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Dana Scully pulled up to 1521 NE Prescott Street. She had to park on the street because the moving truck took up the entire driveway and blocked the garage.

"Mulder, wake up," she said, nudging her passenger. "We're here."

"Already? You said six more hours just half an hour ago," he said sleepily.

"I said that six and a half hours ago," she said. "Come on, the movers area already here, and they've already started unloading."

She got out of the car, and he followed a few moments, later, stretching to wake himself up. Together, they made their way up the front porch steps and inside.

"Scully, how long was I asleep?"

The movers hadn't just started, they'd finished. Each room had stacks of boxes and clusters of furniture.

"Ah, you two are Doctor and Mister Mulder?" a young man said.

"Actually, it's Doctor Scully and just Mulder, uh," Mulder began, glancing at the young mover's nametag and adding, "Gavan."

"Gavan Knoll, nice to meet you both."

"You work fast," Scully said. "Thank you."

"Just doing our jobs. We got everything inside the house and did our best getting the boxes in the right places. Since you guys labeled them that went right quick. Right now my guys are just waiting for your say on where the furniture belongs."

 

It was the easiest move that Mulder had ever experienced in his life. Admittedly, his experiences were skewed given the seven or so years he spent in hiding or on the lam, but even transitioning into his apartment in DC back when he started with the FBI was a weeklong ordeal.

It took the movers less than two hours to corral and arrange all the furniture in the house, a particularly impressive feat given the two offices and complex assortment of decor.

When Knoll Movers wrapped, the sun was still out. Neighbors came by, welcoming them with handshakes and the occasional snack food. Mulder took care to remember every name and house number so he could sketch a neighborhood map later.

It was just after dusk when his cell phone rang.

"Mulder," he answered.

"Mulder, it's me," replied a familiar voice.

"Skinner?"

"Thought I should call and see how the moving was going," he said. "Given you're now on the other side of the country."

"It's, uh, great, actually. We've only met a few people, but I can tell, this is a good change. Good for us, anyway."

"That's good, good."

There was a long, uncomfortable pause.

"Skinner, why did you really call?" Mulder asked.

"I'm calling about your employment status."

"Employment status?" Mulder repeated. "As of right now, my employment consists on me writing a book that'll never be published. Why? Is the FBI looking for another scapegoat to chase around? Because, frankly, I've had enough of that for a lifetime. Scratch that, for several reincarnated life times."

"There's a situation in Portland that has drawn interest from a lot of people in high places," Skinner said. "It's just chatter and rumors for now."

"How does this affect me?"

"Portland has recently had an uptick in strange events."

"And by strange events you mean...?" Mulder prompted.

"The kind of things that'd be classified as X-Files, if they were still around."

Mulder replied, "Don't. I'm serious, Skinner, you can't do this to me. The X-Files are my life's work, but after the FBI did everything they could to discredit them, they're done. At best they're a footnote in history, but more likely, they're just a closed report on someone's desk. Whatever is left of them has been relegated to bloggers who wear tinfoil hats and conspiracy nuts who couldn't verify the expiration date on a cereal box, let alone credible information from their sources. So don't, all right? Don't dangle this in front of me."

"Mulder, all I'm saying is that there are things happening in Portland, and it's not just the FBI that's interested. NSA, DHS, Homeland security. Independent corporations."

"What could possibly be happening in Portland that'd get that kind of attention?"

"Over the course of a week, there were reports of multiple bodies missing from morgues all around Portland, and two separate autopsies were canceled - "

Mulder interrupted, "Because someone stole the bodies?"

"Actually, they attacked the medical examiner after the autopsy had started because they weren't dead, even though two EMTs and one medical doctor pronounced them."

"If you're about to say zombies, it's not. If Scully were here, she'd be able to list the myriad causes the behavior and appearance of those afflicted as so-called zombies. During a severe cataplexy attack, someone can be completely paralyzed with no discernable life signs, very easy to declare them dead by mistake, especially in the field when medical personnel are expected to identify a pulse with fingers instead of using highly sensitive cardiac monitors. The rareness of disorders with cataplexy as a symptom makes it difficult to believe two different people in the same week and same city would turn up dead-but-not-dead, but this is the era of designer drugs, just one click away on the internet. I'm not just talking tetrodotoxin, curare, tubocurarine, and succinylcholine. These days there's a whole generation of new muscle relaxants, anesthetics, paralyzing agents, and respiratory depressants that anyone can get their hands on if they're dedicated. From there it's just a matter of perfecting the cocktail."

"You're saying someone created a zombie designer drug?" Skinner asked, skepticism apparent in his voice.

"I doubt it was on purpose. They were probably trying to perfect a new high. Instead they got a zombie apocalypse. It's no more unlikely that someone discovering the recipe for Long Island Ice Tea."

Skinner hesitated before he continued. "I'm not asking you to investigate zombies or look into the ridiculously high number of animal maulings. But a lot of people are interested in a cop, and by definition, his partner, coworkers, and affiliates."

"You want me to check out a cop?" Mulder asked. "You used to know me better. I'd never do that, Skinner."

"Three homicides. Cause of death? Their guts exploded as a result of a very rare poison that only affects a tiny percentage of the population. The oddest thing about the case, however, is the killer. There was no physical evidence and no discernable motive. He could've gotten away with everything, kept on poisoning people, yet he signed a full confession," Skinner said.

"Let me guess, this Portland detective everyone's so interested in is the one who got the confession."

"For the past three and a half years, this detective has closed too many hopeless cases with lucky breaks like the murderer who killed three people and left no trace signing a confession without bothering with a lawyer. It's not just luck, Mulder."

"So you think he's dirty?" Mulder asked. "Possibly torturing or blackmailing people into confession?"

Skinner replied, "I've no idea. I looked into this because this isn't the first time this guy's name came across my desk. Two years ago, two FBI Agents were murdered, and he became a person of interest. The agents that closed that case let him off the hook but only because someone high on the food chain ordered them to stand down. Then, just a few months ago, an FBI Agent disappeared and went on a crime spree only to be discovered in this detective's home, decapitated."

"Decapitated?" Mulder repeated. He added, "Seems a bit extreme, since I'm assuming detectives in this town all have guns."

"We've got three murdered FBI agents tied to this guy in the span of two years," Skinner said. "But that's not the most concerning thing."

"There's something more concerning that dead FBI agents?"

"Look, the people interested in this guy, I keep an eye on them for a reason. Attracting the attention of the FBI is one thing, but there are higher ups digging into this guy's life that shouldn't even glance at someone in Portland PD. And the people interested all dedicated the same kind of attention to you, Scully, Doggett, and Reyes during your time working for the X-Files."

Mulder took a moment to think about what Skinner had just said.

When he didn't respond after a minute, Skinner continued, "I'm not asking you to look into this guy because I think he's dirty. It's easy to see it that way from what's in the record, but we both know sometimes facts don't make it into the record, for one reason or another. The point is, this guy is making people nervous, and they're the same people who got jumpy over your work on the X-Files."

"You want me to look into a cop to protect him?" Mulder asked.

"He might not be worth protecting, but if he is, he's going to need someone on his side. I'm asking you because you are the only one I trust to review a case that, for all intents and purposes, seems to be a ghost abducting children, and keep your head on straight enough to see the point," Skinner said. "You'd be hired as a consultant with an informal inquiry."

"So I'd be a special investigator looking into a local cop with no partner and no authority?" Mulder said. "An informal inquiry only gets me access to case files and evidence on courtesy."

"You don't have to give me an answer today. Do me a favor, take a few days to think it over."

"Can I have his name? This detective raising everybody's hackles?" Mulder asked.

"Detective Nick Burkahrtd."

 

Scully changed into her pajamas and settled down in the living room with the welcome packet for her new position at Treeview Hospital. She had another week to go before her first day, so she had a leisurely read ahead of her.

"Thought you might like some tea," Mulder said as he placed a tray on the coffee table.

"Yes, thank you," she said.

The next few moments unfolded with only the gentle sounds of pouring and clinking as Mulder made two cups of chamomile.

"So, what do you think?" she asked.

"About the neighborhood? Yeah... it's great. Everyone seemed kind and interesting."

"But?"

He shrugged. "Nah, it's nothing."

"Mulder, tell me."

"Whenever one of our, uh, new neighbors asked me what I did for a living, I told them that I'm a researcher writing a book," he replied.

"That's the truth."

"No it's not. It's what I'm doing right now, but that's not who I am. It's not what I do for a living."

She sighed as she put the teacup down. "You're not the only one at this table who changed careers later in life."

"You changed careers, Scully. I lost mine."

She wrapped her hand around his and pulled him closer. "Mulder, part of a fresh start is letting go, giving yourself a chance. Leaving the FBI wasn't easy for me, even though I wanted to be a full-time doctor. As an agent, I got to be both FBI and a doctor, and for a while, it felt like I'd cut part of myself away, being just a doctor."

"I remember, but it feels like a long time ago."

"It was," she said.

"How did you get through it?" he asked. "I don't think you ever told me."

"I knew that I couldn't be just a doctor, and eventually I realized the problem was me."

"You?"

She nodded. "I was thinking of myself as just a doctor, but in reality, I was a doctor. Not just a doctor, but a doctor. All that time investigating with you? It's not forgotten."

"Something tells me thinking of myself as a writer isn't all that empowering. It's pretty much equal to me being just a writer."

"What about your research?" she asked.

"My research is basically the history and myth that informed my investigations," he replied. "I mean, can I do that for the rest of my life? I don't see why not. I'm familiar with the materials and resources, and I've got contacts, relationships to work with. But it's not the same. It's academic, you know, just research."

"Just research?" she asked with a coy smile.

"It's not the same."

"Isn't it?"

"Our investigations made a difference. At least, I like to think so. Maybe we didn't solve every mystery or put away every criminal, but we made a difference. We saved people, and we helped people. Sometimes we failed, but we were out there, trying."

"Mulder, I - "

He interrupted, "Let me finish. You practice medicine, and you're out there every day, helping people, saving lives. The work you do is about the future. You changed jobs, but your career is basically the same. Me switching to ancient hauntings or supernatural events during World War I? That's not about the future, Scully, and it's not going to save anybody's life. If I'm lucky, it'll fuel the fires of a few intellectual debates and prop up a few academics before it winds up gathering metaphorical dust in the digital archives of the future."

Scully listened intently. Mulder agreed to stop looking into the darkness, so they could get as far away from it as possible. For the past eighteen months, he had done just that, cataloging cases instead of investigating them and writing a book of his experience and expertise. He had even contributed to a number of museum exhibits, many of which featured artifacts related to the human understanding of the inexplicable, the supernatural, and the otherworldly.

She witnessed his struggle, his constant restraint in the face of overwhelming temptation. He'd hear about some sheriff's department fumble on a promising case because they lacked resources and essential insight, yet somehow, he resisted the impulse to contact or join the investigation. On the few odd occasions when someone contacted Mulder and asked for his expertise, he restricted his participation to remote correspondence, providing ideas and theories without slipping away into the darkness.

Mulder did all this because she had asked him, begged him, to leave it behind. Despite all his efforts, all his commitments, all his restraint, he couldn't shed that old skin. She told herself that drastic changes took time, that they needed a fresh start, that he'd grow into a new life once they had strong roots.

She knew better, of course, but she also loved him. His consistent commitment to his promise to her left no room for doubt on his love for her, though with Mulder she never had any reason to doubt to begin with.

Scully finished her tea as she measured her words.

"Your research is more important than you think. Would you abandon an X-File just because it was a cold case?"

"A cold case is a few decades old, max," Mulder replied. "We'd need a whole new word for a case that took place in another millennium."

"You'd still look into it," she said.

"Probably."

"The last case we worked on together, I know I said I couldn't take it, and I can't, but... a cold case wouldn't be like that."

"Scully, what are you saying?"

"I'm saying that I wasn't talking about you avoiding all criminal cases. I just meant..."

"Just active cases?"

"You were the one who convinced me that the truth was out there and worth finding," she replied.

Mulder sat back, perplexed. "Uh, well, the reason I brought this up, or part of it, is that I got a call today from Skinner. About a job."

"With the FBI?"

"Not exactly. There's a local detective who has been rubbing all the right people the wrong way. He could be dirty, but Skinner thinks otherwise," he replied. "He might just be another guy trying to change the world, one truth at a time."

"And he wants you to... what, exactly?"

He replied, "Consult on an informal inquiry."

"Mulder, did you... have you already said yes?"

"Of course not. I'm not exactly happy about the FBI being back in our lives, but Skinner wasn't asking me to hop back on the bandwagon. He thinks I can help this guy."

"So you're considering it?" she asked.

He nodded his head, yes. "What do you think?"

"I'm surprised, maybe even a little shocked. I don't know what to think."

"Neither do I."

There was a long silence, and Scully wasn't sure if he felt guilty for asking or resentful at her lack of support. It was their first day in their new home, and somehow he was already being pulled away by shadows.

"I'm going to take a walk," he said.

"It's almost midnight."

"Just a quick stroll around the neighborhood, stretch my legs, clear my head. I'll be back before you're curled up under the covers," he said.

He leaned in for a kiss, short and sweet, and she cradled his cheek in her hand, a gentle reminder to return safety.

"The flashlight is on the kitchen counter," she whispered.

"Always looking out for me," he mused before he left.

 

Mulder explored the neighborhood, keeping to the well-lit areas. Only a handful of people were out, and he suspected many of them were insomniacs like himself, whiling away the dark hours when the only places open were twenty-four-hour diners and gas stations.

"Good evening," he said to a woman in her forties as he passed by her lawn.

"Mister Mulder?" she said. "You probably don't remember me. We met earlier today."

"Sharon, isn't it?" he asked.

"Yeah, yeah, you do remember. What're you doing out so late? Didn't you just move here from the east coast? Figured you'd be tucked away in bed, what with it being three o'clock over there."

"Uh, well, actually, we drove, so no jet lag. Took us about three days of driving. I slept for the last leg of it, so now, of course, I can't sleep."

He tried to remember when the last time he made small talk with anyone. It felt like a very long time ago.

"What about you?" he asked. "Aren't you up awfully late?"

"Yeah, yeah, sure I am," she replied. "Past few months I've been working graveyard, which makes my days off a bit weird, sure. But I'm telling you, since I started handling the gardening at night, my skin has never been better. No sun means no sunscreen, no accidental burning, and my flower beds stay just right."

"That's very enterprising of you," he said. "I should be going. It was nice seeing you again, Sharon."

She waved goodbye as he continued down the street. Without anything to distract him, his mind drifted to Skinner's offer. A few years ago, he would've accepted the consulting job, not for the FBI, but for Skinner. But his tea with Scully had left him concerned over the impact on their relationship. Could he review a few local case reports about zombies and exploding guts without being drawn in? Did he have the strength to help an old friend without hurting the love of his life?

Before he could decide one way or another, something caught his attention: a high, piercing whimper. Without thinking about it, Mulder zeroed in on the source, leaving the sidewalk and following the noise.

The whimpering came from a large dog hidden between a wooden fence and a thin layer of trees. As he got closer, he realized that it was a Leonberger, and it was badly injured.

"Hey fella," Mulder said. "Are you okay? It's okay, I just want to take a quick look at you."

He glanced around first, hoping that the owner would be nearby, but he saw no one. So he got close enough to the dog to check its injuries, and he nearly recoiled when he saw the small pool of blood that had formed on the ground beneath its forepaws. The Leonberger had a gash along its nose and mouth and, if the blood on its coat was any indication, additional injuries to the chest and front legs.

Luckily, the dog stayed still while Mulder ran the flashlight over its flank and rear, but he didn't see anything else, though he wasn't sure if he could check for wounds on the underbelly.

"Okay, come here, what's you name?" he said as he searched for the nametag on the collar. "Rex? Rex? Is that you?"

Rex responding to his name, which Mulder took as a good sign.

"Come on, Rex, we're gonna get you some help and find your owners, come on," he said, gently leading the dog out of the cover of the trees. He was careful not to grab at Rex or yank on the collar.

Everything was going well until Rex faltered about half-way to the side walk, crashing to a full stop.

"Come on, Rex, it's not much farther. Rex! Rex, come on!"

But the dog either couldn't or wouldn't budge, and Mulder suspected it was the former, given the amount of blood loss. He didn't have his cell phone, and his car was blocks away. If Rex couldn't walk, what could he do? Even if he could carry the dog, he doubted Rex would allow it.

Not knowing what else to do, he shouted, "Help! Help! I need help! Injured dog! There's an injured dog! Help!"

He knew it was foolish, but the thought of leaving Rex, even briefly, made him cringe. What if he crawled off and hid somewhere?

"Hello?" someone said. "Hello? Is someone there?"

The speaker was a young woman, but he couldn't really see her.

"Sharon, is that you?"

"No, I'm Juliette."

"Juliette? Hi. I'm Mulder, and this is Rex. He's bleeding, and I could really use a hand."

"What happened?"

"I honest don't know, but he's badly injured. I don't think he can walk any farther."

"That's okay. I've got a trolley back at my house. I'll be right back."

With that she ran off.

Mulder knelt down next to Rex, who was awkwardly lying on his side, panting in the darkness.

Mulder spoke to Rex as if reading a bedtime story. "When the Conquistadores explored the American continent, the s-called New World, they sometimes encountered forces that baffled him. They'd mark dangerous areas by carving warnings into trees or posts. About ten years ago, I found of these warnings from hundreds of years ago. Ad noctum, into darkness. My partner and I were basically lost in the woods, and I'd been injured. That's when we found it, the warning, too late for it to be of any use, but we made it out anyway. So just hold on, okay, Rex? You wandered into darkness, but you can make it out again. Okay, Rex? That's a good boy."

"You really care about your dog," Juliette said, surprising Mulder with her approach.

"Actually, he's not mine," he replied.

"Really? You're good with him. He must like you," she said as she lined the trolley up with Rex. "You think you could get him to jump on?"

Mulder gently tugged on his collar, guiding Rex onto the trolley. It took the better part of five minutes to coax him on.

"I've already called the clinic, and the after-hours nurse will have a room ready. I know he's not yours, but I might need another set of hands or a person Rex trusts there helping me. Would you could with us?"

"I, uh, sure, I'd just need a phone. Did you say clinic?"

"Didn't I mention that I'm a vet?" she asked.

"No, you didn't, but all the more reason to be glad you found us."

Mulder pushed the trolley, following Juliette to her car, which was waiting on the street for them. It took twenty minutes to get Rex into the car, down to the clinic, and into the medical room. During the car ride, he made a hasty and confusing call to Scully.

"I'm guessing your wife isn't happy?" Juliette asked as he hung up.

"She does want us to save the dog, it's just... we moved in today."

 

Juliette Silverton was having the worst day of her life. She could tell because the highlight of her day was wandering outside and finding a stranger and an injured dog in a neighbor's yard. Mulder seemed smart and straightforward, and she found his kindness towards Rex endearing.

It almost made her forget that Nick had fled the house at the sight of her, or, rather, the new side of her, the woged Hexenbiest. He'd reacted violently and with disgust and confusion before leaving with no particular destination in mind.

The lights flickered, just thinking about Nick made her angry. She pushed it out of her mind, but it kept pushing its way back in.

Mulder helped her with the instrument trays and getting Rex on the table. As she worked, it became easier to ignore the nagging thought, to focus solely on Rex.

The initial exam showed that the gash to the muzzle and neck were deep enough to need stitches, but not life threatening. The injuries to the chest and leg were another story. Something had broken several of his ribs, which explained the flail chest that she observed. He likely had pulmonary contusions as well, which explained his labored breathing.

"Rex is going to need an x-ray," she said.

"Should I get the lab tech?" Mulder asked.

"We don't keep one on this late, but the nurse who let us in can help."

He nodded and ducked out of the room.

Juliette focused on Rex, and for the first time, she sensed something about him. His heartbeat was slowing down, and he'd lost more blood than she suspected. Rex's breathing had been becoming more labored since the car.

It was only then that Juliette realized that she acquired all this information without any equipment. Apparently, Hexenbiests could hear a heartbeat and detect activity in the blood vessels by simple proximity.

As if this realization gave her the idea, she took Rex's head in her hands and carefully examined the gash. She stared at it, focusing on the path it cut through his flesh. She imagined the natural process of clotting and scabbing speeding up, effectively closing the wound without need of stitches.

Rex shifted and whined, as if in pain but too afraid to show his weakness to Juliette. She smiled. Here, she had the power, and she was the alpha.

She blinked.

The gash scabbed over. Had she known that would happen, or was that a lucky guess?

It didn't stop at a scab, though. The more she concentrated on the wound, the more it healed. Rex whimpered like a puppy trapped beneath the talons of a hawk, but he dared not move. By the time Mulder came back into the room, the gash was still visible but completely sealed.

"Doctor Silverton? The nurse says the x-ray is ready," Mulder said.

How did he know her last name? He must've seen it on the door or heard the night nurse call her that.

"Thank you. Would you help me roll him there? And, Mulder, you can call me Juliette."

Mulder obliged, and they pushed the medical table down the hall.

"Wow, doc, that's incredible. No stitches?" he asked.

She shook her head. "The blood had stopped flowing a while ago and began to scab. I opted to use skin glue to keep the wound sealed until I can see the extent of his chest injury," she said, lying with no hesitation or remorse. "He'll probably still need some stitches, but one problem at a time."

The x-ray revealed hairline fractures of two ribs, but nothing more substantial. Had she managed to reset broken bones as well, or did she simply over-assess his injuries as flail chest due to multiple rib fractures?

She hadn't woged, had she? No, she would've felt it. Didn't Hexenbiests woge to tap into their powers? Yet she healed this dog without it.

Juliette remembered what Henrietta told her. "I've never seen anything like this before. I'm not sure how deep it goes or if it even stopped... This is how powerful you are... You don't have a choice."

For the first time, that didn't seem so bad.

"Is he going to be okay?" Mulder asked, speaking up for the first time in twenty minutes.

"Actually, yes, he will," she replied. "He'll need bandages, but his ribs are intact, just hairline fractures."

"Rex is one lucky dog," he said.

"You're right, whatever happened to him, it could've been much worse."

Mulder said, "Give yourself a little credit, doc. He'd still be bleeding and whining in someone's yard if it wasn't for you."

Juliette felt as if something was caught in her throat. She didn't know why at first.

"I, uh... this might sound strange but, thank you, Mulder," she said. "And you too for that matter, Rex."

"For dragging you back to work at one a.m.?"

"For reminding me who I am," she replied. "I had a rough day and... I guess I really needed this."

"Well, good," he replied. "Scully said she could pick me up, I just need to make a call."

"I don't want to ask you for more help, but there's no space for him at the clinic tonight," Juliette said. "With his injuries, he'd do better with people instead of locked up in a cage. Would you be able to take him home for tonight? Tomorrow we can get in touch with his owners. I can get their number and address from his microchip."

"I'd have to ask Scully, but, yeah, we've got room."

 

Scully couldn't protest or complain about the patched-up Leonberger spending the night, though she wished they'd had one day of peace and quiet to settle in.

Rex was mild-mannered and friendly, which made his enormous size less overwhelming. Had he been a stray, she probably would've brought him home, too.

Mulder created a doggy bed by layering comforters, pillows, and towels on the floor of their bedroom.

"I'm sorry," he said as they climbed into bed well past two o'clock.

"Sorry for what?"

"Wandering off into the dark on our first night here."

She rolled over to face him and smiled. "You went for a walk and found a wounded dog. There's nothing to apologize for. Right, Rex?"

Rex barked twice.

 

Scully woke up to find Mulder on the phone, redialing the same number over and over.

"Morning," she said.

"Hey, Scully. I'm just trying to get through to Rex's people."

"Any luck?"

"No, they're not answering."

"Did you get the address?" she asked.

"Sort of," he replied. "I think whoever owns him moved here recently, because his chip gave us an out-of-state address."

"Do you have their name?" she asked.

"Ronan Sawyer Prey," Mulder replied. "He's got a Montana address and phone number, and he's not picking up."

"Well, I can pick up some dog food and a leash while I run my errands today. Just until we can figure out where he belongs."

"Actually, I think I might've just solved that one," Mulder said. "Ronan Sawyer Prey didn't move to Portland, but his older sister, Trina Prey Quarry, has a house in her name two streets over."

"How long did it take you to figure that out?" Scully asked.

"I tried looking for houses owned or rented by anyone with the last name of Prey. When that didn't pan out, I turned to social media. Luckily, Rex's owner is the only Ronan Sawyer Prey in Montana that bothered with Facebook. His entire family is on it, to, including Trina Quarry."

"Social media and real estate records," she said. "It's almost like you're a detective."

"The power of the internet, Scully."

"I can go by," she said. "What's the address?"

"Are you sure?"

"I've got errands, and one of us should be here with Rex. It makes more sense for me to stop by. You said it was just two streets over."

Mulder jotted down the address, and she decided walking would be faster.

The neighborhood was bustling. The streets were filled with children waiting for buses and people heading off for work. Scully felt elated by all the activity, by being part of a community again, even as the new person nobody really knew.

She had grown used to a long commute to an isolated home. Mulder had taken care of her and filled wherever they lived with a vibrant energy that animated everything around her, but they were always alone on that island. She had forgotten what it was like to step outside her door and see new faces.

It took only a few minutes to reach the Quarry residence. When she knocked on the door, it creaked open. Someone had left it ajar.

"Hello?" Scully said. "I don't know if you know this, but your door is opened. Maybe that's how your dog got out last night. I'm a new neighbor. Hello?"

There was blood on the doorframe. It could be that Rex was injured inside, then ran outside, but that didn't seem right. She opened the door all the way, almost certain in what she was going to find.

The body of a young man lay crumpled in the living room. Scully rushed inside and checked his vitals, even though the sheer size of the blood pool around him made it clear he was dead. He had no pulse.

She took a moment to steady herself before calling Mulder, then nine-one-one.


Ad noctum, into darkness. It's posted as a warning, and not just to stay away. Once you wander in, be sure it doesn't follow you back, because it'll cling to you and hide in your shadow, and when you're not looking, it'll slither out to spread its ilk and ire. Then, suddenly, the darkness is all around you, stealing away what little light you've stolen for yourself.