. "Dana wouldn't
do that."
"I don't know," Maggie said, slowly. "I hope not. All I know is that I'm
afraid for her, Bill, in a way I've never been before."
~~~~~
Now, as Bill sat in the slowly warming car, he wished he had more time, time
to assimilate that conversation and try to reach some kind of detente with his
sister. But that was the Navy for you; time ran out when it ran out, and you
went when you were called.
And when you were called like he'd been called this morning, it meant there
was trouble, serious trouble, somewhere in the world. He'd read that morning's
Washington Post from front to back looking for a clue, but he couldn't find
one.
Whatever the trouble was, it would be classified, probably, until they put to
sea. Maybe he would write to her, he thought, but he knew in his heart that he
wouldn't. He was a lousy correspondent.
Bill was deep in his thoughts when he heard the driver's side door open and
saw a black-coated figure step in.
"Took you long enough," he growled. "No way in hell we're going to make it
now."
"Oh, we'll make it," said a cool, even voice. Bill looked up, startled. It was
Dana, still pale and thin, with the last traces of bruising still on her face.
"Dana, get back inside. You're not well enough to drive," he snapped.
"Still trying to run my life, Bill?"
Was she still angry? He couldn't tell.

"I'm just saying that ..."


"Saying that you can run my life better than I can," Dana said, buckling her
seat belt. "Bill, what do I have to do? Slug you again?"
Bill grinned, a big Scully grin that stretched from ear to ear. After a
minute, he got a small smile in return, but neither of them spoke.
Dana, Dana, he thought. That Mulder guy isn't half good enough for you. But I
swear to Christ, I'll try to keep my mouth shut. He cast about for something
to say.
"Shove off," he said, finally, and saw her eyes flash again. He held up his
hands in a mock-defensive posture. "Don't hit me again, please. I'm going to
have enough trouble as it is explaining to the crew how my kid sister beat me
up."
"I can do it again, too," Dana said, putting the car in reverse and turning
around to back out of the driveway. "Don't forget it. Now, buckle up. You're
in for an interesting ride."
~~~~~
En route to Baltimore-Washington International Airport
12:47 p.m.
It was a hell of a ride.
Dana, apparently oblivious to the remnants of snow and ice left by the plows,
had floored the accelerator as soon as they got to the highway, sending her
mother's big Buick almost flying down the road. Bill, who thought he'd seen
everything that could ever frighten him, found himself clinging to the seat
cushions for dear life.
But Dana seemed to know her stuff, he had to admit. She expertly steered the
car around obstacles, kept it under control on the tightest curves, and never
once let the speedometer drop below 70.
They would make it on time, or they would die in the attempt, Bill thought.
"Dana, you got to slow down," he pleaded. "It's icy as hell out here."
She shook her head. "I can drive in worse conditions than this. It's part of
my training."

"Who taught you, Mario Andretti?" he grumbled.


She still didn't smile. "No," she said. "The United States Secret Service,
who, I must point out, are no fonder of the FBI than the Navy is."
"I can see why," Bill grumbled, still hanging on tightly. He turned his head
to the side to loosen a crick in his neck -- too tense, way too tense, he
thought -- and that was how he saw, at the same time his sister did, the
flashing lights of a Maryland highway patrol car.
"Great," Bill said. "Now we really won't make it."
Dana looked at him calmly. "Just let me handle it, Bill. Keep your hands on
your lap and don't move until I say it's okay. I am deadly serious about
this."
Pulling over to the side of the road, she stopped the car and rolled down her
window. She quickly put her hands back on the wheel as the patrolman
approached.
"Afternoon, ma'am," the officer said. "Going a little fast there, wouldn't you
say?"
"Officer, I'm armed," Dana said, not moving her hands. "I'm a federal agent.
I'm going to reach into my coat pocket now for my identification."
"All right," the cop said, now on the alert. "Move very slowly, please." He
moved his hand to the butt of his own gun, watching carefully as Dana handed
him the leather case that held her badge and ID.
"Where's the weapon, Agent Scully?" the cop asked, looking first at the badge,
then at Bill, who, as ordered, didn't move. Bill understood now; this was
actually dangerous. If the cop didn't believe Dana was who she said she was,
if he thought she was going for her gun, he would fire.
"It's behind my back," she was saying, holding perfectly still.
"Is your companion armed?"
"No."
"Would you step out of the car, please, keeping your hands in view? You put
your hands on the dashboard and stay put, sir," he said, looking at Bill, who
did as he was told.

Scully got out, turning her back to the officer, her hands on the roof of the
car. The cop pulled back her coat and took the weapon.
"Thank you, Agent Scully. You can get back in the car now. I need to call in
this badge number."
"Of course," Scully said.
"Be just a minute," he said, walking back to his car.
It was less than a minute.
"Thank you, Agent Scully," the officer said, handing back her weapon. "You go
on your way. Please try to be a little more careful, though; the road is very
slippery today."
"Thank you, officer," Scully said, reholstering the weapon and refastening her
seat belt. "I'll do that."
The cop tipped his hat, and walked back to the patrol car, got in and drove
away.
Bill watched in amazement.
"What was that?" he asked. "He didn't even ask for your driver's license!"
Dana shrugged. "That's because I tinned him," she said. "But traffic cops get
nervous about guns, so he ran my badge and my weapon anyway."
Bill started laughing. He couldn't help it. His baby sister, sitting there so
coolly, fixing her way out of a traffic ticket. "You tinned him? What the hell
does that mean?" he asked, still laughing. "You put him in a can?"
"Nope," Dana said. "Flashed my creds. Roast-beefed him. Showed him the tin.
Whatever you want to call it; it just means I showed him my badge."
"Well, you've never showed it to me," Bill said. "How about it -- can I see
it?"
Dana's eyes widened. "Sure," she said. She handed him the leather case
casually, as though it were an everyday thing, but Bill knew that somehow,
through some almost unheard-of stroke of luck, he'd said the right thing to
his sister, maybe for the first time in years.
Bill flipped open the case, examined the eagle-topped brass badge, the

identification card with "FBI" emblazoned in big letters, the long,


complicated badge number, and below it, his sister's photograph, her name and
her signature.
Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully.
That's my Dana. My little sister.
He looked at it for a long time. Dana watched him, but didn't move.
"Shit," Bill said, finally. "I gotta get me one of these."
He was two for two; once again, it had been the right thing to say. He could
see it in his sister's face, in her quiet pride as she took her creds back and
carefully tucked them into her coat pocket.
Dana put the car back in gear and steered it back onto the slippery highway.
"Maybe you should," she said, the light fading from her eyes as she floored
the gas pedal once more. "It can be fun to play FBI."
~~~~~
Baltimore-Washington International Airport
1:32 p.m.
They made it to the terminal with less than five minutes to spare before
Bill's flight was scheduled to take off. Dana pulled to a screeching stop in
front of the Delta Airlines terminal and got out.
"I'll go on," Bill said. "I've got to run if I'm going to make this plane." He
gave her a quick peck on the cheek, grabbed his bags from the back seat and
headed for the door, where he was met by two low-grade seamen.
"Commander Scully, sir," the seamen said in unison, saluting. Bill shifted the
bags to his left hand and returned the salute.
"Are you gentlemen looking for me?" he asked.
"Sir, we were sent to escort you to your flight," one seaman answered.
"They're holding it at the gate for you."
"On whose orders?"
"Sir, I believe it was orders of COMSURFLANT," the other seaman said. "May I
take your bags, sir?"

Bill nodded, and the seaman took the bags and hurried toward the gate. Bill
turned to see Dana standing beside him. Her face was thoughtful.
"They held the flight?" she asked, raising one eyebrow.
"Yeah," Bill said. "Apparently the Navy's serious about me getting aboard
ASAP."
Dana didn't respond, but the worry lines stood out on her forehead.
The other sailor cleared his throat, drawing Bill's attention.
"Yes?" he snapped.
"Sir, I'm sorry, sir," the sailor said. "I was instructed to get you aboard
the aircraft at the earliest opportunity."
"I'm on my way," Bill responded. "Are you on this flight as well?"
"No, sir," the seaman said.
"Then go park my sister's car in the short-term lot and meet her at my
departure gate with the keys."
"Aye, aye, sir," the young man responded. He extended his hand toward Dana,
who -- with a quizzical look at her brother -- dropped the keys into his hand.
"Ma'am, I'll see you at Delta gate 5," the seaman said, then saluted Bill once
more. "Sir."
Bill returned the salute. "Don't keep her waiting." Stepping toward the
terminal, he held the door open for his sister, and, taking off his cover,
began walking briskly toward his gate.
"Valet service," Dana said. "Not too shabby."
Bill grunted. "Keeps ' em out of trouble."
They reached the security point. Dana hesitated.
"I could just wait for him here," she said.

"What's the problem?" Bill asked.


"Gun," she said, simply.
"Can't you get through? You're FBI, for Christ's sake."
"It just draws a lot of attention," she said, then shrugged. "I guess I can
stand it one more time." She walked around the metal detector, stopping before
a uniformed guard who rose as she approached, signaling her to stop.
"Why don't you tin him?" Bill suggested, his eyes twinkling.
Scully glared back at him, but he could tell she wasn't angry. "You should be
happy, Bill," she said, showing her credentials to the security guard and
lifting her coat to show her weapon. "I don't do this for just anyone."
"Will you be boarding the plane, Agent Scully?" the guard was asking.
She shook her head.
"Any other weapons?"
"No."
Bill, meanwhile, had walked through the checkpoint and was waiting for her on
the other side when the guard cleared her to go through.
"That wasn't so bad, was it?" he asked.
"No," Scully said, "but only because I'm not boarding the plane. It gets more
difficult then. They have to notify the airline, give them my seat number, and
so forth. You can miss your plane, unless you're Navy brass or something."
"Ha, ha," Bill said, sarcastically, and she favored him with a faint
kid-sister smile as they walked together toward the gate where airline
personnel waited impatiently.
The sailor who'd taken Bill's luggage approached him. "Sir, your claim
checks," he said. "You are cleared to board, sir."
Bill only grunted in reply. The seaman stepped back, turned on his heels and
walked to the gate's outer perimeter.

"Bill, I think he's afraid of you," Dana said, a smile just beginning at the
corner of her mouth. "I think they all are. Holding planes, checking your
luggage, parking your car? You must be a holy terror."
"It's not me, Dana," Bill said, sounding vaguely annoyed. "It's the rank."
"The rank, huh?" Dana brushed her fingertips across the rows of gold braid on
her brother's sleeve, then rested her hand lightly on the rough blue wool.
"Shit," she said, looking up at him. "I gotta get me one of these."
Bill looked at her for a moment, then swept her up into a big bear hug,
ignoring the glaring flight crew. "I love you, baby sis," he said. "I'll never
love that partner of yours, but I love you."
"Love you, too," Dana whispered, squeezing him back. "You'll be in my
prayers."
"And you'll be in mine," he said, very low. Then he let go. For a moment, he
looked at her, then flipped his cover back on his head, turned and walked
toward the door to the waiting aircraft. He stopped there, looked back at her.
"Dana -- did Mom ask you to drive me here?" and she saw the doubt back in his
eyes.
She shook her head emphatically. "My idea," she said.
Bill nodded, gave her a wink, then turned and walked up the boarding ramp, his
bearing strong and perfect. He didn't look back again.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go, -- so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his boot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.
"Time Does Not Bring Relief"
-- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Chapter 5

J. Edgar Hoover Building


Monday, Jan. 2
8:15 a.m.

Scully couldn't remember a time when she had dreaded coming to work this much.
It was all so strange, because at first it was all so familiar. She had
returned to her Georgetown apartment last night, emptied her bulging mailbox,
checked her answering machine -- two messages, one from Byers at the Lone
Gunmen office expressing sympathy for her injuries and asking her to call, the
other a wrong number.
Just two messages in two weeks, she thought. I really am cut off from the
entire world. I can remember when I would have had that many in two hours.
That was before, when there were people in my life other than Fox Mulder, she
thought. Now, there's no one. My other friends got tired of the canceled
social engagements, of never being able to reach me on the phone, of my cell
phone constantly going off on the rare occasions I did manage some kind of
social life.
And eventually, they drifted off, and the only phone messages I had were from
him, or from my family.
Now he's gone.
She unpacked, looked in the refrigerator and found nothing she felt safe
eating, and called out for pizza, grimacing when she realized that her next
impulse was to call Mulder and ask him to join her.
She thought about returning Byers' call, but she wasn't ready to talk about it
yet, not even to the three strange bachelors who were Mulder's only real
friends. They would find out most of it anyway, without her help.
When the pizza arrived, she turned on the television, searching for something
safe to watch, something that wouldn't remind her of any of the things she'd
lost. She settled on an infomercial for the "Hair Club for Men."
It seemed safe enough; Mulder still had his hair, so it couldn't remind her of
him ... although his hairline was maybe not where it had been when they became
partners. But he's 37 years old, she thought, 38 on October 13, and that
happens to men his age. But his hair is still thick, and it's so soft, and
dark ... okay, maybe a few strands of gray, but he's earned those ... it's
silky, though, and it feels so good under my fingers ... I remember how it
felt when I would hold him and rest my hand on the back of his neck, where the
hair is shorter ... I know he liked that ...
The memories hit her like a body blow. She bolted upright, shivering.

It was no use. She was alone, really alone for


memories were going to come. There was no Mom,
distract her, no work to do yet -- nothing but
incomprehensible loss of her partner, her best
too, even though they had never made love. She

the first time in years. The


no Bill, no precious nephew to
this enormous, almost
friend -- her lover. Yes, that,
could admit it now.

Of course you can, Dana, she realized. You can always admit it when it's too
late, can't you? One day, maybe you'll tell someone you love them while
they're still with you.
The sudden insight stung, but she couldn't deny it. Mulder's walking out? Tell
him you love him, offer him your body. Bill's headed to sea, into some kind of
trouble? Give him a big hug. Dad's dead? Go find a psycho killer who claims he
can channel the answer to a question you never got around to asking while Dad
was alive.
You wait long enough, and you can let down your guard because those people
aren't around later to demand any more. You feel so smug because you let your
feelings out and they can't use it to get inside your shell. You have your
cake and you eat it, too.
You're a coward, she told herself, and for once the word rang true.
No. I am not. I will not be a coward.
She looked at her gun and FBI credentials, lying on the coffee table across
from her. That doesn't prove you're not a coward, she told herself. The gun,
the badge -- they give you an image to hide behind. Take them away -- like
someone did in Mobile -- and you're nothing, nothing at all.
Not without someone to protect you.
She shuddered again as the image came back to her, of her face contorted in
terror, purpled from the struggle to breathe as the thick mud filled her eyes
and her nose and her lungs ... it would have happened, too, if he hadn't saved
her. But Mulder was gone now, and she was still on the job.
Could she ever go out in the field again, even with a new partner? Would she
ever feel safe?
No. No one else would ever put his whole life on the line for her the way he
had. No one.
"Mulder, I don't know if I can do this without you," she had whispered in the
darkness, as though he could hear. "I don't even know if I want to try ... "

She curled her legs up, wrapping her arms around them, hugging herself tightly
as the tears began to fall, until she finally fell asleep.
Around 3 a.m., she heard her phone ringing and woke up, leapt off the sofa and
grabbed the receiver, certain it was Mulder calling her. This was exactly the
time of night he was likely to call.
She pressed the receiver to her ear, eagerly, but all she heard was a dial
tone.
He hadn't called her; she had only dreamed it. It wasn't him.
And it never would be him; not ever again.
~~~~~
Now, she walked down the familiar corridors of the Hoover building and entered
the bullpen, mentally cataloging all the things that were the same, the things
that were different. There weren't enough of the latter, she thought; there
should have been some external rearrangement that would mark the utter
disarrangement of her life. Things should not look the same.
But they did. The bulletin boards, the floors, the walls, the telephones, her
desk ... but it was different. There was a note on the bottom of her coffee
cup.
Scully picked up the cup and pulled off the sticky note. It was in Mulder's
handwriting. She had known it would be.
Dana-Forgive me for taking this path without you;
it's not what I would have chosen to do.
But I need to know you're out there
if I am ever to see through this.
I do love you, G-woman. Always.
Fox
Oh, Mulder, she thought, tears blinding her; how did you ever remember what I
wrote in that journal?
And why did you sign this with the name you would never let me use? I knew all
along that you'd lied when you said no one called you Fox. I didn't care about
the name; just the lie. Why try to undo that now?

But the answer was already clear to her: He'd used his first name for the same
reason he'd left the note on her desk, out in the open. The time for
pretending was over; he loved her, and he didn't care who knew it.
Somehow, that only made it hurt more.
Scully stood there for a moment, leaning on her desktop for support, waiting
until she thought she could appear calm. When she felt certain that her face
wouldn't betray her, she picked up the note from her desk, slipped it into her
coat pocket, and walked away from the bullpen, and away from the part of her
life that had been there, forever.
~~~~~
Assistant Director Walter S. Skinner's office
8:26 a.m.
"Come in, Agent Scully," Skinner said, opening the door to his outer office.
Scully walked in, and sat in her usual place across from Skinner's desk.
"Sir, I appreciate your agreeing to see me," she began. "There are ... a few
things I wanted to discuss with you before I get back to work."
"What did you want to talk about, Agent Scully?" Skinner said, settling
himself in his chair.
"My assignment," Scully said. "I was originally assigned to the X Files to
assist Agent Mulder's investigations. We have, as you know, continued to work
together since our reassignment. Since he is no longer assigned here, I was
hoping I could return to Quantico, go back to doing what I was originally
trained to do."
"I'm not aware that a forensic instructor is needed at Quantico right now,
Agent Scully," Skinner said. "I can't see any benefit to the Bureau in moving
you anywhere else."
Scully breathed deeply, looking down at her hands. "Sir," she said, not
looking at him, "I went into the bullpen without complaining because Agent
Mulder was there, and he was my partner, and he wanted to keep working with
me. But that's not the work I was trained for; there is very little need for a
pathologist in the bullpen."
Skinner frowned, tapping a pencil on his desk. "Agent Scully, I am aware that
you and Agent Mulder had developed a very close working relationship, but I
expect you to be able to do your job in any capacity to which you are

assigned. Whether Agent Mulder is available to work with you is not a


consideration. Is that clear?"
"Perfectly, sir," Scully said, her face and voice composed.
"However," Skinner went on, "I agree with your assessment. I can see no reason
to keep you in the bullpen any longer."
He swiveled forward, picked up a paper that lay on his desk blotter.
"As it happens, Agent Scully, there is an opening at Quantico for someone with
your qualifications. It is not the Academy," he said, quickly. "The opening is
in NCAVC, a forensic science specialist in VICAP."
"VICAP?" Scully said.
The Violent Crimes Apprehension Program was the brainchild of a Los Angeles
homicide detective who'd spent an entire year searching the country for a
crime similar to the one he was investigating. The detective, Pierce Brooks,
had come up with the idea of a nationwide, computerized network to collate and
provide leads on thousands of unsolved crimes.
The VICAP squad, despite chronic, serious underfunding, had proven to be a
devastating tool against serial killers, second only to the Criminal
Personality Profiling Program. Both were part of NCAVC, the National Center
for the Analysis of Violent Crime, itself a spin-off from Behavioral Sciences.
It was a plum assignment, in some ways, popular with local law enforcement and
well liked by the public. Inside the Bureau, however, the "psyche squad" was
often looked upon as only slightly less strange than the X Files.
Knowing that was more than enough to make Scully hesitate.
"Sir, I've never worked in that area before. I know nothing about ... "
Skinner interrupted her. "Agent Scully, in the past six years, you have been
involved in a number of investigations into violent crimes of an unusual
nature. You have instructed trainees in the theory and method of evidence
collection and analysis. I believe you are uniquely qualified to fill this
position."
Scully let out her breath, slowly. She started to speak, but instead she
closed her mouth, turning eyes full of doubt toward the assistant director.
"If that assignment doesn't interest you, there's always HCPU," Skinner said.
"They're short a doctor."

The Health Care Programs Unit? He had to be kidding. Spend her days giving
immunizations and cholesterol checks to the rest of the Bureau, bandaging
their paper cuts?
"Sir, unless I'm mistaken, HCPU physician is not a special agent's slot," she
said, carefully. "Are you suggesting that I ought to turn in my badge?"
"No, I am not. But I am gathering a distinct impression that you may not want
to be an agent right now. Perhaps you don't feel up to it."
"I'm fine, sir," she said. "But I am not really interested in practicing
medicine right now, in or out of the Bureau. I'm an agent, and I intend to go
on being one. I assume that's still an option."
"That's entirely up to you at this point, Agent Scully," Skinner said, and she
felt his concern for her, genuine concern. "But you have been through quite an
ordeal recently, and ended a partnership that was possibly the closest I have
witnessed in all my years in the Bureau. I'm not unhappy with your
performance, and I understand your reasons for wanting a transfer, but you
don't have to decide right now. The VICAP slot will still be open in a day or
two."
Scully shook her head. "Thank you, sir, but I don't need to think it over. I
would take it as an honor if you were to assign me to NCAVC. I'm ready to
report at any time."
Skinner rocked back in his chair again, regarding her for a long moment.
"Very well, Agent Scully," he said. "Retrieve your personal belongings from
your current office and report to Supervisory Special Agent Michael Rolfe at
VICAP this afternoon."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," Scully said, rising from her chair. "May I go
now?"
"Just one more thing," Skinner said.
"Sir?"
Skinner hesitated; Scully knew why. He had that look on his face that said he
wanted to ask about something that was, technically, none of his business. She
braced herself.
"Agent Scully," he said, slowly, as though choosing his words with great care,
"when you asked to see me this morning, I was prepared for you to ask me where
Agent Mulder is now assigned. You didn't."

"No, sir," Scully said. Be calm, she told herself.


"May I ask why not?"
She started to speak, but felt the thickness in her throat again, and stopped,
closing her eyes and fighting for control. Breathe, Dana, she thought. You
will not cry in the assistant director's office.
When she opened her eyes, Skinner was still looking at her, waiting for her
reply, and she blessed him for not pressing her, for giving her the time she
needed.
"He asked me not to, sir," she said, with an effort.
"And you've always kept your word to him." It wasn't a question.
Scully nodded, unable to trust her voice.
Skinner didn't prolong her agony.
"That'll be all, Agent Scully," he said. "Close the door on your way out."
~~~~~
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime
Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia
1:10 p.m.

SSA Rolfe wasn't in when Scully reported to the VICAP office, and according to
his assistant, SSA Andrew Kennedy, a middle-aged black man, Rolfe wasn't
expected back until 2 p.m.
"Take a walk around, soak up the ambiance," Kennedy said. "Been a while since
you were here?"
"Not that long, sir," Scully said. "I was an instructor here in forensic
science for several years."
"Mmm," Kennedy said. He seemed impressed. "What've you been up to since then?"
"AD Skinner's staff," she said quickly, and immediately felt guilty. It wasn't
that she was ashamed of the X Files, or of Mulder, she told herself. She just
didn't feel like getting into it all right now, that was all.

Her new colleagues would figure it out soon enough.


Kennedy, however, either didn't make the connection or chose to ignore it.
"Skinner's a good man," he said. "Come back in an hour, the boss will want to
talk to you."
"Yes, sir," Scully said, and made a quick exit from the office.
For the next 45 minutes, Scully wandered around Quantico, watching from a
distance as the trainees went through their paces in Hogan's Alley, the
mock-up town where training simulations were staged. She remembered one
particularly devilish situation her instructors had concocted there for her
Academy class, with one of the instructors playing the part of a bank robber
who'd taken civilian hostages.
The instructors' eyes had gleamed devilishly as trainee after trainee flunked
the exercise, either getting themselves or the make-believe hostages "killed,"
and Scully had waited in terror for her own turn to come, praying she wouldn't
make any of the same errors -- or worse ones.
And then it was her turn. She had gone into the building, head high as though
she were perfectly confident. Coolly, efficiently, she had taken all the
proper steps, precisely as they were laid down in the textbooks, and she'd
resolved the situation exactly as she was supposed to, without a single
misstep. She had the highest marks in the class that day.
Of course, no one remembered that. No one told tales of Dana Scully's
brilliant solution to the Hogan's Alley hostage situation, whereas Mulder's
response to the same situation had become an Academy legend.
She'd heard the story herself, near the end of her training. "Spooky" Mulder,
they told her, had begun talking to the instructor/hostage taker in a
perfectly normal voice, asking the prescribed questions, making all the right
statements to establish rapport with the man.
Little by little, however, Mulder's questions had departed from the script;
instead of delving deeper into the fictional biography the "hostage-taker" was
feeding him, he was getting into the real man's real personal life, digging
further into the instructor's deepest secrets with each question.
In a very short time, the questions became so personal and embarrassing -- and
dead-on accurate -- that the instructor apparently forgot he was supposed to
be play-acting; with a cry of rage, he had leapt from his chair and gone for
Mulder's throat. That was the moment Mulder had been waiting for; in a flash,
they said, the instructor was face-down on the floor, disarmed and
hand-cuffed.
That was the first time anyone in the Bureau had witnessed Mulder's uncanny

intuition. Supposedly, it was that incident that had earned him the nickname
"Spooky."
During her years as Mulder's partner, Scully had heard a dozen different
versions of that story, and several others, all purporting to be the true
origin of the nickname. Even she didn't know which one was the truth, and
she'd asked him, not long after she was assigned to the X Files.
"Just pray you never find out, Scully," he'd said, waggling his eyebrows
wickedly.
She had laughed at that, and Mulder had clapped a hand on her shoulder,
enjoying the joke as much as she did.
Looking back now, she could see it as an early sign of how she was warming to
her partner, learning to enjoy his company in a way she had never expected to.
A shout from Hogan's Alley snapped her thoughts back to the present, and she
realized she'd been doing it again. She'd been here less than one hour, and
all she'd done was to think about Mulder.
Good, Dana, she thought. You're really getting on with your life now. Very
good.
But that was the problem; it really was good to think about him like that, to
remember the laughter, the warmth of their friendship. The closeness they
developed later, after she was abducted, was wonderful in its own way, but
somewhere along the line, they all but forgot how to laugh together.
Was it easier to work with him before, when we didn't care so much? she
thought, puzzled. I think maybe it was, but I just can't remember. Maybe not.
How odd -- you'd think I would remember that forever.
She looked at her watch. It was time. Time to go back and meet SSA Rolfe.
~~~~~
Office of Supervisory Special Agent Michael Rolfe
2:03 p.m.

Michael Rolfe, Scully quickly discovered, was a hunk, but a very married hunk,
judging by the ring on his left hand. Dark brown hair, blue eyes, not tall but
very muscular. Neat, dark blue suit, white shirt, navy blue tie with a gold
stripe. He looked to be about 40, although that was young to be in charge of a
unit like this one. He sat straight up in his chair, without slouching.

The classic career agent, she thought. He even dresses the part. Steady,
conforming, by the book. But I think that old female put-down applies here:
He's good-looking, sure, but he knows it, too.
"Well, Agent Scully," Rolfe said, pulling off his reading glasses. "You have
the academic credentials for this job, unquestionably. In fact, I'd have to
say you're overqualified; a forensic scientist can do this job. It doesn't
take a forensic pathologist."
"I'm not board-certified in pathology, sir," she said. "I can do autopsies as
part of a Bureau investigation, and I have done quite a few, but I don't think
that makes me overqualified, not based on what AD Skinner told me."
"Yes, I noticed you worked under Skinner for several years, but your file says
the assignment was classified," Rolfe said, regarding her with some interest.
"What kind of work did you do -- without getting into too many details?"
"Classified?" she said, her eyes opening wide in surprise. "I was never told
to consider that assignment classified, sir." And then she realized her
mistake. Skinner had put that in her file to give her a chance to start over,
without the shadow of the X Files on her career.
Stupid, she scolded herself. That was stupid. But it's too late now.
"If it's not a classified investigation, Agent Scully, then I'd like to know
what it was," Rolfe said. "I need to know more about your experience. Where
were you working?"
Scully was silent for a moment.
"Agent Scully?" Rolfe said, more sharply.
"I was assigned to the X Files for most of the past five years," she said,
slowly. "I worked with ..."
"Fox Mulder," Rolfe said, slowly, his lips curling in disgust. "You
investigated paranormal phenomena for five years?"
"Yes, sir," she said, slowly. She had caught the disdain in Rolfe's voice.
"I can't say I'm entirely pleased to hear that."
"Why not, sir?" Scully asked.
"The question is somewhat disingenuous, isn't it, Agent Scully?" Rolfe said,
with a raised eyebrow. "I personally consider the X Files to be the biggest

waste of Bureau time and resources ever conceived. I'm sure I don't have to
mention that I'm not the only one who feels that way."
Rolfe leaned back in his chair, pulling at his lower lip, thinking. Then he
turned back toward Scully.
"Agent Scully," he said, slowly, "You should be a fine addition to VICAP. You
have the credentials, and your time here at Quantico speaks well of you, but
your -- shall we say, on the job training? -- in criminal investigation came
at the hands of one of the Bureau's least reputable agents."
"Sir, Agent Mulder ... "
"I don't think there's anything you can tell me about Spooky Mulder, Agent
Scully," Rolfe said, and his eyes were cold. "I worked with him for three
years."
"In Behavioral Sciences?" Scully asked. Rolfe nodded. "Sir, I know that Agent
Mulder was assigned to Behavioral Sciences for several years, working in the
criminal personality profiling section, but I understood that he was highly
regarded there."
"He was indeed," Rolfe said, and there was no mistaking his distaste. "Mulder
had a talent for profiling, a real talent. There's no question that he's
intelligent and insightful. But he was always a wild card, completely
unpredictable, prone to working by hunch. That his hunches were sometimes
correct is immaterial to me; I prefer to do things by the book."
Rolfe leaned forward, his eyes boring into Scully's. "Let me be very clear
about this, Agent Scully," he said. "I am not anxious to have the reputation
of VICAP tarnished by taking on Mrs. Spooky as a forensic analyst."
That struck a nerve. Rolfe could tell by the sudden tension in Scully's jaw.
But she made no reply.
"Agent Scully," Rolfe went on, "AD Skinner has assigned you here, and that
means you'll be here, for a while, anyway, whether I want you or not. If you
can show me that you haven't forgotten how to run a legitimate investigation,
then fine; we'll get along. But let me make you a promise: The first time you
do anything, take one step, make one suggestion that I even suspect is not
thoroughly grounded in the highest principles of forensic science, criminal
justice, law and Bureau regulations, you will be looking for another
assignment. I'll go over Skinner's head if that's what it takes. Am I leaving
anything out?"
"No, sir," Scully said, in a tone that as calm as she could make it. "You have
made yourself entirely clear." She said nothing else, but kept her gaze level
and aimed right at Rolfe.

"Do you have anything else you wish to say to me?" Rolfe said, lifting an
eyebrow.
"Only to ask when and where I should report, sir," she said, rising from the
chair.
"Report to SSA Kennedy at 0815 tomorrow," Rolfe said. "Consider yourself on
probation, Agent Scully; Kennedy will be instructed to keep close tabs on you
and to report directly to me."
"Yes, sir," Scully said, forcing herself not to drop her gaze. "May I go now?"
"Go. And be prepared for life to become very, very difficult for a while,
Agent Scully," Rolfe said. "You have a lot to unlearn."
If Rolfe expected his parting shot to rouse Scully's temper, he was mistaken.
Her expression did not change by a micrometer, unless perhaps the blue eyes
grew even colder and more distant.
"Sir," she said, and walked out of the office.
Rolfe watched her go, then smiled to himself. Not bad looking, he thought. I
heard Spooky had gotten himself a real babe for a partner; they said she was
putting out for him. Hard to believe, of either of them.
But then, if you're the one in charge, he thought, there are always ways to
make that happen.
Lots of ways.
~~~~~
Montevallo, Alabama
Two weeks later
3:46 p.m.

"This is a hell of a mess," the young agent said, looking around at the bloody
crime scene.
"I've seen worse," Mulder said, absently, as he bent to examine a blood
spatter. He was standing in the living room formerly shared by Crystal Shaw,
25, and Bryce, her husband of eight months.
Mrs. Shaw was dead, beaten to death two days earlier with a baseball bat. Her
husband told police that he'd come home and found her lying face-up on the

living room floor, her dress around her waist and her panties around her
knees. The place had been ransacked.
The bat was Shaw's. The Montevallo police had found it in the kitchen sink; it
had apparently been washed.
The scene bore some resemblance to a rape-murder two days earlier in
Mississippi -- not much, but enough for an overwhelmed small-town police force
to invoke the FBI's jurisdiction over interstate crime and call for help.
Prescott had sent Mulder, along with Agent Dan Michaels, a new agent fresh out
of Quantico. Birmingham Field Office was Michaels' first assignment, and this
was his first violent crime scene.
Right now, Mulder thought, the kid was looking a little green around the
gills, and the body wasn't even here.
"You okay, Michaels?" Mulder asked.
"Yeah," Michaels said, defensively. "It's just a little warm in here."
"Yeah, I noticed that," Mulder said. It was 34 degrees outside, and a stiff
north wind was blowing, but he let it go. He'd been a newbie himself, once.
A long time ago.
"So what do you think we've got here?" Mulder asked, straightening up. "Why do
you think he did it?"
"Why?" Michaels asked. "There's no burden on the government to prove motive.
What does it matter why?"
"If you don't have a suspect, it matters a lot," Mulder said. "If it's a bank
robbery, for example, it's obvious. You're looking for someone who needs
money, a lot of it, and fast."
"That makes sense," Michaels agreed.
"But here," Mulder said, "you've got breaking and entering, rape, theft and
homicide -- four separate events, with different motivations for each. If you
can't figure out what the killer came here to do, you'll never really see him
well enough to find him. So tell me what you see."
"Well," Michaels said, clearing his throat, "the scene indicates to me that
the intended crime was burglary, and the murder was to facilitate the robbery.
The rape was just a crime of opportunity. The husband reported that some of

his wife's jewelry was taken, and the doer wasn't armed, because he wouldn't
have used the bat if he had been."
"That would appear to be the case," Mulder said. "Still, this room is a bit
tidy for that scenario."
"What do you mean, tidy? It's a mess," Michaels said, looking around. "Jesus,
the lady's brains are all over the wall."
"No, I would describe it as disarray," Mulder said, following Michaels' gaze.
"If they'd fought much at all, this would have been much worse. And that stuff
on the wall is mostly blood, actually, although you might find some tissue if
you looked hard enough. But there's nothing here to indicate much of a
struggle. That's corroborated by the ME, who found no defense wounds on the
body."
"The defense wounds would have been inflicted immediately before death,"
Michaels said, confidently. "They wouldn't show if the heart stopped before
bruises could develop."
"I'm not sure the ME would agree with you, Michaels, but that's not my field,"
Mulder said. Don't think about whose field it is, Mulder. Do not go there now.
Just do your job.
"Did you read the autopsy report?" he asked, a shade too quickly, to stop his
thoughts from going any further.
"I -- I, uh, scanned it," Michaels said. "Multiple blunt-force injuries to the
head and face."
"Uh-huh," Mulder said. "But if you'd read further, you would have seen that
the victim had a high level of alcohol in her blood, and that there were no
traces of semen on her body or her clothing."
"Rapists don't always ejaculate," Michaels said.
"You were listening in class, Michaels," Mulder said, approvingly. "No, they
don't. In fact, there's a certain subset of serial rapists who almost never
do. But in this case, I think the absence of semen indicates something else.
Something's not right."
He went still, almost immobile, staring at the blood spatters on the floor.
"Give me a few minutes, Michaels," he said. He began to wander around the
house, looking into drawers, into closets, stopping to study the photographs
of the slain woman's body.

"Agent Mulder?" Michaels said, after about 15 minutes of this.


Mulder looked right through him, and didn't answer, didn't even seem to see
him. Michaels was unnerved. He didn't try it again.
After about 30 minutes of uneasy silence, Mulder stopped pacing and stared
right at Michaels.
"I'll be a son of a bitch," he said, quietly.
"What?" Michaels asked. "What does that mean?"
"It means that the killer's been right under our noses for two days," Mulder
said. "This crime scene is nothing more than a stage set, created by someone
who wanted us to believe this woman was robbed and raped. But she wasn't; this
is a murder, nothing more."
"How do you know that?" Michaels asked, perplexed. "What about the jewelry
that's missing, and the lady's clothes?"
"Try putting yourself into the crime as it's happening, Michaels," Mulder
said. "Imagine that I'm the killer; I'm with the victim, sitting in this room
drinking with her, and we get into an argument. We've had this argument
before, and I think I'm going to explode if she doesn't just drop it. She's
always nagging me about it, and I just can't take it one more minute. I'm
going to shut this bitch up."
Mulder's eyes held a dumb kind of animal cunning and rage as he spoke the
killer's thoughts. He's actually getting into this guy's head, Michaels
thought, nervously. I hope he can get back out before we have to get in the
car.
"I go to the closet, maybe looking for a gun," Mulder went on, his voice
getting lower. "It's gone; maybe she got rid of it, or hid it because I've
threatened her with it before, and that just makes me angrier. So I grab the
closest weapon, which turns out to be the bat. I go back in the living room
and I start smashing her face with it, trying to shut her up. I bash her head
in, keep hitting her until she collapses."
Mulder's voice dropped to a whisper. He looked horrified.
"And then I realize what I've done," he said. "I know they'll suspect me, so I
go wash the bat, trying to get my fingerprints off it. Then I go back and pull
down her underpants, lift her dress, ransack the drawers, maybe throw some
valuables down the toilet, to make it look like burglary."
"Oh, my God," Michaels interrupted, jolting Mulder back to reality. "Agent
Mulder, that means the husband did it. If that's how it happened, it couldn't

be anyone else."
"No, it couldn't," Mulder said, almost off-handedly. "Not in a million years
could it be anyone else."
"What do we do now?" Michaels asked.
"That's the easy part," Mulder said. "Make the arrest and question him. And
Michaels, when you do, tell him that you know he washed his hands."
"Why?"
"Just do it, Michaels," Mulder said, rubbing his temples. His head was
beginning to hurt. It always did, afterward. By tonight, he'd be pounding his
head on the walls.
"Get one of the cops to go with you," he said. "I'm going back to the office.
Call me if you need help with the interrogation. I don't think you will,
though."
Two hours later, Mulder was sitting at his desk, writing his report, when the
phone rang. It was Michaels.
"Agent Mulder, the guy confessed," he said, excitedly. "He broke down right
after I told him about the hand-washing. It was incredible! How did you know
that would work?"
"Innocence can be defined in literary terms as having no blood on one's
hands," Mulder said. "Go home and think about it." He hung up the phone.
Bloody hands, he thought. Her blood is on my hands.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"The lightning flashes through my skull;
mine eyeballs ache and ache;
my whole beaten brain seems as beheaded,
and rolling on some stunning ground."
"Moby-Dick"
-- Herman Melville

Chapter 6

VICAP
Two weeks later
7:18 p.m.

"Well, if it ain't Mrs. Spooky, working late again. Gonna stay ' til the
witching hour and ride your broomstick home, Scully? Or are you gonna catch a
ride on a UFO from the little green men?"
Scully looked up from her VICAP surveys. It was Lon Glassman, a middle-aged
agent of no distinction, a profiler wanna-be and the most obnoxious person
she'd ever had to work with, bar none.
Glassman was beefy-looking and crude, ugly, to be perfectly plain about it.
But it was the ugliness inside him that made her feel unclean just being
around him, and his sweaty hands had a way of bumping into her "accidentally"
that made her positively ill.
Not to mention his almost constant twitting about the X Files, and Mulder.
"What is it, Glassman?" she asked, tiredly.
"Oh, just wanted to pass the time," Glassman said, settling himself on the
edge of her desk. "What're you trying to do, make supervisory special spook?"
"Glassman, if you don't have anything you need to talk to me about, then just
go away, all right?" she said, annoyed. "I have work to do."
"Man, try to be friendly with you," Glassman said, shaking his head. "Funny
thing is, first time I heard about you, I heard you were real friendly, you
and Spooky."
"I'm not going to dignify that with a response," Scully said. "Please leave. I
don't feel like chatting."
In truth, Scully couldn't remember the last time she had felt anything -except numb, disconnected, completely out of touch with herself and everyone
around her.
Except for the times when she felt herself descending into pure, unadulterated
terror, a terror she could neither comprehend nor explain because, compared to
the X Files, VICAP was a cakewalk.
Her job consisted primarily of studying the surveys submitted to VICAP by
local law enforcement, comparing the forensic analyses done in each
jurisdiction, trying to determine whether the RFLP analysis of DNA from blood
done in one area had yielded a solid link to the PCR analysis of DNA from

semen in another.
She read over endless autopsy reports, studied the photographs taken during
autopsy, seeking the commonalties, detecting the flaws, comparing patterns of
destruction from across the nation. It was tedious, difficult work, and seldom
paid off in an arrest.
But doing her job was getting to be harder with each passing day. Not that she
cared much. Lately, she found, she didn't care much about any of it.
She was wound up inside about as tightly as she'd ever been; not her usual
self-contained reserve, but a high-strung nervousness that left her feeling
more unguarded and unsafe than ever before. She found herself flinching at
every noise, irritated beyond bearing when a telephone rang. The sound of
someone snapping gum or tapping a pencil would make her furious.
But she was still Dana Scully, and she was still alone, so she bottled it all
up, kept it inside.
The pressure from Rolfe was constant.
into full-fledged hatred, and he made
Nothing she did was ever good enough,
substantiate a link between far-flung
her work led to an arrest.

His disdain for her seemed to have grown


her working life a constant struggle.
not even in those rare times when could
crimes, or the even more rare times when

Contrary to Rolfe's predictions, she managed to


costly victory, earned at the price of constant
suspicion of her didn't help. Each report, each
perfectly; not just well, but so perfectly that
with it, because otherwise Rolfe would.

hold on at VICAP, but it was a


vigilance. Rolfe's eagle-eyed
analysis, had to be done
no one could ever find fault

She was beginning to hate this, wanting desperately to find some way out of
the job she used to love, yet unable to let go in the least. She double- and
triple-checked her work, then lay awake wondering what she'd missed.
This was the job she'd hurt her family for, the job that had made her so proud
once. Now it was all reduced to a day-in, day-out struggle not to fail, not to
give in, not to let anyone see her cry.
She was all but sleepless, living on junk food and coffee, her emotions on a
roller-coaster ride between tension and anger. Her physical wounds healed, but
to those who knew her, Scully looked weaker and more wounded than she had the
day she left Mobile.
Night after night, as she struggled over her work, she tried to imagine how
Mulder would have handled it. She wished she could call him, if only to get
his expert opinion on an investigation. She had always known that he was good
at this, but now, after working with the agents who did what he used to do,
she saw, more clearly than ever, just how good he really was. There simply
wasn't anyone better.

But she had promised him, and she would not break that promise, not even for
purely professional reasons. And it would never be purely professional between
them again, if it ever had been.
And, she thought, I still have some pride. I will not beg him to work with me
again.
So she struggled on alone.
There were a few small triumphs, which she learned to store up as part of her
defense against the antipathy of Rolfe and the rest of the VICAP team. For one
thing, SSA Kennedy genuinely seemed to like her, or at least treated her no
differently than he did the other agents. But he was black, and she was
female, in a Bureau in which 85 percent of the 11,000 or so agents were white
males. They both had to work twice as hard to be thought half as good.
They were survivors in the same lifeboat, she thought, inmates in the same
asylum.
And Kennedy was the only one. The rest of the VICAP team clearly resented her
presence, and went out of their way to make life miserable.
It was wearing on her. Her attempts to fight back had gotten her nowhere. She
was pretty sure the VICAP agents wouldn't let her get killed if they could
help it -- that would be going way too far -- but anything short of that, and
she wouldn't rely on them for backup of any kind.
Fortunately for her, she could handle anything they'd thrown at her so far,
even the most gruesome crime scenes, the most horribly mutilated bodies, with
perfect composure. She took a grim satisfaction in that, and she knew some of
her supposed colleagues were disappointed.
Especially Glassman.
The first week she was there, he'd dumped dozens of photographs on her desk,
scene photographs from a mutilation slaying, and she'd flipped through them
with practiced aplomb. She knew he'd hoped to see her fall apart, shriek,
vomit, faint or cry.
Not her. The photographs horrified her, but she'd handled worse things in her
time without showing anything on the outside. VICAP cases, as bad as they
were, didn't begin to compare to what she'd already seen.
You go autopsy a man ravaged by a prehistoric, extraterrestrial virus, she
thought. Go down in the sewers with Flukeman. Eat a liverwurst sandwich with
Eugene Tooms. Pick up a maggot-ridden, headless body from a Florida prison in
high summer. Watch the damned F. emasculata boils on a dead man's face erupt

and spew a contagion that could kill you in a matter of hours.


Then you come back and tell me these corpses are the worst thing you've ever
seen.
But Glassman was still needling her, trying to get under her skin for reasons
she couldn't fathom. She wasn't sure she really cared to know. She just wanted
him to leave her alone, him and everyone else, and they wouldn't.
Like now, when he was sitting on her desk, inching closer to her.
"Hey, Scully," he said, with a knowing smile, "tell me something. Is it true
old Spooky wets the bed?"
"I wouldn't know, Glassman," she said, wearily. "Will you please get off my
desk? I have work to do."
"How come you two broke up?" he went on, ignoring her request. "Lover's
quarrel?"
"I am not going to discuss this with you," she said, feeling the fury rising
within her. "Whatever my reasons were for requesting a transfer, they are none
of your business."
"I heard you two screwed up a bioweapons investigation and they sent him out
to the field," Glassman said. "Any truth to that?"
"I don't know where Mulder is, and I don't care," Scully said, affecting a
nonchalance she didn't feel. "Glassman, leave me alone. I'm serious."
"So am I," he said. "Come on, Scully, loosen up. For Christ's sake, I was just
teasing. Come on, why don't you and I go get a beer and get to know each other
better?"
"I don't want to know you any better, and I don't consider this teasing," she
said, through clenched teeth. "I consider it offensive. Glassman, I'm telling
you for the last time: Get off my desk."
"Fine," he said, getting up. "You know, there's only two kinds of women in the
Bureau, Scully; the kind that like men and the kind that don't. Might want to
think about that next time you ice up on somebody who's trying to be a
friend."
"Thank you so much for your concern," she said, coldly. Glassman snorted and
walked away, leaving her alone in the office with her paperwork.

She looked down at the surveys, but they no longer conveyed anything to her
mind.
So Glassman wanted to know about the Mobile investigation? That was just too
bad; Scully never talked about that last case, never even thought about it if
she could help it.
But that was getting more difficult with each passing day.
Sometimes -- more and more often, actually -- she couldn't help thinking about
it. The least little whiff of rain-dampened earth, and she was right back
there, face down in the wet clay, feeling again the constricting pain in her
hands and feet, the painful, bloody coughing, the exhaustion.
The memories intruded on her thoughts with the force of reality; sometimes, it
was as though she had left her body and was looking down at herself still
lying there, bound, helpless, hurt and waiting to bleed to death or drown in
the mud.
Sometimes the thoughts would come while she was driving, and she would lose
her way, ending up in neighborhoods where even armed police officers were
afraid to go alone. At times, she would have to pull over, stop the car
because she was too shaken to drive any further.
A few times, while she was at work, some aspect of a case had triggered the
memories so vividly that she had flinched visibly; once, without thinking, she
had called out, "No!" Every agent in the room had turned to stare at her, and
she could almost hear their thoughts: Mrs. Spooky, they seemed to be saying.
Talking to herself. What do you expect?
I can't help it, she wanted to tell them. I don't know how to make the
memories stop coming. I don't know how to stop dreaming about it.
The dreams came almost every night now; she couldn't sleep even when she had
the time, which was seldom. Her neighbors were beginning to approach her,
gently, because her nighttime cries of terror were keeping the whole building
awake. She always apologized, but there was nothing she could do about it
except try not to sleep.
The way things were going, that just might be a possibility.
More and more, she lay awake, thrashing around, tired but afraid to sleep, and
then she would hear footsteps, or voices, familiar but threatening voices, and
she would lie there frozen with terror, like a child waiting for the monster
to creep out from under the bed.
But there was nothing there but her, and the silence.

Just to make sure, she had begun to search her apartment every night; for the
past three nights, the terror had grown so huge that she had searched with her
gun in hand, her finger -- against all safety rules -- resting on the trigger,
ready to fire.
She didn't even know who, or what, what she was looking for.
Last night, when she heard the footsteps, she had gotten out of bed, grabbed
her gun, taken up a shooter's stance and demanded that whoever it was present
himself.
But again, there was no one. Just her, screaming at the unseen invader. Her
elderly next-door neighbors had looked at her very strangely this morning.
Yesterday, when she went out for a quick, solitary lunch, she had left the
restaurant in a fury when the hostess couldn't seat her at a table where she
could sit with her back to the wall, where she could see all the entrances and
exits.
Funny, she thought, absently, I used to think that was overdone when other
officers or agents did it. But now I know; it just makes sense to be ready for
an attack. If you're not ready, you could be killed.
If you've ever been taken against your will, violated, nearly killed, you have
a right to be a bit more vigilant than normal, she told herself. It's simply
common sense: If they did it before, they can do it again. And there's no one
to watch my back now but me.
Suddenly she realized that the VICAP office was silent; everyone had gone but
her, and except for the light over her desk, it was dark. She'd been sitting
here for an hour, brooding over the changes in her life, trying to reassure
herself that it was all logical, that it made sense in an objective way.
But she wasn't getting any work done; better just to go home. She shoved the
surveys into a file folder, carelessly, and locked them away in a drawer.
Before walking out to her car, she checked to make sure her weapon was loaded
and ready to fire.
So what if she was in the middle of Marine Barracks, Quantico, home to some of
the best-trained Marines and federal agents in the world?
You never knew who might be waiting.
~~~~~
Birmingham-Southern College

Office of the Bursar


Two weeks later
4:32 p.m.

God, what was I thinking? Mulder thought as he climbed a steep hill up to the
administration building. I should have asked for Oklahoma; at least there
aren't any mountains there.
Looking around, he found a sign indicating that this was the Bursar's office.
This was it. Scanning the hall, he saw a cashier's window; the nameplate was
engraved with the name of the woman he was looking for.
He walked over to the window, reaching into his pocket for his badge as he
approached.
"May I help you?" asked the woman behind the window.
"Yes, I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder, FBI," Mulder said, showing his
credentials. "Are you Betty Howard?"
"Yes," the woman said. She sounded nervous. They all did. Mulder restrained a
groan. Just once, he'd like to talk to someone who thought talking to the FBI
would be fun. No one did; he didn't suppose he could blame them.
"Mrs. Howard," he began.
"That's Miss Howard," Miss Howard said. "Have I done something wrong?"
"Not that I'm aware of," Mulder said. "I came to ask you about a neighbor of
yours, Robert Gentry. He gave your name as a reference."
"A reference for what?"
"Mr. Gentry, as you probably know, is a member of the Army Reserve," Mulder
said. "He has applied for top secret security clearance. I'm just here to
verify some things on his application."
"Well, I don't know what I can tell you," Miss Howard said. She looked across
at the other windows. "Do we have to talk here?"
"We don't have to, but I would really like to," Mulder said. "I just walked
all the way up the side of a mountain to get here, and frankly, Miss Howard,
I'm tired." He gave her his most charming Mulder smile.
It worked. Miss Howard smiled back. "That's why they call it the Hilltop," she

said. "Try walking up to the dormitory quad sometime."


"No, thanks," Mulder said. "This climb was enough. I'm guessing that the
upperclassmen here have well developed calf muscles, though."
"It's a BSC trademark," Miss Howard said, nodding.
She was at ease now, as Mulder had meant for her to be. It was easy; so easy
that it irritated him. His interrogation skills weren't getting much of a
workout on this job. Everything was strictly soft-pitch, underhand throws. No
challenge at all.
He forced his mind back to the task at hand. Taking a pen from his pocket, he
began filling out the clearance form on Gentry.
"So, Miss Howard," he said. "How long have you lived next door to Mr. Gentry?"
"About two years," she said. "That's when I moved here from Montgomery."
"And during that time, have you known him to be in any kind of legal trouble?"
"What kind of legal trouble?"
"Have you seen police cars at his home, for example, or have you heard him or
anyone who lives with him talk about his being jailed, arrested, charged with
a crime or questioned by a grand jury?"
"No, nothing like that," she said. She was getting nervous again. Time for
another dose of Fox Mulder, Good Cop.
"That's fine, Miss Howard," he said, flashing the smile again. "That checks
with what he put on his application. As I said, we're just trying to verify
the information we already have."
She relaxed a little, but not enough. Try another technique, he thought.
"Miss Howard, is there something you don't want to tell me?" he asked.
Her eyes flew open at that, but she shook her head. "No, of course not," she
said. "I guess it's just that I've never been questioned by the FBI before."
"It won't be much longer, Miss Howard, I promise," Mulder said. "Now, have you
ever seen Gentry use illegal drugs, seen him with illegal drugs in his
possession, or known him to abuse alcohol or prescription drugs?"

"He doesn't have any wild parties, or anything. The only drugs I've ever seen
him with were antibiotics."
Mulder nodded, about to go on to the next question, when Miss Howard started
speaking again.
"You know, Mr. -- I'm sorry, I forgot your name? Miller?"
"Mulder," he said. "Agent Mulder. Was there something else?"
"Oh, nothing serious," she said. "I just remember thinking that he must not be
in very good health."
"Why do you say that?" Mulder asked, his glance suddenly keen.
"Well, one night he was coming home with a bag from Bruno's pharmacy, and he
dropped it," she said. "I was just getting home myself, and I tried to help
him pick up his things. He had four, maybe five bottles of some kind of
antibiotic."
Antibiotic? So the man was an antibiotic addict; so what?
So what she had just told him had started his scalp tingling, a sure sign that
something important had just happened. His next question surprised even him.
"Miss Howard, do you remember what kind of antibiotic it was?"
"No, I don't," she replied. "Is that important?"
"I don't know," Mulder said, thoughtfully. "Probably not. But just in case, do
you remember anything about it?"
"Well, I remember that there were two kinds," she said. "Silo-something, and
one that, um, sounded like ' vibrate.'"
Play, Magic Fingers, he thought.
"Thanks. Probably doesn't mean anything," he said.
He went on with the rest of the interview, but the thought of a bag full of
vibrating silos continued to nudge its way into his brain, and he was only
half listening to the remaining answers. He finished up quickly, gave her his
business card and asked her to call if she thought of anything else he ought
to know.

Walking back down the steep hill to his car, Mulder tried to formulate some
reason for his response. He couldn't, and that troubled him. If his
interrogation skills were getting rusty, his deductive skills were almost
rusted through. Nothing seemed to come together the way it should, not that
there was that much to deduce.
But this thing, now, this Gentry. Why were all his antennae up, signaling
danger? What was the point of a bag full of antibiotics?
He felt the edges of his thought skirt around the one issue he didn't want to
face, couldn't stand to face: The reason he couldn't figure it out was that
Scully wasn't here. Scully would know what the antibiotics might mean. If she
didn't know, she would know where to find out. Either way, she would explain
it to him, then she would force him to refine his thoughts by challenging his
every assumption until he finally knew where he was going.
Scully. Did I ever tell you that you were the best thing that ever happened to
me? Wonder if you'd help me on this if I called you?
Forget that, asshole, he told himself. You walked out on her. She's not likely
to welcome you back, as a partner or as anything else. Get on with your life,
and figure out for yourself what the damn antibiotics mean. Go to the
University of Alabama at Birmingham, find somebody on the medical school staff
and get them to tell you.
Yeah, like they'd know the law-enforcement implications of a bag full of some
kind of penicillin. You're the agent, and you don't know what it means; how
would anyone else know?
Just forget it. Get on with your life.
He checked his watch. Almost quitting time. Drop by the office, leave the
papers, then go home and see if the Knicks are on TV. Get up tomorrow and
drive to Mobile, continue your "unofficial" and completely useless
investigation. Next week, do it all over again.
I am beginning to hate this job, he thought.
~~~~~
Dana Scully's apartment
Two days later
1:51 a.m.
I wasn't going to do this tonight, she thought. I was going to get over him.

Scully was readying herself to face the night, the worst time, the very worst
time, when she was alone, unable to sleep, with nothing to come between her
and her terrors.
Nothing, that is, except the fading memory of a time when she was unafraid:
the time before she'd ever been roped and helpless in Alabama, the time when
she faced danger with Mulder at her side.
She meant to stop thinking about him. She knew she needed to get over him and
get back to her old self, regain her confidence and self-respect. Thoughts of
Mulder did nothing to help her recover from the trauma; in fact, they made it
worse somehow.
Day after day, she ordered herself sternly to forget about him. She forced
herself to think about all the times he'd disappointed her, all the times he'd
let other people, other causes, come between them. Diana. Bambi. Angela White.
Phoebe. Think about it, Dana, she commanded; you were nothing more to him than
they were.
But she knew that wasn't true, and in the end, she could no more get over him
than she could change the color of her eyes.
Now, as she had every night since she returned to Quantico, she began what had
come to be a ritual of remembering; whether she was trying to comfort or
punish herself, she did not know. She knew only that she must do this each
night before she could sleep at all.
First, she took out the note he had written her. She had handled it so many
times that the paper was growing soft and the ink was running.
She knew it by heart, but she read it over and over, trying to figure out what
the words had meant to him when he wrote them. Did he pause, seeking just the
right words? Was this the only draft? Was there more he might have said if he
hadn't planned to leave it out where anyone might see it?
When she first found the note, she could hear each word in her head as though
he were speaking it. Now, his voice was gone, unless it came to her in dreams.
Some of those dreams were lovely, dreams in which she would realize that it
had all been a mistake, that he hadn't left her and they were still together
on the X Files. Other dreams were more erotic, dreams in which his kiss was
only the beginning and she was no longer the Ice Queen, but was passionate,
bold, demanding, responsive to his every touch.
She would awaken from those dreams, and reality would slowly come to her, and
she would cry, her loss fresh as it had been the first day.
What was worse than awakening from dreams was that Mulder was beginning to
appear in her nightmares. He was never part of the terror, never one of those

who sought after her to kill her or to take her away again. His role was
simply to leave her in some way: to die or be taken himself, or to walk away
hand in hand with Diana Fowley or Phoebe Green or some other woman in whose
arms she'd seen him before.
She put the note carefully back in the drawer, beginning the second part of
the ritual as she took out her only photograph of them together. A Washington
Post photographer had taken it, had caught her and Mulder outdoors at a crime
scene. It wasn't anything complicated; Mulder was looking at a newspaper she
held in her hands.
Yet when she saw the photograph in the newspaper, she was startled. The
photographer had unknowingly revealed to her what was so clear to everyone
else: Mulder loved her.
He wasn't showing overt affection, or flirting, or anything like that. He was
simply doing his job, as always. The revelation came from the way he stood
next to her -- towered over her, really, by more than a foot. He was bending
his head toward hers, simultaneously protecting her and listening to her
intently, standing so close that his coat sleeve brushed hers.
She was so small next to him, but so confident, so unafraid. He was unaware of
the photographer or of anything else but her.
She had seen the photograph in the newspaper the next day, with a caption
referring to them as "a team of FBI agents." On a rare impulse, she had called
the newspaper and asked for a print. The photographer had graciously sent two,
and she had given one to Mulder. He liked it, too. He had taped it to the side
of a file cabinet near his desk.
His copy was destroyed in the fire. Must have been an omen, she thought,
dully.
She put the photograph back and slid the drawer shut quickly so that she
wouldn't inadvertently see the photograph of Emily. She couldn't even think
about looking at that now.
She was running out of ideas. Two nights ago, she had signed on to a Usenet
group that she knew he used to participate in, a discussion group on
behavioral psychology. He was almost certainly posting elsewhere, but she
didn't want to explore that side of him just now, so she'd stuck with a group
that catered to his professional interests.
She had scanned down two or three messages, looking for one that might be his.
Then the thought struck her: What if someone were monitoring her Internet
usage? She signed off, quickly. Best not to take any chances, she thought. The
Lone Gunmen had taught her that.
Sighing, she got up. Might as well try to sleep, she thought, drawing her
weapon. Cautiously, she walked through the door to her bedroom, her eyes

darting this way and that, searching for invaders. Almost silently, she knelt
beside the bed, then quickly pointed the gun underneath as she threw back the
bedspread.
No one there. Good.
She laid the weapon on the night stand next to the bed. Funny how much she
depended on it these days. Sometimes, at work, she found her thoughts
returning, over and over, to the SIG Sauer holstered at her back. She could
feel its coolness, its weight, even when it wasn't in her hand.
It seemed beautiful to her, beautiful and deadly. It seemed to be beckoning to
her, asking her to hold it, to test out the feeling of pointing the barrel
toward herself. It almost taunted her with thoughts of the explosive relief
that it could offer, of the bullet tearing through her brain, erasing all the
pain, letting her feel again for one ecstatic, final moment of life.
Not that she would ever do anything like that.
She just ... thought about it.
~~~~~
Assistant Director Walter S. Skinner's office
Thursday, Feb.
259:52 a.m.

"Sir," Kimberly said, sticking her head in the office door, "Security says
there's a Margaret Scully downstairs asking to speak to you."
"Margaret Scully?" Skinner said. "Dana Scully's mother?"
"Yes, sir, I believe that's her," Kimberly said.
Skinner frowned, swiveling back in his chair. "Has anything happened to Agent
Scully?"
"No, sir, not that I know of," Kimberly said. "I think we'd have heard."
"All right, Kimberly, tell them to send her up," Skinner said.

About 10 minutes later, the office door opened again. "Mrs. Scully, sir,"
Kimberly said.
"Thank you, Kimberly," Skinner said, rising to take Maggie's hand. "Close the
door please. Mrs. Scully, this is an unexpected pleasure. What can I do for
you?"
"Mr. Skinner, I apologize for bothering you at work," Maggie said. "I know
you're a very busy man. But you were so kind when Melissa was in the hospital,
and I thought ... that I could talk to you."
"Is there a problem with your daughter?" Skinner said, in a voice so gentle
none of his agents would have recognized it as his, as he led her to a chair.
He perched on the edge of the desk, arms folded over his chest, watching her
intently.
"I -- I think so," Maggie said, nervously twisting the strap of her purse in
her hands. "The last time I saw her was on Tuesday -- that was her birthday.
She looked terrible; too thin, pale, and frightened. I've never known Dana to
be afraid like this."
"Nor have I," Skinner said. "Is this a physical problem?"
Maggie shook her head. "That was the first thing I asked her," she said. "It's
not the cancer, thank God. That's still in remission."
"That is good news," Skinner said. "Then what is the problem?"
"Several things," Maggie said. "She was a lot more traumatized by what
happened to her in Alabama than I think any of us knew. For some reason, she
hasn't been able to bounce back from it the way she has so many times before."
Maggie looked up at Skinner, and there were tears in her eyes. "Mr. Skinner,
she seems so hopeless, so tired and yet sometimes so angry. She talks very
little now, but when she does, she talks about death, about dying, about
people who have been killed or who have killed others. And I know she's not
sleeping well; she's having nightmares. I've heard her wake up screaming."
"And you think this means ... "
"I think Dana -- wants to die," Maggie said, looking down at her purse again,
twisting the strap.
"By that do you mean you believe she may take her own life?"
Maggie nodded, mutely, struggling to compose herself. "She's not herself. I
could always reach her before, but not now. We had a long talk right after it

happened -- a very strange and frightening talk, but I had hoped it was a sign
that she was opening up, coping with things."
She shook her head, and swallowed hard a few times before she spoke again. "I
was wrong, Mr. Skinner," she said. "It was a sign of just how traumatized she
really is. She wasn't herself, not at all, and I couldn't see it. But she says
no one really understands her."
She looked up again. "You've helped us before, Mr. Skinner," she went on, her
voice breaking. "I'm hoping you can help now."
"I will if I can, Mrs. Scully," Skinner said. "The Bureau has a top-notch
employee assistance program, and the counselors are first rate. Would you like
me to order Dana into the program for treatment?"
"No," Maggie said. "I mean, yes, that would probably help her, in time, but
I'm not sure how much time we have, Mr. Skinner."
"Then what do you suggest, Mrs. Scully?"
"There's only one person who can help her now," Maggie said quietly. "She
trusts him; she'll talk to him. And he'll help her. I know he will."
She looked up at Skinner, and there were tears in her eyes. "Please, Mr.
Skinner," she said in a trembling voice. "Please, before it's too late: Tell
me where Fox Mulder is."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
My whole soul waiting silently,
All naked in a sultry sky,
Droops blinded with his shining eye:
I will possess him or will die.
I will grow round him in his place,
Grow, live, die looking on his face,
Die, dying clasp'd in his embrace.
"Fatima"
-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Chapter 7

Fox Mulder's apartment


Monday, March 1
6:33 p.m.

Mulder was in the shower when he heard the telephone ringing. For a moment, he
considered letting it ring, but he knew he couldn't. No one called him anymore
unless it was about work.
Wrapping a towel around his waist, Mulder walked to the bedroom and picked up
the receiver.
"Mulder," he said.
"Mulder, it's Prescott. What're you up to?"
"Nothing, sir," he lied, pulling the towel off to dry his hair. "What can I do
for you?"
"I was wondering if you'd be willing to head down to south Alabama, help out
the Daphne Police Department with a little problem. Seems they have what looks
suspiciously like a serial killer."
Oh, God, not that, Mulder groaned inwardly. Anything but that.
Then the bell went off. Daphne. He remembered being there. It was
night with Scully. It was the night that finally convinced him to
dragging her into his nightmares. It was the night that Krycek -couldn't think about that, wouldn't think about it. He forced his
what Prescott had said.

his last
stop
but he
mind back to

"Isn't Daphne in Mobile's area?" he asked, more casually than he felt.


"Aw, you don't miss much, do you, Mulder? You oughta become a cop," Prescott
said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "It's in Mobile's area. But Mobile
doesn't have anyone with your background in criminal profiling, and I told
them you'd be happy to volunteer."
"I appreciate that, sir," Mulder said, dryly. He was getting used to
Prescott's sometimes violent sense of humor, but he still wasn't really used
to having a boss who joked with him, period. Skinner wouldn't have made a joke
if you put a gun to his head.
Come to think of it, he had pointed a gun at Skinner's head once, and sure
enough, the man hadn't found any humor in it at all.
"Is this in our jurisdiction?" Mulder asked.
"According to VICAP, probably not," Prescott said. "But somebody up there -who's apparently in the minority -- thinks there's a link to a homicide in
Florida. You check out what they've got and make the final call on whether to

federalize this investigation."


"What's the situation?"
"Six stiffs, all male, all died from multiple gunshot wounds, .38 caliber
slugs, at the hands of an unknown subject. You know, what you psyche squad
types call an UNSUB."
"Gang killings," Mulder said immediately. "Classic MO. Sir, they don't need a
profiler for this. A trainee could tell you anything you wanted to know about
this UNSUB."
"Maybe, maybe not," Prescott said. "There's more to it. The slugs were all
.38, but from different weapons. A few other differences, too."
"Sir,
might
point
VICAP

with all due respect, why now?" Mulder asked. "A profile at this point
do more harm than good, if the investigation is still fresh; it could
the investigators in the wrong direction. This sounds like something
should continue to handle in consultation with the locals."

"VICAP is there, Mulder," Prescott said. "They've got two men on it already."
They'd sent agents? Mulder thought. That was peculiar. VICAP agents typically
stayed at Quantico, collating and analyzing information; they didn't normally
travel around.
"Sir, I have a sneaking suspicion I'm being sent in to pacify someone at the
higher levels," Mulder said.
"Oh, I don't know," Prescott said, in his slowest, most exaggerated drawl.
Mulder had caught on. He always did. Damn, it was fun watching him. "Maybe
it's just me playing a hunch."
"I don't see what possible good it could do for me to go."
"Well, you're probably right, Mulder," Prescott said. "Why don't you call
Walter Skinner and tell him that?"
There was a long silence from the other end of the line.
"Skinner wants me on this?" Mulder was asking.
"You're just like a bag of cat food: so good, they ask for you by name,"
Prescott said. "Tell you what -- if you leave now, you can be in Daphne before
bedtime. You're meeting the VICAP team at the Pembroke Inn. They've already
made your reservations. Write if you get work, Oxford boy."

Prescott hung up.


Mulder stared at the receiver for a long time. Skinner, he thought. Why does
Skinner want me on this?
Then he began to feel the short hairs on his neck rising up, making him
shiver.
Something's wrong, he thought, and immediately rejected the idea. Don't go
getting spooky, Mulder, he thought. There is nothing here for you to react to.
You have no information, you do not have a hunch about it, and you do not know
that anything is wrong. Your spider sense is not tingling. You're naked and
you're still wet from the shower. It's just cold in here.
He walked to the thermostat, reached for the dial to turn up the temperature.
It was already set on 78 degrees.
"Oh, shit," he said aloud.
~~~~~
The Pembroke Inn
Daphne, Alabama
11:06 p.m.

"May I help you?" the night clerk asked.


"Yeah," Mulder said, holding up his ID. "Special Agent Fox Mulder, FBI. I
understand there are two other federal agents here already, and I'm supposed
to meet them. Can you tell me which room they're in?"
"Oh, yes, Mr. Mulder. They left word that another agent would be here," the
woman said, tapping on a keyboard. "Let's see -- they're in 204 and 206. But
they're not here. They said to tell you to meet them at the police
department."
"Where might that be?"
"On Highway 98. You're on it; I mean, that's where we are, the hotel. Just
head south, it'll be on your left."
"Thank you," Mulder said. "Is there a reservation in my name?"

"Umm," the woman said, her keyboard clicking again. "You're supposed to share
room 204 with a Mr. Glassman. Is that correct?"
"It is if Mr. Glassman's in the FBI," he said. "May I have the keys?"
"I'm sorry, sir," she said. "Mr. Glassman already has the keys to both rooms.
Enjoy your stay."
Fat chance of that, he thought.
~~~~~
Daphne Municipal Building
11:26 p.m.

Mulder walked down the darkened hallways, squinting at the numbers on the
doors. The young cop who'd let him in said the FBI was using room 12 for the
operation. Then he heard the voices, loud voices, and decided to follow those.
The noise was coming from room 12. Someone was in there, talking far too
loudly. Probably one of our VICAP hotshots, Mulder thought.
Kill me now, someone, please.
He opened the door. A middle-aged man, his red hair faded nearly to white, was
standing in one corner of the room, hands on hips, wearing what might possibly
be the snottiest expression Mulder had ever seen.
VICAP. Mulder had never seen the man before, but he could tell. The guy almost
smelled like an agent. And he was blustering around like a typical prima
donna.
VICAP. Gotta be. And they wonder why I quit working serial killers.
"Nah, she doesn't do firearms ID," the agent was saying, winking at the cop.
"She's a girl of more -- special talents. Hey, am I right?"
Whoever he was talking to was standing behind a blackboard, not responding.
Mulder could see her legs, which were covered with sensible black trousers,
and her feet, which were encased in high-heeled boots. Something in him
stirred at the sight. Did he know her?
A Daphne officer, looking desperately trapped, sat between the two. He looked

up at Mulder's entrance.
"Can I help you, sir?" he said.
"Yeah," Mulder said. "I'm Fox Mulder, FBI."
"Oh, Jesus," the red-faced agent groaned. "They said they were sending some
guy from Birmingham FO, and they sent me Spooky Mulder?"
He clearly had more to say, but he wouldn't get the chance. There was a
clattering sound behind the blackboard. Mulder's eyes automatically swiveled
toward the noise.
He was struck absolutely dumb by what he saw.
A tiny, beautiful woman. Red hair. The face of an angel.
But she was so pale, so thin, with none of the animation that used to brighten
her eyes. It couldn't be her.
But it was.
"Mulder?" she said, unbelievingly, coming toward him. "Mulder, is that you?"
"Scully," he said.
And then he just stood there. He couldn't think of another thing to say.
~~~~~
One minute earlier, Scully had been on the verge of throwing her badge at
Glassman and walking out.
Glassman, for God's sake. Rolfe knew how she disliked him; she'd spoken to her
superior about Glassman's attitude toward her more than once. It had gotten
her nowhere. For him to have assigned her to this case, to work with Glassman,
was as clear a sign as she could imagine that Rolfe was trying to make her
quit.
And maybe, just maybe, he was doing her a back-handed favor. Maybe, she
thought, it really is time to quit.
Never, ever, in her wildest dreams had she imagined putting up with anything
like this, and here she was, letting it go without a protest, even though her

hands itched to get hold of Glassman and strangle the life right out of him.
When she heard Mulder's voice, she was certain at first that she had imagined
it. She was already exhausted, upset beyond belief by her long struggle and
powerless against Glassman's insults. She'd been hearing things for weeks -it made sense that her mind would conjure up images of the man who used to
protect her from all of that.
No. It wasn't him. She was just hearing things again.
But her body knew better, even if her mind couldn't accept it. The metal test
tube rack had slipped from her suddenly nerveless fingers, crashing to the
floor, the empty test tubes shattering all around her. She didn't even notice
the mess as she whirled around, almost stumbling over her own feet as she made
her way toward that longed-for voice.
And he was real, after all. He was standing in the doorway, staring at her in
astonishment, as though she had come back from the grave.
"Mulder?" she said. "Mulder, is that you?"
"Scully," he said, still with that dazed stare.
For a moment, neither moved. Scully was painfully aware of Glassman and the
cop, who were watching this with intense interest. She couldn't throw herself
into Mulder's arms and cry with relief -- or slap his face and scream at him,
she wasn't sure which -- no matter how badly she wanted to.
But then he smiled, the slightly crooked smile he kept for her alone. She
almost forgot herself then, almost ran to him, but he stepped forward,
extending his hand.
"It's good to see you, Scully," he said.
She took it, clasped it only fractionally longer than was appropriate for
friends. "It's been a little while, Mulder," she said, trying to keep her
voice matter-of-fact. "I didn't know you were assigned to this project."
"Neither did I, until about five hours ago," he said, dropping her hand. "I'm,
uh, at the Birmingham Field Office now."
"So I heard, just now," she said, arching an eyebrow. "I had wondered."
Mulder cleared his throat, looked around the room. "How's your family?"
"Mom's fine," she said. "Bill ... Bill is at sea. I don't know where. It's

over my pay grade. Everyone else is fine." A pause. "How's your mother?"
"We haven't spoken," he said, shortly. There was a brief silence during which
neither seemed to know what to say. Mulder recovered first.
"Scully?" he said. "Want to introduce me to your colleagues?"
"Yes, of course," Scully said, coolly. "This is Officer Willie Mack of the
Daphne police, our liaison."
"Meetcha," Mack said, shaking Mulder's hand. "I've heard about you."
"Good things, I hope," Mulder said.
Mack just grinned.
"Yeah," Mulder said. "I didn't think so."
"And this -- gentleman," Scully continued, "is Special Agent Lon Glassman of
VICAP."
Glassman kept his hands in his pockets.
"The pleasure's all mine, it seems," Mulder said, cocking an eyebrow at
Glassman.
"Well," Mack said, loudly, standing up. "I don't guess y'all need me right
now, so I think I'll go grab me a cup of coffee. Be down the hall if you need
me, ma'am," he said in Scully's direction.
"Thank you, Officer Mack," she said, politely. "You've been a great help
already."
He nodded, and walked out.
"So," Mulder said. "Exactly where is this case?"
"This case," Glassman said, "is nowhere. This is not a serial killer. It's not
an interstate spree. It's a series of unrelated killings, and we are without
jurisdiction. We're out of here in the morning, or as soon as Scully finishes
playing with her little test tubes."
Scully felt a flush of shame, and looked away, miserably.

"Playing with her test tubes?" Mulder said, in disbelief. "I'm not sure I
heard you correctly. Agent Scully is a fully qualified forensic pathologist,
and I've never known her to be anything less than meticulous about her work."
"Yeah, I'm sure you know all about her work, Mulder," Glassman said, with a
wink. "But there's no reason for any more forensics on these. The locals can
handle it."
"I believe that's my call, not yours," Mulder said. "So I'm sure you don't
mind if I find out what the current forensic evidence is before I make it."
"Knock yourself out," Glassman said, sitting in the room's only comfortable
chair. "I got nowhere to go."
"Scully?" Mulder said. "What've we got here?"
The look on Glassman's face made it clear he didn't like being ignored in
favor of Scully, but Mulder couldn't have cared less. If he knew Scully, she'd
have the details laid out for him clean. She would give him what he needed to
know, and she'd always had an excellent sense of what that might be.
Anyway, he wanted to hear her voice again.
"Let me get my notes," she said, and disappeared briefly behind the divider.
She came back with a tidy stack of index cards, with notes written neatly in
her careful, rounded Catholic-school-trained penmanship.
"I'll tell you what I can, but you're on your own after that," she said,
sorting through the cards. "You'll have to decide for yourself what it means."
"This from the woman who rewrote Einstein as an undergrad," he said, in the
old, familiar teasing tone.
That almost always got him a smile, but not tonight. Just a raised eyebrow.
Bad sign. Shit, not just a bad sign; a message, one that he could read like
print on a page.
Don't come any closer to me, she was saying. I will not let you in.
"Go on, Scully," he said, more quietly. "Tell me what you know."
"It's little enough," she said, coolly. "But it's all we have right now."

Quickly, she sketched it out for him: Six men, all dead of multiple gunshot
wounds, .38 caliber ammunition, several different weapons. The first two were
Fred Williams, a convenience store worker, and his nephew, DeAndrew Williams,
both black males. They were found in the store where the uncle worked.
"The nephew had been shot three times," Scully said. "It appears he was trying
to back out of the store. The uncle was hit twice, in the chest and in the
face. A customer found him behind the counter."
"Anything stolen?" Mulder asked.
Scully shook her head. "Not that anyone could detect."
"Signs of sexual assault?"
"No semen on either body, no signs of sexual trauma."
Mulder nodded. "Okay, what next?"
"The next one came two days later," Scully said. "Wilhelm Nivek, white male,
age 18, cashier at an Exxon station about half a block from where the
Williamses were killed." Nivek, she told him, had been shot five times: four
times in the chest, once in the neck -- a post-mortem wound, because it didn't
bleed.
A woman who worked at the ice cream parlor next door had seen a young black
man running from the store at about 9 p.m., right about the time Nivek was
killed. She had given police a description, Scully said.
"Yeah, lotta help that was," Glassman said, laughing. "You got any idea how
many people around here fit that description?"
"It's better than nothing," Scully said, defensively. "Anyway, there was
another description similar to that the next day."
"Which was . . ?" Mulder asked, ignoring Glassman's interruption.
"At another convenience store near I-10," Scully said. "Harold Donaldson,
black male, age 26. Shot in the head and neck, again with .38 slugs. Donaldson
was found alive, but he died without regaining consciousness."
This time, she told him, about $200 was missing from the cash register. The
gun that killed Donaldson was the same one that killed the Williamses.
"Sounds like a link to me, Glassman," Mulder said. "And the last two?"

"Three days ago," Scully said. "An electronics store in Pensacola, not too far
across the Florida state line: the assistant manager, Buck Richards, black
male, age 21, and a customer, Jonathan Stouffer, white male, age 35, who lived
in Mobile."
"How do these victims tie in with the others, Scully?" Mulder asked. "Our
jurisdiction could hinge on it."
"I know that," she said, and he could hear the anxiety in her voice. Why was
she nervous? This was Investigation 101, nothing that difficult, he thought.
Scully could do this stuff in her sleep.
"There are several links," she said, slowly, looking off into the distance as
though reading from a page only she could see. "Starting with the MO: multiple
gunshot wounds to the head and chest, .38 slugs, no signs of struggle by the
victims."
"That's true, Scully, but it may be a bit tenuous for us to hang our
jurisdiction on," Mulder said, a little more quietly. "Anything else? What
about the weapon?"
"No match on the weapon to any of the previous killings," Scully said. She
folded her arms across her chest, and her brow furrowed; she tapped her foot
arrhythmically on the tiled floor. "There was some money missing, but no one
was sure how much," she went on. She bit her lip, looked at Mulder as though
she had something to say, but she said nothing.
"That's all?" he said.
"No," she said, shaking her head impatiently. "There was another reason, I
know there was; if you'll quit badgering me for a minute, maybe I can
remember."
She's really upset, Mulder realized with a shock. But why? This was how they
worked, refining their theory of a case through give and take, questioning one
another's ideas until they reached some agreement on where they were going.
She'd never minded it before, even when the discussions got intense; in fact,
she seemed to relish the verbal jousting.
Better back off, he thought. You can't be the one to push her over the edge,
and she's damn close to it, too.
"Scully," Mulder said, carefully. "I'm not doubting your conclusions, but I
still don't see the connection, except for the ammunition, and that's not what
I'd call compelling evidence."
"You don't see it because it's not there," Glassman snorted.

"It is there," she snapped, her face flushed with -- was it anger or shame?
Mulder couldn't tell. Then she looked up at him, relieved. "Witnesses. There
were three witness descriptions of possible suspects; one of those witnesses
described a black male very much like the one described at the second crime
scene."
She seemed almost happy for a moment, but that didn't last long.
"That's bullshit, Scully," Glassman said, and Scully turned away again.
"You're making connections where there aren't any. I say we pull out of here
and leave it to the local yokels."
"For what reason?" Mulder asked. "I'll grant you, there are some
inconsistencies ... "
"My problem is it doesn't add up," Glassman interrupted him. "Different
weapons, victims of different races, different ages ... they're robberies."
"Then why didn't he take anything valuable?" Scully broke in, and she was
genuinely agitated now; Mulder could see it. She was shaking, and her face had
gone even whiter than before. "Why kill two men in a store full of computers
and stereo equipment and leave with just the cash in the till?"
"Big fucking deal," Glassman said. "So he's nuts. That doesn't make it our
case. And forget the witnesses; if you gave me a nickel for every spade you
find around here that fits that description, I could retire."
"That's enough, Glassman, leave her alone," Mulder said, coldly, pronouncing
each word slowly. "She's right. More than likely, there's a single killer in
all these; from the MO, it's a spree killer, not a serial killer in the
classic sense. He'll keep killing until we catch him."
"I'm not sure anyone asked you, Mulder," Glassman said. "I sure as shit
didn't."
"Someone did ask me, Glassman," Mulder said, evenly. "Assistant Director
Walter Skinner asked me, through the Birmingham SAC. Last time I checked,
Skinner still had general supervision of VICAP. So let's just learn to live
together, shall we?"
"Not for one minute longer than I have to, Spooky," Glassman said, derisively,
kicking back in his chair again. "If I'd had any say in the matter, none of us
would be here, and you sure as shit wouldn't."
"Well, fortunately for any further potential victims, you don't have any say,"
Mulder replied, but his eyes had gone the gray of cold steel. "I do. And I'm
not in the mood to argue any further, so let's just get out of here and get to
our hotel."

Scully lifted her eyebrows. "I'm ready. I was ready two hours ago, but Agent
Glassman insisted on coming here first."
"The rooms aren't ready," Glassman said. "We're putting in some time until
they are, if that's any concern of yours."
Not ready? Mulder thought. Then he remembered the clerk's words: They're in
204 and 206. Glassman has the keys -- to both rooms.
Both rooms.
He has your key, Scully? How could you give him your keys? How could you even
want him around you, let alone in your room? Not with this creep ... you
couldn't. The very idea made him sick.
Of course it did. It would make her sick, too. No matter how much she'd
changed, that wasn't a possibility.
What kind of game are you playing, you mother-fucker? he thought, casting a
furious glance at Glassman. I think I'll take you apart right now; it'll be a
nice little warm-up to the real fun and games of catching this killer.
"Actually, they are ready," Mulder said, his tone carefully casual. "Glassman,
you and I are in 204, and Agent Scully is in the adjoining room, 206. To which
you already have the keys, I understand."
"That's wrong," Scully said, her face going even paler. "We're supposed to be
on different floors. And what are you doing with my room keys?"
"They didn't have anything else, Scully," Glassman said, patronizingly. "You
just don't always get to choose. And I've got your keys because I checked us
in."
"I thought you said the rooms weren't ready," Mulder said, allowing just a
trace of challenge to creep into his words. "Which is it, Glassman?"
"I don't answer to you, Mulder," Glassman said. "I'm not taking any shit from
a field-office agent."
"Would you be interested in taking some shit from higher up?" Mulder said,
stepping toward him. "I could arrange that."
"Jesus, Glassman, Mulder, don't do this," Scully interrupted, putting her
hands on either side of her head, as though it pained her. "Not now. I'm
tired." She turned her head away, her shoulders drooping. She sounded tired,

Mulder thought -- and, somehow, ashamed.


"I haven't done a damn thing, Scully," Glassman said. "Not one goddamn thing.
Quit being such a fainting flower."
"That has nothing to do with it, and you know it," she said, furiously. "You
and I have been through this before ... " Then she broke off and shook her
head "Forget it. Just give me the damn keys and leave me alone. I'm going back
to the hotel." She looked at Mulder. "You do whatever you like."
Was it anger, or was it fear that was leaching the color from her skin? And at
him, or at Glassman? Either way, Mulder thought, she's not letting it go
anywhere, and it's poisoning her.
It's killing her.
Like hell it is. Not while I'm here. No way. No fucking way.
"Scully," he said, quietly.
She knew that tone; she'd spent six years learning to respond when she heard
it. Startled, she looked up, quickly.
"If you want, I'll help you find another room," Mulder said, keeping his voice
steady. "Do you want to do that?"
Numbly, she shook her head, and Mulder turned away in frustration, his breath
almost hissing into his lungs.
Don't be angry at her, he thought. She's the victim.
Again ...

He took a breath. Just help her, he told himself. You can help her. You've got
to; for whatever reason, she can't help herself.
He turned to see her regarding him with that same nervous, shamed look. He
breathed deeply, calming himself as best he could. It wasn't easy. "It's your
call, Scully," he said. "But if you change your mind ... "
"I know," she said, quickly. "But I'm fine. It was a mistake, Mulder; just let
it go."

"Let's just make sure it's not repeated," he said, casting a look over his
shoulder at Glassman.
Glassman said nothing. He's too goddamn confident, Mulder thought. I would so
enjoy putting a bullet right into the center of that smirk, he thought.
No. Be professional. Be cool. You can deal with this turd.
"Agent Glassman," Mulder said, turning around.
"Yes?" the man said, apparently unconcerned.
"Glassman, you and I seem to have a problem," Mulder said, with the kind of
contempt he seldom brought to bear outside interrogation rooms. "Personally, I
don't give a shit whether you talk to me or not, but I don't get that choice,
and neither do you. We've all got a job to do here, so we need to reach an
understanding very quickly. That's quickly as in now. Tonight."
"What kind of understanding would that be, Spooky?" Glassman said, folding his
arms across his chest, still smirking.
Mulder's eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly.
"The name is Mulder," he said, softly, but the threat was unmistakable. "Or
Agent Mulder, whichever you prefer. The understanding is that from now on, you
are going to treat Agent Scully politely, professionally, and with the respect
due to her expertise and experience. If you have a problem understanding that,
we can go elsewhere to discuss it."
"I don't take orders from you," Glassman said, belligerently, getting to his
feet.
"Oh, I think I could convince you to," Mulder answered, even more quietly.
Glassman said nothing.
"So I take it there are no questions?" Mulder asked.
"Fuck you," Glassman said, turning his back.
That was enough of an answer for Mulder. He glanced at Scully. The shame was
still there, but for a moment, she looked almost -- grateful.
You're safe, Scully, he thought. Nothing is going to happen to you. Not while
I'm alive.

She caught the look, but her eyes held no response. "Let's just quit for now
and come back to this tomorrow," she said. "I've got to get some sleep.
Alone," she added, meaningfully.
"That won't be a problem," Mulder said, smoothly. "Agent Glassman is in the
next room with me. Oddly enough, the room was available when I arrived."
"I don't think I want to bunk with you, Mulder," Glassman said,
contemptuously.
"I don't like the
you have a choice
private room when
checked, the rule

idea much myself, Glassman," Mulder said. "But I don't think


unless you've got some dispensation that entitles you to a
traveling with another agent of the same sex. Last time I
for that situation was two to a room."

"I may puke," Glassman said.


"I may join you," Mulder responded. Then he turned his back on Glassman, as
though he were of no account at all. "Scully, do you have a way back to the
hotel?"
"I rode with Glassman," she said.
"Would you rather go with me?" he asked, cautiously. "I'm leaving now."
She hesitated, but so briefly that no one but Mulder would ever have noticed.
But she nodded. "Sure," she said. "Give me just a second to put some things
away."
She stepped behind the blackboard, opened a steel toolbox and padlocked the
collected evidence inside.
"Glassman, I believe you have the keys to Agent Scully's room," Mulder said,
nonchalantly, as Scully vanished behind the divider. "May I have them,
please?"
"I don't see that she needs more than one," Glassman said, taking the plastic
cards from his back pocket.
"And I don't see that you need any," Mulder said. "Give them here. Now."
Glassman slammed the cards down on the table. "Hope you get lucky, Mulder," he
said, clearly not meaning it.
"If I don't, we'll at least have something in common, Glassman," Mulder said,
too low for Scully to hear, as he picked up the keys. No matter what was wrong

with her, it'd be a cold day in hell before she let him get away with that
kind of old-boy bullshit.
More loudly, he added, "Remember: You're in room 204, not 206. Don't open the
wrong door. I'll see you there." He turned around, saw Scully walking toward
the door with the evidence box in her hand.
"Let's go," she said. "I just have to give this to Officer Mack on the way
out."
"All right, we'll find him," Mulder said. He seemed calm, but Scully knew he
wasn't as calm as he was trying to appear. Was it the confrontation with
Glassman or the prospect of being alone with her?
Either way, this is going to be a long case, she thought. A long, unpleasant
case, punctuated with emotional complications. I should have left the Bureau
before I ever saw you again, Mulder, she thought, as she glanced toward him.
He was watching her. How annoying.
"Ready, Scully?" he asked, looking into her eyes.
She read the message there: You're safe now, Scully. I took care of it.
She nodded, unwilling to frame a reply. I remember now, she thought. That was
how we communicated. The eyes.
It was all in the eyes.
In that case, she thought, I'm not sure I really want to look at him again.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Once upon a time I was falling in love,
but now I'm only falling apart
There's nothing I can do, a total eclipse of the heart
Once upon a time there was light in my life,
but now there's only love in the dark
Nothing I can say, a total eclipse of the heart."
"Total Eclipse of the Heart"

Chapter 8

Daphne, Alabama
11:56 p.m.

They didn't speak on the way to Mulder's car. He let her in, got in himself
and started the engine, but didn't put the car in gear yet, just sat there
with his hands on the wheel.
He wants to talk, Scully thought. And of course, we will have to talk. But
what do I want to say to him?
She turned to look at him, saw the hesitancy in his eyes, the tentative smile
on his lips.
I know that look, she thought. He's waiting for me to show him that it's all
right with us, and it's not. God damn him -- sometimes I wish I'd never met
him.
But God help me, I'm glad he's here.
Mulder, you bastard, I don't know what the hell you want me to say to you.
Then she saw the surprise in his glance, and realized with a start that she'd
spoken the last sentence aloud.
"You don't have to say anything, Scully," he said, the smile gone in a flash.
"I got the message."
"Did you?" she said, as calmly as she could, trying to mask the tumult she
felt inside.
"That you're not exactly overcome with joy to see me?" he said, grimly. "Yeah.
I think you made that quite clear." He put the car in gear, drove out of the
parking lot toward the highway.
There was a long, uncomfortable silence.
"Mulder, I don't know how I feel about seeing you again," she said, finally,
in a flat tone. "I wish I did."
"How can you not know?" he said. "How is it possible that you don't know what
you mean to me?"
"I'm sorry, did I hurt your feelings?" she said, coldly. "How awful for you.
It's painful, finding out someone you cared for doesn't return your feelings.

I know -- it happened to me right around Christmas."


He winced at that; when he spoke again, his voice was lower, and much less
animated. "Scully, you know why I left," he said. "I told you. It has nothing
to do with how I feel about you. You have to believe that."
"I really don't care to talk about it," she said, turning her head, looking
out the window. "I have other things to think about, things that have nothing
to do with you."
"If you don't want to talk about personal matters, that's fine," He kept his
eyes on the highway. "Right now, I don't think I do, either. But we've got a
job to do, together, apparently, and we can't do that if we're taking shots at
each other. This investigation is not going to happen if we're not talking."
"Okay, Mulder," she said, but her self-control, once again, was failing her.
She wheeled around. "Let's talk. Let's talk about a lot of things, such as how
you got to decide to end our partnership, all by yourself, without any input
from me." Tears were forming in her eyes; angrily, she dashed them away.
"Mulder, I begged you to stay; God, it kills me to think how badly I abased
myself, and there was never any hope that you would listen to me, or to what I
wanted. I don't know how you could do that to me."
"I just wanted to be sure you were safe, and well," he said, keeping his eyes
fixed on the road as though another glance from her might strike him dead. "I
didn't want to humiliate you, and I sure as hell didn't want to be without
you. I don't now."
"Oh, really," she said, in disgust so strong that Mulder didn't have to look
to know how the anger was flashing from her eyes. "Well, look at me, Mulder.
Do I look like I'm well?"
He didn't answer; he didn't move.
"Mulder, damn you, look at me," she said, in a low voice. "That's the least
you can do right now."
He took a quick look over at her, and his head sagged for just a second before
he forced his glance back to the road ahead. "You look unhappy," he said,
finally. "But I'm not egotistical enough to think that's all because of me."
"No, not all of it," she shot back, "but enough to make me very unsure about
wanting to work with you again."
That hurt him. She could see it. Part of her wanted to comfort him, take the
hurt away, but the other part of her -- the part that was running things -thought he hadn't had nearly enough yet.

"Would you like to know what I've been doing, Mulder?" she asked, her eyes
glittering. "I'm working in VICAP. Of course, everyone there calls me Mrs.
Spooky, even my supervisor, SSA Rolfe, who despises me because he despised you
first. I have no social life; my friends all vanished ages ago, because there
was never room in my life for you and them, too, and I chose you. In short,
Agent Mulder, you've taken away everything I ever had and I have never been so
unhappy in my life." She practically spat the last words at him.
"Did Mike Rolfe really call you that?" Mulder asked, incredulously.
For a moment the only sound was Scully's fingernails tapping on the stiff
vinyl of the armrest.
"It's always got to be about you, doesn't it, Mulder?" she said, coldly.
"Forget everything else I said. The only thing you seem to care about is
whether anyone's calling me Mrs. Spooky, because that reflects badly on you,
doesn't it? Well, what anyone thinks about you is the least of my worries."
"Well, you seemed to take it as a pretty big insult," he began, but she
interrupted him.
"Look," she said. "The question is not what anyone calls me. It's whether I
even have a career left. But if it's okay with you, I would rather not talk
about it right now."
"No, it's not okay," he said, impatiently. "You've made it very clear that you
wish I'd never showed up, and if that's the way it is, then that's the way it
is. But unless you're planning to turn in your badge right now, we have to
work this case together, like it or not."
"I don't like it," she snapped. "If you'd wanted me to work with you, if you'd
asked me to, that would have been different, but you didn't. This wasn't your
idea, Mulder; you were shocked out of your mind to see me. Tell me something:
If you had known I was on this case, would you have accepted the assignment?"
"Don't ask me that," he said, irritably. "It's an unanswerable question."
"Is it?" she said. "Would you like to hear another unanswerable question? How
is it that you were so concerned for my welfare that you just had to go away
to protect me, yet you never once even called or e-mailed or wrote to me even
to ask if I was still alive? I mean, not even on my birthday. I waited by the
phone all day long, thinking that maybe that day, at least, you'd call me. I
almost missed my own birthday dinner at my mom's, because I was so sure you
were going to call. But you didn't."
He said nothing.
"You didn't even remember it, did you?" she said, bitterly. "You were -- busy
with something else, I suppose."

He couldn't answer. She was right -- he had forgotten her birthday, or had
deliberately put it out of his mind. But admitting it to her wouldn't help
things one bit.
And even if he had remembered, he wouldn't have called. She knew that already.
"Mulder, say something," she said, hating the anger in her voice but feeling
it rise anyway. "Tell me you didn't know how miserable I've been ever since
the day you told me you were going."
"I didn't."
"You're a liar."
That got to him. "I'm what?" he said. "I'm not sure I heard you right."
"A liar," she said,
they could be. "You
earth. And you know
positively, fucking

and her eyes were colder than he could ever have imagined
heard me, all right. You know me better than anyone on
that since you've been gone I have been absolutely,
miserable!"

She was shouting obscenities at him. My God, he thought, bewildered, how did
this get so bad?
"Mulder, even tonight, with Glassman, everything I said, everything I tried to
contribute to this case, meant nothing," she said, her voice shaking with
fury. "No one listens to me. No one respects anything I have to say, because
they know I used to look for little green men and Mexican goat-suckers, and I
don't have the Oxford education and the Y chromosome required to overcome that
disability. So you show up, and you tell Glassman I'm right, and that's
supposed to make everything okay? No. I don't want that kind of help, from you
or from anyone. I don't want to be Mrs. Spooky. I want to be something more
than just a meaningless joke."
Absolute quiet.
"Don't you have anything to say to me?" she said, practically hissing, but
tears were welling up in her eyes. "Anything at all?"
"I'm not a liar, Scully," he said, and she saw that his eyes, for the first
time that night, were flat and joyless.
"You're not?"
"No. What I am is a coward."

"Or maybe just a fucking lunatic," she snapped. "Maybe you're just going
mental on me, Mulder."
The words were no sooner out of her mouth than she realized what she'd done.
She knew how the conspirators' carefully constructed lies and deceptions had
tormented him to the point that he sometimes doubted his own sanity; she knew
because he'd told her, he'd trusted her with that secret knowledge. And now
she was mocking him for it, using her access to his most private self to hurt
him.
No matter what he'd said or done, that was still way below the belt, and she
knew it.
And so did he.
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" he demanded, with a sharp glance at
her.
"Nothing," she said, shaking her head in frustration. "It means nothing. I'm
sorry I said it. Forget it, okay?"
"Like hell," he said, and now his voice was shaking. "That's a goddamn low
blow, Scully. If you're angry, fine, but for Christ's sake, stop mindfucking
me, all right?"
The tires were squealing; he was turning into the hotel parking lot, driving
too fast, slamming his foot on the brake pedal with such force that she could
smell the burning rubber from the tires.
She remembered this; it was the way he drove when he was furiously angry. And
when Mulder got this angry, this hurt, he didn't stay around to finish it; he
just took off.
The thought made her go cold with fear and apprehension. He was pulling up
under the canopy now, stopping the car. He said nothing, but the message was
plain: Here's where you get out.
"Don't," she said, and her voice trembled. "Don't, Mulder."
"Don't what?" he said, still angry. "Don't talk to you? Don't take you to your
hotel? Don't leave, so you can take a few more cheap shots at me? You've been
screaming at me for the last 15 minutes, and as best I can recall, I haven't
said one goddamn thing to provoke it. So just what exactly is it you don't
want me to do, Scully?"
"Don't just stop here and drop me off," she said, and she was shaking so badly

now that he could barely understand her. "Park the car, Mulder. Please. Don't
leave me here."
For a moment she thought he would refuse, would order her out of the car and
drive away, but he didn't. Without a word, he restarted the engine and drove
the 20 feet or so to a parking place on the side of the hotel and stopped.
"All right, I'm parked," he said, twisting his head around to face her. "Now
what?"
She drew in her breath slowly, let it out. She waited until she was sure she
could speak without bursting into tears.
"I'm -- Mulder, I have to apologize," she said, just above a whisper. "I
shouldn't have said what I did. I never meant to ... to lose my temper. I
realize that we have to be professional about this."
He watched her cautiously, but the anger was fading from his eyes, his
profiling expression taking over. He was reading her, getting into her head,
something she was reasonably sure he'd never done before, not seriously; not
with her.
She didn't think she liked it, though. Not one bit.
"I don't think," he said, slowly, "that there will be a problem about working
together, if that's what you want. I still trust your judgment, Scully."
"That's kind of you," Scully said, but she couldn't make it sound as cool and
aloof as she wanted; any minute now she was going to start crying. Damn it,
Dana, she thought. Get control of yourself. This is not the face you want to
show him right now. Be strong, for God's sake.
She turned her face from him.
to be done here, because I am
I thought all I had to do was
jurisdiction on this case and

"Mulder, you can rely on me to do whatever needs


quite anxious to wrap it up as fast as possible.
to verify the evidence that would let us assert
get back to Quantico as soon as possible."

"Then why are you still here?" he asked, speaking more quietly now. "I thought
you already decided this was federal jurisdiction."
"I'm only here because I have to be," she said. "Those were my new orders, as
of this evening: stay here and assist the profiler -- you -- by analyzing the
available physical evidence."
"I can't think of anyone I'd rather have doing that," Mulder said, and his
voice was still level. "But is that the only reason you're staying?"

"What other reason could I have?" she asked, and was infuriated to hear her
voice breaking. "I was ordered to be here, so I'm here."
"But ... ?"
"But nothing. It's my job." She swallowed hard, tried to slow her breathing,
but her self-control was eroding rapidly. She blinked hard, hoping he wouldn't
see the tears that were starting to spill down her cheeks.
"Mulder, I'll try to work with you," she said, in a choked voice. "I will. But
I honestly can't bring myself to care whether we succeed here or not."
Mulder saw the tears, but resisted the impulse to wipe them away. Once, she
wouldn't have been ashamed to cry in front of him, or even in his arms, but
that time was gone forever, he thought. If he couldn't change that, he could
at least try to pretend he hadn't noticed. He stayed where he was and kept
silent.
"Mulder, I'm sorry," she said, struggling to keep her voice even, and failing
utterly. "But I think you can see that I'm really not the partner you need
right now."
"I don't believe that, Scully," he said. "You have every right to be angry at
me, but I'll never believe that we can't work together."
"No," she said. She kept her eyes fixed on the darkness outside. "I can't,"
she said, crying openly now. "I just can't. I'm not who I was, Mulder. I don't
have the emotional balance to do what you need. I hate the very thought of
being in the field right now."
"It's nobody's idea of fun," he said. "Especially not this kind of case."
"I used to be able to do it," she said, still crying, shrinking away from him.
"I used to be able to do a lot of things. Now, I'm being completely
unprofessional."
"You've never been unprofessional in your entire life," he said. "And I can
tell that things have been bad for you lately."
"Not bad enough for me to scream at you that way," she said, a little more
calmly, but her voice was still thick and she was sniffling between words like
a frightened little girl.
"It's a natural reaction," he said.
She tensed again, but relaxed slightly when she realized that Mulder wasn't in
profiler mode right now. He was just trying to be conciliatory.

"Maybe it's just a catharsis," he continued. "Like a parent who's worried


sick, crying because their child is out late. When the kid gets home, the
parents stop being worried and start getting angry."
"Is that what you think happened to me?"
"That, or something like it."
"And why exactly would that be?" she asked, nettled again for reasons she
couldn't understand. "You think I was worried sick about you and now I'm
angry?"
But Mulder wasn't taking the bait.
"I don't know," he said, thoughtfully. "I don't know what's happened, or why
you're working VICAP with that little toad, but I do know that I have never
seen you so frightened and defeated. I never would have believed it could
happen."
She had almost smiled at the "little toad" remark, but the smile had faded
fast at the word "defeated." I am not defeated, she thought. Am I?
"Yes," he said, gently, and she knew he had read her again. "Scully, I don't
know what's wrong, although I can guess at some of it. Later, if you feel okay
about it, maybe you'll tell me. But right now, you're beaten. You won't even
fight back. You're terrified of something, Dana, and I think, somehow, that
it's my fault."
Dana, she thought dully. He called me Dana. That means I need to pay
attention. Doesn't it?
She shook her head. "It's not your fault," she said, tonelessly. "Glassman is
a toad, and I hate VICAP, but I'm there because I asked to be." She looked at
him again. "Whatever is wrong in my life is my fault, Mulder, not yours."
"I wish I thought so," he said, with a wistful smile. "But this isn't the time
to delve into the power of the forces arrayed against you. You're tired, and
you need to sleep."
I'm not tired, Mulder, she thought. I'm exhausted. A little room service, a
hot shower, change into my pajamas, try to sleep ... and pray I don't scream
loudly enough for anyone to hear tonight when the dreams start.
She shuddered at the thought.

"Scully?" he said, "Do you want to go in?"


She nodded. "Let's go."
They got out of the car, and Mulder walked around to the back, popped the
trunk and reached in for his luggage. And then she remembered.
"Oh, damn," she said, putting one hand to her forehead.
"What is it?" Mulder asked.
"My luggage." She dropped her hand to her side, disgusted. "It's in the rental
car, and Glassman's driving it. I don't have anything to sleep in."
"Don't worry about it," he said, shrugging. "I'll get your stuff from Glassman
when he gets here."
She shook her head. "He stays out until the wee small hours when he's in the
field. Anyway, he'd want to bring it to me, and I don't want him in my room.
Let's not fight that fight tonight," she said, as Mulder started to speak.
"Tomorrow is soon enough for that. But I would appreciate it if you have an
extra shirt you could lend me."
He looked at her for a long moment, then sighed. "Yeah, I think I can do
that," he said. "Hang on a second." He reached into his overnight bag, took
out a New York Knicks T-shirt that she remembered well.
"This ought to work," he said, holding it out to her. "Or do the Knicks offend
your sensibilities, Agent Scully?"
She shook her head, took the shirt. "Not as long as the Spurs can still open a
really fine can of kick-ass on them, Agent Mulder," she said.
He stared at her for a minute, looking wounded. "God, Scully," he murmured.
"That really was cruel. You shouldn't mock the afflicted."
And to her surprise, she laughed.
How long had it been since they had laughed together? And how long since she'd
seen that soft smile on his face, the smile that said he was pleased to have
made her happy?
It seemed like forever.
"Come on," he said, and for the first time that night she heard a trace of

affection in his voice. "I'll walk you to your room."


She looked toward the lobby entrance and shook her head. "Let's go in the back
way, all right?"
"Sure," he said.
He knew what was up. She didn't want to walk through the lobby looking the way
she did, her eyes red, all the makeup washed from her face. That he actually
liked her without makeup, liked the sprinkling of freckles on her nose and her
cheeks, he prudently kept to himself.
They walked around to the poolside entrance to the hotel. She kept her face
averted from him as they rode up in the elevator, silently, but the silence
wasn't as painful now as it had been earlier. If they weren't back to being
friends yet, he thought, they were well on the way to being partners again.
Temporarily, he reminded himself. That hadn't changed, couldn't change as long
as the danger to her continued.
They found Scully's room and Mulder set his bag down, took the keycards from
his pocket, unlocked and opened the door and handed her both keys.
"Thanks," she said, still not looking at him.
"Sure," he said, quietly, picking up the bag again. "See you in the morning."
He turned to open his own door, and Scully watched him covertly, remembering
all the times they'd gone through this same routine when they were partners,
when they parted for the evening.
Well -- that was stretching it, because they seldom stayed apart for long.
Most of the time, they'd wind up in one room or the other, talking things
over, sometimes briefly, sometimes far into the night. It had been so easy to
be with him like that, even when the discussions sometimes got heated, because
underlying it all had been his reliance on her, his trust, and, in time, a
tender affection that they both treasured and refused to acknowledge.
That affection was still there now, no matter what else had happened, no
matter how harshly she'd treated him tonight. It was in his eyes, and in his
voice; it was even in the way he opened her door.
No. She couldn't let him go yet, not without smoothing things over. She tossed
the T-shirt onto the nearest bed and turned back toward him.
"Mulder?" she said, as calmly as she could, hoping to return the ordinariness
to this once-familiar moment.

He turned to face her; their eyes met and locked, and Scully felt her breath
catch in her lungs. All his loneliness, his longing for her, his unwavering
love, was there in the depths of his eyes, as plainly as though he had spoken
them ...
... and Scully, who only meant to say something simple, something that would
let him know they were still friends, found herself flying into his arms,
reaching for him with a desperation she hadn't known was in her.
She heard the distant sound as his luggage hit the floor and his arms went
around her. He rested his head on her shoulder, bending low, and she sighed
softly, his name a bare whisper on her lips.
He held her tightly, his arms pulling her close, but he was trembling against
her and not, she knew, from passion. She remembered this feel of his body
against hers, knew it from long ago: He needed comfort, and he needed it
desperately.
She laid her hand gently on the back of his neck, enfolding him in her
embrace, smoothing his hair. She felt his lips against her throat, his mouth
searching her flesh, softly, hesitantly, for the absolution that she had
refused to grant him -- until now.
So gentle, so innocent was this touch, but it shattered her; she was undone by
the knowledge of her own heartlessness, of how badly her anger had hurt him,
how much her forgiveness meant to him, how great was the power he had given
her over him.
Moved beyond all reason, she kissed his cheek, tenderly, and he turned toward
her, his mouth seeking hers. Their lips met, softly at first, then harder,
more deeply, opening to each other with a passion that left her breathless.
She felt giddy, drunk on the naked hunger in his kiss. She had been alone,
emotionally isolated for so long ... what he was awakening in her now was
nothing less than overwhelming. Trembling, she pulled back, nestling her head
almost shyly into the curve of his shoulder.
Once again, he understood even those things that she couldn't say. He was
holding her more lightly now, smoothing her hair, dropping gentle kisses on
her forehead. She relaxed into his embrace, feeling some of the weighty burden
of her long solitude lift from her heart.
"I lied, Mulder," she whispered.
"You did?" he said, and his voice was unsteady. "About what?"
"When I said I wasn't sure whether I was glad to see you or not," she said.

She slid her arms under his coat, wrapped them around his waist and held him
to her tightly. "I am glad. I really am glad you're here."
"Are you?"
"Yes," she whispered. "I missed you so much. Sometimes I thought I could die
from missing you."
"I've missed you, too," he said. "More than you'll ever know." He kissed her
again, softly, and let her go.
"We'd better call it a night, Scully," he said, tucking an errant curl behind
her ear. "That Neanderthal partner of yours could be here any second and I
have a feeling he'd kill to be able to spread this story around."
"I know he would," she said with a nervous laugh as she turned away. "He's
quite interested in our history."
"And not, I take it, in the history of paranormal phenomena?" he said, shaking
his head in mock dismay. "You should just tell him the truth and disappoint
the hell out of him."
"Maybe," she said, softly. She reached for the doorknob, then stopped.
"Mulder?" she said, not looking at him.
"Yeah?"
"He's not my partner," she said, quietly, looking back over her shoulder at
him.
"He's not?" Mulder said, softly.
"No," Scully said. She turned around to face him. "You're my partner, Mulder.
My only real partner, anyway."
And there it was. Without knowing it, she had put the decision before him: to
let her back into his life with all the risks attendant on that, or to shut
her out, send her away, for her own safety.
But there was a look in her eyes that hadn't been there when he arrived. It
was a look of peace, but a fragile peace, easily lost, a peace that, he
thought, might well leave her when he did. Her strength was nearly gone, and
he still didn't entirely know why. But she needed him. He knew that.
There really wasn't anything else to say. He would just have to deal with the
consequences later.

"You're the only partner I ever want, too, Scully," he said, reaching for her
again to smooth the soft red hair. "There's never going to be anyone better
than you ... or that I want to be with more."
She sighed, and came back to his arms, nestling against him. "I'm glad," she
whispered. For a long time, they stood that way, until Mulder reluctantly
broke the spell.
"Scully," he said, holding her closely, "I could happily stay here and hold
you all night, but you really need to sleep. I can still tell when you're
tired, you know."
"I know," she said. "But not yet. Too much is happening. It all still seems so
unreal. I want to stay with you a little longer."
"It's almost midnight," he reminded her.
"And you won't even think about sleeping for at least two hours, unless you've
changed more than I think you have," she said, looking up at him. "Come on in
my room for a few minutes."
"Scully, I don't know ..." he began, but she stopped him.
"Just for a few minutes," she said. "I ought to get to spend at least as much
time being nice to you as I did yelling at you."
That made him laugh. "All right," he said, still smiling, "but don't make me
regret this."
"Not a chance," she said, smiling back. Mulder opened the door and held it for
her, followed her inside, setting his bag down just inside the door. The air
in the room was close, and he took off his jacket, loosened his tie, then sat
in one of the room's two chairs.
Scully sat on the edge of one of the beds.
"So tell me what you've been doing since I saw you last," she said.
"Chasing down Eric Rudolph, with no success whatsoever," he said. "One of the
clinics he bombed was in Birmingham, if you remember."
"I remember," she said. "I also remember that the Centabom task force hasn't
exactly covered itself with glory searching for him."

"That hurts," he said, but he was smiling. "Look how long the Unabom team took
to find their guy, and then when they did it was because his brother turned
him in. Anyway, we know who we're looking for; we just don't know where."
"He'll turn up eventually," she said, shrugging. "At least he hasn't bombed
anyone lately. So what else occupies your time?"
"Doing background checks, searching through huge piles of manure ... "
"Yeah, but with that much manure, there's gotta be a pony in there somewhere,"
she said, smiling. It was an old joke between them, and he laughed,
remembering.
"Not in these piles, there's not," he said, shaking his head, but still
smiling. "There's nothing much more than a bunch of dirt-poor Alabama farmers
trying to hang on in a rapidly urbanizing rural environment."
"So they're growing cotton with ammonium nitrate?" she said. "Or are they
really building bombs?"
"Rudolph is building bombs." He put his hands behind his head, leaned back
comfortably. "Nobody else is that I know of."
"Odd, that you'd wind up on the Centabom team and I'd wind up on VICAP," she
said, kicking her shoes off and tucking her legs under her.
"How exactly did that happen, Scully?" he asked. "I'm curious."
"I knew that before I met you," she said, smiling, then grew serious. "I asked
Skinner to move me. I went back to the bullpen for exactly five minutes, just
long enough to look under my coffee cup ... "
"Ahh."
"Indeed." Her voice grew softer. "I liked the note. It was ... a great comfort
to me, sometimes."
"Just sometimes?" he said, playfully. "I thought I'd done better than that."
She shook her head. "There were times when ... nothing worked." She stretched
out on the bed, propping her head up on one arm. "I did all right most of the
time, though."
"But not all the time," he said, the smile fading.

"No."
"I'm sorry," he said, quietly.
"You said that already."
"I still mean it."
"I know you do," she said. "But let's not dwell on unpleasant subjects."
"Okay," he said. He thought for a moment. "Where's your brother?"
"Bill? I told you -- I don't know."
"Classified operation?"
"Probably," she said, trying to appear unconcerned. "They canceled his leave
right after Christmas. He shipped out the same day. We haven't heard much from
him since. I don't know where he is, except that his orders apparently came
from COMSURFLANT."
"I was never real good at Navy acronyms," he said, leaning forward again. "Who
or what is COMSURFLANT?"
"Commander of the Surface Fleet in the Atlantic," she said. "Presumably,
Bill's on a ship patrolling somewhere in the Atlantic."
"Was there some crisis?" Mulder asked.
"None that I'm aware of," Scully said. "Mulder, you're not asking me what you
really want to know about Bill, are you?"
"Am I that transparent?" he said, smiling faintly.
"To me, you are," she said. She sat up, swinging her legs off the end of the
bed. "Bill and I got into a huge argument after you left. He said some things
about you, and about me, that I didn't care for, and I ... hit him."
"You hit your brother?" Mulder said, incredulously. "Scully, that makes me
feel like shit."
"It wasn't your fault," she said, but the animation that had been in her voice
was leaving. "Whatever happened between my brother and me is between us,
Mulder. It doesn't have anything to do with you."

"That wasn't what I heard when I was at your mother's house."


"It's true, though," she said. "Bill's too much of a Navy man, too much of a
big brother. He's always been that way. He can't help wanting to interfere in
my life and fix things to suit him."
"Well," Mulder said, lacing his hands together in his lap. "I fixed one of
them for him. I got your sorry-assed partner out of your life."
"Yes, you did," she said, a little coolly, he thought, and he winced. Good
going, Mulder, you just reopened the argument. Smart boy. Real smart.
Scully saw his expression change. "Relax, Mulder, I'm not going to lecture you
-- now," she said, but there was none of the humor with which she would once
have said it. "I'm doing all right running my life by myself now, not that
either of you gave me much choice."
"No, I don't suppose we did," he said, quietly. "But if you're happy ... "
"I'm fine," she said, then her mouth snapped shut. She wasn't going to say any
more. "I think you were right, Mulder," she went on. "We need to avoid
unpleasant topics for a while."
"So what does that leave us to talk about?"
She shrugged. "The UNSUB?"
"I don't consider that pleasant at all," he said, grimly.
"What's the problem?" she asked. "This killer is brutal, but not particularly
gruesome. We've both seen worse."
"The problem is that I have to profile him," Mulder said. "Now. That's why I'm
here."
"Now?"
"Now. For reasons I cannot fathom, AD Skinner has sent me here because someone
here wants a profile of this UNSUB prepared and given to the local police
right away."
"That doesn't make sense," Scully said, frowning. "Normally, if you were in
BSU, you'd go to Quantico and do your profile there, keep it on file until all
the other leads had failed."

"Indeed."
"So why is Skinner involved?" she asked, puzzled.
"I don't know, Scully, but it's not a good sign," he said. He leaned forward.
"There's got to be some heavy political pull going on for this case to get two
VICAP agents and a has-been behavioral profiler assigned to it this quickly."
"Has-been, my foot," she said, trying to smile. "You're the best, Mulder. I
always knew you were good, but I didn't know how good until I got to VICAP.
I've gotten to know some good profilers, but you're better. You really are."
"Scully, you're making me blush," he said, as though he were joking, but she
really was making him uncomfortable. It wasn't like her to be so open with
praise, for him or for anyone else.
"But I mean it." She smiled again, then rose, walked over to him and sat on
the arm of the chair. Mulder put his arm around her waist, tentatively at
first, then more tightly as he felt sure that she welcomed his touch.
She bent over him, kissing him tenderly, but she was still shaky, he thought,
still probably needing to connect emotionally more than physically. He let her
set the pace, kept the kiss gentle, until he was certain she wanted more.
Slowly, she slid down until she was sitting in his lap. She felt his arms
going around her, calming her, encircling her with his strength, and she broke
the kiss, closed her eyes and lay against him as quietly as a child.
She breathed deeply, reveling in the scent that had once been so much a part
of her world she hadn't been conscious of it, the familiar scent that was
Mulder's alone: a heady mixture of crisp aftershave, the light, slightly sweet
smell of starched linen, the faintest trace of gun oil and leather and under
it all the deep, primal essence of the human male.
The warmth of his arms, his scent, the steady beating of his heart all
combined to soothe Scully's ragged nerves, and she stretched and sighed and
nuzzled against him like a satisfied cat.
"I told you," she murmured, "you're the only one I want to work with. That's
not entirely for personal reasons, either."
"Then I'm glad I'm here, even if some political prick did swing it," he said,
in a low voice, holding her tighter. "But, Dana ... " He hesitated. He hadn't
meant to ask, certainly not now, but the question had haunted him since their
parting in December.

"But, Dana, what?" she asked in a soft voice.


"Well -- is any of it personal?"
"Just exactly what do you mean, Agent Mulder?" she said, gravely, but there
was a hint of a twinkle in her eye.
"I mean ... shit." He shook his head in annoyance, then took a deep breath and
plunged ahead. "I just wanted to know ... if you still love me."
There was a brief silence, and he thought his heart would stop; then he felt
her lips press against his throat in a warm, lingering kiss.
"I still love you, Fox," she whispered in his ear. "I'll always love you."
Hearing his first name from her startled him, and he glanced at her quickly to
see whether she was teasing him, but she wasn't; she was just lying there,
with a soft smile on her lips that he hadn't seen before.
I could get used to hearing my name in that voice, he thought. I really could.
He turned his head to hers, and she met him in a soft kiss that swiftly became
intense. His hands began to move over her back and shoulders, and she shifted
slightly, giving him more room, letting him in.
She felt his tongue glide slowly just between her lips -- no further -- then
withdraw.
He's tasting me, she thought. The idea made her shiver deliciously. I'd like
to taste him, too.
Slowly, she
and pressed
his throat.
out, taking

unbuttoned his collar, slid the knot on his tie even further down
her lips against the pulse that beat so strongly at the base of
She nibbled at it gently, then moved upward, her tongue darting
in the faintly salty taste of his skin, suckling at his ear lobe.

She heard him draw in his breath, felt his muscles tensing. This was arousing
him -- and her -- more than she would have believed possible. He was breathing
deeply, his hands moving slowly up and down her body, but just short of the
places she really wanted him to touch.
"Scully," he said, tightly. "If you want to stop, we'd better stop now."
"I don't want to stop," she whispered, her lips against his ear. "I want you
to touch me. Please, Mulder ... please touch me."

His response was instantaneous; she heard his breathing quicken, felt his grip
on her tighten, felt his erection pressing firmly against her leg. He kissed
her again, harder than before, drawing her deeper into him, then released her,
only to trail hot, wet kisses down her throat, making her shiver with
anticipation.
Slowly, sensuously, he pulled her blouse loose from the waistband of her
trousers and slid one hand under the silky fabric, over the soft lace of her
bra, finding and releasing the clasp in one expert motion.
No fumbling around, she thought distantly as his hand closed over her breast,
his fingers brushing over her nipple and the soft pink skin that surrounded
it. Oh, God, Mulder, you are good at this.
He was using his free hand to undo the rest of the buttons, part the front of
her blouse, leaving her uncovered to his touch. She watched, mesmerized, as he
lowered his head to her, took her into his mouth.
The universe whirled and tilted around her as she felt the unearthly pleasure
of his lips and tongue on her breast, the rhythmic pull on her nipple, his
teeth gently touching her, intensifying the sweetness, not hurting her at all.
She closed her eyes, threw back her head and gave herself over to the
sensations. Her hands slid into his hair, holding him closer to her, and she
arched her back, pressing against him, as the pleasure he was giving her grew
almost past bearing. Her fingers moved slowly over his face, memorizing again
its familiar contours, so beloved and so desperately longed for during the
lonely winter. I do love you, she thought, and I'm so, so sorry that I forgot
that.
She heard a low moaning sound, and realized it was coming from her own throat.
She was calling his name, breathing wordless sounds that she could never
remember making before, and he was responding, suckling more urgently, his
hand moving over her other breast.
His touch was perfect, it was absolutely sensual and she was drowning, losing
herself in the warm, moist tugging sensations of his mouth ...
And then -- with no warning at all -- it became horrible.
She couldn't see him anymore, couldn't even feel him. Everything was darkness,
and she felt the cold hands on her body again, grasping at her, pawing at her,
and she began to struggle, trying desperately to free herself from the
faceless man of her nightmares. His hands were dead, and he was dead and she
was dying and everything was sour, damp earth, and cold water, and darkness,
and death.
"Let me go!" she cried, pushing at him violently with her hands, struggling to
get free. She felt the hands fall from her body as she stumbled blindly to her

feet and looked down ...


And there was Mulder again, staring at her in shock, his face frozen in a
mixture of guilt and confusion that she could never in her worst nightmares
have imagined causing him in this moment.
"I'm sorry," he said, utterly bewildered by the sudden turn of events. "I ...
shouldn't have done that." He stood up, quickly, grabbing his coat, and
started toward the door.
Scully stood there, shivering, watching him go. "Mulder," she called, sick
with shame. "I didn't mean that ... Mulder, please don't leave me."
"Scully, I ... " he began, turning around, but she cut him off.
"Mulder, it wasn't you," she said, desperately. "You didn't do anything wrong.
I asked you to, remember? I wanted it every bit as much as you did."
"Apparently not," he said. He still wouldn't look at her. She wanted to cry,
do something to show him how sorry she was, but all she could do was stand
there.
"Yes, I did," she said. She was shivering furiously now, whether from shock or
from the air moving over her naked, wet skin, she couldn't tell. She pulled
the blouse closed, holding it with one hand. "I told you I wanted you, and I
did. I do. I don't know what happened. I just -- started remembering things."
Mulder's face went nearly white, but in his eyes, past all the shock and hurt,
she saw a dawning comprehension.
"Remembering what?" he asked, in a tight voice.
"Being under that house, tied up, bleeding, drowning in the mud," she said,
slowly. What was that look on his face?
"Are you sure that's all you remember?"
"Yes. Mulder, you're frightening me," she said. "What else is there to
remember?"
"Nothing," he said, shaking his head. "Nothing, really."
"That's not true," she said. She took a step toward him. "I know you too well
to believe that."

"No," he said, turning away again. "Really, there's nothing. I just ... well,
I sure as hell wasn't expecting things to go like this."
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I really am. I don't know why that happens. But
it does."
He turned around again at that, looked at her so intently that she knew, was
absolutely certain, that there was something else he could have said.
But he didn't.
"Mulder, please talk to me," she said. "Please."
"I'm sorry," he said, at last. "I don't think I should stay. I think I just
... went too far, or too fast, or something."
"No, you didn't," she said, softly, and she walked over to him, laid her hand
gently on his arm. "I wanted it -- I want you -- more than I've ever wanted
anything in my life."
"Then maybe tonight is just not the right time," he said, slowly.
"Why not?" she asked, desperately. "Why won't you stay?"
"Because you're tired, and so am I, and we're both overwrought," he said,
quietly. "I want to be with you, but I don't want it to be like this. You're
afraid. You're more than afraid, you're terrified. That means we have to stop,
Dana."
He was right, and she knew it, but there was an undercurrent, an almost
electric thrill running through her veins, a powerful sensation of being
alive, ready to act, ready to feel ... she hadn't felt anything even close to
that in ages.
But that energy, that sense of life, came with a price; already, she could
sense it. Something huge and evil was feeding off that reborn awareness,
growing into a thing of dread that could swallow her alive if it wished.
I used to feel so safe in your arms, she thought, and she shivered again.
What's gone wrong? And just what is it that you won't say to me?
That will have to wait. Right now, I have to try to repair the damage. Again.
"Not tonight, then," she conceded, her head bent in shame. "But don't leave me
like this, Mulder, please."

"I don't know what else to do," he said, quietly.


"You could ... ," she began, then shook her head. "I just need you to hold me
for a minute." She raised her eyes to his again. "Do you think you could do
that?"
He looked at her intently, searching for something else behind her words, but
apparently not finding it. "Yeah," he said, finally. "I think I need that,
too."
She put one hand on his chest, leaned her head against him, and he gently put
one arm around her.
"Mulder?" she whispered.
"What?" he said, very low.
"Do you ... still love me?"
He didn't answer right away, and Scully felt a jab of fear, fear that he might
say no, or worse, try to let her down easy.
But then he sighed, and kissed her forehead gently. "I still love you," he
said, holding her closer. "That's not going to change, no matter what.
Something's wrong, but it's not that. Not ever."
Sighing, she relaxed against him. They stood that way for moment longer, then
she moved away, slowly, regretfully.
"I'll see you in the morning," she said, softly, not looking at him.
"I'll bring your luggage when Glassman gets in," he said. "You can leave the
connecting door unlocked. He won't be coming through it."
"But you won't either, will you?" she said, sadly, looking up.
"No," he said, but he touched her face as he said it. His smile was genuine,
but sad, so sad. It hurt her to see it. "Not tonight. Go to sleep, Dana. I'll
see you in the morning."
He bent over, kissed her quickly, then he picked up his luggage and was gone.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ah, when to the heart of man


Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things
To yield with a grace to reason
And bow and accept at the end
Of a love or a season.
"Reluctance"
-- Robert Frost
Chapter 9

Daphne Municipal Building


Tuesday, March 2
8:14 a.m.

"What the hell is all this?" Glassman said, staring around their temporary
office at the gory 8x10 blowups of crime scene photographs, autopsy photos and
photos of the slugs removed from the bodies. Every available vertical surface
was plastered with them.
In the midst of all that was Mulder, sitting in a swivel chair, feet up on the
folding table that, it seemed, would serve as his desk. His tie was loose,
sleeves rolled up to the elbow, and he had his glasses on, looking over
Scully's notes. He seemed completely unaware of Glassman's presence.
"He doesn't hear you," Scully said from behind the blackboard divider.
"What do you mean, he doesn't hear me?"
"Glassman," she said, "you've worked with profilers for years. You know how
this goes. He's not listening."
She walked into the center of the room, lifting safety goggles from her eyes
with a latex-gloved hand.
"Mulder," she said, not too loudly, but he jumped anyway.
"Sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to startle you. Mulder, Agent Glassman's
here."
"Mmm?" Mulder's gaze seemed to indicate that he wasn't sure who Scully was
talking about. "Oh. Glassman. Hope I didn't wake you this morning."

"At 4 a.m.? Fuck, yes, you woke me," Glassman said, irritably. "Do you always
get up that early?"
"Most of the time," Mulder said, absently, looking back at the note cards.
"Sorry about the going through your pockets thing, but I needed your keys. Had
to get Scully's stuff out of your car."
"Ask me next time," Glassman grumbled. "And ask me before you hang that crap
all over the walls next time, too."
"If there is a next time, I'll be sure to do that," Mulder said. "Scully,
these witness descriptions of a black male. Did anyone get an ID?"
"Not that I know of," she said, looking over his shoulder. "Why? Do you think
that's your UNSUB?"
"I don't know yet," he replied. "It may just be a loose end, but I don't like
loose ends. Is Officer Mack our liaison?"
"Yeah," she said, pulling the gloves off, dropping them into a red plastic
biohazard container. "I'll get him."
"Get me a doughnut, too, if there's any left."
"I'm not your waiter, Mulder," she said, airily, walking from the room.
Bitch, Glassman thought. Although he had to admit, she was looking pretty
fuckable this morning. Same dumpy suit as always, hair pulled back severely
like she did when she was doing lab work, but she had a little more wiggle in
her walk today.
He grinned. Had to get her stuff, huh? You got some of that last night, didn't
you, Mulder?
Then he realized Mulder was watching him ogle Scully's rear.
"Something wrong, Glassman?" he asked, mildly. "Or are you about ready to
start filling out the VICAP surveys on these cases?"
"Since when is that my job, Mulder?" Glassman said, irritated. "It takes
for-fucking-ever to fill those damn things out."
"Then you'd better get started, hadn't you," Mulder said, turning back to the
note cards just as Scully returned with Mack in tow. She had a paper napkin in
her hand, and there were two doughnuts on it.

"Last ones," she said. "Get 'em while they're hot."


Mulder smiled, took one doughnut. "Thanks, Scully," he said.
Scully perched herself on the table, facing Mulder, sitting so close that her
leg brushed against his. She picked up the remaining doughnut and took a bite.
Only then did she look in Glassman's direction. "Oh, sorry, Glassman," she
said, casually, brushing the crumbled sugar glaze from her lips. "Hope you had
breakfast already."
"Yeah, that's pretty fucking funny, Scully," Glassman snarled. "Would've been
nice if whoever brought the doughnuts had brought a few more for the rest of
us."
"Sorry," Mulder said, abstractedly. "There were plenty a couple of hours ago."
"You brought 'em?"
"Of course," Mulder said. "Unwritten rule: The Feds have to bring the
doughnuts. Right, Mack?"
Mack grinned. "Right. We figure since y'all make so much money --" Mulder
snorted at that, but didn't interrupt "-- the least y'all can do is bring a
couple dozen Krispy Kremes in the mornin'."
"I learned about this hallowed tradition while I was in BSU," Mulder said, as
he finished his doughnut and resumed shuffling through the photos. "We had
this cooperative group that designed neighborhood watch plans for the folks in
Baltimore. Had to bring doughnuts for half the Baltimore PD. Hey, Scully, your
mom lives in Baltimore; have you ever seen those guys eat?"
"Never had the pleasure," she said. "But I can imagine the doughnuts
constituted a considerable expense."
Glassman snorted, seating himself at the table as far from Mulder as he could,
but with a good line of sight to Scully's backside, and began reading the
morning newspaper.
"Now, come on," Mack was saying. "Everybody knows how much money the Fibbies
got. You got all those nice toys to play with, stuff that gives me a real
hard-on. Sorry, ma'am," he said turning to Scully.
"It's all right, Mack," she said, amused. "I've been on the job for a few
years now. I've heard it."
"Shouldn't talk that way in front of a lady," he said, shaking his head. "My

mama taught me better. But anyway, we 'preciate the doughnuts. And I just love
to play with the toys, 'specially the soft music."
That got Mulder's attention, and he shot Mack a keen glance. "Not bad," he
said, impressed.
"What's soft music?" Scully asked, intrigued. "I haven't heard that expression
before."
"The term refers to your favorite long gun, and mine, the standard Bureau
issue H&K MP-5," Mulder said. "When it's got a silencer attached, it's called
soft music -- but only by SWAT officers. I believe Officer Mack here may have
had some additional training."
"Oh, you know, a little bit here and there," Mack said. "But our team doesn't
have any weapons anywhere near that good. Those things cost about five grand
apiece. Hell, I bet you got two of 'em in your trunk, Agent Mulder."
Mulder smiled, shook his head. "Just one," he said.
"See?" Mack grinned. "That's why the Fibbies gotta bring the doughnuts."
"I'm not sure I see your logic," Scully said, but she was smiling. Then she
looked at her watch and sighed. "Time to get back to work. I need to extract a
little more blood from these clothes before I can send the samples to Quantico
for DNA analysis. But, Mulder, I'll be here if you need me."
"I know you will," he said, with a note in his voice meant for her alone. "I
wouldn't have it any other way."
She smiled, quickly, fighting the impulse to kiss him, then walked behind the
divider. All three men watched her go.
So that's how it is, Mack thought. No wonder she was looking like a deer
caught in the headlights when he walked in here last night. But I'd bet next
month's pay they haven't done it yet. And I bet a year's pay they do before
too much longer.
"Mulder," he said aloud, shaking his head in admiration, "you are one lucky
son of a bitch."
Mulder laughed. "If you're talking about my partner, I'd have to agree with
you," he said, and there was no mistaking his genuine respect for her. "She's
the best there is. Otherwise, I'd have to disagree."
He sat up, putting his feet on the floor, and leaned forward, hands on his
knees. "Mack, we've got witnesses describing a black male at the crime

scenes," he said. "Any ID on him?"


Mack shook his head. "Not yet. We got two composites, but they don't look much
like each other. Is he our suspect?"
"I don't know," Mulder said. "Could be. But if we don't know who he is, we're
not much further ahead. It just gives me a starting point."
Mulder turned the chair around, slowly, looking over the gruesome photographs.
"There's the art right there, Mack," he said, thoughtfully. "All we have to do
now is find the artist."
~~~~~
Scully was in a good mood, and for a reason Glassman would never have
considered, let alone believed: She was back at work, using her medical
skills, concentrating on the job in a way she hadn't been able to do since
December.
And Mulder, she knew, was part of that. He made her feel like part of a team
again, like a real doctor; like a real cop.
She had spent most of the night awake, replaying everything from the minute
she heard his voice until he had told her good night, and she still couldn't
understand what had happened.
Her terror of him, her rejection of his touch, the touch she had wanted so
badly for so long, confused and frightened her. She'd always had problems
responding sexually -- that was part of what she and Jack had broken up over
-- but this was different. This wasn't just the Ice Queen, this was panic,
sheer, unmitigated fright, and it had been directed at him, for no good reason
that she could think of.
She'd never had to fear him, not even when he had pointed a loaded gun at her
head. What she had told her mother was still true: He could never hurt her.
There was no reason for her to have behaved the way she did.
But he had forgiven her, even seemed to understand why she had done it.
They had met for breakfast just after dawn, without even having to discuss it.
It was just what they had always done in the field. There were a few awkward
moments, but nothing they couldn't overcome. Long before they were through
eating, they were talking as easily as though nothing had ever gone wrong
between them.
Maybe it's because we're working together again. Or maybe it's because, after

so many years, we've finally stopped pretending about what we feel for each
other, and what we want.
I think it's all of those things.
But she couldn't escape the uneasy feeling that came from knowing that
something had gone very badly wrong between them, and as much as she wanted to
know what it was, she wanted even more not to.
It seemed crazy, but there must be a logical explanation, she thought, and she
would find it. She was working on it, just as painstakingly as she was working
on extracting a killer's DNA from the late Wilhelm Nivek's shirt.
The bloodstain was small, but the medical examiner had found possible
defensive wounds on Nivek's body, and the blood spot's location on the sleeve
gave her hope that it might be the shooter's blood. It was a long shot, but
long shots were about all they had right now. Even a trace of identifiable
DNA, matched to a suspect, could change a case from circumstantial to
airtight.
She poured a diluting solution over the torn, bloody shirt, laid it on a
special blotting paper, taking care not to introduce any foreign substances
that might confound the DNA tests. Even a few skin cells could wreak havoc.
A few traces of Dana Scully's DNA, commingled with the shooter's and the
victim's, could yield impossibly mixed results, turning the whole case into
another O.J. Simpson trial.
There could be no question of discarding such a botched test; by law, the
defendant could learn the results. More important, if the results favored the
defense's case, it was incumbent on the prosecutor to reveal them even if no
one asked.
She had to be careful, and no one could be more careful than Dana Scully when
she made up her mind to be.
She set a timer, monitoring precisely the length of time the solution would
stay on the shirt. While she waited, she picked up the photographs of Nivek,
the 18-year-old white victim. With a magnifying glass, she examined the shots
meticulously, searching for anything she might have missed before.
When she got to a close-up of Nivek's hand, she stopped. On the palmar surface
of Nivek's fingers, she saw a series of small black lesions, barely noticeable
to anyone who wasn't using a magnifier.
That's not a defensive wound, she thought. Can't be pigmentation, doesn't look
like ecchymosis and it's not dependent livor, either.

I ought to know what this is. But I'm not sure I've seen it before.
The timer dinged, and Scully let the problem drop, going back to work on her
DNA extraction. The mysterious markings continued to worry her, though.
It can't have anything to do with the cause of death, she thought. It's like
Mulder said, just a loose end. I don't like loose ends in a case any better
than he does.
I don't like them in my life, either.
Scully sealed the DNA samples in the proper evidence envelopes, signed the
flaps, logged in the sample numbers on her paperwork and put the whole bunch
into an outer envelope addressed to the FBI lab at Quantico. It would go by
mail, which would protect the chain of custody required to introduce the
samples into evidence, should they turn anything up.
Putting the envelope in her briefcase, Scully sat down again, began re-reading
Nivek's autopsy report. The local medical examiner noted the lesions,
venturing an opinion that they might be bruising caused by defensive actions.
Whatever these were, they weren't defense wounds. Who did this autopsy,
anyway?
Scully searched through the remaining autopsy pictures, looking for another
shot of Nivek's hands, and soon found one. The marks showed clearly.
Scooping up the pictures, she walked out of her lab, taking her briefcase.
Glassman was nowhere to be seen. Mulder was alone in the cramped office,
leaning back, feet up, studying photographs with the detached expression she
had come to know so well.
"Mulder," she said, softly, crouching next to him, touching his arm lightly.
"Mulder, I need to talk to you."
"Hey, Scully," he said, still looking dazed. "What time is it?"
"It's still early. I've finished the extraction and I've got to mail these
samples to Quantico," she said. "I also need to find a medical library, do
some research. Can I take your car?"
"Sure," he said, reaching into his pocket, handing her the keys. "You got
something?"
"I don't know," she said. "I honestly don't know."

~~~~~
Mulder barely heard the door close as Scully left. His own thoughts were as
seductive and entrapping as thick molasses to an insect, and he was both
unwilling and unable to escape from them for long.
Glassman was an ass, but he was right about one thing: The case didn't add up.
There were multiple weapons. The victims were both black and white, a wide
variety of ages, and almost nothing taken in crimes that looked like nothing
else but armed robberies.
This UNSUB. Who was he and why was he doing it?
The longer Mulder looked at the police reports, the crime scene photographs,
and the autopsy protocols, the less this looked like a string of armed
robberies gone bad and more like out-and-out spree murders, joy killings.
The style of killing was consistent: complete overkill. The victims hadn't put
up much resistance, indicating fear or just a killer who moved too fast to
allow them to resist. Only one victim appeared to have been making a serious
attempt to escape; the rest were shot where they stood, presumably.
If all this UNSUB wanted was money, he'd done far more than he had to to get
it. One gunshot -- hell, the threat of a gunshot -- was usually enough for
that. These victims had been shot repeatedly, viciously; in a couple of cases,
he'd kept shooting even after they were dead.
There was no sexual component to the murders, either, no evidence the UNSUB
knew any of the victims, so revenge didn't seem likely, either.
Other than the uncle and nephew in the first shooting, the victims didn't seem
to have anything in common with each other beyond working in some retail
business or another, and that pointed to opportunity, not motive.
All right, Mulder, he thought. You've analyzed what should be the motive based
on the crime scenario and that doesn't make sense. You've gone through all the
other "logical" ones and you can't make one of them fit reasonably.
This guy either has another motive that you don't see yet, or he's just plain
whacko. Either way, asshole, unless you can tap into his thinking, you're
stuck.
~~~~~
St. Catherine's Hospital
Biomedical library
11:26 a.m.

Getting into the library was easy, as Scully had known it would be. Her
credentials opened the door for her, and within a few minutes of arriving she
was seated in a study carrel, leafing through a textbook on skin diseases.
The book held hundreds of color photographs, most of which she skimmed past,
knowing they weren't what she was seeking.
About 45 minutes into her search, she found it. A photograph showing virtually
identical lesions on the hands of a New Zealand sheep rancher.
"Oh, my God," Scully whispered, staring at the photograph in horror.
The photograph illustrated the results of an infectious agent, active in the
cutaneous form. The text noted that there were enteric and pneumonic forms as
well. The pneumonic form, it said, was known as woolsorter's disease and was
especially deadly, one of the deadliest diseases known to humankind.
Anyone who worked in medicine was familiar with this virulent microbe. And
virtually anyone who worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation knew its
potential for use as a biological weapon of terror.
There was no mistaking the lesions, and no mistaking the implications.
Wilhelm Nivek had lived in Mobile and worked in a convenience store, a far
distance from New Zealand, and unconnected with ranching of sheep, cattle or
any natural carrier. Yet to all appearances, his fingers were infected with
Bacillus anthracis.
Anthrax.
~~~~~
Baldwin County Courthouse
Office of the District Attorney
4:24 p.m.

"Well, I don't know what I thought you FBI agents were planning to do here,
but I sure wasn't expecting this."
Scully smiled weakly.
Barstow Miller, the district attorney, wasn't a bad guy, but it was difficult
to get him to stick to the subject, which in this case was not the FBI itself
but what this particular FBI agent needed from him.

"Mr. Miller, I really need your help on this," Scully said, in her coolest,
most professional tone. "I need an exhumation order for Wilhelm Nivek's body,
and the sooner the better."
"You really think he's got anthrax?" Miller asked. "We never had that around
here before, but I guess we could -- there's plenty of cattle around."
"I won't know until I examine the body," Scully said. "The medical examiner's
report didn't really address the skin lesions directly, and I need to get a
culture. But Nivek wasn't in the cattle business, and if he was infected with
anthrax, you may have a worse problem than just a murder spree."
"Just a murder spree," Miller said, sounding faintly amused. "We had one
homicide in Daphne in the past three years, and now we've got four in just a
couple of weeks. That's what you call just a spree."
"I'm sorry," she said, still cool. "I'm not downplaying the importance of the
investigation at all."
"It's just that you work for the government and you've seen a lot worse, is
that it?"
"No, sir," Scully said. "I have seen worse, but this case is bad enough for
anyone. But working for the government can make a person pay attention when
anthrax bacillus shows up in a place where it shouldn't be. It shouldn't be on
Nivek's fingers."
Miller thought for a minute, drumming his fingers on the desk.
"All right, Agent Scully," he said. "I'll have one of my people draw up the
order, and I'll see if I can find a judge who'll sign it. We'll get the body
over to Forensic Sciences in Mobile, let you get a look at it there."
"That would be ideal, sir."
That was a relief. She had dreaded the thought of performing an autopsy in a
hospital or, worse, a funeral home. They weren't equipped for it, and skilled
assistants were non-existent outside a real forensics lab.
"If it is anthrax," Miller continued, "I'd appreciate it if you would keep it
to yourself until we see how far it's spread, if it has. Deal?"
Scully nodded. "That was my intention, sir. Thank you."
~~~~~

Daphne Municipal Building


6:49 p.m.

The temporary FBI office was dark when Scully arrived.


The light shining in from the hallway made the crime scene photographs look
even more terrifyingly real.
It gave her the shivers, and she wasn't a woman who shivered easily at the
sight of death.
"Mulder?" she called out. "Mulder, are you here?"
No answer. Where had he gone? He couldn't have gone very far; she still had
his car. Maybe he got a ride back to the hotel with Glassman.
Scully closed the door and walked down the hallway to the squad room. Mack was
there, seated at a work table next to Glassman. The table was littered with
half-completed VICAP forms.
Glassman looked jovial. Mack looked trapped.
"Gentlemen," Scully said. "Have either of you seen Agent Mulder lately?"
"Gone with the wind," Glassman said, waving a hand in the air. "I asked him
how things were going. He gave me a few choice words, and flew out of here
like the hounds of hell were after him."
"Where did he go?" she asked.
"Beats hell out of me," Glassman said. "Why? You two have a date?"
That didn't even rate a reply. "Mack, do you know where he went?" she asked.
"Not for sure, ma'am, no," Mack said.
"How long ago did he leave?"
"Oh, I'd say, 'bout 45 minutes ago. Not much longer than that."
"Mack, did he say anything at all about where he might be going?" Scully

asked.
Mack thought for a moment.
"Well, this morning me and him got to talking
when we were kids," he said, reflectively. "I
Mullet Point and watch the sunset. Good place
if that's what you like. Little late for that
there."

about places we used to hang


told him I used to go down by
to do some fishing, or thinking
now, though. Gettin' dark out

"Where is Mullet Point?"


"You can't miss it," Mack said, and Scully groaned. "No, really, you can't.
Get back on the highway, heading south, and when the road goes off to the
left, like? You just keep going straight. You'll get there. It's on the water.
Got a big ol' sign says Mullet Point."
"How far is it?"
"Ten, twelve miles," Mack said. "You'll catch him on the road, if he's not
running. Does he like to run?"
Scully looked out at the gathering night. He was out there, somewhere, alone
with his demons. In the dark ...
"Agent Scully," Glassman said.
She looked at him.
"Officer Mack asked you a question. You're spooking out on me again. Don't do
that."
"I just -- I wondered if Agent Mulder runs much," Mack said, embarrassed at
having caused trouble.
She looked out the window again, her eyes focused on nothing. She kept her
composure, hiding, with an effort, the indecision she felt. Should she go to
him? Leave him alone?
Then she turned her attention back to the lighted room.
"Yes, he runs," she said, distantly.
"Are you going to go get him?" Mack asked.

She shook her head. "Even if I found him now, I couldn't bring him back," she
said. "Not yet."
~~~~~
Mullet Point, Alabama
9:53 p.m.

Mack was right, he thought. It's a good place to think.


Now if I just had something good to think about.
>From here, the city lights across Mobile Bay were pinpoints, smaller than the
>stars overhead. There was no sound from the road behind him, no sound at all
>except the brackish water lapping against the jetty, the high-pitched song of
>crickets, and, from time to time, the cry of a seagull.
His coat and tie were draped over a bench in the nearby picnic area; his shoes
and socks were on the jetty next to him, his shirt collar unbuttoned, the
sleeves rolled up past the elbow. He sat, knees bent, his arms wrapped around
his legs, resting his head on his knees, looking out over the water, looking
at nothing.
He didn't know how long he'd been here. He couldn't even remember clearly how
he decided to come. All he knew is that he was here, he'd come here on foot,
and that he'd run full tilt all the way. He was soaked with sweat that refused
to dry in the humid air, and the constant drone of mosquitoes told him he'd be
a mass of bites before long.
He didn't care.
The picture was beginning to emerge. Soon, he would write it all down, express
all his subjective assessments rationally, give the locals somewhere to start
in their search.
And tell them to stay off the air while they were at it. No radio calls, no
cellular phones. It was enough to turn you off police work when you saw how
many brutal killers were closet police buffs.
Made you wonder what was inside yourself, what drew you to this profession.
Or what kept the killers out. If anything did.
Aren't you a killer, too, Mulder? Didn't you blow a man's face off with a
shotgun after you'd already killed him? Didn't you kill John Lee Roche at

least partly out of vengeance for his having escaped from you, making you look
foolish? Didn't you actually enjoy putting a bullet into Robert Modell's head?
And didn't you keep pulling the trigger long after the gun was empty?
You're damn right, you did. You didn't need to run 12 miles and offer up your
blood to the mosquitoes to know that. And those aren't the only ones you've
killed, either.
Is any of this getting you anywhere?
Yes. Oh, hell, yes. It made him sick to realize it, but he knew he'd just
unlocked one of the doors to the UNSUB's mind. The UNSUB liked killing,
enjoyed the release it gave him, and he was feeling the need to kill again.
Soon.
But where?
Who?
Why, in a town this small, wasn't someone coming forward, telling them to
check out some weird neighbor who had a lot of guns? The UNSUB was around
here, that was clear; what wasn't clear was where he was, or why no one seemed
to have made the connection between him -- whoever he was -- and the killings
that had effectively quintupled Daphne's annual murder rate already.
You'd better figure it out, Mulder, he thought grimly; you better find him,
and pretty fucking fast.
If you don't, someone else's blood will be on your hands.
~~~~~
Pembroke Inn
2:43 a.m.
Scully flopped restlessly onto her side.
She had gone to sleep around midnight, but awakened an hour later and hadn't
been able to sleep since. It wasn't just not knowing where Mulder was,
although that was tormenting her. Less than a day had gone by before he'd
ditched her, again, and this time she had the additional worry that he might
be avoiding any ... extracurricular evening activities was one way to put it.
That was bad enough; what was worse was knowing that when he did return, she
would have to tell him what she'd found, and for once in her medical career,
she just wasn't sure.

The problem now was the anthrax, or, more precisely, the threat of an anthrax
epidemic.
It's not going to be an epidemic, she scolded herself. One case of cutaneous
anthrax does not an epidemic make.
Then where did he get it, Dr. Genius Scully? He's not a shepherd, or a cattle
rancher, or a veterinarian. He worked in a convenience store.
How do you get anthrax working in a convenience store?
Maybe it's not even anthrax, she thought, but she recognized that as wishful
thinking.
Why can't I make sense of this?
You've got to get it right, Dana, she thought. You cannot afford a single
mistake on this.
What if I've already made the mistake? What if I've alarmed the district
attorney for nothing? How do I know what anthrax lesions look like? I've never
seen anthrax. Who has?
Or what if I get everyone all stirred up and it turns out these marks are just
photographic artifacts?
I should have asked someone else to double-check the pictures. I should have
called CDC, sent the pictures to them. I shouldn't have gone to the DA without
talking to Mulder, or even -- God help me -- Glassman. Why did I do that?
Oh, God, if they dig that body up and nothing's wrong I am going to look so
stupid, and Glassman will never let me live it down.
I wish I could talk to Mulder about it. But where is he? Is he still working
at this hour? Of course he is.
How many cases did we work, slumped over cups of too-strong coffee in some
dismal small-town diner at an hour when the paper boys weren't even up yet?
Too many to count. There were times I thought I might break his neck if he
woke me once more.
I wish he would call. I wish I knew he was all right. I wish I could talk to
him about this. I wish I hadn't gone to the district attorney until I'd had a
chance to talk to Mulder. I wish someone else was responsible for this. I
can't do it. I can't.

Mulder could do it. He'd know what to do.


I have got to get some sleep, Scully thought, as she tossed around restlessly.
Then she heard an unfamiliar sound from the hallway, and sat upright, frozen
in terror, reaching under the pillow for her weapon.
It was just the ice machine. She'd heard similar sounds hundreds of times in
hundreds of hotels. This wasn't new.
But her heart was still pounding. She put the gun back under the pillow, but
she left her fingers closed around the grip, her index finger resting lightly
on the trigger guard.
Holding it, she felt calmer. Not that she needed her gun, of course.
She just wanted to know it was there.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What do you seek so pensive and silent?
What do you need camerado?
Dear son do you think it is love?
-- Walt Whitman
Chapter 10

Pembroke Inn
Wednesday, March 3
4:15 a.m.

The knock was soft, but it was enough to wake Scully from her troubled sleep.
She grabbed her weapon, switched on the lamp and stumbled bleary-eyed to the
door, looking through the peephole.
It was Mulder, and he looked like hell; tie off, shirt untucked, red-eyed and
badly in need of a shave and some sleep.
She slid the chain back, opened the door.

"Did I wake you?" he asked, still standing in the doorway.


"I'm not sure," she said, her brain still foggy. "Maybe. Come on in."
He walked past her, straight to her bed, dropping his coat on the floor. He
flopped down exhausted, his long legs dangling off the edge of the bed.
She closed and locked the door, put her gun on the dresser and then just stood
there, desperately unsure of what to do next. "Mulder," she began,
tentatively, but he interrupted her.
"I don't know what he looks like, Scully," he mumbled, not opening his eyes.
"I can't see him at all yet. I don't even know what kind of car he drives. I
don't know where he is or where he's going to strike next. I just know that he
will."
"Do you know when?" she asked, coming to sit beside him. She folded her hands,
laid them on her lap, on the smooth blue satin of her pajamas.
"Soon," he said, still not moving. "He's feeling afraid again, and angry, and
he's learned to like the feeling of causing death. I know that much. He needs
it, like a drug. He'll get his fix soon. But I don't know what else to do to
stop him."
"Have you told Mack?"
"No," he said. "Not yet."
He opened his eyes, turned his gaze toward her. "When I was walking back, I
thought about stopping at the PD to try writing all this down. Sometimes that
helps. Then I remembered that you were looking into something, too, and I
thought maybe you'd tried to find me to tell me about it. So I took a chance
and came by, even though I figured you might be angry at being ditched. I
guess I could try to blame it on my troubles with this UNSUB ... "
"And you'd be right," she said, interrupting him. "I know better than to
distract you at a time like this. But I did want to talk to you. Something's
happening on my end, and I wanted you to help me figure it out."
"What was it?"
She shook her head. "I'm not sure. But it may be the answer to what happened
to us in December."
He sat up. "You're kidding."

"No," she said. "I wish I were. One of the victims has what appear to be
anthrax lesions on his fingers."
"Christ," he said, his eyes widening. "Which one?"
"Nivek," she said. "I'll be able to tell you for sure after we run a cell
culture."
"Is there a chance it's not anthrax?"
"Yes. No. I mean, yes, of course, there's always a chance," she said, rising.
She began pacing around the room nervously, her arms crossed tightly across
her chest. "I could always be wrong, you know; I haven't actually seen his
fingers yet, and we'll have to culture whatever we find. But it looks like
anthrax in the autopsy photographs. And we were chasing a bioweapon when we
were here before."
"So you think this is domestic terrorism, or what?"
"I think it's anthrax," she said, fighting back her irritation. "Right now,
that's all I think. And I could easily be wrong. I've never seen anthrax. I
don't know a doctor who has. And I have no idea whether it's related to
domestic terror ops or not. All I know is Wilhelm Nivek had lesions on his
fingers that look like anthrax, and he shouldn't have because he's not a
rancher or a textile worker. Okay?"
"Okay," he said, sounding a bit annoyed. "Jeez, Scully, I'm not questioning
your medical judgment. I'm just asking what you know. How did you find these
lesions?"
"Autopsy photos," she said. "Only I have reason to doubt now that the original
autopsy was very thorough."
"The original meaning ... " Mulder was looking a little queasy.
"Meaning I'm going to do another one,
some reason Mulder's apprehension was
nerves like a rusty blade. She was in
right now. He needed to get a grip on

yes," Scully said, looking at him. For


ripping through her already shredded
no mood to deal with his squeamishness
himself.

"You know, that's what I do, Mulder," she said, her voice dripping with
sarcasm. "I talked to the district attorney today. I'm going to dig Nivek up
and do another autopsy and he's going to stink and be moldy and slimy and
probably full of noxious gas that'll make me absolutely sick to my stomach
when I cut him open. You want to watch? Or would that upset you too much?"
"All right, Scully, back off," he said, and she could see she'd gotten under

his skin. "We're in this together. Let's see it through and then we'll work on
dissecting our nightmares."
She shook her head, lifting her hands in frustration. "Then just lay off me,
all right? You're not the only one who has to do things that give you
nightmares. I hate exhumations. No matter how many I do, I'll never really get
used to them."
"That's understandable," he said, mildly enough, but he was wearing that damn
profiler's face again, and Scully had already decided how she felt about that.
She hated it.
"Just forget it, Mulder," she said, off-handedly. "Whatever I find, it won't
help you with profiling your UNSUB, and that's got to be the priority,
especially if you know he's about to do it again."
"Very soon," he said. "Unless I find him first. But I'm not sure I can; not
this time."
Mulder had spoken calmly, but she heard the fear beneath his words. She'd been
dealing with that same fear herself all day. It was the fear of making a
mistake in judgment, a slip-up in action, that would lead to the death of
another innocent victim.
"Mulder, I'm sorry," she said, sitting down on the bed again. "I really am.
I'm just wound up a little too tightly right now."
"You've got a right to be," he said, but he was watching her even more
carefully now. "This is pretty serious stuff."
"You'll find him, Mulder. You will," she said, meaning it. "But we've got to
find out where the anthrax comes into this, too. It's at least as dangerous as
he is."
"Scully," he said, then hesitated. "I don't know if I can help you with that,
at least not as much as you need. Glassman's supposed to be helping you with
evidentiary analysis."
"He hasn't even finished reading the case histories," she said, bitterly.
"He's no help at all. I know him. Everything he knows about profiling he
learned by watching 'Silence of the Lambs,' but he loves to spout off to local
law enforcement as though he were the Second Coming of John Douglas. You threw
a monkey wrench in his plans when you showed up."
"So what you're saying is that he's not willing to do his part because he
thinks it's not glamorous enough?"

"That's exactly what I'm saying," she said, flatly. "When it comes to doing
the scutwork, filling out the forms, making the phone calls, he's useless. I
won't get any meaningful help from him, and I can't do this all by myself."
"Scully, I don't know what to tell you," he said. "I know you need help, but I
can't do Glassman's job and my own. I can't do evidentiary analysis and
profiling at the same time. One is a scientific process and the other is
almost entirely intuitive."
"I am sorry, Mulder," she said. "I don't know an answer to this either. I
could ask my supervisor to take Glassman off the case, but Rolfe's never
lifted a finger to help me, and I don't expect him to now."
"I know Mike Rolfe," Mulder said. "He's an asshole. But even if he would help,
you don't really want to talk to him, do you?"
She was quiet for a moment. "No," she said. "I don't. I can't talk to him, I
can't trust him. He'll use it against me, put it on my evaluation as proof
that I can't do my job. And I can't, not without help. Not this. Mulder, I'm
sorry, but you're all I've got."
"Then I'll try to be enough," he said. "But we're both taking risks here."
"That's why we get the big bucks," she said, trying to smile.
"And why we have to bring the doughnuts," he said, smiling back. He took her
hand. "Don't worry. We'll figure it out."
"In the morning," she said. "But right now, you need to rest."
She moved over to him, touched her lips to his, gently, then more deeply,
sliding her tongue over his lower lip.
But for the first time, although he accepted the kiss, he didn't return it; he
even seemed to shrink away from her, and that frightened her. She pulled back,
eyeing him anxiously.
"Mulder, what's wrong?" she whispered.
"Scully, I can't," he said, softly, his fingertips just brushing her cheek.
"Not now."
"You've got to," she said. "You're almost too tired to talk now."
"I'm dead on my feet," he said. "But I'm not talking about sleeping. Much as

I'd like to lie here and let you work your magic on me, I can't. Not tonight."
"That's what you said last night," she said, confused. "Now you're saying no
again. So why are you even here?"
The question seemed to hurt him, but for once, she couldn't read him well
enough to know why. He looked away.
"I just wanted to talk to you," he said, in the voice of a man whose strength
is utterly spent.
Slowly, he got up. With his back to her, he picked up his coat and slung it
over one shoulder, holding it with his left hand while his right hand
automatically reached for the butt of his gun, making sure it was secure in
its holster.
Scully was staring at him, open-mouthed. His exhaustion, the sound of his
voice, his words had hit her like a knife in the throat, stabbing her with
guilt and shame so strong she couldn't speak, could scarcely even breathe. She
felt the sudden flash of cold sweat on her skin.
He wanted to talk to me, and I wouldn't let him. That has never happened
between us before, not when there was business to take care of.
His hand was on the doorknob. In another second, he would be gone again. She
couldn't let that happen. Standing up, she walked over to where he stood and
put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him, turning him around.
"Don't leave," she whispered.
"Scully, I've got to ... "
She stopped him, touched his lips with her fingers.
"You make me ashamed of myself," she said. "I should have known. You came here
for the same reason you always used to when we were working together; because
you wanted to talk things over."
"But you were right," he said, not unkindly. "I was the one who said I
couldn't do two jobs at once, and then with my next breath I'm trying to make
you help me with mine. I really shouldn't have come. I'm just selfish; I don't
like working without you."
"You just came here looking for your partner," she said, miserably.
"And I found Dana the wild woman," he said, with a touch of his old humor, and

she had to smile. "But maybe I was looking for her for the past six years,
too. Did you ever think about that?"
"Sometimes, maybe," she said, cautiously. "Yes."
That brought back a ghost of the Mulder smile. "Maybe one day, we'll both be
looking for the same thing at the same time," he said.
"We always were before," she said. "The truth. That hasn't changed."
"No. It hasn't."
"Mulder," she began, then took a step closer to him. "I'm sorry that I let you
down."
"You've never let me down," he said, taking her hand. "Ever."
She shook her head. "I did this time. I'm letting my feelings get in the way
of what we have to do here."
"Yeah, maybe," he said. "But maybe, right now, you can't help it. I still
don't know what's wrong; I only know that something is, and that a good part
of the time you're acting like someone other than the Dana Scully I used to
work with."
She couldn't look at him.
"But that's not the whole reason, and I know it," he said, gently, brushing
his thumb across the back of her hand. "We've missed each other. We want to
reconnect. That's not wrong; it feels good, being loved like that by you. I
never had that before. Not in my entire life."
She felt the tears starting again. I never used to cry, she thought. Never.
Now I cry all the time.
"But there is a problem between us," he went on, quietly. "I don't know
exactly what it is, but what's worse is that I can't even afford to stop long
enough to figure it out, much as I want to."
"Do you?" she said, looking up at him. "Do you really want to fix what's wrong
with me?"
"With us," he corrected her, gently. "And yes, I do. I want to be able to talk
to you, I want to be able to touch you, and I sure as hell don't want you to
be frightened of me. I can't imagine anything worse than that -- unless it's
that I let someone die, and die badly, because I didn't do the job I came here

to do. It's going to happen, soon, if I can't get into our UNSUB's head pretty
damn fast. I can't let that happen, Scully."
"I understand. Really, I do," she said, and looked down at their still-joined
hands. "But Mulder, you can't blame yourself if he kills again; the profilers
back at BSU spend most of their time tossing ideas around, helping each other
do what you're trying to do all alone."
"I am not alone," he said, firmly. "I have you. I don't need anyone else."
That touched her, and she found she couldn't trust her voice. Her chin
quivered, and a single tear rolled down her cheek. She looked so downhearted
that finally he couldn't bear it, and he put his arms around her, held her
close.
"I love you so much," she whispered, her voice muffled against his shirt. "I
wouldn't change that even if I could. But I want us to still be able to work
together. I want to be your partner, Mulder."
"You are, Scully," he said, rocking her gently. "You are. Always."
~~~~~
Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences
Mobile Laboratory
10:19 a.m.
This, Scully thought as she stripped off her surgical gloves, is almost as bad
as it gets.
Two hours of laboring over the decayed remains of Wilhelm Nivek, of delving
into tissues hardened by embalming fluid, of breathing in the smell that even
a heavy coating of menthol ointment couldn't hide, and now the lab technician
was waiting for her with a face that fairly shrieked of bad news.
Just a few hours earlier, she'd taken skin from Nivek's fingers, following up
with sections of lung, oral and intestinal tissue, and handed them to this
same technician for testing.
She dropped her gown and cap into the laundry bin, washed her hands and sat
down to hear the bad news.
"You got good samples, Dr. Scully, four distinct colonies, from the fingers,"
the lab tech told her. "The immunofluorescence tests were conclusive; they all
came up B. anthracis. This is the real McCoy, all right."
"What about the lungs?" she asked.

"Clear, from what I can tell," the tech said, and Scully let out a sigh of
relief.
"Do you know of any deaths, human deaths, attributed to B. anthracis in this
area?" she asked.
The man shook his head. "Believe me, Dr. Scully, if there had been one, I'd
know. I was in Desert Storm; I look out for stuff like this."
Scully nodded, her lips pursed slightly, examining the report again as though
she could make it say something different. Then she looked at the technician
again. "Who is the county health officer?" she asked.
"Dr. Anthony Meister," the tech said. "They'll be closed by now."
"Do you have his home telephone number?" she asked. "I've got to talk to him
about this."
"Hang on, I'll get it for you." The technician left, came back a minute later
with a telephone number written on a scrap of paper. "Here you go."
"Thank you." Scully took out her cellphone and dialed the number.
"Hello," came the voice on the other end.
"May I speak to Dr. Meister, please?"
"Speaking."
"Dr. Meister, this is Dana Scully, Dr. Dana Scully," she said. "I'm with the
FBI. We're here investigating a possible serial killing in Daphne."
"Yes, I read about that in the newspaper," Meister said. "What can I do for
you, doctor?"
"Dr. Meister, I found suspicious lesions in autopsy photographs of one of the
victims. He was exhumed yesterday, and I did the post-mortem myself. Forensic
Sciences did the bacteriologicals. They found cutaneous infection with
Bacillus anthracis."
There was a short silence.
"That's bad news, Dr. Scully," Meister said. "We haven't had a human case of

anthrax before. Was this man from Daphne?"


"No, sir," Scully said. "He worked there, in a convenience store, but he lived
in Mobile. I don't have his home of record with me, but I can get it for you.
Dr. Meister, I don't know everything about this man, but I don't see any
indication of a natural transmission mode for B. anthracis."
"I'll get my people on that, Dr. Scully," Meister said. "In the meantime, I
would appreciate any information you can give me on this."
"Yes,
said.
still
about

sir, I'll have the Daphne police get that to you right away," Scully
"And I would appreciate it if you could tell me what you find out. We
don't have a clear picture of this killer, and having more information
the victim could only help. Especially in this case."

"You'll know what I know as soon as I know it," Meister promised. "How do I
reach you?"
Scully gave him the phone numbers for the Daphne PD, her hotel room and her
cellphone. "Sir, will you notify CDC?"
"Just as soon as I hang up," he said. "In the meantime, Dr. Scully, although
human-to-human transmission is rare, I would advise you and anyone who came in
contact with that body to be vaccinated if they haven't been already."
"I have been, sir," she said. "It's a routine precaution for us; the Bureau
deals with anthrax threats, as you know."
"I still think you should start on some kind of antibiotic prophylaxis, for
all the good it might do. I don't suppose you can write a scrip in Alabama."
"No, sir," she said. "I don't write prescriptions anywhere. I'm a forensic
pathologist. By the time people get to me, it's too late for medication."
That got a chuckle. "You did say you did autopsies, didn't you?" he said.
"I'll call in a scrip to the DrugRite pharmacy in Daphne. It's just up the
highway from where you're staying. Anyone else?"
"The lab tech here, and the medical examiner who did the first autopsy," she
said.
"There's no medical examiner in Baldwin County, Dr. Scully," he said. "Just an
elected coroner, and he got the job because he runs a funeral home. That
probably explains why your anthrax lesions got missed the first time."
"It would," she said, shortly. Like most professional medical examiners,
Scully had little use for the elected coroner system. This case was exactly

why. Coroners made mistakes, sometimes serious ones, that a forensic


pathologist would never make.
What other mistakes were made on these autopsies? Hope I don't have to exhume
all of them.
"I'll get Billy on the phone and tell him he screwed up again," Meister said,
referring to the coroner. "If you think of anyone else, let me know. Get
started on that Ciloxin. Five hundred milligrams BID, probably for 10 days."
"I'm allergic to Ciloxin, sir," she said. "Better make it Vibramycin."
"You're the doctor," Meister said. "Keep me posted."
"I will, sir," she said, and thumbed the off switch, punched in the two-number
code for Mulder's cellphone.
It rang 10 times before she gave up.
~~~~~
DrugRite Pharmacy
11:25 a.m.
"May I help you?" the pharmacy attendant asked.
"Yes, I'm here to pick up a prescription for Scully, Dana Scully," Scully
said.
The woman turned away, started shuffling through a stack of white paper bags,
all stapled at the top. "Here it is," she said. "Doxycycline. Do you need to
talk to the pharmacist?"
"No," Scully said. "That won't be necessary." She handed the woman her credit
card.
"You know, it's funny, you coming in here for this," the woman said, ringing
up the sale. "This is the second bottle of this stuff I've dispensed today,
and we almost never sell this much of it."
"The second one today?" Scully repeated, slowly. She took her card back,
signed the sales slip. "How many do you usually have?"
"Oh, you know, they come in here all the time," the woman said. "But usually
they just want one or two pills. It's for ... "

"Gonorrhea," Scully interrupted. "I know. But that's a one-pill treatment. You
said you've had other people coming in to get bottles of it? Who was the
prescribing physician?"
"I'm ... I probably wasn't supposed to say what I just did," the woman said,
and she was clearly getting nervous. She knew Scully wasn't just chatting her
up anymore; she was interrogating her.
Once again, I am screwing things up, Scully thought. I need to be calm, like I
used to be, be a nice, friendly cop. But no, I just lit right into her, and
now she's on her guard. I won't get anything more from her. But I've got to
try.
Scully reached into her coat pocket, took out her credentials. "I'm with the
FBI," she said. "We're investigating a case that could be linked to this
antibiotic use. Now, if you know anything that can help me, I would appreciate
your telling me."
"We can't help you," came a male voice from behind the counter. It was the
pharmacist. "If you are from the FBI, then you know that patient records are
confidential, so unless you have a subpoena ... "
"No, I don't," Scully said. "Although I can easily get a search warrant. But
I'm not asking you to tell me who got these drugs. All I'm asking whether
you've filled an unusual number of prescriptions for doxycycline or
ciprofloxacin."
The man thought for a minute. "I don't see the harm in that," he said. "Yes,
we have, in both. I had mentioned it to the store manager. But that's all I
can tell you unless you come back with some blue-backed paper."
"I can promise you that I will," Scully said. She stuffed the bag into her
pocket and left.
~~~~~
Daphne Municipal Building
2:04 p.m.
"Hey, Agent Mulder," Mack called out. "You see this thing in the paper?"
"What thing, Mack?" Mulder responded, not really listening.
"This thing about this profiler being in Mobile," Mack said. "You know him?"

Mulder looked up, sharply. "What profiler?"


Mack folded the newspaper section, handed it to him. "Right there at the top
of the page," he said. "Fourth paragraph."
The story was headlined "Rape Prevention Week set."
"Law-enforcement training will be held at noon today at the Downtown Motor
Inn, 301 Government St. Jackson Resnik, a former FBI profiler, will discuss
the different types of rapists and how police investigators can better
identify them."
"Jack Resnik's in town?" Mulder said, genuinely surprised.
"You do know him?"
"Yeah, he was one of the best," Mulder said, handing the newspaper back. "He
quit a few years ago. Burned out. It happens a lot."
"Don't I know it," Mack said. "Maybe you oughta run over and say hi."
"Maybe I ought to go say a lot more than that," Mulder said slowly. He rose,
picked up his coat. "Call me on my cell phone if anything happens. I'm going
to go see how Jack's book sales are going."
~~~~~
Downtown Motor Inn
2:43 p.m.
The room was full of cops, some looking bored, some intensely interested, most
of them somewhere in between.
Mulder slipped in through a side door, sat down as unobtrusively as possible.
Resnik was at the podium, apparently near the end of his presentation. He was
taking questions from the floor.
"I don't see what criminal profiling can do for investigations that good, hard
police work won't do," a local detective was saying.
"You're right, detective," Resnik said. "Profiling cannot and should not take
the place of investigative work. The cases solved are not done by profiling or
profilers ... they are solved by investigators who are working exhaustively
using all resources available to them. A good profile is one of those
resources. Yes, in the back there," he said, indicating another questioner.

"Mr. Resnik, you talked about the agitation phase in serial violence," the cop
asked. "Are there any signs to look for in an individual that would indicate
he was in this phase?"
"Well, generalized agitation, if that's not begging the question," Resnik
said, and some of the cops laughed.
Resnik was handling the crowd with his usual aplomb, Mulder thought, shifting
restlessly in his chair. He hoped this wouldn't go on for too long.
" ... the main difference being that the agitation in spree crimes comes
afterward," Resnik was saying. "Yes, on the front row, the plainclothes
officer ... "
Then he saw Mulder, and stopped, mid-sentence.
Mulder felt himself being sized up, shrewdly.
And saw that Resnik had reached the right conclusion.
"Let's make this the last question," Resnik said.
The question, fortunately, was the rough equivalent of a hanging curve ball,
and Resnik knocked it out of the park, Mulder thought, but then Resnik always
was good at this stuff.
The talk wrapped up, and Mulder rose and moved to the back of the room. He
caught a few inquisitive, wary glances from the local officers who, like cops
everywhere, assessed all new arrivals in their world with one question: What
kind of threat does this person pose to me?
He didn't bother trying to make contact or reassure them. To cops, other cops
smell of the job, even when they're not on duty. He knew they would size him
up as a fellow officer in no time flat, and they would also know he wanted to
be left alone.
When the crowd thinned, Mulder made his way forward to the podium, where
Resnik was talking to a plainclothes officer. He stopped as Mulder approached.
"There's the guy you ought to ask about profiling," Resnik said, extending his
hand. "Hello, Mulder. Long time, etc."
"Jack," Mulder said, shaking his hand. "You got a few minutes?"
Resnik nodded his head, slowly. "Let's go get some coffee," he said. "You're

buying."
~~~~~
Downtown Motor Inn restaurant
3:12 p.m.
"All right, you've had your coffee, we've yakked about old times, and you gave
me the scoop on how you put Bill Patterson away for life, which is still
almost impossible to believe," Resnik said. "Now tell me why you're here."
"Working a spree killer," Mulder said, toying with his empty coffee cup. "I'm
pretty sure it's a spree, anyway; no sexual assaults, no real ritual to the
killings, just several slugs from a .38 in what otherwise look like
opportunistic crimes."
"And this is here in Mobile?"
"Across Mobile Bay, little town called Daphne," Mulder said. "I'm close, Jack.
I'm so close I can smell this guy. But I can't make the picture come clear.
And he's not through yet."
"Tell me what you know," Resnik said, pushing back in his chair.
Mulder quickly outlined the facts that Scully had given him that first night,
along with a few others he had picked up while studying the files.
"This killer is almost certainly whacko -- paranoid, delusional but still
functional at some level," he said. "For one thing, he seems to have a lot of
guns."
Resnik nodded. "I'd be willing to bet there are more he hasn't used yet."
"Yeah, that was my thought, too," Mulder said, still looking into the empty
cup. "When you're paranoid, you can never have too many guns."
"Or killer dogs."
"Yeah. Rottweilers are popular around here."
"Does he have a car?"
"No question," Mulder said, looking up for the first time. "He had to get from
Daphne to Florida, and on his own timetable, so he had to be able to drive."

"So he's got a driver's license and a job," Resnik said.


"Maybe not," Mulder said, slowly, thinking hard. "That's what it would mean in
any other state in the Union. This is Alabama; you get caught driving without
a license, you don't go to jail, you just get a ticket."
"Jesus," Resnik said. "I've never heard of anything like that."
"Me either. The cops don't like it, but they can't do anything about it. They
tell me that on an average night, half the drivers they pull over don't hold a
valid license."
"Bad shit," Resnik said. "So he doesn't have to have a license. He still needs
a car."
"Not much of one," Mulder said. "There's no vehicle inspection law and no
mandatory insurance in this state, either. He could be driving a car that
would be junked or impounded anywhere else."
Resnik nodded slowly. "That complicates things, but the guy still needs a job
to have any kind of car at all, even a clunker."
"But it could easily be a menial job, part time at minimum wage," Mulder said.
"A gas station, convenience store, maybe. That's where he tends to seek his
victims."
Resnik nodded his agreement. "Okay. So he's got a lousy, good-for-nothing job
and a junk-heap car. What's he look like? Black or white?"
Mulder put down the cup, laced his fingers together. "I don't know. Not
clearly. I think he's black, but I'm not sure. His victims are of both races."
"The first one was ... ?"
"Black," Mulder said.
"Okay," Resnik said. "Let's try this on: If I'm the killer, and I'm
comfortable taking a black man as my first victim, then I'm probably a black
man, too, which means I'm probably the guy your witnesses described. And I
live fairly close to the crime scene, or I wouldn't go out there in broad
daylight to commit my first murder. I would have had some excuse to be in that
area."
"Either you live there or you work there," Mulder corrected him. "You agree
this UNSUB is about 25 years old?"

"Absolutely," Resnik said. "He's paranoid, and he's just come on the scene.
The data on that are unequivocal. What do you see regarding his build?"
"Short," Mulder said. "He feels small, so he gets a gun to protect himself,
and then his paranoia takes over and he buys more."
"Does that match your witness descriptions?"
"One of them," Mulder said with a grimace. "Not the others. They could all be
mistaken, too; this is the South, where almost half the population is black.
Could have been anyone."
"What about the timing?" Resnik asked.
"That's another place where I can't put it together, Jack," Mulder said. "I
expected the UNSUB to feel more comfortable at night and in the darkness. Yet
the first crime -- the one we both presume happened close to his home -- was
committed in the afternoon. The next two were done late at night or in the
early morning hours. It took until the fourth crime for him to be bold enough
to go out again in broad daylight."
"Maybe the first one was a crime of opportunity," Resnik said. "He wanted to
do more, but he was worried about being caught, so he started going out at
night. He's worked out his plan pretty well."
"There's something else here, something I'm not seeing," Mulder said. He sat
back, shoved his hands deep into his pockets.
"Let's get back to what you are seeing," Resnik said. "He's got a car.
Probably dark in color."
"Yeah, assuming he's going to stick with night killings," Mulder said.
"Otherwise, I don't know. But he probably dresses in dark colors all the
time."
"Sure. Doesn't want to draw attention," Resnik said. "But he's strange enough,
probably, that people notice him anyway."
Mulder shook his head, sat forward again. "Not really," he said. "The people
he works with no doubt find him strange, but I don't see this UNSUB as the
town nutcase. Daphne's a small town; someone would have told us, or the
locals, to check out Old Weird Willie, if there were one in town. He's
probably passing unnoticed most of the time."
"Which also means if he's been arrested ... "

"It wasn't for anything big."


"Just big enough to keep him from getting a badge," Resnik said, with an
ironical lift of his eyebrows.
"Don't get me started," Mulder said, with a short laugh. "But yeah, I've got
this one figured as a police buff, scanner in the house, big dogs, the whole
ball of wax."
"So you think he's been arrested for ... ?"
"Assault, at most," Mulder said. "DWI. Petty theft. Maybe done some time in a
mental institution, local jail. No prison."
Resnik thought for a minute. "Look for someone who's assaulted a police
officer, probably in the past two years," he said, reflectively.
"Why?"
"Your UNSUB sounds to me like someone who resists authority," Resnik said. "He
overreacts, overcompensates for everything."
Mulder nodded, slowly. "Yeah," he said, studying his hands. "I think you could
categorize pumping bullets into everyone he sees at each of his holdups as
overcompensating. There's just one problem, Jack."
"What's that?"
Mulder looked up. "Why does he drive all the way to Florida, when his other
victims have been so close to his home? Is he spreading out, or is that one
really unrelated? The Florida killing throws a monkey wrench into the whole
profile."
He sat back again, looking out the window.
"There's still something here that doesn't fit," he said. "And we're running
out of time."
Resnik looked at him for a moment, almost pityingly. "You know what you've got
to do then," he said, flatly.
"Yeah," Mulder said. "I know."
Resnik stood, offered Mulder his hand, gripped his old friend's hand firmly.
"Good luck, buddy," he said. "By the end of this one, I think you'll know why

I finally got the hell out of the Bureau."


"By the end of this one," Mulder said, slowly, "I may follow you."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This hour I tell things in confidence,
I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you.
-- Walt Whitman
Chapter 11

Daphne Municipal Building


8:09 p.m.

The police building was nearly deserted when Scully returned. She soon found
out why: Most of the available officers, along with a few borrowed from
neighboring jurisdictions, were out looking for someone who fit Mulder's
preliminary profile.
That was the kind of news she would just as soon not bring him. It was a
profiler's worst nightmare: Officers going out confidently to find a suspect
who fit the profile, when the profile itself was all too apt to be wrong, or
at least incomplete.
A cop might walk right past the killer without a second glance if the profile
didn't seem to point that way.
And they wondered why profilers don't last long, she thought, shaking her head
as she entered Room 12, where -- sure enough -- she found Mack reading over
Mulder's reports.
"Is Agent Mulder here?" she asked.
"No, ma'am," Mack said. "You all right, Agent Scully?"
She shook her head. "I'm fine. I just need to talk to Agent Mulder."
"I'm guessing he's probably in the same place he was last night," Mack said,
slowly. "But you said it wasn't a good idea to bother him, and I kinda think
you were right, if you don't mind my saying so. He looked kinda out of it, if
you know what I mean."

"How long ago did you see him?" Scully asked, casually. She'd heard the
warning, all right, but Mack just didn't realize that it didn't apply to her.
So, of course, she ignored it.
"Not more'n an hour ago," Mack said.
Scully nodded. "All right. I'm going to go talk to him for a few minutes, and
then we may need to confer about what I've found today."
"Agent Scully," Mack said, then hesitated. "Ma'am, I don't mean to interfere,
and it ain't up to me to tell the Feds how to run an investigation like this
one, and it sure ain't up to me to tell you how to deal with your partner."
He got up, stood before her. "But ma'am, I gotta tell you, men ain't like
women. Women always want to talk things out. Men generally just want to be
left alone. And I think Agent Mulder wants us to let him alone until he's
finished doing what he has to do."
"Officer Mack, I appreciate your advice," she said. "Really, I do. But this
isn't just a matter of wanting to talk to Mulder. I have to talk to Mulder."
"Miss Scully, sorry, Agent Scully," Mack said. "Your partner was right. I did
have SWAT training. At Quantico. And while I was there, I got to know some of
the folks you work with now. One thing they always told me about profilers is
they sometimes turn into the people they're chasing. I would hate like hell
for anything bad to happen to you, or to Agent Mulder. If he's like they said
he'd be, he's dangerous right now."
"Not to me," she said, with complete assurance. "Never to me. He may be a
little annoyed at first, but he won't hurt me."
"No, ma'am, he won't," Mack said, shaking his head once in agreement. "But
that don't mean you won't wind up gettin' hurt anyway."
~~~~~
Mullet Point, Alabama
9:59 p.m.
He could find this killer. He knew it. But to do that, he would have to turn
inward, using the evidence, making himself face his own pain, his own rage, to
find this killer's reasons, think his thoughts, feel his motives.
It was a disgusting process.

But he would do it. He had to.


He could feel it all beginning: the fury, the stupid cunning, the paranoid
fantasies. He could feel the weight of the gun in his hand, the cold metal,
the resistance of the trigger against his finger, the final, orgasmic release
of firing, the deafening, explosive sound, the gun kicking back in his hand,
the smoke and the smell of cordite everywhere, and the blood, and the dying
...
He knew it all entirely too well.
But the final key wasn't there, the connection that would let him identify
with the UNSUB so well that he would finally be able to see him clearly, to
predict his next move, to hunt him down.
Why?
Why is he so angry? Why does he need to kill, why does he enjoy the kill so
much?
Okay, it's showtime. Ask yourself the same questions: Why do you like it,
Mulder?
You do, don't you? You know all you need to know about how this UNSUB feels,
you lousy bastard. You just don't know how he thinks yet.
Why the fuck can't I figure out this guy's motives?
He buried his face in his hands.
Mulder didn't even hear the car pull up in the parking lot behind him; the
soft female voice barely registered. She was telling someone to wait for her
in the parking area across the highway.
The car's headlights were bright, and they were distracting him, but they were
soon cut off. If he stayed still, whoever it was might not even notice he was
here; if they did, they'd leave him alone.
People tended to do that when they saw the gun.
He heard the footsteps behind him, coming closer, stopping about 10 feet away,
and he jumped to his feet, hand on his weapon.
"Mulder?" came the soft voice. "Mulder, it's me."

He let out an angry sigh, sank back down and resumed his earlier position,
hiding his eyes. "Don't sneak up on me like that, Scully," he said. "I almost
shot you. Go back to the hotel."
"No." She came forward, slowly, until she was standing beside him. "I'll go
back, Mulder, but not until I've told you what I found out today, and not
until I know you're all right."
"Is that what you came here for?" he asked, raising his head and turning to
look at her. "Because if you did, the answer is yes, I'm fine, but I'm working
and you really ought to leave now."
He could feel her hesitate, and for a brief instant thought she might actually
leave. For an even briefer instant, he wanted to clutch at her, make her stay,
in spite of the danger to her.
"Mulder," she said. "You need to hear this. I'll only be a minute, I promise,
and then if you still want me to, I'll leave. Just a few minutes, I promise."
He didn't answer. Sighing heavily, Scully sat down next to him, laid a gentle
hand on his shoulder. "Mulder," she whispered. "Please talk to me."
"I can't," he said, hoarsely, shrugging her hand away. "Not now."
"Mulder, please," she said, letting her hand fall into her lap. "You haven't
slept for days. I know what this does to you."
"Then you know why you need to leave," he said, irritably. "It's only going to
get worse. I do not want to hurt you, Scully. Let me do what I have to do."
There was a long silence, broken only by the sounds of the crickets and the
waves.
"Mulder," she began, but he cut her off.
"Scully, I'm asking you, I'm begging you, please, just go away," Mulder said.
"Just for now. Not forever. I can't do this with you around."
No, you can't, she thought, nettled, but I'll be damned if I'm backing off
now. Just once, Mulder, I want to be the one who says whether you stay or you
go -- or I do.
"Mulder, I don't give a damn whether you want me here or not," she said,
sharply. "Nivek had anthrax. That's pretty well confirmed. And that's not
all."

He looked up at her, startled. "Shit."


"Indeed," she said, arching one eyebrow. "And it is incredibly deadly, as you
know. I've been vaccinated, and I took all the proper precautions during the
PM, but the Mobile health officer ordered me to take prophylactic antibiotics
anyway -- and no jokes, please."
He gave a short laugh. "I wasn't even thinking of any. That should tell you
where I am right now. Please, go ahead."
"All right," she said.
scrip. The clerk there
today. I tried to find
me to come back with a
warrant."

"I went to the pharmacy near our hotel and got the
told me they'd filled another scrip for the same drug
out more, but she clammed up, and the pharmacist told
subpoena. I told them I was going for a search

"Which you can do easily enough," he said. "You don't need me to do that. You
just need a judge."
"Oh, and haven't we had _this_ discussion before," she said, curtly, then
stopped as she saw the insult hit home, saw Mulder wince as he accepted the
blame she was assigning him.
Sure, hit him again, Dana. You call yourself a fighter? He's still conscious;
you can hurt him worse than that, she thought, angrily.
For God's sake, can't I go just one night without hurting him?
She laid one hand on his shoulder, forced herself to speak more softly.
"Mulder, I'm sorry," she said.
He reached up and covered her hand with his own. "It's all right," he said,
but with little inflection. "I had it coming."
"No, you didn't," she said, and sighed. "That was uncalled for. I didn't come
here to argue, just to tell you that there's still very much of a mystery
about this case. But this one is at least as dangerous as your UNSUB."
"That's an understatement," he said. "It's much more dangerous. But Nivek,
infected or no, should be a victim chosen nearly at random. I don't see how
his having anthrax feeds into this at all."
"Mulder, I don't know," she said. She let her shoulders relax, sighed, and
looked out over the dark waters of the bay. "Maybe it doesn't. But I know if I
were the one trying to piece this case together, I'd want to know it. I
thought you might, too."

"I do," he said, and she felt his fingers lace through hers. "But it makes it
hard to think the way I need to think when I keep breaking my concentration to
talk to you. I know why you need to talk to me; I just don't know how to do
that and do what I need to do, too."
Scully said nothing, but her fingers curled tightly around his, the pressure
telling him how desperately she had wanted the contact.
"Scully," he said, quietly. "If I could find this guy just by simple deduction
-- what kind of car he drives, how old he is -- I'd do it. I'd give anything
to be able to do it that way. But it's not going to work this time, and I'm
going to have to be alone with him, in my own head. You know that."
"I know it," she said, faintly. "I just don't know how else to do what I have
to do, either. I'm trying to do this on my own, but I don't trust my judgment.
I haven't dealt with this before; I have next to no experience with domestic
terror. All I know how to do is autopsies, X Files and forensic analysis."
He hesitated, and Scully saw again that look he'd had before, the look that
meant he wanted to say more.
Only this time, it seemed, he would say it -- or some of it.
"Are you sure that's why you're having a hard time with this?" he said,
slowly, as though the words were being pulled out of him one by one. "There
could be another reason."
"Of course I'm sure," she said, impatiently, pulling her hand away. "What
other reason could there be?"
"I thought you might tell me," Mulder said, mildly.
"Drop it, Mulder," she said, shortly. "I'm not here for psychological
treatment. I'm here to talk to you about the case, which you clearly don't
have time to talk about, so it's hard to imagine you have time for some
amateur attempt at psychoanalysis."
There was a long silence. She thought she might have angered him again -- God
knows, she'd lobbed enough insults at him lately -- but Mulder reached for her
hand again, brought it to his lips for a soft, sweet kiss, then held it gently
between his own hands.
"There's no good solution to this problem, is there?" he said, giving her hand
a gentle squeeze.
"No," she said, and realized when she spoke that, once again, she was near
tears. She kept her hold on his hand. "No, there's not."

For a long while they sat together, not talking, looking out over the water. A
huge pelican flew overhead, his broad wingspan outlined by the moonlight; she
could hear the crickets chirping away in the nearby woods. The moon moved
further over the bay, casting its pale light deeper into the surrounding
woods.
As she drank in the scene, Scully felt some of the tension leave her. Without
thinking, she spoke. "I love the water," she said, in a faraway voice. "It
reminds me so much of my childhood."
"Where in your childhood?" Mulder asked, in a nearly normal tone.
She shrugged. "Anywhere. Everywhere. Every naval base we ever lived on. But
you grew up on an island, Mulder; you must know what it's like."
"It's different for me," he said. "My father wasn't at sea. The water was just
someplace to go swimming or sailing. No mystery in the deep."
"There's more than enough mystery on dry land," she said, in a soft whisper,
then turned to look at him. "I'm sorry for disturbing you. I'm going to leave
you alone now. Officer Mack said he would take me to get the warrant. I'll let
you know what we find."
She got up, squeezed his hand again, but he rose and took her in his arms,
kissed her softly, briefly. She smiled, and laid her head fleetingly against
him, then stepped back.
"I'll see you in the morning," she said. He nodded, and she left him there,
walked back to the car.
Mulder stood there, watching, until the headlights faded and all was dark
around him again.
The thing you thought you had buried alive will someday be awakened, he
thought. It will rise from the grave and come after you, like the monsters in
your childhood nightmares.
He knew all too well now what was awakening inside her; if, he thought grimly,
it was ever asleep. She was almost there now, half-remembering,
half-forgetting, desperately pulling him closer, furiously pushing him away.
And he knew this could go on no longer. He couldn't allow it.
No, not if it meant the goddamned UNSUB shot up a shopping mall and killed
half the population of Alabama by this time tomorrow.

His shoulders slumped. Whoever you are out there, he thought, I'm sorry; but
you sure as shit may get killed in the next day or so, and it will be my fault
because I didn't find this guy.
Someone out there is counting on me, and someone is about to be severely -maybe fatally -- disappointed. And I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. But my
attention is about to turn elsewhere.
I'm a lousy excuse for an agent. I'm a lousy excuse for a human being. But the
truth is that I would rather let you die than to fail her again.
~~~~~
The Pembroke Inn
Thursday, March 4
1:02 a.m.

It took about two hours, an ugly scene with a pissed-off judge and an even
uglier scene with the pharmacist, who clearly didn't like it when Scully
showed up with a search warrant just as he was closing the doors.
But now, she was seated at a table in her hotel room and the records were
right there in front of her. And it was worth it. As far as Scully was
concerned, there could no longer be any question about their relevance to this
case.
Three people, including Scully herself, had obtained prescriptions for the
anti-anthrax drugs in the past two weeks from the Daphne drug store.
One of those was Jonathan Stouffer. Victim number six, the man shot to death
in a Florida electronics store. The prescription had been filled on the
morning of the day Stouffer was shot.
The other was Mark Long, according to the files, and he lived in Daphne. She
had already started running the various computer checks on him.
Stouffer's body had not been examined internally; the autopsy report noted the
family's religious objections. Still, the Escambia County, Fla., medical
examiner had done a thorough job on the external examination and there was no
report of anthrax lesions anywhere on Stouffer's skin.
Scully propped her elbows on the table, pressing her fingers hard against her
throbbing temples. Mulder needed to know this, she thought, but she didn't
know where Mulder was. He wasn't answering his cell phone, and she wasn't
about to knock on his door and risk Glassman's answering.
Mack had driven her past Mullet Point after she got the documents, but Mulder

wasn't there, either.


That was about as far as she was prepared to go in looking for him, given his
current state of mind. And hers. But she needed to tell him. Not being able to
talk to him, not having him around, was making her irritable and anxious.
Leave it until morning, she thought. You've got to sleep sometime.
Wearily, she got up, stripping off her somber work clothes as she walked
toward the bathroom. She turned on the shower full blast, as hot as she could
stand, then got in and stood there, letting the water run over her head and
down her body until she felt lightheaded. Only then did she shampoo her hair
and wash herself, then stood there again under the water so long that she
began to feel guilty about wasting it.
She turned off the water and stepped out, dried off and wrapped herself in her
soft cotton bathrobe. She started to put on her usual blue satin pajamas, but
changed her mind; she was still steamy from the shower, and the humidity was
high outside. Instead, she put on one of her own cotton T-shirts and a pair of
lightweight cotton shorts.
The heat had driven her headache away, as she knew it would, but she took an
aspirin anyway, reasoning that it couldn't hurt and might help prevent another
one. Oh, there's a professional attitude, Dana, she thought. Taking medicine
you don't need. You are losing it.
She climbed into bed, put on her reading glasses, tucked her gun under the
pillows on the other side of the bed and began looking over the pharmacy
reports again.
Two men, both killed by an apparently random killer. One victim had anthrax,
the other had been taking medicine to prevent anthrax infection. One in
Alabama, the other across the state line in Florida.
Where was the connection? Did they know each other? Did someone else, a third
party -- besides the killer, she thought -- know them both?
That the anthrax spelled danger, she did not doubt. Mulder was right; Mobile
was a fine place to ship things into and out of and then on to the rest of the
nation. It was a logical place for a terrorist staging point; less guarded
than some ports, more accessible than others, its only military presence a
Coast Guard search and rescue outfit. The Navy and the Air Force had pulled
out a long time ago.
All right. Let's accept that there's terrorist activity going on, and that
Mobile plays a part in it. What possible part could a paranoid killer play in
it, other than to strike unpredictably like lightning?
A loud knock on the door shocked her from her musings, and she gasped. She

took her gun from under the pillow, kept it in her hand as she approached the
door.
"Who's there?" she said, in her command voice.
"Scully, it's me," came Mulder's voice. "Can I come in, please?"
"Mulder?" She looked through the peephole. It was him. "Just a minute,
Mulder."
She opened the door. "Come on in," she said. "I thought you wanted me to leave
you alone. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Knock it off, Scully," Mulder said, tiredly. "We've got some things to
discuss. Did you get your search warrant?"
"Yes," she said, a bit defensively, he thought. "And I found something. Victim
number six, Jonathan Stouffer, was taking doxycycline in the same dose that I
am, a dose consistent with what would be prescribed in an attempt to prevent
anthrax, post-exposure."
Mulder let out a long, low whistle. "Maybe that's the connection," he said.
"Good work, Scully."
"What's the connection?" she demanded, puzzled. "I can't see any connection at
all."
"The reason I can't find a connection between the victims is that there isn't
one, not from the UNSUB's own point of view," Mulder said. "Whoever he may be,
our killer has been led to see two seemingly unrelated people as a danger to
himself -- two people who may both have been exposed to anthrax." He stopped,
looking at Scully as though seeing her for the first time. "Do you always
answer the door with a loaded gun in your hand?"
"Not always," she said, defensively. She put the gun down on the bedside table
but without uncocking it, Mulder noticed.
Yeah, he thought. I was right: I do know what's wrong with you. Turning his
back to her, he picked up the weapon and thumbed the uncocking lever as
quietly as he could, then slid open the drawer and put the gun inside.
Oh, God, Scully, why did I ever leave you to face this alone?
Take it slowly, Mulder. Don't rush her. This is going to be rough enough
without that.

"May I sit down?" he said, gesturing toward a chair.


"Please," Scully said. She sat on the bed. "Are you suggesting that the UNSUB
has been used as some sort of psychopathic hit man?"
"He's not psychopathic, he's psychotic, and that is exactly what I'm
suggesting," Mulder said, as he flopped down in the chair. He rubbed his eyes,
combed his hair back with both hands, before continuing.
"There's really no other explanation for the Florida victims, Scully," he
said, slowly, leaning toward her. "They just don't fit: They weren't in a
convenience store or gas station, and they were, let us not forget, in
Florida. That's not our UNSUB's preferred type of victim, and it doesn't make
much sense, even allowing for the fact that spree killers aren't as choosy
about who they kill as serial killers are."
"And that tells you what?"
"That either this is pure coincidence -- which I don't believe, and I don't
think you do either -- or someone intended that he should kill them and make
it look like part of his spree, or they are in fact not part of the spree. But
all the evidence says they are."
"And what about the anthrax?"
He shrugged, not dismissively, but in a way that indicated he was still
unsure. "All I know is that the anthrax is the link. What the link means, I'm
not sure. Maybe one or both of these victims was involved in terrorist
activity, although in Mr. Nivek's case I think that's unlikely. But it's
always possible he had knowledge of things he shouldn't."
"Mulder," she said, getting up, "Glassman already thinks we're nuts for
pursuing this the way we are." She walked over to the table, sat in the chair
opposite his. "He's going to have apoplexy if we give him this theory now. I
wouldn't be surprised if he ordered me back to Quantico right away."
"I'm not going to let him do that," Mulder said, simply. "You've got to be
here. This just went beyond a spree killing, all the way to a bacteriological
hazard."
"Anti-terrorism is not VICAP's primary objective, as you well know," Scully
said, peevishly. "If this is a terrorist threat, we should call for help from
someone trained in anti-terrorism, or if you think the threat is imminent,
call CIRG."
CIRG stood for Critical Incident Response Group, the striking arm of the FBI's
criminal investigations. CIRG encompassed almost everything VICAP did, along
with SWAT teams and hostage-negotiation and rescue teams scattered around the
country for rapid response. CIRG agents could be almost anywhere in the nation

within hours.
"We're nowhere near that point," Mulder said. "At this point, we can't prove
anything beyond a spree killer in Daphne and one man with anthrax. I'm not
downplaying the seriousness of it, but the form of anthrax that this man had
is just not the form you would expect to see in a terrorist attack."
Scully was silent.
"Scully?"
"No," she said, shortly. "It's not. I would expect to see anthrax in the
lungs."
"Which Mr. Stouffer may have had," Mulder said. "Without an internal exam, you
couldn't say, could you?"
She shook her head.
"So do we exhume Mr. Stouffer, too?"
She grimaced. "I'd rather not. But the reason there was no internal exam in
the first place was that the family's religion forbids it, according to the
ME. I have no idea what religion that might be, but I doubt they're going to
acquiesce easily in an exhumation for the purpose of autopsy at this point,
and frankly, the longer we delay, the less I want to do it."
"But you will do it, if that's what it takes," he said, and his voice was
gentler than it had been. "And I know I make jokes about it, but I admire you
for that, Scully. Honestly. I couldn't do it, myself."
That brought a lump to her throat again, and she turned her head away, her
tongue darting out nervously to wet her lips.
Mulder saw it.
"I'm sorry," he said, rising. "I'm upsetting you again."
"No," she said, quickly. "I'm upset. I won't deny it. But it's just -- you
know, exhumations. I hate them. I can talk about the case. Really."
"Can you?"
"Yes, I can," she said, a trace of irritation in her voice. "I am perfectly
fine. Just a little tired."

He walked over to her, slowly, sat down on the bed next to her, and took her
hand in both of his.
"What is it you're tired of, Dana?" he said, very quietly.
"Of being like this," she whispered, without thinking; Mulder's gentle,
unexpected question had caught her off-guard.
"Of being like what?"
"You mean you haven't noticed?" she asked, her voice beginning to quiver.
"Maybe. But I want to know what you think it is."
"It's -- it's nothing, Mulder. I'm fine. Just a little tired, that's all." Her
guard was back up. "Drop the Spooky psychologist routine, okay?" she said,
coldly. "I'm fine."
He watched her for a minute, then stood up. He unholstered his gun, walked to
the dresser and laid it down, then returned to sit next to her, once more
taking her hand in his.
"I think, Scully," he said, slowly, "that you and I are overdue for some
truth-telling. I'm as close to this UNSUB as I'm ever going to be, but it's
not close enough. I can't get any deeper, and part of the reason for that is
that you keep pulling me back."
"How am I pulling you back?" she asked in annoyance, tossing her head back.
"You keep saying that I'm doing that. How am I doing that?"
"By needing me," he said, simply. "Partly by doing what you've always done so
well, calming me, helping me be rational again, because that's how you need me
to be right now so I can help you with your part of this investigation. But
that's the problem: To get inside this guy's head, I can't be calm and
rational. I have to think the way he does, and he doesn't have anyone like you
in his life."
"Someone who messes up his mind?" she said, and he heard the catch in her
voice.
"I didn't say that," he said. "If my mind is messed up, it's my own fault.
I've worked exactly one homicide since December; it was a domestic, and about
the most amateurish attempt at a cover-up I've ever seen and it still took me
two hours to figure it out. But I'm the big BSU profiler, and no one in
Birmingham ever challenges anything I suggest, no matter how crazy it is, so I
don't have to think very hard these days. I've gotten soft, mentally."

"I'm sorry, I can't agree with you," she said, quietly. "I don't think it's as
bad as you're painting it. You're just rusty. You'll get back on track."
He shook his head. "No. That's not it. I've been through this before. I know
what's wrong with me, but I don't think you know what's wrong with you. You're
trying to keep me from seeing how unhappy you are, but it's not working."
"I'm not unhappy," she said, but she looked away from him as she said it.
"You said you were," he said. "The first night I was here, you told me you'd
never been so miserable in your life."
"I didn't really mean it; I was just tired, and I was angry at you," she said.
You never were a very good liar, Mulder thought, almost smiling. He shook his
head, forced himself back to his reason for being here. It's time to start
telling the truth, Scully, he thought, pityingly. But stay with me, baby,
please -- it'll hurt, but we'll get through it, I promise you.
He took a deep breath and plunged ahead.
"Scully," he said, forcing himself to be matter-of-fact, "if you're so okay,
why did you scream and push me away the other night?"
She whirled around to face him, and she was furious. "For Christ's sake,
Mulder," she snapped. "Are you going to keep bringing that up for the rest of
my life?"
"No," he said, still outwardly calm. "I'll stop when you're finally able to
face what caused it."
"Nothing caused it," she said, angrily. "I remember bad things sometimes. They
upset me."
"Yes, they do. And that's a new thing for you, Scully," he said. "You never
used to be like that."
"And what about what you never used to do before?" she said, pulling her hand
away. "I mean, let's not forget Donnie Pfaster. That case was hard on me, and
I was behaving unprofessionally, and I knew it, but you were kind, and
understanding, and I felt safe with you. Now you just badger me all the time
about nothing at all."
Her voice choked, and he reached for her to comfort her, but she jumped up and
flung herself into a chair near the window. She wouldn't look at him.

Mulder looked down at his hands. "I know I've been distant," he said. "Hell,
I've been zooming up and down faster than an Internet stock, trying to get
into this guy's head and getting close, but never really there; just close
enough to get a good look at the worst parts of myself."
He looked up at her. "It's unpleasant -- it's worse than unpleasant, it's
repulsive -- for you and for me. But it doesn't mean you're not safe with me,
Scully. Does it?"
It hurt to hear the sadness in his voice, the note of fear for what she might
say next.
"No," she said, and tears were welling up in her eyes. "I shouldn't have said
that. I've never felt anything but completely safe with you. But things are
all wrong this time; we haven't been able to connect well on any level since
we've been here. Not as friends, not as lovers, and not even as partners.
Every day since we started this case, it's been one step forward, two steps
back. And I can't stand it anymore."
With that, she broke down completely, sobbing into her hands. For a moment,
Mulder didn't move, but then he got up, sat on the arm of her chair and took
her into his arms. She stiffened, resisting his embrace, but he didn't let go,
and finally she gave in, pressed her face against his chest and cried hard,
wrapping her arms around his waist.
"Shh," he murmured. "It's okay. It's all right."
After a while, she quieted, but didn't move, just sat there holding him for
dear life. He stroked her hair, gently, lovingly.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"It's all right," he said. "That's what I'm here for."
"No, it's not," she said, almost angrily. "You're here to find a killer, and
instead you're having to protect me, to shore me up emotionally instead of
doing your job."
"That's not true," he said, still stroking her. "I would never have found out
what you have about the anthrax. And let's not forget that blood spot, which
may yet lead us to our UNSUB."
"It doesn't matter," she said, pulling away from him, wiping her eyes. He let
her go, but stayed where he was. "I'm working this case harder than I've
worked in a long time, but none of it makes any sense to me. I can't
understand it, I can't even begin to understand it."

"But you're still trying," he said, encouragingly. "You haven't given up."
"Only because it's your case and you care about it. Most of the time, I just
don't care about work, I don't care about medicine, I don't even really care
about the poor victims that we're supposedly doing it all for. I still care
about you," she said, looking up at him so he would see the truth in her eyes.
"But I've hurt you, and used you, and taken you away from your work. It might
be better for you if I didn't care."
"No, Scully," he said. He moved closer to her again, and traced his finger
briefly along the line of her jaw. "Never think that. Whatever may have gone
wrong between us is far more my fault than yours."
"You always blame yourself," she said, but she leaned her face into his hand.
"This time, you're wrong."
"Come here," he said, almost in a whisper, and pulled her back against his
chest, wrapped his arm around her shoulder. She gave a long, shuddering sigh
and relaxed against him.
"I need you on this case, Scully," he said, holding her closely. "There's
still so much we need to learn, things that I can't search for if I'm going to
get this profile done. You're the only one who can do that. What you said last
night was true; I need my partner, more now than ever."
"I'm here, Mulder," she said, with a sound that made him think she might be
crying again.
"You're here," he said, stroking her back. "And I'm here. But what's wrong
between us now means that we're not here. Not together, not as a team. You
tell me what you're doing, and it goes right over my head, and vice versa.
We're not connecting on this investigation. And I need that. But more than
that, I need you. Not just as a partner, but as my friend. As the woman I
love," he added, in a low voice. "I need you badly enough to risk hurting
you."
"I don't know what you mean," she said, but the way she was fidgeting in his
arms told Mulder a different story, and his heart went out to her. He knew
what she was feeling, all right; but having to admit it was going to half kill
her. She had always been so strong, so self-reliant.
"Scully, you've got to talk about it," he said. "I know it's upsetting, but
you have to. It's a basic principle of psychology: If you can't talk about
something without experiencing unduly negative emotions, then you haven't
processed the incident."
"That's a little too much psychologist crap, Mulder," she said, irritably.

"Sorry," he said, almost sheepishly. "Bad habit of mine." He grew serious


again. "But that doesn't change the fact that you're unhappy, and you're
afraid, and there's a reason for it that you know, but you can't deal with.
But you have to face it someday, Scully. We both do. I left you to face it
alone. The real truth behind all this is something that neither of us wants to
face."
"There's nothing to face," she said, jerking herself away from him.
"You know better than that," he said, letting his hands drop to his sides.
"You remember it, Scully, even if you try not to. I'm the king of repressed
memories, and I can promise you, they don't stay repressed forever. They tend
to burst out at inopportune times like those damn aliens in the Sigourney
Weaver movies."
"Are you saying that you know of something that I need to remember?" she
asked, her voice dropping to a shaky whisper.
"I know," he said, gently. "But you're the one who has to remember it. And you
do remember, even though I know you don't want to."
"I can't remember ... " she began, and then froze.
The bandages on his wrists.
The cold hands.
(However long it takes, that two-faced son of a bitch is mine.)
That's far enough, her brain shrieked, and the memories stopped coming, but
Scully shuddered. She could almost feel what lurked behind the door she had
almost opened ...
"No," she said, abruptly. "I can't. I won't. Please don't make me."
"I'm not going to make you do anything," he whispered, sliding his hand into
her hair. "If you're not ready, then we'll drop it. But one day, you're going
to remember it all, whether you want to or not, and there may not be anyone
there with you when you do."
"There's nothing else I need to remember," she said, testily. She stood up and
folded her arms across her chest, her fingers digging into her upper arms.
"You don't get it, Mulder. What I need to do is forget; I remember too much
already."
"You don't remember enough, Scully," he said. "Not consciously, anyway."

"No," she said, vehemently. "I had some dreams, bad dreams, and a
hallucination, while I was injured. It wasn't real." She turned her back to
him. "Mulder, I don't want to talk about this anymore," she whispered. "Let's
just get some sleep."
"Scully," he said, rising and taking a step toward her. "I know it's bad, but
you can't ignore it. It's only going to get worse if you do, and it's bad
enough already -- you're intensely depressed, and sometimes, you're almost out
of control."
"There is nothing to remember, nothing except my nightmares," she said,
firmly. She turned around, looked up at him. "Nightmares aren't memories.
People dream about all kinds of things that aren't real."
"No, but the emotions you experience in nightmares can be very real," he said.
"But I'm not going to push you any further. You get some sleep; I'll be next
door if you need me."
"I don't need anything," she said, her voice choking as she fought back the
tears. Of anger? Sadness? He couldn't tell.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"I'm fine, Mulder," she said, turning away. "I'm just tired, I'm just really,
really tired, okay? I'll see you in the morning."
"All right," he said. He paused, and bent toward her for a kiss, but she
shrank away from him, closing her eyes, and he stopped. He bowed his head in
resignation and turned away.
"Good night, Scully," he said.
She heard the door closing softly. When she looked up, he was gone.
She was alone.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Four years ago, while working on an assignment outside the FBI mainstream, I
was paired with Special Agent Dana Scully, who I believed was sent to spy on
me; to debunk my investigations into the paranormal. That Agent Scully did not
follow these orders is a testament to her integrity as an investigator, a
scientist, and a human being. She has paid dearly for this integrity." -- Fox
Mulder

"Redux II"
-- Chris Carter
Chapter 12

Scully walked down the darkened hallway of the hotel, holding her gun tightly
in her hand.
At each corner, she stopped, pointed the gun down the corridor and followed it
only when she was certain there was no one out there.
She stopped outside Mulder's room. The door was closed, but it opened easily
at her touch.
It was dark in there, and she could just barely make out Mulder's outline as
he slept, restlessly, in one of the two beds.
But he wasn't tossing and turning in his sleep, she noticed. He was tied up,
handcuffed and bound, and he was struggling to break free. Sweat was building
up on his face, running down in rivulets, mixing with the tears that fell from
his eyes.
He was trying to talk to her, but there was no sound, and she knew that if he
couldn't talk, couldn't tell her what was happening, he would die. It was a
medical fact, although she couldn't remember now where she'd learned it.
It was dark and damp in the room and Glassman was there, too, but not helping
her or Mulder. He was laughing, standing over the bed and laughing, and when
she turned to him to plead for his help, he swatted the gun from her hand,
sent it clattering to the floor.
"I told you," he said, but in a voice that belonged to someone else. "I told
you what I would do if you came here again."
And his face disappeared and he was the man, the faceless man, coming at her,
and she couldn't move, suddenly she was face down, bound and tied like Mulder,
but he was gone and the bed was gone and she was face down in the mud, she
couldn't breathe, and she was burning inside, pain like a thousand fiery
knives was lancing through her, they were burning her while she was still
alive, and she tried to scream but when she opened her throat the mud began to
rush in and slide down her throat, into her lungs and she was dying and
begging and she was screaming and screaming begging him to stop please stop
please please please ... ..
"Scully," someone said. "Baby, wake up, you're having a nightmare."

She heard a loud scream, and she sat bolt upright and lunged toward the night
stand, searching frantically for her weapon.
It wasn't there.
And then she felt a hand, gently pulling her back down to the bed, and she
knew who had moved her weapon out of reach.
Mulder.
He was sitting on the edge of the bed, one hand on her shoulder. He was
dressed in his T-shirt and sweatpants, the clothes he usually slept in; she
could see him clearly in the dim light that came through the opened connecting
door.
"Shh," he was saying, softly. "Scully, it's all right, you're awake now. It's
over."
"Over?" she repeated, still confused. "What's over?"
"The nightmare," he said, gently. "You were having a nightmare. But you're
awake now. It wasn't real."
A nightmare. God. Another one. She was perspiring, but she was cold, and
shaking all over. It wasn't real. It wasn't real. Was it?
"Was I screaming?" she whispered, still unable to believe she was alive. It
was hard to talk, anyway; she was breathing far too fast, gasping almost, and
her heart was pounding.
"Yeah, you could say that," he said, with a wry smile, as he wiped away the
tears she hadn't known were there. "But don't worry; Glassman didn't hear it.
He's not home yet."
She covered her face with her hands, shuddering. "It was so real," she
whispered. "It's always so real."
"I know," he said, stroking her hair. "They do seem real, don't they? It's
just about the worst part of all this."
"I'm so tired, Mulder," she whispered, looking up at him. "I can't sleep at
all anymore. I'm afraid to go back to sleep."
"Does that happen a lot?" he asked, quietly.

"All the time." She shook her head. "Every night. Sometimes two or three
times."
"Are you taking anything to help you sleep?"
"No. I don't want to get started with that."
"It might be a good idea, for a while, anyway."
"You don't," she said, looking at him. "You've had nightmares as long as I've
known you, and I've never known you to take soporifics."
"Sleeping pills, right, Dr. Scully?" he said, smiling a little. "No. I don't.
Not as a rule, anyway. But that doesn't mean you can't."
"Yes, it does," she said. "I won't. It's too dangerous."
"So is going without sleep," he said. "It can seriously affect your judgment.
You know that."
"I know," she said. She turned her head listlessly to one side. "I just ...
can't. I can't start with pills. I might never stop."
"Well ... you're the doctor," he said, but he wasn't teasing. His voice was
gentle, soothing. "Will it help if I stay here with you for a few minutes?"
She thought for a minute. "Yes."
"You want to talk?"
"No," she said, shaking her head. "I want to sleep. I'm tired of not
sleeping."
"So what do you want me to do?" he said. "I can't sing, so no lullabyes."
"Just stay here, just until I'm asleep," she said. "If I'm not asleep in 15
minutes, you can leave."
"I'll stay as long as you want me to," he said, quietly. "Try to sleep now."
She shook her head. "Lie down with me."

She heard his intake of breath, felt the indecision rolling off him in waves.
"Scully, I don't know ... " he began.
"Please?" she broke in. "I know I said horrible things to you earlier, and I
don't deserve to be forgiven, but I ... I really do feel safe when you hold
me."
"You didn't say anything horrible," he said, gently. "You were upset, that's
all."
"I'm still upset," she said. "And I need you to hold me for a minute. Please?"
"You really don't make this easy, do you?" he said, shaking his head, but he
was smiling just a little as he said it.
"No," she said, managing a small smile in return. "I don't want it to be
easy."
"You're succeeding," he said, but the smile faded, just a little. "All right.
I will. But just for a few minutes."
He got up, closed the connecting door and then climbed on the bed and lay down
beside her. She slid back toward him, nestling her body against his, spoon
fashion, and after a moment he put an arm over her, held her snugly against
him.
"Must've been a bad one," he said, just above a whisper. "Was it the same
one?"
"No," she said. She knew what he meant. "It was a little different this time.
Basically the same, though. Some things are always the same. The mud ... the
handcuffs ... some other things."
"That's what mine are usually like," he said, his hand gently stroking up and
down her arm. "Always the same thing, over and over."
"Samantha?" she whispered.
"And a few other things," he said. "It gets old, doesn't it? Reliving the same
bad things, night after night?"
"Very old," she whispered. She could feel the fear draining from her, ebbing
away with each word he said and each caress. "You feel so good," she said,
pressing closer to him.
"So do you," he said, moving his arm under hers, letting it rest on her waist.

"Go to sleep. You're safe. Nothing's going to happen to you tonight."


"Mulder?"
"Hmm?"
"I love you."
He held her tighter, kissed the warm place just behind her ear.
"I love you, too," he said. "Now go to sleep."
~~~~~
5:24 a.m.

He was gone when she woke up.


But there was a note on the pillow, the pillow that still smelled of him.
******
Scully -- don't be mad, you were sleeping so soundly I just couldn't bear to
wake you. Meet me for breakfast if you wake up in time. I have another idea of
what we should do today. I'll tell you about it when I see you.
P.S. I love you
~~~~~

Daphne Municipal Building


Thursday, March 4
6:35 a.m.

"Don't you people ever go home?" Mack said as he stuck his head in the door.
"What do you mean?" Mulder said, absently. "This is our home away from home."
He was in his usual position, tilted back in the chair, feet up, studying a
file.

"I don't want to visit your house, then, if this feels like home," Mack said,
plopping in the chair next to Mulder. "We heard from the CDC this morning."
At that, Scully came out into the room. "What did they say?" she said, pulling
off the latex exam gloves.
"They said they're coming down here, today," Mack said. "They'll be here this
afternoon. You were right, Agent Scully. This one's got them spooked."
"Happens to me all the time," Mulder said, still not paying much attention.
"Here it is, Scully. Stouffer lived in west Mobile. That's the pricey part of
the city, apparently." He stood up, picked up his jacket. "I'll give you a
ride."
"Mulder, you don't have to go," she said. "I'm just going to seek the family's
permission for an exhumation and autopsy."
"I do, too, have to go," he said. "I have to find out why this victim is
different from all the other victims."
~~~~~
Stouffer residence
Mobile, Alabama
7:07 a.m.

"That's odd," Scully said as Mulder pulled up near the Stouffers'


expensive-looking suburban home.
"What's odd?" he asked, as he stopped the car and cut the ignition.
"Just look," she said. "It's seven o'clock in the morning and there must be a
dozen cars in front of this house. The funeral was days ago."
Mulder gnawed his lip for a moment. "I think I might know why," he said,
reflectively.
"Why?"
"You'll know when we get inside," he said. "You've seen it before."
"Now you're scaring me," she said, dubiously. "Is this some sort of cult
thing?"

He laughed, shaking his head. "Depends on who you ask, I guess," he said.
"I've heard that accusation, anyway. Come on."
They walked to the front door, which was slightly ajar. Mulder stood there for
a moment, looking at the door frame, at a small cylindrical object nailed
diagonally to the wood. He nodded. "I thought so," he said.
Then, to Scully's surprise, Mulder just pushed the door open and walked in
without knocking.
"Mulder, have you lost your mind?" she whispered. "We haven't been invited
in."
"We won't be, either," he said. "Don't worry, they expect it. See?"
He pointed to a large hallway mirror. The glass was completely covered with
what looked like soap.
"Am I supposed to know what that means?" Scully said.
"Would it be easier if they draped the mirrors instead of soaping them?" he
asked, with a hint of mischief. "Come on, Scully -- think back."
She thought for a minute. Covered mirrors in the house, people gathered around
after a death ...
Then she remembered. The Luria case. "They're sitting shiva," she said,
slowly. "They're here mourning for their departed relative. So they're
Jewish?"
"Unless the Jehovah's Witnesses have taken up shiva as a means of discouraging
visitors," he said. "But judging by the mezuzah on the door, yes, they're
Jews, and at least somewhat observant."
"That would explain why they didn't want an autopsy," she said. "I just hadn't
thought about finding a Jewish family in the South."
"Oh, we're everywhere, Scully," he said, still with that mischievous twinkle.
"Just remember -- it's considered rude to greet anyone during shiva, and
Orthodox Jewish men don't usually shake hands with women anyway."
"Because we might be unclean?" she asked, cocking an eyebrow at him. "That
time of the month?"
"Yes," he said. "That's exactly why." He raised his hands, grinning, in a mock
defensive posture. "Don't get mad at me, Scully, I didn't make the rules."

"I'll try to keep that in mind," she said, dryly.


He looked at her for a moment, then shrugged, the smile fading. "Sounds like
everyone's gathered out back."
They walked down a hallway toward the sound of voices. Entering a large den,
they found about 20 people, mostly women, sitting on low stools around the
room.
A bearded man wearing a yarmulke walked over to them.
"This has been such a tragedy," the man said. "The family will be grateful for
your support."
"I wish we were here to offer support," Mulder said. "I'm Fox Mulder. My
partner and I are federal agents, investigating Mr. Stouffer's death. We
didn't realize the family was still sitting shiva; I'm sorry we have to
interrupt."
"Oh, yes, Mr. Mulder," the man said. "I've heard about you. The FBI profiler.
I'm Rabbi Yaakov Golden. And your partner is ... ?"
"Dana Scully," Scully said, keeping her hands at her side. "We're sorry to
intrude, Rabbi, but there is a matter of some importance we need to discuss
with the family. Mr. Stouffer may have been exposed to a dangerous disease
before his death, and the family may need to take precautions."
"Mr. Stouffer's brother is here," Golden said. "I'm sure he'd be willing to
talk to you as soon as the morning prayers are over. Mr. Stouffer's young son
David is here, so we are only waiting to have a minyan."
"How many do you have?" Mulder asked.
Scully looked at him in surprise. The rabbi might as well have been speaking
Greek as far as she was concerned, yet Mulder, the agnostic, seemed to know
exactly what the man was saying.
"Nine," the rabbi said. "It's difficult to get a minyan on these weekday
mornings. We're a small community, and everyone has to work."
"Is there someone on the way?"
The rabbi nodded. "But the time for the prayers will be over soon; I'm afraid
David may not be able to say Kaddish today. It wouldn't be his fault, of
course, but he feels very strongly that he owes this duty to his father."

Mulder nodded, biting his lip. He looked at Scully uncertainly, then down at
the ground, finally meeting the rabbi's glance again. "Rabbi," he said, "I
will be your tenth man if you like, but I haven't put a kipoh on my head since
I was eight, and I'm not going to start again now. Do you think the rest of
the men can tolerate that?"
"You're a Jew, Mr. Mulder?" the rabbi asked. Mulder nodded. "Then of course
you should pray with us; it's a mitzvah for you. What is your name in Israel?"
"D'vid ben Avram," he said, uncomfortably, pronouncing it duh'VEED ben uvRAHM.
"But please don't call me to the Torah, Rabbi. I can't read Hebrew."
"Very well," Golden said. "I'll tell the others that we can begin."
"Scully, would you mind waiting here for just a few minutes?" Mulder asked in
a low tone as the rabbi walked away. "Men don't pray with women in these
circles, and I ... "
"You go do what you need to do," she said, touching his arm gently. "There's a
little boy over there who I think is going to be very grateful to you."
Mulder smiled, clasped her hand for
group of skull-capped men who stood
looked about 12. There was a moment
with Mulder bringing up the rear --

a second, and went to join Golden and a


waiting across the room with a boy who
of quiet conversation, then the men -went into another room.

After a few minutes, during which no one present seemed inclined to talk to
her (she wondered whether the cross around her neck had something to do with
that, then scolded herself for being paranoid), Scully tiptoed to the door and
stood to one side, listening.
There was a murmur of what she assumed must be Hebrew, everyone praying
simultaneously but not in unison. She risked a glance around the door, and saw
Mulder standing silently at the back of the room, his hands clasped before
him, looking distinctly uneasy.
Then the voices suddenly joined together.
"Yis'ga'dal, v'yis'kadash, sh'may ra'bbo, b'olmo dee'vro chir'usay v'yamlich
malchu'say, b'chayaychon v'yomay'chon uv'chayay d'chol baisYisroel, ba'agolo
u'viz'man koriv; v'imru Omein."
Scully had heard this before; she hadn't recognized it then, but Mulder had
told her later what it was: the Kaddish, the prayer of sanctification, the
prayer for the dead. She peeked around the doorway again.

The men were bent over their prayer books. The boy, wrapped in a prayer shawl
like the others, was swaying like a reed in the wind, tears dropping from his
eyes as he prayed.
Everyone prayed together, standing, swaying gently, except Mulder. He wasn't
moving; his eyes were screwed shut, and his head was slightly bowed. True to
his word, he was bareheaded and wore no shawl.
Mulder wasn't praying. Of course not. Mulder didn't pray, no matter what, not
even for her when she lay near death from cancer. If he had ever prayed for
Samantha's return, he had given it up a long, long time ago. He had never
prayed this prayer for his father; of that, she was certain. He just didn't
believe in it.
But he was there anyway, lending his presence, making it possible for a little
boy to pray in memory of his murdered father.
As she herself had learned to pray so many years ago ...
She could see herself as though it were yesterday, just about this child's
age, saying a prayer as each tiny white bead of her rosary slipped through her
fingers, praying for the souls in Purgatory and for her grandmother: the Our
Father, then the ten Hail Marys, which her mother had called the Pater Noster
and the Ave, and then the Gloria.
Maggie had learned to pray the Rosary in Latin, which was falling out of use
when Dana was born. Sometimes, though, she would hear Maggie praying in the
old Latin words under her breath. Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus ...
She hadn't understood the words of the Ave then any better than she understood
the Kaddish now, but she believed in them both. Whatever it meant, whatever
language, it all came back to faith: Faith in God, faith in medicine, faith in
science, and when all those had abandoned her, faith ... in Mulder's faith.
She remembered the prayer with which her mother always ended the Rosary. The
Memorare. The very word meant remember; the prayer begged the Mother of God to
remember that she was humanity's mother, too.

Prayer ... remembrance ... there was a connection here, beyond just this one
prayer, something that was somehow ... terrifying. Some phrase, some poem, a
song, maybe ... something with frightening meaning for her. What was it? It
was getting harder and harder to think.
Mulder said she would remember. He wanted her to remember, and all she could
remember now was those long-ago prayers. If you say a prayer silently, in your
mind, she thought, a little hysterically, are you remembering a prayer or are
you remembering to pray?

Pray. Remember. Those words do go together, I know it, she thought. I really
will lose my mind if this keeps going through my head all day, I will. But how
do the words fit? It means something, I know it does. But what?
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our
death. Then the Memorare.
Pray. Then remember.
Pray. Remember ... pray you, love, remember.
That was it. It was from Hamlet. Ophelia, the mad Ophelia, said that in the
hour of her death -- her suicide, actually.
Ophelia died because Hamlet couldn't stop her, or wouldn't stop her -- he was
too obsessed with his quest, with doing the bidding of the unseen ghosts of
the past, avenging his father's murder, his mother's infidelity. Hamlet was
unwilling or unable to see that Ophelia was dying of her own grief.
And everyone thought Hamlet was mad, when it was really Ophelia whose reason
had been rocked and finally destroyed by the horrors surrounding them all.
"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember." And then
into the water to drown.
The parallels were entirely too close for comfort, she thought.
But Mulder was no Hamlet. He would have laid the quest aside to save her life;
he had almost done it, last year when she was dying. And then he had come to
her hospital bed, in the simple, unshakable belief that she would keep him on
the right path if she had to spend her last breaths to do it.
When the priest came in, Mulder had quietly left her, accepting with a smile
her promise to pray for him. But he had no faith in God. No faith in prayer.
No faith in anything but the truth, and in her. What did it mean to him that
she would pray for him?
"Oseh sholom bimromov, hu ya'aseh sholom olaynu," came the voices from the
other room.
That was a word she recognized. Shalom. They were praying for peace. And he
had brought her peace last night, peace of heart and soul and mind, had given
it freely despite how badly she had hurt him.
No, Mulder had no faith in the beautiful prayer rising to Heaven all around

him, but he had faith in her. He trusted that she would make this journey,
using all her strength to reach for a truth so dark she had determined never
to remember it or speak of it.
Oh, but it was there ... it was, and he knew it.
And so did she.
Pray you, love, remember, he was saying. And in remembering, bring peace to us
both.
"Vimru, Omein."
The Kaddish was over.
Quickly, with little motion so no one would see, she made the sign of the
cross.
Then she walked away in thoughtful silence.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
But all remembered beauty is no more
Than a vague prelude to the thought of you-You are the rarest soul I ever knew,
Lover of beauty, knightliest and best,
My thoughts seek you as waves that seek the shore,
And when I think of you I am at rest.
"To E."
-- Sara Teasdale

Chapter 13

Stouffer residence
8:15 a.m.
"Mr. Mulder, I don't know what else I can tell you," Morris Stouffer was
saying. "I don't object to an autopsy, if it could save someone else. There is
no commandment that may not be suspended to save a human life, as I'm sure you
know; however, I will have to ask the rabbi first."

The agents and the dead man's brother were sitting in the living room, which
was deserted now that the morning prayers had been said and most of the
visitors had gone on to work.
"Still, it's hard for me to believe Jon had this disease. He never worked with
animals that I know of, never had anything on his hands such as you've
described," Stouffer was saying. "He was an architect."
"Why did he go all the way to Pensacola to shop for electronics equipment?"
Mulder asked.
Stouffer shrugged. "It was his hobby. Maybe he wanted something that he
couldn't find in Mobile. I don't know."
"Did your brother have friends in Pensacola?" Scully asked.
"Not that I'm aware of," Stouffer said. "He wasn't much of a joiner, outside
the Reserves."
"Reserves?" Mulder's ears perked up. "Which branch of the Reserves?"
"Army," Stouffer said. "A medical unit here in Mobile. I know what you're
thinking: Why does a hospital unit need an architect on staff?"
"To design hospitals?" Mulder asked, with just the barest touch of humor.
"No," Stouffer said, shaking his head. "He worked there as a clerk, keeping
personnel records. He was in that unit because they drilled on weeknights,
never on Shabbat like most of them. He loved his country; it was worth it to
him to take a job so far below his education so that he could keep the
commandments and serve his country."
"Mr. Stouffer, do you know whether your brother's Reserve unit was ever in the
Middle East or the Persian Gulf?" Scully asked.
"Why do you ask?"
"Because if he were, he might have been exposed to the -- bacteria -- we're
investigating while he was there," she said.
Stouffer shook his head. "No. The unit hadn't been activated since Vietnam. He
was a single father, a widower; it meant a lot to him to be near his son."
"What happened to his wife?" Mulder asked.

"She died four years ago, killed by a drunken driver," Stouffer said stolidly.
"Who will care for the boy now?" Scully asked, softly.
"He's coming to live with my family," Stouffer said. "It'll be a big
adjustment for all of us, but we'll work it out." He stood up. "If that's all,
Agent Mulder, I should go be with my nephew now."
"I think that's enough," Mulder said. "Scully?"
She shook her head.
Mulder reached into his coat pocket, took out a card and a pen. "Here's the
number where you can reach us for the next few days," he said, writing. "If
you think of anything else, please call. If we're no longer in town, you can
reach me at the Birmingham field office. The number's on the card."
"I don't know what else there might be, Mr. Mulder," Stouffer said, standing.
"But I'll call if I think of anything."
The agents stood as well. Stouffer regarded Mulder carefully.
"Mr. Mulder, I know you're not a keeper of the commandments," he said. "But
I'm sure you know that one does not normally thank those who perform a
mitzvah. Still, I feel I must thank you on my nephew's behalf for
participating in the minyan this morning. That was, as they say, above and
beyond the call of duty."
"Please don't mention it," Mulder said, uncomfortably. "I was glad to be of
help."
"You were a great help," Stouffer said, leading them to a side room where a
small group of mourners still sat together. "I promise to call if I think of
anything."
"Thank you," Mulder said, looking around the room, questioningly: Why am I
here? Scully could hear the question as clearly as though he had spoken it.
"My grandmother is here," Stouffer said, indicating a elderly woman in the
corner. "She wanted to speak to you."
Mulder nodded, and walked over to the woman, stood there silently. Scully
watched him, puzzled.
After a minute, the woman looked up at Mulder. "You were a comfort to my
great-grandson," she said, in heavily accented English. "It will be a greater

comfort when you find and punish the man who killed his father."
"I will find him," Mulder said. "I promise you that I will, if it is at all in
my power to do so."
She reached up frail hands to him, taking his hands and holding them in a firm
grip. Her sleeves slid down her arms as she stretched her arms upward.
"You must," she said, looking at him trustingly. "I have so little family
left."
Tears were rolling down her face, but Mulder wasn't looking there. He was
looking at her arm, at a number tattooed there in faded blue ink. Most
Holocaust survivors kept those tell-tale blue numbers covered if they could;
he knew she was letting him see the tattoo for a reason.
You are one of us, she was saying. This loss, all our losses, are yours as
much as ours.
Gently, he squeezed her hands before letting go, then carefully tugged her
sleeve back into place. There was a short silence as Mulder seemed to struggle
for something to say.
"Hamakom y'nachem etchem b'toch ah'ar availai tziyon v'yerushalayim," he said
at last, haltingly.
Mrs. Stouffer nodded her thanks. "Aliyah v'sholom, D'vid ben Avram," she said.
~~~~~
Mulder was quiet as he drove back toward Mobile. Scully kept silent out of
respect for what clearly had been an emotionally wrenching experience for him.
They were halfway across Mobile Bay before he spoke again.
"That's the first time I ever took part in a minyan," he said. "It was
different."
"You said you didn't have a religious upbringing," she said, praying she could
keep the conversation on neutral ground. "I was surprised that you even knew
what to do."
"I didn't, really. I had very little exposure to it; my grandparents took me
to shul sometimes, when I was a child," he said. "That stopped when my
grandfather died, when I was about eight. My father didn't mind my having a
religious education, even a bar mitzvah, but my mother hated the very idea.

There's a synagogue on the Vineyard, down-Island in the Haven, and I've never
even set foot in it."
"So that was it for religious education?"
"No. Mom sent me to an Episcopal prep school when I was 12." He laughed. "I
probably know the catechism better than you do."
"You probably do," she said. "I can't remember any of it, except the part
about what a sacrament is."
"The outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace," Mulder said,
easily. "See? I do know it. Do you want me to name all seven of them?"
"No, thanks," she said, dryly. "I'm impressed, Mulder -- or whatever name it
is you're using today. What was that they were calling you, anyway? I've never
heard you called by that name before."
"Given to me on my day of greatest loss," he said, with a wry smile. "You
know, when I was eight days old."
"Your circumcision," she said, folding her arms across her chest. "I got it,
Mulder. Go on."
"Oh, come on, Scully, don't be a prude," he said, still teasingly. "You've
probably done one or two yourself."
"That's entirely beside the point," she said, primly. "Now -- go on. Why do
you have another name?"
"Because Fox is a Mulder family name, but the Mulders aren't Jewish," he said.
"My father's father was a Gentile -- and my mother's parents were horrified
when they heard what my name was going to be. They said Fox was no kind of
name for a Jewish boy, and William was even worse. Too Christian. No offense
intended, Scully," he added quickly.
"None taken," she said. "So your grandparents lost the fight over your name?"
"Over my legal name, they did," he said. "But my parents caved in to the
pressure to some extent; they had a bris and named me D'vid. My father's
Hebrew name was Avram, Abraham. So, D'vid ben Avram; David, son of Abraham."
"Does the name mean anything? Besides the obvious, I mean?"
"Um, yeah, actually, it does," Mulder said, just a little too casually. "D'vid
means beloved; Avram means father of the people."

The beloved son of Abraham. Scully remembered the story: God rewarded Abraham
for his willingness to lay his only legitimate son on the altar as a
sacrifice. But could Isaac ever forgive his father?
The Kaddish is a duty he owes to his father, she thought. A duty that, in
Mulder's case, was left undone.
Quickly, she brought her thoughts back to the present. "So you have the name,
but it's not a legal name?" she said, as off-handedly as she could. "It has no
implications outside a religious context?"
"That's the idea," he said, glancing at her with curiosity.
"That's like my confirmation name," she said, without thinking, just to keep
the conversation going. "I got that name when I was 12, from the bishop."
She realized her mistake as soon as she saw the gleam of curiosity in Mulder's
eyes.
"And what name is that?" he asked, a little too casually.
"No way, Mulder," she said, shaking her head. "I'd rather die than tell you."
"Aw, c'mon Scully," he said. "I showed you mine. Now you show me yours. Or I
could just call your mother ... I'll bet she has a lot of things stored up to
tell me ... "
"Scholastica," she said, quickly, interrupting him.
"I beg your pardon?"
"It's Scholastica," she said, resigned. "For St. Scholastica of the
Benedictine order, who, needless to say, was a renowned scholar. My father
chose it. My full Christian name is Dana Katherine Scholastica. Don't even
dream of calling me that."
"I won't," he said. "As long as you don't call me D'vid."
"I don't even call you Fox," she said, arching an eyebrow. (Sometimes you do,
he thought, but he didn't interrupt her.) "So why would I call you David? But
you've got a deal. No Scholastica, no David. My lips are sealed. But I have
one more question."
"Don't you always?" he said, smiling. "What now?"

"What did you say to Mrs. Stouffer?" she asked. "You said you didn't know any
Hebrew, but that certainly sounded like it."
"Yeah, well, you know, a phrase or two," he said, suddenly uneasy. "That's a
traditional greeting to mourners, a consolation prayer."
"What does it mean?"
"It means, 'May God comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem,'
" he said. "It's an old prayer."
"Older than any of the prayers I know, I imagine," she said. "It's beautiful."
He just shrugged. "I guess."
"And what did she say to you?"
"She said 'go in peace,' " Mulder said, quietly.
"Tell me how you say that," she said. "I'd like to learn it."
He shook his head. "Some other time, Scully, okay? Right now, I need to think
for a while."
"All right," she said. "Some other time."
They finished the drive in silence.
~~~~~
They spent the rest of the day separately, Mulder delving once more into his
photographs and case histories, making telephone calls, trying to put together
a picture of the killer that would stick.
Scully, having obtained permission from the Stouffer family, had spent much of
the day in the Mobile County courthouse, getting an exhumation order for
Stouffer. The exhumation would take place that night, shortly before morning
so there would be few if any spectators, and she would be allowed to perform
the autopsy with a Mobile County ME by her side.
That didn't bother her. All the MEs here were fully qualified pathologists,
and they would be all right whether she did the autopsy herself with their
help or they insisted on performing it themselves. Either way, she would find

out what she needed to know: Whether the deadly anthrax bacillus had taken up
residence in the body of Jonathan Stouffer shortly before he was murdered.
By 8 p.m., Scully had reached her limit. It was time to stop. There was work
still to be done -- there always was -- and she could so easily have let it
take over and keep her from doing what she needed to do.
And if she did, and if Mulder found this killer tonight, or tomorrow morning,
he would be gone and she would be back in her apartment by tomorrow night,
holding her gun in her hand and wondering whether to put it in her mouth or
against her temple.
No. The beast was still there, inside her, but there was a way out, and that
way was at this moment sitting alone in a cinder-block room, staring at
photographs of utter brutality.
But for her, she knew, he would stop.
She took out her cell phone, hit the newly reprogrammed speed dial for
Mulder's phone. After eight rings, she was about to hang up, when he finally
answered.
"Mulder," he said.
"Mulder, it's me," she said. "I'm on my way back there, and I was wondering if
you could do me a favor."
"Sure, if I can," he said. "What's up?"
"Would you let me buy you dinner?"
There was a long pause. "Yeah, I guess so," he said, cautiously. "I was going
to work a little longer ... "
"You were going to work a lot longer," she corrected. "But it would mean a lot
to me if you would join me."
She heard him exhale, slowly. "Okay," he said, finally. "You've got my car, so
I guess ... I'll see you here in a few minutes."
"I'll be there." She hung up.
~~~~~
The Pembroke Inn

Friday, March 5
12:07 a.m.
Dinner had gone extremely well, which pleasantly surprised them both. They had
eaten at a seafood restaurant behind the hotel, one which advertised -- and
provided -- fresh shrimp, crabs and oysters from the Gulf of Mexico. They had
even indulged in a bottle of wine, which was rare for them, but somehow, for
tonight, anyway, seemed entirely appropriate.
At one point, Mulder had gone silent, staring down at his plate so intently
that Scully asked him what was wrong.
"I was just thinking," he said. "If I'd had a religious upbringing, I'd never
have eaten seafood. Not kosher. You know, I could have starved to death that
way, living on the Vineyard."
"Become a Catholic," she advised. "Lobster is kosher for Lent."
And they had laughed. They had laughed a lot, and Scully had felt her heart
grow light for the first time in ... years, really. The cloud that hung over
her, the thing that Mulder wanted her to remember, could not touch her now,
not in this moment. The simple joy of his presence filled her, body and soul,
and there was no room for the terrors of the night.
But then dinner was over, and Mulder had walked her back to her room, had come
inside without any protest.
He knew something was up with her. He always knew.
He was sitting in the chair, looking out over the bay. She sat down on the arm
of the chair next to him, and once again, he slipped his arm around her waist.
"You do love the water, don't you," she said, quietly.
"Not the way you do," he said, still looking out. "It just seems to be part of
the background, as though every place in the world ought to be on the water."
He looked up at her, smiling softly. "Sometimes, when you and I were in the
field, really far inland, Nebraska or someplace like that, I'd find myself
driving along, thinking that we must be getting near the water, that we ought
to see it soon."
"That's from living on an island that's less than 50 miles long," she said.
"Less than 25," he corrected her. "And not five miles wide at the widest.
Small place. But a great place to grow up ... " His voice trailed off. She
knew why.

"Samantha grew up somewhere, Mulder," she said, stroking his hair softly.
"She's out there. Maybe you really did see her."
"I don't know," he said, with the deep pain in his eyes that she'd come to
know so well. "I may never know. As little work as I've done to try to find
her lately, I don't deserve to know."
"Yes, you do," she said. She bent over and kissed him softly. "And you will
know, one day. It won't always be this way."
"I keep wanting to believe that," he said, holding her a little closer. For a
long time they sat that way, looking out over the water in silence, but
comfortable with each other again in a way they hadn't been since December.
At last, Mulder turned around to face her. "All right, Scully, give over," he
said, but his voice was gentle. "You asked me to dinner for a reason, and I
think I'm here for a reason, too."
"Of course," she said, ruffling his hair. "You're here because I want you
here."
"Thanks, but I was aiming toward something more goal-oriented," he said,
hugging her waist. "Come on, you know I'll beat it out of you if I have to."
"I wouldn't try it if I were you, Mulder," she said, teasingly. "I could kick
your ass if I had to. I might even shoot you again."
"Oooh, you're scary, Agent Scully," he said, then he grew serious again. "I
mean it, Scully; spill it. No more bullshit. You're holding back something."
He paused to give her time to answer, but she didn't.
"Scully," he said, more quietly. "Is it what we talked about last night?"
She nodded.
"You want to talk about it some more?"
"No." She was silent again. "I mean, yes, I ... I think I need to. But I'm
afraid, Mulder."
"I know." He stroked her back, slowly, reassuringly. "And you know you don't
have to talk about it if you're really not ready to. As you've pointed out
before, I'm your partner, not your psychologist."
"But I need to," she said, looking down at him. "I know that. I know there's
something there, and I'm beginning to think I know what it is." She shivered.

"If I'm right ... well, this is going to be one of the worst nights of my
life."
"It could be," he said, gently. "Which is why I'm telling you -- you don't
have to do it."
"Yes, I do," she said. She lowered herself slowly onto his lap. "I need you to
do two things for me, Mulder."
"Okay," he said. "What's first?"
"Kiss me hard," she whispered, wrapping her arms around his neck.
"I can do that," he said, in a low voice. He put one arm around her shoulders,
left the other around her waist, and pulled her body closer to his, his lips
meeting hers in a bruising kiss.
She opened her mouth to him, felt his tongue sweep into her mouth, tasting
every inch of her. It was intense, inviting, and for a moment she let herself
think about how wonderful it would be just to let this go on, let his desire
and hers build until they lost all caution and fell onto the bed together ...
But that wouldn't do, and she knew it. Nothing had really changed, not yet; if
she let this go on, it might end just as badly as it had two nights ago, and
that would just about destroy her. Reluctantly, she broke the kiss, leaned her
forehead against his, giving them both time for their breathing to slow again.
"What's the second thing?" he murmured, pressing his lips into her hair.
She closed her eyes, breathing deeply to calm herself.
"Before I tell you, I want you to know ... " she began, then fear choked off
the words. He didn't say anything, just held her, letting her get to the words
in her own way.
But she couldn't talk; after all this preparing and soul-searching, she
couldn't open her mouth, couldn't force the words out.
Without warning, she burst into tears, burying her face against his shoulder,
crying in loud sobs, her hands clutching at his shirt so tightly that the
seams began to give way. He held her close and waited for the storm to
subside.
"I'm sorry," she said, when she finally calmed down a little, but her breath
was still catching in her throat. "I want to talk to you. I meant to, that's
why I asked you to dinner."

"I'm not going anywhere," he said, quietly. "Take your time. I understand."
"No one understands," Scully whispered.
"That's not true," he said.
"Yes, it is," she said. "No one. Not even my mom."
"Tell me what's been happening," he said. "See if I don't understand. All
right?"
"But I don't really know what's been happening," she said, sniffling. "I just
keep remembering that night when we were here last, being hurt and thinking I
was going to die. Night after night, I dream about it. I can even smell the
dirt under that house. I wake up screaming, and my hands hurt. I want so much
to sleep a single night without remembering."
"I'm sure you do," he said, holding her tighter. "It's bad, not being able to
sleep."
She pressed her face closer to him. "Mulder," she said, in a shamed whisper,
"I am afraid. I'm afraid every minute of every day. I wake up nights, thinking
I hear someone breaking in. I've started sleeping with my gun. I won't go
anywhere that I might have to take it off; no jails, no courtrooms if I can
help it. I'm afraid to be without it. And I'm even more afraid ... "
She stopped there, cutting off her words in mid-breath.
"Afraid to have it around?" Mulder asked, very gently. "Afraid you might use
it?"
She nodded. She wouldn't meet his eyes.
"Scully, look at me," he said. He put two fingers under her chin and lifted
her face to his. "I know what you're going through. I've been there, holding
my gun, trying to gather the courage to shove it in my mouth and pull the
trigger. That's a bad place to be, the worst there is, and you don't get to
that place overnight."
"You've never been like this," she said, shaking her head. "Never. You've
always been able to hold it together, keep going. Not like this."
"I wish that were true," he said, and he smiled, a smile at once so loving and
so sad that it tore at Scully's heart, although she couldn't understand why.

"What do you mean?" she said, softly.


"I told you, I've been there," he said, quietly. "I've been right where you
are. I can tell you exactly what you're going through; the nightmares, the
emotional numbness, feeling inadequate at work, second-guessing yourself,
obsessing over mistakes, jumping at the least little thing ... shall I go on?"
"No," she said, and he could hear the tears that threatened to break through.
"No, Mulder, that's enough."
He held
me to,"
not the
it, you

her tighter for a moment. "I won't say anything more if you don't want
he said. "But sometimes it helps just knowing what it is, that you're
only one, and that you can do something about it. There is a name for
know."

"I think I know what it is," she whispered. "Or what you think it is, anyway."
"And you're going to tell me that's a medical diagnosis that I'm not qualified
to make," he said, gently teasing. "I know how this goes."
"You're not a doctor," she said, looking at him, trying to smile. "I can't let
you step on my turf."
"Then why don't you tell me what you think it is," he said, his fingers gently
brushing through her hair. "That way, it'll be official."
She shook her head. "I can't. I don't want to be diagnosed with ... a mental
illness. Not even by myself."
"I would be more inclined to call it an extreme emotional reaction," Mulder
said, softly. "You're not congenitally mentally ill, Dana; you're just
reacting to built-up stresses that you don't know how to deal with."
"And memories that I don't want to remember," she said, with a shiver.
"Yeah. But you do remember, don't you." It wasn't a question.
She nodded. "I do. And I know what it is that's wrong with me."
"Tell me what you think it is," he said, holding her a little tighter to give
her courage.
There was a long silence; Mulder felt her hands clutching at him again, and
the warm wetness where her tears were soaking into his shirt. He wanted to say
something to encourage her, but he couldn't think of a damn thing right now,
so he just held her close.

Then he heard Scully say something, but so softly he couldn't understand her.
"What did you just say, Scully?" he asked.
"I said it's post-traumatic stress disorder," she said, barely above a
whisper. She looked up at him and he saw that she was crying again. "That's
it, isn't it?"
"Yes, I believe it is," he said, gently. "You seem to have all the major
symptoms: nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance behaviors -- and rage. But it's
nothing to be ashamed of, Scully; PTSD is an occupational hazard in law
enforcement."
"Mulder, I know that," she said, wiping the tears from her eyes. "I mean,
intellectually, I know it. But ... "
"I know it, too," he said, very low. "And not just intellectually. But I think
maybe you knew that already."
She said nothing.
"Scully," he was saying, quietly. "You must have known."
"Not for certain," she whispered.
"Maybe you just didn't want to know, about yourself or me," he said, but there
was no accusation in his voice, only compassion. "I can't blame you, not if
you feel the way you do about it."
"No, that's not it," she said, urgently. "Please believe me. I did see it. I'm
not a psychiatrist, Mulder, but we spent so much time together that it wasn't
difficult to see that something was wrong."
"And you weren't sure you wanted to deal with it," he said. "As I said, I
don't blame you."
"No, Mulder," she said, shaking her head, firmly. "That wasn't the real
reason. You were always so strong, always there for me, always able to keep
going even when you were bleeding out inside, that I decided I was wrong, that
I had misunderstood."
"Anyone can keep going for a while, Scully," he said. "But there's more to
recovery than just getting through the day."

"Such as ... "


"Making it go away. But you need to understand where it all comes from before
you can do that," Mulder said, brushing the hair back from her tear-stained
face. "It took me a long time to do that. I'm still working on it."
"But you knew where it came from," she said. "Samantha."
"Not entirely," he said. His voice was even, but she heard a note of tension
there, of shame, that she hadn't heard from him before.
"Is there something else, Mulder?" she asked.
He nodded. "There is."
"But you can't say it?"
He laughed, humorlessly. "I don't know. I've never tried."
"You've never told anyone? Not even me?"
He shook his head. "No one."
She thought for a moment, remembering all she knew of Mulder, of what had
driven him through the years. The loss of Samantha that was so wide, so huge
and all-consuming that it seemed to blind him to everything else ...
No. That wasn't right. He wanted the truth, about all of it, not just about
Samantha. He wanted it badly enough to let a quack doctor drill holes in his
skull and administer dangerous drugs in an untested, unproven memory-recall
therapy. It had worked, to some extent, awakening in him memories that brought
him no comfort but only tormented him.
After the "therapy," he had gone to his mother, begging her to tell him what
was true and what was not. Had she really wanted them to take him, not
Samantha? Had she deceived his father with ... the Smoking Man?
The next time Scully had seen him, he had been half mad, with a gun in his
hand and a bruise on his face in the shape of his mother's hand.
And as she remembered, she knew what it was he hadn't told her.
"She abused you," she whispered. "Your mother."

That hit him hard, even though she knew he was expecting it. His eyes slammed
shut, and he flinched, as if from a blow, turning his face away.
Slowly, gingerly, she sat up and put her arms around him, and felt his arms
enfolding her as they sought comfort and gave it at the same time.
"I've never told anyone," he said, finally, with a shaky laugh. "I'm still not
sure I can. Talk about not processing the incident ... "
"Then I was right, wasn't I," she said, one hand stroking his back carefully,
lovingly. "You were a battered child."
He nodded -- barely.
"How did you know?"
voice; the sound of
mistreatment wasn't
kill you right now,
someday.

he said, and she could hear the guilt, the shame in his
the abuse victim who can never really believe the
somehow deserved. Mrs. Mulder, she thought, I would gladly
if it weren't for the hope he has that you will love him

"It doesn't show," she said. "I don't think anyone would guess unless they
knew you as well as I do."
"No one does," he said, holding her tighter. "You're my one in five billion,
Scully."
"So you told me," she said, and reached up to brush back the hair that
straggled over his eyes. "And I do believe you. But I've known for a long time
that you were suffering; I just didn't know all the reasons why."
"Just as I know that you're suffering, and I'm not entirely sure why," he
said. "Scully, I don't want these things to come between us any longer. I
can't work that way. I don't even think I can live that way."
"I don't want anything to come between us, Mulder," she said. "But if this is
too hard for you ... "
He shook his head. "No harder than it is for you." He held her just a little
more tightly for a moment, then sighed. "Maybe it's time. And maybe, if I can
do this, you can, too."
~~~~~
He told it haltingly, each word clearly costing him a great deal of pain. But
he held onto her as he told it, steadying himself, and her, with his strong
arms.

~~~~~
The most important thing, he said, is that it didn't begin on the day Samantha
disappeared.
For years, there had been arguments, explosively emotional scenes, between his
father, and his mother, and a man he did not know, but who always smelled of
cigarette smoke.
He had vague memories of that man, of being screamed at, ushered away, of
seeing his father strike his mother, of himself and Samantha creeping away to
hide behind closed doors, sharing their terror, whispering comfort to one
another.
The day Samantha was taken -- November 27, 1973, the date was forever burned
in his memory -- was the day it began to be unspeakable.
He had been there when she was taken, but had frozen, unable to act. He had
tried to reach for his father's revolver, but had knocked it to the floor,
scattering the ammunition everywhere. He froze. He could not help her.
She was gone.
Fox Mulder lost more than his sister that day. He lost the only person who had
ever understood him, or looked up to him, or shared life with him at all.
Worse, he lost his childhood and his parents' love -- his mother's, most of
all, because somehow, she blamed him. Sometimes in silence, sometimes aloud,
but always, with every glance, in every line of her body, she communicated to
him his failure.
You let them take Samantha. You were supposed to protect her. You let them
take her.
Nothing he did was ever good enough for his mother after that. Whatever he did
wrong, Samantha would have done right. She would never have been so
ungrateful, so lazy, so stupid and clumsy as he was.
His grades dropped from their usual honor-roll heights to the "gentleman's C"
level, and he began to misbehave in the classroom, becoming the Chilmark
Elementary class clown. That brought a sharp rebuke from his mother.
"Samantha never made less than an A in her life, and young as she was, she
knew how to behave," his mother told him, coldly. "If I had to lose one of my
children, it's a shame it had to be the one who never disappointed me."
That hurt, but Fox didn't argue. His mother was right: It was his fault. He
had turned away, overcome with shame, and gone to his room, where he spent the

next three hours crouched in the corner of his closet, crying, trying not to
make a sound that anyone would hear.
His father did nothing, only shrank further into his liquor bottles, hiding
himself from his son's agony, his wife's coldness and blame. The Mulder family
lived in near-silence; days, even weeks went by when neither father nor mother
would speak to the boy, would not answer if he spoke.
Once, driven to desperation by his mother's silence, Fox had fallen to his
knees and begged her, sobbing aloud, to say something, anything.
She had looked at him with pure contempt.
"Sissy," she said, and walked away.
That was all. Killing him outright would have been merciful by comparison.
When his grades dropped all the way to D's, the words had become blows, but
the boy had almost welcomed the physical abuse as a relief from the even more
killing pain of being ignored and unloved.
He had been alone, unable to trust, unable to beat back the demons that
possessed him, with nowhere to turn, trusting no one, engulfed by rage,
deprived of sleep by ceaseless nightmares. He wanted to hit her back, punish
her for making him cry like a baby, and then hated himself for even thinking
about hitting his own mother.
But there was no one he could tell.
His father left, and the physical punishment abated a little; the belt was
hung up in the closet, a constant threat but seldom used. He still had to fear
the stinging slaps in the face that could come with little warning, little to
tell him how he had offended, and as always, the endless coldness and silent
blame.
She never allowed him to speak of his father, or his sister. Some things, she
told him, are best forgotten. He took his mother's advice; he forgot, as best
he could, all the events that had destroyed his family and taken away his
boyhood.
The following September, a month before his 13th birthday, she sent him away
to St. Albans Academy on the mainland. It was escape; it was also exile, and
utter rejection.
Desperate to win her approval, he straightened out in school, pushed himself
to achieve more and more, in class, on the playing field. Earning any grade
less than an A+ would make him nearly suicidal. He waited for the day she
would see what he had done, would realize that he really did deserve to live

-- even if his sister hadn't.


It meant nothing. The perfect report cards, the athletic trophies, even the
eventual Rhodes scholarship, were dismissed as "no more than you should have
done." He was not allowed even to mention his accomplishments to anyone; that,
she told him, was "bragging on yourself," and was unbecoming.
In time, Fox Mulder grew to manhood, but inside the boy he had been remained,
a permanent prisoner of his mother's silence.
Later, in therapy, he would begin to remember all that had happened the day
Samantha was taken. Finding her became his life's goal, and he pursued it
relentlessly, with nothing to guide him but his fragmentary memories. He told
Samantha's story to many people, believers and skeptics alike.
But the story of his life without her, he told to no one.
~~~~~
"Not until now, anyway," he said, when he was finished.
Scully said nothing.
What did you expect? he asked himself. Applause?
Then he felt her slender arms tighten around him and, to his astonishment, she
began to weep. She cried until it seemed there could be no more tears in her,
and yet there were, and it went on, seemingly forever.
She was shaking, shivering, and he rose, led her to the bed, covered her with
the blanket as he had on that long-ago night, but this time he lay down beside
her. He held her gently, close enough to comfort her, loosely enough so she
would not feel trapped.
At last she subsided, and she lay with her head against his chest, listening
to his heart beating, letting the rhythm soothe her, carry her down and away
from the world into a place where there was nothing that lived or moved except
him, and her, and they were enough.
It could have been hours, or just minutes, before she stirred again. Laying
her hands gently on his upper arms, she leaned over and kissed him, a chaste
kiss of love, of gratitude, not of passion. He returned it the same way, with
little pressure, only holding his lips to hers for her comfort, and his.
After a long moment, they broke the kiss, and he rested his forehead against
hers.

"I am so sorry that happened to you," she whispered. "I can't believe you've
kept it in all this time."
"Keeping it in probably wasn't a good idea," he acknowledged. "But it's not an
easy thing to admit."
"You never told anyone before?"
He shook his head. "No. Not even my therapist."
"How could you not tell him?" she asked. "How could he not see that something
was wrong?"
"He wasn't interested in anything beyond Samantha's abduction," he said. "Once
he had that from me, he didn't look any further. And I didn't volunteer."
"But he did diagnose PTSD," she said.
"Yes. Not a tough call, considering," he said, the ghost of a smile on his
lips.
"No," she said. "Not tough at all." She swallowed hard. "For you ... or for
me."
"It's better now, although it's never really gone," he said. "But, Scully, you
haven't even started to deal with it yet. You're in the worst part of it now."
"Hold me for a minute," she whispered, and he tightened his arms around her,
felt her face nuzzling against his neck. For reasons he thought he would never
understand, that was where she touched him when she wanted comfort. Not that
he minded -- it felt good, erotic and almost paternal at the same time.
She was tense, though, her nerves stretched thin, and for a moment he wanted
to stop her, tell her he'd been wrong, that there was nothing to remember,
nothing lurking out there ready to rip her mind from her ... but it would be a
lie, and she would know it. He couldn't do that to her. He would keep faith
with her, no matter what. They would both suffer for it, but he wouldn't
betray her trust, not again.
He was so deep in his own thoughts that he jumped when she finally spoke
again.
"Mulder," she whispered, "I know what it cost you to tell me what you just
told me, and I know you did it to help me find the courage to face my own
nightmares. And I'm more grateful than I can say." She fell silent, but he
sensed she wasn't done yet.

In a moment, she spoke again, whispering so softly he could barely hear her.
"Now," she said, "for the second thing I said I needed you to do for me. I
need you to help me remember what Alex Krycek did to me."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
WARNING: This part may be upsetting, due to implied sexual violence. Use
discretion.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair,
against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.
-- Aeschylus

Chapter 14

And from now on, Mulder thought, quite calmly, we live with our eyes open, in
a world of Before It Happened and After It Happened.
And I have lived with this for so long, with the death of love and the loss of
everything I dreamed of so long ago, all tangled up with the loss of a little
girl, a little girl who disappeared so finally and forever.
There was no horror in the realization; just the deadly, dreary feeling of
failure that he'd lived with for so long.
At least it's familiar, he thought, I can deal with that, but then the full
force of what she had said smashed into his brain, stripping away the
protective anesthesia around his emotions, and he knew he had never felt pain
like this before, not ever.
His arms clenched around her, and she clutched back at him just as fiercely,
knowing that he needed just one more minute with her in a world where this
awful truth was still unremembered, did not exist, where nothing and no one
had ever violated either of them.
She let go of him first, but left her arms loosely around him. After a long
moment, he released his tight hold on her, forcing himself to breathe slowly
until he could look her in the eye again.

He took one last deep breath and then took her face gently in his hands.
"How do you want to do this?" he whispered, gathering his courage. "Do you
want me to tell you what happened?"
Scully bit her lip, her nervous gaze darting around quick as a bird's. "No,"
she said. "Although that would be the easier way, I suppose, if you really do
remember it all."
"I can't be certain, but I think I do," he said, closing his eyes. "I just
didn't think you did, not until the last few days, anyway."
"I don't remember it all," she said, and she shuddered. "Some of it. None of
it very clearly. But I need to -- I need to remember it all for myself. I need
you to help me figure out what part of it is real, and what part isn't."
"All right," he said, nodding. He kissed her gently. "Let's get up, though,"
he said, smoothing his hand over her face. "This bed may not be the best place
to do this."
"It's where I want to be," she said, putting her hand over his. "I like lying
with you like this, Mulder. I want you to hold me."
"There's nothing I'd rather do," he said, "but if you really remember ..."
"I do," she broke in. "And it doesn't matter. None of that matters." She
paused, seeing the doubt in his eyes. "Trust me," she said, more quietly.
"Please."
He still hesitated, gnawing at his lower lip, but finally he nodded,
reluctantly, and drew her closer again, tucking her head under his chin. "I'm
playing this by ear, Scully," he said, apologetically. "It's ... new."
"For both of us," she said, with an uncertain laugh. "I don't even know where
to start."
He thought for a moment. "Tell me what you remember ... " He faltered, and she
held him tighter, trying to give him support.
"Go on," she whispered.
He nodded, drawing a ragged breath. "Tell me what you remember about Krycek -after he shot you."

"When I woke up?" she said, shivering despite the warmth of his embrace. "Is
that what you mean?"
"That's what I mean," Mulder said. "Where were you when you came to?"
She thought hard. Concentrate, she told herself, pressing her body closer to
his. Think. You can think. You can do this. There was a gunshot, and you
dropped your gun, and then Mulder fired ... someone kicked me ... what was
next? What ... where was I next?
"In a bedroom," she said, startled. "We were ... on a bed. Both of us. And he
was there."
Mulder nodded. "Yeah," he said, very softly. "You do remember. We were lying
there, both of us, and he was there ..."
"I can't remember how we got there," Scully said, shaking her head, her brow
furrowed in annoyance. "I don't remember ... someone carried us, or we were on
gurneys ... I think there was a dark passageway." She looked up at Mulder.
"Was there?"
"I don't know," he said. "That sounds right, but I don't remember that part.
What I do remember is waking up and seeing Krycek ..."
"Standing over me," Scully said, and a shiver ran down her spine. "I know. But
I don't know what he did before that. He did something, because when I woke
up, I knew ... but I began to forget what, almost immediately. I know ... I
know I was cold, and sick at my stomach."
"I don't know what happened, either," Mulder said, quietly. "I'm sorry,
Scully. I have a distinct feeling that we were awake before that, but beyond
that, there's no way to be certain."
"What you're saying," she said, in a dull tone, "is that we've both lost time.
Again."
"Some time," Mulder said, brushing the hair back from her face. "Not a lot."
"Mulder, I don't mean to be harsh," Scully said, a bit curtly, "and if I am,
please forgive me, but when you've had weeks of your life taken from you, it's
difficult, not to say impossible, to be calm about it when it happens again."
"You're right," he said, very quietly. "I keep leaving that out of the
equation. This is not new for you, is it?"
"No," she said, and felt the tears threatening to return. "It's not. And it's
driving me crazy." She laughed, humorlessly. "Literally, I suppose. But I know

-- I don't know how I know, but I know -- that there was something, something
important, that happened before the time that we can remember."
Suddenly she jerked, as though an electric shock had gone through her. "Oh,
God," she said, miserably. "I was naked. Krycek -- someone -- took my clothes
off."
Mulder said nothing; he looked down, unwilling to meet her gaze.
"Mulder, please," she said, beginning to cry again. "I know this is hard for
you. But if you remember this the same way I do, I need you to tell me."
"That's what I remember," he said, almost inaudibly. Slowly, he raised his
eyes to hers again. "I remember seeing Krycek bending over you, and you were
naked, and screaming ..."
Screaming. Was I screaming? she thought, reaching up one hand to wipe the
tears from her eyes. I don't remember that part. But I don't doubt it, either.
She reached back into her mind, into the dim mists that surrounded that time,
and listened -- listened for the voices that had woven in and out of her
nightmares after that horrible night.
Ahab's voice. Someone else's -- almost certainly Krycek's. Her own.
And Mulder's. Several times.
"You were screaming, too," she said, softly. "I know you were. You were saying
something about, 'leave her alone.'"
Mulder bit his lip and nodded, slowly. "I was. I just don't know what he was
doing, exactly, not when we woke up, anyway. After that ... it's still not too
clear."
"But you have a pretty good idea," Scully said, fresh tears beginning to fall.
"You remember enough ..."
"I remember ..." Mulder said, then turned his head away. He bit his lip, hard,
then shook his head violently. "God damn that bastard!"
"Mulder ..." Scully began, then pressed her forehead against his chest,
clutching his upper arms. "I remember his hands. I remember him touching me
... and there was someone else, some other hands. Was there more than one?"
"I don't know," Mulder said. "I don't know. I don't think so. Just ...
Krycek."

For several minutes -- Scully couldn't tell how long -- they lay there,
shaking, clinging to each other, the word Mulder couldn't say, that she
couldn't say, hanging in the air between them like a cloud of poison gas.
She couldn't say it.
But she had to, or she thought she might never breathe again.
"Help me, Mulder," Scully whispered, pressing closer to him. "You've got to
help me."
"What do you want me to do?" he whispered back. "I'll do whatever I can, but
..."
She started to answer, but the words caught in her throat and shivered again,
fighting back a sudden wave of nausea as she remembered. Krycek's hands ...
herself, lying helpless and exposed ... Mulder, fighting to free himself, his
wrists bleeding as he strained against the handcuffs.
Someone else was there, someone ... someone not nearly so frightening, but
someone who couldn't help. Was it Mulder? Was that what she was remembering?
"Scully?" Mulder said, seeing the struggle she was going through. "Scully,
tell me what you want."
She gripped his arms even harder, so hard that Mulder was reasonably sure he
would have the marks of her fingernails on his biceps for days to come ... but
he almost welcomed the pain. It was easier to bear than the pain that was
coming next.
At last, Scully raised her eyes to his, and her face, although pale and
tear-stained, was resolute. She had found her courage, the courage that had
kept her alive this far, the courage that would always sustain them both.
Of that, he was certain.
But first, there was this to go through.
"Say it," she was whispering. "Mulder, I need you to say it, because I can't."
"To say what I think happened?" Mulder said, feeling a lump in his throat so
huge he could scarcely get the words out. "Is that what you want?"
"Tell me ... tell me what Krycek did." She closed her eyes on the last word,

and lay there quietly; waiting, almost patiently, for the next horrible pain.
You cannot spare her this pain, Mulder told himself. But you can try to match
her courage.
"He raped you," Mulder said, flatly. "He did it because you refused to tell
him how we found that factory. So I told him -- and then he did it anyway."
A low, keening moan broke from her throat, and she collapsed against Mulder,
pressing her face hard against his chest as her moaning turned to wordless
shrieks that went on, and on, until her throat felt as though it were on fire,
and she simply could not scream anymore. Only then did she burst into tears.
And through it all, he held her, unmoving, letting his body muffle the screams
that he knew, even in her despair, she would not want anyone else to hear.
When the sobs turned to weeping, then to sniffling, he tightened his arms
around her. She reached up one hand to touch his face, and found it wet with
his tears.
"I remember now," she whispered. "I remember what he did. He said ... he said
he would kill you if I so much as made a sound, that you would die if I didn't
cooperate. He made me choose between being raped and losing you forever."
"He made you choose," Mulder said, nodding, his voice rough. "But he also made
me watch."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
None will part us, none undo
The knot that makes one flesh of two,
Sick with hatred, sick with pain,
Strangling -- When shall we be slain?
When shall I be dead and rid
Of the wrong my father did?
How long, how long, till spade and hearse
Puts to sleep my mother's curse?
"The Welsh Marches"
-- A.E. Housman

Chapter 15

Hours had passed. Endless tears, shed by both of them. Long silences,
gathering the courage to remember more.
And then it was all out, and there was nothing left to hide from, ever again.
"I'm so sorry, Mulder," she whispered. "So, so sorry."
"You don't have a damn thing to be sorry about," he said, tightly, then
stopped, swallowing hard. "I would give anything in the world to turn the
clock back, not to make you go to that goddamned factory, or if I had to go,
to fire at the first thing I heard moving."
"It would have turned out to be a dog, or a child," Scully said, wiping away
first his tears and then hers. "You did what you were supposed to do."
"No, I didn't," he said, shaking his head. "I didn't protect my partner from
harm. But Scully, if I could have, I would have killed him right then and
there. He knew how badly hurt you were, he already had the information he
wanted and he did that to you anyway."
"He did it to you, too," she whispered. "Don't tell me you weren't traumatized
by it, because I know better." She raised her eyes to his again. "Mulder, is
that why you left me? To get away from the memories?"
"No," he shook his head again, more emphatically. "Never that. I didn't leave
you voluntarily, believe me. There was a reason, although you apparently don't
remember it."
She froze. "There's more?"
"Just one more thing. Should I tell you?"
"Will I figure it out if you don't?"
"Maybe," he said. "Probably." He smiled, just a little. "You're a pretty good
agent, after all."
"Well, I'm no Fox Mulder," she said, but her mind was already searching for
the missing truth. She thought hard, putting together as best she could
everything that had happened, what she could remember, what she couldn't.
Something else, she thought, something significant that he thinks I need to
know ...
<"She could go any time now," Ahab had said in her dream. "All I have to do is
press a button. That's my little gift to her.">

But that wasn't Ahab. It was Krycek.


Then she looked into his eyes, and she knew.
"He told you to leave me," she said. "He threatened to hurt me if you didn't."
"To kill you," he said, and she could see the shame in his eyes, and the
guilt. "To take you away, then and there, or else turn off the chip in your
neck and leave you there, either to die of your injuries or to let the cancer
come back and leave you with no way to stop it."
She shuddered, remembering the pain in the eyes of all her loved ones as they
gathered to watch her die, of the wrenching pain it had put Mulder through.
She had grown reconciled to her own death, had even longed for it sometimes
lately. It was their pain she could not face a second time.
"And so you agreed, but as usual, he double-crossed you; knocked us both out
and dumped us under that house to die," she said. "Is that what happened?"
"Yes," he said, simply. "That was it. But you're still here, no thanks to me."
"It's all thanks to you," she said, puzzled. "I don't know how you can think
otherwise. I would have drowned down there if not for you. I never blamed you
for any of it. I don't now."
"Then why were you having flashbacks the other night when we were making
love?" he said, almost angrily. "Why would you think it was Krycek touching
you instead of me, unless it's because you think I'm responsible for letting
it happen?"
Making love? she thought.
"Was that what we were doing?" she asked, almost curiously.
"What?"
"Making love?"
And then he smiled, a sad, quiet smile. "I thought so," he said, touching her
cheek softly. "Weren't we?"
"I don't know," she said, reflecting. "I hadn't thought about it that way. But
I like the idea."
"Of making love?"

"Of making love with Fox Mulder," she said, softly.


That touched him; she could tell by the half-smile that crossed his face.
"I like the idea of making love with Dana Scully," he said, tenderly, and
kissed her. "I like the reality even better. But if I had known more about how
badly all this had affected you, I never would have begun it. He said you
wouldn't remember. I should have known he couldn't tell the truth about that
or anything else."
"That had nothing to do with you," she said, nestling against him again. "He
just knew where to hit us both, and it worked. Right at what we each fear
most. And I think you know what that is for me."
"Losing control," he said, without hesitation. "With 'not being taken
seriously' a close second."
"And knowing I've been invaded and violated, but not remembering how, or by
whom," she said, quietly. "But Krycek isn't as good at erasing memories as
some we've encountered. Or maybe," she said, slowly, "maybe he is, and he
wasn't trying to erase my memories completely."
"You think Krycek knew what he was doing?"
"That depends on what he was trying to accomplish," she said, thoughtfully. "I
think if he had wanted me to forget, I would have forgotten. He has access to
the technology. And if he really wanted to traumatize us both, he wouldn't
have altered our memories at all. So maybe what he wanted to do was ... what
do you psychology majors call it?"
"We call it driving someone stark fucking apeshit," Mulder said, but with
little humor. "So if your theory's correct, what was my part in all this? What
does he gain from making me angry enough to kill him?"
"Maybe ... " She hesitated. "Maybe it's just his idea of fun. Or maybe he set
us up, and Marita was part of it."
"No," Mulder said, emphatically, shaking his head. "He went to too much
trouble to find out who'd tipped us. Marita is dead because I rolled over on
her."
"You did it for me," Scully said, softly. "I'm sorry, Mulder. I know you liked
her."
"She trusted me," Mulder said, bitterly. "She shouldn't have."

"No one could blame you for telling Krycek what he wanted to know," Scully
said. "But whether it was a setup or Krycek was really after that information,
it works to his advantage."
"How do you figure that?"
"Because either way, you leave me, you don't come back, and you don't go
looking for whatever was in that factory, either. He showed you what he could
do to me, so you'd believe him when he said he would do it again."
Mulder went still, so still that she was afraid.
"If that's so, then he got what he wanted," Mulder said, in his controlled
voice of anger. "I played right into his hands. I'm not doubting what you say,
Scully, but why go after us so directly? And why now? The X Files are gone.
We're no threat to them."
"Maybe they wanted to be sure the files wouldn't be reopened," she said. "I
played into his hands, too. I left. No one's working on putting the files back
together, no one's investigating those kinds of cases now. Maybe there's
something out there that you and I would understand if we saw it, and they
want to make certain that we don't."
"If that's true, then we will find out," Mulder said, firmly. "But we can deal
with that later. Right now, I'm a lot more worried about you."
"About me?"
"About you, about me, about us. I want my partner back," he said, vehemently.
"I screwed up, badly, leaving you the way I did, but I wanted him to leave you
alone. It was stupid; I used to know better ways to deal with threats than
running away."
"You're not superhuman, even if you are brilliant," she said, softly. "If I
couldn't deal with it, that's my fault, not yours. You said it yourself:
Plenty of law enforcement officers have to deal with PTSD."
"Scully, at the risk of sounding egotistical, you've dealt with worse
situations, and you came through them," Mulder said. "I can't ignore the fact
that this time, when you were left to deal with it alone, it got to you."
"Maybe it was just the straw that broke the camel's back," she said, stroking
his hair soothingly. "PTSD can come from cumulative stress, can't it?"
"Of course it can," he said, but he was calmer; her touch was working. "It
doesn't have to be just one event."

"Well, then, maybe it would have happened even if you'd been there," she said.
"Not that I couldn't have used your advice. You've been dealing with this a
lot longer than I have. Apparently, you know how."
"I'm just used to it," he said, with a shrug. "On the other hand, I did give a
textbook demonstration of avoidance behavior, didn't I? If I knew how to help
you now I would, but I don't. I'm not really qualified ... " Then he stopped
himself, and looked at her thoughtfully. "Maybe that's not true. Maybe what we
need to put things back on track is just to be together. Apparently, that's
what they were most afraid of."
"There is an emerging body of research that supports the idea of healing
relationships," she said, nodding. "I've seen some of the reports."
"Yes, Dr. Scully, there is," he said, smiling. "Trust you to come up with a
scientific angle on love."
"Mulder," she said, rolling her eyes. "You know what I mean. I'm not being
entirely scientific." She ran her fingers through his hair again, lovingly.
"But that's not an option, is it? We're only together as long as it takes to
work this case. You're still not willing to risk Krycek's doing something to
threaten my life."
He didn't answer. He didn't have to.
"So how much longer do we have?"
"Not long, I'm afraid," he said. "If I can get into this UNSUB's head for just
a day, or even a few hours, I'm pretty sure I'll have him figured out by this
time tomorrow, or the next day."
"I knew you would," she said, simply. "You're the best there is at this."
He smiled, warmed by her trust in him, but the smile faded quickly.
"I didn't want to leave you," he said. "You have to believe that."
"I do," she said. "And now that I know, I can begin to make sense of things,
and maybe figure out a way to put Alex Krycek out of our lives forever."
"We will," he said. "But first we've got to solve this case, and it may get
bad before we do. You may not want to be around me. But it's for a reason. I
have to know that you understand that."
"I do understand," she said. "We've been through this before. I'll still love
you, even if you can't be close to me for a while."

"I still want to kill him," Mulder said, quietly.


She knew who he meant. It wasn't the UNSUB.
And coming from Mulder, it was no idle threat. He meant it. He would do it.
"I know you do," she said. "And if it's justifiable at the time, I'm not
likely to stop you."
He smiled, ruefully. "You mean you won't shoot me this time?"
"Mulder," she said, reproachfully, "won't you ever forgive me for that?"
"There was never anything to forgive," he said, softly, then he bent to kiss
her again, letting the kiss go on for a while before pulling away.
"That feels nice," she said as his lips left hers. Then she laughed. "I am a
jerk. We're both too traumatized to make love, and all I can think of is how
much I want you."
"I want you, too," he said, tracing her lips with one finger. "I want you as
much as I ever did. More."
"But you can't. I don't mean physically can't," she said, as he started to
interrupt. "I mean emotionally can't, professionally can't. You can't be too
close to me right now; you said it yourself."
"I can't not be close to you, Scully," he said, seriously. "You're a part of
me; you have been for a long time."
"I want to be," she said, in a breathy whisper. "I want to be with you,
always, in every way there is. Mulder, when you were gone, it was as though
part of me was dead. Now that you're here, I feel alive again."
"You've always been alive," he said, his voice suddenly husky, slipping his
hand into her hair, pulling her closer. "There is more life in you than in any
woman I've ever known."
Their lips met, and this time there was no gentleness to it; this was a fierce
kiss, a possessive kiss of pure passion, a kiss meant to awaken her senses to
him, to make her his, and she melted into it, put her hands on his shoulders,
pushed him back onto the pillows so that he was on his back and she was lying
on his chest, her mouth still on his.

She felt his hands sliding under the thin T-shirt to wrap around her, his
palms pleasantly rough on the warm skin of her back, and she felt again the
aching, swollen feeling in her breasts, wanting his touch.
It would be so easy, she thought, dreamily, to turn to one side or the other
and then his hand would slip over my breast, be right where I want it, where
he can erase Alex Krycek's touch from me forever, the touch that was forced on
me against my will.
(Like you're thinking of forcing your touch on him, Dana?)
The thought horrified her, but she knew at once that it was true. The classic
pattern of the victim perpetrating the act on someone else as means of
regaining control.
I will not do that to him. Or to myself. It can't be like this.
Quickly, she lifted her head, breaking the kiss, but leaving their bodies
still pressed closely together. She put her hands on the mattress, rested her
weight on them; just enough to give him room to move if he chose.
"Dana," he said, and the rawness in his voice thrilled her. "Are you stopping
because you want to, or because you think I want to?"
"You," she said, her breathing still languorous and deep.
"You think I'm not ready for this?"
She had to laugh. "To all appearances, you're more than ready," she said,
sliding down just a little, feeling his hardness beneath her. He groaned, deep
in his throat. "Physically, anyway," she amended.
"Do that again and you're likely to find out just how ready I am," he said,
tightly.
"So am I," she whispered, suddenly serious again. "I wish you could feel it as
easily as I can feel you. But I don't want to push you into something you
don't want."
"Keeping in mind the great divide between what I want and what I think is
wise," he said, still stroking the naked skin of her back. "I can feel you
shaking, Scully. You're still frightened."
"I won't be forever," she said, softly. "And I know, I know for certain, that
I'm less traumatized than most women would be simply because I don't really
remember it."

"Maybe that's a blessing," Mulder said, and she looked at him quickly, certain
he was being flippant -- Fox Mulder wasn't a man who believed in blessings -but he was serious.
"Scully, forget what I want for a minute," he went on. "What do you want to
do? In all seriousness; I want to know."
"Can I have anything I want?" she asked, tracing the outline of his mouth with
one finger.
He nodded. "Anything that's in my power to give you."
She thought for a minute. "Will you sleep with me?"
"I thought you said we couldn't do that," he said, smiling just a little.
"No, I mean it literally; I want you to sleep with me," she said, solemnly.
"Would you like that?" he said, gently.
"Yes," she said. "I need it. I need you. And I do want us to be lovers, but if
that's not a good idea yet, then I'll settle for being able to fall asleep in
your arms."
"It sounds good to me, too," he said, and kissed her again.
"Will you?" she asked, softly. "Will you stay with me all night?"
"Seriously?" he said, a bit surprised. "What about Glassman?"
"He can find someone else to sleep with," she said, firmly.
That made him laugh.
"Please, anyone but me," he said, still laughing. "Or you. But all right.
You've twisted my arm. I'll stay." Suddenly, he turned serious again. "God
knows, I don't want to leave," he whispered, and kissed her.
"You need something to sleep in," she said, letting her hands slide to his
shoulders, resting them there. "Go ahead and shower, if you want to; I'll go
get it."
"What about ... " he began, but she interrupted him.

"He won't be in this early," she said. "He'll have found a bar and he'll be
there until at least 3 a.m." She kissed him again, then stood, taking both his
hands in hers, helped him to sit. "Okay?" she said.
"Okay," he said. "I'm too tired to argue with you."
He was tired; she could hear it in his voice, and the sound made her a little
sad. That's how he sounded when he was a little boy getting ready for his nap,
she thought, only the voice wasn't as deep back then.
How could his mother, how could any woman, hear that voice and not respond
with love? And he needed it so desperately sometimes, that caring love, more
perhaps than he needed friendship or erotic love.
And she needed to give it.
She helped him stand. Slowly, taking care to be completely matter-of-fact, she
unbuttoned his shirt, slid it off his shoulders, and held it up, looking at
the ripped seams.
"Sorry," she whispered, a bit sheepishly. "If I knew how to sew, I'd fix it."
"Remind me never to let you perform surgery on me," he said. That made her
laugh, and that pleased him. He put his arms around her, hugged her tight.
"Anyway," he said, "it was lost in a good cause."
Letting go, he unsnapped his side holster and put it on the night stand next
to hers, hoping she wouldn't notice that her own holster was empty. But
somehow, he knew the need for such precautions was over. There was still a lot
of pain and hard work ahead of her, but Scully was going to survive. He could
feel it in every movement of her body.
And so was he.
"Come on, now," she was saying, wrapping her arms around his waist. "You're
tired to death."
"Aren't you tired, Scully?" he asked, tucking a lock of red hair behind her
ear.
"I haven't slept much lately," she said, softly, laying one hand on his upper
arm, feeling the thick muscle through the soft cotton of his T-shirt. Slowly,
carefully, she lifted the T-shirt over his head. She had to stand on her toes
to do it.

"Is this okay with you?" she said, unbuckling his belt, sliding it off. "Do
you mind?"
"No," he said. "I don't feel like much of a prize right now anyway. Are you
sure this is what you want? Completely platonic?"
"Yes," she whispered, slipping one hand behind his neck, pulling him down to
her for a soft, lingering kiss.
"Then you'd better let me finish this," he said, holding her gently by her
upper arms, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"All right," she said, and laughed. She laid her head against his bare chest
for just a moment, then straightened up. "Hit the shower, Mulder," she said.
"You can use my razor, if you like. I won't be a minute."
The shower felt good, especially after sitting in the humid air for so long.
When he got out, he saw that Scully had indeed found his usual sleeping
clothes -- sweat pants and T-shirt -- and had put them next to the sink. He
dried off quickly, put the clothes on, and stepped out into the room.
The lights were out, but he could see in the light from the street lamps that
Scully was already in bed, waiting for him. Slowly, as slowly and reverently
as a pilgrim approaching a shrine on his knees, Mulder slid beneath the cool
sheets and lay down with her, not too close but close enough to touch, and she
pulled the covers around them both.
He brushed the hair back from her face; it was damp, and smelled of lavender,
like her skin.
"You were taking a chance going to my room," he said, still stroking her hair.
"What if Glassman had come in?"
"I told you," she said, laying her hand on his arm. "He almost never comes in
before 3 a.m."
"Almost never is not the same as never," he said, beginning to move just a
little closer.
"As in, 'I almost never sleep with Fox Mulder'?" she said, softly.
"Yeah," he said, almost whispering. "Something like that."
He put his arms around her, pulled her close, kissed her tenderly. She gave a
long, contented sigh, and laid her head against his chest, listening to his
heartbeat, letting it mesmerize her.

"Am I asking too much of you?" she whispered.


"You mean being in bed together but no sex?" he said, sleepily.
"Mm-hmm," she said. "I don't want to be a tease. Not with you. You mean too
much to me."
"You are most definitely not a tease," he said, rolling onto his side,
stroking her back. "And no, it's not too much. I like it."
"Me, too," she said, stretching upward to meet his lips with hers. He held her
closer, and they kissed, and kissed again, over and over, exploring each
other's lips and mouth, their hands moving over one another in a leisurely
fashion. She felt him growing hard against her, but tonight it felt good,
reassuring more than dangerous.
There would be a time for that. She knew that now. And she would be ready.
"I love you," she whispered, and pulled him back for one more lingering kiss.
When she looked at him again, he was smiling, the slow, full-mouthed smile she
loved but saw too seldom.
"That's nice, the way you say that," he said, playing with one of the soft
curls around her face. "I like it."
"But is it really enough?" she said, worry coming back to her eyes.
"It's everything," he said. "Everything that matters, anyway." He kissed her
again. "I love you, Dana. But you're right. We should go to sleep."
"Will you hold me until I'm asleep?" she whispered.
"I'll hold you forever if I get the chance," he said. "Go to sleep, Scully."
He lay back slowly against the pillows, bringing her with him. She nestled
under his arm, laid her head on his chest and fell asleep to the rhythm of his
strong heartbeat.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"The profoundest of all sensualities
is the sense of truth
and the next deepest sensual experience
is the sense of justice."

-- D.H.Lawrence
Chapter 16

Daphne Municipal Building


Friday, March 5
9:57 a.m.

"Agent Mulder, Agent Scully!"


Mack was running, literally running toward Mulder's car as the agents pulled
into the parking lot.
"This can't be good," Mulder said under his breath, rolling down the window.
Mack leaned in, wide-eyed and breathless.
"There's been another one."
"Another what?" Scully asked, leaning slightly toward him.
"Another murder," Mack said. "He's hit again."
Mulder went ashen. "It's too soon," he said, dazed. "It's way too soon."
"Apparently not, Agent Mulder," Mack said, leaning his arms on the open
window. "We got a man dead from two .38 caliber gunshot wounds. If you gimme a
ride, I'll show you where it is."
Mulder didn't say anything. Scully watched him carefully for a second.
"Get in, Officer Mack," she said. "Let's go see what we've got before we draw
any conclusions."
As Mack moved to open the back door, Scully took Mulder's hand quickly. "It
may not be what it sounds like, Mulder," she said, too quietly for Mack to
hear. "Let me take a look at the body before you start beating yourself up."
Mulder only nodded, but his expression was grim.
~~~~~

439 Twin Beech Road


10:37 a.m.
"We responded this morning to the residence after receiving a report of shots
fired inside the house," Mack said as Mulder and Scully followed him through
the front door. "This door wasn't locked when we got here. We found this guy,"
indicating the body of an elderly man, "lying on the floor. There was a .38
next to him; we've already sent that to DFS' firearms guy."
Scully pulled latex gloves from her pocket and put them on, bent over the
body. "There are gunshot wounds of the head and chest," she said. "Contact
range. Was there a note?"
"You thinking this was suicide?" Mack said. "No offense, Agent Scully, but
this guy's been shot twice. There wasn't no notes and there ain't gonna be no
notes, neither."
Scully looked around. "What are those?" she asked Mulder, who was looking over
some papers stacked neatly atop a desk.
"His will, for one thing," he said, turning the papers over with gloved hands.
"His life insurance policies, the deed to the house and a few other things of
that nature."
"That would fit with a suicide," Scully said, kneeling beside the body. Mulder
put down the papers and walked over to her.
"You sure you're not just trying to save my ass, Scully?" he said, kneeling
beside her and speaking very low.
"Mulder, not even for you would I deliberately mislead anyone about a cause
and manner of death," Scully said, absently, studying the body. "Besides,
you're the profiler. Does this case fit your UNSUB's MO?"
"No," he said. "It's nowhere near it. But it is a .38."
"It is," she said. "But this one is contact range, and the UNSUB hasn't gone
in for that. He hasn't hit any residences, either."
"There's a first time for everything, particularly for someone who knows the
FBI is after him," Mulder said, glumly. "He could have gone for residential
break-ins to avoid the more public areas he's been hitting."
"Could have, but didn't, at least not here," Scully said. She took a small
pair of forceps from her pocket and lifted some of the torn skin away from the
victim's skull. "There is clear evidence of contact in the head wound:

abrasion ring, gray-black discoloration, and stellate lacerations in the


subcutaneous tissues. Charring on the skull, too."
"And the chest?" Mulder asked.
"I'd need the gun to be sure, but there is a definite barrel impression on the
skin," she said, lifting the shirt away. "A second contact wound, then.
There's some powder tattooing as well."
"How is that consistent with suicide?"
"Happens all the time," she said, turning to look at him. "You've been shot;
you know a bullet is not necessarily instantly incapacitating. If someone
wants to kill himself and the first bullet doesn't do it -- in this case, I
feel certain that was the chest wound -- they'll quite often fire a second
round."
She turned back to the body. "Mack, have they got all the photographs they
need?"
"Yes, ma'am," Mack said. "Coroner's already left, too. We're just waiting for
somebody to come get him."
She nodded. "In that case, I'm going to turn him over. Help me lift him just a
little," she said to Mulder, who put his hands under the corpse's shoulder and
hip and rolled it, with difficulty, toward Mack, who held it steady while
Scully pulled up the blood-soaked shirt.
"Got anything?" Mack said.
"Yep," Scully said. "Exit wound. The projectile traveled front to back, which
is also consistent with suicide. Put him back down." She stood up. "Better bag
his hands; I think we've got soot there."
"Agent Scully," Mack said, laying the corpse back in position. "I'm sorry, but
I don't understand how this guy can have shot himself twice like that."
"It's unusual, but it happens," Scully said, stripping off the blood-stained
gloves. "About three percent of suicides involve multiple gunshot wounds." She
searched for a biohazard container, found it, and dropped the gloves in.
"Officer Mack, I'm not licensed in Alabama, and I can't rule this a suicide.
But I would, if I could. Let me strongly suggest that you send this body to a
medical examiner in Mobile. Forget the coroner."
She felt, more than heard, Mulder's sigh of relief, turned to see him rubbing
his forehead the way he did when he was trying to think.

"Come on, Mulder," she said, in her most matter-of-fact voice. "Let's go back
to the car. This case is outside our jurisdiction."
"Yeah, okay," he said.
They got to the car and Mulder slid in behind the steering wheel. For a minute
he simply sat there, hands on the wheel.
"Mulder, you've still got some time," she said, laying her fingers gently on
his arm. "You didn't make a mistake."
"I don't have much time, Scully," he said, and his eyes were grim. "I've got
to get inside this bastard's head fast. This was just a wake-up call."
He turned to look at her then. "I've got to be alone for a few hours. I don't
want you anywhere around. You know why, don't you?"
"Yes," she said, gently. "I know. I understand. And I will give you all the
time you need. But come back to me when you can. I'll be waiting for you."
"Scully," he began, then gave up, helpless as always before the love in her
eyes. "I will. And soon. I know almost everything I need to know. Almost ... "
His voice trailed off.
"You do what you have to, and I'll do what I have to," she said. "What I need
to do now is get back to police HQ and meet with the CDC folks about the
anthrax. And," looking at her watch," I also need to take another Vibramycin
if I don't want to come down with it myself."
Mulder looked up sharply. "Vibramycin? Is that what you're taking?"
His tone surprised her. "Yes," she said. "I thought I told you that."
"You said doxy-something," he said, intently. "It's called Vibramycin? Is
there another anthrax drug that sounds something like silo?"
"Ciloxan," she said, automatically. "It's the drug of choice, but I'm allergic
to it. Why, Mulder? Do those names mean something to you?"
"They do now," he said, starting the car, steering back toward the highway.
"There was an Army Reservist in Birmingham, Robert Gentry, that I was checking
for clearance. One of his neighbors said she'd seen him with a bag full of
drugs, antibiotics, and the names sounded something like vibrating silos."
"Oh, my God," Scully said, comprehending. "Army Reserves. Stouffer was in the
Reserves."

"He was," Mulder said, his jaw set. "In a medical unit."
"What was your subject in Birmingham assigned to?"
"The 87th Maneuver Area Command," Mulder said. "They set up war games for
everyone else to play. They plan how troops will be deployed and what they'll
do when they get there."
"Putting them in a perfect position to disperse a chemical or biological
agent," Scully said, her eyes wide with horror. "Mulder, are you suggesting
Stouffer had something to do with that and he was killed because of it?"
"I think it's a possibility, yes," he said, looking straight ahead as he
drove. "What if Gentry's unit is involved in the sanctioned or unsanctioned
use of anthrax as a biological weapon? It stands to reason if the military
would prefer to use its own medical personnel to treat anyone who was
accidentally infected. Maybe Stouffer wasn't supposed to know about it, but he
found out, and being the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, felt he had to do
something to stop it."
"And where does Nivek fit?" she asked. "At this point, he's patient zero."
"I don't know, but I'm going to find out," he said. "We haven't really looked
into his background before. But if he turns out to be a reservist, then we'll
know."
"But how does that get him killed by someone you have already surmised is
psychotic?" Scully asked. "How do you get a serial killer to kill on command?"
"You don't," Mulder said. "But our UNSUB is a spree killer, not a serial
killer, remember? He doesn't have strong preferences about his victims. It
would be a fairly simple matter, I think, to put ideas in his head about who
or what might be a danger to him. Someone planted the idea that Stouffer or
Nivek was out to get him, showed the UNSUB where to find him, and let nature
take its course."
Scully was silent for a moment, thinking it over.
"You're right, Mulder," she said, slowly. "It's a plausible scenario. Do we
call your SAC with this?"
He shook his head. "This isn't his case. It's Skinner's. And until I know
whether anyone in D.C. is involved with this, it's back to me and thee,
Scully."
"All right," she said, a soft smile at the corners of her mouth. "But does

this information help you get closer to your UNSUB?"


"Yes, it does," he said, turning to give her a quick smile. "It means I can
finish my profiling without having to worry about the Florida killings.
They're by the same killer, but now I know for certain that they don't have to
fit the profile of anything else he does. That should make this fairly quick
-- although still not pretty," he warned.
"I know," she said, her voice soft again. "But it's like I said; I'll be here
when you come back. And when you do come back, I think we have some unfinished
business."
He gave her a keen glance. "Could I hazard a guess as to what that might be?"
She shook her head. "Not until you're done with your profile. I don't want to
distract you again."
"Distract me when it's over, then," he said, with a touch of his usual warm
humor. "I can't think of a better way to come back up from something like
this."
"It's a deal," she said as Mulder drove into the police department parking
lot. He stopped the car but didn't take off his seat belt. "You're not coming
in?"
He shook his head. "I've got to be alone now," he said. "You go on and do your
autopsy, then talk to the guys from CDC. Tell them about the reservist in
Birmingham if you like, but let's keep the rest of our suspicions to ourselves
for now."
"CDC is notorious for focusing on microbes and vectors rather than
conspiracies," she said, dryly. She got out of the car, walked around to the
driver's side. Mulder lowered the window, and she leaned in slightly. "What do
I tell Glassman?"
"Assuming you see him, tell him nothing," Mulder said. "At least not about
anthrax. He won't give a shit where I am."
"No, he won't," she said. "But I will." Quickly, too quickly for anyone
watching to follow, she smoothed the hair behind his ears. "I'll see you."
"See ya," he said, with a soft smile. Then he rolled up the window and drove
away.
Scully stood in the blistering heat for a long time after he was gone,
watching the place where he had been.

~~~~~
Daphne Municipal Building
1:35 p.m.
The CDC hadn't been the least bit interested in Mulder's reservist, which
didn't surprise Scully at all.
"All military personnel are vaccinated against anthrax, Dr. Scully," the CDC
field researcher reminded her. "There's little chance of anyone in the
Reserves being infected with it. He probably just had a bad case of the clap."
"Stouffer's dosage was several times what would be required to treat a
sexually transmitted disease," she reminded them.
"You did the autopsy, Dr. Scully," the researcher said. "Your Mr. Stouffer
didn't have anthrax."
"But maybe he had reason to believe that he did," she said, but she knew she
was getting nowhere. They would focus the rest of the investigation on
transmission paths, on Nivek's possible contacts with livestock, and that was
pretty much that.
"After all, Agent Scully," one of them said, not unreasonably, "if someone had
sent anthrax to this area, it's likely they'd have run across you guys by now.
FBI has jurisdiction over anthrax threats."
She didn't get even that far with MILPERCEN, the Military Personnel Center.
Nivek not only wasn't a reservist, there was nothing to indicate he'd ever put
on a uniform of any kind.
The connection that once seemed so tenuous now seemed nonexistent.
She was stuck. She could only hope that Mulder would get further today than
she had, because if his instincts were correct, this UNSUB was about to kill
again.
And when it came to pathological killers, Mulder's instincts were never wrong.
~~~~~
Mullet Point park
4:55 p.m.

All crimes have a motive.

All crimes make sense according to some logic, though that logic may be
internal, bearing no relationship to any objective reality.
So said John Douglas, the FBI agent who invented profiling, and the first to
insist on the necessity of understanding that internal, unconnected logic.
To understand meant to detach oneself from the logic of the exterior world and
operate on the internal logic of a madman.
Mulder was very nearly there, tapping into the dark side of his own soul,
dropping deeper and deeper into the paranoid rage of the UNSUB.
Everything he knew, everything he had deduced or Resnik had suggested, was
fuel for this dark journey. He forced himself to accept the killer's
irrational thoughts as his own, recreating the monster in his own soul, its
food the pain of his own existence.
He had been at it ever since he left Scully.
The UNSUB, he knew, wouldn't be likely to trust anyone, so why did his
thoughts keep turning back to the killer's race? Aside from the obvious
identifying factor, why did it matter?
It's axiomatic in profiling that a killer feels safest killing members of his
own race; this one didn't seem to care, or did he?
Could someone have gotten to him, persuaded him to travel miles from his usual
haunt to kill a white man, a customer in a Pensacola electronics store? Could
he have believed that Nivek was a threat to him, enough of a threat for him to
step outside what should have been his MO?
Who would have been able to get that close to him? He wasn't likely to trust
anyone that much.
Trust no one. That was easy enough for Mulder to relate to. There was no one
he truly trusted, except Scully. But this kind of paranoia, the kind that led
to murder -- this was different. There was no way this killer had randomly
selected Nivek or the two Pensacola victims. Someone had to be guiding the
UNSUB to people involved with the manufacture of anthrax weapons.
I've got to understand how he does it, this person who's using the UNSUB to do
his dirty work. But how? How do I relate to the fears and mistrust of a black
man living in the Deep South when I'm a white man born to privilege, if not
money, born to polite society, educated in the best schools?
Where's the key to understanding him?

(I have so little family left. So many have died.)


No. That line of thinking just wouldn't work. It was impossible for him to
divide his world into Jew and Gentile, impossible even to understand his own
soul that way. His upbringing had been too determinedly non-Jewish, whatever
his ancestry. He was more comfortable in a church than in a synagogue.
The old woman saw him as one of her own people, but he could never see himself
that way.
Could he?
No. None of that means anything to me, he thought. I have virtually nothing in
common with the Stouffers or any other practicing Jew. They make themselves
outsiders, and I don't want to be an outsider. I'm not like that.
Yeah, and the old woman's family probably didn't think they were, either. They
thought they were German citizens. Maybe they even thought being a Jew was
just a religious distinction, no different than being a Lutheran or a Baptist.
When did they find out the truth? Probably about the time someone stuck a gold
Star of David on their clothes, smashed their shop windows, screamed "tod der
Juden!" in the night. They certainly knew when the cattle cars started to pull
up at the station.
You could find out that way, too, and you know it. When you read about a
swastika painted on a synagogue, you're afraid. When you saw the numbers on
her arm, you were afraid. Always, you ask yourself the same question: Could it
happen here?
Damn right, it could. It could happen anywhere. You know that because you are
part of them, part of her, part of every Jew who's ever lived or died. You
know that somewhere out there, there's someone who wants you dead for no other
reason than just that accident of birth. You didn't choose it, but they don't
care.
They don't even care if you hate it more than they do.
That's what the UNSUB knows, and you know, too: When they come for you in the
night, it doesn't matter who your friends are or what you believe. It doesn't
make any difference whether it's a cross-burning or a pogrom. It can be the
Nazis, or it can be the Klan. They can call you nigger or they can call you
kike, it just doesn't matter; either way, you're just as dead.
And the people who did it, the people who came for you in the night, don't
know or care that you ever had any other name.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"What we do in analyzing a murder ... is very similar to what a good actor
does in preparing for a role. We both come to a scene -- in the actor's case a
scene in a play or movie script, in ours, a murder scene -- we look at what's
there on the surface -- written dialogue between the characters or evidence of
a violent crime -- and we try to figure out what that tells us. In other
words, what really happened between the principal characters in this scene?"
"MindHunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit"
-- John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Chapter 17

The Pembroke Inn


Saturday, March 6
2:12 a.m.
Someone was pounding on her door.
Scully jumped up from the chair where she'd fallen asleep, still dressed,
looking over the autopsy reports. Mulder. Had to be. Who else would knock at
this hour?
She stumbled to the door, threw it open without even looking through the
peephole.
It wasn't Mulder. It was Glassman.
"Still awake, Scully?" Glassman said. "Where's Spooky?"
"He's not here," she said, distractedly. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for Mulder, of course," he said, walking past her, looking around the
room, leaving a trail of gin fumes behind him.
"Don't stand on ceremony, Glassman," she said, irritated. "Just make yourself
comfortable, why don't you? Why do you want Mulder at this hour?"
"Because I don't know where he is, and I want to find out," he said. "Do you
have a problem with that?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," she said, folding her arms across her chest. "He

doesn't answer to you, Glassman. He's working for AD Skinner, and it's none of
your business where he is."
"Oh, really? Suppose I need to talk to him?" Glassman said, plopping down in
the chair Scully had just vacated.
"I believe," she said, slowly, but with growing menace, "that you have his
cell phone number. Feel free to go back to your room and call him. But I
wouldn't make that call if I were you."
"And why's that, Miss Scully?" Glassman said, propping his feet on the table.
"Is he busy with his spooky stuff? You afraid I'll scare him?"
"Get out of here, Glassman," Scully said, her lips tight with annoyance. "Go
back to your bar or wherever you've been hanging out while Mulder and I have
been handling this investigation."
"That's not very friendly," Glassman said, with what he must have imagined was
a smile. "You ought to be more friendly, Dana. I could do a lot for you if we
were friends."
"That's Agent Scully to you," she said. "Get out. I mean it."
"You're afraid Mulder's going to walk in here, aren't you, Dana?" Glassman
said, and laughed. "Oh, yeah, I know all about that little slumber party you
two had last night. And if you want me to keep quiet about that, then we need
to talk."
Scully stared at him for a moment, her eyes narrowed, thinking what to do. She
knew Mulder's sleeping over with her would catch Glassman's attention, even if
the case didn't. She just hadn't expected to have to deal with it so soon.
"Glassman," she said, slowly. "This is the last time I'm going to tell you to
get out of my hotel room. Go. Now."
"Or what?" Glassman said. "Mess with me and I'll blow the whistle on you and
your spooky friend so fast you won't even be able to get a job sweeping out
VICAP offices. Make nice, Dana."
To hell with this, she thought, and reached behind her back, too fast for
Glassman to react in his drunken state. She drew her weapon and aimed it
squarely at his crotch, her finger on the trigger.
"I said get out," she said. "And by God, I mean it."
"For Chrissakes, Scully, put that thing down," he shrieked. "You could hurt
somebody!"

"You're damn right I could," she said. "Don't think I won't shoot you, either,
because I will. I've shot better men than you. Now stand up slowly, keep your
hands in front of you and get the hell out of my room."
He did. "You're going to regret this, Scully," he warned, backing toward the
open door. "Rolfe doesn't put up with female agents who sleep around."
"Unless it's with him, you mean," she said. "Go. And shut the door behind
you."
Not until Glassman was gone and the door shut and bolted behind him did Scully
lower the weapon and return it to its holster. There would be consequences
from this, she knew. But she didn't especially care; working for Rolfe wasn't
high on her list of things to do right now, anyway.
There was only one thing really bothering her.
Where was Mulder?
~~~~~
oh god mom not again please i'm sorry i'm so sorry mom it hurts it hurts but
it stops hurting when the gun goes off, oh, my, yes, it stops when you make
them hurt
oh, and it felt like cleansing for about two minutes when modell, when roche
lay bleeding on the floor, it felt like purgation to hear the gun go off ...
but it never lasts for long, it never does, and then you have to kill again
and you kill again ...
and then again ...
Mulder shuddered, and buried his face in his hands.
~~~~~
4:37 a.m.
The picture was complete.

They hadn't found the UNSUB yet for one simple reason: He was gone.
But not where Fox Mulder couldn't find him.
He sat up, opened his laptop and began to write. The only sound was the uneven
clicking of the keys.
Slowly, methodically, Mulder typed the profile into the FBI's remote access
database. He called up the composite drawings, and without hesitation,
selected one and attached it to the file, along with certain items from
witness descriptions. He hit the send button, uploading the info to the FBI
mainframe.
The composite, and his profile, would be available in a matter of seconds to
almost every law-enforcement office in the United States. Working through the
Daphne PD's night sergeant, he had already put out an APB for this UNSUB.
A federal warrant for interstate flight to avoid prosecution for murder would
be ready the minute someone came up with a name, courtesy of the Mobile Field
Office.
It wouldn't be long. Mulder had never been more sure of anything in his life.
In a short while, they would begin calling every trailer rental, every storage
facility between New Orleans and Pensacola. They would fax copies of the
composite to every news outlet. They would visit fleabag hotels, looking for a
clerk who might have seen him.
Someone would recognize him. That was a certainty. Mulder knew now, beyond a
doubt, how this guy thought, how he moved, what he did. It was just a matter
of getting to the places he'd been and showing his picture and describing how
he would have behaved.
They would get him, and with even half a break, it would be before he could
kill again.
So of course, it was all worth it, wasn't it? The case was essentially over,
the problem solved. Now there was nothing for him to do but wait.
And he would wait here, hunched over his laptop.
Alone.
He would break his promise to Scully. He would not go to her, although not
because he didn't want to. Throughout the night, he had stretched the lifeline
between them to its full length, putting himself as far as he could into the
mind of the outsider.

And he was still there, outside it all, isolated from everyone, afraid to
reach out to her, afraid she would reject him. That those were the UNSUB's
thoughts didn't matter. They were still with him, as strongly as though they
were his own, and they would not go away quickly.
But they would go away, in time. The lifeline would hold. He still loved her.
He still trusted her.
He still needed her.
But he couldn't be with her. Not now.

No. As much as he wanted the comfort of her love, the warmth of her arms,
there was no way he wanted her anywhere near him tonight.
~~~~~

Profile of Unknown Subject in FBI Case No. 3098592-A


SA Fox W. Mulder, behavioral profiler

MODUS OPERANDI:
See attached case summary by SA Dana Scully, M.D.
PSYCHOLOGICAL:

The UNSUB most likely suffers from delusional paranoia but is still functional
at a marginal level and capable of social interaction, based on the following
findings:
A) The use of multiple firearms, all of which fire a .38-caliber slug, is
typical of the paranoid killer.
B) The "overkill" nature of the killings, based on multiple GSWs to each VI,
indicating a type of disorganized spree killing, typical of the paranoid and
angry subject.
C) The escalating nature of the violence, indicating a psychological profile
which may tend, if not arrested, toward an MO more typical of the true serial
killer.

Given the violence expressed in the slayings, the UNSUB probably has a
personal history of having been battered as a child.
He will have some racial prejudice against whites (see
probable appearance) but will strike primarily members
on the internalized self-loathing which is the primary
crimes. He is unlikely to belong to any organized hate
inability to relate well socially at any level.

below for UNSUB's


of his own race based
motivation for his
groups because of his

His functionality is attested to by his ability to travel in the commission of


his crimes, which indicates access to a motor vehicle. The state of traffic
laws in Alabama makes it possible that the UNSUB owns a car in poor condition
and has no insurance or driving license, which decreases the amount of money
required for the operation of a car.
He is either homeless or lives with relatives, although he is probably not
welcome to stay long with any of them because of his paranoia and violent
tendencies. His comfort level is highest in the commercial area of U.S.
Highway 98 near Interstate 10 in Daphne, therefore he probably lives nearby.
This UNSUB probably owns a police scanner and follows police activity closely,
both for information on the investigation into his own crimes and because he
is in some sense a "police buff" with a desire for the authority he and power
he perceives are inherent in carrying a badge and a gun.
It would probably be productive to investigate local electronics firms and gun
dealers and show them the composite drawing.

EMPLOYMENT:
The UNSUB's tendency to hit convenience stores and gas stations indicates he
probably works as a cashier in such businesses or has in the past, possibly
having been dismissed for pilfering.
He will be considered strange or odd but usually will not be considered
overtly threatening by people with whom he works.
VEHICLE:

The UNSUB's predilection for night crimes indicates a car dark in color,
almost certainly old and in poor condition. He may be hauling a trailer behind
in which he keeps most of his possessions.

APPEARANCE:

Based on witness descriptions and the MO of the UNSUB, I conclude that he is a


black male, age 25-35, short in stature, probably with some facial hair but no
other significant skin markings or scars visible. He prefers dark clothing,
especially at night.

CRIMINAL HISTORY:
I would expect our UNSUB to have a history of minor crimes and probably one
violent felony, probably assaultive against an authority figure of some kind.
He is unlikely to have been incarcerated for any long stretch, but has almost
certainly been jailed and possibly institutionalized in the past.

SPECIAL NOTE:

There is a strong possibility that the killings in Florida were motivated in


part by outside influences. The crimes are not as closely within our UNSUB's
MO as would be typical, raising the possibility that the UNSUB was
deliberately influenced to seek out and kill these victims.
I would suggest deep background investigations into these victims with an eye
toward any associations with the military or with animal husbandry, based on
the findings by SA Scully that indicate anthrax exposure or use of medications
indicated for anthrax prophylaxis by two VIs in this case.
Respectfully submitted,

SA Fox W. Mulder
JTT047101111
~~~~~
Daphne Municipal Building
Saturday, March 6
7:33 a.m.
"Agent Mulder?"
Mulder opened his eyes, unsure for a moment where he was. He was stiff, sore
all over, and his head felt like the Jolly Green Giant had used it for a fast,
hard game of racquetball.
As both the ball and the racquet.

"Agent Mulder, sorry to wake you, but your partner's been calling here looking
for you."
It was Mack. He was standing outside the doorway, peering inside.
Now Mulder knew where he was. He had fallen asleep, head on the rickety
folding table, had slept what little remained of the night right there in
police HQ.
He sat up, stretched, blinking his eyes sleepily. "What does she want?" he
asked.
"I think she needs a ride to work," Mack said. "You want me to go get her?"
"No," Mulder said, standing, picking up his suit coat. "I gotta go get a
shower anyway. I'll get her. You got any aspirin?"
"Got some Goody's," Mack said. "I'll get you one."
"Thanks. Did you see the APB?"
"First thing this morning," Mack said. "Got some officers out checking motels
and U-Haul places right now. You want to ride with me?"
Mulder shook his head. "I've got some things to check out. But thanks for the
offer. You got my cell phone number?"
"Right here," Mack said. "I'll holler when we find him."
"Make it quick, Mack," Mulder said, seriously. "If you don't, it'll be
tonight, or maybe tomorrow night, but it'll be soon."
"You sure about that, Agent Mulder?" Mack said, skeptically.
"I'm sure," Mulder said, flatly, rubbing his temples. Jeez, this headache was
a real bastard. "Tonight or tomorrow. With a gun he hasn't used yet."
Mack looked at him for a minute. "That's kind of spooky."
Mulder laughed humorlessly. "Yes, it is. Get me that aspirin, or whatever it
is; I've got a crook to catch."

~~~~~
The Pembroke Inn
Room 204
8:40 a.m.
Two sharp raps of the knuckles.
That meant FBI.
Scully looked through the peephole, then opened the door wide.
Mulder stood there, looking hung over although he'd clearly showered and
shaved this morning.
"I guess I'm late," he said.
"You're more than late," she said. "You disappeared. I was worried."
"I, uh -- I decided I'd better not come by last night," he said. "I turned off
my phone. I didn't think it was a good idea to call."
She eyed him carefully. "That bad?" she said, more calmly than she felt.
"Pretty damn bad," he acknowledged, with a grimace. "Woke up with my usual
post-profile headache, which Officer Mack treated with some vaguely poisonous
Southern concoction known as a headache powder. Tasted like shit."
"What did you find out?"
"Let's don't talk about it now, okay?" Mulder said, still rubbing his temples.
"I've still got the headache and I'm not anxious to revisit this guy's brain
so soon. There's one hell of a bad guy out there, Scully, and now I have a
pretty fair idea of where he is."
~~~~~
The Green Top Inn
9:23 a.m.

"This looks more like the kind of hotel we used to stay in," Scully murmured
as she and Mulder approached the desk clerk at the third hotel they'd visited
that morning.

The clerk was a middle-aged woman whose impossibly jet black hair showed about
two inches of gray roots. Her smile revealed more than a few missing teeth.
"This one's straight from Central Casting," Mulder said. "Stupid Southern
redneck, type two. If she has a corncob pipe, I'm leaving."
"Help you?" the clerk asked.
"We're with the FBI," Scully said, flipping her credentials case open and
suppressing a smile as Mulder flashed her a what-did-I-tell-you expression.
"I'm Special Agent Dana Scully, this is my partner, Special Agent Fox Mulder.
We'd like to ask you a few questions."
"What about?" the woman said, suddenly suspicious.
"We'd like to know if you've seen this man," Mulder said, taking a copy of the
composite from his inner coat pocket and unfolding it on the desk. "Has anyone
checked in here recently who looks like this?"
"Yep, sure did," the woman said. "Big ugly thing. Came in yesterday, big
you-haul-em behind his car. I had a hard time gettin' the plate number. Made
him pay up ahead of time."
"What name is he registered under?"
The woman scratched her abdomen with one hand, hit a few keys on an ancient
computer with the other. "Stuart Rayford Lee," she said. "Room 104."
"Do you know if he's in his room now?" Scully asked.
"I don't know where he is or where he ain't," the woman said. "I mind my own
beeswax."
"Mulder, if we're going to have to go in, we're going to need a warrant and
backup," Scully said, turning to her partner.
He nodded, took out his cell phone and punched in Mack's number. "Mack," he
said. "Mulder. We've got a possible make. Do you have a judge ready to go?"
There was a pause. "Good. Get over here with it quick. And we need some
backup." A pause. "The Green Top Inn. What's your ETA?"
He put his hand over the mouthpiece. "He says he'll be here in twenty minutes,
he's at the courthouse now," he told Scully, then turned toward the clerk.
"Any of these rooms have back doors, any other exits?"

"Nope," the woman said. "One room, one door."


"Two ought to do it," Mulder said into the phone. "But put on your long johns.
This guy's got plenty of weapons available to him." He hit the off button,
flipped the phone closed. "Let's cover the door until Mack gets here," he told
Scully.
"All right, but from a distance," Scully said. "If he makes us, there's going
to be trouble."
"I'm not arguing," Mulder said. "I just don't want him to run when he sees
marked cruisers pulling into the parking lot. You wearing a vest?"
Scully nodded, looking out the grimy window. "I don't leave home without it
anymore," she said. "That bush over there," indicating a tall red-topped
shrub. "That's our cover."
"All right," Mulder said. "I think we will need that key after all, Mrs. ---"
"Weaver," the woman said. "Ruby Jolene Weaver."
"May I have your address, Mrs. Weaver?" Mulder said, taking out a small
notebook.
"Barnett's Crossroads, down the Greeno Road," she said. "Everybody there knows
me. Just ask for Ruby Jolene."
"Mrs. Weaver, I suggest you stay in the back office, away from the windows,
until you hear from us again," Mulder said. "This man is wanted for several
crimes, and I wouldn't want you to be injured."
"What did he do?" she asked, with dull interest.
"You can read about it in the newspaper," Scully said, taking Mulder's arm and
ushering him out the door. "Jesus, and I thought Forrest Gump was a fictional
character."
"Actually, I think Gump was smarter than that," Mulder said, shaking his head,
then he turned serious. "Scully, if you're not ready to deal with this, it's
all right. This could get hot in a hurry, if he's really here, and if you
don't want to be around when the shooting starts, it's okay."
"No," she said. "I'm all right. I can't hide for the rest of my life." She
looked up at him, and he thought the blue in her eyes had never been so clear,
or so beautiful before. Or so steady. "I'm not afraid, Mulder," she said.
"Really."

Is she that sure of herself already? he wondered. That would be about the
fastest recovery in the history of PTSD.
Or -- what seemed to him less likely -- is she that sure of me?
But maybe, just maybe, she is. Maybe this is what happens when you open up to
her, hold her in the night, let all the walls fall down between you ... or, he
amended, all but one.
And that one, he thought, is going to fall soon if she has anything to say
about it.
But for now, she was still looking him, and for the life of him, he couldn't
think of an appropriate response.
And she seemed to know it. She squeezed his hand briefly, then let him go.
"Come on, partner," she said. "Let's get into position."
Casually, they walked away from the building, as though heading toward the
garish yellow restaurant next door. When they reached the shrub, they quickly
stepped behind it, Scully crouching down, Mulder aligning himself behind the
thick trunk.
Mulder tapped Scully on the shoulder, gesturing toward a dark blue,
half-rusted Chevy parked behind the restaurant.
There was a U-Haul trailer attached to the back.
She looked up, caught his eye again, and knew.
He was here.
The agents drew their weapons and waited, keeping the UNSUB's door in view.
Mack was quicker than he'd promised. In less than twenty minutes, his
blue-and-white pulled up and stopped next to the slight rise between the
buildings. Mack got out, accompanied by a second uniformed officer. They saw
Mulder, who held up a hand for silence.
Mack nodded, and made a similar gesture to the other officer. Keeping the bush
between himself and the motel, Mack and the other cop quickly climbed up the
rise to join the agents.
"Room 104," Mulder mouthed the words as he held up one finger, then a closed
fist, then four fingers, spelling out what he couldn't say aloud. He pointed

to the door. Mack nodded his understanding.


Slowly, so as not to attract notice from anyone watching, Mulder gestured
toward the door. As one, the four moved out of cover and quickly strode toward
the door.
Scully looked up, caught Mulder's eye, and took up a position on the right
side of the door, between the doorknob and the window. Mulder gestured toward
Scully, and Mack crouched beneath the window, weapon drawn. Mulder and Mack's
partner stayed to the left side.
Mulder slipped the key card into the door as silently as he could, then pulled
it smoothly back.
The green light came on.
Key accepted.
Quickly, Mulder held up his left hand. He raised three fingers.
Two.
One.
He pointed toward the door.
Go.
Scully jerked the door handle down, then crouched, whipping her gun ahead of
her into the room as Mulder shoved the door open, his body turned sideways out
of the line of fire.
And there he was, the UNSUB, now known as Stuart Rayford Lee, holding a .38
Smith and Wesson revolver, aiming it right at them.
"Federal agents," Mulder shouted. "Drop your weapon!"
"Fuck you!" Lee shouted, aiming at Mulder. His finger twitched on the trigger.
Scully fired, catching Lee in the upper right chest, the report nearly
deafening her. The gun slammed back against her hands, the recoil sending the
barrel upward as her elbows absorbed the force, forcing her to take her finger
off the trigger, her aim now seriously off.

She was exposed now, and she had missed. Lee wasn't dead; he wasn't even
incapacitated yet, and he was still armed.
Lee's eyes were wide, and his whole body seemed to twitch from the shock of
the 9mm round. He stared at the red stain that was slowly spreading across his
shirt, then raised the gun to fire again, aiming for Scully's head.
A second shot rang out, this one from Mulder's weapon. The round took Lee
square in the center of his chest, sending blood spatters flying across the
room. The weapon fell from Lee's fingers; his eyes rolled back, and his body
collapsed slowly to the floor.
The whole thing took less than 10 seconds.
And now it was over.
Quickly, Scully rose from her crouch, kicked the weapon away from Lee and bent
to feel his pulse, shoving her own gun back in its holster. Then she
straightened. "He's still alive," she said, not looking up as she began
applying pressure to the center wound. "Mack, let's get some paramedics.
Mulder, get me the plastic wrappers from those drinking glasses."
Mack grabbed his radio. "Dispatch, 212, we got one down, two GSWs, request
paramedics and ALS, might better make that HealthFlight," he said. "Copy?" The
radio shorthand meant a person with two gunshot wounds who needed advanced
life support or even a helicopter ambulance in order to survive.
"Copy, 212," came the crackling voice of the dispatcher. "Advise your 20 still
Green Top Inn?"
"That's 10-4," Mack said. "We have a doctor on the scene but need immediate
transport, over."
"We copy on transport, 212," the dispatcher replied.
Mulder, meanwhile, had brought the plastic. Scully ripped the wrappers in two
and applied them to the bullet entry and exit wounds, pressing hard. "Take the
other one," she told him. "Push hard. We have to keep the lungs inflated."
"Is he going to make it, Scully?" he asked, quietly.
She shook her head. "I don't know," she said. "It's going to be close, if he
does." She looked up at him. "You were right, Mulder," she said. "You had this
guy pegged. Paranoid and well-armed. Paranoid enough to try to shoot it out
with four armed officers."
"Yeah, good for me," he said, glumly. "Nothing like getting so far into the

UNSUB's head that you wind up killing somebody, is there?"


"What you did saved my life, Mulder," she said, and her tone made him look up,
look into her eyes. "It was a clean shoot. It had nothing to do with your
state of mind. He had a loaded gun aimed at my head, and he was preparing to
fire. You did the right thing."
"I don't doubt that," he said, pressing down on the wound. "I just wish I
didn't find it quite so satisfying."
~~~~~
11:54 a.m.

Two hours later, Lee was still alive, undergoing emergency surgery in the same
hospital where Scully had undergone surgery in December -- an irony which did
not escape her or Mulder.
Daphne police had swept Lee's room, finding, among other things, cigarettes
which had been sold at the store where Donaldson was killed.
Lee's true name, according to the identification, was Malcolm Ronald Lee. He
was 29 years old, 5 feet, 6 inches tall. Inside his trailer, detectives found
two half-starved Dobermans, a police radio scanner, a .38 caliber RG 31
revolver, a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson Model 60 Chief's Special identical to
the one he had been carrying, and enough ammunition to re-fight the Battle of
the Bulge, along with a collection of worn and shabby household goods.
"It was just like you said," Mack said to Mulder as they stood in the tiny
lobby. "I ain't never seen nothin' like it before. Spooky."
"That's my name," Mulder said, absently, as he handed his gun to an
investigator from Forensic Sciences. "Be careful with that," he said. "I'm
getting tired of losing my gun."
"I'll treat it like it was my own," the man said, grinning. "Man, I love these
things. SIG Sauer. Great weapon."
"Yeah, it seems to have worked all right this time," Mulder said, grimly.
"Just make sure I get it back, okay? You got Scully's weapon?"
"Yep," the investigator said. "I'll have 'em test-fired and back to you by
tomorrow night, unless your higher-ups don't want me to."
"There is always that possibility," Mulder said. "Call my cell phone number if
you need me. I don't know for sure where I'll be tomorrow."

"I'll do it," the man said, walking away.


"What did you get on NCIC?" Mulder asked, turning back toward Mack.
"He's got a record, just like you said," Mack said. "Convictions for
misdemeanor assault on an off-duty sheriff's deputy, shoplifting, arrested but
no conviction for armed robbery of a gas station in Spanish Fort, just up the
road from here."
"No felonies?" Mulder said. "That surprises me."
"He would've had, but he got popped for armed robbery when he was 15," Mack
said. "Back then, it took an act of Congress to try a 15-year-old as an adult,
so he did six months at Mount Meigs -- that's a juvenile facility -- and he
was back out."
"Figures," Mulder said, morosely. His eyes brightened slightly as Scully
walked in.
"They want us back at the station, Mulder," she said. "The district attorney
wants to talk to us, and the FBI shooting team is on its way, and they want to
talk to us, too."
"Can we at least get some lunch first?" he said, plaintively. "I don't know
about you, but I haven't eaten since breakfast yesterday."
"Yeah, and that was only a cream cheese bagel," she said, laying a hand gently
on his forearm, smiling as she waited for him to get the joke.
He did; and he smiled, just a little. "Don't remind me of that case," he said.
"I was almost prosecuted for murder that time, remember? Anyway, I don't like
bagels."
"You won't be prosecuted this time, Agent Mulder," Mack said. "Me and Otis
both saw that guy draw down on you after you identified yourself."
"Yeah, I did," Mulder said. "You know, just once I'd like for one of these
guys to come up with some response other than 'fuck you' when I do that."
"I think they teach 'em that in perp school," Mack said, grinning. "Anyway,
Agent Mulder, we already gave our statements. If it hadn't been for you, this
guy would still be running around killing people. There ain't no way nobody's
coming down on you for that."
"Thanks, Mack," Mulder said. "That helps." He looked at Scully. "Come on,

Scully, let's at least grab a burger on the way. With onions. Lots of raw
onions."
"You hate raw onions," Scully said, dubiously.
"Yeah, but why make it easy for them?" he said. "Come on."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
WARNING: This chapter gets an NC-17 for explicit (MSR) sex. Noromos,
youngsters and those of delicate sensibilities, bail now or else forever after
hold your peace.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
You say you love me: have you thought
How much those little words contain?
Alas, a world of happiness,
And worlds of pain!
You know, or should, your nature now,
Its needs and passions. Can I be
What you desire me? Do you find
Your all in me?
"A Woman's Poem"
-- Richard Henry Stoddard

Chapter 18

Daphne Municipal Building


7:31 p.m.

At last, they were done.


After hours of being grilled by Daphne police, district attorney's
investigators and an FBI shooting team from New Orleans, hours more writing
reports, filling out forms, dotting the last i and crossing the last t, Mulder
and Scully were alone in the little room that had served as their
headquarters.
For a long time, neither spoke; they simply worked side by side in
companionable silence by the dim light of one small desk lamp. Scully moved
quietly around the room, packing away files and equipment. Mulder was taking
the crime scene photographs down from the walls.

Neither wanted to be the first to state what was so painfully obvious to them
both: The case was over.
It was time to go home.
At last, however, the little room was stripped bare, the paperwork completed
and organized, the photographs neatly tucked away in accordion files, and
there was nothing left to do but to look at each other and wait for someone to
say goodbye.
But no one did.
Instead, Scully stepped forward, hesitantly at first, then more confidently as
she saw the welcome in her lover's eyes, stepped into the circle of his arms
and laid her head against his broad chest.
For a long time, he cradled her there, resting his chin on top of her head,
rocking her ever so slightly, feeling the warmth of her arms around his waist.
Finally, Mulder spoke.
"Scully, I'm not leaving until tomorrow at least," he said. "Mack's asked me
to stay around, help finish things up."
"So you have the rest of the night off?" Scully asked, in a tone he couldn't
quite place.
"I guess so," he said. "You want to get some dinner somewhere?"
She shook her head, her hair making a soft rustling sound against his shirt.
"No," she said. "I'm not hungry. Are you?"
"Not especially," he said, still holding her close.
"Then ... " she said, but she stopped.
"What?"
"We can't go to my room," she said. "I would have told you sooner, but things
happened so fast. Glassman came to my room last night, looking for you. I made
him leave."
Mulder loosened his grip, looked down at her, puzzled. "Made him leave, how?"
he said, warily.

She sighed. "I drew my weapon and aimed it right at his balls and told him to
leave," she said. "He left."
"Yeah, I guess he did," Mulder said, in amazement. "I sure would have."
She laughed, softly, but her eyes were sad. "I'm in real trouble now," she
said. "It won't be hard for Rolfe to make his case against me this time."
"So you're out of VICAP," he said. "So what? You're too good to spend your
time doing what amounts to document analysis, anyway. And Rolfe is a low-life.
You're well rid of him."
"And what if I wind up in Salt Lake City this time for good?" she said. "What
do I do then?"
"Oh, it's not so bad out in the boonies," he said, soothingly. "I'm almost
used to it."
"Mulder, I didn't mean ... " she began, guiltily, realizing what she'd said,
but he wouldn't let her finish.
"Yes, you did, but it's all right," he said, stroking her hair. "Field office
work is largely scut work, and everybody in the whole damn Bureau knows it. I
don't blame you for not being interested. Bad as this case was, I've got to
admit, it was a more engaging challenge than I've had in a long time. It's
going to be hard to go back to doing background checks again."
"Then come back to Washington," she said. "Or to Quantico."
"How? I'm the one who asked for a transfer, remember? The X Files are dead in
the water. That's not your fault," he said, quickly, sensing an apology was on
its way. "I left first."
"So are you saying you burned all your bridges?"
"Not all of them," he said, smiling. "I sublet my apartment to Frohike, so I
still have a place to live, theoretically. But what possible reason could I
give anyone in the Bureau for requesting a transfer back two months after I
left at my own request, when the project I used to work on no longer exists?
Anyway," he added, seriously, "Krycek is still out there. You may not be safe
yet."
"I'd rather be unsafe with you than safe without you," she said. "But you know
we still have the anthrax to figure out."

"Do we?"
His tone made her look up again. "What do you mean?" she asked. "We haven't
solved that yet."
"No, but it may not be ours to solve," he said, gently, tucking a stray lock
of hair behind her ear. "We're officially not partners anymore, Scully, no
matter how much we may want to be, and neither of us is on the anti-terrorism
detail. The most likely thing is that after we clear the shooting board, we'll
be ordered to turn over our evidence to CIRG or some other AT detail."
She was silent.
"Scully?" he said.
"You're right again, Mulder," she said, with a catch in her voice. "I've been
playing at being your partner, playing at being a real agent. It's over now.
Time to get back to the real world."
"It's not over, and you weren't playing," he
but as far as I'm concerned, you're still my
whether it's official or not. One day, we'll
assigned together again -- if you want us to

said. "This case may have ended,


partner and you always will be,
get Ratboy and then we can be
be, that is," he amended.

"You know I do," she whispered, snuggling back into his arms again. "More than
almost anything I can think of."
"Almost anything?" he teased, stroking her back.
"Yes," she said, her soft voice muffled in his body. "There is something else
I want even more."
He drew in his breath, slowly, then let it out again.
"I'm almost afraid to ask ... " he said.
"Don't be," she said, moving her body slowly, sensually against his. "I know a
lot of things have happened between us lately, but please believe me, I want
this. Can't you tell that I love it when you touch me?"
"I can tell," he said, quietly, and kissed her forehead. "But I also know
you're still very afraid, and I don't want you to be afraid of me."
Scully shook her head. "I am afraid," she said, softly, holding him a little
tighter. "But not of you -- never of you." She looked up at him. "I don't want
to be afraid anymore, Mulder," she said. "If I do become frightened, you'll

know, won't you?"


He nodded. "I'll know," he said. "But I'm not sure I'll know what to do."
"Do what you did before," she said, reaching up one hand to touch his face.
"Just help me remember. Help me remember that I'm with you now, and then I
won't be afraid anymore."
"Scully, I ..." he began, but she interrupted him.
"Shh," she said. "There's nothing left to talk about."
She was right. There was no more time for games, no more time for waiting. The
truth, for once, was right there in front of him, moving in his arms, sending
him a wordless message that he could not misunderstand or ignore.
I want you.
"Tonight?" he said, quietly. "Are you really sure, Scully?"
"Tonight," she said. "There won't be another night for a long time, maybe
forever. Who knows in this job?" She pressed her lips against the base of his
throat. "I want you to make love to me," she whispered. "Now. Tonight."
Making love to her, sinking into the softness deep inside her, losing himself
in her small, wonderful body forever, seeing her beautiful face alight with
passion, hearing her soft cries as she came ... all those things, together,
constituted the only idea of heaven he'd ever had.
But there were still so many risks ...
He bent his head over hers and caught the acrid smell of gunpowder in her
hair, the too-familiar scent reminding him again of how close they had come,
how fragile were the ties that bound them to this earth and to each other.
Screw the risks. Screw everything, screw the whole fucking planet. She's
right. The time is now. And I want her like I've never wanted anything in my
life.
"All right," he said, and was instantly humbled by the joy that lit up her
eyes when he said it. How can it matter so much to you? he thought. "We'll go
stay somewhere Glassman can't find us."
"Where?" she asked, her breathing already deeper, more rapid than usual.
"Where do we go?"

He shrugged. It felt strange to be having this conversation, strange but


exhilarating. "Mobile, I guess," he said. "The beach would be more romantic,
but it's about an hour away and I'm not even sure we could find a decent place
to stay this time of year."
"Mobile," she said, with a determined tilt to her chin. "Definitely. By the
waterfront. I like to see the ships."
"Oh, come on, the beach is better," he said, a teasing smile on his lips.
"No, it's not," she said. "The waterfront is."
He laughed, softly, deep in his throat. "Navy brat," he said, and pressed a
kiss on her forehead.
"Island boy," she said, smiling, and pulled his face down to hers, capturing
his mouth with her own, kissing him deeply, passionately, letting her tongue
drift over his full lower lip.
A hesitant tap on the door made them jump back, guiltily, Mulder turning his
back to the door as Mack walked in.
"Oh, hey, didn't know you folks was still here," Mack said. "Thought I'd clean
up a bit. Y'all are ahead of me."
"We were just leaving," Scully said, trying to appear calm and failing
completely.
"Uh-huh," Mack said, taking in her flustered appearance and rapid breathing.
"I can see that. I just got off the phone with St. Catherine's. Lee's out of
surgery. It's kinda touchy, but looks like he might make it. You nicked one of
them big arteries, Agent Mulder, but your partner bailed your ass out."
"Not for the first time, I promise you," Mulder said, not looking at him.
"Uh-huh," Mack said again, not fooled. He knew what Mulder was trying to hide,
and he couldn't blame him. Scully could give a wooden Indian a hard-on. "Well,
bring Agent Scully by in the morning so we can say 'bye, now, okay?" he said.
"Yeah, Mack, I'll do that," Mulder said, over his shoulder. "Thanks for
everything."
"Ah, no trouble," Mack said, a humorous glint in his eye. "See you 'round.
Don't forget the doughnuts tomorrow morning. Didn't get none this mornin'."

"I won't forget," Mulder said, still not turning around. "See you then."
Grinning like a Cheshire cat, Mack left, shutting the door behind him. For a
moment the agents just looked at one another, and then Scully fell back into
Mulder's arms, laughing.
"Didn't get none this mornin'," she said, doing a fair impression of Mack's
slow drawl. "I don't suppose we have to wonder whether he noticed anything,"
she went on in her own voice.
"Not for a New York minute, as they say around here," Mulder said, wrapping
his arms around her. "Come on, let's get out of here before we get caught
again."
~~~~~
The Quincy Hotel
8:26 p.m.

Checking into a nice hotel without luggage proved to be more of a problem than
Mulder had remembered. Bureau travel allowances didn't cover anything this
expensive, and most of the hotels he stayed in didn't give a damn what you
brought with you as long as you paid in advance.
This wasn't one of those places.
It took not only his credit card but a flash of FBI credentials before the
night manager was finally persuaded to give him a room, and he had to go back
to the car to get those. With no gun and no holster to conceal (except for the
.22 snugged in his leg holster, which officially didn't exist), he had left
his suit coat in the car.
He finished signing the registration form, taking a perverse pleasure in
putting both their names without any bullshit about "Mr. and Mrs.," took the
room keys and turned back to the lobby where Scully was waiting for him,
listening to the faint music from the piano bar.
For a long time he stood just watching her move, wondering how any woman as
lovely, as brave and altogether admirable as Dana Scully could have chosen to
be with him. Him, of all people. After all this time, it still made no sense
to him, and especially not now.
I want you to make love to me.
She really said that. And meant it.

I don't know why you want me, he thought. But I will try, I swear I will try,
to do right by you tonight, not to hurt you or disappoint you.
Then he saw her looking at him quizzically, a faint arch in her right eyebrow.
"Problems?" she asked as he approached her.
He shook his head. "Nothing worth reporting," he said, taking her hand. "You
sure you don't want to have dinner? It's getting late; the kitchen'll be
closing before long."
"Which is why I don't want to have dinner," she said, softly. "It is late; and
I don't want to lose one more minute."
He bit his lower lip, nodding, not trusting his voice.
"Come on," she said, pulling gently at his hand. "Let's go upstairs and be
alone together."
~~~~~
Scully walked slowly over to the window of their room, looking out at the
lights on the waterfront, and the more distant lights of the Eastern Shore
that they had just left. Mulder locked the door behind him, then knelt and
removed his leg holster, set it on the dresser as he watched her drinking in
the view, her hands resting gently on the windowsill. She seemed far away.
Was she having second thoughts?
But then she turned to face him with what he would always think of as her
"enigmatic Dr. Scully" smile.
"Come here," she said, holding out her arms to him.
Mulder didn't need a second invitation. He crossed the room in three swift
strides of his long legs, pulling her into his arms, his mouth slanting across
hers. He felt her cool hands caressing his heated face, sliding lower to touch
the rapid pulse in his throat, felt her soft tongue probing at his mouth,
seeking entrance.
A groan arose deep in his throat, and he tightened his arms around her, lifted
her off her feet, carried her to the foot of the bed where he let them both
fall together, their arms still around each other, their mouths locked in a
fierce kiss.
He heard the soft thump, thump as Scully kicked off her shoes, and he pushed

his own shoes off, wanting to get undressed fast but not wanting to stop long
enough to do it. The eternal paradox of the first sexual encounter, he
supposed. No wonder they usually skipped the undressing scenes in the movies;
it was a pretty awkward procedure, when you came right down to it.
But it seemed he would have some help with that, after all. Scully's hands
were at his tie, loosening the knot, sliding it free of his collar. She
dropped it on the floor, then went back to undo the buttons on his
blood-spattered shirt, helped him struggle out of it, then pulled the white
T-shirt free of his pants and slid her hands up under it to touch his bare
chest.
The contact made him shiver with pleasure, and he moved his hands down to the
gentle curve of her bottom, pulling her closer to him, letting her feel how
hard she was making him.
He felt her gasp, and she twined her hands in his hair, around his neck,
pulling him deeper and deeper into their still-unbroken kiss.
She let go of him then, broke the kiss for the first time, and sat up,
bringing him with her.
So now it was his turn. As slowly as he could manage, he unbuttoned her suit
jacket, slipped it off her shoulders and helped her take it off first one arm
and then the other. He pulled the silky blouse loose from the waistband of her
dark, conservative skirt and slipped his hands beneath, laying his palms flat
against the smooth, naked skin of her back.
She grasped the hem of her blouse with both hands and pulled it over her head,
then turned to Mulder, pulling the T-shirt off him, dropping it carelessly to
the floor.
Scully watched as Mulder's eyes traced slowly, boldly down her body, from her
flushed face, down her throat, to the soft beige satin bra, the creamy flesh
above it rising and falling rapidly with her excited breathing. He'd seen it
all before, of course, under other circumstances, but not like this ... not
when she was finally about to be his in the flesh, as she had been for so long
in her soul.
This, they both knew, was different.
His glance trailed slowly back to her eyes, and he smiled, a slow smile of
appreciative pleasure, and something else, something almost sad ...
Domina, non sum dignus, she thought. My lady, I am not worthy.
You're worthy of much better, if you only knew it, she thought, but I'm afraid
I'm all you've got. All these years I was afraid that you wanted to own my
very soul, and all you really wanted was a friend and a partner, someone to

believe in you, to give you a little love, a little comfort, and a safe place
to lay your head.
And all these years, I held back. I had a whole list of good reasons, I
remember that. It's just that I look at you now and I can't remember what
those reasons were.
"Dana?" he said, snapping her out of her reverie. "Is something wrong?"
She shook her head, smiling a little to banish the fear in his eyes. "No," she
said. "I was just thinking."
"About what?"
She leaned forward, kissed him gently. "About how I want so badly to please
you tonight," she said, softly. "How I want so much to make you happy, to make
this everything you've ever dreamed it could be."
"Then you can stop right now, because you've already succeeded," he said in a
low voice. He traced the line of her jaw with one finger, kept going, slowly,
down her throat, to the base of her neck, and down, further, leaving a
feather-light touch on the warm swell of flesh just above her bra.
She leaned back and smiled, then shyly reached her hands behind her back,
groping for the bra clasp, but stopped as Mulder shook his head.
"Let me," he said, in that same low tone.
He moved behind her, laying his hands gently on her shoulders, massaging
softly until he felt her relax, heard her soft hum of pleasure. He stroked his
hands gently down her arms, pressing hot kisses into the smooth slope of her
shoulder, then moved his hands slowly upward to cup her breasts.
The touch made her shiver, and she sighed softly as his hands gently lifted
and caressed the sensitive flesh through the slippery-soft fabric. It was
exquisite, the way he handled her, the way his thumbs pressed ever so gently
into her softness as they rubbed back and forth over the nipples, which were
now firmly erect and incredibly over-sensitive.
It was too much; it wasn't enough.
"Take it off me," she moaned, urgently. "I want to feel your hands on me."
"All right," he said in a throaty whisper, bringing his hands back behind her
to unclasp the bra, pushing the straps off her shoulders in one smooth motion,
then sliding his hands back over the soft, warm flesh. She threw the bra
aside, then raised her arms, looping them around his neck, giving him more

room to explore, leaving herself totally vulnerable and unguarded to his


touch.
"God, you're beautiful," he murmured into her ear as his hands reclaimed her
breasts, holding their soft weight, pulling gently at her nipples, making her
squirm and sigh and arch her back against him. "You're more beautiful than
anything I ever dreamed of."
"Just ... don't stop," she pleaded, breathily. "Promise me ... "
"I won't," he said, nibbling at her earlobe. "Not unless you want me to. I
promise."
She turned slowly, pressing her breasts against his naked chest, and it felt
good, so good, being so close to him, skin against skin, nothing keeping them
apart. Her arms tightened around his neck as his mouth recaptured hers,
sending a bolt of electric hot lust shooting down her body, the fire between
her legs burning even hotter than before. His hands slid from her shoulder
blades down her back, up again, back down, stopping at the waistband of her
skirt.
He wants me naked for him, she thought, the realization sending her fever
spiraling even higher. He's making me naked for him.
She felt him unbuttoning the skirt, sliding the zipper down, easing the fabric
over her hips, and she let go of his mouth, raised herself to her knees to
make it easier for him, and gasped as she felt his lips close over her nipple,
suckling at it slowly, flicking at the sensitive tip with his tongue as his
hands continued to undress her.
She wanted to help him, wanted it to happen faster, but she felt her hands
clenching in his hair, fear unaccountably tensing her muscles ... and she
remembered. This was what had made it all go so wrong before.
God, please, don't let it happen, she thought, please don't let it end now ...
He must have sensed her fear, because he let go of her nipple, raised his
mouth to hers, taking her face gently in his hands. He kissed her, deeply but
gently, his thumbs stroking her cheeks tenderly.
"Relax. It's all right," he murmured, his lips just a fraction of an inch away
from hers. "Everything is all right."
"Are you sure?" she whispered, hating the quivering sound she heard in her
voice but helpless to stop it. "Aren't you afraid I'll ... flip out on you
again?"
"You won't," he said, then kissed her, softly. "You know I would never do

anything that I thought would hurt you. You have to trust me. Please trust me,
Dana."
"I do," she breathed. "I do trust you. I trust you with my life ... " She got
no further as his mouth descended on hers again, consuming her, drawing the
breath from her lungs as though he would draw all of her into him.
He held her firmly against his mouth until he felt her slender arms go around
him again, felt her relax again into his embrace, then he dropped his hands to
her waist again, hooking his thumbs into the elastic of her pantyhose, pulling
them down to her thighs.
She let go of him then, lay back on the
one hand flung over her head, the other
he slid the hose further down, kneeling
off her feet. She reached for him then,

bed, her feet dangling off the edge,


stroking his arm to encourage him as
at the foot of the bed to pull them
but he shook his head again.

"Not yet," he said, and dropped a soft kiss on her inner thigh, just above the
knee. "Give me a minute."
Slowly, maddeningly, he began working his way up, kissing the soft ivory skin,
flicking his tongue out, sometimes sucking, sometimes nibbling gently, and
there was no more doubt in her mind where he was going with this.
God, what was it going to be like?
No one had done this to her before, although God knows she had wanted it. Jack
had told her quite plainly that he found it repellent; neither of her two
previous lovers had made any attempt to satisfy her this way, either, and she
had been too young and shy to ask.
He was kneeling between her legs now; he was almost there. She was squirming
beneath him, almost feverish with anticipation as she felt his warm breath
through the soaking wet fabric of her panties.
She cast an almost timid glance toward him, and was rewarded with another
smile as he rolled to one side, slipped his hands inside the elastic of her
panties, drew them slowly down, down, past her knees, her calves, down to her
feet and then off and I'm naked now, she thought, the realization making her
squirm again with desire. I'm naked and he's not and why does it make me so
hot to know that?
because I am under his control now and I love it I would never have believed I
would but I do love it and I know what's coming and oh god ...
She cried out as she felt his mouth closing over her most sensitive spot, his
fingers gently parting her to give him better access and oh my god what was he
doing down there ...

The soft suckling, the flicking of his tongue, the gently probing fingers that
slipped inside her incredible wetness, his nose bumping against her in a
maddeningly delightful way -- it was just too good, too much, and she felt
herself spiraling toward her climax.
And then she felt her body beginning to shut down, felt the fear gripping her
again, the terror of her long nightmares lurking just below conscious thought
... and her mind began to pull her away, protecting her from the terror and
the exposure of her most private self to another, protecting her from this
complete loss of control.
She could have cried with disappointment. It shouldn't be like this, not with
him, she thought. What is wrong with me?
Then she felt his hands stroking her legs gently, calming her, and she
realized that he knew something was wrong, that he could feel her tensing
beneath him and he was responding to it, he wasn't going to leave her alone
and unsatisfied ...
This is Mulder, she thought, and I am safe with him, I can let go, I can do
what he wants me to do because it's all right it's him and I'm safe, I'm safe,
and then all at once she was coming, coming hard, her head thrashing
helplessly on the bed, her hips jerking against him, her hands catching his
head, pulling him closer so he wouldn't stop until she was through coming and
coming and coming ...
She cried out, wordlessly, as she reached the pinnacle, every inch of her
contracting and pulsing in the same strong rhythm, over and over. Suddenly, it
was too much, and she let go of his hair, felt him pull back immediately, and
she knew that he understood, knew that she was too sensitive now and that she
would need him to stop so she could recover a little.
There's something to be said for a man who's been with women before, she
thought distantly. I'll have to remember that next time Bill starts acting so
damn superior because he waited for marriage and I didn't ...
She heard the clink of his belt buckle, the rasping of his zipper, and then he
was lying beside her, gloriously naked and erect, taking her into his arms,
carefully moving her upward on the bed to rest on the pillows, then just
holding her gently, stroking her softly as she began to come back to reality.
"Mulder," she whispered, still disoriented. "Oh, my God ... "
"Shhh," he said, kissing her lips gently, brushing the hair back from her damp
forehead. "Rest for a while." He kissed her again, more deeply, and she tasted
her own salty wetness on his lips and in his mouth.
He likes this, she thought. He likes having the taste of me in his mouth and
he wants me to taste it too, to know where he's been, what he's been doing to

me. Could anything be more intimate than this, sharing this flavor that we
made between us?
The thought inflamed her all over again.
She had given him all of herself. But she hadn't had all of him. Not yet.
"I don't need to rest," she said, reaching down, closing her hand slowly over
his hardness. He gasped, sharply, closing his eyes as she moved her hand
gently over the velvet-soft skin, back and forth, letting her fingertips brush
over the firm ridges at the tip. "I don't want to rest," she said, her other
hand at the back of his neck, pulling him into a deep, wet kiss.
"I want you inside me," she whispered against his mouth. "Now."
She saw the fire blaze up in his eyes, felt his mouth on hers again as he
pulled her closer, pushing against her soft, wet folds, seeking entry, and she
opened herself to him, used her hand to guide him, lifting her knees on either
side of him as he rolled her onto her back, settled himself between her
thighs.
~~~~~~
God, she's so small, he thought, feeling her beneath him. Every part of her is
perfect but so tiny, all curves and softness and warm wetness. I have never
been with a woman so small and so perfect before, never. How can she be so
small and so soft, how can she take me inside her, how can I do this with her
and not hurt her?
Then she thrust her hips up toward him and suddenly he was inside her, all the
way inside her, and he heard her sharp gasp, her startled cry as the
long-unused flesh yielded slowly to the invasion.
"Oh, God, I'm sorry, " he said. He saw tears in her eyes and started to pull
back, mentally cursing himself. You did it anyway, Mulder, you hurt her, you
stupid, clumsy prick, but then she wrapped her legs around him, pulling him
back in.
"You didn't hurt me," she whispered. "You didn't." And then, to his
everlasting consternation, she buried her face in the hollow of his shoulder,
and he felt the wetness of her tears as they flowed over his skin.
"Then why are you crying?" he asked, now completely confused. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong," she whispered into his ear, her arms firm around his neck,
her legs tightening around him, pulling him even closer. "Nothing at all. It's
just -- I've wanted this so badly, and you feel so wonderful ... "

"Dana," he said, and then suddenly he couldn't think of another word to say.
Her inner muscles were clenching, relaxing, slowly, rippling up and down his
hard length in what he could only think of as a caress ... the most intimate
caress imaginable between two people.
She raised her tear-streaked face
love you so much," she whispered,
beneath him, her legs pulling him
frightened you. Let me make it up

to his, touched her lips to his, gently. "I


and then she was rocking her hips slowly
firmly against her body. "And I'm sorry I
to you."

With a low groan, he pushed in deeper, slowly thrusting upward into her
wetness, feeling her muscles clutch at him more firmly now, pulling him in
deeper and deeper, her legs tightening their grip on his, pulling at him
rhythmically.
"Oh, yes, like that," she murmured into his ear. "Just exactly like that. I
want all of you, give me all of you."
Oh, he wanted to do that, all right, no question about it. She was so wet, so
hot and slick and so unbelievably soft, moving restlessly beneath him, meeting
each thrust with one of her own, her lips and teeth grazing over the skin of
his throat, her soft sighs and whimpers in his ear driving him nearly mad with
desire.
The hot, wet tug of her flesh on his was overwhelming, and he felt himself
heading for the edge, too fast, way too fast, and he needed to stop her, make
her understand that if she didn't stop thrusting back at him, stop making
those sounds, it was going to be over too quickly, but he couldn't speak,
couldn't do anything except thrust into her harder and harder and faster ...
Then he heard her whispering softly in his ear.
"It's all right," she was saying. "It's all right, Fox, I love you, let it
happen, just let it happen, it's all right ... "
And that was all it took, and he buried his face in the hollow of her shoulder
and spilled over into her, his hips driving him convulsively into her, so
deeply he thought she must feel him in her throat, and he was shooting into
her, the muscles in his belly propelling his hot seed deep inside her, jet
after scalding jet until he was utterly spent and he collapsed, exhausted,
into her loving arms.
~~~~~
For a long time they lay together quietly, scarcely moving, as she cradled
him, reveling in the feel of his weight on her, of the connection he still
made between them, the oh-so-rare feeling of his muscles completely relaxed
beneath her hands as his breathing slowly returned to normal.

He will never be more mine than he is in this moment, she thought. I could
hold him like this forever and never ask for anything more from life.
Too soon, it was over. He raised himself up, shifted to one side, taking his
weight off her. She felt him slip out of her, and already she felt empty
without him. But then he lifted his head and smiled at her with such joy, such
heart-breaking happiness, that she knew he was still hers, would always be
hers now, whether they were joined physically or not.
She kissed him, gently, the kiss slower, at once more sensual and more loving
than any they had exchanged before. A nice side benefit of making love, she
thought, as he laid his head on her breast, put his arms around her and sighed
contentedly. New kinds of kisses, new touches, the kind you can't have when
you're both so frantic with wanting.
"That was wonderful," she said in a sleepy, satisfied tone as she ran her
fingers through his tousled hair.
He raised his head, looked up at her with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
"Better than you expected or better than you hoped?"
She laughed. "I can't believe you remember that."
"I remember everything," he said drowsily, settling back down against her.
"Everything about you and me, anyway. Not everything about everything. But you
didn't answer my question."
"Better than anything," she said, seriously. "Better than anyone on earth
could ever have hoped for, better than anyone in the whole universe has any
right to expect."
He sighed, relieved, and stretched upward to her, kissed her softly. "I was
afraid you'd be disappointed."
"How could I be?"
"Well," he said, a little embarrassed, "we, uh, sort of set a new world land
speed record."
"Well, yes, we did," she said, with an amused smile. "We both did. What did
you think would happen after almost seven years of foreplay?"
"You have a point there," he conceded.
"Anyway," she said, her fingers trailing lazily through his hair again, "the
night is still young."

"And so are you," he said.


"Not you?"
She felt his shoulders move in what might have been a shrug. "I'm staring 40
right in the eyes, so it kind of depends on what you think of as young."
"Do you feel young?"
The question surprised him. He'd expected her to argue the point, remind him
that he had two years left before 40. "Yeah," he said, thoughtfully. "Right
now, I feel about 10 years younger than I did this time last night."
"That's good enough," she said, resting her hand on his face.
"What about you?"
"Do I feel young, or do I feel younger than I did?"
"Either. Both."
"Yes. To both. And I feel strong, and beautiful, and confident, and I wasn't
feeling any of those things until I saw you again," she said, placing a
delicate kiss on his forehead.
"You are all of those things, and more," he said, stretching up again to kiss
her deeply, his hand at the nape of her neck. "Don't ever forget it," he said,
as he pulled away.
"I'll try," she whispered, and gave him another soft kiss.
"This may be a bad time to ask," he began as she pulled back.
"Oh, no," she said, warily. "What?"
"Sorry," he said, smiling up at her. "Kissing you reminded me of your
brother."
"What a sexy thought," she said, giving him a look of mock disgust. "What
about him?"
"You know what I mean," he said, propping himself up on one elbow, laying the

other hand on her breast. Another new kind of touch, she thought, contentedly.
Odd, how having sex can transform the feel of his hand on my breast from
wildly erotic to profoundly intimate, can reshape its meaning until it becomes
a bonding touch like holding hands, only far more private, far more special.
"I just never got around to asking whether you'd parted on good terms," he was
saying. "I guess I couldn't help thinking that ... what happened that day ...
was part of the trauma."
"It may have been," she said, softly. "I think, perhaps, it was. I never felt
so at odds with my family before that day; it was as though I just had to push
them away, when I needed them most. But the trouble between me and Bill had
been building for a long time, Mulder. You can't blame yourself for it."
"I can if I want to," he said, as though he were teasing, but she could see
the truth behind the jest. He did blame himself.
"We didn't part enemies, Mulder," she said, trying to reassure him. "I drove
him to the airport, and we kind of -- made things up on the way."
"Ah," he said, with a sheepish smile. "I'm glad. I was afraid I'd ruined
things."
"No," she said, brushing the hair back from his face. "You didn't. My brother
has some -- issues -- where you and I are concerned, but I think he realizes
it, at least."
"He's just being a big brother," he said. "Protecting his little sister."
"Brothers do worry about their sisters, don't they," she said, softly, still
stroking his hair.
He gave a short laugh, but it sounded sad. "I haven't spent much time looking
for her lately, have I? Ever since that night in December, all I've done is
check out weekend warriors and look for Krycek."
"Have you been back to the factory?"
"Several times." He shook his head. "The Mobile Field Office has, too. They
even staked it out, twice. Nada. Empty."
"Maybe it's not empty now."
"Or maybe it is but there's something else going on, something that only you
and I would know the significance of," he said, thoughtfully.

"Oh?"
"Think about it, Scully," he said, and she noted the shift back to her last
name. Yes, we are conducting business naked together in a bed, she thought,
amused. Only Mulder could discuss conspiracy theories with me while playing
with my breast.
His eyes were narrowed in the way they did when he was thinking hard. "We've
been looking in the wrong place," he said, slowly. "We ought to be looking
somewhere else, somewhere that we'd have thought of if we'd been together."
"I can't imagine where that might be," she said. "If we were both working in
D.C., we wouldn't know about the connection between the anthrax and the
Reserves. And if you hadn't been assigned to this case," she added, more
quietly, "I might not have made it through alive."
"No," he said, his hand closing softly on her breast. "You wouldn't have done
it. You would have put yourself back together somehow."
"Not without you," she said. "Until a few days ago, I wouldn't have bet on my
living out another year. Seriously. But as they say in pop psychology, I'm not
well yet, but I sure am better."
"And all it took was three days partnered with me again?" He smiled, and
leaned over to kiss her. "I should have gotten my doctorate and gone into
clinical practice."
"I'm not sure I want you practicing these methods on anyone else," she said,
and that made him laugh.
"All right, Dr. Scully," he said, still chuckling. "I'm your private amateur
therapist. But just wait until you get my bill."
"Wait until you get mine for all the times I've had to patch you up, Mulder,"
she said, threateningly, and he laughed again.
"I can't afford it," he said. "Do you have any idea how much it costs to live
in Birmingham?"
"Less than it costs to live in Georgetown, I'm sure," she said. "Or on
Martha's Vineyard."
"Tell me about it," he groaned. "If I had back every penny I've paid in
property taxes on my father's house, I could retire from federal service."
"Do you ever think about selling it?"

"No." He shook his head. "It's ... comforting, in a way, to know it's there.
When they finally take my badge away, I'll at least have somewhere to live. I
suppose I should consider myself lucky it's not costing me much more than
property taxes."
"Lucky is not a word I would ever associate with you," she said, gently. "No
one who's sacrificed as much as you have could be called lucky."
"Why not? I got lucky with you, didn't I?" he teased, then grew serious again.
"We've both lost a lot, Dana. More than I care to recall during a moment as
special as this one," and he kissed her again. "But I know what you gave up to
be with me. I can't forget it, not even now."
"Why not now?" she said, softly.
"Never mind," he said. "Forget it. Bad topic. I just can't escape the thought
that you'd have been happier without me. I don't suppose I feel responsible
for your father's death ... "
"If you could find a way, you would," she said, stroking his hair again.
He smiled. "Probably. But I do feel responsible for your sister, and for the
trouble between you and your brother and ... other things."
"My infertility, you mean?" she said, very quietly. "I know you're thinking
about it. So am I. We jumped into bed together without saying one word about
contraception, because we both knew it wasn't necessary. Am I right?"
He looked at her for a long moment, then nodded, pain registering deep in the
shadows of his eyes. "Yeah," he said, reaching for her face. "That's it. And I
hate it, Dana. Now more than ever."
She shook her head. "That wasn't your fault. Duane Barry is the one who's
responsible, or Cancerman. Or Krycek."
"You never would have run across any of them if you hadn't been assigned to
the X Files," he pointed out. "You can't absolve me of this, much as I wish
you could. That whole life you could have had, with a husband and children,
with your sister, teaching at Quantico, no cancer -- you lost all that because
you stayed with me."
"I stayed with you because that's where I wanted to be," she said, sliding
lower, pressing herself against him. "From the first time we worked together
in Podunk, Oregon, I never wanted to work with anyone else ever again or do
anything else ever again."
"It was Bellefleur, Oregon, and I seem to remember a flirtation with BSU over

the Eugene Tooms case," he said, but he put his arm around her waist as he
spoke, and his voice was growing husky again.
"BSU was just a fling," she said, wiggling slightly against his body,
gratified to feel how quickly he was growing hard again. "It was purely
physical. That wench meant nothing to me, really."
"Ah," he said. "So I'm your one and only?"
"Well," she said, tracing the long muscles of his back with her fingernails,
"you and Flukeman. He did have a certain septic allure."
"Forget him," he said. "It could never work. He's a hermaphrodite; he doesn't
need anyone else, he sleeps by himself."
"Which is what you and I will be doing at this time tomorrow," she said,
suddenly serious. "So let's don't waste any more of our last night together on
blaming ourselves for things that can't be changed. Let's spend it making some
new memories to hold us until we can be together again. All right?"
"All right," he said, very low, as he pulled her down into his embrace again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
You in the moonlight
With your sleepy eyes
Could you ever love a man like me?
And you were right
When I walked into your house
I knew I'd never want to leave
Sometimes I'm a strong man
Sometimes cold and scared
And sometimes I cry
But that time I saw you
I knew with you to light my nights
Somehow I'd get by
"Leather and Lace"
-- Stevie Nicks

Chapter 19

Mobile Regional Airport


Sunday, March 7
9:46 a.m.
Scully was quiet on the long drive to the airport.
But this time, it was different, somehow, Mulder thought. It wasn't the dead
quiet of their journey to Baltimore, the withdrawn quiet that had made each
moment so painful. It was more like the quiet in the afterglow of making love.
Which, of course, was exactly what it was.
They had awakened in each other's arms that morning and made love again in a
slow, leisurely fashion, taking the time to explore each other in the daylight
that edged around the curtains, using gentle caresses, speaking softly,
reaching their mutual climax gradually with her seated on his lap, looking at
him, letting him look at her.
Three times in one night, and they already had the skill of longtime lovers
with one another. What might happen, where might it go, if they had a few more
days together, or a week?
Or a lifetime?
He shook his head. Too soon to talk about that, he thought. Krycek is still
loose, and until he's put away for good she's still in danger.
Even then, I don't know how we'd manage it anyway. Marry her and you lose her
as a partner forever; that's where the Bureau draws the line. No more X Files,
no more bullpen, no more nothing: She's in one office, and you're in another,
and that's that.
But, oh dear God, look at what you'd gain ...
One day at a time, Mulder, he told himself. One step at a time. Your first
task is to get her to the airport, and then you can start to figure a way out
of this unbearable separation that you created yourself.
After they'd left Mobile, they'd gone back to Daphne to pack and check out.
Glassman had already left, no doubt, Scully said dryly, so he could talk to
Rolfe before she did. Mulder noted, with bitter amusement, that Glassman was
the only agent quoted in the Mobile Register's story about the shooting.
Figured. Not that Mulder was anxious to talk to the press; what little
anonymity he had left was precious to him, and he didn't ever want to become
known as the agent to call for a quote.

They made one last stop by the Daphne Police Department to let Scully say
good-bye to Mack and give him his chocolate-frosted Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
"I hate we had to meet over something this bad," Mack told them. "But I tell
you what, I'd be happy to have either one of you on my back any damn day of
the week. You ever need help, you know who to call."
Scully, to Mulder's surprise, had planted a smacking kiss on the officer's
cheek, bringing a bright scarlet flush to his boyish face.
Then came the silent drive to the airport. When they got there, the lines were
short, and Scully wasn't armed, so she got through the ticketing line quickly.
Still, he knew she would be nervous without a weapon. That feeling was endemic
among cops, PTSD or no.
Mulder, for once, decided to wait at the gate with her. He had always been
more apt to drop her in front of the terminal and head off, reasoning that if
she missed her flight, she would call him.
But this time he had stayed with her, had gone through the whole
attention-getting security routine that he hated even worse than she did, in
order to do nothing more than sit next to her in silence, holding her hand,
while they waited for her flight to be called.
Which, all too soon, it was.
She rose, taking her carry-on bag in hand, and turned to face him.
"Mulder," she began, then faltered, tears coming into her eyes.
"Shh," he said, and for the first time in years, took her into his arms in a
public place, stroking her back softly. They stood there for a long time,
oblivious to the stares from the other passengers, until finally there was no
more time.
"Delta Airlines Flight 1103 to Atlanta and Washington, D.C., is now in final
boarding at Gate 1," came the amplified voice of the attendants. "All
passengers for Delta Flight 1103 should board now. This is the final call for
Delta Airlines Flight 1103."
"I've got to go," she said, stepping back, wiping tears from her eyes with the
back of her hand. "I'll miss my plane."
"All right," he said, and bent to kiss her, not quickly, but softly,
thoroughly, lingering as long as he could, until he heard the flight
attendant's impatient cough, and knew he had to let her go.

Scully stepped back, smiling sadly, and turned to join the dwindling passenger
line, then just as quickly turned back toward him.
"Mulder?" she said.
"Yeah?"
"Can I have your phone number?"
A dazed smile spread over his face. "Oh, yeah," he said. "You bet." He pulled
a business card from his pocket and scribbled the number on the back, handed
it to her. When she reached out her hand to take it, he planted a quick kiss
on her fingers.
"See ya, Scully," he said, still smiling.
"I love you," she said, and almost immediately she blushed.
She didn't mean to say it out loud, not in front of people, he thought. But
she was smiling, just a little, enough to let him know that there would be no
more pretending, no more hiding from themselves or from anyone else, ever
again.
Sort of gives a new meaning to "the truth is out there," he thought.
"I love you, too, Dana," he said, quietly. "Always."
She smiled again, then turned and walked up the gangway. She was the last
passenger to board; the door closed after her, and she was gone.
For a long time, Mulder stood looking at the doorway she had left through,
wondering how the hell he was going to survive until he saw her again.
~~~~~
Birmingham Field Office
Monday, March 8
3:25 p.m.
"Ah, the prodigal son returneth," Prescott said as Mulder walked through the
SAC's office door.
"The prodigal son is a Christian parable, sir, and I'm not a Christian,"
Mulder said, sitting in the chair opposite the desk. "Doesn't apply, anyway.
I'm not here to tell you that I wasted my substance on riotous living."

"So I hear," Prescott said, settling back in his chair with a grin. "Got a
shooting board coming up, don't you, Oxford boy?"
"And a Baldwin County grand jury, more than likely," Mulder said. "I'm not
especially worried. It was a clean shoot, sir."
"Hell, Mulder, I knew that before I heard anything about it," Prescott said.
"So you got your man?"
"We got him," Mulder said, nodding. "He's not going anywhere for a while."
"Who's we?"
"Sir?" Mulder said, taken aback.
"Who's we? You said we got him. Who's the other half of that we?"
"Special Agent Dana Scully of VICAP," Mulder said, after a pause, thinking how
good and how painful at the same time it was to say her name aloud.
"Scully, huh? Wasn't she your partner in D.C.?" Prescott asked, just a bit too
casually, Mulder thought, instantly suspicious.
"Yes, sir, she was, but I think perhaps you knew that already," Mulder said.
"What's up, sir? Why do I feel as though I'm being set up?"
Prescott shook his head. "You're not, not by me, anyway," he said, and for
once, he wasn't smiling. "Hell, yeah, I knew who you were partnered with
before you came here. It's in your file, and anyway, people tend to pay
attention to you. But I didn't find out she was down there working this case
until the day after you left for Mobile."
"Who told you?"
"Skinner," Prescott said, ignoring Mulder's abruptness and lack of protocol.
He swung his legs off the desk and sat up straight. "No matter what I said to
you on the phone, Mulder, I had questions of my own about why you'd been sent
down there. I called Skinner to get the straight skivvy."
"Which was?" Mulder asked, slowly.
"That he wanted you on it because, first of all, he knew you could solve it,
and second, because he'd already sent Agent Scully down there. He said he
thought you two needed to work together again for a while." Prescott laid his

hands on the desk, interlacing his fingers. "My understanding was he's worried
about her, thought you might be able to give her a boost, help her build some
confidence again. Which by all accounts, you did."
Mulder was silent.
"Anything you want to tell me, Mulder?" Prescott asked, with a trace of
sympathy.
Mulder shook his head. "No, sir," he said. "If you don't mind."
"None of my business anyway," Prescott said, leaning back again.
"Except," Mulder said, "that I think that there's still a problem in Mobile
that needs FBI attention."
"Right, anthrax," Prescott said. "That's worrisome. What do you make of it?"
"Honestly, sir, I don't know what to make of it," Mulder said. "There's no
question it was anthrax, or that there's some connection with the Army
Reserve. For two of the victims to have some connection to this is
statistically improbable, not to say impossible, if Lee is genuinely a random
spree killer."
"Are you saying he's not?"
Mulder shook his head again. "He is. Unquestionably. But perhaps a malleable
one, a killer who can be led -- by the right person -- to attack one specific
victim. In that sense, he's like a peregrine falcon, a hunting bird with
killer instincts, but tamed to the fist so he attacks -- for the most part -where he's told."
Prescott eyed Mulder carefully for a minute, then picked up a pencil and began
tapping it on the leather edge of his desk blotter. "Have you ever seen or
heard of a killer of the type you're describing?" he asked, finally.
"No, sir, I haven't," Mulder said. "The typical killer for hire, particularly
the professional hitman, seldom exhibits the rage-motivated killing of a spree
killer, and certainly not the carelessness. Cosa Nostra types don't rise this
far above ground, ever, and when wise guys go into overkill, there's a reason:
Someone's being warned. But a spree killer typically isn't amenable to
suggestion, assuming anyone is foolhardy enough to approach him."
"Is there any reason to think this scenario is impossible?"
"There's nothing in the literature that suggests to me that such a killer
could not exist. I think it's entirely possible, and that someone needs to

stay on top of this anthrax problem."


"That's in Mobile's area, Mulder," Prescott said. "They're already on it, and
so is CDC. But as far as I'm concerned, Lee is still your case. Work on it
when you can, find out what you can, but don't make it your top priority. The
subject's in the hospital, in federal custody, and like you said, he's not
going anywhere. Got me?"
"Yes, sir," Mulder said. "Is that all?"
"I got word the lab boys in Mobile are finished with your weapon," Prescott
said. "They're sending it up tomorrow by courier. In the meantime, you got
backup?"
"Not officially," Mulder said, smoothly, and Prescott grinned, nodding his
understanding. He didn't care; he carried an unauthorized weapon himself.
"Good enough," Prescott said. "Why don't you take the rest of the day off? Go
home, get a nap. You don't look like you slept much lately."
Mulder looked sharply at Prescott, but saw no sign the man was being
facetious.
"I'm a little tired," he said, and that was the truth, he thought. For all
kinds of reasons, some of which definitely had to do with a night spent making
love with Dana Scully in a king-sized hotel bed in Mobile, Alabama.
And even more to do with knowing how long it might be before she would be in
his arms again ... if ever.
"I think I will head for home," he said, dragging his thoughts reluctantly
back to the present, rising from his chair. "Thank you, sir."
"Nothing to it," Prescott said, waving the pencil dismissively. "Get your ass
outta here, Oxford boy."
~~~~~
Fox Mulder's apartment
8:17 p.m.
One more damn night alone with the TV, Mulder thought. I am definitely home
again.
He'd unpacked, as he usually did, by throwing everything washable into the
laundry hamper, tossing his suits in a pile on the floor to take to the

cleaners and dumping everything else pell-mell on the bathroom counter. He'd
showered, scooped the dead fish from the aquarium, called out for pizza and
channel-surfed until he found a baseball game, Chicago Cubs at the Atlanta
Braves -- neither a team he cared much about.
It was all background, anyway; his mind was skipping restlessly back and forth
between the still-unsolved aspects of the case he'd just left and the memories
of two nights spent in the arms of the only real angel he could ever imagine
existed.
I forgot what it was like to be this alone, he thought. Somehow, this noble
sacrifice just doesn't suit me as well as it did a week ago. I wish I had a
real case to work on again, I wish I had her in my arms, I wish I hadn't
waited seven years to make love to her ...
I wish I knew a way to get back to her, and back to D.C.
Rain delay. How long had he been sitting here staring at these guys sitting in
the dugout, looking at the rain? Jeez, Mulder, he thought. You're going to be
a basket case before long.
And then the phone rang, and his first thought was that it was Prescott,
calling him to say he had to get back to work after all, and he almost let it
ring until he remembered ...
... he'd given her his phone number.
Quickly, almost tripping over the coffee table, he sprang for the phone,
knocked it off the side table as he grabbed the receiver.
"Hello?" he said, his heart pounding in his throat.
"Mulder, it's me."
Yes, it is, he thought, a huge grin spreading across his face. Odd, how that
little phrase works. You never really think about it, but there's only one
person in anyone's life for whom a simple "it's me" suffices as a greeting.
The one in five billion. The one and only one.
"Hey, Scully, what's up?" he said, settling back on the couch.
~~~~~
<"Nothing. I just got home from my mom's. I took a comp day. I just ... wanted
to hear your voice.">

A pause.
"That may just be the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me."
<"Stick around, Mulder. I plan to do much better.">
"You do, huh? Care to give me a preview of coming attractions?"
<"No. Not yet. Maybe after I finish unpacking and get settled back in, I will.
I'm really tired.">
"Maybe you haven't been getting enough sleep."
<"That's funny, Mulder. Very funny. I didn't notice you slept much the other
night.">
"Not much. More than I wanted to, though."
<"Really?">
"Really. Being awake was ... much better."
<"It was for me, too.">
A pause.
"God, Scully, I miss you so much already."
<"I miss you, too. Terribly. But it means a lot to be able to call you and
talk to you.">
"Shit. See, I told you: I was a jerk to leave you the way I did, not even
letting you call me once in a while."
<"No, you did what you felt you had to do. But that's over now, isn't it?">
"I don't think so. I'm still here and you're still there ... "
<"But now I know where you are ... and I have your phone number.">

"Does it mean that much to you?"


<"More than I can ever tell you.">
"Which just proves what a jerk I've been."
<"I thought you told me all my crazy behavior was the result of PTSD.">
"I did. It was. And you're not crazy."
<"So why are you being so hard on yourself for the same thing?">
A laugh. "Habit. It's what I do, remember?"
<"I remember. I remember everything.">
"Everything about everything?"
<"No." A laugh. "Just everything about you and me.">
"So ... what do you remember best?"
<(softly) "Ever, or about the other night?">
"Either. Both."
<"Hmm. What I remember best about the other night is ... holding you
afterward.">
"Ahh. So what I do best is ... go to sleep?"
<"No, smart-aleck, that is not what I said. Do you want me to finish telling
you this or not?">
"I'm sorry. Go on. I'll behave."
<"That will be the day.">
"So why do you remember that better than ... any of my more active efforts to
make you happy?"

<"Because at that point, you already had ... made me happy. Very, very happy.
But you looked so peaceful, and I don't think I've ever seen you look like
that before.">
"Probably not. Peaceful is a good description. Or happy. I could go on ... "
<"I think I know. I was there, remember? But it was all so new to me, you
know, the -- afterglow.">
"Well, we never made love before."
<"Oh, don't be dense, Mulder. I mean no one else ever ... you know, made that
happen for me.">
"Oh." A pause. "That genuinely surprises me."
<"Why?">
"Because in case you hadn't noticed it, Dr. Special Agent Dana Katherine
Scully, you're a very beautiful, very passionate lady, and not at all ignorant
of what you want or how you like to be touched."
<"No. Just too shy to communicate it, I guess.">
"Not to me, you weren't."
<"No, not to you. Although somehow, you just seemed to know what would ...
please me.">
"I know you."
<"You pay attention to me. And maybe that's enough. Or maybe ... ">
"Maybe ... ?"
<"Maybe I never trusted anyone else enough to let go, let them get that close
to me.">
(softly) "Maybe not."
<"I do trust you, you know. Without reservation, no matter what stupid things
I said the other night.">

"The only stupid thing you said the other night was that you wanted to be with
me."
<"That was not stupid. I belong with you. Always.">
"I want you with me -- always. But you know that."
<"I suspected it, yes.">
A long pause.
"So -- what about the ever part?"
<"Hmmm?">
"What do you remember best about us ever?"
<"Your hands. When you pulled me out of the ice.">
"My hands?"
<"Yes. I really thought it was just another dream until you touched me.">
"A Freudian would have a field day with the juxtaposition of these two
memories, Scully."
<"Lucky for me you're not a Freudian.">
"No, I think Freud was full of shit. But I still want to hear more about these
dreams."
<"I was awake the whole time, so I guess you'd call it hallucinating more than
dreaming.">
"Jeez, Scully, you never told me about that. That's awful."
<"It was.">
"So what were you dreaming about? If you don't mind telling me, that is."
<"You. That you would find me. That you would get me out of there. I dreamed
it over and over. So when I really saw you, I thought it was still a dream.">

"Until I touched you ... "


<"Until you touched me. Then I knew it was you and that you really had come
for me and that I was safe. And your hands felt so warm ... I was so cold.">
"You were frozen. Literally."
<"But you wrapped me up and you got me out of there.">
"I can't even remember how we got back to civilization."
<"We found a snow cat that still had gas in it. Remember?">
"Oh, yeah. Now I do."
<"You had a head injury. No wonder you don't remember.">
"I remember that finding you there still alive was possibly the greatest
moment of my life."
<"Aha. So it's your best-ever memory, too?">
"I guess it is."
A pause.
"I think I must have forgotten it for a while, though."
<"Why do you say that?">
"Because if I'd remembered it better, I don't think I would ever have left
you."
<"Well -- look at what you went through to get me back.">
"That was nothing, Scully. Nothing at all."
<"Bullshit.">
A laugh. "Okay, so it's bullshit. You always were my bullshit detector."

<"Sometimes. I think I give you a lot of false positives, though.">


"Detecting bullshit where none exists?"
<"Yes.">
"No. You just -- keep me honest."
<"So you said once.">
"It's still true."
A pause.
"My SAC wants us to keep working on Lee, see what connection he has to the
anthrax business."
<"I didn't think we'd be on that case.">
"We're not. Not the anthrax per se. But we are on Lee, because Prescott
apparently sees the possibility, at least, that Lee was being used to
eliminate people who were involved with anthrax."
<"So where do we start?">
"With the forensics you gathered, I think. Let's just see what turns up there.
In a few days, if Lee is well enough for questioning, I'll talk to him."
<"Will he talk to us? I mean, we shot him.">
"Yeah, we did. But we've got to try. He's our best lead right now, Scully."
<"All right. I'll call you when I get the forensics in. But Mulder, I'm still
going to be in some trouble with Rolfe. I'll probably be ordered to report to
him first thing tomorrow. It may be a while before I can call.">
"I know. But I don't think you really need to worry about that."
<"Why not?">
"Who was Rolfe reporting you to?"

<"Skinner.">
"Skinner's the one who sent you to Alabama."
A pause.
<"I didn't know that.">
"He did. And he sent me, too, according to my SAC, because he thought we
needed to work together again for a while."
<"Did he really do that?">
"That's what Prescott said Skinner told him, and I believe him."
<"You mean Skinner ... ">
"Arranged for us to be together, yes."
<"I may have to kiss him the next time I see him.">
A laugh. "Okay. Just save some kisses for me, all right?"
<(softly) "All of them, Mulder. Every one of them. Until I see you again.">
"Which reminds me -- did I imagine it, or did you call me something else the
other night?"
<"By your first name, you mean? Yes.">
"And what brought that on?"
<"Don't you know?">
"No. I know you've done it a couple of times when you didn't seem to be
completely aware of it."
<"I think that's true, because I called you Fox the other night, at a ...
particularly intimate moment ... and I realized then that I had done it
before. Do you mind?">

"No. No, not at all. I like the way you say it."
<"So it's all right?">
"It's more than all right, Dana. Really."
<"I'm glad. But I don't think I'll do it very often.">
"No?"
<"No. I just ... needed to know that you would let me.">
"I guess I understand that ... well, no, I don't."
<"Just take it on faith, then.">
"So speaks the scientist."
<"You have a lot of faith, Mulder.">
"No, I don't. Not an iota."
<"Yes, you do. You do. Your faith has saved me more than once.">
"I ... shit, I don't know, maybe someday I'll believe that."
<"Don't you want to believe?">
"Yes ... I guess so."
<"Then believe, lover. Believe me, if you can't believe anyone else.">
Long pause.
"I believe _in_ you. Will that do?"
<"For now. I love you, Mulder.">
"I love you, too, Scully."

<"I'll call you tomorrow, all right?">


"All right. Tomorrow. Sweet dreams, G-woman."
<"You, too. Bye.">
"Bye."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
"Love Is Not All"
-- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Chapter 20

VICAP offices
Marine Barracks, Quantico
Tuesday, March 9
7:46 a.m.
"Scully! Back from the wars, I see," SSA Kennedy called out from his office as
Scully came in.
"It was more of a war than I'd anticipated, sir," she said, smiling, as she
walked toward her desk, but Kennedy stopped her.
"Agent Scully, before you sit down, there's something we need to discuss," he
said. "Can you step in here for a moment?"
"Yes, sir," she said, automatically, but with an inward groan. Here it comes,
she thought. She crossed the few steps to Kennedy's office and walked in.
"Shut the door, Agent Scully, then have a seat," Kennedy said, and she did.
This was definitely not good, she thought, crossing her legs and tugging her
skirt modestly downward.

"Is there a problem, sir?" she asked, with more outward cool than she'd been
able to manage for some time.
"Agent Scully, I would like to begin by congratulating you for your part in
apprehending a dangerous criminal," Kennedy said. "Your work in that regard
was exemplary, from what I have heard."
"Thank you, sir."
"However, I have had another, less complimentary report about you that,
frankly, I find a bit difficult to believe," Kennedy said. "Do you have any
idea what that report might be?"
"Some idea, sir, but I'd rather not guess," Scully replied, still cool.
"If I told you it was filed by Agent Glassman ... "
"I would know what it was about," she said, interrupting Kennedy. "I'm sorry,
sir. I had been expecting this."
"Agent Glassman has accused you of a number of transgressions, Agent Scully,
the worst of which is assault with your service weapon."
"That is ... essentially true, sir, although I consider it self-defense."
"Why don't you give me your version of the facts, then?"
She did, not omitting Glassman's booking adjoining rooms against her wishes or
that he had shown up only at the beginning and end of the case. "I had to
interrupt Agent Mulder's profiling work several times, sir, in order to
discuss with him matters that I believe Agent Glassman should have been
handling. It slowed the case down, which could have proven disastrous had
Agent Mulder not found the UNSUB when he did."
"You are aware that Agent Glassman has said much the same thing about you?
That you contributed little to this case?"
"I believe, sir, that the Daphne Police Department officer who was assigned as
our liaison can refute that accusation," she said.
"He already has," Kennedy said. "I called him yesterday, and I am satisfied
that Agent Glassman's accusation on that count is baseless. But there is the
matter of your drawing a weapon on him."
"As I said, sir, that was self-defense. Agent Glassman, I thought, had already

made inappropriate advances and he refused to leave my hotel room when I asked
him."
"So you pulled a gun on him?"
"I'm a federal agent, sir," she said, calmly. "I wanted to solve the problem
quickly."
Kennedy suppressed a smile. "I can understand that, Agent Scully. But Agent
Glassman said he was in your room only because he was looking for Agent
Mulder, and you refused to tell him where Mulder might be."
"Because I didn't know, sir," she said. "Honestly. Whatever Agent Glassman
might think, I was not keeping Agent Mulder hidden in a closet somewhere."
Kennedy was silent for a moment. "Agent Scully, between you, me and the
gatepost, I believe you. I know Glassman, and I don't doubt for a moment that
he got drunk and came to your room looking for some fun or, failing that, some
dirt on you and Agent Mulder, because I've heard the gossip about that, too.
And I don't care. But I don't think I have to tell you that SSA Rolfe isn't
going to agree with me."
"I have no illusions on that score, sir," Scully said.
"Go finish your reports," Kennedy said. "The SSA will call you when he's ready
to speak to you."
"Yes, sir," Scully said, rising. "I'll be at my desk, sir, if you need me."
Kennedy waved a hand at her, and she left, stopping just outside the door to
take a deep breath. You knew this was coming, Dana, she thought. Just try to
get what you need on forensics before you're suspended.
Quickly, she walked to her desk and signed on. There was a whole list of
e-mails waiting for her, many of which were chain letters from people she
scarcely knew. She half suspected them of wanting to impress their other
victims by including an address with the fbi.gov domain extension.
There it was, though; a message from the lab.
She clicked it open. The results from the blood spot she'd found were ready.
And they matched blood already in the database. No details. Just a casual note
to "come by the lab" for more information.
But she was supposed to wait here for Rolfe. She looked up; Kennedy was on the

phone, his back to the door, so telling him was out, and leaving a message for
Rolfe that she wasn't available was only going to make him angrier.
The Dana Scully of one week ago, even a few days ago, would have sat down and
resigned herself to waiting nervously for Rolfe's call.
That Dana Scully didn't work here anymore. She shut down her terminal and
walked out the door, headed down to the lab.
~~~~~
Birmingham Field Office
9:21 a.m.
If that damn phone rings one more time this morning, Mulder thought, I'm gonna
take out my gun and ...
With an exasperated sigh, he grabbed the receiver. "Mulder," he said, gruffly.
"Mulder, it's me," Scully said. "Am I calling at a bad time?"
"No, sorry, I didn't mean to be abrupt," he said. "Everybody in north Alabama
has called me at least once this morning. What's up, Scully?"
"I have the RFLP analysis on that bloodstain from Daphne," she said.
"Judging by your voice, I'd guess it wasn't Lee's blood?"
"I wish it had been." There was a long pause. "The blood came back a perfect
match for that of a former FBI agent, one Alex Krycek."
"Krycek?" Mulder said, amazed. "Are they sure, Scully?"
"They're sure. The blood matched on all six genetic markers and had the same
ABO grouping as Krycek. Somehow, his blood is on the clothing of one of Lee's
victims. I have no plausible scenario for this other than that, obviously, he
was there."
"I can't think of a better reason for his blood to be there," Mulder said.
"Scully, any idea how long Nivek had been dead when he was found?"
"It's hard to say. He was found in a part of the store that was heated,
over-heated, really," she said. "Decomposition was rapid, under the
circumstances."

"Any skin scrapings or defensive wounds?"


"I didn't find any skin under his nails, but that doesn't mean anything. He'd
already been embalmed when I got to him. Defensive wounds were conspicuously
absent. Did we ever establish who last saw him alive and when that was?"
"No, but Mack may have. I'll call him as soon as we get off the phone."
"Do it now, Mulder, I don't really have anything else yet."
"Except to tell me whether you're really in trouble."
She hesitated. "A little. Nothing I can't handle."
"You sure?"
"Yes." She sounded so confident, so definite, that Mulder had to smile.
"All right. I need a copy of the DNA report; can you e-mail it to me?"
"I'll do it right away. Any word on when Lee will be available for
questioning?"
"No. He's still in ICU, but he's stable, so they tell me," Mulder said.
"That's better than I expected," Scully said. "I gotta go, Mulder; the SSA's
going to be here any minute."
"Break a leg."
"Thanks." She hung up.
Mulder tilted his chair back, crossing his long legs on top of the desk.
Krycek, he thought. Which side of the street are you playing this time,
Ratboy?
If I ever get you in my sights, you'd better pray Dana Scully takes pity on
you and saves your sorry ass again. Otherwise, this time, I promise you, you
will not walk away.
I will kill you, Krycek. Some day.

~~~~~
Office of the SSA
VICAP
10:42 a.m.

"Come in, Agent Scully," Rolfe said. "Shut the door."


Scully crossed the room with as much grace as she could muster, and sat in the
chair opposite Rolfe's desk.
"You wanted to discuss Agent Glassman's report with me, sir?" she said.
"I wanted to discuss with you why I shouldn't refer this matter to a grand
jury and have you indicted for assault," Rolfe said, tersely. "I haven't heard
any explanation yet that tells me I should not."
"I find that difficult to understand, sir," Scully said. "I discussed this
matter with SSA Kennedy ... "
"He's not in charge here, Agent Scully," Rolfe said. "I am. And this, frankly,
is the final straw. You're a four-bagger, Agent Scully. Give me your badge and
go home."
"No, sir," she said. "I will not surrender my badge unless I am ordered to do
so by AD Skinner, to whom I intend to appeal this decision."
"You tell Skinner whatever you like," Rolfe said. "He's not going to support
you on this."
"I understood that it was AD Skinner who sent me to Daphne to investigate the
killings there," Scully said, her eyes boring holes in Rolfe's hide.
"I don't know where you heard that, but it's crap," Rolfe said. "You went
there because some Alabama politico wanted a team sent, and I sent you because
the case didn't rate any better. And please don't bore me with tales of
domestic terrorism. You haven't proven a goddamn thing about that."
"That investigation is ongoing, sir," Scully said.
"Not by you, it's not," Rolfe said, through clenched teeth. "Call Skinner if
you like, but do it from home. He can take your badge just as easily as I can.
I'll have your transfer papers delivered to your home. I personally don't care
to see you again."

"Sir," Scully said, rising, "that feeling is entirely mutual."


~~~~~
Birmingham Field Office
11:36 a.m.

"Daphne Police Department," said the voice on the phone.


"Officer Willie Mack, please. This is Fox Mulder, FBI."
"Hold the line, please."
A few minutes later, Mack came on the line.
"Mack."
"Mack, Fox Mulder. Listen, did you ever get any information about Nivek's last
contact prior to death?"
"I didn't question anybody on that, Agent Mulder. Baldwin County CID did. I'll
tell you what I did find out, though."
"What's that?"
"You remember how you were askin' me about military service among any of the
victims?"
"Yeah," Mulder said, his senses on alert. "What did you find?"
"That young Mr. Nivek was in Army JROTC in Mobile. His squad spent two weeks
at an ROTC camp in Anniston. He got back less than a week before he died."
"Anniston?"
"Yes, sir," Mack said. "Fort McClellan. I was gonna call you with this, but
you beat me to it."
"Shit," Mulder said.

"And Shinola," Mack said, agreeably. "I'll send you everything I got on Nivek.
How you want me to send it?"
"Fax it. It's a secure line. You still got my card?"
"Got it right here. If you don't have it in an hour or so, holler back at me."
"Thanks, Mack." Mulder hung up the phone.
Nivek, Stouffer and Gentry were now all connected to the U.S. Army in some
way. And that didn't even begin to explore the backgrounds of the other people
in south Alabama who were taking drugs to prevent anthrax infection.
And Fort McClellan -- that was perhaps the worst news of all. Fort McClellan,
only a short drive from Birmingham, was in the process of closing down.
One part of the post was still operational, though; the depot where the Army
kept its huge and deadly store of chemical weapons, along with some of the
hardware required to disperse them.
And, until recently, the school where it trained people in how to use them.
It was all beginning to fit entirely too well.
~~~~~
Office of AD Walter Skinner
2:24 p.m.

"Sir, Agent Scully is here asking to see you," Kimberly said over the office
intercom. "She doesn't have an appointment, but she said it was an urgent
matter."
"Send her in, Kimberly," Skinner said. He looked up as the door opened and
Scully walked in, looking twice as beautiful as he remembered. Keep those
thoughts under wraps, Skinner, he ordered himself.
"Sit down, Agent Scully," Skinner said. "What was it you wanted to see me
about?"
"Sir, I'm sorry to bother you with this, but I had told SSA Rolfe that I was
coming to see you, and he indicated his permission, although not his
approval," she said, settling herself into the once-familiar side chair. "He's
displeased with me, to say the least, because of an incident in Daphne between
me and Agent Lon Glassman of VICAP."

"And how does this affect me, Agent Scully?" Skinner said.
"I am, sir, as SSA Rolfe put it, a four-bagger at this point," Scully said.
"He ordered me to surrender my badge and go home to await reassignment."
"And you chose to disregard that order?"
"Not to disregard it, sir, no," Scully said. Stay calm, she told herself. This
is just Skinner being Skinner. "I told SSA Rolfe that I would prefer not to
surrender my badge to him. I will, of course, surrender it to you if you tell
me to do so."
"I am seldom likely to overrule a supervisor when it comes to discipline in
his or her own ranks, Agent Scully," Skinner said, tilting back in his chair.
"Unless you can show me some extraordinary circumstance which justifies your
ignoring the chain of command, I am simply going to order you to return to
Quantico and surrender your badge."
Scully was silent for a moment, looking at the floor. How many times were we
on the hot seat, right here, she thought? How many times did Mulder take a
stand and not back down, and how many times was he proven correct?
For just an instant, she let herself remember him, the feel of him next to
her, his voice as he told her the horror story that was his childhood.
He has so much courage, she thought. I hope I still have some of the courage
that he lent me ...
"Sir, permission to speak freely?" she said, looking up.
Skinner looked at her keenly for a moment, then nodded. "Go ahead."
"Sir, SSA Rolfe told me at the outset that I would be a short-timer at VICAP,"
Scully said. "He said that he resented my being assigned there. Nevertheless,
I believe that I did my job to the best of my ability, although I was somewhat
hampered by -- emotional difficulties."
"I was aware that you were under some stress, Agent Scully," Skinner said,
unemotionally. "I received some reports to that effect."
"Yes, sir," she said. "I understand that to be the reason you sent me to
Daphne -- because you were also sending Agent Mulder, and you thought he might
... be able to lift my depression somewhat?"
Skinner straightened in the chair. "I don't know where you heard that, Agent

Scully, but it's ludicrous. I do not interfere in the internal workings of


VICAP, and I do not assign agents on the basis of their personal
relationships."
"No, sir, of course you don't," she said. "Nevertheless, Agent Mulder was
there, and I was there, and we were both given to understand that you had
personally ordered our participation."
"Get to the point, Agent Scully," Skinner said, gruffly. "I have other
appointments today."
"Yes, sir," she said, still unruffled. "My point, sir, is that Agent Mulder
and I, working together, were able to solve this case quickly, without
additional loss of life, and that we did so despite a serious lack of
cooperation from Agent Glassman, whose primary purpose in being there seemed
to be to surprise me by booking a hotel room adjoining mine, although I had
specifically told him I did not want even to be on the same floor as he."
"Are you suggesting that Agent Glassman ... "
"Was setting me up? Yes, sir, I am," Scully said. "Agent Mulder prevented it
from going any further. Two nights later, Agent Glassman showed up at my hotel
room, with alcohol on his breath, and suggested to me that I might be able to
prevent problems with SSA Rolfe by being friendlier to Agent Glassman."
"And you interpreted that as a demand for sexual favors?"
"Yes, sir."
Skinner eyed her closely. "That is a serious accusation, Agent Scully."
"I am aware of that, sir."
"What happened afterward?"
"After repeated requests to Agent Glassman that he leave my room, I drew my
weapon and ordered him to do so. SSA Rolfe has described this to me as a
criminal assault, which, sir, I do not believe is a fair assessment."
"Based on what you've told me, Agent Scully, no, it is not," Skinner said.
"However, I cannot make a fair judgment about this after having heard only one
side of the story."
"I understand completely, sir," Scully said. "All I am asking is that I be
allowed to keep my badge, to have my weapon returned, and to keep working on
criminal analysis at VICAP until the matter is resolved. I believe that the
report filed by Agent Glassman was intended as retribution for denying him

sexual favors."
"Is it your intention to file a formal charge of sexual harassment against
Agent Glassman?"
"Yes, sir, it is."
"Do you have any supporting evidence beyond what you've just told me?"
"There should be a record at the hotel indicating that Agent Glassman reversed
the room request I had made, and there is a local officer who witnessed some
-- interactions -- between me and Agent Glassman," she said. "Agent Mulder
also witnessed some of what I have told you. However, sir, I must tell you
that Agent Glassman will probably testify that Agent Mulder and I spent a
night together in my room while we were there."
"That would be none of my business were it not that it might tend to undermine
your position with regard to Agent Glassman, Agent Scully," Skinner said, a
little uncomfortably.
"That depends on your point of view, sir," she said, calmly. "I have no desire
to go into the details now, other than to say that Agent Mulder was there at
my invitation, that we spent several hours talking about the very problems
that had been brought to your attention, and that he was very helpful to me."
"And that's all you're prepared to say?"
"For now, sir," she said. "Except that I would like to continue monitoring the
investigation into the potential threat from anthrax that was uncovered during
the course of this investigation, and that Agent Mulder has also taken an
interest in that aspect of the investigation. We