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The Whole Truth

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“I have lived with a fragile faith built on the ether of vague memories from an experience that I can neither prove nor explain. 

When I was twelve, my sister was taken from me, taken from our home by a force that I came to believe was extraterrestrial.

This belief sustained me, fueling a quest for truths that were as elusive as the memory itself. 

To believe as passionately as I did was not without sacrifice, but I always accepted the risks… to my career, my reputation, my relationships… to life itself.”

 

-Fox Mulder, “The Blessing Way”

 

 

 

prologue

 

She should have known from the moment she first saw them together that she never stood a chance.

She’d suspected it for a while. Call it women’s intuition. She hadn’t let many men into her life over the years but she knew Fox Mulder well, and from the moment she met that other woman she felt a cold chill wrap around her heart; a sense of inevitability, a sense of doom.

A sense of loss.

Knowing that loss intuitively was very different than witnessing it with her own eyes. She’d once again been losing the man she already lost years ago, piece by piece, ever since he came back into her life. Seeing him with the woman she now knew he truly loved only dug the knife in deeper.

On every other occasion she’d seen them together they tried to hide it; from each other, from themselves. But here and now, alone in this corridor where they thought no one was watching, she watched. And she saw.

She saw Agent Scully’s hand on the back of his neck, her other on his stomach, and she saw Fox’s arm around her waist. She saw her struggling to support his weight; a woman so petite she had to use every ounce of her strength to keep him upright. They were grasping onto one another like actual, physical lifelines. She saw love. She saw devotion.

And she saw trust.

It might not have been simple from the inside, as these things rarely are. But from the outside looking in, she’d never in her life seen two people so wholly immersed in one another.

Her own relationship with Fox had never been clean or simple. But she now realized it had never mattered. She now knew the one thing he’d needed from her above anything else was the one thing he never had: trust. And she could never truly give him that, because no matter what either of them wanted, no matter how much she loved him, everything between them began as a lie and now he could be absolutely certain of that; he’d read her thoughts. He knew the truth. Neither of them had much choice in the matter.

The grainy surveillance photographs in her hands were visual confirmation that her chickens had indeed come home to roost, that everything she’d struggled for over the past decade had been worth nothing in the end, nothing at all. Her own moral compass had been out of whack for so long it was hard for her to know which way was up anymore, what she was doing for herself, for Fox, for the project, for the world. She’d fought for a way out of this existence, but failed. In doing so she had chosen Fox’s fate, all the while believing he’d have chosen the same.

Would Fox have chosen this? She’d hoped it was true; she’d hoped that the truth they’d both sought for so long was worth all of this, worth everything. 

But she’d been wrong. He was worth more to Agent Scully than proof, than truth, than answers... than any of it in the end, and that made all the difference. 

Diana Fowley felt the tight grip of strong fingers curl around her shoulders, forcing her to look at the photographs of Agents Mulder and Scully escaping the facility with the keycard she had provided. Forcing her to feel her heart breaking all over again. 

What she’d done in the end for Fox was right, she knew that much. But it was too late for her now. And she would pay dearly this time.




Chapter 1: The Lie

 

THE MAJESTIC

ALEXANDRIA, VA

DECEMBER 1987

 

She spied him across the bar, two, maybe three drinks deep already. Twirling a long strand of dark brown hair around her finger, she sipped her Manhattan and formulated a plan of attack.

She got up and moved until she was two seats down from him, not glancing in his direction, and asked the bartender for another drink. She didn’t budge until she was certain the young man’s eyes were on her, and that task didn’t take long.

Her head swiveled and she smiled, her eyelids at half-mast. He grinned back. Works every time. Men were so insanely easy to work, it was a fucking marvel women weren’t running the world by now. 

It was the first time she was seeing this one’s face clearly. He looked slightly drunk; his hair was mussed, and his tie was undone. His sleeves were rolled up to the crooks of his elbows and she pegged him as a lonely man who didn’t spend much quality time in the company of women, at least, not much of the kind of quality time she was seeking this evening.

It had been a few weeks since she’d gone out looking for this kind of company, but he seemed to fit the bill nicely. He was a few years younger than her, and she could tell by his eyes that he was intelligent. It was a talent of hers; looking into another person’s eyes told her pretty much everything she wanted to know. 

Most importantly for her purposes, she noticed, he was drop dead gorgeous.

“Hi,” he said.

She smiled. It was her favorite opening line.

“Rough day?” she asked. It felt apropos. 

He turned back to his drink, which was clear, whatever it was, and picked up the glass, shaking it. The ice jangled like an alarm bell.

“You don’t know the half of it,” he replied. 

The bartender set a fresh drink in front of her and she lifted it to her lips. “You’re right, I wouldn’t know. I’m only here for the scenery,” she smirked.

“I’m sorry. This isn’t a ‘thing’ for me, typically. I’m not much of a drinker.” He smiled warmly at her. 

She felt comfortable, she felt safe. She figured he was being honest; he didn’t seem like your typical drunk in a bar.

“Me neither, it’s just… been a day.”

“Oh yeah, you too?” he grinned. “What’s a woman like you doing in…” he trailed off, gesturing around.

“... The nicest bar in the city?” she finished, smirking again.

“Well, yeah,” he chuckled, a bit abashed. It was a nice establishment, nicer than most. Alexandria wasn’t the worst place to go to a bar alone.

“Um… you know. Work… stuff.” She rarely elaborated on her work with men at bars. Quite frankly, most of them were too stupid to understand any of it. The more attractive they were, the less interested they seemed. She was here tonight for only one reason.

“What is it you do?” He looked genuinely interested and she liked him instantly.

“Mostly research,” she lied, smoothly. She wasn’t about to tell a stranger she actually worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “I study criminology, and other social sciences.”

“Criminology?” He looked surprised. “Are you a detective?”

“No,” she answered quickly. It wasn’t technically a lie, but she still felt guilty for misleading him. “Just research. Studying human behaviors and such.”

“That sounds… very interesting.” He narrowed his eyes at her. She believed he meant it.

“Can I buy you another drink?” she asked him.

“A modern woman,” he said. “I like it.”

She grinned and scooted over until she was next to him. She gestured to the bartender, who obliged, setting another glass of whatever it was he was drinking in front of him.

“How about you? What’s made your day rough?” she inquired.

“I’d actually rather not say, if it’s all the same to you,” he said, making a face and holding his glass up. She didn’t mind at all. The less personal stuff she knew about him, the better.

“Fine by me,” she replied and clinked his glass.

“Maybe we can talk some more about you,” he said with a smile that made her melt a little bit. Just a little bit. Everything was going exactly the way she’d planned. The only hiccup was that, for some reason that she couldn’t quite put her finger on, she kind of liked him. Maybe too much.

She grinned, taking a sip of her drink. “If you say so.”

She hooked her toe behind his calf and eyed him, not wanting her intentions to be misunderstood. It was brazen, but so was she. He was attractive and he liked her; she had no reason to look any further tonight. And his own eyes locked onto hers as he wordlessly agreed.

 

***

 

The door flew open in a flurry of activity; her mouth pressed against his and his keys falling to the floor. Pieces of their clothing were discarded one by one and through her mind ran the mantra this is not smart, this is not smart. It had only taken an hour for her to realize how much she had already developed a fondness for him. Even though she was here to do exactly what she came to do, she was worried. 

“I don’t usually bring strangers home with me from bars, I think you should know,” he murmured against her neck. 

She looked past him into his apartment, taking note of what she saw. It appeared to be a typical ‘single guy’ apartment, the difference being the clutter. Most men she let take her back to their places had very few possessions, either a remnant of some bad breakup or a product of limited imagination. This guy’s living room was absolutely full of books, papers, and a plethora of materials that surely crowded every corner of his mind as much as they did the room. It didn’t look unclean, just untidy. She smiled at the knowledge she’d pegged him right: he was smart. And lonely.

“I’m sorry about the mess,” he suddenly said, pulling back and looking around, his hand going to the back of his neck. He glanced behind him. “I wasn’t expecting company. To be honest, I rarely have… company.”

She took his face in her hands, regarding him. She already knew he was attractive, but there was something in his eyes that drew her in deeper. She was entranced by his intellect; she had been all evening. He’d listened to her and responded with genuine curiosity. He wasn’t like the other men she typically met in bars. It was strange and captivating and she knew she should resist but she could not.

It was for this reason she reminded herself tonight had to be about sex. Just about sex.

“I don’t know your name,” he said. “I’m Fox-”

“Don’t,” she shook her head. Names would make it harder. But then she had to ask. “Fox? Really?” For some reason this strange name only made him more attractive to her. “How’d you end up with that one?”

“Wish I knew,” he laughed. 

“I like it,” she admitted. She did. “Fox.”

And with that, he led her into the bedroom. There were no more words. It felt as if they had an unspoken agreement this would be about tonight, about right now. It was the way she wanted it, the way she always preferred it. 

Usually she would leave right afterwards. But this time, after it was over, he pulled her into him close and she let him. She felt oddly compelled to stay next to him all night. It was probably a mistake, as nearly every part of her was telling her, but she didn’t listen.

When she awoke he was lying on the other side of the bed, sprawled comfortably, and she watched him sleep. She wondered if perhaps she’d sold this one short. Their bodies had agreed, and he fascinated her, he aroused her own intellect. She softly ran her hand across his brow and his eyelids twitched. 

This could be something, really something.

But then her thoughts turned back to her work. It was where she defaulted when things got too difficult, too personal. She had her reasons for keeping things simple.

She slid out of the bed and gathered her clothes, putting them on piece by piece, completely unashamed of this particular walk of shame. But before she could reach the front door he appeared in his bedroom doorway.

“Leaving already?”

She sighed. “I have to get home.” He approached her, pulling on some sweatpants.

“Did I… do something to offend you?”

Poor thing, she thought. He hasn’t done this before.

“No, I had a great time,” she replied. “I just… have to go now, okay?”

“Can I at least have your name?” He looked so disappointed, standing there. Hair tousled, his naïveté dangling on the sleeve he wasn’t wearing. She’d feel sorry for him if he weren’t so goddamn attractive. Surely he’d bounce back.

It was harder to leave than she wanted it to be. And for that reason, she opened the door, looked back over her shoulder, and before closing it again she smiled at him, offering just two parting words. 

“Goodbye, Fox.” 








WASHINGTON, D.C. FIELD OFFICE (WFO)

601 4TH ST NW

FEBRUARY 1988

 

Weeks passed, and Diana poured herself into her work. Losing herself in the world of the fantastic was the best escape possible and she felt fortunate she had the freedom to do so. 

She had a degree in psychology and had completed her FBI training, trying her hand in both instructing at Quantico and working in the field. But she soon realized her talents and expertise could be better utilized in other ways; so she became an Intelligence Analyst. 

Luckily, this was the perfect job for her to explore the things that interested her most, namely the human brain and its many mysteries. Generous donors had supplied her the means to do so where many others at the Bureau could not. She was a self-admitted workaholic, and although she enjoyed her work immensely, it was quite stressful and filled her life to the brim.

Time passed and she filled her days with the work and her nights with thoughts of the work. Most of the time these thoughts were undisturbed. But snippets of a one night stand that had ended too abruptly would occasionally resurface. 

After she left that apartment he’d been reduced to two words: the fox. And at the back of her mind there existed a burrow, a small space that was dark and deep and dangerous. It was where the fox lived and held on. 

She thought about that night with him a lot. Too much. She hadn’t been affected this way by a man in a long time and it bothered her that she couldn’t let this one go. 

She told herself it was ridiculous; that even if she had space in her life for a relationship, the timing couldn’t be worse. And it wasn’t as if she could find him again anyway, even if she wanted to. She felt a bit guilty for leaving him alone that morning and she certainly didn’t enjoy thinking of that sad puppy dog face he wore as she walked out the door.

His name rolled over and over again through her mind, however, and she clung to that. Fox. She wondered about him, and wondered if he ever wondered about her. 

One afternoon in her office, as if her thoughts were somehow being projected out into the universe, as if some cosmic force were thrusting destiny into her path, she heard a somewhat familiar voice.

“Well, well, well. I guess this must be fate.” 

She was sitting at her desk reading an article and looked up to find the very last person she expected to see. Fox looked more put together in a suit and tie, and his hair was tidy. He cleaned up nicely. A Bureau badge was attached to his lapel and he wore glasses this time, which she found oddly arousing.

Of course. What were the odds of her finding another FBI agent to sleep with near downtown DC? Higher than she realized, obviously. 

“The fox returns,” she said, trying not to smile. “So you work for the Bureau, too?”

“Afraid so.” He didn’t sound upset she hadn’t told him, just a bit confused.

“Are you stalking me?” she asked him playfully, at least as playful as she got. 

“It’s a lot less romantic than that,” he explained, holding up a case file. Her name was written on a post-it note attached to the front. He gestured to her own badge. “I guess you’re my consult.”

“It really is fate, then,” she said, pleased to see him in spite of herself. 

“How long have you worked at the field office? Shame we’ve never bumped into one another.” 

She shrugged. “I’m a private person,” she said by way of explanation. “And besides, who says we haven’t?”

“I think I’d have remembered you,” he grinned. “You really know how to hurt a man’s self esteem, by the way.” 

She could tell he was joking, that she hadn’t really insulted him when she’d left him that morning. Judging by his behavior, he hadn’t been pining away or anything. It made him even more attractive to her; which was extremely inconvenient.

“I’m sorry about that, it wasn’t anything personal,” she explained quickly. “I just… I don’t do relationships.”

“I get it,” he said. “I’m the same way. Married to the Bureau?”

“You could say that.” 

“It’s okay,” he said coolly. “Anyway, I got what I wanted.”

His comment took her aback. She glared at him, but his eyes softened. “I meant your name,” he clarified, pointing to the post-it note, flashing his thousand watt smile. “Sorry, that came out wrong. Would it be all right if we introduced ourselves properly?”

She sighed, remembering how quickly he’d made her feel at ease in their prior encounter. She felt powerless against his rampant charm. “I’m Diana. Fowley. And you’re Fox .” She enunciated the name slowly, deliberately. She liked the way it felt on her tongue.

“Fox Mulder,” he told her. He extended his hand and she shook it. 

God, he was handsome. It struck her that it was the first time she’d shaken a man’s hand after that same hand had been so intimate with her body. 

“So, that really is your name?” she asked, glancing down at his badge.

“It’s not something I’d lie about.” He wandered slowly around the desk towards her. “Chopin?” he asked, noting the calming piano concerto spouting forth from her cassette deck.

“It helps me concentrate.”

He grinned. “I’ve always been partial to Bach.”

She knew what he was doing. He was trying to have the date they didn’t really have last time. She wanted to put a stop to it but she didn’t. She couldn’t help herself.

“How is it you came to know so much about classical music, Fox?” 

“You can call me Mulder,” he said. “I actually prefer it.”

She didn’t.

“I went to school at Oxford,” he explained. “I used to go… well, my ex used to take me to concerts at the Sheldonian. It grew on me.”

“Handsome and Oxford educated? You’ve got quite the list of credentials.”

He shrugged. “I don't usually put out all my credentials on the first date. But I think you and I are past that.” He grinned at her and his eyes sparkled; the same eyes that had drawn her in last time and she knew she was treading in dangerous waters.

“We aren’t on a date.”

“You’re right, we’re not,” he conceded. “But we could be.”

“So what did you come for a consult on, Fox?” she asked, pushing past his proposition and finally facing him, arms crossed in front of her.

“I’m a profiler with the Behavioral Analysis Unit. We have a convict being re-evaluated for mental competency, due to some claims he’s made that defy explanation.”

“Such as?” She was intrigued. Things that defied explanation were her weakness. Handsome men talking to her about the subject were even better.

“I’m not sure you’d believe me if I told you.”

“Try me,” she smirked.

He shrugged. “Psychic abilities. How does that grab ya?”

She removed her glasses and folded them, placing them in her coat pocket. She leaned back in her chair. “I’ve seen some patients display remarkable aptitude for clairvoyance, precognitive behaviors, even psychokinesis. There have been extensive studies on the phenomenon. While it’s still considered pseudoscience, it seems to be within the realm of possibility.”

Fox gaped at her, a small grin curving up either side of his mouth.

“You… believe in that kind of thing?” he asked.

“I’ve seen too much not to believe it.”

He looked at her in wonder, his eyes bright and engaged, seemingly speechless at her revelation. “I guess they sent me to the right person, then. How do you know about all this stuff?”

She raised an eyebrow at him and he quickly retracted. “I don’t mean- I just mean, they sent me to see an Intelligence Analyst that specializes in psych. I’m just surprised you’re even interested in the paranormal.”

“I have a background in parascience,” she explained. “It’s not something the Bureau utilizes much, but it comes in handy from time to time, I suppose… Whenever all your other avenues have been exhausted.” 

Again, he seemed at a loss for words. “I find the subject fascinating, actually,” he said, that same tone he’d used in the bar creeping back into his voice.

“Do you?” She’d never had a man claim an interest in the paranormal to get into her pants. It was oddly refreshing.

“I do,” he replied. “It isn’t often I run into someone who would entertain such possibilities. It’s… refreshing.”

She interpreted his wording as yet another sign this man was somehow meant to be in her life. She believed in lots of things, including fate, and she was starting to believe in him as well.

“I know what you mean,” she agreed. “It’s frustrating when all the people around you refuse to have an open mind.”

“I was actually just reading about a theory that claims prehistoric evidence of alien astronauts that landed here on earth.” He looked at her expectantly and she wasn’t sure if he was putting her on or not. 

Her eyes widened. “Wow. Do you open with that at parties?”

“Not ones I’m invited back to,” he chuckled. “I was just curious about your thoughts.”

“I’ve read about that, too. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it. It’s a long held theory, but…” she trailed off.

“...Wildly unpopular?” he asked.

“Exactly.”

“Sounds right up my alley,” he grinned. 

“Mine too, actually,” she admitted.

She smiled back and they looked at each other for a moment. The attraction she’d felt for him before was only growing exponentially, and it unnerved her. Before the feeling could continue for too long she interrupted it by holding her hand out for his file. “Well. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

He handed her the file and she flipped through it. “Did you do MRIs? Ah,” she removed them and stood, inserting them into the light box on the wall. She scanned them carefully and then pointed to a small section of the scan.

“This is what we look for in these types of cases, here in the temporal lobe,” she explained. “It’s rare, but it seems to be the common denominator. If you look closely, you can actually see faint activity here.”

Fox leaned in next to her so they were shoulder to shoulder. She wanted to feel uncomfortable, a feeling that was comfortable to her, but instead felt overwhelming contentment. Not to mention he smelled incredible.

“And this is… unusual?”

She nodded. “It’s called the God Module. We rarely see any activity at all here. But sometimes there’s a faint hint of something in patients who demonstrate precognition, or advanced intelligence. It sometimes even shows up during extreme religious experiences.”

“Sounds like science fiction to me,” he winked, but she could tell he was being playful. “You’ve actually seen this demonstrated?”

“In a manner of speaking,” she explained. “Many in my field believe great leaps in science and other achievements were accomplished by individuals with access to this part of the brain. Galileo, Newton, Einstein. All corollaries to this theory.” She indicated the scans on the wall. “Looks like your guy could be one of them.” She leaned closer to the scans. “Luther Lee Boggs,” she read. “If you’d like, I could run a psych eval on him for you.”

She wasn’t sure why she’d offered. She told herself it was because this kind of brain activity was rare and she was lucky to have this case dropped into her lap. But the truth was she really just wanted to see the fox again.

His eyes went dark as he looked at her, predatory. It was then she knew for sure she hadn’t had the upper hand this entire time; that she was indeed his prey, and she was completely helpless. She wanted his case and he knew it. He liked her, and she knew it. 

“Have dinner with me,” he said.

She crossed her arms and her eyes narrowed. “This sounds a lot like extortion.”

“It’s dinner.”

“I told you, I don’t do relationships.”

“You mentioned that,” he said. “But you do eat, right?”

She sighed and shook her head, smiling. “You sure are stubborn, aren’t you?”

“Only when it’s important,” he said. “One dinner. Then I’ll take you to see Boggs.”

Fate, he’d said. Maybe it was fate. As a man, he hit every one of the boxes on her checklist. Physically, she had zero complaints. He was interested in her work, not put off by it. And he was definitely interested in her. 

She looked into his eyes, saw them actively changing color as he watched and waited for her answer, and she knew she was done for. Maybe this could be fun. Maybe he was exactly what she needed. Maybe he could help relieve some of the stress she’d been under.

Maybe just for a while.

“Dinner. Okay,” she agreed.












CAPITOL HILL

WASHINGTON, D.C.

JUNE 1988

 

Dinner turned into sex, which turned into more dinners, until several months had passed and Diana Fowley found herself in a relationship with Fox Mulder. 

He was everything she’d ever wanted in a partner, whenever she’d allowed herself to imagine one. And although she’d resigned herself to a life alone, she was walking back her preconceived notions. She wanted to be with him, she enjoyed it. They were so alike in so many ways. Maybe they could actually make this work. 

Snapping herself out of thoughts of the fox, she turned her attention to the task at hand. Today was an important day. She was standing in the hallway of the Capitol building, a stack of all her latest research carefully organized inside her briefcase. 

It had been several months since she’d attended a meeting like this one and she was a bit nervous. She wasn’t certain to whom exactly she’d be presenting today, but her grant was due for review and she hadn’t been this anxious since those first few weeks back at the academy years ago, when she knew she was being observed closely.

The freedom to pursue her interests in parascience hadn’t come easily. It wasn’t the kind of subject discussed much among her peers at work. Fortunately, her research had been noticed by people outside the Bureau who mattered. 

She took the stairwell down to the lower levels of the Capitol, to a hideaway office. It wasn’t the Senator’s typical meeting spot, and she was certain it was for the benefit of whomever they were meeting with today. She’d barely been sitting outside the unmarked office door for one minute when it opened and a woman poked her head out.

“Miss Fowley? The Senator will see you now.”

She stood and entered, a bit apprehensive. The office was much bigger than it had a right to be, considering where it was situated. The ceilings were vaulted and the adornments were breathtaking. 

The Senator got up from his chair and leaned over the desk, extending his hand. “Diana, so nice to see you again.”

“Senator Matheson.” She shook his hand, settling down in the chair across from his desk. Behind him was a man she’d never seen before, leaning against the wall with an inscrutable expression on his face and a cigarette in his hand. 

The senator was tall and his hair was graying. When she’d met him a year ago, there’d been an immediate attraction between them and she thought there might have been some expectation of a quid pro quo. It wasn’t anything she considered beneath her; Diana wasn’t one to dismiss using every attribute available to her to get where she needed to go. But the expectation never became reality. Matheson was genuinely interested in her work, always had been, and the funding she received from him had been gratefully accepted. Without his patronage she’d never have had the ability to pursue her more controversial work through official FBI channels.

“I’ve brought some progress reports for you to see,” she said, fumbling inside her briefcase. “I think you’ll be very pleased. I have some new research focused on not only what we know of the brain, but the parts of the brain we know practically nothing about.”

Ever since she began seeing Fox, the God Module theory had been at the top of her research priority list. They’d begun to see psych patients together that exhibited precognitive behaviors, and while Fox found them interesting on a more visceral level, what she often found most exciting was the potential; not only for her own discoveries but for the great leaps in knowledge they presented. 

Senator Matheson raised his hand to stop her presentation. “No need, I’m sure your work has been exemplary.” He smiled, and she was confused.

“Sir? I’m sorry, I was under the impression that this was an evaluation.”

“No, I’ve asked you here because there’s been… a development.”

Diana looked behind him at the stranger, who was eyeing her carefully as he puffed on his cigarette. Something about him put her off balance. She glanced at Matheson, expecting an introduction that wasn’t forthcoming. 

“What kind of development?”

Matheson sat back into his chair. “There’s a group I’m involved with, scientists and researchers in the private sector who are working on projects… experiments, really, that are pushing the boundaries of modern science, psychology… amazing things, Diana. I’ve told them about you, and they’ve taken an interest in your work.”

Diana was surprised, but intrigued. “Oh?”

Matheson leaned forward in his chair. “They’re willing to double the yearly amount of the grant I’ve offered you.”

Double? Diana was floored. Rarely was her field of expertise taken seriously by anyone. Her work was barely tolerated, much less encouraged. “That’s… that’s wonderful, sir. I’m thrilled to hear that.”

“If you accept, you’ll be under a private exclusivity contract with them for the next five years. It means you’ll get to continue your work while at the Bureau just as you have been, only they will direct your research, fund it, and retain the rights to your findings.”

This concerned Diana, as she worked hard for the discoveries she made. Passing off the credit wasn’t something she was eager to do. But it seemed a small price to pay for her to have the resources to push ahead. “I think that...sounds acceptable.”

“Things will be a bit different, however, Diana,” Matheson continued. “You’ll no longer be reporting to me.”

The man behind Matheson stood and moved behind the senator, placing a hand on his shoulder. He reached around to put his cigarette out in the ashtray, took a long look at Diana, and exited the room. She watched the door close behind him. 

“Who was that?”

Matheson ignored her question. “You’ll be contacted by someone soon. But Diana-” she looked back at her benefactor. “I cannot stress to you enough the importance of the secrecy of this work. It’s highly classified.”

She nodded, even more intrigued. 

“You’ll be able to tell no one, not family, friends. No one.”

She hesitated, knowing keeping this from Fox would be difficult. But their relationship was still relatively new, and this opportunity seemed once in a lifetime. Her curiosity won out. 

“That won’t be a problem, sir,” she promised.  “Can I ask… about the nature of these experiments?” 

“The Company will explain what they can. There are limits to your access, at least for the time being.” He pinned her with a look, that look he got whenever he was speaking wistfully of space exploration or American history. She liked Matheson, they shared a certain simpatico. “But I think doors will be opened for you, Diana. Doors you’ve probably been knocking at for years.”

In spite of the strange nature of this meeting, of this entire situation, she felt a flutter in her stomach that could only be the galvanizing excitement of discovery. It was even better than sex. And few things were.

Matheson stood and extended his hand. “It’s a shame to see you go, Diana, but I’ll rest easy in the knowledge you’re in good hands. I only hope someday I find another protégé as worthwhile as yourself.”

She reached for his hand and shook it. “Thank you, sir, for the opportunity you’ve given me in the first place. I’ll always be grateful.” She turned and walked out of the room, determined her life was about to change, that she could be making a real difference someday.

That night when she saw Fox, he asked her how her day was. She said it was good. 

It didn’t feel like a lie.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: The Push



FBI HEADQUARTERS

WASHINGTON. D.C.

SEPTEMBER 1988


Fox Mulder was head over heels. Or maybe just in over his head.

He didn’t have a lot of relationship experience. Although he had avoided them like the plague in the past, he attributed it largely to the fact that Phoebe Green had ripped his heart out at Oxford. 

But he admired Diana. There wasn’t a thing about her he didn’t like, and the fact that she was interested in all the same things he was made it easy for them to get along. They rarely argued and he enjoyed being with her.

They fell into the most comfortable kind of routine, the kind they both needed. They saw each other when they could, and they worked when they had to, which was most of the time. She understood his desire to be alone at times and she seemed to enjoy the same consideration. She was just as involved in her own work, which made both of them feel less guilty about the amount of time they spent not being together.

On occasion, their professional lives would intersect as well. Mulder found her expertise advantageous when building a profile required a more open mind. None of his peers possessed a mind quite like Diana’s and having hers on hand was useful and somewhat of a comfort. She became one of his most valued consults.

The only problem, and it was an admittedly big one, was trust. 

His own trust issues, deep ones, dated way back before Phoebe Green, well into his childhood. It wasn’t that he had a reason not to trust Diana in particular, or that he didn’t want to. But there were things about his past he simply wasn’t ready to share with her yet.

Things like Samantha.

He tried not to think about the awful tragedy, his sister’s disappearance, that had been the catalyst for every subsequent tragedy in his life. There was an onerous silence that kept him at arm’s length from both his parents even before they had separated. He’d tried to have faith in his broken home, that someday things could be better for all of them, but that faith slowly eroded over time, as if merely attempting to move on was some corrosive agent eating away at him inside. There were plenty of reasons to avoid getting entangled in intimate personal relationships, and it had worked for him so far.

He knew if he and Diana kept this up he’d have to tell her someday about Samantha’s disappearance and what it did to his family, but he was afraid. Afraid of losing her, afraid of facing it all over again. He’d been trying to forget for most of his life.

His work was a good way to forget, and although disappearing into this particular type of work wasn’t necessarily beneficial to his mental health, he was very good at it. He had a knack for looking into a mind and finding the darkness there. 

Diana was a nice counterpoint to working with Bill Patterson, who was a perpetual thorn in his side. The man was not open to his methods, which made it all the more infuriating when Mulder turned out to be right, which was often. 

“He’s an asshole,” Mulder pointed out, correctly, he might add, as he and Diana dug into lunch at the Hoover Building one afternoon. They’d been discussing a case he and Patterson had been investigating, and he’d requested her help determining if their suspect was clinically insane. 

“You might not always agree with him, but he’s your ticket to a promotion, Fox,” Diana replied. “Put in a little time, make Patterson happy. I think Section Chief McGrath would give you his job in a heartbeat if you wanted it.”

“I don’t care about that,” Mulder said honestly, trying to ignore how quick she was to suggest stealing someone’s job out from under them. “I like my job. I just wish I didn’t have to do it under him.”

Diana shrugged. “You’re the best profiler at the Bureau, everybody knows it. You could be a Director someday. You should really think about it.”

“Think about what, Diana?” he asked. “How brown does my nose look to you?”

She could only shrug again and he could only sigh. Moving up in the ranks was important to her, but it just wasn’t for him. He wasn’t interested in the ladder. He was where he was needed, where he was most useful, and that’s where he wanted to stay. 

They were quiet for a moment, and Diana spoke again. “You could always put in a request for a transfer,” she suggested. “Irreconcilable differences and all that?” 

“Maybe I should,” he mused. He didn’t want to be a problem, but his relationship with Patterson was wearing on him and his ability to do his job. 

“What is it you dislike so much about him, anyway?” she asked.

Mulder didn’t really want to discuss what he didn’t like about Patterson, and was now regretting he’d brought it up at all. “I guess… he reminds me of my father, a bit,” he said carefully. “The parts I don’t like.” 

Diana simply nodded, and didn’t press him. He liked that about her, she always seemed to know when he didn’t want to elaborate. They sat in mutual comfortable silence for a few moments.

“You’re brilliant, Fox,” she said, taking his arm and leaning against him. “You know I think so.” He could tell she meant it. She made him feel worthwhile and that didn’t happen with very many people. He smiled at her and she turned back to her lunch.

The next day, Mulder requested a transfer from ISU and was reassigned to work under ASAC Reggie Purdue. His very first partner was Jerry Lamana.











SIGHS OF JOY CHAPEL

LAS VEGAS, NV

DECEMBER 1988


Today could have been just another normal case, another serial murderer brought to justice, and that would have been absolutely fine with Mulder. But it appeared more was on the horizon.

Diana rarely joined him in the field, as she wasn’t technically a field agent. But for some reason she had some pull at the Bureau and used it in situations she felt necessary. Someone in a high position was looking out for her, and while Mulder didn’t know the particulars, he knew there was some private benefactor funding her research. The extra funds made the men upstairs at the Bureau very happy, and if Diana wanted to help out on a particular case, she was allowed. 

So this was how he found himself asking her to accompany him and Jerry today; although admittedly more for her company than her expertise. 

Serial murderer Montgomery Propps had led them here. Mulder was pleased to put an end to a killing spree that culminated in the parking lot of a cheesy wedding chapel a few blocks from the strip. It pleased him all the more that he was able to participate in the arrest; the field agents in Las Vegas had found the monograph he’d written instrumental in tracking down their killer and Mulder had been eager to help out. It took three local officers to subdue the man, who finally surrendered and was taken away in an armored squad car. 

Jerry had gone to get some lunch, as none of them had eaten all day, while Mulder finished up with the local PD. The desert chill in the air refused to let the sun’s warming rays through and, to put it bluntly, it was fucking freezing out. So he and Diana sought refuge inside the chapel. 

They sat in two plastic chairs in the lobby, a muzak version of Elvis’s “It’s Now or Never” swirling in the air. 

“I’m glad they called us in,” Mulder said to her as he pulled some sunflower seeds out of his pocket. He offered the bag to her but she declined.

“It’s only right you were here for this,” she agreed. “You did all the hard work already.”

“As long as we get the bad guy in the end, I’m happy,” Mulder shrugged, looking over at her. “I feel good about today. We did good.”

“That we did,” she said in reply. “And having a few minutes alone without Jerry’s whining is even better.”

“No, I mean really good,” he said, ignoring her slight on his rather annoying partner. He agreed anyway. “Call me crazy but I’m feeling a little impulsive.”

“Crazy? You, Spooky?” She eyed him. “Perish the thought.”

He leaned against the back of the chair, watching her, stretching his muscles. In the year or so they’d been together he hadn’t thought about this, not really, but something felt different today.

He hadn’t been in love with Phoebe, he knew that now. He’d spent more time trying to figure out how to beat her at her games than he had picturing a life together. But maybe…maybe he was in love with Diana? How could he be certain, really certain, if he’d never experienced it before? 

He felt a real connection to her. They were of such similar minds and they shared similar goals, for the most part. He thought of his own parents often, how they were unable to make a marriage work, how devastating their decisions had been for him and his overall outlook on life. Diana made him feel hopeful, like maybe everything terrible that had happened before could be somehow turned around.

It could have been his inexperience, his naïveté, or possibly just misguided optimism, but he suddenly felt a great desire to push them forward.

“What do you think about getting married?”

She looked at him, surprised. “What, to you?”

“No, to JFK. Yes, to me,” he grinned. He eyed her carefully, watching for a hint of apprehension, but instead she smiled back.

“I don’t know. Are you actually asking me?”

“Yes, I’m being serious.” 

She crossed her arms in mock indignation. “A proposal, huh?” He smiled back at her, hopeful. She gestured out the window. “So, this is where it’s happening? Inside the chapel o’ love? Right next to a parking lot?” A trash bag blew past the front door, as if to punctuate her point. She sounded somewhat annoyed, but he could tell she wasn’t, not really. “There’s a crow literally eating a carcass off the curb outside.”

“Oh yeah,” he said curiously, craning his neck to look. “You could always say no,” he smiled. 

She opened her mouth slightly, then closed it again. She looked relaxed, but unsure. “We’ve known each other for barely a year, Fox,” she said simply.

“I know, I know. Maybe it’s too soon. But something just feels right about this to me. Ever since Maureen died…” he trailed off. 

Reggie had lost his own wife a few months ago to cancer. He and Reggie weren’t very close, but he knew the couple had something special, and learning of her death and its profound effect upon Reggie had set off an emotional chain reaction that seemed to have led him right here, to the lobby of a crappy Las Vegas chapel with Diana.

She looked away from him. “Fox…”

“We’re sitting inside a chapel, Diana. We just caught one of the most notorious serial killers we’ve ever encountered. This day is shaping up to be perfect.”

“Perfect,” she repeated. “You mean, besides the crow, of course.”

He grinned again, nodding. “Perfect… even with the crow.” He could see her resolve weakening. He loved when that happened.

It was difficult to surmise exactly what she was thinking, and it seemed as if a million emotions and contemplations crossed her face. But it only took a few seconds for her eyes to lock onto his and narrow. 

“Let’s flip a coin,” she said. 

“What?” He tried not to take offense because he knew she was only being playful. She dug around in her purse, finding a nickel.

“Heads we get married, tails we don’t,” she suggested.

“I’m not sure that’s how this is supposed to work.”

“It could be, for us,” she said. He could tell now that she was serious. “Let’s let fate decide.”

If he’d been an older, wiser man, he might have rejected this plan outright. But he wasn’t. He was Fox Mulder, age twenty seven, and this was as close to normal as he ever thought he’d get.  

“Okay. Let’s do it.”

Diana flipped the coin and caught it, slapping it across her wrist. 

Tails.

Rather than relief, he felt disappointment, and realized this entire thing had actually been a great exercise in discovery. His true feelings were clear; he wanted to do this. He wanted to marry Diana.

“Fate intervenes again, I guess,” he sighed. 

She looked at him, and he tried to hide the disappointment on his face but he knew she saw. He’d never know exactly what made her decide; if she’d really wanted to, or if she just didn’t want to disappoint him like the coin had. But she made a decision.

“I’m not sure I believe in all that fate stuff,” she said slowly, looking up at him with a smile that said fuck the nickel.

He grinned back. “Me neither, actually.” 

He stood up and took her hand, they picked out a couple of ridiculously standard gold wedding bands, and took vows. 

It never felt like a mistake, not once.









CAPITOL BALL

ARLINGTON, VA

MAY 1989


He’d certainly earned his nickname, that was for sure. Fox “Spooky” Mulder had a knack and she’d be jealous of all the attention he was getting if she weren’t so incredibly proud of him. 

After the arrest, his name was being mentioned around the Bureau with praise and admiration. He was doing good work, making the world a safer place. It sometimes made her reflect on what she was doing, what her goals really were. 

She wanted to change the world, too. And while her research didn’t seem to have any tangible outcomes, not yet at least, she knew it would be used for something great. She’d been employed by the Company for almost a year now, working tirelessly on whatever assignment she was given. The secrecy remained staggering, an impenetrable wall that part of her desperately wanted to get to the other side of; the other part fully cognizant that the less she knew, the easier her own secret-keeping would be.

There was a hierarchy she’d have to earn her way into to get to the top, however. The top was where the real action happened, where the secrets were kept. The top was where decisions were being made.

Diana was no enemy to ambition. She wanted to find a way to the top.

“I hate these things,” Fox grumbled as he adjusted his bow tie. “Do we have to go?”

Diana huffed a bit, impatient. They’d already argued about this, twice in fact. The Capitol Ball was an important event for her to show her face, make connections, be social. They were both so busy with work that opportunities like this were rare.

“We’ve been through this. Just suck it up,” she replied.

“Two hours tops, you said.”

She rolled her eyes. “Fine. You never know, maybe you’ll have a good time.”

He could probably tell he’d pushed her a bit too far because he leaned in to rest his cheek against hers, and wrapped his arm around her waist. “You smell great,” he murmured into her hair. “Maybe we just blow this off and have a good time here instead?”

She pushed him away gently and narrowed her eyes in disbelief. Not because she wasn’t interested, but because it was unlike him to prioritize sex over anything, even dreaded ballroom affairs. When it happened, it was fantastic, but she was typically the one initiating. She’d convinced herself it wasn’t her; it was just the way Fox operated.

“This is important to me, Fox,” she said. “I thought you understood that.”

“I do, I’m sorry.” He gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “I’ll let you lead. Be your arm candy for the evening, okay?”

She laughed. “I think you’ll manage just fine at that.” She took his hand and hustled them out the door.

When they arrived, she was pleased to see him turn on the Fox Mulder charm. They weaved through crowds of smartly dressed important people, tinkling piano music bouncing around the room. He was on his best behavior, chatting with strangers, tolerating her name-dropping, letting her point out all the Capitol Hill bigwigs she knew by name and position. And after about twenty minutes one particular bigwig she had been looking forward to seeing approached them.

“Senator Matheson!” she exclaimed as he drew near, leaning in to give her a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. If Fox reacted, she didn’t notice.

“Diana, so nice to see you again. I’ve been hearing some great things about your work…at the Bureau,” he said, catching himself.

“Senator, this is my… er, husband, Fox Mulder,” she said to him, and Fox extended his hand. It still felt so strange to say it out loud.

“Nice to meet you, Fox… did you say Mulder?” Matheson asked as he shook it.

“That’s right.”

Matheson looked at him thoughtfully. “Hmm. And what do you do, Fox?”

“I’m with the Bureau too, actually,” Fox said. 

“Oh, is that how you two met?” he asked, expecting the answer they both agreed to give him with one quick glance in the other’s direction. She wasn’t ashamed of her past sexual habits, but she desired a bit of discretion. Matheson had been like a father to her. He didn’t need the gritty details.

“Yes,” she replied. “Although he’s in the Behavioral Analysis division.” She took his arm and leaned into him a bit. “He’s a brilliant profiler. A behavioral monograph he wrote back at Oxford led to the arrest of Monte Propps.”

Matheson’s eyebrows raised in approval, the capture of the high-profile serial killer common knowledge on the Hill. Fox’s body shifted in a familiarly uncomfortable way. He didn’t like praise, he never had. But there were connections to be made here and he wasn’t going to toot his own horn. She would have to do the work. Besides, he was brilliant. And he was on her arm. She beamed with pride.

“Is that so?” the senator asked, eyeing him carefully. “Behavioral Analysis. Interesting work?”

Fox nodded, a bit reticent. “Interesting is one way to put it.”

Truth be told, his work had been affecting him lately. It wasn’t unusual for him to bury himself in work; he was a textbook workaholic, and while that might have bothered other women, Diana was a workaholic, too. It worked for them. But this particular work was distressing, horrifying. He let it in day after day, and she knew it ate away at him. 

“Well, keep up the good work, Fox. A pleasure to see you as always, Diana,” he said with a nod. And with that, the senator disappeared into the crowd.

“What was that about?” Fox asked after he was out of earshot. 

“What was what about?”

“How do you know that guy?” His timbre wasn’t that of jealousy, more of curiosity. It seemed every day that passed since they were married they learned something new about each other, and that particular discomfort was becoming increasingly familiar. 

“He used to fund my research, until… pretty recently,” she said.

“Oh.” He shifted uncomfortably. “You never told me your funding was a federal grant, that’s… that’s huge, Diana.”

She shrugged, wondering how to steer the conversation away from the dangerous topic. “Well, it isn’t, anymore.”

“What happened?” 

It was an interesting dilemma. He was her husband now; he had every right to ask about her work. But they’d coexisted so peacefully so far without him knowing much at all. It wasn’t something she could share with him even if she wanted to.

“Oh, just… a change of interest, I suppose. We left on amicable terms.”

“Clearly.” Okay, so maybe a little jealousy. She seized the opportunity to distract him.

“Are you jealous, Fox Mulder?” she grinned playfully as she straightened his bow tie.

“Of that guy? Psssh.” He grinned at her, and she knew he wasn’t really upset. But for the rest of the night his eyes drifted over her shoulder to land on the senator, perhaps wondering what else there was about his new wife he didn’t know. 

It made her a bit sad to think that, no matter what, there were things about her he could never, ever know.










THE LONE GUNMAN HEADQUARTERS

UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, WASHINGTON. D.C.

JUNE 1989


Things had been good lately, and no one was more surprised than Diana Fowley. She wasn’t one to fall victim to romantic whims but found herself doing so more and more with the fox around.

And on the work front, ever since she’d obtained full access to the funds she needed, her research had been thriving. She was indebted to this nameless, mysterious group that so valued her contribution. So far, her connection with the Company allowed her to continue her research completely unfettered, particularly on the functioning of the brain. She wasn’t quite certain how her research was used, and to what end; that was well above her paygrade. The group seemed to be cultivating trust, slowly but surely revealing more to her as they grew in their professional relationship. 

She was well aware she’d been given an opportunity few received. She hadn’t met many members of the group, at least the ones who were running the show, and she certainly hadn’t met any women. She was one of few, if any, and she was eager to be that woman, the one making change, the one doing something important in a world dominated by men.

Keeping her classified work a secret from Fox was wearing on her, however. She felt the guilt creep up more and more as the months passed, but she had no intention of risking her funding for a little extra pillow talk. She held firm. It was convenient he was so buried in his own work; he had very little time to be concerned about hers and they rarely discussed cases they weren’t working on together. 

She knew the whole thing was probably a mistake, but being with him felt too good to care. It was perhaps that feeling that had made her agree to marry him in spite of her concerns. 

It was perhaps that feeling that had made her agree to let him take her to some creepy basement to meet his only friends.

“Where exactly are you taking me…?” Diana asked with great trepidation as he led her down a flight of stone steps. She was a bit apprehensive about Fox hanging out with these guys. From what she knew about them, they dealt mainly in conspiracy theories. The last thing she needed was another reason for her own husband to be paranoid.

“These guys like their privacy,” he explained with a shrug. “They come in contact with a lot of sensitive material, and they can be a bit… cagey about it.”

“Sensitive material?”

Fox grinned at her and knocked at the enormous steel door. Last month, he’d returned from a case in Baltimore later than she’d expected. When she asked him why, he’d explained that for seven hours he’d sat in an empty convention hall and listened to three men he called Byers, Langly, and Frohike regale him with tales of a multitude of sins committed by the government.

He described things having occurred over the weekend such as implantation devices embedded in teeth, and the systematic kidnapping and execution of whistleblowers. And he’d discovered evidence of poisoned gas set to unleash upon an unsuspecting public, which he’d unfortunately been exposed to himself. She didn’t know what to make of any of it, but the idea of Fox befriending conspiracy theorists that could lead him to the truth about her own work had her concerned, to say the least.

She heard the clatter of locks as they opened, one after another.

“Well, well, well,” a voice said through the crack that appeared. She had to tilt her head to look down, the man was so short. His face registered surprise as he opened the door and saw her. “And this must be the lucky lady?”

“This is my… wife, Diana,” Fox said. It was just as strange hearing it come out of his mouth as it must have been for him to say.

“Ah, I noticed the ring back at the convention,” the little guy said. “But your file said ‘single,’ Mulder.”

“Oh. Well. It’s still very new,” he explained. 

“Diana…?” the short guy fished.

“Fowley,” she answered.

“Not going with ‘Mulder,’ then?”

Diana looked at Fox. “Er… no.” It honestly hadn’t even crossed her mind to take his name. Was that strange? Hell if she knew.

“Diana, this is Melvin Frohike,” Fox said. She extended her hand and he took it.

“Enchante, mademoiselle,” the man said as he eyed her. If it were any other man she might have found it offensive, but he seemed harmless, even a bit pathetic. She suspected none of these guys interacted with female specimens very often.

“Nice to meet you,” she said politely.

“I hear congratulations are in order for you all as well,” Fox said. 

A younger, quite handsome and well dressed man with a beard came up to them. “We’re officially in business,” he said proudly. “First issue comes out later this month.” He stepped up to Diana and shook her hand. “John Fitzgerald Byers. Can I put you down for a subscription?”

She smiled and moved closer to Fox. “Oh, no thank you, I’ll be sure to read Fox’s,” she lied. “John Fitzgerald? Really?” She said it kindly, she thought, but worried he’d take offense the moment she said it. “I didn’t mean-”

“I was born the day of the assassination,” he answered. “My parents were fans.” He seemed nice and normal, at least.

“She can’t be as surprised as she seems, considering she married a guy named Fox,” a third man said from behind a computer. He had long, scraggly blond hair and was wearing a Sex Pistols T shirt. 

“He’s got you there,” Fox said amiably. She laughed uncomfortably. The stink of the place was starting to get to her now, something like burnt coffee and sweat. It smelled like a frat house. She hoped this visit wouldn’t last too long.

“Come and look at this, Mulder,” the blond man said, his back turned now, walking away. Fox turned to her and whispered the word “Langly.” So much for introductions.

“These guys get right down to business, don’t they?” she said softly as he took her hand and followed Langly.

“I’ve been studying all the films of Stanley Kubrick frame by frame and comparing and contrasting some of these images to the moon landing,” Langly directed at Fox. “Check it out.”

Fox tugged her hand and she rolled her eyes to the ceiling. Jesus. Is this the kind of company he planned to keep? She suddenly found herself staring at a wall of monitors with side by side images of The Shining and 2001 and Dr. Strangelove. She wasn’t seeing any of the alleged similarities but, admittedly, she wasn’t really paying attention.

“We’re going to check out Full Metal Jacket when it comes out in a couple weeks. I think we’ll have enough hard evidence by then,” Langly said eagerly.

A laugh escaped her throat but she covered it with a cough.

“Can I offer you some refreshment, m’lady?” the short man suddenly appeared at her elbow and startled her. “We have coffee, or water.”

“And RC cola,” Langly piped up. 

“Langly loves an underdog,” Byers explained.

“No, thank you.” Diana just wanted to leave.

“These guys have their fingers on the pulse, Diana,” Fox said excitedly. “Their work is helping to uncover the most heinous secrets; and an elaborate deep state that controls our every action.”

“Our every action, huh?” she replied with a hint of derision. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe such a thing existed; hell, she was part of it. But she didn’t want Fox digging into this. It was bad enough hiding what she did from him. To actively lie about it was another story.

“Show her the money thing,” Fox said. Byers approached her.

“Do you have a ten dollar bill?” he asked, holding his hand out. 

She didn’t want to give these guys any of her money but Fox looked so eager, she figured going along with this was probably the best way to get out of here. She rooted around in her wallet and handed him one. He opened one of the drawers underneath the drafting table and pulled out a razor blade, which he then proceeded to scrape across the face of the bill.

Ugh, the only one of the three of them she liked and now he was on her shit list, too.

Her brow furrowed. “It is a federal crime to deface money,” she said, sounding more prissy than she’d intended.

“I’ll pay you back,” Fox said, annoyed.

Byers’ scraping resulted in a tiny pile of dust. He then pulled out a small magnet from the same drawer and set it a few inches away from the pile. The dust danced across the table and adhered to the magnet.

“Magnetic inks,” he declared proudly. “This is how they track your every move. What you spend, where you go. All of it.”

“Why would the government possibly want to know what I spend my money on?” she asked, incredulously.

“Information is power,” Langly said, defensive. “And it’s only going to get worse.”

Fox nodded solemnly in agreement. Diana had the distinct impression that this was some kind of hazing procedure and she’d failed miserably. She changed the subject.

“So do you three… live here?” she asked, looking around.

“Indeed we do,” Frohike said. 

“Nice digs, eh?” Fox said. 

She stared at him, and for the first time saw him a bit differently. Was she the only thing keeping Fox from sinking into literal obscurity? From becoming exactly like these three? He had no real ambition, no goals, other than the satisfaction of a job well done, which wasn’t a bad thing, necessarily. She just expected more from him. He was too smart for this, too talented to be wasting his time in places like these.

“No… girlfriends? Kids?” She knew the answer even as the question left her lips, but asked it anyway. 

The Gunmen shifted uncomfortably, eyeing each other, eyeing Fox. She noticed Byers looked the most affected by the question. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by that,” she said immediately. “I was just curious.” She didn’t approve of this lifestyle, but she hadn’t intended to make these guys feel bad. They were still Fox’s friends, after all.

“We’re busy looking out for the American people,” Langly said, stalwart. 

She nodded. “And we all appreciate that.” She gave them a forced smile, then took Fox’s arm. “Fox, I’m starving. You said we’d go to dinner.”

Fox nodded, his eyes soft. She could tell he knew she’d hit a wall, and his eyes were grateful she’d accompanied him in the first place. “I did say that.”

“Come back anytime,” Byers said. She nodded again, smiling. They weren’t destined to be best friends but they were kind, and she could be kind, too. 

“We’ll catch you guys later,” Fox said as he pulled her toward the door. “And I’m looking forward to that first issue.”

“We’ll send you both a signed copy,” Langly called after them. 

The door closed behind them and she took a deep breath of the fresh air outside. They walked up the steps quietly, and she wasn’t really sure how to explain her behavior without offending him.

But “Thanks,” was all he said to her. “I know that probably wasn’t your cup of tea.”

“No problem,” she replied. “I’ll sleep better tonight knowing those guys are looking out for the American people.” They both chuckled, although their laughs had different meanings, and headed off to dinner.


  ***


Mulder wasn’t sure what to make of their visit to the Gunmen. Diana didn’t seem to like them very much, and it hadn’t surprised him, but it still disappointed him. After dinner they’d gone back to her place, where they stayed most of the nights they were together.

They still weren’t living together, which was odd, he knew. Married couples didn’t typically live in separate apartments. But they’d done everything so fast, he assumed it wasn’t a big deal to take something slowly. It would all work itself out eventually.

Diana seemed distracted by something and he noticed. He wanted to ask but he didn’t. They got ready for bed and he turned the lights out, and they were silent for several minutes.

“Have you ever thought about having kids, Fox?” her voice suddenly came. The question was so abrupt he couldn’t stop himself from responding just as abruptly.

“Not really.”

She was quiet for a moment, and he worried that maybe she did want kids. Diana was a few years older than him and he never paid much attention to the idea of a biological clock, but he knew if it was something she wanted she’d probably have to let him in on that soon. He wondered if this was that moment. Although he now knew it was stupid to have moved forward without knowing her thoughts on the matter, it hadn’t been on his mind in his haste to get married.

“Me neither,” she replied. He inwardly breathed a sigh of relief and hoped the topic would never come up again. It wasn’t that he was actively opposed to the idea of having children, it was just something he hadn’t considered enough to desire. His own familial dynamic had been so disappointing.

She continued, though, perhaps unnecessarily. “I honestly don’t think I’d ever have room in my life for that. And the world is so unbelievably messed up. I can’t imagine bringing a child into it.”

Part of him agreed with her, but there was something in her voice that made him wonder if she was being entirely sincere. Before he could think too much about it, she asked him.

“What about you? Why don’t you want kids?”

It was unusual getting into this kind of conversation with Diana. Everything with their relationship had been kept pretty much at the surface so far, and it was how he was most comfortable. But she had asked, and he wasn’t about to lie to her. “My family life wasn’t… the best growing up, to be honest,” he admitted. 

As if she were hesitant to get too involved herself, she almost begrudgingly replied. “Why? What happened?”

He sighed. He’d gone such a long time without telling her this, and he’d known this day would arrive eventually. “When I was twelve, my younger sister disappeared from our home. Kidnapped, probably. We never knew what happened to her. It tore my family apart.”

He kept his explanation brief. It was truthful, however. To this day he had no idea what had happened. It were as if he’d blocked the memory.

“And you were there when it happened?” she asked. 

Mulder searched his memory, but there was nothing. He only remembered the aftermath. “I know I was home, we were at home alone. My parents were out that night. But… when I try to think about it, there’s nothing.”

Diana was quiet for another moment, then asked him the question he dreaded. “Do you even want to know?”

He was terrified to learn the answer, but he did want to know what had happened to Samantha. In spite of his efforts to forget, he thought about her all the time, and wondered if she was still alive. If he could know what happened, maybe he could find some peace. 

Or maybe he could even find her.

“Yes, I do. I’d want to know the truth.”

She was quiet for a moment, then asked her next question carefully. “Have you ever considered deep regression hypnosis?” 

He honestly hadn’t. He wasn’t opposed to the idea in theory, or even terribly skeptical of the process. He had just been trying to forget all these years. He wasn’t sure why. A coping mechanism, perhaps. Or maybe to help bury the guilt he still felt deep down for having been the only one in a position to save her at the time and having failed.

“No, I haven’t.”

She shifted in the bed so she was facing him, her hand across his chest. “I think you should consider it, Fox.”

He sighed. “I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t. It’s… painful to think about.”

“Yeah, I get that.” They were quiet for a few moments, then she spoke again. “But it might bring you some peace.”

He thought she might be right, but what if knowing made things worse? “It’s just… dredging up these old memories makes me nervous. I’m afraid I might never escape this.”

“Sometimes the only way out is through,” she said.

He grinned. “Isn’t that from The Swamp Thing? ” He knew it wasn’t where she’d heard it. Diana hated 1980s horror movies.

“My dad used to say it when I was younger.” She rarely mentioned her family, and he knew it was because her memories of them were limited. Both her parents died before she began middle school, and she had no siblings. Given their shared family histories, he often wondered why they weren’t more forthcoming with each other. It troubled him at times.

She leaned over to kiss him, and he just stared at the ceiling, deep in thought. “I’ll ask around, talk to some of my colleagues tomorrow,” she said. “See if I can find someone for you to talk to. I think you should consider it, Fox. Finding the truth. Maybe it’ll help.”

It occurred to him now that perhaps the disappearance of Samantha was weighing on him far more heavily than he’d even realized. He hadn’t known how to deal with any of it, so he hadn’t. He’d watched his parents fight, separate, seen everything fall apart, but he still hadn’t faced what had happened, not really.

“Maybe,” he mused. “Maybe you’re right. I just don’t know.”

“Will you do it for me?” she asked. He could tell Diana was worried about him, truly worried. What if he was drowning, and she was the only person who could see it? What if she was the only person who could help him through it? 

He wanted out of his uncertainty, he wanted to move forward. And maybe this was the only way. 

Sometimes the only way out is through.

He finally turned to look at her, and nodded slowly. 

“Okay. Set it up.”







Chapter Text

Chapter 3: The Descent

 

 




OFFICE OF DR. HEITZ WERBER

SILVER SPRING, MD

JUNE 16, 1989



When Fox told Diana about his sister’s disappearance, she’d been surprised. He’d always kept personal stuff a bit close to the vest, and she never pressed him, feeling guilty enough about her own secrets. Part of her felt like she had no right to pry. But now that she did know, she felt terrible for him, and the pain he’d been holding inside for so many years. She considered it more than likely he hadn’t really talked to anyone about it. 

Dr. Heitz Werber wasn’t very well known, but Diana had found him on recommendation from some of her peers. She wanted to pick someone she didn’t know personally to avoid any conflicts of interest, or any preconceived notions the hypnotist might have about herself or Fox.

“Have you ever participated in hypnosis before, Fox?” Dr. Werber asked as Fox settled into a chair.

Fox shook his head. “No, but my wife here says it might help me with something… I’ve been struggling with.”

“Can you tell me what that is?”

Fox sighed. There was a look on his face that indicated a pain greater than he’d really ever let on before. “When I was twelve, my sister mysteriously disappeared from our house. She was never found. And I guess… I’ve blocked the memory of what happened over the years, maybe as some kind of coping mechanism?” He paused. “I don’t know, but I’ve been thinking about it more and more lately, and it’s gnawing at me.” He looked up at the doctor. “I want to know the truth, I need to know what happened to her.”

Dr. Werber nodded. “What I do can be risky, Fox. Some of the memories you uncover might be painful, or disturbing. But if you really want to learn the truth, this can be the way. And it helps if you’re completely open to the process.”

“Oh, I’m open,” Fox replied.

Diana agreed. “He’s open.” 

As a psychologist, she was well aware of the controversial nature of regression hypnosis. But she also believed it could work for him. In Fox’s situation, she wanted to help him move past his trauma, and she genuinely believed finding some answers would be the correct avenue.

Fox settled back into the chair.

“I’d like you to close your eyes, Fox, and relax,” Dr. Werber said as he waited a few seconds for silence to come across the room. Diana could hear Fox breathing, watched his chest rise and fall. “I want you to find a comfortable place in your mind, somewhere peaceful, relaxing. Somewhere you can go to if things get too intense. Can you do that?”

He nodded, and continued breathing quietly. A few seconds passed.

“I’m going to count backwards now, Fox, and you’ll fall into a deep, relaxed state, so that you’ll remember all about your sister and what happened.”

Fox sighed, and obeyed. Dr. Werber began counting backwards and more quickly than Diana anticipated, Fox began to appear under his spell.

“Where are you, Fox?” Dr. Werber asked.

“I’m at home, at my mom and dad’s. We’re in the den, playing a game.” His eyes were open, but he wasn’t looking at either of them. He stared straight ahead. She had to admit it was a bit unnerving. 

“Who are you there with?”

“Samantha.”

“Do you feel in any danger?”

“No,” Fox said immediately. “We’re arguing, you know, but not really. Just playing the game. You know, fooling around. It’s a board game… Sorry , maybe… no, it’s Stratego .”

Diana looked to the doctor, who was taking notes. “What happens now, Fox?” he asked.

Fox closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them. “Something’s wrong. There’s… a light. It’s a bright light.”

“Where is the light, Fox?” Dr. Werber asked calmly.

“It’s everywhere. The room…it’s shaking.” Suddenly he looked pained. Diana wasn’t sure what was happening. “Pieces on the board are falling off and everything’s shaking- Samantha?”

His eyes were wide with fear and Diana was afraid. Was she even ready to hear this? Had they thought this through properly?

“What’s happening, Fox?” Dr. Werber continued, still calm as ever. She cast a glance his way, concerned, but he shook his head, trying to put her at ease. This was normal, surely. This was what was supposed to happen.

“I can feel…some kind of a presence. In the room,” he said.

“Can you describe this person?”

What came out of his mouth next surprised them both. “It’s not a person.”

Diana made visual contact with Dr. Werber, thoroughly startled by the vague, yet vivid revelation. What exactly was he talking about?

“Not… a person, Fox? What is it then?”

Fox’s head rolled back and forth and his eyes shut tighter. His face was suddenly unfamiliar and it frightened her. She watched his hand twitch and spasm and she wanted to reach out and take it but she did not. She wasn’t sure what to think about any of this.

“I don’t know, but… I’m afraid. I can’t move.”

“Do you want to continue, Fox?” Dr. Werber asked.

His head lolled from side to side, and his face contorted. Whatever he was experiencing was real, and she was worried and fascinated all at once.

“They’re taking her. I can’t stop them.” 

“Who is they , Fox?” Dr. Werber asked. 

“They’re not men, but… I’m not sure…” 

The doctor leaned forward. “Can you describe them?”

“It’s hard to tell, there’s so much light… but… I see something now…”

Diana looked at the doctor, then to Fox, unsure of what to expect.

“It’s…” Fox paused. He was quiet and a sudden calm came over his features. “I think… they’re aliens.”

Diana looked over at the doctor, who shot her a look of his own, then back to Fox.

Aliens?

She was now very concerned. She’d wanted this to help him find some closure; a reason he’d been suffering all these years. But this… this was troubling, to say the least. She hadn’t anticipated this kind of outcome. 

“I think we should stop,” she said to Dr. Werber. He nodded in acquiescence. 

“Fox, I’d like you to find that comfortable place we talked about earlier, can you do that?”

Fox’s face relaxed instantly, and she wondered if it was true, that the more open you were to this sort of thing, the more receptive you could be. The idea that mere words could so alter a person’s consciousness… in spite of everything personal going on in this instant, the professional, academic side of her was absolutely titillated.

After a few moments Fox’s eyes opened and he looked at her. Dr. Werber didn’t say anything yet, and neither did Diana. Fox closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and said the last thing she wanted to hear.

“We need to do this again.”




***




“I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to remember,” he said excitedly as he followed her into her apartment, throwing his coat down over a chair. “All these years and the memories were right there, just waiting for me to find them. It’s incredible.”

“Slow down, Fox,” Diana said, as he barrelled ahead of her into her kitchen, throwing the door of her fridge open and taking out a carton of orange juice. 

He brought the carton directly to his lips, something she hated, and took a huge gulp. She was far too worried about him to bother displaying her annoyance.

“I mean… I’ve always believed this kind of stuff could happen. You know that,” he gestured toward her and it was the first time since they’d left the office he’d really acknowledged her presence at all. “But to have the answer be right there, so obvious.” He set the carton on the counter and faced her. “I want to go back. I want to set up another appointment with Dr. Werber.”

She approached him and firmly grasped his forearm. “Fox. You need to listen to me. Part of the process is to let these memories… or whatever they are, settle. Marinate a bit, okay? You can’t just take this as the gospel truth.” 

It wasn’t that she dismissed his story outright, but the way he had instantly clung to it without any hesitation or scrutiny was unlike him. He was generally meticulous with detail; the agent who crossed all the t ’s and dotted all the i ’s. His profiles were pristine, bulletproof. It was what made him great. It was almost as if when his personal life interfered, he forgot how to behave like his normal, professional self.

“Are you saying you don’t believe me? You don’t trust my memories?” He seemed personally offended by the notion.

“No, that’s not it at all, it’s just…” she wanted to explain, but she couldn’t. She was certainly no expert in regression, no more than he was. But ever since he’d been exposed to the biological weapon in that warehouse with the Lone Gunmen and told her about the things he’d seen, his mind had certainly been on fire with images of aliens, and spacecrafts, and strange lights. He seemed to be responding to the hypnosis the same way he’d responded to that gas. What if the things he’d seen were already there for a different reason? “These methods aren’t an exact science. How can you be sure this is exactly what happened? Maybe it’s just what you wanted to see, Fox.”

“You think that’s what I wanted to see, Diana? My sister getting taken up into a spaceship?”

She opened her mouth, unable to make words come out. She wanted to tread carefully but putting a stop to all of this felt important. “Maybe it’s the likeliest explanation your mind could come up with to absolve yourself of her disappearance.”

He stopped, and she saw a new pain in his eyes. That was the exact opposite of what she’d wanted from this entire enterprise.

“Fox, I didn’t mean that the way it sounded,” she said quickly, taking his hand. “I only meant… this scenario, while frightening, leaves room for hope. That she’s still out there somewhere. Maybe you’re only fooling yourself.”

He was quiet, thoughtful, staring into space. Everything was worse now, she knew, and Diana felt foolhardy and irresponsible for pushing ahead without knowing the full extent of Fox’s trauma and the guilt he held onto. This alien abduction scenario seemed textbook compensatory, but she couldn’t tell him that, not now. She’d had no way of knowing the regression would bring out a story like this. She’d set something in motion she feared she couldn’t undo.

 “You have nothing to blame yourself for, Fox, about what happened to her. You were a child.”

He shook his head. “I was the only one, the only one there to stop them.” 

She reached for his hand. “You need to let this go,” she said. “Something terrible happened to you, and I’m so sorry I even suggested this hypnosis thing. I wish I’d never brought it up at all.”

“No, Diana, you were right. And I’m going back, I want to go deeper. I want to know as much as I can. The truth is buried there, somewhere, and I need to find it.”

He turned from her and walked into the bathroom, closing the door. She sat down on the arm of the couch feeling completely powerless, as if she’d walked him to the edge of a cliff and encouraged him to jump. Now he was falling and she couldn’t reach him. She could only hope he would find the parachute release on his own, and soon.







PEDIATRIC PSYCHOLOGY UNIT

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA

MARCH 1990




Months had passed since Mulder had learned what happened to Samantha, what really happened. Diana hadn’t been as supportive after the regression as she’d been before, and he was surprised by this. The possibility that his sister had been abducted by aliens wasn’t something out of the realm of her belief system; in fact they’d discussed their mutual belief in alien abductions and UFOs plenty of times. She believed in the phenomena. She just didn’t want to seem to believe it was possible in this case and he didn’t understand why.

He’d visited Dr. Werber four times and each time saw the scene with more and more clarity. Diana went with him once more, but didn’t have much to say. After that, she didn’t join him again. She insisted he was putting too much stock into this, that perhaps imagery within his own head was creating a fictitious account of what really happened. 

But he believed it. On top of that, it was the only scenario that made sense to him.

Whenever the topic came up between them she seemed to shy away from discussing it, so he kept it alive in his own mind, and instead, shifted his focus back to his work. 

The case his department was working on required all of his attention and he was eager to give it. It had been a particularly long and tedious case for the Bureau. They’d been waiting for a break which had unfortunately come in the form of a thirteenth victim; a young girl with a small heart torn out of the front of her nightgown. 

Reggie had called upon Mulder to help out back when the girl had gone missing. This killer had eluded the FBI for eleven long years, and Mulder's penchant for getting into the head of a serial killer had been extremely effective in the past.

He still couldn’t stand Bill Patterson, but he had taught Mulder well back at the ISU. To get into the mind of an artist you have to know his art. And Mulder had been doing so for several weeks now. Jerry was busy assembling his own profile back at headquarters, and Mulder valued Diana’s contributions, especially in psych-related cases, so he’d asked her to join him to interview a witness.

“This is the sister of the latest victim?” Diana asked, flipping quickly through the casefile. They strode down the halls of the pediatric care unit, on the way to see the patient.

“Yes. Both parents’ statements were taken but they were unable to get a thing out of her younger sister. She’s experiencing bouts of both unresponsiveness and violence, so they sent her here as a temporary measure,” Mulder explained. “I’m hoping we can get her evaluated and released, I’m sure it’s some form of PTSD.”

“And you think we can get her to talk to us?” Diana asked.

“I want to try,” Mulder said.

The children Mulder encountered were typically either victims or collateral damage of violent crime, and it was difficult every time. As he and Diana entered the observation room he saw the girl clearly. She was tiny, five years old maybe, with light brown hair and a blank expression. She was sitting at a table, coloring. 

“Has she had any violent episodes today?” Diana asked the doctor. Mulder watched the girl, quietly.

“Today she’s been calm,” the doctor explained, adjusting her glasses. “But we can’t be too sure about anything. The violence has been sudden, unexpected.” She turned to look at Mulder. “She was in the room when her sister was taken. We don’t know what she saw, if anything.”

Mulder nodded. The doctor let them in and watched from behind the two-way mirror.

The little girl didn’t look up at Mulder or Diana as they entered, instead focusing intently on her coloring.

“Hi… Laia? My name is Fox,” he said, as he crouched down. “This is Diana. Can we talk to you for a little bit?”

She said nothing, just colored.

“What are you coloring there?” The little girl didn’t respond or look up from her piece of yellow construction paper, which Mulder could see was covered in hearts of all different shapes and sizes. 

Diana crouched down now, too, and sat in a small plastic red chair. She looked from Mulder to Laia, observing. This was typically the way he and Diana worked with children; they tended to gravitate towards Mulder, so he always began the questioning.

“Those are some pretty hearts,” he said, wondering if the subject matter of this little girl’s drawings was mere coincidence.

She didn’t look at him but finally spoke. “I see them in my dreams.”

“You have dreams?” Mulder asked. The girl nodded. “Are they nice dreams? Or scary dreams?”

She still didn’t look up, but her coloring grew in intensity. He glanced over to Diana as she made a note in her file.

“What do you see in your dreams, Laia?” 

“A man.”

He glanced at Diana again, then back at the girl. “What’s the man doing?”

“He took her away. I don’t like what he does.” 

Mulder paused. “So… it’s a bad man.” Coloring. Coloring. “Laia… can you tell us what happened the night Kelly went missing?” Coloring. Coloring. She began to draw the figure of a person among the hearts. Gray crayon, tall man. Mulder waited until she’d drawn most of the details before speaking again. “Is this the man who took your sister, Laia? Is this the man who took Kelly?”

“And the others,” she said simply. This gave Mulder pause. This little girl had no reason to know about any other victims in this case.

“There are others? How many, Laia?” 

She drew the man holding something, but Mulder couldn’t tell what it was. It had what looked like a long handle and reached to the ground. 

She finally looked up, ignoring his question. “You see him, too.” Her eyes locked onto his in an understanding he hadn't expected. “When you dream.”

Mulder felt a chill go up his spine. “What do you mean?”

“The bad man,” she explained. “He’s here… in your head.” She pointed her tiny index finger at his forehead. “Just like mine.”

He looked into her gentle eyes and felt his heart ache. To imagine such a young girl dealing with this kind of trauma physically pained him. But then he realized he didn’t have to imagine it. What he was feeling wasn’t just proximal pain for a hurting child. This was empathy, real empathy, from a brother who also lost a sister. They shared that connection whether Laia knew it or not. This child may as well be him. 

His breath left him completely in an instant, vanished. Just like Samantha.

“What else did you see, Laia? Do you remember anything?”

She looked down and began coloring her hearts again. “A silver princess,” she said softly. For some reason, when she said this, it was as if a lightbulb had been switched on in his head. 

“Thank you for talking to us, Laia,” he said to her. He smiled, but didn’t get one in return. They turned to leave the room but as he reached for the door handle she spoke up again.

“My sister is dead, isn’t she?”

She looked at him and he could see her eyes glistening. She was certain about this, as certain as he was uncertain about his own sister’s fate. He didn’t want to be the one to deliver the news, although he was aware it probably didn’t matter.

“Your parents are coming to see you later today, okay? They can answer any questions you have about your sister.” As the words left his mouth he felt irresponsible and guilty. Her parents couldn’t answer any questions she had and that was because he hadn’t caught the killer yet. 

When they left, his mind was ablaze. Mulder often wondered if the connection he’d felt to serial killers was something in his mind, something he made up to help himself catch them. But now he wondered if it was real; some tangible nexus that could be measured. Because this small girl seemed to feel it, too. And she seemed to connect to Mulder through their shared experience. Perhaps, with her help, he was the only one who could catch this killer. 

Perhaps, he was the only one who was meant to.

“Fox, are you even listening to me?” Diana was saying.

He turned to her. “That little girl isn’t crazy, and when she helps us catch this killer my report will reflect that.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked. 

He stopped in the corridor and looked at her, hard. A couple of people had to stop short due to their abrupt halt and squeezed around them, looking annoyed. 

“That girl had a vision and we shouldn’t ignore it.”

Diana fixed him with a look. “Okay. Say you’re right.” This was how they always began. Fox would say something wild, and she’d entertain it with say you’re right. He didn’t ever bring up the fact that he was almost always right. “We should also remember that she’s a little girl who saw her sister kidnapped, maybe even assaulted. She doesn’t know what to make of it. What if she’s just making things up?”

She typically agreed with him in these cases, but he could tell she was treading carefully. The unspoken lingered between them, the thing that neither of them would say: that he was taking this case personally. That he’d been making things up as well, in regard to Samantha.

“She drew it, on her picture. She saw it, or remembered. It means something,” he insisted.

“It could mean nothing—”

“I saw it too.” He straightened up, challenging her. “Do you think I’m crazy?”

She was confused. “What did you see? Is this about your dream again?”

He nodded. Over the past several days, Mulder had been doing what he did best: getting into the mind of the killer, tracking his movements, trying to find connections others couldn’t see. 

And, as happened occasionally when he profiled, he’d begun having dreams, night after night, dreams that he couldn’t explain. 

“The silver princess,” he said. “Her drawing. It’s a vacuum cleaner model.”

She shook her head, even more confused. But he was certain about this, as certain as he’d ever been about anything. “In my dream I remember something about a silver princess, but I didn’t know what it meant until Laia drew it. The guy has to be a vacuum salesman, or part of a cleaning crew or something. My gut says salesman, considering the route where we’ve found the victims. Door to door, traveling salesman. We need to pull records from any vacuum companies that sell a silver model with the word ‘princess’ and their sales routes right now.”

Diana gaped at him. “Fox, are you sure?” she asked. “I’m not going to deny the connection is remarkable. But is this all you have? Because if you approach Reggie with no more to go on than a dream and a child’s drawing…” she trailed off, looking at him. 

His determination was familiar to her, and he knew it. He remained undeterred. As much as Mulder hated the man, Bill Patterson had, in the past, always allowed him  to do what needed to be done to catch the killer. Standing in his way was not an option. And he had most certainly let ASAC Reggie Purdue in on this tidbit of information.

Reggie would let Mulder do his thing. He would not stand in his way.

Diana squinted at him in acquiescence and he smiled. When she made that face, he knew he had her. 

“You fucker,” she said affectionately. “Of course that’s all you have. And you’ll probably catch him, too.” She shook her head, smiling. She flipped through the girl’s case file, looking for the documents she would need to help him out. “Go, do your thing. I’ll reevaluate the girl.”

He closed the distance between them to give her a quick kiss, then turned to go and catch a serial killer.




***




If Diana could pinpoint the beginning of their descent, the John Lee Roche incident would probably be a good place to start. 

After Fox had informed Reggie of his dream/hunch/whatever, they’d scoured the details of every company that sold vacuum cleaners door to door in the country. They narrowed it down to three that sold a model with the word “princess” in it, and then two companies that sold the silver model. It wasn’t long until they had suspects, but Fox had somehow known instantly who the killer was.

All of this was months ago. They had uncovered thirteen victims by then; Roche had been arrested and he’d confessed to them all. In her mind the case was closed. 

But Fox couldn’t let it go. Day after day he pored over the case file, studying the victims, looking for more clues. It was the first time she got a whiff of what might ultimately be their downfall. 

A life obsessed could not be swayed by one person, a person who was most certainly not the object of that obsession.

“Fox, you caught him,” she said one evening to his back. She was always talking to his back lately. “It’s over. Why can’t you let this go?” she asked.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” he said, somewhat maniacally. “Something just… feels unfinished.” He was sitting at his desk, sifting through papers and rubbing his head. “We have to find those hearts, Diana. All of them. Until we do, we’ll never know if there are more victims.”

“Roche confessed,” she pointed out, sitting on the couch. “To all of them. He’s in prison for life, he has no reason to lie about this. Why do you think there would be more?”

He turned in his chair, and she saw the same look that she saw anytime he got drawn in by something beyond his control. She knew what he feared, but didn’t want to say it. Samantha could be one of those victims. He hadn’t uttered her name in connection to this case, but she worried he subconsciously feared there had to be more victims because…well, Samantha was still out there, somewhere. 

“You think it’s because of my sister,” he said, as if he were reading her mind. It wasn’t a question. “That isn’t it. It can’t be, the timeline isn’t right.”

The timeline. Sure. He’d probably convinced himself Roche couldn’t have taken his sister because no victims had turned up before 1975, and Samantha had disappeared in 1973. It meant nothing, really. She knew this wasn’t a logical conclusion as an investigator, and that certainly no one knew this better than Fox Mulder. But he seemed to be burying the possibility deep down, somewhere he couldn’t find it. He simply didn’t want to believe. 

His subconscious wasn’t prepared to dismiss it, however, and she knew it. Perhaps it would always be there, somewhere in his brain, until he finally let it go.

She would not entertain this possibility aloud. This had gone far enough. She knew him well enough to know there would always be an if for Fox, whether he realized why or not. 

“There’s nowhere to even start looking for those hearts,” she said. “Why can’t you let this go, Fox?”

His eyes were glassy, unfocused, and she pitied him. They were the eyes of a frightened child. The demons that had haunted a young boy were resurfacing inside a man, and she felt like she didn’t recognize that man anymore. 

“I don’t know why,” he said in reply, and she honestly believed him. 









Chapter Text

Chapter 4: The Split

 

 


FBI HEADQUARTERS

WASHINGTON D.C.

NOVEMBER 19, 1990

 

Mulder knew ambivalence was the first sign of a failing relationship. He wasn’t stupid. And it wasn’t even Diana’s fault. But that’s the funny thing about ambivalence; it creeps up on you with much less of a warning than disdain, or dissatisfaction, or even vitriol. He simply wasn’t focused on them anymore.

Perhaps it was this ambivalence that drew his eye to the woman across the lobby of the Hoover Building. It was close to lunchtime and there were several agents in the room but even from twenty feet away, he noticed her.

She was petite, remarkably so. Her hair was a deep auburn, down to her shoulders. There was something about the way she carried herself he was instantly attracted to. He could only see her profile as she checked in with security, and tried hard not to appear like a creep but he couldn’t take his eyes off her. Luckily, it didn’t matter. She didn’t see him, never made eye contact. She swept through security and was off, and he was left feeling a bit flustered and confused.

He hadn’t so much as looked at another woman since he’d met Diana. He hadn’t intended to lose sight of her. It wasn’t a conscious decision on his part, but he had sensed it happening anyway and had been ignoring it. Taking her for granted became his modus operandi and he assumed she’d understand. He’d been through a lot and much of it had been at her own urging. 

Ever since his regression hypnosis he’d fallen into one of his funks. It had happened before; he was prone to obsessing. But he told himself if they were truly in this together for the long haul, she had to appreciate what he was going through.

She had to understand.

Trying to push away thoughts of the pretty stranger, he headed to his office in the bullpen. He was surprised to find Diana there, perched on the edge of his desk.

“Hi,” she said. “Where have you been?”

“Oh, hi…” he said, confused. “I was downstairs. What are you doing here?”

“Nice to see you, too,” she said curtly. He blanched. He hadn’t meant it that way, it was just that she usually worked at the field office. 

“I’m sorry, that came out wrong.”

“I brought you lunch,” she said, annoyed. 

“That’s… really nice of you, thanks,” he said. He found himself wondering if the redhead had a boyfriend. Shaking this errant thought away he took the proffered sandwich she held out to him.

“How is… everything?” she asked him cautiously.

“Good, I’m good.” 

She stared at him. “Are you coming over tonight?”

“Uh, yeah,” he answered. It had been so long since they’d discussed cohabiting he was beginning to think they never would. Surely this was not normal for married people.

“Good,” she said, getting up and approaching him. Her shirt was unbuttoned more than usual and he had the distinct impression it was purposeful. She draped her arms around him and leaned in to kiss him. She pulled away and twirled her fingers in his hair a bit. “I’ve missed you.”

He knew she was trying. “I’ve missed you too, I’ve just… been busy, you know.”

She nodded. “I know you have.”

She released him and turned around, picking up a file from his desk. “What is this, Fox?” 

She turned it over in her hands, then handed it to him. It looked old, maybe from the fifties, and the number designation was odd. It was marked with an X .

“I don’t know.” He opened up the file and read. 

It was mostly old papers, much of it redacted, but at the top there was a page that appeared to have been added recently. It read of a police officer scuffle and subsequent death that had ended with the victim uttering the name “Mulder” with his dying breath.

Interesting

“This man said my name as he was dying. Whoever left this here must know me.” He flipped through the photos from the original case, filed by Agent Arthur Dales. “You know an Arthur Dales?” he asked Diana, looking up. 

She simply shook her head.

He continued reading and suddenly it made more sense. “This doesn’t have to do with me, this must be about my father,” he said. 

He knew so little of his father’s work when he was a child. Bill Mulder had been gone a lot, and when he wasn’t gone, he was drinking. They hadn’t shared a warm relationship by any stretch.

“Maybe this Arthur Dales left it here?” she suggested. “You want me to run the name through the database?”

He nodded absently, deep in thought. “Yeah, thanks.” The thought crossed his mind to call his father, to ask him about all this. But he couldn’t do it. They hadn’t actually spoken for at least two years. His father didn’t even know he was married. Bill Mulder might as well not exist.

Just then the phone rang, and he picked it up. “Mulder.”

“Agent Mulder,” came a somewhat familiar voice. “I hope you found that file I left on your desk interesting.”

Mulder leaned back against his desk. “I did. And who is this?”

“I knew your father when he was at the State Department. Good man. And I have a feeling that his son is a good man, too.”

Mulder was confused. Who was this? And how did he know his father?

“Who is this?” he asked again.

“This is Senator Matheson. We’ve met before.”

Mulder had to search his memory because he knew that name from somewhere. Matheson. Matheson. 

“The Capitol Ball. You knew Diana.” He glanced her way and she blinked, curious.

“Yes, and she was quite the promising endeavor. But I think you are as well, Fox.”

“Why did you send me this file?” Mulder wasn’t sure what was going on but Matheson had asked if the file interested him, and it most certainly did. 

“Because I’d like to make an investment, Fox. An investment in you.”

“What do you mean?”

“The case you’re holding in your hand is what’s known as an X-File. A case that’s been deemed unsolved by the Bureau for typically… unexplainable reasons. Things I believe you might take an interest in. No one cares about these cases, but I think somebody should.”

Mulder was confused. “What makes you think I’d take an interest in these cases?”

“I’ve had my eye on you, Fox. You and I share a love for the unexplained. And I think you and these X-Files have been, quite frankly, destined to find one another.”

“You’re telling me there are more of these,” Mulder said. “Where can I find them?”

There was a pause on the other end of the line, and then Matheson spoke again. “You’re always looking up, Fox. Try looking down this time.”












2630 HEGAL PLACE, APT 42

ALEXANDRIA, VA

NOVEMBER 1990


It had been a week since Diana had heard a thing from Fox. Ever since he’d gotten the call from Senator Matheson he hadn’t come up for air. She knew he’d simply let time slip away from him. It wasn’t uncommon when he became terribly focused on something. Thanksgiving had even come and gone without so much as a phone call. She wasn’t a huge fan of holidays anyway but this felt significant.

At the beginning it had been easier. Back when they’d started dating, she’d intended to keep it light, keep it simple. When he’d disappear for days at a time or bury himself in his work it hadn’t been a problem. She’d had her own work to keep her busy, and a certain amount of space was welcomed and even necessary.

But things were different now. She was his wife. This isn’t a marriage , she thought to herself. At least, it wasn’t what she’d expected. Everything about their relationship felt like a facade. And it wasn’t even entirely his fault.

He never should have asked her. She never should have said yes.

She let herself into his apartment to find him lying on the couch, staring at the ceiling. His shirt was unbuttoned, a blue and corn silk striped tie thrown unceremoniously over his shoulder. He had a hand behind his head and a cigarette between his fingers. He exhaled a long plume when he saw her and immediately sat up, a guilty look on his face.

“You’re smoking again, Fox?” She hated when he smoked. It made his apartment smell bad, made him smell bad. And it meant he was stressed about something.

“Hey, I’m…I’m sorry I haven’t called,” he said. “I guess time got away from me.” 

He was a mess, disheveled, distracted. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days. She was reminded of the first night she met him, three sheets to the wind in some bar. A distinct feeling of remorse came over her, as if she should have anticipated this.

She threw her key on his dining table and removed her coat, approaching dubiously. “I’ll bet,” she said, regarding him coolly. “I’ve been calling you for days. You haven’t turned up at work. What’s going on?”

“I have been at work, Diana, that’s all I’ve been doing,” he explained. “I’ve been reading every X-File in that basement. Just reading. I never left the building. To be honest, the only reason I left is that I can’t really see straight anymore.”

“You smell awful,” she noted. “When was the last time you showered?”

He took one more drag and waved the air a few times, extinguishing the cigarette. “Sorry. Come here, take a look at this.”

“What?”

“That file Senator Matheson left on my desk. Look at this.” He grabbed his remote and turned on a tape that was already in his VCR, rewinding it, finding an image. She could picture him now, what he must have been doing for hours before she’d arrived: rewinding, pausing, rewinding, pausing. Finding the exact detail he needed.

She sat on the arm of the couch and studied the screen. It looked like a hearing of some kind, from the fifties, maybe, or sixties. The images were black and white. Fox got up and pointed to a seated figure in the crowd.

“There,” he said. 

“What am I looking at?”

“McCarthy hearings, 1952. My father worked in the State Department but he knew about this… X-File. That Arthur Dales you looked up for me? I went to see him. You wouldn’t believe the story he told me.”

“Why would Matheson send you this?” she wondered aloud. She really had no idea why he would take an interest in Fox. This all seemed like a mere distraction to her.

“He knew my father. This is all connected somehow, my dad, Matheson, Arthur Dales. The X-Files. I don’t know, Diana, I feel like… I feel like they’re calling out to me, like this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

“Like what is what you’re supposed to be doing? This sounds like a huge waste of time.”

“Don’t you think these cases deserve just as much attention as the ones upstairs?” he asked earnestly. “Just because they’re labelled with an X doesn’t mean they’re any less important.”

She sighed. Hopefully this was just a phase, a temporary interest. He’d get bored eventually, and things could go back to normal. The normal she was finding increasingly dissatisfying.

“They’re fascinating, Diana,” he said, ignoring her reaction. “It’s exactly the kind of work I’ve been looking for, exactly what I’ve been wanting to do with my life. I feel like I’ve finally found my purpose, in a way.” His eyes were wide, and he twitched a bit. She knew this was unhealthy and she was angry and annoyed with him, but now was not the time to pick a fight. He needed sleep, he needed a shower. He needed to take care of himself.

“Fox, you need to sleep. We can talk about this later.”

“I reopened Samantha’s case with an X-File classification,” he said, and that was when she knew this was no temporary distraction. This was a huge problem.

“Fox…” she said warily, but she didn’t know what to say anymore. There wasn’t going to be any reasoning with him, any getting in his way. 

“And I put in a transfer request,” he announced.

She blinked. “You what?”

He nodded. “I want to leave the BAU. To investigate the X-Files. Exclusively.”

The X-Files? Really? She found the idea of such files intriguing as well, fascinating, even. But the thought of Fox trading in his fast track to be stuck downstairs chasing monsters… it wasn’t what she wanted for him at all. 

She shook her head. “You can’t… Fox, you can’t do that. It’s career suicide.”

“I don’t care about that,” he said, shaking his head right back. “I don’t care about any of that.”

“Okay. You’re going to investigate these… X-Files. And then what?” She wanted an idea of what to expect this time. How far would he take this? Where would it lead him?

He shrugged. “And then… wherever it leads me, I’ll follow.”

She took his hands in hers. “But Fox… you could run the Bureau one day if you wanted to. Nothing would hold you back if that’s what you want.”

“It’s not what I want, Diana,” he said, again. 

She didn’t understand. She wanted to know. She was dying to know. “Then what is it you want, Fox?”

His eyes focused and for a moment she knew that he was absolutely dead serious, that nothing, not sleep nor sustenance nor her presence could change his mind. “To find Samantha.”

She let out a heavy sigh, sitting down next to him. She reached out to smooth his hair back and the action felt almost maternal, as if she were his mother and he was a child, a stubborn young kid who didn’t know what was best for him, and it was her job to redirect him. It wasn’t his fault either, he’d come from absolute madness. She’d never felt more sorry for him as long as she’d known him.

“Fox,” she said sternly, and he winced. “You need to let this go.”

He looked at her searchingly for a minute and she had the impression he wasn’t sure how to proceed. As ever. “I requested a transfer for you, too,” he finally said.

She blinked at him again. “What?”

“To be my partner. We can work on the X-Files together.”

He looked so hopeful, so excited. She wasn’t sure what to say, a confusing mixture of emotions flooded her mind. Part of her wanted to slap him for making such a decision for her. Another part was curious, intrigued by these so-called X-Files.

“You didn’t think my opinion on this mattered?” she asked. 

“You can always say no,” he interjected. “I’m sorry I didn’t ask first, but… Diana, this could be so great.” He reached out to take her hand. “We could do this together.”

As always, her mind drifted to her own work. The work was paramount. The X-Files would be all consuming, especially with Fox at the helm. She wanted to please him, but she wasn’t sure if taking this on was wise. There was a yearning to ask exactly how far he was willing to take this search for the truth, but the desperate look in his eyes along with the already clouded, acute tension hovering in the air kept the idea at bay.

“I don’t know. I wish you’d talked to me first.”

“Blevins hasn’t approved it yet,” he said. “If he does, you don’t have to accept. But, Diana,” he said, looking up at her. His eyes again those of an excited child. “I’d really like to do this with you. I think… it would be good for us.”

She didn’t want to admit they were already suffering three years into this relationship. It felt like he knew it, too, and it pained her. But he looked up at her with those eyes, and her mind emptied of every rational thought, just as it had the night she met him. 

“I need to think about this, okay?” she said, her hand on his cheek. “And if you want me to stay over you need to shower. Please.” He chuckled. 

She couldn’t help herself in spite of everything and leaned in to kiss him. Her intent was to leave it there, but he did not. She could feel him smiling as he leaned into her, pushing her back onto the couch, deepening the kiss.

His gesture was unexpected. They hadn’t been intimate for a few weeks at least. And on top of that, it had been a year and a half since they’d gotten married and Fox still hadn’t moved into her place. She was annoyed and hurt, but whenever he was deep inside a case she didn’t want to bring it up, and when he wasn’t, and she did, it was always the same: I’m sorry…it’ll happen soon, I promise. 

But when he got like this, the romantic side of him somehow found the romantic side of her, and she could forget the things she knew she shouldn’t. He tasted like cigarettes and it was disgusting. She hated that, but she did love him.

“I do need to shower,” he mumbled into her mouth. “Join me?”

She’d come over to tell him they needed to talk, that she was worried they were losing sight of each other. That she wanted to do what she could to fix them. But instead she nodded and forgot everything else.

Whenever he held her like this, the future didn’t seem to matter.









FBI HEADQUARTERS

WASHINGTON. D.C.

DECEMBER 1990

 

Whatever it was that Section Chief Blevins had summoned her to the Hoover Building for, it couldn’t be good. Diana had never so much as been in a meeting with the man; he wasn’t her direct superior. She assumed this had something to do with Fox’s transfer request.

As she rode the elevator up she wondered how she would explain Fox’s actions, especially since she intended to turn down the offer to work on the X-Files if it were presented to her. 

“I hear congratulations are in order, Agent Fowley,” Blevins said as she sat down across from him. The same man with the cigarettes who had stood behind Senator Matheson when she’d first accepted the offer with the Company was standing here, too. 

“Congratulations, sir?” 

“It’s come to our attention you and Agent Mulder are… married?”

She was confused. “Yes… for almost two years, actually.”

“Oh.” Now Blevins looked confused. The man with the cigarette coughed. “Agent Mulder submitted the paperwork to the Bureau just yesterday.”

She blinked. She’d submitted all the proper paperwork in a timely fashion in her own department at the field office, and she’d assumed Fox had done the same. The glacial pace at which the government moved made the idea of it slipping through the cracks not entirely surprising. But she tried not to be offended that, more than likely, it had probably slipped Fox’s mind. For two years.

“Is this a problem, sir?” she asked, no idea now what this meeting was about. 

“Well, not officially,” he attempted to explain. “But I’m sure you’re aware Agent Mulder has put in a request to work on these X-Files ,” he said the name with derision, “and he’s requested you as his partner. We don’t have a policy against married agents partnering together, per se, but this is all highly unusual.”

“Sir, if I might explain… Agent Mulder put that request in without informing me. I have no desire to transfer.” It was out. She wasn’t even sure if it was the truth, but she’d said it.

“I see,” Blevins said. “Thank you for clearing this all up, Agent Fowley, because the real reason I’ve asked you here today is to offer you another opportunity.”

Her eyes darted to the man behind Blevins, the one she knew must be pulling the strings. He was here for a reason. “What kind of opportunity?”

“It’s a legal attaché appointment in Berlin. Foreign counterterrorism.”

Foreign counterterrorism? “I think there must be some kind of mistake, sir. I specialize in psychology. The study of the mind.”

“Yes, and that skill set is needed for this assignment.” 

This was completely unexpected. She’d never considered leaving the country. And what would Fox say? He’d never want to move overseas. 

“I don’t think this is the right time, sir,” she said carefully. “I couldn’t go without Agent Mulder.”

“We’re extending the offer to him, too,” Blevins said, much to her surprise. “This is an opportunity for you both.”

He kept saying the word “opportunity” as if he were putting a positive spin on this. She had no interest in Berlin; her work was here. And what about the Company? 

“I have obligations here,” she eyed the cigarette man, “Sir… that I cannot simply leave behind.”

The tall man put his cigarette out in the ashtray and actually spoke. “The obligations you speak of are in Berlin, Agent Fowley. Everything has been prearranged.”

She was stunned. “Are you telling me I don’t have a choice?”

“Of course you have a choice,” the man said. “Stay here, if you like. But make no mistake; the access and knowledge that await you in Berlin are thus far unmatched.”

This was all too much to process. What he was telling her, essentially, was that she would certainly be moving up the ladder she had worked so hard to climb if she accepted this position. 

But what about Fox? He would never go for this.

“I’d like to think about it, if you don’t mind,” she said.

Blevins spoke again. “The position begins in six months. Take all the time you need. Talk to Agent Mulder, get your affairs in order.”

“I think… this is going to be more difficult than you realize,” she said. 

She wasn’t sure why she was offering this information but she was worried if this didn’t work out she’d be demoted, or somehow punished. She wanted to lay the groundwork for a possible rejection and the less fault she could shoulder the better.

“What do you mean?” Blevins asked.

“Agent Mulder… he’s dead set on this X-Files transfer,” she explained. “I doubt he’d give that up for anything you could offer him overseas.”

“That won’t be a problem, as we’re going to be denying Agent Mulder’s request,” Blevins said bluntly.

Diana took a deep breath, then exhaled. Fox would not take this news well. She didn’t want him working down in the basement any more than these guys did, but she knew Fox. There’d be no living with him in the wake of this blow. 

“I’m very sorry to hear that,” she said. “Can I ask why you’re denying the transfer?” 

She was honestly curious. If Fox wanted to wade around in obscurity, as much as she hated it, it was his own choice. Why would they deny him that?

“We think his talents can be better used… elsewhere,” was all Blevins would offer.

“I don’t disagree with you,” she found herself saying, “but I know Agent Mulder. If you deny him this assignment it will only spur him on. He’ll find his way down there in any event.”

Blevins leveled his stare at her. “Is that so?”

“I believe it is.”

He turned around to glance at the other man, who nodded at him. He turned back to Diana. “Very well. I’m denying this transfer, but I’ll allow him to investigate the X-Files for the time being, unofficially. Under the condition that you work with him as well.”

“You want me to work on the X-Files?”

“Agent Mulder’s behavior has become… erratic, unusual. I’m sure you’ve noticed.” 

She nodded in agreement, although she felt a slight twinge of betrayal for doing so. 

“I think having you around him might help contain his more self-destructive impulses.”

“But… what about Berlin?” she asked, confused.

“Six months, Agent Fowley,” interjected the smoking man. “You’ll have six months to decide between a career downstairs in the basement or one that will bring you closer to the kind of goals I know you’re more interested in.”

There it was. After everything, it was going to come down to a simple choice. 

She nodded, and was excused from the room. As she moved down the hallway her mind turned over and over, contemplating every possibility. And every single one ended up in Berlin. 

Things were bad between her and Fox, worse than ever. It was as if the universe had put her at this crossroads at the most vulnerable point in their relationship. Fate was intervening yet again.

She loved Fox, of course she did. But for the first time she honestly wondered if she loved the work more.








2630 HEGAL PLACE, APT 42

ALEXANDRIA, VA

JUNE 1991


Diana used her key to enter his apartment for what she now knew would be the very last time. As she walked through his entryway she could see him at his desk, his back turned to her, his mind deep in his work. What was he working on? She didn’t even know. They’d been unofficial partners for six months on the X-Files but she still felt excluded. He’d been bringing his work home with him more and more lately, every night. 

She approached him slowly, aware that he hadn’t seemed to even notice her entry. She stopped at the coffee table, waited a few seconds, then spoke.

“Hello?”

“Diana!” he startled in his seat and turned around. “You won’t believe this, I found this amazing X-File buried in the wrong section. The Department of Energy conducted these crazy experiments in this tiny town in Indiana called Hawkins. You should see some of these eyewitness accounts-”

“I’m leaving, Fox.” 

She said it simply, not even certain he’d fully comprehend her meaning. 

"Okay, I’ll see you tonight,” he said, turning back to his work. It was as if he didn’t even realize she hadn’t been here this entire time. This was how it had been since they married; he had slowly been packing up his things to move in with her but nothing had actually been moved. Everything was a cluttered mess in his bedroom. Maybe he’d planned to come to her place tonight, maybe he hadn’t. She had no way of knowing.

“No, you won’t,” she said firmly. “I’m leaving.”

He turned back around. “You’re what?” 

“I’ve been offered a Legat assignment in Berlin. Foreign Terrorism. The transfer is effective as of next week.” She’d already made up her mind that this was over. She had to go anyway, for the work, but she didn’t want to give him any false hope of her return. 

“Berlin? For how long?” 

She felt sorry for him, that as obvious as the complete and utter disintegration of their relationship had been to her, he was so preoccupied he’d apparently missed the memo. 

“Fox,” she said with icy clarity, “I’m leaving you.

He stared at her, then leaned back into his chair. “Just like that, huh?”

She formed her lips into a tight, thin line. “Yeah. Just like that.”

His eyes searched hers for a moment and she felt uncomfortable, like he was trying to figure her out. Like he knew there was more to the story. But even though there was - a lot more - there didn’t have to be.

“This isn’t working anymore, Fox. You have to see that.”

He held his hands out in a helpless gesture, unsure of his next move. He knew she was right, surely. Yet he was still Fox Mulder. He didn’t give up on anything.

“I’m just- Diana, this is ridiculous.”

“What’s ridiculous, Fox? The fact that you asked me to marry you and you still can’t bring yourself to leave this apartment? The fact that I haven’t talked to you about anything non-work related in what feels like months?” She shook her head, exhausted.  “Or the fact that nothing in your life will ever be more important to you than proving to the world you’re right?”

“That’s not fair,” he began, but now she was upset.

“You’re right, it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that you’ve practically forced me into this position.” Blaming him would help. Although they were at an impasse, she knew he was partially to blame.

I’ve forced you? Diana, I do not want you to leave.”

“I won’t stay. Not like this.” She gestured around his apartment. “Look at you, look at this place. Putting a ring on your finger didn’t magically turn you into a husband. And putting one on mine certainly didn’t turn me into a wife.” 

She reached into her pocket and pulled out the gold band he’d slipped onto her finger in that stupid chapel, the last vestige of the relationship she was now giving up. 

“We made a commitment to each other,” he said, as if that meant anything. 

“You think you know what that means, ‘commitment’. It’s all just childish, Fox,” she said.

“Childish?” He looked offended. He was offended, but she didn’t care anymore.

“Yes. You’ve been a child, with only the responsibility of a child to your own dreams and fantasies.” She thought of him here, day after day, fulfilling every single commitment in his life except the one he’d made to her. It broke her fucking heart.

She set the ring on his coffee table. He looked at it, then up at her. “I can’t change who I am for you, Diana. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.”

She shook her head. “I’m not asking you to change, Fox. I’m telling you this was doomed from the start. And I’m sorry, too. I’m sorry we tried at all.” She was upset at the situation but also overwhelmingly sad about everything. She loved him more than she was letting on, but she couldn’t tell him that. 

“So that’s it, then?” he asked. “You’re just going to give up on us? You can just walk away?”

She couldn’t let him try to make her stay for a multitude of reasons. She had no choice. She had to go. 

“Yes, I am. And maybe you should ask yourself if that isn’t what you should do as well.”

“What do you mean?”

She looked him right in the eye. “Maybe you should give up, too.” 

Her words wounded him, she could tell. But this quest had affected him in so many ways, and none of them good. He’d lost the respect of peers who had previously admired him. He’d lost her. And whatever he wanted to believe, she was certain he’d lost his sister, for good.

She once again saw the same look on his face he’d given her that first morning as she’d left his apartment: it was a look of sadness, but mostly just confusion. She didn’t know how much longer she could stand seeing it.

“I’ll miss you, Fox. And despite what you may think, I’ll miss the X-Files, too. I’ll miss that look on your face whenever you maneuver one of your countless puzzle pieces into place,” she smiled. “But with you, that puzzle will never be finished. And I don’t want to sit around waiting for it to happen.”

This entire time she’d worried the secrets she kept from him would be the thing that eventually tore them apart, and while she knew she was by no means blameless for this breakup, that hadn’t been the problem, not for her. She’d tried to be there for him, as his wife, and he hadn’t paid her the same courtesy. Regardless of her inability to be fully open with him, she could not be with a person who had no interest in being with her.

He sighed deeply, still looking more lost than anything. She pitied his cluelessness, and sincerely hoped one day he’d figure this out; that he’d learn what it meant to give himself to another person. She wanted to believe he could do it, she was only sorry that person couldn’t be her.

She turned, and for the last time she walked out of his apartment. She couldn’t help but notice he didn’t follow her. He never even got up out of his chair.










Chapter Text

Chapter 5: The Beginning


46TH STREET

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

JUNE 1991


The plane ride from D.C. to New York wasn’t very long, but Diana fought tears the entire time. She missed Fox already, the physical things like his eyes, his arms, his smile. The way he smelled; when he wasn’t smoking, at least. And the non-physical; his earnest devotion and fierce dedication to his passion. Even though it didn’t always align with her own, it was something to admire, even from afar.

Soon to be very far.

She was supposed to receive her assignment in New York and she assumed she would be off to Germany next. The time for weakness was over, so she let the last tear fall inside LaGuardia airport and was met at the curb by a driver who didn’t speak a word to her the entire ride. It all felt a bit cloak and dagger, but the secrecy surrounding this assignment only heightened its appeal.

Nothing could have prepared her, however, for what, or rather who, awaited her when she arrived at her destination. 

She was led by a handler up to the top floor of a nondescript building, and when she reached the office at the end of the hall she heard a familiar voice.

“Gentlemen,” the cigarette smoking man said as she entered the room. “I’d like to introduce you to Agent Diana Fowley.” 

At least a dozen gray-haired wrinkled white faces spun in their plush armchairs and fixed their eyes upon her. She worried her legs might go out beneath her, but she held firm.

“I take it Agent Mulder decided on the road… far less traveled?” the cigarette man asked, indicating his absence. 

“Um-” she began, not really sure how to proceed. “Yes. I’m afraid he won’t be deterred,” she explained. “Once Fox has his sights set on something it’s hard for him to let go.” 

The truth was, she’d never mentioned the Berlin opportunity to Fox because she knew it was pointless. He’d found his true calling over the past few months on the X-Files and she knew he wasn’t going anywhere. Working with him on the unexplained cases had been intellectually stimulating but she’d known deep down it was over between them even before they’d begun. 

Would giving him time to prepare for her departure have been a more humane decision than a clean break? She’d never know.

“That could present a problem,” the cigarette man said, his face turning dark. “This was meant to be a package deal.”

“Fox and I are no longer together, sir,” she explained. It still hurt to think it, let alone say it aloud. “It won’t be a problem.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” the cigarette man smiled, not looking very sorry at all. “Sit, Agent Fowley,” he said, gesturing to a deep green armchair. She wasn’t about to argue so she did as instructed. “You might be wondering what this is all about, what’s going to happen next.”

She’d been wondering for months but over the past few hours her emotional state had completely transcended her rational one. Things were serious now. She had to recalibrate.

“Well… yes, actually,” she answered.

“You’ll still be working for the FBI, officially,” the cigarette man explained. “But you’ll be doing very little for them, unofficially. Now you’ll be working directly for us.”

“And this work… is sanctioned by the Bureau?” she asked. It felt odd and uncomfortable questioning the man- he was extremely formidable- but she wanted to be as clear as possible before proceeding. 

“No need to worry about that,” he answered. It was all the explanation he offered. She’d been so used to operating under a cloak of secrecy, this felt par for the course. 

The cigarette man knelt down in front of her, and for a moment it was as if there were no other men in the room. When he spoke, others listened. She admired that. 

“I am going to show you things, Agent Fowley. And once you see these things, you will operate in the world differently. You’ll be a part of something greater than yourself. And with that will come a degree of responsibility.”

She tilted her head, apprehensive but deeply curious.

“You see… there are extraordinary men-” off her look, he added “-and women, who must shoulder this responsibility not only for their own sake, but for their country’s, and the world’s as well.”

“I’m listening, Sir,” she said.

“Do you remember when you were a child, Agent Fowley? When you had no cares, no worries? Everything was taken care of, you were fed, sheltered. Loved.”

Diana nodded, not knowing where he was going with this.

“You trusted others completely for your survival. And they kept up their end of the bargain, all while keeping secrets from you to protect you. Truths it would be difficult for children to know, like when a pet dies, or a grandparent. Or that there is no Santa Claus.” He looked directly at her. “Or that there is no God.” 

“A lot of people don’t outgrow that one,” she pointed out. 

Spender shrugged. “It’s quite human: to hold onto hope, in whatever form it comes.” He stood again, taking a long puff from the lit cigarette in his hand. “But make no mistake, Agent Fowley. There are indeed wonders in the world to behold.” There was a pregnant pause. This guy knew how to deliver a speech, that was for sure. “And you’ll get to see them.”

“What kinds of wonders, sir?” she asked carefully.

“Would you consider yourself a person with an open mind, Agent Fowley?”

“Absolutely.”

“Good, that’s good,” he said. “That will make the next part easier.”

“What next part?”

“The part where you trust me, and do what’s asked of you, in the interest of the project. And the first step will be to take this plane ticket and head to Berlin. There you’ll begin your work.”

“What exactly does this work entail?” she asked.

“We’ve stumbled upon some developments in our research, and our scientists will find your insight invaluable. I hope you find the work as stimulating as you’ve anticipated.”

Thoughts of Fox and the breakup were drifting away like sand through a sieve. She was excited, in spite of the emotional turmoil within her. This could be the opportunity she’d been waiting for her entire life.

“What time is my flight?”



***



The summer weather in Berlin was beautiful, but Diana didn’t notice. She was whisked past industrial buildings, into various laboratories, introduced to doctors, given the standard orientation procedures. Everything felt like it always had, and just when she began to wonder if she’d truly given up everything for nothing a word was thrown around that stopped her dead in her tracks.

“... extraterrestrial, ” the doctor next to her was saying. They had stopped in an autopsy bay, in front of what appeared to be a body covered with a foil tarp.

“Excuse me, Dr. Openshaw?” Diana interrupted. “What did you say?”

“The technology is extraterrestrial in origin,” he said, not a hint of derision on his face.

Diana blinked, paused. Hesitated. Then chuckled. “You’re serious.”

Openshaw nodded. A million thoughts scrambled across her mind but louder than any was a voice that told her this had to be true. She’d always wanted to believe. She’d never questioned the possibility of extraterrestrial life, only doubted that it could ever, ever be proven. 

Oddly, her thoughts immediately turned to Fox and how, if this were indeed true, he’d kill for this information. She felt immense relief they were no longer together and she wouldn’t have to hide it from him. The thought took her breath away, and once again she felt as if fate had intervened in their relationship at precisely the right moment.

But all thoughts of Fox evaporated as quickly as they’d materialized when Dr. Openshaw smiled and uttered his next words. “I think you’d better prepare yourself for what I’m about to show you.” 

He removed the tarp, and for what she saw there could be no preparation. 

“Welcome to Roush, Agent Fowley,” he said.

Diana Fowley’s entire world changed in a single instant.











2630 HEGAL PLACE, APT 42

ALEXANDRIA, VA

JUNE 1991



It wasn’t that Mulder didn’t want to follow her; he did, very much. He just knew she was right, and that anything he had to say to her wasn’t going to fix this. It wasn’t going to work, they weren’t going to work and they both knew it. 

In the weeks leading up to Diana’s unexpected departure he’d tried to convince himself that his search for Samantha through his work on the X-Files was all that mattered. He hadn’t anticipated actually believing it.

But watching her go still hurt. He'd spent the rest of the afternoon picking up the scattered boxes of shit he’d packed to take to Diana’s from their various piles around the apartment and stacking them in his bedroom. He couldn’t help but notice he’d saved his essentials for last, none of them having ever been packed. He supposed he’d never intended on moving into her place and now he was absolutely certain why.

When he was finished, he dragged himself over to the couch and there he took root. The idea of crawling into the bed they’d shared was too much to handle. 

Over the next few days he didn’t stew, or cry, or withdraw. This just was and he didn’t allow himself to grieve for her the way a person might normally do. Mulder was typically the type of man to face his problems, to find the answer, but this particular problem he didn’t want to face, so he avoided it entirely. 

A few weeks later Langly was over at his place discussing some wild NSA mass surveillance conspiracy. He was in the middle of convincing Mulder to investigate further when a manila envelope arrived, certified. Diana had sent him divorce papers, which he’d been expecting, but had been trying not to think about.

He sat on the couch and looked over the papers. No fault divorce. Irreconcilable differences. No division of assets or custody to contend with. It was as clean as could possibly be and he was grateful for that. 

Langly watched in silence and even offered to leave, but Mulder refused. He read the papers and signed them within a few minutes and stacked them neatly on the coffee table.

“Where were we?” he said to Langly, nonplussed.

“Mulder, man, it’s okay to be upset. You just signed divorce papers. You want to go grab a brew or something?”

Mulder shrugged. “It’s fine. I’m fine. It’s like it never happened.”

Langly shook his head. “But it did happen. Are you sure you don’t want to…talk about it? Or anything?”

Mulder and Langly didn’t “talk.” He didn’t talk with anyone, really. He knew his friend was just trying to make him feel better, but he honestly didn’t feel the need. He only felt relief.

“I just want it to be done. I need for it to be over. We never should have gotten married, it was a mistake I wish I could undo.”

“Can’t you get it… annulled? Or whatever?” Langly suggested.

“I thought of that,” Mulder admitted. He had. He wanted nothing more than to make the entire thing disappear. “We were married two years, can’t do it.”

“You know, Mulder,” Langly said mischievously, “I never got you a wedding present.”

Mulder laughed. “I think the allotted time frame is a year, Langly. That ship has sailed.” 

He was kidding, and had never desired or expected a wedding present, especially from a friend who seemed to buck every traditional norm. But Langly had something else up his sleeve.

“What if I could make it disappear for you?”

Mulder looked up. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t have access to a time machine, unfortunately. I can’t make it so it didn’t happen, but I can make it so your records show it didn’t happen.” He grinned.

“You can do that?” Mulder asked.

“It’ll be a snap,” Langly said. “We never had this conversation.”

Mulder nodded. Langly was right, it wouldn’t change the past. But it would be a small step toward the healing he knew he’d have to face. And part of him was happy that Langly understood he would have to face it eventually.

“Thanks,” Mulder said.

“Don’t mention it,” Langly replied. “But seriously, don’t mention it. Ever.” 

“I won’t,” he replied, and he knew the Gunmen would do him the same courtesy. 

Mulder picked up the files they’d been discussing before the divorce papers arrived. “Now tell me more about this Titanpointe.”









UNDISCLOSED RESIDENCE

LONDON, ENGLAND 

DECEMBER 25, 1991 8:21 AM

(SIX MONTHS LATER)


Diana cast a glance around the room and it was nothing but old men. Men, men, men. She was so sick of looking at men she wanted to scream.

She’d been relegated to a corner but it was the first time in six months she’d been allowed to sit in on a meeting like this, with the upper echelon. So far, it wasn’t as exciting as she’d anticipated, especially having been pulled into a meeting on Christmas: only the dull monotonous voices of suits echoing inside the conference room. Something about a UFO crash, making witnesses disappear. The typical droning platitudes of the course of human history being set by men in the shadows, blah, blah, blah. She’d become immune to this kind of talk, this kind of process. It was amazing how quickly the extraordinary could become positively ordinary.

She recognized no one except Spender, who led the meeting, and Ronald, who sat at one end of the table, silent and miserable. He’d executed the newly captured E.B.E. himself and Diana knew it had to have weighed on him heavily. She’d never seen him so quiet, downcast.

But then something happened that made her perk up.

“…the Mulder problem.”

Mulder?

“I’m aware of the problem, and I’ve begun the process of addressing it,” Spender said.

Dammit, she cursed herself inwardly. She should have been paying attention. Could they be talking about Fox? What on earth could he have to do with anything to be brought up so specifically in this meeting?

“This is a delicate matter, one of urgency we must address as soon as possible,” one of the Elders said.

“And dealt with it shall be,” Spender said in a voice that everyone in the room knew better than to argue with. He briefly cast a glance in Diana’s direction. “We’ve all known the X-Files might become a problem if certain events came to Mulder’s attention, and in spite of our efforts he’s beginning to catch wind of our… activities.” He pinned the occupants of the table with a glare. “Which wouldn’t be a problem if everyone at this table would stop being so damn sloppy.”

The idea that any of these men had Fox on their radar surprised her. He was no threat, as far as she was aware. His puttering around in the basement was an indulgence, a distraction. No one in the building cared about the X-Files. She wondered what “the Mulder problem” was, exactly, and if she’d learn more. 

“I’ve spoken to our contacts at the FBI and found some candidates to partner with Agent Mulder. Agents that seem… uniquely qualified to point him in a different direction. I’ll make my final decision within the next few weeks.”

Diana felt a pang, and although it had been several months since they’d split up she remembered the short time she’d been partnered with him on the X-Files. Part of her was pleased to hear he was still at it, as she’d expected. That knowledge solidified in her mind her conviction that she’d made the right decision when she left.

The meeting moved on to another topic and Diana settled back into her chair, distracted again. She thought of the fox, down in that basement office all alone. His fruitless search for truths she’d been handed on a silver platter. It made her feel a bit guilty, and even ache a bit for him. She wondered what he was doing right at that moment, and if he missed her.

And she wondered who his new partner would be.












WASHINGTON NATIONAL AIRPORT

TERMINAL B

MARCH 7, 1992



Special Agent Dana Scully, M.D. was already waiting for Mulder when he arrived at the gate. He was typically punctual but the traffic had been nightmarish, the cab driver shockingly unfamiliar with the area. 

“I’m sorry,” he said as he approached, worried she might be annoyed or have gotten a bad impression of him. 

The X-Files were already under such scrutiny, and while he played it tough around most of his peers, Dana Scully was different. He hadn’t had to work hard to convince his last partner of the legitimacy of the department. This one, he knew, would be a tough nut to crack.

She smiled, however, the same smile she’d given him yesterday in his office, and it had the exact same effect as it had then; it put him at ease. His mind told him she should be an enemy, someone sent from up high to threaten everything he’d built down below. But her smile told him otherwise.

“It’s fine, we have a few minutes,” she said. He gestured for her to lead the way and followed her onto the plane.

It hadn’t taken him long to realize she’d been the same woman he’d seen a few months ago in the lobby of the Hoover Building. She was just as attractive up close but he tried to push those thoughts away. Firstly, they were inappropriate, and secondly, he told himself he had no interest in pursuing her romantically. Ever since Diana left he’d vowed not to mix work with pleasure ever again.

He put his bag in the overhead bin and reached for hers to do the same. She made a face- it was subtle but he noticed it- as if she weren’t the type of woman to tolerate a man giving her help she didn’t require. But the face quickly faded away after he smiled politely at her, and she allowed his assistance. In that moment he set a precedent he wouldn’t be fully cognizant of for years.

The flight to Oregon wasn’t full, and although he wanted to sit next to her it seemed odd considering the many empty seats around them. So he plopped down across the aisle, leaving her an entire row to herself, where she buckled her seat belt, immediately pulled out the Bellefleur file and began to read it.

“You don’t waste any time, do you?” he said. He couldn’t help his remark, although he did appreciate her clear intent to give this case everything she had. 

“I just want to be prepared to handle whatever gets thrown at us,” she replied. “Or beamed down, as it were.” She smirked at him, and he smiled back.

When the plane began to take off, he saw her hand move quickly to the armrest, her head tilting back a bit as her eyes closed.

“You okay, D- Scully?” he asked. 

He used her surname just like he had yesterday, and once again he wondered about it. When he’d gone home last night he’d thought of Diana for the first time in months. Dana Scully wasn’t like her, not at all, but it was as if his mouth were rejecting the form of a name that sounded in any way like “Diana.”

“Scully” was good. It made him think of baseball season. His happy place. “Scully” it would be.

“I’m fine, just… not a huge fan of air travel,” she admitted, eyes still squeezed shut. He opened a bag of sunflower seeds and popped one into his mouth. 

“You picked the right career then, huh?” he said.

She laughed. “I guess it wasn’t something I anticipated during all those years I spent in med school.”

“Where did you go to med school?” he asked, trying to distract her. 

“Um.” She gripped the armrest a bit and exhaled. He could tell she was trying to play down her fear for his benefit. “Columbia.”

“I love New York,” he said. “Big Yankee fan. My dad used to take me to games, just the two of us. We’d make a weekend out of it. You like baseball?”

She opened an eye. “Not particularly.”

“I caught a fly once at Yankee stadium. It was probably the greatest moment of my life.”

“Really?” Her other eye opened and she looked interested. 

“Yep. 1970. Joe Pepitone, grand slam against the Cubs. My dad lifted me up onto his shoulders and I saw it coming right for me. Then pow ! Right into my mitt. It was my favorite mitt. My dad gave the mitt to me for my birthday.”

“That’s… an incredible story.”

“Do you know the odds of catching a fly ball, Scully?”

She looked intrigued and smiled. “No. Do you?”

“One in about five hundred, if you’re sitting on the lower level.”

“Do you still have the ball?”

“Nope.”

Her jaw dropped. “Why not?”

“Because I made it all up.”

She looked at him, perplexed. “What? Why would you make up a story like that?”

“It worked, didn’t it?” The turbulence had stopped, and the plane was now cruising along peacefully. Scully looked around, then over at him, raising an eyebrow.

“You did that on purpose?” she smiled.

He shrugged and grinned back, popping another sunflower seed in his mouth. “You’re welcome, Scully.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Thank you. Mulder .” She said his name slowly, deliberately. Like the decision had been made. This was how it was going to be, and they both liked it.

“So why the FBI?” he asked, wanting to know a bit more about her. “Medicine not doing it for you?”

“Oh. Um…” she shifted uncomfortably in a way that made him think he’d touched a nerve. “No, it’s not that. I was recruited, actually. Out of med school.”

He nodded, impressed. “They wanted you bad, then.”

She grinned, blushing a bit. “I guess. I figured I would give this a chance. My father is less than thrilled about it, though.”

“How come?”

She shrugged. “He was excited to have a doctor in the family.”

Mulder smiled. “Well, he still does, right? Technically.”

“Technically.” She grinned back.

“If I were to choke on one of these,” he held up a seed, “I’d be in good hands, right?”

“I suppose so.”

He put a hand up as if to say there you have it,  and he could tell she was beginning to relax a bit. 

“How about you?” she asked. “How’d you end up at the FBI?”

“I guess you could say I have a knack,” he said as succinctly as possible, avoiding her actual question. “I started in violent crime. I was a profiler.”

“Oh, I know,” she said, then looked immediately embarrassed. “I mean… I’ve heard of you, that’s all.”

“How have you heard of me?” He was genuinely curious. 

She paused. “You had a bit of a following back at the academy. They… um, they gave you a nickname.” She looked embarrassed again. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Oh, I’m well aware of that particular moniker, no need to be embarrassed on my account,” he assured her. “Not your fault I’m a bit spooky.”

Her lips curved into a tiny smile and he winked, which was something he hadn’t intended to do. He stretched his legs out across his empty row and turned away, knowing he should stop before he dug himself too deep. 

He liked her. And he was flirting with her, completely involuntarily. It felt insanely dangerous but absolutely safe all at once. It was like he knew she wasn’t going anywhere, that she was his, somehow, already. 

There was only one word he could think of to describe it. 

Trust.





Chapter Text

Chapter 6: The Thick

 



ST. HEDWIG HOSPITAL

BERLIN, GERMANY

NOVEMBER 1994

 

“Cassandra Spender?”

Diana knocked on the door of the hospital room, pushing it gently. The woman in bed sat up, seeming eager for a visitor.

“Come in, please,” she said politely. Diana walked over and held her hand out.

“I’m Special Agent Diana Fowley with the FBI,” she greeted her. “I’m just here to ask you a few questions.”

“About my abduction, you mean.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Well, yes,” Diana said, sitting across from her. 

Her assignment over the past couple of years had been contacting abductees and tidying up after The Company’s experiments were over. Whatever information she gathered through official FBI channels would mysteriously disappear to maintain the secrecy of the project. 

She’d done it for so long now it didn’t even seem wrong anymore; she knew these experiments were crucial to the very survival of the human race. She was well aware of the Machiavellian lows she’d been asked to sink to; but the ends truly did seem to justify any means necessary.

At least she convinced herself of that when things got confusing.

She’d met with countless people, particularly women, all over Europe, listening to their stories. MUFON members were specifically targeted by the Company for the tests because they were convinced of the lie that had been tailor made for them: that they’d been abducted by aliens, not men. 

The second scenario would raise questions. The first would only raise eyebrows.

“It says here you were involved in the Skyland Mountain incident a few months back, and that wasn’t the first time,” she says. “What are you doing in Germany, if I may ask?”

Cassandra looked a bit dreamlike. “I felt a great desire to come here. It’s hard to explain, but ever since my abductions… I seem to go where I feel called.”

“I see you’re a member of the Mutual UFO Network? You believe you were abducted by aliens?” Diana settled back into her chair, waiting for yet another alien abduction story. It was a common refrain, and she knew by this point the ins and outs, the inner workings of the Company, what was expected of her.

“They’ve taken me many times. The aliens told me I was a prophet,” Cassandra explained. “This has been happening to me for years and years, but I’ve finally decided to stop hiding, to stop lying.” She smiled at Diana. “I want to live my truth, Agent Fowley.”

“I see,” she said. “And what makes you so certain you were abducted by aliens, Ms. Spender?”

Cassandra leaned over, picking up a copy of The Times from her bedside table. She leafed through it to find a page she’d dog-eared and handed it to Diana.

There, in the margin, was a tiny photograph of Fox. It was odd to think of him still out there, still existing in a life that didn’t have her in it. But there he was. 

She scanned the article and saw that Fox had been intimately involved in the Skyland Mountain incident she’d been sent to help clean up. One of the abductees, Duane Barry, had died mysteriously after claiming multiple abduction scenarios. Fox was the only person who allegedly believed his story. 

Still doing his thing, she smiled inwardly. It was comforting, in a way.

“There are people out there who believe,” Cassandra said. “If this man believed Duane Barry, maybe he’ll believe my story, too.”

Diana smiled, knowing Fox certainly would. And she was beginning to see how he was quickly becoming the “Mulder problem” she’d heard about from the Elders in that meeting a while back.

“I’m sure there are lots of people who will believe you, Cassandra,” Diana smiled. 

And even though they’re all correct, they’ll be passed off as crazy just as you will be.

Just as Fox will be.

 

DIANA FOWLEY’S APARTMENT

DAS WASSERTOR WOHNUNGEN

BAHNHOFSTRAßE 19

BERLIN, GERMANY

SEPTEMBER 1995

 

Sweaty.

It was her favorite descriptor; her favorite thing about him. He was always sweaty. It evoked passion, restlessness, fervor. And those were the things she missed the most, especially in bed.

Diana turned to look at the man next to her. She didn’t like him very much, but the sex was always incredible. Always fast, always hard, always exactly what she needed. And there was rarely any talking. Almost everything that came out of his mouth was a lie anyway. She knew he didn’t want to lie to her, so she let him use his mouth in other ways.

She was using him, but she was allowing herself to be used as well. Personal relationships, even if she’d desired one, were impossible now. Against the rules. Putting the project at risk for the sake of personal pleasures was not something she was supposed to do. But she had needs, and so did he. They’d decided to break the rules together.

He lay beside her, breathing heavily, exposed. Whenever it was over they usually pulled apart and lay silently side by side, minds drifting to whatever else. Whoever else.

She rarely thought about Fox anymore but for some reason tonight she did. She found herself trying to remember the last time they’d slept together before she left. It had already been so many months since they’d been intimate before then, she hadn’t given it much thought at the time, but now, with almost four years behind her since they’d last been in each other’s arms, she allowed herself to regret.

“Same time tomorrow?” her companion murmured from beside her. 

She rolled over and looked at him, sex appeal oozing from his pores just like the sweat she’d put there over the last several minutes.

“I have to travel. Back in a few days,” she said. She reached over and brushed a lock of his hair out of his face. It was usually short but appeared unruly tonight.

“A few days?” He sounded disappointed, as disappointed as he ever sounded. He covered her hand with his and slid it down to his lips, kissing it. She didn’t love him, never would, and she knew he didn’t love her either. But he always treated her well in bed. 

“Back next Friday.”

“That’s a long fucking time, Diana,” he said. 

“I’m sure you’ll manage.”

He rolled back into the pillow and sighed loudly, rubbing his eyes. She thought of his sweat seeping down into the pillowcase and looked forward to having the scent of a man in her bed when she returned.

“We’ve gone longer,” she pointed out. “And I’m sure I’m not your only option.”

He didn’t say anything. She didn’t really give a shit who he slept with while she was away. All that mattered was that he was here when she wanted him.

“Do you ever wish things were different?” he asked out of the blue. He was still staring up at the ceiling. 

“So many things,” she offered. She would not get specific.

“Sometimes I wonder what I’d be doing if I ever escaped all of this.”

His words surprised her; it was so unlike him to speak so openly this way. But Diana wondered, too. She’d become somewhat different over the past few years. Her goal had always been the same, however; changing the world. Doing something important. Discovering, learning, advancing. 

She’d never known what his goals were, not really. He probably wouldn’t tell her the truth in any case.

“I don’t want to escape this,” she said carefully. She didn’t want to be in a position where she’d have to reveal him or be revealed to the Elders as some kind of traitor.

He rolled over, half on top of her. “You don’t have to lie to me, Diana. You’re not cut out for this crap. You don’t have the stomach for it.”

She pushed him off her, hands on his chest, hard. 

“What do you know about what I’m cut out for? You don’t know a thing about me.”

His eyes narrowed. “I know you’re the best fuck I’ve ever had,” he amended, eyes flashing. She smiled at him in spite of her anger. It didn’t really matter what he thought about her anyway, as long as he thought that. 

Maybe it was a lie, but she still liked hearing it.

His cell phone rang and he answered it. A brief conversation ensued and he hung up to look at her. 

“Turns out I have to go, too. To the States.”

“For what?”

He gave her a look, the look that meant he was most certainly being sent out on a hit. She turned away. 

“One of the Syndicate members. It’s a big one,” he answered.

She looked back, interest piqued. “Who?”

“Does it matter?”

It really didn’t. There were few she knew personally, much less their names. 

“I have to go,” he said again. He leaned down over her, kissing her neck, down her body, and she could feel him hardening against her, so soon again. More of his sweat was trickling down onto her skin. It made her insides reawaken.

“One more time then,” she said, as he rose to meet her gaze, brown eyes black with lust beneath long lashes. “And make it count, Alex.”

 

ANNAPOLIS NATIONAL CEMETERY

SEPTEMBER 1995

 

Dana Scully was completely numb.

When she’d been abducted, her work had become personal, more personal than she was even aware. 

But when her sister had been murdered, the personal entered brand new territory.

Mulder felt this pain acutely, she knew. He’d already lost a family member to this quest and he’d just lost his father. 

“I know the truth, Mulder. Now what I want are the answers,” she’d said to him in the hospital. 

He’d pulled her close and she’d rested her head against him then, just as she did now, as they stood side by side next to Melissa’s gravesite. She’d become accustomed to this kind of support from him, this kind of comfort. 

She’d become accustomed to Mulder taking up every last inch of space in her life. 

Yes, it was very personal.

“God, Scully,” he whispered into her ear. “I don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry this happened.” 

“I know,” she replied. She didn’t want him to be sorry, she knew it wasn’t his fault. It was them. Them. The same ones who’d abducted her, who’d killed her sister. Who'd probably taken Mulder's sister. Who’d made them both an intricate part of this seemingly endless web of conspiracy of which she couldn’t see a way out.

“You almost died too, Mulder,” she said. “You were dead. I can’t believe you’re even standing here.”

“I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for Albert Hosteen,” he said. “He was… my savior, Scully.”

She snaked an arm around his waist, something she didn’t usually do, but it felt natural, like it belonged there. “I’m so thankful you’re alive,” she said softly. He rubbed her back as they stood together silently.

“Take a few more minutes, okay?” he said gently. “I’ll go get the car.”

She nodded, and when he left she felt a bit emptier. Her sister was dead, and so was Mulder’s father, and for what? They hadn’t found any answers, they hadn’t brought anyone to justice. She wondered if they ever would.

After a few more minutes she felt a presence beside her and turned in surprise.

“I am very sorry for your loss,” Albert Hosteen said gently. “It is hard to know why these things must happen. But answers come in time.”

Scully nodded, smiling gently. “Thank you for coming,” she said. “Today, and at the hospital.”

“Of course,” Albert said. “I wanted to be here, but I also wanted to tell you something. Something important.”

“What is it?” she asked.

“A white buffalo calf was born among my people the same time your partner was revived,” he said to her. “This may not mean anything to you, but to my people it is a sign. I believe great change is coming for you both.”

“What kind of change?” Scully asked, confused. "What do you mean?"

Albert looked at her for a moment, as if unsure how to proceed. “When the time comes, you will know,” he finally said. “You’ll know in here.” He brought his index finger above her heart and pointed. Then he smiled and walked away, his departure as mysterious as his arrival.











2630 HEGAL PLACE, APT 42

ALEXANDRIA, VA

APRIL 1997

 

“Do you remember anything, Mulder?” 

He sprawled on his couch and Scully leaned back against him from her position on the floor. He’d been released to her medical supervision after firing six rounds into the wall at the Martha’s Vineyard residence. She’d brought him home and didn’t intend to leave him alone.

“Bits and pieces, I guess… but I don’t remember a whole lot before you came into the house, to be honest.”

Scully turned slightly to look at him. “No, not tonight,” she clarified. “I’m talking about your sister.”

Mulder looked at her. “I’ve told you what I remember.”

Scully wanted to tread carefully. This was a sensitive topic for Mulder, obviously. But she’d long suspected his eagerness to participate in deep regression hypnosis had troubling implications. The more a person was willing to believe, the more they could potentially be led, and she’d feared from the start that this was what may have occurred in this case.

“I know what you’ve told me you remember since your regression, but not from… before.”

Before. The word sounded strange on her tongue. For a moment she reflected back even further in his life and found it hard to imagine, as if any notion of a life before Samantha’s disappearance for Mulder was, for lack of a better word, alien.

“You mean before my memories were manufactured, right? Is that what you’re suggesting, Scully?” He sounded defensive, and she didn’t want to argue. She just wanted a moment of honesty, a moment of disclosure.

“No, Mulder. I’m not suggesting that at all,” she said gently. “I just…I want to know, I want to know more… about you.”

The incident with Eddie Van BlundHt a couple of weeks ago was mostly something she wished they both would forget, for several reasons. But it had stirred up so many feelings inside her about Mulder; primarily the idea that she had thought she knew him, but now realized she didn’t really. Not at all. Not when it came to the personal. And she felt an ache come over her, an ache to know him in a way she never had before.

She caught his eye and hoped her expression mirrored her thoughts, her willingness to listen. She watched his eyes soften as they flickered in color: mossy, chartreuse. Mulder. How did they do that?

“Before the regression I didn’t remember anything,” he said. 

This surprised her, as she’d always suspected he’d concocted the alien abduction scenario during his childhood and his regression had only furthered that tale. 

“I guess… the shock, the trauma. The terror, even… I must have blocked everything. She was there one minute and then she was just gone.”

Scully let this information settle. It was looking more and more likely Mulder had in fact been led. He’d been led down a path as an adult that ended at an answer that was as irretrievable as his sister. 

“My parents never blamed me, ever, but… I blamed myself.” He stared up at the ceiling and she leaned back into the couch, watching him, her cheek settling very close to his thigh. She just listened. “I don’t think they ever knew how much I blamed myself, because we never talked about it. They fought all the time, and I knew it was because of what happened to Samantha. They didn’t have to say it.”

She tried not to think about herself, compare herself to Samantha, but in this moment she couldn’t help it. Mulder was nothing if not a martyr to his cause, and that included the guilt she knew he felt about her own cancer; that due to some horrible twist of fate she’d landed herself with him and received this disease as punishment. She didn’t see it that way, but she suspected Mulder did. And it had all begun when he was twelve and took responsibility for losing his sister. 

She couldn’t imagine what that had done to him, to his psyche. To his heart, his mind, and his soul. To everything that made him the man he was right now, in this room, lying here next to her. 

“I didn’t know how to deal with that kind of guilt. I was twelve, then thirteen, then fourteen. Life moved on without Samantha and I had to as well. The only way I knew how to deal with any of it was to forget it happened. So I tried that for a long time.” He was still staring at the ceiling. “A long time.”

“Until you decided you wanted to remember?” she asked. He nodded. “What made you decide?”

He hesitated then, as if there were something on his tongue that refused to slip out. Something he was holding back. 

“My, uh… my ex convinced me, actually.”

Ex. Huh. 

“You mean… Phoebe Green?” she asked. 

He sighed. “No. Someone else. After.”

An odd sensation ran throughout her body. A college relationship was one thing. The idea of Mulder maintaining any kind of romantic, adult relationship seemed surprising to her. She felt bad for thinking so, but she did. 

He’d revealed more than she’d expected already, and she didn’t want to push, but goddamn, was she curious.

“And the layers keep peeling back,” she said, as playfully as she could, echoing a sentiment he’d directed at her a couple of years earlier. She was eager to know about this ex-girlfriend now, but there was no way to take a detour from the topic at hand. She could only hope it would come up again someday. 

“She was a psychologist, and she… thought the regression would be helpful.”

Scully nodded. “And was it? I mean, are you glad now, in retrospect, that you did it?”

Mulder shifted on the couch so he was on his side, looking at her. His arm was tucked underneath a throw pillow and she was so close to him she could smell the dried sweat on his white T shirt. She tried not to think about how good he smelled, how masculine, how much she missed having a man in her life in the kind of way Mulder couldn’t be.

“If it brings me closer to the truth,” he said simply. She had known that would be his answer.

“And… if it pushes you further away from it? What then, Mulder?” She honestly wasn’t trying to be combative. She wanted the truth, too. But she was starting to realize the lengths to which he would go for his truth and they were terrifying.

“I don’t know, Scully,” he sighed, and he wasn’t irritated or upset, just exhausted. He’d had a rough few days, so she couldn’t be the least bit surprised.

Scully wasn’t sold on hypnosis. As a scientist, she felt the method itself was questionable at best, and it had raised plenty of eyebrows in the medical field. She had no idea who this psychologist ex-girlfriend was, or what she knew of Mulder, but Scully felt immediately resentful of her, distrustful. Protective of Mulder. This woman should have known better. 

This woman should have known him better.

Scully smiled just then, realizing maybe she knew Mulder better than she thought she did, after all.

The topic finished for now, she wanted to get him to bed, to get him comfortable. “Come on, Mulder, get up. Let’s get you into bed.”

“No,” he said immediately. “I’m fine here, Scully.” She never really understood why he insisted on sleeping on his couch all the time. She worried the man never slept, not really. She didn’t even know if he had a bed, now that she thought about it.

“Well, I can’t leave you alone, Mulder. It’s been court-ordered.”

“It’s fine, okay? You know I’m fine, I know I’m fine. I won’t rat you out. You can go on home, Scully. Thanks for driving me.” He turned over on the couch until his back was to her, and she rolled her eyes, knowing he fully intended on sleeping right there. 

“I’ll go, okay? I’m just gonna sit with you for a few more minutes.”

He didn’t answer, and as she watched him shifting to get as comfortable as humanly possible on that couch, with its well-worn Mulder indentation, her hand reached out of its own volition to touch his back. She felt the same heat radiating off his skin as she’d felt in that house, and feeling it once more was an odd comfort. She rubbed his back softly, between his shoulder blades, and the tension she felt began to ebb with every passing second. She heard him sigh, contented, and it was probably one of the best sounds she’d ever heard him make.

After a couple of minutes she knew he was asleep. But she lay down on the carpet next to him, still rubbing his back, until she fell asleep herself.

 

 

 

DIANA FOWLEY’S APARTMENT

DAS WASSERTOR WOHNUNGEN

BAHNHOFSTRAßE 19

BERLIN, GERMANY

MAY 1998

 

After nearly ten years working for the Company, Diana Fowley had seen her share of shit. 

She never lied to herself that she didn’t want to be there; she did. But as the years passed she’d had to turn a blind eye to many, many things. Bad things that she knew were the reason this work had to be protected and kept secret. 

Experiments. Assassinations.

Lies.  

She’d always been a proponent of the philosophy that the government had a right and responsibility to protect its secrets, and the secrets this group held were similar; proportional to the protection they gave them. By a certain point she wasn’t sure if anything was out of the realm of her capacity to compartmentalize. Sometimes the work was dirty and it still needed to be done. Diana was tough, and she rarely backed down from anything. 

She’d made her choice and she never fooled herself about that. It was preferable in her mind to sacrifice the few rather than allow the entire world to perish. 

For the good of the project, for the good of the world. A mantra she repeated daily.

Even if she wanted out, she knew it would be beyond difficult. Diana Fowley didn’t have a job she could just quit.

It had taken years, but ever so surely she was beginning to earn the trust she’d sought. The relationships she’d formed with some members of the group were beneficial to moving up from simply an employee of the Company to the upper echelon: the Syndicate.

Particularly the relationship she’d formed with him.

As mysterious and murky as the trail of cigarette smoke that followed him wherever he went, his name was Spender, and that was all she knew of his personal life. She’d been intrigued by him since the day she laid eyes on him in Senator Matheson’s office; the way he commanded a room, the way he never lost face. Even in times of disruption and chaos he kept his cool, and he always seemed to know what to do. 

She admired that.

He’d taken her under his wing, brought her into his circle of trust. She still hadn’t ever seen another woman in a meeting with the Elders and was certain she was the highest ranked female in the Company, which pleased her.

She also admired a philosophy Spender had imparted: Don’t become part of someone else’s cause or crusade. Pursue your own self interest, always. Losing herself in this work completely had never been intended or desired and the fact that he was giving her permission to avoid such an outcome was one more thing she admired.

Unfortunately, just as she felt she had been gaining some footing within the hierarchy, Spender had been shot in his apartment. His body hadn’t been found. It had been a year since that happened, and although she held out hope that he’d somehow survived, she felt over the past several months that she’d started over at the bottom yet again.

She lay on her side, restless, staring out the window at the Berlin nighttime sky. She actually loved it here, so far away from everything she’d left back in the States. It made the work somewhat easier knowing everyone she knew and cared for in her life was nowhere around to witness it.

Alex was asleep in bed next to her. After he’d been banished from the Syndicate they hadn’t seen much of each other for some time, but he’d found his way back into their web again. He hadn’t shared the details and she didn’t really want to know. 

Alex’s cell phone rang from her nightstand. He rolled over to answer it, and as he did, her own phone rang as well. He eyed her meaningfully and slid off the bed, taking his phone into the other room. She sat up and answered her own phone.

Agent Fowley, ” the voice said. It was one of the Elders.

“Yes, sir?”

Your scheduled trip to Tunisia has been changed. We need you back in Washington immediately. There’s been… an incident.

Washington. She felt a coiling in her gut and cursed herself inwardly for only just ruminating on her contentment living in Germany. 

“Why me, sir?” She rarely questioned orders but this was indeed unusual. And she’d be lying to herself if she didn’t admit she was extremely nervous to be going back home. Back to, presumably, the Hoover Building.

Back to where Fox most certainly was.

“There’s been an assassination attempt, on the life of a young boy who is vital to the Project. The FBI believes the man who was shot was the target; they have no reason to believe otherwise. But we need this boy protected until we can get him back in our custody.”

“What can I do?” she asked.

"We’re putting you on the task force. Just keep him safe and await further instructions. A car will arrive for you in an hour.”

The man hung up and she sighed. She had no idea how long she’d be gone this time, she never did. As she slipped out of bed naked and headed to the bathroom, Alex rounded the corner, hanging up.

“I have to go,” he said.

“Me too,” she replied. He started pulling his clothes on and she watched him. “Where are they sending you?” 

“Canada,” he said. He pulled on his jeans and caught her eye as he buckled his belt. Simple tasks were more difficult for him since he’d lost his arm, and she briefly considered helping him dress but he looked away. She turned to go into the bathroom and then heard his voice again. 

“Diana.” She turned back around. “Smoking man’s alive.”

She stared at him, amazed. “He’s alive?” she asked. “How did they track him down?”

Alex shrugged. “Guess I’ll have to ask him, won’t I?” 

He pulled his T-shirt over his head, which was a bit of a task, and grabbed his jacket, walking up to her. He traced a finger from her temple down her neck, all the way down her naked body until his fingers rested on her hip. He only had one functioning hand but with it he could sure work wonders.

She had to ask. “Alex…” she was unsure of how exactly to phrase the question. “Do you think it’s possible one of ours actually tried to murder a child?”

He looked at her half-lidded and squeezed hard, gripping the flesh of her hip, and pulled her against him. “I told you you didn’t have the stomach for this work.”

She closed her eyes, knowing the truth. But there was another truth; that she’d allowed herself to drift far from the person she knew she used to be. 

She wanted nothing more than to make him stay just a few more minutes, tear his clothes off again and let him make her forget what she’d become. 

But she didn’t. And he didn’t.

He went to Canada. And she got into the shower and washed him off her, thinking instead of the possibility of seeing the fox again.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7: The End

 

 

 

FBI HEADQUARTERS

WASHINGTON, D.C.

MAY 1998

 

Part of him had wanted to see her again someday. He wasn’t sure why. They weren’t compatible anymore and Diana had made that very clear before she walked out on him. 

But something between them remained unresolved. He might have never realized it or been affected by it all this time but here it was, here she was, standing in front of him again in the flesh after so many years of forgetting. 

He’d wanted to forget.

His first thought when he saw her across the room was panic, brief but very real, that she would judge him for his clear lack of upward mobility in the Bureau. She’d wanted him to do something greater in her mind than pursue his own hollow cause. She’d never quite understood its importance in his life and that was probably one of the main reasons he’d let her walk out of his apartment that day.

His second thought was discomfort, and on its heels arrived his inevitable third thought: Scully. 

He’d never mentioned Diana to Scully before, at least not by name, and the dread that rose up within him now was an icy chill; the dread of having to explain this. Having to explain everything that had led to this.

How much of an explanation did Scully deserve from him at this juncture in their partnership? How much was he required to divulge?

How much did he want to divulge?

The meeting was adjourned and the way Scully automatically rose up out of her chair and drifted to his side like a magnet gutted him. She was always in sync with him, always, even though he had no right to such synchrony right now. His mind was on fire with thoughts completely outside of her understanding. She had no earthly concept of the emotional turmoil he was experiencing, that the mere idea of Diana and Scully in the same room might actually cause him to spontaneously combust. 

He couldn’t explain it, not really. There were far too many confusing emotions, synapses firing, mental processes to navigate. His feelings about Scully and his feelings about Diana did not, could not, coexist. 

He could sense Diana moving towards them in his periphery and every hair on the back of his neck stood at attention. He had about five seconds to decide how this was going to go. The notion of Diana and Scully actually orbiting around him made him sick to his stomach.

He made a decision in this moment that would come back to haunt him again and again; he would try to keep Scully from knowing the whole truth.

“Interesting catch,” Diana said, sidling up to him. She looked at him expectantly, then to Scully, waiting for the introduction that was most certainly not forthcoming. He was not prepared for this at all. 

Scully had just been familiarly picking a piece of lint off his suit and through her nearness he could sense more than see her eyebrow lift, her hackles go up; his lioness on full alert to defend him, her pride. He was so familiar with this routine, of some agent or peer giving him shit for some reason or another and Scully instantly arriving at his defense, that he feared in the moment he’d actually taken her loyalty for granted all this time.

“Thank you,” he said to Diana, turning to look at her for the first time in seven years. He took in the dark, closely tailored suit hugging her thinned out frame. Noted the v of her shirt nestled in such a way that a taller man like himself could see a hint of what lay beneath. She looked very different, older than she actually was, no less attractive to him because she was still Diana, but the years had been hard on her and he could tell. He wondered why that was as he finally looked her in the eyes, her expression unreadable. 

The look must have carried on for longer than he’d planned because Diana broke her gaze away and extended her hand to Scully.

“Hello, I’m Diana Fowley,” she said, smiling at Scully. 

“Dana Scully,” Scully said, returning the smile politely. She eyed Mulder, probably wondering why he was suddenly so quiet, but he couldn’t speak. His mouth had gone completely dry. The sight of these two women shaking hands had effectively broken his brain. 

Scully had no reason to believe he knew Diana and the longer he let this charade continue the worse the explanation would be. But he couldn’t do it. The actual, physical act of introducing Diana Fowley to Scully, and the baggage that entailed, combining these two worlds, was something he could not bring himself to do. He wanted nothing more than to extricate himself from this situation and he had no idea how.

His hypothalamus activated. Fight or flight kicked in. He chose flight.

“Scully, we’d better head over to interview Gibson Praise before someone else gets to him first,” he said, turning his back to Diana.

“Would you mind if I joined you?” Diana interjected. “I might be able to assist if he truly is showing signs of precognition.”

Scully leaned around Mulder, who had effectively placed his body between the two women, and looked at her curiously. “Of course. Is this sort of thing… a specialty of yours, Agent Fowley?”

“I have a background in parascience, but particularly in regard to the brain. I’d be extremely interested to take a look at this boy,” she explained to Scully.

Scully nodded and smiled politely, her eyes darting quickly to Mulder. Her expression was a familiar one and he found his partner’s predictable skepticism humorous, but he did not react; he was frozen solid. Diana and Scully together? With him? On the same case? He couldn’t laugh. He wanted to throw up.

It was a strange situation to see Scully so ignorant of what was going on, even though it was obviously his own fault. She started to exit the room and Diana followed her, glancing back in his direction briefly. She seemed to notice and acknowledge his refusal to engage her but suddenly everything was moving too fast. For the first time in his life, he had zero desire to follow either of them.

“Mulder?” Scully said from the doorway, snapping him out of his daze. “You coming?”

“Y-yeah,” he replied. “I’ll drive.”

For a man with absolutely no control whatsoever, driving sounded like the best possible way to regain some.

 

INGET MURRAY PSYCHIATRIC FACILITY

GAITHERSBURG, MARYLAND

 

The ride to the psychiatric hospital was the most uncomfortable hour of his life. 

After a couple of minutes of small talk, the silence that permeated the car was nothing short of oppressive. Diana had told Scully she started at the Bureau in ‘91, which wasn’t exactly true, it was when she became a field agent. He wondered if she had purposefully landed on the year she worked with him on the X-Files as her answer; to get a rise out of Scully, or out of him, he wasn’t sure. But he wasn’t about to correct her because it would certainly out their past. And this tiny mistruth faded into the background, as almost anything competing with the tension in the car would have. 

He could almost hear the wheels spinning inside Scully’s head next to him and he tried to stop catching Diana’s eyes in the rear view but he could not. Eventually, Scully saw, he knew she did. 

He felt like a complete idiot for never mentioning Diana before. He hadn’t even considered the possibility he’d see her again, let alone that she and Scully would meet. Had it merely been wishful thinking? In this moment the universe seemed hell bent on tormenting him. He would have to explain who she was, and he would then have to explain why he’d never mentioned her to Scully in the first place. 

And before he did any of that, he’d have to figure out the reason he’d never mentioned her to Scully in the first place.

We worked together for a while, years ago was all he had to say. He could have said it at any time, from the moment Diana shook Scully’s hand to now, stuck in the car with no other choice but to chat. So why hadn’t he just said it? 

It was because it wasn’t the truth and he knew it. Lying by omission was still a lie, and he didn’t like lying to Scully. But Diana was in his past, and Scully was… well, he wasn’t sure. Their relationship was in such a strange place. And now the past was screaming back into his life completely unwelcomed. As always, the timing could not be worse.

What could he even say to Scully at this point, almost six years into their partnership, that wouldn’t be an absolute betrayal?

Diana was my partner.

Diana was my lover, too.

Diana was my wife, by the way.

We started on the X-Files together, did I forget to mention that?

It was all information Scully had a right to know, but he didn’t want her to. It was all so, so personal; to him, to Diana. And also to Scully, an unaware yet still utterly intertwined third party. None of this should be a big deal, but it was. It was to him and he knew it would be to Scully. He’d always told her she was the only one he trusted. If she learned there had been another, might still be another, it could affect their own trust moving forward, and he did not want that to happen. 

Mostly, he didn’t want to admit to himself it was forcing him to face head-on the not-so-platonic feelings for Scully he’d been suppressing for a long time. 

By the time they arrived at Inget Murray he could hardly breathe and jumped out of the car so fast he was positive Scully knew something was up. Especially after hearing Diana calling after him, “Fox…?” in a way that felt incredibly familiar and uncomfortable all at the same time. 

If they could just get through this meeting, just interview the kid and get out of there, then maybe, just maybe he could get out of this alive. 

When they entered the room he should have been better prepared. Gibson Praise was an actual mind reader, after all, and Mulder had provoked him by essentially accusing him of cheating at chess. And after lewd images of red bikini-clad lifeguards bouncing through the waves of Mulder’s mind had been presented to and revealed by Gibson, Mulder suspected he was, in fact, the real deal. 

But nothing could have prepared him for the invasion that was to follow. In spite of the work at hand, his mind was racing with thoughts of his ex. He couldn’t help it. And Gibson locked onto that information like a fighter pilot in an F-14 Tomcat.

“I know what’s on your mind,” Gibson said in a small voice. “You’re thinking about one of the girls you brought with you.”

Mulder looked at the child, the powerlessness he was already feeling growing exponentially. Gibson was certainly picking up on those thoughts as well. The kid had hit on something, and now he knew it.

“One of them’s thinking about you, too,” Gibson continued. Mulder suddenly wanted nothing more than to get out of this room and was immeasurably grateful Scully and Diana couldn’t see the look of panic wash over his face.

Of all the motherfucking patients in all the motherfucking psychiatric hospitals, we had to walk in on this one today...

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Scully look over at Diana, certain she was piecing together everything she needed to know. 

“Which one?” he heard Diana ask, in an interrogative voice that was so familiar it sent unwelcome jolts to his heart. 

He suddenly felt like he was drowning; Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole towards a world he would never escape. His thoughts betrayed a multitude of information in a single second: a ring on Diana’s finger, Diana walking out on him, shaking hands with Scully in his basement office, crying over Scully on what he’d thought was her deathbed, holding Scully’s hand while she underwent hypnosis, and finally the panicked thought that Scully cannot know about Diana . He was as curious about what Gibson heard as he was terrified of what the kid would say next.

Please, kid, spare me. For the love of god. Please don’t say anything.

“He doesn’t want me to say,” Gibson said deliberately, smirking. Which, while better than the alternative, was still a nightmare to hear out loud. 

Mulder stifled an awkward chuckle and stood, wanting to leave this kid’s presence as quickly as possible before he could wreak any more havoc on his pathetic excuse for a love life.

He mumbled something to Scully about getting the kid protection, now absolutely certain Gibson Praise was one of the most important discoveries he’d ever made. Then he turned and strode out of the room, out of the child’s earshot, or rather, mindshot.

Scully followed him curiously and her next words were as predictable as if he were a mind reader himself.

“Mulder, what was that about?”

He knew what she was really asking but he was not going to have this conversation here, not now. Especially not with Diana rounding the door jamb.

“The kid’s no chess master; under controlled conditions I could probably beat him,” Mulder explained, dodging the elephant that remained in the next room, lurking ominously.

“Mulder, he’s recognized internationally as a prodigy. He’s beaten Grand Masters.”

“With the most unfair advantage. What he’s doing amounts to a kind of parlor magic trick.”

Scully sighed, and as frustrating as that familiar sound was to hear in a moment he absolutely knew he was correct, he was grateful for the distraction. “Mulder, he was goofing on you. He was playing along. You’re positing that this kid can read minds.”

He didn’t want to tell Scully that he knew he was right because Gibson had hit closer to the mark than he was comfortable admitting.

“We’ve seen a number of these cases before, Scully,” he argued, as Diana inched closer, overhearing. As if Scully could sense Diana’s intrusive presence, she stepped closer to him, protectively.

“We have seen cases, Mulder, of fakers and lucky guessers, but no one that has ever been able to stand up to any kind of rigorous testing. And no one who has gone so far as to claim they can zero in on the mind of one person in a crowd of thousands.”

Mulder raised a brow. “Maybe that’s why they want him dead.”

“Who?” she asked, incredulously. “Who are you talking about?”

“I’m not the mind reader,” Mulder quipped. 

Scully sighed. “Say that what you’re suggesting were even possible… who’d want to kill a kid whose abilities would offer you the ultimate advantage? I mean, in business, in war, in anything?”

“Maybe someone whose business is in keeping secrets,” Diana offered from behind her. 

Mulder couldn’t see Scully’s expression as she slowly turned to face the other woman, but he could see exactly what it looked like in his mind’s eye and it was not so friendly anymore. He and Scully may not often agree, but their back and forth was sacred. It was a dialogue between two people, the two of them, and this third voice was most unwelcome.

He’d never felt disrespected or condescended to by Scully in their entire partnership. But in this moment he remembered fondly his dynamic with Diana and how easy it had been. Diana was as convinced of Gibson Praise’s legitimacy as he was, and he knew it. She’d indulged and accepted Mulder’s theories over the years with little hesitation because they were of similar minds. Scully rarely did so easily. 

This was his and Scully’s dance, the same dance he’d been accustomed to for so long. But suddenly a strange sensation came over him that was hard to quantify. Maybe it was the sheer frustration of knowing for certain this time he was right, or maybe he was experiencing a brief bout of nostalgia for an easier partnership. 

He loved their dance. 

But right now, in front of Diana, he didn’t want to dance.

“Let’s test him,” Mulder declared. “I think the kid’ll stand up. Let’s do a brain scan and a psych evaluation on him.” He looked past Scully, something he never, ever did, and felt a familiar stirring in his gut he’d never even known he missed. And as much as he hated the words, they escaped his lips anyway. “You know what to do, Diana.”

He turned and walked away, knowing full well he was a coward, leaving the two women to figure out everything they needed to know about each other all by themselves.

 

***

 

When Diana saw Fox for the first time in seven years across the crowded conference room, her heart nearly stopped. She hadn’t expected him to be in this particular room, especially considering this particular assignment, although she had suspected they might cross paths eventually. 

Hoped, not suspected, if she was being honest.

Crossing paths with his new partner, however, had not been anticipated. The other woman was diminutive but tough, and it was easy to tell as much simply by looking at her. The way she lingered near Fox was noticeable, but barely, as if she were keeping just enough distance between them as necessary to avoid questions. 

And Diana had questions. Lots of them.

It wasn’t until she shook Agent Scully’s hand that she noticed how beautiful she was, and it was indeed the kind of beauty that just was. There wasn’t a thing Dana Scully had to do to get there. As a woman, Diana noticed these things anyway, but as Fox Mulder’s ex-everything, she was concerned, scrutinizing his partner’s behavior as though through a magnifying glass.

She’d heard things over the years, of course. Any time she’d searched for information regarding Fox, Agent Scully’s name was always attached, either intimately or waiting upon the periphery. And she was curious; how could she not be? She was curious as to exactly how intimate these two were.

When she saw Agent Scully cross over to him after the meeting adjourned and pluck a tiny piece of lint off his shoulder, she immediately assumed they were sleeping together. There was really no reason to believe they weren’t; it wasn’t as if he hadn’t mixed work with pleasure before.

There was no hint of recognition on Agent Scully’s face, however, when Diana introduced herself. Whatever was going on between Fox and his partner, it did not include absolute transparency. The thought gave her a sliver of hope she hadn’t anticipated, and for the first time since she’d arrived in Washington she realized it was entirely possible she wanted him back. 

At first, Agent Scully was polite and friendly. Fox made no effort to introduce them to each other and she could tell by his body language he was extremely uncomfortable with the entire situation. But after it became clear to Agent Scully that Fox indeed knew Diana, the other woman’s attitude changed. It was as if a glass wall had gone up and her politeness turned to prickliness. 

Hours later, after Gibson Praise had been tested and Agent Scully had removed herself from Diana’s presence entirely; she was able to regain a bit of focus on the task at hand. 

The child watched television, and she watched him. Watched, and thought. 

Diana was always thinking.

She obviously knew exactly what Gibson Praise was and why he was in danger. It was her job to know. Everything was going according to plan, except the huge Fox Mulder wrench that had most inconveniently been thrown into the mix.

She didn’t like the idea of lying to him about her presence in Washington. But she had a job to do, and that job certainly meant keeping her true intentions secret. Surely the ends would justify the means in this case, regarding the protection of the boy. If Fox truly was still the Fox Mulder she remembered, he would certainly agree; she was positive of that fact.

As these thoughts marinated within her mind, she watched Gibson in the observation room of the facility. He slowly turned his head to look at her, then turned back. The timing was eerie, but surely he couldn’t hear the thoughts of a person in the next room? Her mind raced over the minutes she’d spent in his presence. Had she been careful enough? Was he suspicious of her? 

Could a twelve-year-old boy really comprehend the intricacies of what was going on?

She didn’t have much time to consider this, because Fox entered the room and filled her mind with other types of thoughts. She was grateful to finally have a moment alone with him.

“How’s little Carnac doing?” he grinned, indicating Gibson as he entered the observation room. The air immediately felt warm and comfortable. His demeanor was more relaxed when they were alone, and she noticed.

“Put a TV in front of him and he turns right into a normal kid,” she replied. “We tested him with Zener cards, random numbers, a variety of ESP tasking. He’s got the ability to not just focus on a thought, but a multitude of thoughts at once.”

His face was pleased, but something else tugged at his expression, something like dissatisfaction. “There’s something else. There’s something we’re missing here,” he said.

Diana knew it was only a matter of time before the possibility of an extraterrestrial connection entered the mind of Fox Mulder, and she was prepared for that eventuality. But she was also prepared to misdirect, for now. Throwing him off the scent had unfortunately become necessary. 

“That was a good catch on the videotape,” she said. “I was impressed.”

“Eh, you would have caught it eventually.” He looked away, almost bashful, and she was reminded of a time long ago when his confidence was at a much different level. The Fox Mulder she’d witnessed shutting down Jeffrey Spender in the meeting this afternoon was new. He was in command. And utterly attractive.  

“No. I’ve been too many years trying to get inside the head of too many Arab terrorists,” she lied. “I’m out of practice with this stuff… but you seem at the top of your game.” Again, the guilt stabbed at her for lying to him, and she couldn’t stop a nervous swallow. But she’d honed this particular practice over the years exactly as she’d been taught: a lie is most convincingly hidden between two truths.

“That’s all I do. That’s all I’ve been doing for the last five years.” He smiled at her. “It’s been my life, such as it is.”

She’d wondered about his life, such as it was, often. “Sometimes I hear about you… about the work you’re doing. And I think how it might have been if I’d stayed.” She took a deep breath, knowing delving into their personal relationship was probably a mistake. But she couldn’t help it. He made her weak. 

“Ah, we’d all be blown up by some terrorist bomb, no doubt, huh?”

Again, she blew past this. “I sense you could have used an ally, though - someone who thinks like you, with some background.”

His eyes flashed, perhaps taken aback by her insinuation about his partner. “Oh, you mean Scully?”

The familiarity with which he’d uttered her surname made Diana uncomfortable. She’d heard how Agent Scully called him ‘Mulder’ and for some reason it bothered her. 

“She’s not exactly what I’d call an open mind on the subject,” she pointed out. Fox chuckled a bit as if he’d been through this before. As if it were some inside joke.

“She’s a, uh…” he searched for words. “She’s a scientist. She just makes me work for everything.”

“Yes, but I’m sure there were times when two like minds on a case would have been advantageous.”

He pinned her with a look and she knew she’d pushed too far. He knew what she was doing; that she wanted him to admit he missed her. That at some point along the way, he’d have preferred her presence over Agent Scully’s.

“I’ve done okay without you,” he said deliberately, but not unkindly, looking right at her. The worst part was, she knew he had. 

She’d been taken off guard by his rigid defense of his partner and she didn’t want to admit to herself how much it upset her. The last thing she needed right now was for him to view her as some kind of adversary, personally or professionally. So she reached for his hand and made contact, the first contact they’d had in years. 

“Hey,” she course-corrected gently. In this moment, all the good times and warmth and real love she’d felt for him once before rose up uncontrollably within her and with her next words, she forgot herself.

“I’m on your side.”

He nodded, smiling, and she immediately wondered how accurate that statement was.

“It’s good to see you again, Diana,” he said. “I never really thought I’d say those words, but it’s true.”

She believed him. “I was actually surprised to see you here at all. An assassination case doesn’t seem like the type to pique your interest.”

“Ah, well,” he said, rolling his eyes a bit. “That comes with the territory. What piqued my interest is exactly how uninteresting they want me to think this case is. Turns out my instincts were correct,” he added, gesturing through the window at Gibson.

He was still letting her hold his hand, and she wondered idly if he was enjoying this touch as much as she was.

“I’m glad,” she said honestly. There was something comforting about Fox Mulder out there, doing his thing. Even if it was with Agent Scully by his side, instead of her. “And I’m glad the two of you seem to work well together, in spite of all the obvious… obstacles.”

“Well. If this kid is as real a deal as you say he is, Scully will come around. And trust me, when she does, it’s worth the earning.”

His face reflected pride, and she knew this wasn’t some kind of forced partnership. This wasn’t someone he was putting up with. He genuinely respected and admired Agent Scully. He liked her. 

She felt a great desire to find out just how much.

“And… exactly how worth the earning would that be, Fox?”

 He stiffened and released her hand, immediately putting both his hands in his pockets. “What do you mean?”

She narrowed her eyes. “I think you know what I mean.”

He looked uncomfortable, and it had been a while since she’d done it, but she could still read his body language like a book. She was now fairly certain he and Agent Scully weren’t sleeping together after all. 

“I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable talking about this with you,” he said.

“No, I’m sorry, Fox,” she said quickly. “I overstepped.” She’d revealed her hand too quickly in a game she hadn’t intended to play. Falling for him again had not been part of the plan. “I’m just curious about you, about your life. That’s all.” 

“Why don’t you show me those test results?” he asked, changing the subject. “I’d like to see them for myself.”

“Of course,” she responded, and the moment passed. She shuffled through her papers as she sat at the desk and it was back to business. A couple of minutes later, almost predictably, his cell phone rang.

“Mulder,” he answered. And she knew it had to be Agent Scully, summoning him away.

 

***

 

Scully sat in the driver’s seat, but ironically had no idea where she was headed.

It wasn’t the secret that hurt the most, or even the betrayal. Scully wasn’t certain yet if she could categorize this particular trespass into “betrayal.” What right had she to know the ins and outs of Mulder’s personal life before they’d even met? 

She had no right, none at all, and that was what hurt the most: this knowledge, this new fact of life forcing its way into her existence like a splinter, hurting more and more the deeper it went. That Mulder was not so much hers as he was someone else’s. That some past life she knew nothing about had now pushed its way into their present.

This is her, this is the “ex,” Scully thought, remembering the conversation they’d had last year. This must be her, the one who encouraged his hypnosis, bolstered his endless search. The one who set him off on it in the first place. 

She could hardly blame Diana Fowley for the man Mulder had become, for the parts of him that flustered her, infuriated her, even aroused her. But this new knowledge had awakened something within her that she hated: the unwelcome feeling that she would now have to share Mulder with someone else, someone he trusted. 

Someone he maybe even loved.

It wasn’t fair this had to happen now, that she was being forced to confront it. She’d been grappling with her feelings for Mulder for months, maybe even years. There were days she wanted to just tell him the truth, grab him and kiss him, let the relief and freedom from all her personal torment wash over them both in a simple instant. But she had no idea how he’d react to such an admission and most days she just wanted to ignore the subject altogether. 

When she’d gone to get information from the Gunmen, they’d not only indicated that Mulder and Fowley had been in a substantial relationship, but also appeared surprised that Scully had no idea the woman even existed. And she was thoroughly embarrassed in that moment, as her partnership with Mulder was outed in front of all of them as somehow less than they’d all previously assumed. 

Fox, she’d called him. The word had tumbled off her lips like a practiced leap, a road taken many, many times before. And he’d allowed it. There was no abrupt correction or denouncement.

I even made my parents call me Mulder.

Liar, she thought, the tears starting in earnest. She hated her tears. He lied. To me, the one person he’s supposed to trust.

What else has he lied about?

Diana Fowley gave her a funny feeling. Scully didn’t trust her at all and she wasn’t happy that Mulder hadn’t given this woman the usual vetting system he normally would before giving someone his trust. Diana Fowley had earned it by merely existing. That bothered Scully, a lot. 

On top of that, the two women were so incredibly different. Complete opposites, in fact. It was only further evidence that, as much as Mulder indulged Scully in their partnership, she wasn’t his type, not in the way she wanted to be. She could never be someone she wasn’t.

And she would certainly never be Diana Fowley.

She could feel her heart physically aching as she drove away from the psych hospital towards the office, and all she could think, all she could hope, was don’t bring her with you. Please, Mulder, spare me this indignity. 

Gratefully, either Mulder or God heard her silent plea, because he arrived at the basement alone and flustered.

“Mulder, I--”

“Cancer man’s alive. He’s alive, Scully,” he said, practically breathless with anger. 

She wasn’t sure exactly what she’d begun to tell him, but with the mention of the cancer man, as usual, her words were put on hold for the more important, pressing matter at hand.

“He’s alive?” Scully asked, incredulously. 

“Uh huh,” he said, “and Agent Spender is meeting in secret with him.” He shrugged off his trench and hung it on the coat rack. “He played dumb, but of course he would. I saw them together in the parking garage.”

“Do you think he has something to do with all of this?” 

He gave Scully a look of incredulity that matched her own. “Of course, he has to! The timing is too precise. He must know what Gibson Praise is, what we’ve got.” 

Scully paused, not sure exactly how to formulate her next question. But it was her duty to, as his partner. “And this Agent Fowley…” she began, carefully, “with her insight into neurology and parapsychology… is that timing not precise, as well?”

Mulder’s look of incredulity morphed into one of utter confusion. “What are you suggesting?”

Scully shrugged. “I’m not suggesting anything. But it’s odd, wouldn’t you agree?”

Mulder nodded slowly. “Yeah, but… this was an assassination attempt. She was on the task force because of her terrorism background.” A thoughtful look crossed his face, then faded away. “As far as Gibson is concerned, she’s always been interested in this precognition stuff. It’s kind of her bag, Scully.”

Scully nodded in response, her eyes never leaving his. She’d already found Diana Fowley a bit flighty, suspicious. But this news of the smoking man’s serendipitous resurgence was troubling, especially considering the importance of what she’d only just learned about Gibson’s abilities. Her guard went up immediately.

Mulder blew right past her concern, however. “Old Smokey makes me nervous, Scully. I’m certain he’s behind the assassination attempt. What I don’t understand is why he would want this kid dead.”

Scully stood up out of his chair, all possibility of resuscitating her concerns about Fowley pushed aside, and held up the test results she’d received from the Gunmen. 

“I think I know why.”

 

PATRIOT MOTEL 

CENTERVILLE, VIRGINIA

MAY 1998

 

The red headed FBI agent was thinking a lot, like they all did. 

"How does this kid do it? Is this just clever insight? Or something else? He’s twelve, for God’s sake, how does he do it?”

Gibson didn’t want to hear it. He preferred to escape into television, into a world where there was only one voice; the voice of the writer. There was one story, one truth. He liked it that way.

“Gibson?”

She wanted to talk, he could tell. She’d been wanting to ask him ever since earlier when he’d called her out on her obsessive speculation over the nature of her partner’s feelings about that other lady. Truthfully, he wished he didn’t know any of it. But if there was one thing Gibson Praise had learned over the years it was that information was valuable. 

“This is a great show,” he said, without turning around. He hoped she’d take the hint and leave him alone. “I wish we got this where I live.”

She walked over and sat next to him. “I’d like to ask you something.”

“How do you do it? How?”

“How do you do it?” she asked, as he knew she would. He didn’t know how, he never had. He just knew he always could.

“I just hear you thinking, like on a radio,” he explained. “And sometimes there are lots of radios. And I want to shut them off and watch some TV,” he added pointedly.

“Is that why you like chess? Because it’s just one thought that you hear?” she inquired. No one had ever really attempted to understand him before, only use him. This lady was different. She was intrigued by him and so he suddenly found himself intrigued by her. 

“Yeah, but that’s not why I like it all the time.”

“Why else do you like it?”

He looked at her. “Because there’s no talking. Just thinking. It’s nothing like real life where people think one thing but they say something else,” he explained.

Agent Scully laughed. “Is that what people do?” she asked aloud. “Oh boy, do I feel that,” she thought.

“They’re so worried about what other people are thinking when the people they’re worrying about are worried about the same thing. It makes me laugh.”

Why?” she thought. “Why?” she asked. 

“They make up all this stuff to believe but it’s all made up. Some people try to be good people but some people just don’t care.” He looked right at her. “Like you.”

Agent Scully recoiled. “Really?” “You think I don’t care?”

“No,” Gibson explained. He hadn’t meant to offend her. “You don’t care what people think. Except for her,” he amended, tilting his neck at the door where he could hear the thoughts of the other female agent approaching. “The other one.”

“The other what?” Agent Scully asked wordlessly. “What?!”

The other lady your partner is in love with.

Gibson had taken liberties. He hadn’t actually heard the word “love” thrown around anyone’s mind but he’d picked up on enough surface material for his twelve year old brain to leap to the appropriate conclusions.

Gibson didn’t want to involve himself in their romantic drama. He’d been in plenty of similar situations before and heard things he didn’t want to. This particular love triangle was rife with secrets and deception and so many layers he didn’t have the time or inclination to wonder about it too much. But as the other woman entered the room he could sense a shift, a change in Agent Scully’s mood and in her thoughts. 

They did not like each other, that much was evident. 

If Gibson had been older, perhaps he could have interpreted their interactions more appropriately, but it was difficult for him to understand the nuances involved. He was just a child, after all.

The brown haired woman, Agent Fowley, he recalled, had a single thought running through her mind. “Someone is coming, it’s going to be okay. Someone will handle this.” She’d been much tougher to figure out because, unlike Agent Scully, she constantly said things that were different than the things she was thinking. He didn’t trust her, and Agent Scully certainly didn’t, either.

“We’ll talk about this later, okay?” Agent Scully told him quietly.

He wanted her to stay but she couldn’t. And he wasn’t quite sure how to communicate his nervousness without alerting the other woman. Agent Scully stood and made to leave.

“They want to kill me, you know,” he said directly to her. It was times like this he wished there were other people who shared his ability. 

“Nobody’s going to do anything to you, Gibson,” Agent Scully said, and thought. “I promise.” He knew she couldn’t make or keep such a promise, but he also knew she meant it as much as she possibly could. 

“I know you do,” he said pointedly. 

Agent Scully’s mind was ablaze with several thoughts, and he could hear apprehension, defensiveness, and a bit of fear. It was the fear he worried about most as she left, leaving him alone with Agent Fowley. She picked up the remote and turned up the volume on the television, eyeing him.

“I know what you are,” she thought, and in that moment he knew why it was so difficult to read her mind; she genuinely believed in his ability and as such, was capable of making it difficult. He hated when that happened.

 

***

 

After a while Gibson gave up on trying to get anything concrete out of Fowley’s thoughts, due somewhat to exhaustion but mostly to indifference. By the time King of the Hill was over she’d fallen asleep and her thoughts were the kind he’d heard far too often for young ears; the same thoughts he’d heard in that Agent Mulder’s mind when he was thinking about Baywatch. Gross.

He turned the volume up as loudly as possible without waking her and tried to focus on that. After an undetermined amount of time he heard another voice outside, one with vicious intent. 

The same intent he’d heard at the arena. 

He shut the TV off to listen and sure enough, another assassin was outside, ready to strike. He approached the window and heard Fowley wake up behind him. 

“Gibson?!” “Where is he? They took him. They came.”

“There’s a man outside with a gun,” he said simply. 

He’d misunderstood her thoughts earlier. It seemed now she’d actually been expecting someone to kidnap him. 

“Gibson! Get away from the window!” She got up and moved him away in an earnest attempt to protect him. “Oh god, they’re here to kill him? They were just supposed to take him… just take him…”

He heard conflict, real conflict, which was the toughest kind of mind to read. And then suddenly everything happened so fast, and what he heard next was the most confusing thing of all. 

“There she is,” came the thought from outside. “She’s the one. Shoot to maim.”

Gibson didn’t want anyone to die. “He’s not here for me, he’s aiming at you,” he said. 

Genuine confusion ran through her mind, which he could hear, as the bullet blasted through the window pane. Gibson ducked down, helpless. He heard a second shot, then a man he didn’t recognize entered the room and took him by the shoulder. 

Agent Fowley groaned from the floor, not dead but in bad shape. He could only hear her thinking “ Gibson…no... ” 

The man guided him outside, past a facedown Federal Marshal, into a waiting car. And then they traveled for a long time. 

The man who drove knew nothing, as far as hired goons went. He was utterly useless. But when they reached their destination and the tall man holding the cigarette placed a single hand on his shoulder, Gibson knew he was in trouble.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: The Turn

 

 


46TH STREET

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

JUNE 1998

 

Gibson sat alone in a small office that reeked of cigarette smoke and musty old furniture. His grandfather back in the Philippines smoked and that’s what the room reminded him of… the way old people smelled. 

He didn’t belong here, but between his twelve-year-old self and escape was a room full of old men. Dangerous old men. He was terrified. Nothing any of them had planned was anything good.

“. ..We have an opportunity now, a good one, to get Mulder on our side... came one of the voices from through the door.

"X-Files shut down…”

“Agent Mulder…”

Agent Mulder. He was the guy with all the romantic drama going on. Gibson could tell from their single meeting he was a nice man, a decent man. In situations such as the one he found himself in, he was desperate to know who his allies were.

Gibson got up and went to the door, opened it a crack. He could see three or four men from this vantage point, but could hear several more. The cacophony of voices was easier to understand when people didn’t talk over each other. And it helped that these men did not interrupt. But it was difficult to tell which words were thoughts and which were voices because they all lied. 

It was always difficult to tell with liars.

"...already separated them...” 

“They’re not a problem for us anymore.”

“If you believe separating Mulder and Scully will diminish them, you haven’t been paying attention,” the tall man with the cigarette spoke up. “Splitting them up professionally hasn’t worked. Creating a real divide is going to take… a unique approach.”

Gibson opened the door a tiny bit wider and got a pretty good view of the dozen or so men in the room. Now it was much easier to distinguish the words in their minds from the words on their lips.

“And what approach do you suggest...” “...Wanker?” the British guy said. Thought.

“Agent Fowley will be quite useful to us in that regard,” the cigarette man said simply. 

She’s too smart for that...” “She’d never allow herself to be maneuvered in that way,” came the thought, then the voice of another man.

The smoking man smiled. “She won’t have to be maneuvered,” he explained. “Agent Mulder and Agent Fowley have a history together. I have a feeling all we’ll need to do is move the pieces into place.”

“Fowley’s circling the drain,” said another man. “Her doctors say there’s nothing to be done.”

"...Practically dead on arrival...”

“My man has excellent aim,” the smoking man declared. “Agent Fowley’s current condition was planned and executed perfectly. She’ll survive.” 

Gibson wasn’t sure what he meant by that, how exactly he could know something like that. This man, the biggest liar of them all, was incredibly hard to read. 

“I’ll take care of it,” the cigarette man said firmly.

“Like you took care of Mulder.” “Just kill him already,” one of the men said, then thought.

“Nuisance…”

“Nothing but trouble for us…”

“I have taken care of Mulder,” the cigarette man insisted. “The X-Files have been shut down and he’s been neutralized.”

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, why neutralize him? Why not dispose of him?” a man with a foreign accent asked.

The cigarette man took another drag. “Mulder is useful at best, a distraction at worst. His reckless actions with the attorney general have been his own undoing. Every time something like this happens he loses even more credibility. Mulder is not a problem, especially without his partner by his side. And like I’ve always suggested, he might be convinced, if given the proper motivation, to join our cause.”

“We do not have time for these games,” a big man with a raspy voice said suddenly. “We need to decide what is to be done with the boy.”

“There’s only one thing to be done with the boy,” the smoking man said. “Contact Dr. Openshaw. Prepare Cassandra for a new experiment.”

Gibson’s head ached in reluctant anticipation. More experiments. More tests. More pain. He just wanted all of it to stop. 

“Cassandra Spender?” a voice came. “Your wife?” “Are you certain this is the proper course?”

Gibson didn’t have to see the smoking man’s glare. He could feel it. 

“You’re asking me if I’m certain? Don’t ask me to repeat myself. Make the preparations.”












VIRGINIA HOSPITAL CENTER

ARLINGTON, VA

JUNE 1998

 

Diana jerked awake, her heaving, ragged breaths restoring her consciousness. Pain, then none, then she was staring up into the eyes of a hulking figure. The man had blond hair, a square jaw and a dead eyed stare. His hands were upon her shoulder, where the bullet must have gone clean though. 

She knew immediately what this meant.

“You’re incredibly lucky to be alive, Agent Fowley,” a familiar voice came from across the room. She turned her head to look towards the source of the voice and even in the bright lights of her hospital room somehow Spender had found a place to sit cloaked in shadow. Hospital or no hospital, he held a lit cigarette in his hand. She knew better than to question it.

“Luck?” she scoffed weakly, as the alien bounty hunter exited the room. “Is it, really?”

“I was surprised,” he explained casually. “The man I sent is usually more...accurate. The bullet was meant to be a near-miss. A believable threat to get the child back into our hands. It wasn’t meant to hit you and it certainly wasn’t meant to hit a main artery. You’re lying in this hospital bed because of a simple mistake.”

“Some mistake,” she replied, wincing. “I can’t feel my shoulder.” 

Her shoulder was completely numb. The pain was gone but she felt heat radiating throughout her body. She knew of the aliens’ healing powers, had seen it demonstrated before. But this was the first time she’d been on the receiving end. 

“No, Agent Fowley. The mistake was putting you on this case at all. Thinking you could handle the responsibility. That you could handle Agent Mulder.” It was the first time he’d referenced her relationship with Fox, their connection, since all those years ago in Blevins’ office. “Far be it for me to interfere in your… personal affairs. But involving Mulder in this case has led to some unwanted attention.”

“If you anticipated this being a problem, you should have warned me he’d be here,” she pointed out. “Agent Spender told me he had specifically excluded him.”

“We weren’t expecting him to catch wind of this case. Our leak was AD Skinner and that situation is being… addressed,” he explained. “I have Alex Krycek handling it. But Agent Mulder has made the attorney general aware of this boy. ”

This surprised Diana. She shook her head. “No. He wouldn’t, I was trying to convince him not to.”

“I suppose he didn’t take your advice,” Spender said. “Fortunately for us, the Justice Department hearing ‘Spooky’ Mulder’s tale had the very effect I’d hoped for. They don’t take him seriously, they never have.”

Listening to Spender talk about Fox made her uncomfortable, so she changed the subject. “I didn’t realize you wanted the kid dead,” she said honestly. She felt foolish for not putting the pieces together that perhaps the Syndicate had wanted Gibson dead from the start. 

Maybe she did know. Maybe she just hadn’t wanted to believe it. 

Spender shook his head. “I’m not in the business of killing children,” he countered. 

She tried to ascertain if he was telling her the truth by looking into his eyes as she usually did but this man’s eyes were so difficult. Her talents were wasted on him. 

“There are members of the group who would rather destroy him to eliminate the risk of exposure. But we’re different, Agent Fowley, you and I. There’s so much we can learn from the boy.”

She agreed with this. Gibson fascinated her: his abilities, his implications. Oddly she thought of Agent Scully’s comment on the matter, and how she’d been absolutely correct. Besides the obvious moral conflict, it would be a waste to kill him. 

“So where this leaves us, Agent Fowley, is that the X-Files are closed. And it’s bought us some time.”

“Time for what?”

“To continue our work, without Agents Mulder or Scully getting in the way.”

“Have they been… reassigned?” she asked hopefully, but as casually as she could muster.

“Yes, but keeping them apart has been difficult. They’re… quite attached to one another, it seems.”

She’d suspected as much, but hearing it from Spender was like a punch in the gut. Hearing how “attached” he was to another woman only made her want him back more. This desire was highly inconvenient, given her circumstances. She had no choice but to continue to lie to Fox, especially now that Spender had saved her life. She’d always followed orders, but now she was particularly indebted to him.

She sighed, lying back into her pillow. She ached everywhere. She wished she’d never been asked to work this case. Inserting Fox back into her life was only confusing matters. Europe was sounding better and better by the minute.

“Are you sending me away, then?” she asked quietly. 

He shook his head. “No. You’re needed here. But while you recover, I have some reading material I think you’ll find quite illuminating.” He pulled a book from within his long trench coat, looked down at the cover and touched it admiringly. He handed it out to her, and she looked at the title, confused.

Native American Beliefs and Practices.

“Sir? What is this?”

“I want to remind you that what you’re a part of is bigger than anything you could possibly imagine. In these pages you’ll learn why.” He grinned. “It’s a story about the original shadow government.”

She flipped a few pages. What on earth was he talking about?

“You’re a believer, aren’t you, Agent Fowley?” he asked, sensing her confusion. Believer in what, he didn’t specify. “Read this, and you’ll know exactly why the boy is so important to our cause.”

She was completely confused, but she trusted him. Perhaps there was something she’d been missing, something important. And if there was something contained in these pages that could help make a difference, she wanted to know about it.

“I’ll be in touch.” He blew out a plume of smoke and put his cigarette out on the table next to her bed.

He stood up to leave, but she stopped him. “Sir?”

He turned around slowly, removing another cigarette from his pack that he certainly planned to light as soon as he left the room. She set the book down on her lap and asked the question that had been on her mind for a while.

“If Agents Mulder and Scully are such a problem, why have you kept them alive all these years?” It wasn’t that she wanted them dead: of course she didn’t. But she was well aware the Company would murder for far less. There must be something about Agent Mulder, or tangentially Agent Scully, that he wasn’t telling her.

He smiled. “It’s all a game of chess, Diana. You have to know when to sacrifice every piece. And Fox Mulder is a king. To truly capture him is a long, tedious process.”

She wasn’t stupid, she knew Fox was a threat to the work if they couldn’t get him on their side. But Spender’s words sent a chill up her spine. It was the way he always spoke, choosing words carefully, grinning as mysteriously as a Cheshire Cat. The edge in his voice made her nervous.

She wondered about this man often, about his life. About his childhood. Where had he come from? Why was he the way he was? And why was he so obsessed with Fox?

Most importantly, would she ever be able to get out from under him?

She closed her eyes in resignation, knowing any option she might have once had to remove herself from this situation was no longer tenable. He’d saved her life. She owed that life to him now.

The only way out is through.

He placed the cigarette between his lips. “Get some rest, Agent Fowley,” he said around it. Then he was gone.

 

***

 

It had been a few weeks since the X Files office had gone up in flames. A wave of hopelessness had washed over Mulder in a way he hadn’t experienced before. He was feeling directionless, rudderless. Perhaps that was why he found himself on his way to see Diana in the hospital.

“Arlington, please,” he told the cab driver.

The driver nodded, adjusting the rear view mirror. Despite the fact that Diana was most certainly in no state for a visit, Mulder was determined to check up on her himself. He was honestly unsure if she would even survive; all the reports he’d heard so far had been extremely dire.

When he arrived at the hospital and peered around the doorframe to her room she was sitting up, which he hadn’t expected. In fact, he hadn’t expected to talk to her at all.

“Hey,” he said gently, entering her room. 

“Hi,” she said. There was a look on her face that he couldn’t decipher. 

“I’m glad to see you’re awake,” he told her. “The doctors feared the worst.” 

Diana looked away, uncomfortably. “Yeah, well, I suppose my number wasn’t quite up.” He had the distinct impression she looked disappointed, but surely that couldn’t be the case.

He sat down in a chair by her bedside. “How are you feeling?”

“Pretty good, actually. Thanks for coming.”

He smiled. “Of course.” 

“It’s… strange being back here,” she admitted. 

“How was Europe?” He found himself making small talk with her, which felt odd. Other than a couple of conversations about Gibson Praise, the last time they’d spoken she was ripping his heart to shreds.

“I liked it there,” she said. “But out here is where I was needed.” 

He wondered what she’d meant earlier when she’d said there were things at home she’d been wanting to get back to. From the look in her eyes he’d thought he was probably one of the ‘things’ she’d been referring to at the time. But perhaps he’d been mistaken.

“You’ve always been so dedicated to your work, Diana,” he pointed out. “It doesn’t surprise me in the least you’d follow it wherever it led you.”

“Even if it led me back to you?” she asked. 

His throat constricted, and his eyes searched hers for her meaning. He wasn’t sure exactly what her intentions were with him but having her back in his world made him nervous. 

He decided to make light. Chuckling, he answered. “Sorry about that.”

She smiled warmly but looked down, as if she were suddenly uncomfortable. No matter; he didn’t need another distraction right now. It was difficult enough trying to figure out her place in his life at all, let alone having to worry about navigating a romantic interest. He wasn’t sure how he felt at the moment.

“Have you… heard?” he changed the subject carefully. “About the X-Files?”

Diana looked blank. “No. What happened?”

It hurt to even think about it, let alone say it out loud. “Someone torched the office. Burned everything to the ground. They’ve shut us down.”

“Fox,” she said gently. She reached out and took his hand, not letting go. “I’m so sorry.”

“I’ve been assigned to domestic terrorism.” He shook his head. Bullshit. 

“It’s not so bad,” she smiled. “I know it’s not exactly your forté, but you can still do a lot of good.” She looked away distractedly. “A lot of good.”

“I know that, but it’s frustrating,” he explained. “You have no idea how many times this kind of thing has happened to us. We get so close to something big… then, nothing.”

Her face changed just then, and he wondered if it was because he’d switched from I to we. Having his ex around was awkward enough without worrying about what she thought of Scully and their partnership.

“I suppose you can take some comfort in that, though,” she pointed out. “You must be getting close to something if someone is trying so hard to stop you.” 

He looked up at her, serious. “I won’t stop, Diana.”

She smiled. “Yeah, I know.”

He chose his next words carefully because he didn’t want her to think he was only checking in on her for information. “Do you… remember what happened? To you and Gibson?”

She shook her head. “I didn’t see anyone. I’m sorry, Fox, I wish I could tell you. The shot came through the window. I woke up here.”

He nodded, and they sat quietly for a minute. Then he released her hand and stood up. “I’m glad you’re okay, I truly am. Do you know how long they’re keeping you here?”

“No idea. I’m at their mercy, unfortunately.” Her eyes flickered with meaning. He wondered what that meaning was.

His phone rang just then, and he looked down. Scully. “Hello?”

"Mulder, it’s me.” He held up a finger, hold on, and took a couple of steps away. 

“Hey, Scully. What is it?”

"We’re being called to Dallas. There’s been some kind of a bomb threat.”

“This is a Bureau matter? Why us?”

“I don’t know, Mulder, but they want us out there. Flight’s at four thirty.”

“Okay, I’ll meet you at the airport.” He hung up. “I’ve got to go to Dallas. But can I visit again? Sometime? Would that be okay?”

“Of course, Fox,” she said. “Anytime.”










FBI HEADQUARTERS

WASHINGTON D.C.

JULY 1998

 

Diana’s recovery had been nothing short of miraculous, and that didn’t shock her, considering the method by which it had occurred. But she was fortunate. There were many at the Company, at Roush in particular, who hadn’t seen all of the things she’d seen. She was valued, and she knew she’d been spared because of that value.

Lying alone in a hospital bed day after day wasn’t the ideal scenario for her restless mind, however. She hadn’t wanted it to happen, but the fox had once again found its way inside, burrowing deep down towards her heart. 

She wasn’t sure why, exactly; he was still the same Fox, chasing the truth from below the ground floor. And he was content that way. All the reasons she’d left him all those years ago still remained the same. 

But she had changed significantly. She knew things now, amazing things, and although she could not share them with him his quest felt far more justified now than it had long ago. And she found herself having the same feelings she’d had for him then, only now she felt she understood him a bit better. It made her believe it was possible for them to try again, start over. Maybe fix what had been broken.

If only she could make him see the truth: if somehow he could come to that knowledge on his own, it would be a huge step in bringing him into her fold. Spender had told her Fox was playing an important role in his grand plan and the fact that the older man had kept the problematic agent alive all these years must mean killing him wasn’t necessarily part of that plan. 

Perhaps she could be the one to bring him over. Then everything she wanted could finally come to fruition. She could tell him the truth. There would be no more secrets.

Maybe then they could be together.

It was her first week back at the Hoover Building and Diana stepped into an empty elevator. She was still settling in, and although she was working mostly for the Company, it was important she show her face at the Bureau as much as possible: be seen by her fellow agents. Keep up appearances.

But there was one agent she was not looking forward to seeing.

Diana had been so lost in thought she’d forgotten to press the elevator button. She watched the doors slide open to reveal Agent Scully standing in the hallway, apparently also deep in thought, who glanced up and registered her presence with surprise. Every time her face appeared it reminded Diana she had competition, and although she wasn’t exactly sure what was going on between Fox and his partner, she’d seen something that was utterly undeniable. A spark, a camaraderie. She’d be a fool to assume this other woman wasn’t a threat.

It was beneficial, however, being in Diana’s position. She knew the two of them had been in Dallas, what had gone on there, and that they were being split up, reassigned. She’d be lying if she didn’t admit it thrilled her. 

Agent Scully pursed her lips together, appearing to debate entering the elevator at all. But she stepped in, pressing the ground floor button. “Agent Fowley,” she said. “Nice to see you’re back at work.” 

Her voice was polite, but Diana wasn’t stupid. She could sense the diminutive redhead’s hostility every single time, like she was a dog with its teeth bared, ears back. 

“Thank you, it’s good to be back.”

The elevator began its descent and Diana watched the smaller woman surreptitiously smooth her hair back and straighten her suit. Upon second look, she did look a bit disheveled and Diana wondered if Agent Scully had come directly to the Hoover Building from the airport.

“How’s Agent Mulder?” Diana wasn’t sure why she’d asked. Honestly, the only thing she and Agent Scully had in common was him, and this saddened her. Being a woman at the Bureau was difficult enough. It was unfortunate they’d become enemies by default.

“He’s fine,” Agent Scully said curtly. 

“I heard through the grapevine you two are getting reassigned. I’m sorry to hear that,” she lied.

Agent Scully said nothing, and Diana wasn’t sure if she was being evasive, or if she just had nothing to say.  

She decided to do a little fishing. Besides, how often was one presented the opportunity to get under the skin of a competitor for a man’s affections?

“It’s probably for the best,” Diana pressed. “From what he indicated, you two haven’t been seeing much progress.”

It was deliberate. She wanted to get a reaction out of Agent Scully. But it didn’t work. The other woman stared straight ahead at the metal doors, seemingly not acknowledging Diana. The elevator was taking a particularly long time today.

“But it must be hard, disagreeing all the time,” Diana continued, undeterred. “You both must feel such a relief to be free of that. To not feel… so held back.”

She knew she was being bitchy, but she was also dead serious. She and Fox couldn’t even have a successful partnership, and their minds were so similar. How on earth had these two lasted six years?

“We make it work,” Agent Scully said shortly. 

Diana couldn’t help but notice she’d referred to their partnership in the present tense. She still thought of Fox as her partner, regardless of the fact they’d been split up. Diana found it extremely annoying.

An ugly jealousy rose up inside her, over their obvious bond, their closeness, but also triggered by the sheer audacity of her words. 

“Yeah, I’m sure you’ve got it all figured out,” Diana scoffed. She couldn’t help it. Life with Fox had been impossible, despite her own desire to ‘make it work.’ “His passion, his drive. His mission. It’s all wonderful until you realize it’s not aligned with your own.”

The elevator light signaled they were about to reach the ground floor. Suddenly she was aware that an opportunity had presented itself. She might never get the truth from Fox but perhaps Agent Scully could be of assistance.

She only had one more second to deliver the fatal blow, and she was feeling particularly merciless today.

“Just be grateful it never went further than a work partnership,” she said, boring her eyes into the side of Agent Scully’s face. “He’s tough to shake.”

The shift was almost imperceptible but Diana Fowley was more perceptive than most. Agent Scully turned pale, even paler than she already was, and her body leaned ever so slightly towards the door. 

The elevator dinged and the doors opened, and Agent Scully stepped out more quickly than Diana thought her short legs were capable of. 

“Goodbye, Agent Fowley,” she said without turning around. 

Diana meant to get out at the ground floor, but instead let the doors close. Her lips curved into a smile. That tiny sliver of suspicion she’d had about the presence of something romantic between these two had completely disappeared.

Fox Mulder was indeed available. And Diana planned to make herself available, too.





2630 HEGAL PLACE 

HALLWAY OUTSIDE APT 42

ALEXANDRIA, VA

 

Diana Fowley hadn’t even been on Scully’s mind. In fact, the events of Dallas and being wrapped up in yet another exciting mystery with Mulder had cast thoughts of the other woman out completely.

But their confrontation in the elevator had planted doubts in her mind about Mulder and how he felt about her value to their partnership. Had he and Fowley discussed Scully behind her back? She felt sick about it.

Diana’s words rattled around her brain. You both must feel such a relief to be free of that. To not feel… so held back. 

Scully had allowed the words of this person she barely knew to put her so off guard, to doubt what she really had with Mulder. Words that had made her feel ineffective, unimportant. Devalued. 

“You don’t need me,” she’d said to Mulder before she left his apartment approximately ten seconds ago. “I’ve only held you back.”

Maybe what Diana Fowley had said was actually true. Maybe he didn’t need her, after all. 

Scully hated admitting that this woman had any kind of power over her whatsoever. But she did. Scully had never thought of herself as an insecure person. In relationships she’d been in before, she’d always felt as secure as she needed to be. And with Mulder, for five years they’d had only each other. Their unit had been unassailable, impenetrable. It was the way she liked it. And now she felt as if it were dissolving, slipping from her grasp.

She didn’t know what to do, how to react. She felt like she was losing Mulder, and the Bureau wanted to split them up anyway. Why did everything feel so hopeless right now?

She wanted to cling to him, to grab hold of him tightly and hang on for dear life. 

But she also wanted to run.

She didn’t want to have to face any of this: that she wasn’t the partner he wanted or needed, and they both knew it. It was year after year of a never ending stalemate: not only in their work but in their inability to express anything real to each other. And as she walked away from him she had the terrible thought that she might never look him in the eyes again.

The thought was only fleeting, however, because she heard his footsteps approaching her. He wasn’t going to let her leave. 

Why wouldn’t he just let her go? Why was he making this all so difficult?

She whipped around and he began to close the gap between them, between the door to his apartment and the elevator that would take her far, far away from him. Perhaps forever. 

Mulder looked hurt by her declaration. She could tell he hadn’t wanted to hear it, to hear her put it out there: what had to be the truth. That he would go further without her. That maybe he needed someone who thought more like he did. Maybe he needed someone like Diana Fowley.

She hated feeling this way, so out of control. Mulder had always been the one constant in her life; his unpredictability and spontaneity as reliable as anything. And she expected him to lash out, to be angry at her for bailing on him; for leaving him in the lurch this way.

But then he spoke. 

You saved me. You kept me honest. You made me a whole person. 

He said things to her he’d never said before, the words coming at her almost too fast to process. 

I owe you everything, Scully, and you owe me nothing.

She might never know if he meant what he said, if it was the truth or just something he knew would make her stay. But one thing was perfectly clear: he didn’t want her to leave. 

I don’t know if I want to do this alone. I don’t even know if I can. And if I quit now, they win.

He was telling her exactly what she’d needed to hear from him all these years, something she’d always felt from him but that he’d never actually articulated. And he’d done it right on time. For once in their lives, just once, the stars were aligning.

She fell into his chest, helpless, as he wrapped his strong arms around her, anchoring her to him. And she held his neck with her hands and kissed him chastely on his forehead, a kiss that felt safe yet still so, so intimate. 

But then he pulled back and looked at her, perhaps more intensely than ever before. He leaned in, slowly, and her mind reeled as she looked into his eyes; eyes once full of doubt and fear and uncertainty but which now told her that what he wanted was exactly the same thing she did. 

This is happening, this is finally really happening, she thought, imagining the softness of his lips against hers, the heat of his mouth opening to her own. Her feet were planted on the floor, and she wanted to close the distance: devour him like her last meal, slam him against the wall of the hallway and give his neighbors the show of a lifetime. But she was paralyzed.

In the few seconds it took them to reach each other time slowed down, Zeno’s Paradox in action. The closer they got, the more space there was to travel, as if they’d never get there. As if five years wasn’t enough. It would never be enough for the two of them.

She could almost feel it, for a split second: the relief of sweet contact between their lips, when a jolt of pain suddenly surged through her body from the base of her neck. Her neck. The epicenter of everything that had ever gone horribly wrong: her abduction, her cancer, and now even her fucking love life.

This isn’t fair, she thought, and feared it may truly be the last time she looked into Mulder’s eyes as the blackness swallowed her. But when she awoke again, it was those very same eyes drowning in relief that she could see through frozen glass.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: The Revelation

 

 


SOMEWHERE IN ANTARCTICA

JULY 1998

 


Cold.

First and foremost, she only registered the cold. 

She saw his face, sensed his relief. Woozily perceived the feel of his hands on her naked body as he pulled her free from her icy prison, wrapping her in his coat. 

She had no idea where she was. She had no idea how long she’d been gone.

But he was here. He was here, now.

She drifted in and out of consciousness, and at one point could swear she felt his lips against her own. Coughing and sputtering, she realized he was merely giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but the last thing she remembered before any of this had happened was Mulder about to kiss her, and although her mind was in an absolute haze, these thoughts transcended the cold, the void, all of it. Their lips touched and she felt as if he were really kissing her.

There were so many feelings and emotions wrapped up with the pain and the numbness that followed. Not to mention the physical exertion just to stay alive, just to come up for air. It felt like hours had passed since they’d finally gotten off the cold snowy ground and trudged towards the sno-cat Mulder had driven out to God knows wherever they were to rescue her.

They hadn’t spoken since she’d seen that smile on his face before he passed out.

Scully, you’ve got to see this.

But she hadn’t; she hadn’t seen anything. All she wanted was to see what he saw. What he always saw. It would make everything, all of this, so much easier. 

“Wh-where are we?” she asked him as she climbed into the vehicle, her teeth chattering. 

“Would you believe me if I said Antarctica?” he replied, clambering in behind her, slamming the door.

“No.”

She didn’t, not at first. She didn’t remember anything. Her body was going into shock, and she tried to ignore the obvious strain in Mulder’s voice as he called for help on the radio. No response.

“Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.”

“Are you wearing your panic face, Mulder?” she slurred.

“I’m glad to see your sense of humor is more intact than your eyesight, Scully,” he said. He sounded somewhat irritated. She knew it was because she’d missed witnessing something important. Again. 

She swallowed her dismay and cast her eyes away from him, looking out the window instead. “What’s happening?”

“Um...” his voice was uncharacteristically high, and she knew he must be truly worried. “Well, we’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and might possibly freeze to death, Scully.”

She was honestly already too numb to care. “Oh.”

He hung up the radio and breathed into his hands, then reached for her and pulled her onto his lap. There was an emergency blanket underneath the seat and he unwrapped it, covering her. “Just stay close, okay? It’s gonna be fine. We’re gonna be fine.”

It wasn’t like him to reassure her so vocally. She had a feeling they were very much not going to be fine. 

“If you say so,” she said softly.

They were silent for several minutes. She was fully in his lap, clinging to him tightly, trying desperately to stay warm. His hand glided across her back, back and forth, and although every extremity was frozen she could somehow feel him through all her layers. She felt her eyes drooping and startled awake.

“Sleep, Scully. I’ve got you,” he said.

“I’m worried if I fall asleep I’ll go into a hypothermic coma.”

“Oh,” he replied. “Well, don’t do that, then.” He pulled her closer and as the minutes drifted by she miraculously felt herself getting warmer. “Want me to sing?” he asked.

She laughed, as much as she was able. “It’s okay.” A long silence passed.

“Mulder…?” she asked.

“Mm?”

“Are we really in Antarctica?”

“I’m afraid so.” He paused. “Do you… remember… anything?”

“Not really.” I remember we almost kissed. It was the only thing she wanted to say. It was the only thing she couldn’t bring herself to say.

“You were infected with a virus, and… they… took you.” He squeezed her tighter, as if his grip could keep her from being taken again. 

“Why, Mulder? Why me?” She was so tired of this, over and over again, her number coming up for Them as if she were on speed dial. Why was she so damn special? Was it only because of Mulder? Was it something to do with her? Would she ever know?

She could feel his head shaking against her. “I don’t know. I don’t know. All I know is that they took you, and one of the syndicate members told me where you were. I had no choice but to trust him, Scully.”

“A syndicate member? Who?” She was genuinely curious. The idea that there were still syndicate members that would possibly risk everything to help them gave her the small shred of hope she really needed right now.

“He had a British accent,” he said. 

Scully, for what felt like the first time since she’d reawakened, felt the wheels turning in her mind. A British accent. 

“Mulder, I think I know him,” she said, suddenly certain. “He was the one who warned me years ago that I would be killed. When Melissa was shot.”

“He helped you? Why didn’t you tell me?”

She sighed. “I was a bit preoccupied at the time, Mulder.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry,” he said quickly. 

It hadn’t really occurred to her to tell him. She’d been so angry at Them, and at herself for not warning Melissa. Not to mention the fact that Mulder had been presumed dead at the time.

Mulder sighed. “Well, he’s gone now. He died for giving me the information to save your life.”

His breath was coming out in quick puffs, the fog visible above her. It was still and quiet in the cab.

“Mulder…?” she asked again after a few moments of silence.

“Yeah?”

“Are we going to die?”

He exhaled deeply. “Probably, although I always thought we’d go another way.”

“You did? How?”

“Well, you would die saving the world, and then without you around to stop me, I’d go off and get myself killed doing something stupid.”

“That sounds about right.” She smiled in spite of everything, even though her teeth chattered. “Do you really think I’m going to save the world?”

“If anyone can do it, it’s going to be you, Scully.”

She was touched, but it wasn’t quite right. “I think… we could do it together,” she said. 

She thought for a second that she was imagining it, but she wasn’t: he pulled her in closer and pressed a kiss to the top of her head in response. She could feel him shivering next to her.

“I just can’t believe this, Mulder,” she said. “You came all the way to Antarctica? For me?” 

It was truly just hitting her, what he must have gone through to get here, and how, from what little she remembered, if he hadn’t, she would surely be dead by now.

“Well... yeah.” His tone told her I’d go anywhere for you, Scully. And she believed him. 

She found herself short of breath, overwhelmed. “Thank you.”  

He held her close but they said no more. Her eyes darted around the cab, looking for an answer to their predicament. The sun was beginning to set and she knew there was no way they’d survive the night like this. She was going to die here, and while she was certainly not prepared to do so, she knew there was probably no way to go that would feel more appropriate than in Fox Mulder’s arms.

Perhaps it was the sincere belief that they were truly living the last moments of their lives that ignited the courage within her, a tiny white hot flame amongst the bleak chill around them. Or maybe she was just dying to kiss him, to feel his lips on hers out of desire, and not out of necessity.

“Mulder.” Her voice was slow, deliberate. She was going to say it.

“Yeah?” 

I’m in love with you, the words screamed to get out. All she had to do was open her mouth and he’d know, and it wouldn’t matter if he returned her love, it wouldn’t matter what he thought because they were going to die out here anyway.

And just as she’d resigned herself to this eventuality and opened her mouth to speak the words she felt him tense up, sitting up a bit, as if he saw something outside.

“What’s that on the hood? Out the window,” he pointed.

She moved back into her seat and he leaned out to grab the object. As he pulled himself back into the cab, she could see him smiling. 

“It’s a gas can. This isn’t mine. Someone left us this.”

“Who?”

Mulder didn’t answer, but filled the tank immediately, and after a bit of trouble starting the engine they were suddenly on their way back to civilization. 

Perhaps it was fate telling her so, or just bad luck, or their eternally cruel timing, but she was convinced in that moment that voicing the words she wanted to utter was a bad idea.








CLASSIFIED MILITARY FACILITY

SOMEWHERE OUTSIDE D.C.

AUGUST 1998


Diana had been in rooms like this before, many times. She’d practically become numb to them. 

She was no surgeon, nor a medical doctor, but her presence was always required when there were procedures involving the brain. Her research over the years was finally proving to be worthwhile in application, especially as the Company was making new discoveries on the matter. 

One discovery, in particular, had grabbed her interest.

She looked down at Gibson Praise. He was awake, fully conscious, but the doctors were picking and choosing and cutting and removing parts of his brain as if they were walking down a produce aisle. It made her a bit sick, and she closed her eyes, attempting to swallow her conflicting feelings, instead focusing on the work at hand.

This boy could be the one, the one to save them all; that had been prophesied in the book Spender had given her in the hospital. And that was what she had to focus on: her steadfast belief that the savior of mankind was truly here at their disposal, with the capacity for every bit of suffering necessary to save the world.

Diana had never been a religious person; the beliefs she held in the paranormal were based on instinct and experience, and she didn’t necessarily have strict guidelines on what she allowed her own rationality to assail. A savior story wasn’t something she would typically buy into. 

But a savior story grounded in the physical evidence of alien life she’d witnessed over the years with her very eyes? This was something she truly could believe in; something she desperately wanted to believe in. This was something that would make everything she’d been through, all the lies she’d told, all the times she’d looked away from something to which she might normally object completely worth it. Worth everything.

The suffering of the few for the good of the many was something she had to accept. It was the only way forward for her, with the knowledge she had, the things she knew.

The only way out is through.

On the other side of the operating room lay an unconscious Cassandra Spender. Diana wondered at Spender’s decision to use his own wife for this procedure. In a way, it was almost poetic that his wife would become the person to save humanity. Practically, he could keep her as close as possible. But this also kept her closer to possible danger.

The procedure on the boy was well underway when she saw Spender lurking in the hallway, his ubiquitous plume of smoke billowing around him like a halo. He gave her a look she understood, and she scrubbed out, heading into the hallway.

“I’m needed inside,” she told him, hoping to keep this short.

“There’s been a development,” he said. He took a long drag from his cigarette. “The X-Files have been reopened with my son Jeffrey at the helm. He’s… maneuverable. It will make our interests much easier to adhere to.”

She looked at him expectantly. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because you’ll be joining him.”

Diana closed her eyes. Back on the X-Files wasn’t where she’d ever expected to be, certainly not without Fox. 

“Is that going to be a problem?” he asked. She knew when he got that look in his eye not to argue.

“No, it’s just… Agent Mulder is going to hate that.” 

He shrugged. “No matter. With my oversight, I have a feeling you and Agent Spender will be far more successful than Mulder and Scully ever were. That will have to count for something, right?”

“Successful how?”

He pinned her with a look and let a long puff of smoke out with his next words. “Focused. Measured. Effective.” 

She understood exactly what he meant. She was at his leisure. Whatever cases crossed her desk, she would investigate. 

Or cover up.

“We’ve taken the liberty of altering your FBI records, reworking them a bit. Now that you’re back in Washington your past could be of more interest to parties that could expose our work.”

Parties such as Agent Mulder, she completed the thought. 

It was strange, knowing the X-Files were where she would end up after all these years. The very same department she’d thought beneath Fox was now at her disposal. She believed in the work, and for a moment thought protecting her own interests and those of the X-Files could possibly be one and the same.

Surely Fox would know anything Spender changed about her past was a lie, but then again, she had no reason to believe he’d check up on her records at all. 

She had no reason to believe he didn’t trust her completely.



***



When Gibson awoke in the car to feel Agent Scully’s arms around him he immediately sensed her relief. It flooded her mind with overwhelming emotion that was genuine and familiar. He’d always liked her, and for the first time in he knew not how long he felt safe again.

“Gibson? Gibson…?” Agent Scully was pleading, and he was in such pain he couldn’t open his eyes but she held him close and as they traveled her relief slowly mixed with fear. “Wake up, can you open your eyes, sweetie?”

He opened them slowly. “Am I dead?”

She smiled. “Oh, thank God. No, you’re going to be fine, Gibson. We’re going to get you someplace safe.” “Butchers, absolute butchers, on a child, no less… Jesus…

Gibson tried to focus on Agent Mulder’s thoughts in the driver’s seat. “What was he doing here? Why was he here? There’s something Diana isn’t telling me… something huge at that reactor…”

Diana. Gibson tried to place who that was, who that could be, but everything was so fuzzy. He wanted to help them, but he was only a kid. He didn’t even know where his parents were. He was completely on his own.

After a few minutes he could hear Agent Scully’s thoughts change.  She was confused, frustrated and angry. A deadly combo for a mind reader. He could get bits and pieces only: 

“Antarctica… almost died… the virus…”

“The X-Files… cigarette smoking son of a bitch… just a boy…”

That woman… can’t trust Agent Fowley… does he really trust her? Does he love her?

Ah. Agent Fowley, the other woman. Her name was Diana, which he recalled now from the first time he’d met all of them together. Things had been so different then, far less dire. In an instant he recalled the last moment he’d thought about his parents, was certain they were okay, when they’d told him they would be picking him up at the psychiatric hospital. He hadn’t seen them since.

He had his own problems to think about, and from the sound of the thoughts he heard bouncing around the car, so did the agents.

It was then that he realized not time, nor his absence, nor the multitude of events that had clearly transpired since they’d all last met, could push that same romantic drama from either of their minds. He marveled at the complexity of adult behavior and wondered, perplexed, if he’d even live long enough to comprehend any of it.



***



Mulder sat in his new, unfamiliar office, piecing together burnt X-Files on the computer. The words peeked out at him between charred edges: kidnapped… missing… Duane Barry…

He hadn’t felt so hopeless about his work in a very long time, and this particular file only brought to the forefront how much he’d sacrificed for everything he now no longer had; how much Scully had sacrificed.

Yes, she’d stayed, even after he’d asked her to leave. But he was still so unclear on whether or not she truly wanted to be here, or if she merely felt like she owed him something despite his insistence to the contrary. She’d been so quick to leave him after Dallas; it still gave him pause, and made him question her true feelings about their work. About him.

I debated whether or not to even tell you in person...

Maybe she’d been exaggerating, or even lying, but the words had hurt. The thought that after all they’d been through she could leave him forever without so much as a goodbye was unlike her, and he’d turned their conversation in the hallway over and over in his mind ever since. 

There was always the thought at the back of his mind that he might be barely scratching the surface of the reasons why she'd even fathom leaving him that way. But when it came to Scully, as always, she kept her motivations hidden. It left him with an irritation that simmered constantly, just as constant as his affection. 

Why had she behaved that way? She’d been so defeated, so beaten down. So un-Scullylike.

As if summoned from his very thoughts, she entered the room.

“It would help if you’d shut the door,” he told her. “It would make it harder for them to see that I’m totally disregarding everything I was told.”

“Everything we were told, Mulder,” she corrected. 

“They can’t take away the X-Files, Scully,” he insisted. “They tried.”

“You know, Agent Fowley’s report to OPR painted the facts in an interesting way,” she said. “I hope you haven’t been betrayed.”

Suddenly his simmering irritation threatened to boil over. Considering Scully’s own behavior in OPR after Antarctica, denying everything he'd seen, she had some nerve accusing Diana of anything other than doing her job.

“Agent Fowley’s report was a means to an end. Trying to protect the work, protect the X-Files.” He believed it completely. Diana had risked her neck taking him to that reactor. He knew the only reason she had pointed a gun at him when the calvary arrived was to keep herself, and by extension the X-Files, out of hot water.

“Mulder, Agent Fowley’s report states that the man you saw attacked was bludgeoned by an 'unknown assailant.' She makes no mention of a little boy, who as it happens, is nowhere to be found. It would seem that her report protects everything but you.” 

He couldn’t help but recollect the dozens of reports Scully herself had filed on his behalf, every one of them similarly lacking anything concrete. It felt unfair to Diana and it wasn’t like Scully to be less than diplomatic. Why was she so hard pressed to give Diana the benefit of the doubt? Wasn’t his vouching for her good enough?

“Agent Fowley took me to that plant at great risk to herself where I saw something that you refuse to believe in,” he said, and she flinched. He knew the words stung. “Saw it again, Scully. And though it may not say it in her report, Diana saw it, too.”

He knew this wasn’t the way Scully operated. Both feet in, barreling ahead. That was Mulder, not Scully. It had always been her role to keep him grounded and he thought she understood he knew as much from the things he’d said to her back in his hallway. Until she’d mentioned it to him yesterday, he wasn’t even certain she remembered any of it. They certainly hadn't discussed it.

“And no matter what you think, she’s certainly not going to go around saying that just because science can’t prove it it isn’t true,” he finished. He was transported in an instant back to that car, Diana in the driver’s seat, taking him towards his proof. There was an alien creature in that reactor and she’d been just as certain about that as he was. No questions, no doubts.

“You’re not under the impression what we’re looking for makes sense in any conventional way.” 

It was the exact opposite of what Scully would have said and, thinking of it now, he felt a strange sensation rising within him: intrigue, curiosity. Nostalgia. He tried to ignore it but it was strong.

“I don’t doubt what you saw, Mulder. I don’t doubt you,” Scully said. “I’m willing to believe, but not in a lie and not in the opposite of what I can prove.”

He could tell she was trying, that she wanted to believe as much as he wanted her to. But the truth was, she wasn’t willing to give what he knew Diana would. He found himself utterly confused by his feelings.

“It comes down to a matter of trust,” she said. “I guess it always has.”

He looked at her, hating this moment. Hating that she would put him in this position.

“You’re asking me to make a choice?” he asked.

She held out a file. “I’m asking you to trust my judgment. To trust me.”

He shook his head, indicating whatever information she was holding out to him. “I can’t accept that. Not if it refutes what I know to be true.”

“Mulder, these are test results. DNA from the claw nail we found matching exactly the DNA from the virus you believe is extraterrestrial.”

He tilted his head in thought. “That’s the connection.” 

“...Which matches exactly DNA that was found in Gibson Praise.”

“Wait a minute, I don’t understand. You’re saying that Gibson Praise is infected with the virus?”

“No, it’s part of his DNA,” she explained. “In fact, it’s a part of all of our DNA. It’s called a genetic remnant. It’s inactive junk DNA. Except in Gibson it’s turned on.”

Mulder’s brain was moving a mile a minute. Genetic remnant. How old could this be? He thought of ancient fossils containing the virus found in Dallas. He thought of black oil buried in the Pacific. “So if that were true, it would mean that Gibson is in some part extraterrestrial.”

“It would mean that all of us are.”

He stared at her, processing this. She’d been right all along, that there was nothing she could detect within the virus that was not of this earth. But if what was not of this earth in fact had always been of this earth, how were they to proceed? How would they prove any of this?

This simultaneously changed everything and changed absolutely nothing. 

“So where does that leave us, Scully?” he asked, knowing perfectly well what the answer was.

She sighed. “I hate telling you this, Mulder, but it leaves us exactly where we started. Even if this DNA is in some part extraterrestrial, if everyone has it, we have no concrete evidence of an aberration.”

Mulder scoffed. “And we don’t have Gibson anymore, either.”

He hadn’t meant it to come out that way, but it was too late. Scully looked away from him, and he knew it was because Gibson had been taken on her watch.

“Scully, I-” his mouth was open, but words weren’t coming out. He was upset that she’d let the boy out of her sight and he was doing a shitty job of hiding that fact. He knew she already felt terrible. He hadn’t intended to compound her guilt. But now was not the time for a fight.

He reached out and touched her chin, made her look up at him. “I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t mean it to come out like that.”

“It’s fine, I did lose him,” she said. “I failed him. I should have watched him more closely.”

They were both silent; she out of shame, and he out of exhaustion. Silence was all he could offer.

He thought of several weeks ago in that war room where dozens had smirked at his suggestion the boy had been displaying precognitive behaviors. He thought of Diana, the first moment he’d seen her again after seven years, immediately jumping to his defense in front of a room full of agents.

He then thought of Scully in the meeting with OPR, her silence deafening. 

“I’m going home,” she suddenly said. 

He nodded, not looking her in the eye. “Back to the scut work tomorrow.”

She turned and left, and the room was quiet again. He felt so alone on this, despite her attempts to make him feel otherwise. And he couldn’t help but notice she didn’t even ask about the files he’d reconstructed.

He closed his eyes and sighed, remembering their last separation years ago; when the X-Files had been shut down before. They’d been strong and unified.

"You still have nothing,” Scully had said, covering his hand with her own.

“I may not have the X-Files, Scully, but I still have my work. And I still have you. And I still have myself.”

He wasn’t sure what he had anymore.





Chapter Text

Chapter 10: The Mistake

 

2630 HEGAL PLACE, APT 42

ALEXANDRIA, VA

NOVEMBER 1998

 

Mulder entered his apartment defeated, feeling very similar to the way he’d been feeling for years: trying and trying and trying only to fail in the end. He’d done everything he could to save Patrick Crump’s life and at the eleventh hour it had all blown up in his face, quite literally.

They’d been so close. He’d seen the horizon in the distance, the ocean… and then it was too late.

He couldn’t help but think of his own life at the moment. His confusion and frustration over the past several weeks had been unmatched. He’d finally mustered up the courage to take a huge step towards Scully, towards something he’d been wanting to do for some time.

They’d been so close. He’d seen the horizon in the distance, her lips, the truth… and then, nothing. 

The tension of their stalemate after Arizona lingered, neither of them willing to meet in the middle. They moved forward as they always did, but without the X-Files to reinforce their dynamic he felt further away from her than ever.

Even Wayne Federman could tell he and Scully were stuck in a hopeless rut. Mulder hadn’t meant to tell the movie producer about the whole bee thing, he really hadn’t, but it had slipped out. Now he worried how the information would translate to the silver screen months from now, what Scully would think, how she’d react. He wasn’t even certain what he thought of the entire situation.

Maybe everything was his fault. Maybe he’d failed her, failed their partnership, by making a move in the first place. There were so many reasons he’d avoided taking that particular leap with her over the years but he’d gone for it that night anyway, and it could have ruined everything. 

He was beginning to think he’d made a mistake. Maybe she just didn’t want that kind of relationship with him. How else was he supposed to interpret her refusal to speak of it? Or try to kiss him back? Or give him something, anything, to indicate she might actually feel the same? He was well aware Scully's M.O. was to put her walls up, to hide from him. To soldier forward in the face of all the personal feelings that constantly hung in the air around them. But this... this had been huge.

Was it just too late for them, now? 

On top of that, after everything he and Scully had been through in Antarctica, after everything she must have seen, she still refused to believe. The truth was elusive as always, but he often wondered if she simply didn’t want to see.

I’m afraid… I’m afraid to believe.

She’d revealed herself so early in their partnership, and maybe her feelings on the matter hadn’t really changed. But they’d been through so much since then. They’d seen so much. He didn’t understand. 

You were there, Scully. You saw it. You heard it. Why can’t you feel it?

It was the same frustration he’d felt so many times with her, over and over again. An endless cycle of ships passing one another in the night, just like the feelings they continually repressed.

He threw his keys onto the table and went to his fridge for a beer, but he had none. He slid a chair over to climb up to the cabinet above the fridge and found a bottle of whiskey he’d gotten from Skinner as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago. It had a thin film of dust over the top. He hated even looking at the stuff most of the time; it reminded him too much of his father. But tonight he needed a vice and it was the only one available.

He rinsed it under the sink and poured himself a glass half full with three ice cubes, as he slumped down onto his couch. The liquor burned all the way down and he liked it; he felt like it was some kind of penance for failing Crump. 

For failing Scully. 

He’d downed the glass and poured another when there was a knock at the door. Scully, probably, he thought as he slowly stood. He knew she’d come. She always did. 

He hadn’t said much to her after the Crump incident, and he’d half expected her to turn up tonight, checking in on him. But when he opened the door it wasn’t Scully. It was Diana.

“Oh. Hi,” he said, because he didn’t really know what else to say. They hadn’t spoken since Arizona. Her arrival wasn’t unwelcome, just surprising.

“Hi,” she said. “I heard about what happened today. Deputy Director Kersh informed Agent Spender and we saw it on the news.” She stood a bit awkwardly, casting a glance into his apartment. “Can I... come in?”

“Sure,” he said, and let her in before it occurred to him that the last time she’d stood in this spot was when she’d broken his heart all those years ago. It could have been the whiskey but something fluttered deep down inside.

“I’m so sorry you had to go through that,” she said as he closed the door. She glanced at his face, which he was certain was a bit disheveled looking, and then down to the coffee table where she saw the glass and bottle. “You’re drinking, Fox?”

She knew he didn’t drink. He found it ironic, considering one of the rare times he’d thrown a few back was the night they met. He often wondered if he’d have slept with her at all if he hadn’t been under the influence. Fate always seemed to intervene when it came to Diana.

“It’s just… been a day. You can’t imagine the ass chewing we got from Kersh.”

She nodded, grimacing. “Actually, I think I can.” She stepped into his living room and began to take off her jacket. “...May I?” she asked. 

He nodded. “Sure. Make yourself at home.” Maybe some company would be nice. 

He plopped back down onto the couch and took another swig. She wandered around, looking at the walls of his apartment, taking everything in.

“Looks the same,” she noted. She wasn’t wrong.

“I’m a man of habit.” 

She gestured to a bag of sunflower seeds that sat opened on his desk. “Yes, you are.”

He looked at her, downing the second glass, the whiskey burning in his stomach, and she smiled at him in an old, familiar way. 

“What are you doing here, Diana?”

“I just wanted to see you,” she said. “Is that so terrible?”

It wasn’t. He was still pissed she’d essentially taken over his job, but it wasn’t her fault. And he couldn’t think of a better person to have been assigned in his place, honestly. Diana sought truth, just like he did. The X-Files weren’t his anymore, at least at the moment, but they were in good hands.

“No, it’s not.”

“Good,” she said, throwing her jacket over his desk chair. 

She sat next to him on the couch and he could smell her perfume. It was the same perfume she'd always worn. Olfactory memory was powerful but even more so for Mulder and he was suddenly transported to old times, when they would sit on this couch together eating takeout and discussing patients or cases. For a moment he remembered the way it was years ago, back when things were good. She’d never lived here, not technically, but she may as well have. 

“I’m sorry about that whole… ‘knife in the back’ comment,” he said. “That was out of line and childish.”

“Childish?” she asked with a grin, perhaps remembering her accusations in this very room long ago.

“It was, and I'm apologizing. I’m evolving, I guess,” he grinned back. “How is it on the X-Files, anyway?”

She sighed, leaning back into the couch. “Working with Jeffrey Spender is quite a challenge.”

Mulder huffed. “I can only imagine.” His frustration was evident. The huff had emerged more quickly and harshly than he’d intended and she seized upon it. 

“Can’t you, though?” 

She looked at him meaningfully and he knew she was referring to Scully. He didn’t really want to discuss Scully with Diana. It didn’t feel right. But it did feel nice to have a bit of commonality with Diana in this moment, a moment when he was feeling particularly unheard and dissatisfied. 

“I meant it when I said it’s worth the earning with Scully, it really is. But I’ll confess, sometimes it doesn’t happen, and…” he trailed off and bit his lip, noting the double meaning of his own words and stopping himself. 

He didn’t want to say anything negative about Scully to Diana. His relationship with Scully was so complex, so multifaceted, so all-consuming. He still wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted. He had no idea what Scully wanted. And quite frankly, none of it was Diana’s business anyway.

He loved Scully, he knew that with certainty. He’d known it for some time. His feelings for her had evolved into something beyond his control but he couldn’t tell her that. It was as if they’d formed some unspoken vow between them over the years to never speak of such things. That didn’t change what was in his heart; it couldn’t change the truth. But reality wasn’t living up to his hopes. It was disheartening. 

He must have looked distracted and she noticed. “Are you okay? You’re a million miles away.”

He turned his head to look at her. “Yeah, I’m fine.” 

Almost as if Diana had been reading his thoughts, she outright asked him. “Fox… are you in love with her?”

If there was one thing he’d missed about Diana it was her refreshing bluntness.

But now he looked at her, stunned, as his stomach lurched. It was the first time anyone had put this question out into the universe, actually asked him. Before a second ago, his feelings had been safely ensconced within his own heart. They were for Scully, someday, and only for her, if he could ever muster up the courage to tell her. But now the words were out, and they were real. It terrified him.

He didn’t know what to tell Diana, how honest to be. But the answer that came out was indeed the truth. “It’s complicated.” 

Diana reached for his hand and looked him in the eye. Her face looked troubled, conflicted, as if she were coming to some kind of decision. “I came back because I was following the work, Fox. I was needed here. And I’m not going to lie to you about that.” She lifted her hand to his hairline and rested it against his forehead. “But I would be lying if I didn’t admit I was eager to see you again. And I wanted to tell you that, if you’re interested, I’d like… to try again.”

There it was. He’d been wondering about her intentions for weeks. He hadn’t considered her an option for years and now here she was, offering herself to him.

Did he want her back, too?

“I…” he couldn’t finish the sentence. He didn’t know how to finish a sentence he hadn’t yet constructed. This was something he’d anticipated but dreaded at the same time. 

“You don’t have to answer now, Fox,” she said. 

“This isn’t a good time, Diana. I have commitments that…” he scrambled. He couldn’t tell her he had commitments to the department she’d taken over, that he essentially wanted to steal back from her. And he certainly couldn’t tell her he wanted to figure out what exactly was going on between him and Scully.

Are you asking me to make a choice?

I’m asking you to trust my judgment. To trust me.

He’d been taken aback by Scully’s words. She barely knew Diana and she had asked him to choose between them. He never wanted to have to make a choice between Scully and Diana, professionally or personally. It irritated him, and he didn’t like being irritated with Scully. Their trust had never been threatened before, and he’d never thought it was possible until now, with the re-emergence of Diana in his life. He was thoroughly confused. 

He knew he wanted Scully. But the obvious question dominated his thinking and deserved exploration: did a part of him still want Diana? 

He couldn't deny that there was something here, he just couldn’t identify what it was. And maybe he needed to.

“It’s a real shame it isn’t the two of us down in that office,” she said softly, and her hand rested on his knee. “I wonder what we might accomplish together now?”

Her touch wasn’t exactly the same as the one she’d given him in the bar all those years ago, but it was close enough for him to know her intent. She’d come over here tonight to make a move, to find out where he stood. He didn’t know where he stood, but he admired her courage, her transparency. It was something he himself hadn’t had for years. 

She moved closer, and he knew she was going to kiss him. He wasn’t sure if he actually wanted to kiss her, or if he was just so sexually frustrated he might actually explode. Maybe she was simply the vice he needed tonight. 

Whatever the reason, he let her lean in. And before he knew it, her lips were pressed against his, and he remembered. He remembered exactly what it had felt like all those years ago, to have someone who believed in the same things he did; someone he didn’t have to work hard to get. 

Something uncomplicated.

She kissed him slowly for a moment and then they broke apart, as she wrapped her arms around him and moved her face to rest on his shoulder. 

“I’ve missed you, Fox,” she whispered into his ear. 

He couldn’t return the sentiment because he hadn’t missed her, not in the way she clearly had missed him. But he still liked to hear it. It felt good to be so openly desired.

His mind flashed once again to that moment just outside this room, in his hallway, where he’d refused to let Scully walk out of his life. He could remember it in vivid detail: her lips drifting nearer and nearer, the scent of her skin, and the tears in her eyes as he knew, he knew they were finally going to acknowledge their truth… and then the truth had been ripped away from them. Like everything else with the two of them, it had been pushed aside in favor of bigger, more important things. Things he could always convince himself took precedence because he was too afraid. 

But then again, so was Scully. If she loved him, if she wanted him the way he wanted her, wouldn’t it have happened by now? He meant every word he'd said. He’d made a move. Something huge had happened. Wouldn’t she have given him some sign that she wanted to move forward in a different way? Or like everything else in their partnership, had the professional and personal become so goddamn murky that he was simply seeing things because he wanted to see them?

More importantly, why was he thinking about Scully and what she did or didn’t want, when Diana was right here, right now, wanting him? 

He hadn’t missed Diana, it was true, but she was here now. And he was lonely and frustrated. 

And a little drunk.

He kissed her again, it felt so good to kiss someone, and he was suddenly aware he had an opportunity to find out what was really going on with Diana. If there was something still here. He had to know.

Everything with Scully was so hard, but this… this could be so easy. 

Diana wasn’t interested in preambles, as was typically the case, and she interpreted his kiss as permission to lift his shirt up over his head, running her fingers along his chest. She then unbuttoned her own shirt, tossed it to the floor, and stood up, extending her hand. He didn’t want to take it, not really, but he did anyway. 

This is wrong, he remembered thinking, but only for a moment. His lizard brain took over, his vulnerability and loneliness and downright curiosity overwhelmed his thinking and he stood, allowing her to lead him into the bedroom he never used, pushing aside boxes full of dusty possessions that had remained untouched for years; since she’d last left this very apartment. 


***

 

Mulder woke tangled in sheets, a sweaty mess from dreams he’d had; nightmares, really. All featuring Scully: Scully yelling at him, Scully screaming at him. Hitting him. Punching him. Shooting him.

Leaving him forever.

Diana wasn’t in bed and he wanted to roll his eyes at the predictability of it all, the almost poetic nature of her bailing on him, just like she had the night they met. 

What did it mean? Had she simply used him? Had she meant a word of what she’d said?

Had any of this been worth it? 

“Morning.” 

Her voice came from the doorway and she walked into his bedroom holding two cups of coffee. She was wearing one of his T-shirts, and the familiarity of it irked him, as if she’d been completely comfortable rolling herself back into his world after one night. She weaved through the narrow path he used to get to the bathroom, dodging the boxes of junk and eyeing them with disdain. He instantly recognized that judgmental look in her eye, the look that he now remembered was why they couldn’t have worked in the first place. He was never going to be good enough in her eyes. 

From the discomfort he felt, he suspected this little experiment had most certainly gone awry and he’d made a terrible mistake.

But above all else, the loneliness he’d felt last night before her arrival remained. And that spoke all the truth he needed.

He groaned and held his head in his hands; a mix of hangover and shame screaming from within. 

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“My head hurts.”

She smiled. “You just need some coffee.” She handed him the cup and he gratefully accepted it, because he had a feeling he wasn’t going to function properly today in any event. Coffee could only help.

“Some things never change, huh?” she raised an eyebrow at his mess. “You’ve still got an awful lot of stuff.”

“I haven’t really been in a redecorating kind of headspace,” he admitted. “But you’re right. It’s probably time.”

She nodded, and he knew she understood. Workaholic was a life philosophy they shared.

“I can give you the number of the company I used when I moved here. They picked out all the furniture, did everything themselves. I didn’t have to lift a finger.”

“Okay, thanks,” he said. He didn’t know what else to say.

“If you want, I can… help you,” she said, hesitantly. She was looking around his bedroom, and he felt extremely self conscious. He’d never anticipated Diana would be witness to the aftermath of her leaving him, to the ripple effect it’d had on his life, to how that effect manifested so visually in his bedroom. 

“Diana…” he began. It already seemed like she was making herself too comfortable, like she assumed this was something that to him it was not. He figured honesty was the best policy. “When I said ‘make yourself at home’ I didn’t mean help me redecorate my apartment.”

Diana shrugged. “I’m sorry, I just thought maybe it could use a woman’s touch in here.”

The churning in his gut intensified. Although he knew this had been a mistake and it wasn’t going to happen again, from the smile on her face, it seemed like she wasn’t quite aware of that. He didn’t want to make her feel bad, but he didn’t want to give her false hope of getting back together, either.

“I don’t want to mislead you. I meant what I said about this being a bad time, and last night…” he trailed off, unable to be as clear as he wanted to be, cowardly as ever. “I care about you, Diana, I do. But I have some… stuff I need to figure out.”

Her lips formed a thin line, and she looked disappointed, but not altogether surprised. “What kind of stuff?”

He opened his mouth, then closed it again. They both knew what “stuff” he was referring to.

“I understand being confused, Fox, believe me.” Her face softened. “It’s okay. But I still had a nice time last night.”

He couldn’t disagree with that part. It had been years since he’d indulged in actual sex with another actual human. He’d been so preoccupied with work and his quest and his confusion about Scully he hadn’t properly acknowledged to himself he’d been essentially waiting for her, for Scully, all this time. He’d never expected this to happen.

Diana set her coffee down and began gathering her own clothes, putting them back on. She leaned down to kiss him goodbye and he let her, because in spite of everything it was so nice to have another person around that he knew cared about him. 

“Well, if and when you figure out all that… stuff…” she smirked, “you know where to find me. Just push the ‘down’ button.”

Part of him had hoped she’d changed, but it was a strange comfort to know she hadn’t, not really. Still, it was Diana. Despite the fact that a romantic relationship wasn’t in the cards for them, he had no reason to distrust her.

There was a look that flickered across her face before she turned and walked out the door. Was it guilt? Regret? Sadness? It had been so long since he’d had practice figuring her out; he wasn’t any good at it anymore.

After she left he was alone again and had an overwhelming compulsion to shower. An awful feeling of guilt was spreading throughout his entire body, from his head to his toes. He was reminded of how he’d felt after Kristen all those years ago; sitting on that hillside watching Malibu Canyon burn, clutching Scully’s gold cross, missing her with a pain he could in retrospect identify as secret longing.

Scully

The guilt deepened. He was disgusted with himself, regretful, and completely lost, yet again. It can’t be because of Scully. 

It couldn’t. He had no reason to feel like he’d cheated on a person he wasn’t in a romantic relationship with. 

But he did feel guilty. He felt like he’d cheated on her. Why?

He turned on the shower, the cold water hitting him, and the answer simultaneously hit him like a ton of bricks. It was because he and Scully, through no active decision on either of their parts, had become each other’s entire world. There was no one else, not for him, not for her. It had been building slowly for so long that every day that passed made it more and more difficult to admit it; to himself, let alone to her. 

He’d been holding onto so many excuses not to tell her his true feelings that he hadn’t realized each one had been quietly slipping through his fingers, year after year.

Soon there would be no more excuses. Soon the only reason would be his own cowardice, and that was indeed a powerful obstacle.

The sick coiling in his gut grew and grew, his betrayal amplified, and suddenly he couldn’t get clean enough. He closed his eyes and let the water run down his body. It was finally hot, but he turned the knob slowly, more and more, until it scalded.


***

 

The elevator doors on Mulder’s floor slid open and Scully was stunned to see Diana Fowley standing before her, jacket over her arm, hair a bit mussed, blouse unbuttoned to an ungodly degree. She felt ill, a churning deep in her stomach telling her this probably meant exactly what she feared. 

The women’s eyes locked, two stags in a meadow with a helpless doe between them. Fowley looked victorious, however, and she cocked her head to one side in greeting. 

“Agent Scully,” she said, her voice dripping with triumph. 

Scully brushed past her, not saying a word. How many times would she have an encounter in an elevator with this woman that left her feeling like absolute shit?

The doors shut mercifully behind her and she collapsed against the wall of the hallway, alone as ever. She wanted to cry but she could not. Mulder was a few feet away; he’d know she’d bumped into Fowley. 

Her head rested against the cool surface of the wall and she let her eyes drift to the black and white honeycomb tile, the very spot they’d stood when fate had intervened in the form of an insect, a tiny fucking insect that had interrupted a desperately needed kiss and thrown both their worlds into a state of upheaval.

All those things he’d said. You made me a whole person. I owe you everything, Scully, and you owe me nothing. What exactly did he owe her? Wasn’t loyalty on that list? And if so, what kind of loyalty?

She was certain if their lips had touched in that moment everything would have changed between them. And now all she could do was wonder; wonder and be afraid. 

And watch Diana Fowley reel Mulder back into her clutches, with no apparent choice but to let it happen.

This was her own fault for never finishing that kiss, for being too afraid to acknowledge it. For never telling him all the things she should have told him in that sno-cat. And how could she possibly do so now? She wanted to kick herself.

She wasn’t sure how long she stood in the hallway collecting herself, but it must have been several minutes. She straightened her skirt, took the remaining seven steps to his door and knocked. She waited, and knocked again. 

“Just a second,” she heard him yelling from inside. She imagined him dressing quickly, probably still glowing with postcoital bliss. She felt her morning coffee start to come up, along with bile and regret.

“Forget something?” he said as he opened the door, not registering her face at first. And when he did it was indeed a face. She could feel it. She’d never tried so hard to keep her cool in her life and had never failed so miserably.

His eyes widened, surprised, and he turned a shade of red she’d never seen. He looked as ill as she felt. He was drying his hair with a towel, which he stopped immediately, and had a thin layer of stubble on his face. He was wearing a gray T-shirt and sweatpants and he’d never looked sexier in his life. She couldn’t count the number of times she’d imagined waking up next to him herself, seeing him exactly like this.

“Oh, hi, Scully...” he said, and she’d never seen him more caught off guard. 

“Autopsy report,” was all she could get out, as she lifted a file into view. The report was only a cover, an excuse. The truth was she’d wanted to check on him because she’d been worried about him. He hadn’t said a word to her the entire trip home after the Crump incident, and after their meeting with Kersh he’d left without so much as a goodbye. 

After seeing Diana Fowley leaving his apartment, however, she wasn’t feeling so charitable anymore.

“Come on in.”

She really, really didn’t want to. But his presence had an effect on her that she hated right now. She felt herself drawn in against her will like a magnet, her south pole drawn to his north, as ever. She heard the door closing behind her as if in slow motion and suddenly she was inside his apartment; this sacred space that now felt violated. 

She didn’t want to know. But the part of her that she kept hidden deep down, the part of her that loved him so desperately it was hard to breathe had to know.

“I saw Agent Fowley in the hallway,” she said to his back, as he immediately went to pull his bedroom door shut. She pretended not to notice this, not to see, not to even acknowledge the room she’d never been inside. The thought of him sharing his bed with anyone else squeezed her heart tightly, constricting it with a pain she’d never known she could feel. The thought of it being Diana Fowley crushed it completely.

“Yeah, I, uh… she dropped by, kind of unexpectedly.”

Things had been tense between them ever since the nuclear power plant incident in Arizona. It seemed every time she’d attempted to do exactly what he told her he needed from her it pissed him off and frustrated him even more.

It didn’t surprise her in the least, this was just the way he was sometimes and she was used to it. But things were different now and it scared her. Now he had another person he trusted, one who shared his beliefs, to turn to in that very frustration. Someone who wasn’t her.

And it seemed that was exactly what he’d done.

“I’m sorry to have… interrupted,” she said pointedly. 

She noticed an empty glass on his coffee table next to a bottle of whiskey and hoped to God he’d been under some kind of influence. She’d never worked so hard to fight back tears in her life.

He looked at her as they stood uncomfortably in his living room. “You didn’t interrupt anything.”

“I see.” She couldn’t help herself. “So… she came over for a bowl of cereal?”

He was annoyed and she knew she’d provoked him. “What do you want me to say, Scully?” 

She was angry and confused and heartbroken, and she wanted to scream but she would not. She could not. She was Dana Scully.

“Nothing, I don’t want you to say anything,” she said icily. 

Regardless of what she’d previously thought, she decided she did not want to know, not for certain. Maybe she could convince herself nothing had happened. 

“Crump’s report is the same as his wife’s. The D.O.D. has buried this entire thing, as has Kersh, and we’re back to square one as usual. This won’t even be classified as an X-File, so if you looped Agent Fowley in, it wasn’t necessary.”

“I know all this already,” he said. She’d assumed he suspected as much, at least. “Is this the reason you came by?” 

He didn’t sound angry, in fact she couldn’t quite determine his mood. It was more like he wanted to be anywhere else but here right now. She didn’t blame him.

She sighed. “No, I came by because I was worried about you, Mulder. You hadn’t said a thing to me since we left California and I know you. I know you took this one hard.” 

It gutted her that she’d apparently been ten hours too late.

She saw a look cross his face that she could finally identify as something approaching guilt. Good, she thought.

“I’m a little… off, to be honest, Scully. I’m just not myself right now.”

She nodded slowly. She wanted to make another flippant comment but she stopped herself. She had no right, and he had every right, and she was just being jealous and petty and she knew it. It wasn’t his fault she was such a coward. But everything still hurt.

She looked at him, which was difficult, but she had to. She wanted desperately to say what she could not, so she tried to let her eyes do the talking. His own met hers and, as they did so often, they engaged in a conversation that never reached their lips.

She could see the apology in his own eyes he could not offer verbally, because an apology for sleeping with Diana Fowley wasn’t something he owed her. It wasn’t something he could give her because of the unspoken and unresolved that was their constant companion. The love she felt for him was something she hadn’t had the courage to speak even yesterday, when there hadn’t been this awful barrier between them, and now she was even more afraid to do so.

Two steps forward, three steps back. As it always was.

“Well,” she said, wanting to put a stop to this before she actually did start crying right there in his apartment, “I guess I’ll see you at work, Mulder. More piles of shit to sift through, I’m sure.” 

Her meaning was layered and his eyes searched hers again. He watched. Observed. Profiled. She hated how he could see right through her. She felt completely exposed in this moment, as if she’d bared her very soul to him. 

“Scully, I don’t…” 

Whatever he wanted to say, he couldn’t say it. And she couldn’t be angry at him for doing something he had every right to do. She could only be angry with herself for being too afraid. But as she turned to leave, in his eyes she saw confusion, helplessness. 

Perhaps he was just as lost as she was.


***

 

“Scully… I love you.”

He said it, he meant it. She heard it. 

“Oh, brother.”

It wasn’t enough. 

 

***

 

A few days after the Bermuda Triangle incident, while he was certain it had all really happened, the entire adventure felt so emblematic of where he stood with Scully and Diana it was almost like it really had been just a dream. 

Devil’s Triangle, indeed. He certainly felt like one third of a triangle, just not the kind he wanted to be involved with. 

Things were so tense between him and Scully he couldn’t have called her to go ghost-ship hunting with him, as much as he’d have liked to. 

He thought of their conversation in the sno-cat: how he’d told her she’d be the one to save the world, and that he’d go off and do something stupid without her there to stop him. Which ended up being exactly what happened.

Scully had believed in him, however. He’d been so worried the past few weeks that she didn’t, but when push came to shove, she’d proven she did. She’d saved the world (and his ass) with that belief. 

And… he’d told her he loved her. It had finally come out, in a moment that felt genuine to him. He’d meant every word, drugs or no drugs, but yet again his timing had been awful. She was probably still upset by what had happened at his apartment and he could hardly have blamed her.

When she’d walked away from his hospital bed, however, he’d felt a sense of peace come over him. He’d touched his cheek, still tender from her right hook. The Scully in 1939 hadn’t been aware of his transgression with Diana, but it certainly felt like she had been. His face still hurt like hell and he knew he deserved it. It felt like some kind of cosmic punishment for his bad decisions, and one particularly bad decision he wished 1998 Scully had never found out about. 

Were the two of them doomed to this endlessly frustrating existence where his ins were her outs and his ups were her downs? A constant back and forth of misunderstanding and denial? 

He knocked on her door now, a Saturday afternoon, and he knew she wouldn’t be expecting him. But he’d received a call from a contact at Groom Lake, an important call. Something he had to see for himself and he wanted Scully to see it, too. He couldn’t go without her this time, it wouldn’t feel right. He had to try, and after everything they'd been through over the past few days he felt like asking her in person was the best course of action.

He heard the lock turn slowly, and he could feel her hesitation through the door. But she opened it. 

“Hi,” he said gently. “Is this a bad time?” 

She was on her guard, he knew. He would tread very, very carefully. 

“I… was going to my mom’s, actually,” she said. “How are you feeling?”

She always defaulted back to his health, even in a situation where his physical well-being was inconsequential compared to her own mental state. It was achingly familiar and heartbreaking at the same time.

After all the ridiculously dangerous situations he’d gotten himself into, drowning in the North Atlantic was nothing compared to drowning inside his own emotions. He needed to repair this, to swim out, to get things back to the way they had been with Scully. There was no moving forward until he could get them to the surface again.

“I’m better,” he said. She still hadn’t let him inside, and he stood in the hallway awkwardly. “Much. I’m feeling like myself again, Scully.” 

He looked at her meaningfully and prayed she understood. What happened with her was a huge mistake and it will never, ever happen again. My heart is yours, Scully. You have to know this. You have to.

She didn’t pick up on everything, obviously, but he saw forgiveness in her eyes. Unspoken, like his love for her. Why was this thing between them so damn hard? 

“I’m glad to hear that, Mulder.”

He didn’t want to bring up The Great Diana Incident at all, put it into the atmosphere, but something compelled him to. 

“And I have to say… that morning, back at my apartment…” he’d begun speaking before he knew what he would say. It happened rarely.

She raised an eyebrow in question. Waiting. Wondering. How was he supposed to apologize for something he knew had hurt her without revealing he knew why it had? Without acknowledging this was all very, very personal now?

He wanted to just wrap his arms around her, finish what he’d started in that hallway. He wanted to join his lips to hers, walk her back to her bed and lay her down, make her smile, make her laugh. Make everything okay again. He wanted to make them one, to concentrate everything in his body on making her feel good from the inside out. He wanted to make her come; oh god, how he wanted that. 

He wanted to live his truth. 

He wanted to. But for some reason he couldn’t.

Before he could think of how to finish the sentence, she interrupted. “Mulder, what you do on your personal time is your own business,” she said shortly. 

His eyes searched hers for relief but instead he saw nothing. The vulnerability he’d witnessed at his apartment was gone; her walls had gone back up, and he was too late. He should have said something back when it happened. Where would they be now if he had?

It is your business, he wanted to say. He wanted it to be. He felt ashamed, and he was reminded of a couple of years ago when she’d been out all night with that fucking psychopath Ed Jerse, how every minute that had passed without her return call was absolute torture, how he’d spent the entire night wide awake picturing some guy’s hands on her, touching her the way he wanted to.

It was self flagellation. He’d pushed her away, directly into another man’s arms. 

He’d deserved to feel like shit, but then when she’d returned he’d tried to make her feel like shit, too. The only way he could think of to come back from that fight was to pretend it wasn’t the Jerse thing that had bothered him. Pretend it was something else.

Pretend it wasn’t any of his business. 

Now, she was doing the same thing to him. It was self preservation he recognized, and she was trying her damnedest to put up a front of cold indifference but he knew better. 

“It is your business, Scully. It should have been. I should have told you about Diana and the X-Files. About… our history.”

She looked him in the eye. “Why didn’t you?”

He sighed. “Because… I never thought I’d see her again and it felt unimportant. I know now I shouldn’t have kept it from you and I’m sorry.”

He couldn’t tell her they’d been married, he couldn’t. He was on very thin ice as it was. And even though he knew not saying something was also a betrayal, he chose what he believed was the lesser of two evils and dug himself deeper.

Scully said nothing. Her lips thinned into a line of quiet defiance, but it was also acquiescence. She nodded slightly and he knew this conversation was finished.

“Are you gonna let me in, or should I go? I’m sure your neighbors have heard enough.”

She held the door open, and when it closed they’d switched places, him fully inside her space, her hand still on the doorknob. He shoved his own hands into his pockets. 

“So what did you come over for, Mulder?” She let go of the doorknob and crossed her arms in front of her protectively.

“I want to go somewhere. With you.”

She paused. “I’m going to my mom’s, I already told you.”

He pulled out an airline envelope. “But I got you a ticket,” he mock whined.

She snatched it from his hand with a half-smile and looked inside. “Mulderrrr,” she whined back, annoyed. The half-smile turned into a small but real smile and he knew he had her. 

They were done with Diana Fowley, for now. He only hoped he could do whatever it took to make Scully believe in him again.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 11: The Dance

 

 




FBI CHRISTMAS GALA 

REGENCY HOTEL BALLROOM

DECEMBER 1998



It had been a few weeks since she’d spent the night at Fox’s place and Diana hadn’t really spoken to him much. But she also knew that he and Agent Scully weren’t working together anymore and it was likely he hadn’t seen much of her, either. 

He’d told Diana he had some stuff to figure out. He didn’t have to say it; they both knew what that “stuff” was. And although her suspicions had been confirmed that night, that Fox certainly had no romantic obligations to Agent Scully, there was definitely something unresolved between them; something about their relationship he wasn’t willing to share with an outsider.

Diana maintained a flame of hope in her heart that he still had feelings for her. And while the work would always be her primary focus, getting him back was something she now wished for despite everything else. 

She looked in the mirror, leaning forward to adjust herself. Her dress was black, floor length, and extremely low cut, allowing for an ample display of cleavage. Not something she’d typically wear to a work function, but on the off chance Fox might be in attendance, she wanted to give him a reminder of what he’d been missing. 

Diana intended to make herself seen, and she certainly had no intention of giving up.

Taking one final look in the mirror, she could see the scar from the bullet wound in her shoulder. It had almost completely healed, but there was still a faint trace; a reminder of what was expected of her, of what she owed to the Company. 

Of what she owed to Spender. 

She was well aware there was no turning back for her. I’m on your side, she’d said to Fox months ago. Was that true? She’d certainly picked a side because she had no choice, not anymore. She could only hope she could make Fox see someday that what she’d been doing was right, and if she could accomplish that, maybe she could somehow bring him into her circle. She would have to navigate this situation extremely delicately.

When she arrived at the gala there were hundreds of eyes on her, which was what she’d expected. She hadn’t worn this dress to blend in. After only a couple of minutes she saw Fox, standing near the bar with Agent Scully. He looked handsome, as always, and she looked attractive but subdued, as always. 

Agent Scully’s dress was vintage, deep red, deeper than her hair, perfectly flattering but somewhat modest, especially compared to Diana’s own. Diana wondered if Agent Scully was the type of woman who would ever wear a dress like the one Diana was wearing to a function. 

Anyway, if there were a contest on who would be getting more attention this evening, Diana was confident she’d win.

She downed the last of her champagne, took a deep breath, and approached them. When Agent Scully caught sight of her a look of barely restrained rage crossed her features and Diana couldn’t help but feel a small thrill, thinking of their last encounter. Fox must have noticed Agent Scully’s expression because he turned around, and when his eyes landed on Diana, his face turned as red as Agent Scully’s dress.

“Oh, um. Diana.” He stammered for a moment, and it reminded her of the way he’d behaved when he’d first introduced the two women. “Um… you look great.”

“Thanks. Nice party, huh?” she said. She didn’t give a shit about the party. It was an opportunity for him to see her dressed like this, nothing more, nothing less. Not only that, she was beginning to find it amusing the way Agent Scully reacted every time they crossed paths.

The other woman’s eyes drifted down Diana’s dress and back up, and Diana saw her jaw set. Fox looked like a deer in headlights and he turned to Agent Scully, then back to Diana, then back again. “Er…”

“Excuse me,” Agent Scully said, and made herself scarce. 

Diana smiled at Fox, delighted that had been so simple. But then she saw Fox watch his ex-partner go, and he looked pained and extremely uncomfortable. 

Maybe this wasn’t so simple. Maybe it never would be.

“Fox?” Diana asked. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” he said, distractedly. 

She smiled. “I’m surprised to see you here. You always hated these things.”

“I did. I do,” he agreed quickly. “I wasn’t planning to come. But Scully wanted to, so.” He stopped. That was all the explanation she was going to get.

Scully wanted to, so.

This phrase took her aback. She’d always had to twist his arm to accompany her to these functions. And he’d just admitted he still hated them. But… Agent Scully, his work partner - in fact, not even his work partner anymore - wanted to… so...?

“You two seem awfully close,” she pointed out, fishing. He was still watching Agent Scully walk away, and Diana felt a chill go up her spine, along with a clenching in her gut that meant regardless of how she was dressed, regardless of the one-up she’d gotten over the other woman a few weeks ago, she was truly worried. 

Her thoughts drifted back to when she’d asked him if he was in love with Agent Scully. He’d hesitated too long. It was only her own instinct but she knew what that pause meant. And if she were being entirely honest with herself, she hadn’t needed to ask him at all. It seemed as if everyone knew they were in love with each other except the two of them. 

The power she’d felt while approaching them was rapidly dissipating. It was quickly evolving into real fear: a fear of losing something she didn’t even have. She’d never expected to see him again, and he had every right to fall in love with someone else. Nowhere in her mind did she believe her mere existence could have prevented that from happening after so much time apart. 

It didn’t matter how many years they’d spent together, or how many times they’d slept together if his heart truly belonged to someone else. 

She reached to touch his arm and leaned in to speak into his ear. It was an intimate gesture, one she’d used quite frequently back when they were married. She probably had no right, not anymore, but while he was right here, standing next to her, she enjoyed the familiarity.

“Would you like to dance?” she asked. She pulled back and tried to read his face. There was hesitation in his eyes that she hadn’t expected, and when he opened his mouth to speak, for a moment she was afraid he would decline. But he closed his mouth instead, as if changing his mind in the moment, and gestured for her to lead the way to the dance floor.

Her arms went around his neck, his hands resting at her waist, and as she leaned into him she felt him tense, uncomfortable. She had the distinct impression he was battling himself and that her comfort of being near him and holding him was not shared. 

She’d been unsure about where they stood, exactly, when she’d left his apartment that morning. But there had been a shift since then, and she could feel it. She didn't have to, really; his non-responsiveness over the past few weeks spoke volumes that she simply didn't want to hear.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you,” he said suddenly. “Did you send that furniture company to my apartment? The one you… mentioned, you know...?” 

He didn’t say the last time we saw each other, i.e., that time you spent the night. Did he already regret it?

“No…? I don’t know what you mean,” she said. She truly didn’t. 

“Never mind,” he shook his head, whatever information he was trying to get out of her obviously not forthcoming. 

They moved to the music and he kept scanning the room. At a certain point she noticed sweat beading across his brow. Her mind raced as they danced, overwhelmed with his familiar scent, and the fear of losing him had never felt so real. 

In spite of everything: his obvious feelings for Agent Scully, all the years’ worth of secrets and lies, and her own uncertainty about how he felt about her; in this moment she felt desperately hopeful. Maybe she could make him understand. Maybe she could win him back.

Maybe she could get him on her side.




***




Shortly after the Great Diana Incident, Mulder had fitfully re-stacked all the boxes behind his bedroom door to keep him from being reminded of it every time he used the bathroom. The bed had remained a problem, but much like the first time she left his apartment, he preferred to avoid the situation entirely. 

The waterbed had soon afterwards mysteriously appeared, as if from nowhere, and the boxes had been cleared away. Mulder was used to the strange and unexplained, but solving that enigma seemed impossible. 

He didn’t care for the waterbed, it wasn’t his style. But it had appeared at the moment he needed it to; the moment he knew that any bed Diana had slept in needed to be promptly removed from his home. It was as if the universe was course-correcting his shameful indiscretion.

He’d been so sure she’d done it, that she’d called and ordered him new furniture without even telling him. It was such a Diana thing to do. He assumed she hadn’t taken ‘no’ for an answer and had begun the process of weaving herself back into his life. 

But looking into her face now as they spun around the dance floor, seeing the absolute confusion there, he believed her. She had no idea how his new bedroom had materialized. So he was back at square one on that particular X-File.

Diana held him close as they danced, which made him uncomfortable but allowed him to look over her shoulder without her noticing. Scully was nowhere to be seen, and while he hoped she hadn’t left entirely he was grateful she wasn’t watching them, at least. This delicate situation was getting more and more so by the day. 

“So… you’re here to stay, then? In Washington?” he asked. He didn’t want to sound too hopeful, because he wasn’t. The outlook was not good.

“I guess that depends,” she answered.

“On what?”

She shrugged. “On a number of factors.” 

She looked up at him in a very pointed way and he knew in this moment he had been correct in his initial read of the situation: indeed, she hadn’t taken ‘no’ for an answer. 

Probably because you didn’t actually tell her ‘no,’ you fucking coward, he told himself. But Diana had always been the kind of woman who went after what she wanted. While he had admired that about her years ago, even weeks ago, right now it was unwelcome and extremely inconvenient. 

“I hope I’m not one of them,” he replied.

She stopped dancing and pulled back. Pinned him with a stare. “Why wouldn’t you be?” She seemed offended.

“Diana… you left me, remember?”

“And a few weeks ago we slept together, Fox.”

Not wanting to draw attention, he pulled her in again to keep dancing. Whenever he thought about that night, that moment of miserable weakness, he felt sick about it. Angry at himself; not only for giving in so easily but also for having put Scully in such a position to doubt him. 

“I know, and that was…” he searched for a word, “...premature.”

“Maybe it was,” she said. “But it was still wonderful.”

He neither confirmed nor denied this statement, as it nauseated him even talking about this while Scully was somewhere in the vicinity. 

Sleeping with Diana had been a mistake; he knew that now, of course. It hadn’t solved any of his problems. It had only created new ones. 

He didn’t want to hurt her feelings, though. Maintaining a friendship with Diana was important, for the X-Files, for his conscience. For his sanity, really. He wanted to trust her. And he wanted to keep the relationships in his life as harmonious as possible, especially considering she didn’t seem to be going anywhere.

So rather than respond to her, he pulled her next to his cheek, scanning the room again over her shoulder, and prayed for the song to end as soon as possible.

When it did finally end, he extricated himself from her arms. “I think I’m gonna go get a drink,” he said. He quickly realized he needed to make it clear he didn’t want her to join him. “I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

She nodded. “Okay. See you around.”

He gave her what he hoped was a friendly smile, and as he walked away, he felt relief. He wanted to find Scully, to somehow repair what he’d fucked up yet again in the past five minutes. To reassure her they were in no danger of The Great Diana Incident, Part Two.

He found her sitting at a table in the corner of the ballroom, her back to the dance floor. 

“Hey, I’ve been looking for you,” he said, pulling up a chair next to her. She took a sip of her drink, which looked like a gin and tonic, and eyed him.

“Here I am.”

She looked away again, not rudely, just guarded. He knew her too well. 

“Too many people here, you know? Sometimes I forget we’re not the only ones at the FBI.” He grinned. She said nothing.

“Have I mentioned how great you look tonight?” he said. Charm wasn’t working; maybe a compliment would help.

She paused to take a sip, still not looking at him. “No, I think you said that to her, actually.”

Oof

“Well, I didn’t because you don’t look great. You look… radiant.” He grinned and she rolled her eyes. 

“Shut up, Mulder.”

“I mean it. You always look great, but I never get to see you like this.” He narrowed his eyes a bit. “You clean up good, Scully.”

She gave him the tiniest hint of a smile but still wasn’t looking directly at him. He realized she was going to make this as difficult as possible and he knew he probably deserved it. They were silent for a few moments more and the idea of making small talk with Scully made him feel like he was losing even more control of a situation that was already well out of hand. 

She reached out to grab her drink and he stopped her hand with his own, covering it. She looked at him and in her eyes he saw softness, tenderness he hadn’t expected. So he took another chance.

“Dance with me, Scully.”

Her expression reflected surprise, perhaps not having expected him to actually have the balls to ask her such a thing. His eyes pled for yet another truce, now the second in what would probably continue to be a trail of half-assed truces until they could figure this all out, until their timing was finally right.

“Do you really want to dance, or is this you just being cute because you think I’m upset with you?”

"You think I’m cute?”

Another eyeroll. 

“Scully. There’s nothing in the world I want more right now than to dance with you.” He stood and she allowed him to continue holding her hand. “Come on.”

Her eyes darted behind him, around the room, then back up to him. He knew the decision was fraught in multiple ways; how this would look to their co-workers, how it would look to Diana.

How it would feel for the two of them.

She seemed to want to find out as much as he did, because she stood up, and before she could change her mind he interlocked their fingers together and led her out to the dance floor.

His arms naturally pulled her in close and his eyes locked onto hers. It was different than dancing with Diana, for Scully was shorter and he had to crane his neck a bit to look at her. It felt so good to hold her like this, his hand at her waist, hers on his shoulder, their other two hands clasped together. And he was so relieved she was letting him.

After a few moments she dropped her head into his chest. She fit under his chin perfectly, which he knew she would from countless embraces of comfort, relief. Friendship. But he could feel his heart pounding in his chest beneath her cheek, knowing full well that things were very different now. He wondered if she could feel it, too.

After a minute he felt himself relaxing, and she did as well, and soon it just felt utterly comfortable holding her like this, spinning around the dance floor, breathing in her scent. It was something new, not quite floral, but definitely Scully. He couldn’t figure it out, and added it to the endless list of Scully puzzles in his mind, wishing he could find the answer to just one.

“Are we… okay, Scully?” he asked softly into her hair.

She was quiet for a moment, then he felt her hand, which was curled upwards around his shoulder, squeeze a bit tighter, almost possessively. 

“That depends,” she replied. 

“On what?”

“On what you get me for Christmas,” she said, and although he couldn’t see her face he could tell she was smiling. It was something in her voice, the way a subtle curve of her lips made her words sound. He closed his eyes and squeezed her back. 

“Maybe a new partner, for starters?” he joked.

She sighed. “We aren’t partners anymore, Mulder.”

Technically she was right, but he certainly wasn’t going to admit as much. And he certainly didn’t feel that way.

“Yes, we are, Scully.” He laid his head down a bit on the top of hers. “It’s you and me. Partners. Always.”

He felt her take a deep breath. She nodded her head and her hair tickled his chin. 

Relief washed over him in waves. This is going to be okay, this is all going to be okay.

“Who else is going to put up with you anyway, Mulder?” she said against his chest.

“No one would, Scully,” he said. “Only you.”

“Don’t forget that, and we can forego the Christmas gifts,” she suggested.

“Deal.”

He heard her sigh beneath him and he breathed her in, savoring this; the only dance that felt right. Another song began and neither of them let go.






THE WATERGATE APARTMENTS

WASHINGTON, D.C.

JANUARY 1999



It was nearly February and Diana hadn’t seen much of Fox at all since Christmas. As every day passed with no call, no paths crossed at work, she became more and more convinced he was avoiding her.

She was beginning to feel the stirrings of something she hadn’t felt before: desperation. She didn’t like it. Diana Fowley was rarely out of control.

The most frustrating part of it all was the mere idea that thoughts of the fox were yet again taking precedence over the work in her mind. It felt like déjà vu. She’d never wanted that to happen, even back when they were married, and it alarmed her.

There was a knock at her door and she hoped it was him, immediately chastising herself once again for feeling so needy. At the door, however, was Spender.

“There’s been a change of plans,” he said simply and she let him inside.

The creation of the first successful alien/human hybrid in Cassandra Spender had changed virtually everything. The timetable everyone had agreed upon was shot to shit; no one had anticipated a political upheaval among the aliens themselves. 

Diana watched Spender as he sat down in a chair, looking more introspective than anything. She might have expected any other man to give up; in fact, she might have encouraged it. But Spender wanted to complete the work and she admired that. They’d come so far, and it was what she wanted, too.

He puffed his cigarette and she listened to his theatrical reflections. When he got this way it seemed as if she wasn’t really there, that he was talking only to himself. It was always best to just listen.

“I could never have scripted the events that led us to this. None of us could. All the brilliant men… the secret that we kept so well…” 

She knew the plans, mostly. But Spender was doing something he hadn’t done before, not really. He seemed to be letting her in on his fears.

“They were good plans, right plans. Kept secret for over fifty years, ever since the crash at Roswell. Kept secret from men like Fox Mulder. Plans that would have worked had not a rebel alien race come to destroy them. Had not my own son chosen betrayal, or chosen to betray more wisely.”

“You should have expected this,” she said abruptly. She’d earned the right to second guess him at this point and they both knew enlisting Jeffrey Spender had been a fatal mistake. Involving his own son while the man’s mother suffered at Spender’s hands was the kind of hubris only he could attempt. 

“I suppose I should have,” he agreed, to her surprise. “I’m rarely an optimist but I’d hoped my son would be more like his father; more concerned with his legacy than his scruples. I misjudged Jeffrey, and for that I have only myself to blame.”

“He’s going to do whatever he can to protect his mother,” she said. 

“While the only thing she wants is to die,” he conceded. “But we cannot allow that.”

Fifty years of work had come to fruition. Ever since they’d found Gibson Praise and known for certain what he had inside him, Diana had every confidence he was the last thing they’d needed for their most promising alien/human hybrid test subject yet. And Dr. Openshaw had indeed delivered. Cassandra Spender was the one, the savior of mankind. 

What Cassandra had inside her could save so many lives. She was more important than anything. Diana didn’t want to see that work go to waste. 

“What if we could make him understand what she is, how important she is? Maybe he could believe?” She knew as the words left her mouth it could never happen. She knew as much from working closely with him for months.

“Jeffrey won’t believe,” Spender stated. “He refused to believe any of it. My son refused to believe that his mother had been abducted… even when I schemed to put him in charge of the X-Files… he turned to the man I’d ruined. The man I’d chosen for him to replace.”

“He knew Fox would try to help him. And you wouldn’t.”

“There’s no helping Jeffrey,” he said flatly. “He’s of no use to us anymore.” She knew that tone and it scared her.

“But… he’s your son,” she said. She’d searched for a heart within this man for years and not once had she gotten a glimpse. “He isn’t disposable. He’s not just a pawn you can wipe off the board.” 

“Diana, there’s something I must tell you,” he said suddenly, ignoring her protestations. She was taken aback by the use of her given name. He’d never referred to her so informally.

“Tell me what?”

“Information that might change your perspective,” he said, looking her dead in the eyes now. 

She was well aware of Spender’s ability to manipulate people, and was certain she’d been a victim of it in the past, regardless of his promises. But in his eyes right now was something she rarely saw when she looked into them: truth. He had something to say, something important. Something true.

“What is it?”

He paused, briefly. Then the words poured forth more quickly than she could process. 

“Fox Mulder is my son.”

Diana was stunned. She wasn’t even sure how to react. Her two worlds were colliding suddenly and very unexpectedly. How had she never known? Fox had never introduced her to his father in all the years they’d known each other, and she’d known very little besides the fact they were estranged.

Diana shook her head. “Why hasn’t Fox ever told me about you?”

“Because… he doesn’t know the truth.”

Diana stared back incredulously. “Are you saying he doesn’t know you’re his father?”

Spender looked at her blankly.

“And I suppose you expect me to keep this from him, as well as everything else? To not tell him this huge secret?”

“Yes.” It wasn’t an overt threat, but she knew enough about Spender to know he was deadly serious.

She felt herself shrinking away from him, sinking into her chair. A wave of emotion and clarity washed over her in an instant. She wasn’t stupid, she never had been, but she felt it acutely now.

Of course this had to be true. Spender had always had an eye on Fox, and she’d never clued in to the fact that it might be something more than his occasional usefulness, or his ability to distract from and unknowingly dismiss his own discoveries by shouting them to the heavens.

“No. I can’t keep this from him. Not this. I think you underestimate how much I care about him.” She felt as if he’d trapped her. 

“On the contrary, I know exactly how much you care about him. That’s why I’ve entrusted you and you alone with this.”

She paused, curious. “What do you mean?”

“I’m well aware you and he have a history, as you know. But Agent Mulder and I… have a history of our own. And it’s not a very pretty picture.”

She felt her eyes narrow. “Please, paint it for me.”

“I don’t want to elaborate. Suffice it to say, when I reveal the truth to him, when he finally has his proof, that will be the proper time for us to… mend fences.”

Diana didn’t know what to say. It was too much to process. And she wasn’t sure of his intentions with Fox. If his attitude towards Jeffrey was any indication, she feared for Fox’s life in this moment, truly.

“This… this is too strange, Sir. The fact that you’ve kept this information from me for so many years makes me very uncomfortable.”

Spender took a drag of his cigarette. “For whatever reason, he and you and I have been thrown into the mix together,” he continued, cigarette smoldering. “Call it fate, destiny, whatever you like. But I believe it’s for a singular purpose.”

“What purpose?”

He leveled his stare at her. “The only purpose that matters, Diana: the work. The work you and he and I have sacrificed so much for.”

His words struck a chord inside her. Maybe he was right; perhaps this all was some strange twist of fate. Maybe she’d been placed in this position to continue and complete the work. And once she did, she could be free of this man, once and for all. The world could be saved. Fox would know the truth, and he would have his final puzzle piece.

Then maybe, just maybe, they could be together again.

“The amount of suffering I’ve endured over the years, the inability to tell my son the truth…” he trailed off and looked down. She wasn’t sure why - perhaps something in his eyes gave way and she believed he was truly regretful - but she felt somewhat sympathetic for him in that moment. 

“I’m sure Fox has suffered too,” she said. How would he react to this news when he ultimately learned it? 

“I need your help, Diana. Consider it an opportunity to show me you’re capable of handling the responsibility that comes with this knowledge.” He looked up at her from his chair. “I only hope it’s not too late.” 

“What is it you need?” She had to do what he asked; she owed him her life. And she hoped beyond hope that whatever task he entrusted her with would be the last.

“We need Cassandra,” he said simply. “And I need you to be the one to retrieve her. Jeffrey trusts you.”

She scoffed. “He won’t after I remove his mother from his custody.”

“I’m sure you’ll come up with something.” He took another drag; blew it out. 

“Trust isn’t easily earned, Diana. I’ve trusted no one. Treachery is the inevitable result of all affairs. Every man believes he has his own good reason. I have little doubt of my son's disloyalty to me. Certainly he led Mulder and Scully to us. His mother must know by now her central role in the grand plan… that she's as much alien as human.” He took one final puff. “Do you wonder why I’ve chosen you? You’ve never betrayed me. Now I need someone to trust.”

His eyes said this was the right course. She stood and made to leave. 

“I’ll help you,” she assured him. “It’s not too late.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 12: The Apology





THE LONE GUNMAN HEADQUARTERS

UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, WASHINGTON. D.C.

FEBRUARY 10, 1999

 

The call was unexpected and he was certain Scully had found something important; something about Cassandra or any of the Spenders, really. They were close to something, he could feel it. 

He entered the Gunmen’s basement and there were no pleasantries whatsoever.

“I’ll ask you to hear me out before you launch any objection,” Scully began, and with a twinge of annoyance he knew from her expression alone what this would be about. “I asked them to pull up everything they could on Diana Fowley.”

He’d hoped they were done with this. Things had been better, peaceful even, between them for weeks.

Scully hated Diana, they both knew it. Even Diana knew it. It seemed so low of Scully to suggest the other woman’s motives on the X-Files were somehow untoward just because of their personal drama. 

He couldn’t keep an exasperated sigh from escaping his lips. “I don’t have time for this.”

“Mulder, she’s playing you for a fool.”

He wasn’t sure what she meant, exactly; that Diana was lying to him about their work? Her feelings for him? Scully had been present years ago during Phoebe Green’s disastrous return. She knew what it looked like when Mulder was being played and this was not that.

“I know her, Scully. You don’t.”

“You knew her. You don’t anymore,” Scully countered. “I think we can prove that to you.” 

To Mulder's surprise, Byers came to Scully's aid, making his way over to a computer monitor. “She took a position in the FBI’s foreign counter-terrorism unit in 1991," he explained. "Seven years in Europe.” 

“Yet there isn’t a single piece of information available on her activities in the FBI files,” Scully added.

He gasped then, audibly, sarcastically. Oddly, the first word that ran through his brain was the very thing Diana had accused him of being all those years ago. Childish.  

“I hope you’ve got something more than that to indict her with.”

Scully did. “Travel records pulled from airline manifests that had been purged from her FBI records. Extensive movement throughout western Europe. Almost weekly trips to and from Tunisia.”

Tunisia? What the hell did that have to do with anything? “For the purpose of what?”

Langly piped up. “That’s what we couldn’t figure until we took a flyer and we found this.” He indicated his computer screen. 

Frohike spoke up. “Mutual UFO Network logs.”

“MUFON,” said Mulder.

Scully pinned him with a look he knew well: the look that meant she’d landed on something final, something irrefutable. “Special Agent Diana Fowley of the FBI was visiting every European chapter collecting data on female abductees.”

“So she’s collecting data. Big deal,” he said, perhaps too quickly. 

“Or hiding it,” she countered.

“Scully, you’re reaching.”

The look Scully then gave was another familiar one; of exasperation to the nth degree. He knew she was running out of steam and he hated seeing her this way but this couldn’t be true, it couldn’t.

Scully had a reason to find something to distrust about Diana. Mulder didn’t.

“Mulder, when I was abducted a chip was put in my neck. When I happened upon a MUFON group filled with women who’d had the same experience...”

He wanted her to say it, to own up to what she was accusing Diana of. “So you’re suggesting Diana is monitoring these abductees? Monitoring these tests?”

It sounded so ridiculous. Diana wouldn’t have taken an interest in this kind of thing. She’d been hell-bent on Berlin, on counter-terrorism, on leaving behind the X-Files, and everything to do with them, including him. Sure, she was back now, but she hadn't asked to be assigned to the X-Files. They'd given that assignment to her, she'd said so herself. The idea that for years and years she’d been doing this? It didn’t make any sense at all.

He could tell his frustration was evident and it was manifesting in an unpleasant way, but it seemed impossible to try to explain to Scully why he felt the way he did. Knowing a person wouldn’t betray you - feeling it deep down in your gut - was something he didn’t think he had to articulate to her, because he expected her to already know what that felt like. She should understand that he trusted Diana in much the same way they trusted each other. Scully was simply being territorial, and while he typically found that endearing, this time it was offensive because it threatened everything he knew about Diana. 

“You tell me that Cassandra Spender is the critical test subject- the one who could prove everything,” Scully continued. “And yet, who is watching over her? Mulder, I can prove what you’re saying or disprove it but not when Diana Fowley is keeping us from even seeing her!” 

He hadn’t seen Scully this angry in a long time and everything she was saying was coming at him so fast. He wanted to process it, to make sense of it. To come up with an explanation. But he was too distracted by her anger. 

“Mulder, ask yourself why there is no information whatsoever on Special Agent Diana Fowley. Why she would suddenly happen back into your life when you are closer than ever to the truth.” Her voice didn’t break; Scully’s voice never broke. She was determined. “I mean, you…” she searched for words. “...you ask me to trust no one and yet you trust her on simple faith.”

“Because you’ve given me no reason here to do otherwise.”

The room fell silent. The Gunmen sat still, uncomfortably watching this unfold before them. 

He hated driving any kind of wedge between himself and Scully, he hated it. But Diana wouldn’t do this, not to him. Not to the X-Files. She wouldn’t keep this from him, regardless of their past. He was as certain about this as Scully was uncertain, as it always was. 

They were dancing again, their usual steps. Except this time Scully was the one who didn’t want to dance.

“Well then, I can’t help you anymore.”

She moved past him, headed out the door, and he knew he’d hurt her, even in the moment. A line had been drawn in the sand, a line he’d never wanted to see drawn, let alone cross. 

“Scully, you’re making this personal,” Mulder said. What he meant was that she was letting her personal feelings about Diana and her personal history with him interfere with her judgment. But she didn’t seem to take it that way.

“Because it is personal, Mulder,” she said, turning abruptly. “Without the FBI, personal interest is all I have left. And if you take that away, then there is no reason for me to continue.”

Of course this was personal to both of them. They’d sacrificed so much to their cause, to their work. But there were threats - real, actual threats out there that needed to be dealt with. Threats that were not Diana Fowley. He couldn’t understand why she was so focused on this.

He trusted Diana. Scully was wrong about her, she had to be. She was asking him to choose, and he didn't understand why he had to. 

He wanted to tell her that this had nothing to do with his personal feelings for Diana, in the past or even the recent present, because it didn’t. But how could he even broach that particular topic now? Everything was so fraught between him and Scully right now. They weren’t together, not romantically. They weren’t even on the same page in that regard, as far as he was aware. 

The Gunmen were watching them intently, the looks in their eyes sad, wounded. He was briefly reminded of the way he’d felt when his parents would fight, how it would break his heart. The pain was no longer fresh but he could still remember the taste of it.

In any event, Scully whipped around and left. The door slammed, every one of the dozen locks rattling, and she was gone.

Mulder watched her walking away on the Gunmen’s surveillance feed, feeling completely helpless. He saw her hand move to her eyes just before she left his sight. 

Scully was strong; she was the strongest person he’d ever met in his life. He rarely saw her break down over anything, and she probably preferred it that way. It killed him inside that he’d not only been responsible for making her cry, but that she’d obviously made an active effort to hold it together until she thought she was out of his sight.

He could feel the heat of the Gunmen’s glares on his back, directly through the leather of his jacket, and the very last thing he wanted to do was turn around and face six eyes that he knew were judging him harshly.

What had come over him? Scully was right, and he knew she was right, and it made him angry at himself. Not right about Diana, because she couldn’t possibly be right about that, but right about his own hypocrisy. She was doing exactly what he’d instructed her to do, exactly what he’d taught her, what she’d learned all these years from him

Trust no one.

He sighed, still facing away from the Gunmen. “I fucked up, didn’t I?” he said to the door, wishing he could have a conversation with it rather than receive the beatdown he was about to get from his friends.

“Mulder, I love you, man, but you’re one hundred percent wrong on this one,” Langly said. 

Byers and Frohike looked down as Mulder spun to face them, perhaps grateful Langly had said it before they had to.

“I shouldn’t have said that, I know. But this isn’t personal, it’s not.” Even as he uttered the words he knew they were a lie. 

This fight wasn’t about the X-Files anymore, it was about choosing to trust Diana over Scully, which is what she’d interpreted his behavior to mean. He’d behaved badly and he knew it.

“Look, Mulder, we don’t want to get involved in your personal life,” Langly said, his hands up. “But you’ve got to check out these records, at least. It’s fishy as hell.”

“Langly, you should know better than anyone how easy it can be to doctor digital records, if one were so inclined,” Mulder said pointedly. Langly gulped. 

Mulder walked over to the monitor and although every instinct in his body was telling him it was a betrayal to even entertain this, he looked. “...San Diego…? None of this is true, it can’t be. I was there through all of this.”

"The records have been doctored, Mulder. And many parts erased. There’s no denying it. The question is, who did it and why?” Byers asked.

“Maybe they got accidentally erased, or it’s a glitch. A clerical error. There are a number of reasons. It could mean absolutely nothing.” He wanted to believe, badly.

“What are the odds, though, Mulder?” Byers said. “I mean, say you’re right, that this is all some huge mistake. Why would these records have anything to do with the work you and Agent Scully have been deeply involved with for years?” 

Mulder looked Byers directly in the eye. “Scully didn’t…” He was grappling with something. “She didn’t ask you to do this, did she?” He hated himself for even asking but for the first time the idea of Scully directly sabotaging his relationship with Diana had presented itself as a possibility. 

“Mulder, of course not,” Frohike piped up, and he looked so utterly offended that Mulder instantly regretted even asking the question. “Agent Scully would never -”

“You’re right, she wouldn’t. I’m- I’m sorry I asked,” he said, ashamed. Doubting Scully's integrity was an ugly look on him, and he didn't like it. He was battling with himself now. “But whoever did this should have known I’d know it wasn't right. They should have known I'd go looking for this information.”

“But you didn’t go looking, Mulder,” Byers pointed out. “Scully did. And maybe they counted on that as well.”

“What are you implying?” he asked Byers.

Byers sighed. “You and Agent Scully have always worked well together as a team. You’re stronger together, and your enemies know that. What if this is all part of some plan?” The Gunmen were nodding, ever the conspiracy theorists. “Diana coming back into your life has caused so much tension between you two. Maybe that’s by design?”

“But to what end?” he asked, exasperated. “To shut down the X-Files? To split us up? Separate us? They’ve done that already! They got what they wanted!”

Mulder sat down, frustrated, his head in his hands. He’d never been more confused in his life. Frohike came next to him and sat.

“What do you want, Mulder?” he asked his friend.

He thought, really thought hard. He wanted clarity, he wanted answers. “I just want the truth,” he answered.

 



***

 

Trust hadn’t come easily to either of them. 

If six years had taught Scully anything about her partner, it was that he didn’t give it away to just anyone. Earning it, she felt, had been years of work and experience neither of them had anticipated. Plenty of sunken costs that she’d gladly paid because somewhere deep inside she knew he was the only one for whom she’d have gone through any of it.

And Mulder had spit on that trust in a single, heartbreaking moment.

Scully wiped away tears she hated as she left the Gunmen’s basement. She’d never been more angry at him; livid that someone else - some ex girlfriend, no less - didn’t have to do a thing to prove herself to him.

Things had been getting better between them over the past few weeks; it seemed whenever she could forget about Diana Fowley's existence, being around Mulder was easier. But life without the X-Files had been difficult: there had been a lot less of him in it.

She hadn’t realized how used to having him around she’d been until they were no longer really working together. Sure, they were placed on assignment together here and there, but it was happening less and less frequently for some reason. They were both dancing on AD Kersh’s last nerve, and it was as if he knew the worst punishment they could possibly receive was to be separated.

It hadn’t stopped Mulder from looking for the truth, in any event, and she was relieved that it hadn’t stopped him from taking her along with him. She'd find herself calling him late at night more and more, dropping by his place unexpectedly to ask about any new cases or assignments, or even new Mulder hunches. 

She didn’t want to admit to herself that she was terrified if she didn’t, he’d move past her to the next best thing.

She was terrified he’d ask her.

She’d spent hours poring through records in the archives, looking for any information she could find about C.G.B. Spender. When she’d been in the thick of it she had the startling realization that she’d practically become Mulder; here she was, no longer employed by the FBI, at least for the time being, and she was still searching for his truths. She was still doing it all for him. 

No… she was doing it all for them.

This was her quest too, now, just as much as it was his. 

You’re making this personal.

Yes. This was all very personal.




 




THE WATERGATE APARTMENTS

WASHINGTON, D.C.

7:49 PM

 

Mulder slumped in a chair in Diana’s apartment, feeling completely lost. It felt like the end of the road, and he couldn’t help but wonder if Scully’s words had everything to do with it.

Without the FBI, personal interest is all I have, and if you take that away from me then there is no reason for me to continue.

Scully had been hurt, and he’d let her walk away, knowing full well in that moment he’d devalued their partnership. Their friendship. He’d made a decision to defend Diana and maybe it was the wrong one. Maybe Scully wouldn’t forgive him this time.

Maybe he didn’t deserve to be forgiven.

Everything that had transpired over the past couple of hours led him to believe he’d lost her; actually lost her for good. And after what the cancer man had revealed to him, he felt more defeated than ever. 

He had no Scully to talk him down, move him forward. Not anymore. All he had was Diana, and the emptiness he still felt was telling.

He heard the doorknob turn and he half expected the cancer man to re-enter, ruin his life in some other irreversible way. But instead the apartment’s occupant had simply arrived home. Diana didn’t notice him at first but then did, and was startled. He was somewhat relieved she was surprised to find a dark, hulking figure sitting in the corner of her apartment.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said.

She righted herself rather quickly. “Fox, what are you doing?”

“Nothing. Not a damn thing.” It was the truth. The hopelessness he was feeling was unlike any he’d felt in some time. He had no energy, no resolve, no determination. And he didn’t have Scully. “I came here looking for evidence.”

“What are you talking about?”

He hadn’t wanted to believe Scully when she’d told him Diana had lied to him. He hadn’t wanted to give in to that doubt. Yet here he was, feeling like shit for having ransacked Diana’s apartment. 

“Evidence that you’d lied to me,” he confessed. “That you had loyalties other than to me or to the X-Files.”

“Nothing could be further than the truth, Fox. Nothing.” He saw a brief glimpse of something familiar cross her face. It reminded him of the times she’d tell him she liked his ties and then they’d mysteriously disappear. On a better day he might have read more into it, but today was definitely not that day.

“I didn’t find anything, Diana… but something found me."

"What?"

"Fate. Destiny. Whatever it’s called when you realize the choices you thought you had in life were already made. At some point, you just have to accept that the only way those you love are going to survive is if you give up.”

Everything was coming to an end, and there was nothing he could do about it but choose to live, choose to save his loved ones. It was the same choice his father had made all those years ago, knowing full well the futility of his situation.

Give up. He wanted to laugh at the irony, that Diana had said these exact words to him seven years ago when she left him. Maybe he should have just given up then. Maybe he could have had a life filled with some semblance of normalcy and happiness rather than all this pain and regret. 

He handed her the slip of paper the cancer man had given him. El Rico Air Force Base. Where it all began. He’d been given his answer now, and as much as he hated it, he had no choice but to believe it.

“This is where we need to be if we’re going to survive it,” he said, defeated. 

She took his vulnerability into her hands, seizing upon it as she leaned in, and kissed him softly. He felt completely numb, exhausted. It was a one-sided kiss and he’d barely noticed it was even happening before he broke away and pulled her into an embrace. 

“I think you’re right, that our choice has been made for us,” she said, her head next to his, her mouth close to his ear. “Giving up seems like the only option now.” 

He couldn’t see her face but he could imagine it. He didn’t reply because giving up wasn’t something Fox Mulder was built for. He wasn’t used to being in this position.

She sat back and rubbed his hand a bit. “You know… I still feel the same way I did the last time we spoke, Fox.”

He pulled away, sat back into the chair. “Diana, this… is not a good time,” was all he could say. 

“I understand,” she nodded. “I just wanted to be honest with you, about… everything.” 

A mysterious look crossed her face and it was the first time he wondered, really suspected Scully might be right about Diana hiding something from him. Her declaration was so unexpected in this moment. Was it merely some kind of distraction? A misdirect? It felt genuine, but was it?

He couldn’t help but wonder… why was he doubting her intentions at all?

“I have to tell Scully about all this,” he suddenly found himself saying. “I have to tell her.” He knew this would be a tough sell on a willing, indulgent Scully. But she was angry with him right now, quite rightly. She would not be open to his overtures. And she might die because of it.

Diana scoffed. “Tell her what? That the rebel aliens are returning? That colonization is going to occur? That the end of the world is upon us?” She delivered the last part with a flourish, then shook her head and looked down, chuckling softly. “She’s never going to believe you, Fox.”

“She will. She has to, because she’s coming with us.” The alternative was unthinkable. 

He wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship with Diana. Moving forward with her in his life in another capacity was a possibility, but moving forward without Scully at all was most certainly an impossibility. 

In any event, whatever he wanted out of his future he first had to get to El Rico and ensure he had one.

“We should go,” he said. She nodded and stood, and he moved past her towards the door, hoping Scully would even answer the phone when he called.





POTOMAC YARD

NORTHERN VIRGINIA

10:45 PM



“Skinner’s on his way,” Mulder said as he hung up his cell phone. The wreckage of their car smoldered behind them, having been pushed off the tracks by the train car that had then plummeted ahead, too far for them to chase on foot. Yet another dead end.

Scully nodded slightly in response, standing a few yards away, staring at the ground. He sat down on a crate, the cold air chilly around him and she approached him cautiously, unsure. Like she didn’t know how to behave around him anymore. It was unusual to see her like that and it unnerved him. Frankly, it broke his heart, and he knew it was all his fault.

They never fought, it just wasn’t how they operated. It seemed whenever emotions got in their way they didn’t know how to handle them, and this time it had simply erupted. 

He wasn’t sure what to say to her, exactly, but he did know one thing he needed to.

“I’m sorry, Scully,” he said. It was automatic and he meant it all at once. “I’m sorry about what I said to you before. You were right. I was letting my emotions get in the way of doing my due diligence in regards to the X-Files.” 

She sat next to him quietly, nodding. But she said nothing. 

“I went to see her at her apartment, after you left,” he explained. “To… follow up on what you said. And I ran into the cancer man there.”

Scully turned to face him, shocked. “The cancer man? C.G.B. Spender? He was at Diana Fowley’s apartment?” she asked, incredulous. 

He knew it looked worse than it actually was, it had to be.

“He was there looking for Agent Spender,” he explained weakly. He could tell Scully wanted to object but mercifully she kept her mouth shut. “And he told me… Scully, he told me what happened all those years ago. About my sister, about my father. He said they made a deal with the alien colonists to save themselves and their families. And he told me to go to El Rico Air Force Base. That if I wanted to survive, it was the only place I could go.”

Scully listened, and he wasn’t sure how much of this she believed. So much was happening, and he wasn’t even sure what he believed anymore. But he didn’t really care about that right now. He just wanted to get her back on his side, and he wasn’t sure how to do that. 

“Do you think that’s where they’re taking Cassandra?” she asked. 

He nodded. “I was on my way there, with Diana, when I called you.”

“And where exactly is Diana now?” she asked. He couldn’t help but notice the twinge of acid on her tongue when she uttered the other woman’s name. 

“I don’t know. I told her to meet us there. But… I don’t know,” he said honestly. “Anyway, you did exactly what I’d expect you to do in your situation. I reacted badly and I’m sorry.”

They were quiet for a minute, sounds of train whistles in the distance, the chugga chugga of passing boxcars. It felt like minutes went by without an acceptance of his apology and he felt its weight. His relationship with Scully was the most important one in his life, he should never have questioned that, and he’d led her to doubt him. He felt terrible.

“Do you know what an exquisite corpse is, Mulder?” she asked suddenly. He was taken aback by the abrupt change in topic, but it was typically the way their conversations went. 

“A good day in the autopsy bay?” he joked, hoping to relieve some of this tension.

She didn’t crack a smile. “It’s a game I used to play with Melissa when we were kids. You start by drawing a picture, then you conceal most of it, give it to the next person, and they continue the drawing without seeing the whole. Then the picture you end up with is unlike anything you’d imagined, or expected.”

“Are you suggesting we play, Scully? We don’t have much else to do until Skinner gets here.” 

“What I am suggesting,” she said pointedly, “is that you seriously pay attention to what’s going on when you’re around Diana Fowley.”

He looked at her. “What’s this about, Scully? Really?” he asked. If they were going to have it out, then let it roll. He felt like he had little to lose at this point.

But Scully didn’t take that particular bait.

“She is playing you, Mulder. She’s only showing you the bits and pieces of herself that keep you on her side. She’s deceiving you, and you cannot see the whole picture.”

How? ” he asked, annoyed and possibly relieved to drop his own line of questioning for now. “How is she doing that?” 

What Scully was suggesting was straight up treachery, and he couldn’t get there, he couldn’t. Not Diana. He wanted examples. He wanted receipts.

Scully was prepared, however. “Do you remember the meeting we had with Skinner before our office was destroyed? About the attorney general? I saw exactly how she worked you. She impugned our work and in practically the same breath flattered you, and you bought it, hook line and sinker.”

He searched his memory, which was typically very good, but couldn’t remember. Maybe he didn’t want to remember. “Scully-”

“And back after the nuclear reactor attacks, Mulder. She threw you under the bus on the official report, then placated you with fancy words about everything she believed.”

He turned to look at her. “Are you telling me she doesn’t believe it?”

“I don’t know what she believes,” she answered. “But I’ll tell you what I believe, and that’s that she’s manipulating you. In whatever way she can.”

“To what end?” he asked immediately. Sure, it was odd Diana had popped up unexpectedly in his life at the very moment he was closer than ever to the truth. She was right about that, the Gunmen were right. But what did one have to do with the other? Why were simple coincidences, which Scully typically argued for, suddenly laden with meaning when it came to Diana?

“I don’t know, Mulder. I don’t know. All I’m saying is I wish you’d be more careful. I wish… that you’d trust me.”

He did trust Scully, absolutely. But he trusted Diana too. He didn’t understand why this had to be a zero sum game. 

He studied her face, remembering how vehemently she’d refuted what he’d seen of the creatures in Antarctica, and how she’d denied seeing the spacecraft to OPR. Then he remembered Diana's certainty and excitement as they headed to find an alien creature hiding within the reactor. 

Diana never doubted it, regardless of what she wrote in her report. Not like Scully did.  

“No, you’re wrong about her, Scully,” he said. It hurt him to say it but she had to be wrong. “She believed me. She believes I saw what I saw, and you refuse to. That’s the reason you’re upset.”

Scully's eyes were indescribable; wet and ablaze at the same time. “I told you the truth!” she said firmly, louder now. Something he’d said had awakened a fire within her. “All I have to give you is the truth, Mulder. All I have to give you is myself. And I am your friend.”

Mulder just looked at her, thinking hard. About what she’d said, about what he’d said to her all those months ago in his hallway. How she was right, that he couldn’t ask her to be someone she wasn’t. He didn’t want her to be anyone else, and that was the truth.

am your friend, Mulder. Not her,” she finished quietly.

She turned away from him, eyes glistening, and for a moment it seemed like she might cry, but nothing on this planet was going to allow her to let a single tear fall in front of him on Diana Fowley’s behalf. Mulder knew that much. 

She bit her lip and looked down, seeming ashamed for having revealed so much to him. He knew she was territorial when it came to their partnership, and he was as well. But her reaction had been so raw, it hit on something deep inside him. 

This wasn’t about who believed what, or the X-Files, or even Diana Fowley. As he’d strongly suspected all along, this was indeed about the two of them. He didn’t need to make Scully admit it out loud.

“I don’t want to be left behind, Mulder,” she said quietly into the cold night. “I don’t deserve that from you, after all we’ve been through together.”

He’d never seen her this way before, admitting her fear of losing him. He was witnessing the cracks in her armor; a vulnerable Dana Scully on full display. 

He marveled at her ability to even entertain the possibility he would leave her behind. Maybe that was why he’d been so annoyed all these months at her dismissal of Diana and hadn’t been able to adequately monitor his own behavior.

He didn’t want her feeling like this, like he’d abandoned her. That idea, that possibility alone, tore him up inside. 

He pulled her into him close, wrapping one arm around her shoulders, laying his head on top of hers. They sat together quietly for a few moments as he felt her sigh deeply, and he recognized the hitch in her breath that meant she was calming herself down.

“Scully, of course you’re my friend. You’re my best friend. And I trust you more than anyone. You have to know that.” 

She didn’t say anything, but made no move to extract herself from his embrace. He rubbed her upper arm and continued.

You are my partner. I understand that trusting another person is hard, especially for the two of us. But Scully, can’t you trust me enough to know when I’m being manipulated?”

Scully again said nothing. It was as if she’d exhausted every iota of her candor.

“I am hearing you, Scully, I promise. But she is my friend, too. Diana—”

“Please just stop saying her name, okay?” Scully said quietly. “I don’t want to talk about her anymore.”

He sighed. He knew when to stop pushing. “Her name won’t come out of my mouth again, I promise.” It was all he could give her right now, and he hoped it would be enough. 

She turned to look up at him and, if not complete forgiveness, he saw what felt like another truce. He knew he’d fucked up, again, and rebuilding what he’d lost with Scully was going to take some time.

“I can promise you, Scully, I will not leave you in the dark. I will never leave you behind. Ever.”

He felt her arm move around his waist, and she clung to him, but said nothing. 

“You believe me, don’t you?” he asked. 

“Yes,” she said instantly. “I believe you.”

 



***

 



After a few minutes of silence, Scully gently withdrew from his embrace and pulled out her cell phone, presumably to call Skinner. Their quiet bubble was evaporating, making way for their real world to supersede it once again.

He sighed, disappointed that there wasn't ever any time to just enjoy sitting by her side, sharing space, watching the world go by without them. That it always had to be this way; there would always be something bigger to attend to. In moments like this, when it was just the two of them, he could appreciate her desire to stop and get out of the damn car every once in awhile.

As he stood and stepped over to inspect the destroyed vehicle again, he spotted headlights approaching them. 

Skinner pulled up in his car and they all drove quietly to the base. Their ex-boss didn’t ask much, most likely knowing full well when it came to the two of them the answers would be cryptic if forthcoming at all.

When they arrived at El Rico the first thing Mulder noticed was the smell, and Scully noticed it too. It was the smell of death, of charred flesh and bone, of a magnitude he’d never experienced in all his years in law enforcement. Skinner called for backup and the three of them entered the hangar slowly, unprepared for the sight before them.

It was a large pile of bodies, a couple dozen at least, burnt beyond recognition. Some were scattered, some melted into one another, creating a large macabre black mass. 

Scully grabbed Mulder’s forearm and uttered “oh my god… ” in an effort to keep him back but suddenly all he could think of was Samantha, and if she’d actually been here, and what if the cancer man hadn’t been lying…. what if he’d been telling him the truth and she’d been here and they couldn’t get to her because they went after a fucking train car instead…

His brain was spinning and these thoughts combined with the stench permeating the stale air of the hangar forced bile to rise up in his throat. He ran towards the entrance to the hangar and vomited just outside.

Spinning, spinning… he’d been so close...

Soon he felt Scully behind him just as he expected to, her hand on the back of his neck and her other on his brow.

“Mulder, kneel down. Calm down.” Her Doctor Scully voice was soothing and he tried to focus on it but all he could think about was Samantha’s charred body somewhere inside that steaming, horrifying pile.

“What if she… Scully, what if…” was all he could get out. She knelt down next to him and rubbed his shoulders.

“I’m sure she’s okay, Mulder. I’m sure she never even made it here.”

He knew then Scully thought he was reacting this way over Diana, whom it occurred to him he had not thought of from the moment they arrived. What did that mean?

“No, Scully…” he tried to explain, his breath hitching. How long would it take for them to identify all these bodies? How long would he have to wait, again? How long until he would know the truth?

And the worst question of all… did he want this to be the truth?

“Samantha…”

He heard a sharp intake of breath as she understood. She grasped his arm and in his mind he returned to the forest in the forks of West Virginia where Scully had capitulated to his crime scene desecration, helping him to claw at the ground to uncover what he'd thought might be the final truth about his sister. 

...Help me, Scully…

“Mulder… you don’t know that, you don’t know if she was ever here.”

“But… she…” he couldn’t get the words out. It was too much. He couldn’t keep going through this, he couldn’t. He wanted to find her but he’d had about as much as he could take. He just wanted it to stop.

“The smoking man is a liar,” she declared. “Don’t believe him.”

Mulder just stared at the ground, breathing heavily.

“There’s nothing more we can do, Mulder,” she said. “Skinner called for assistance. Let’s get out of here.”

“No.” He wiped his mouth and stood up, turning to stride back into the building. “This is an X-File, Scully,” he said defiantly. “You and I should be the first ones in there.”

“We are no longer assigned to the X-Files,” she pointed out. “In fact, we shouldn’t even be here at all.”

He turned to her and said the only thing he could think of.

“Help me, Scully.”

She looked at him for several seconds, then tilted her head in acquiescence and followed him inside. Just like he knew she would.



***



Diana watched Spender glance back over his shoulder, then nervously look into the rearview as they sped away from the hangar. She’d never seen him so anxious and it worried her.

The screaming was the last thing she’d heard and it haunted her. The sound echoed in her brain as they headed west: to where, she wasn’t certain, she just knew they needed to drive. But the screaming in her head wouldn’t stop. 

There wasn’t anything they could have done, but she still felt guilty, cowardly for turning tail and leaving. Many of them had been remarkable people, bravely looking to the future, to what needed to be done to save humanity.

And now they were all gone, all of them.

They drove in silence for a long time until her phone rang. A brief conversation with AD Skinner and she knew then that she had to say something to Spender.

“That was AD Skinner. Agent Spender has made a formal request to reinstate Agents Mulder and Scully to the X-Files.”

Spender was quiet, having calmed himself measurably since they left the hangar. “I see.”

He pulled out a cigarette and lit it. Diana rolled the window down, a small act of defiance she felt more comfortable with now that it was only the two of them.

“This is a minor setback, surely. But one that can be easily dealt with.”

In the moment she feared he was threatening Fox’s life again, and to Diana, whatever they did, whatever they had to do to move forward, that was not an option. Not for her. 

“Mulder and Scully won’t be a problem for us,” he said, however, alleviating her fears at least for the moment. “Walter Skinner is much more easily maneuverable now. Alex Krycek has seen to that.”

Oh, right. Fucking Alex. She’d almost forgotten about him, which she assumed had been his intention, the slippery little rodent. 

“What does this mean?” she asked. “For the project, I mean?” 

Part of her hoped the destruction of the Syndicate meant this was over, that she was done. They had failed. But it had been many years since actual hope had been in sight for her. And there was still a part of her that did not want to admit defeat.

“We continue, of course,” he said, as if nothing awful had occurred at all. Just another day. She admired his ability to compartmentalize so well, and of course she did; she’d learned it from him.

“How are we going to do that?” she asked. “We’ve lost our only viable hybrid. We’ve lost all our resources. And the Praise boy is nowhere to be found.”

“I knew entrusting him to those buffoons was a mistake,” he scoffed. “I allow so few. I take full responsibility.”

“Like you said, you couldn’t have predicted this.”

“On the contrary,” he said, turning to her. “It seems as if everything is still going according to plan. The timetable hasn’t been altered after all. Perhaps the rebels showing up was meant to be, to maintain the timetable we’d originally planned for.” He grinned. "Fate, I suppose."

Cassandra had happened earlier than they’d expected. And now things were, in fact, back on track. Fate had indeed seemed to intervene once again. But what were the plans for the project? What could they possibly move forward with? They had nothing now, nowhere to start.

“I’m sorry about Cassandra,” she said, more out of genuine curiosity to see if he had a reaction than anything else.

Spender took a drag and slowly exhaled. “She was unfortunately a sacrifice that had to be made, Diana. For the good of the project.”

“But she was your wife,” said Diana. Spender had always told her he’d done what he did to Cassandra to protect her. She wasn’t stupid; she knew that making his wife the ultimate test subject was the easiest way to keep her close, keep her protected. But it also made her extremely dispensable. 

Diana suddenly felt sick to her stomach and thought she might have to pull the car over, but she held firm. 

Spender reached across the console towards the steering wheel and placed his hand over hers. The contact shocked her; it was the first time he’d ever connected with her physically in the entire time she’d known him.

“Her suffering wasn't for naught. She died a hero, Diana. Don’t lose hope. We now know what we need, what to do. We can continue our work because of her.” 

He rubbed his thumb over her hand in a consoling fashion, something she’d never once thought the man was capable of doing. She turned to look at him and he sealed her fate with a final remark. 

“We’ll carry the burden from here on in.” He was wearing a smile that made her very uncomfortable. It was too big, too wide. Phony.

She pulled her hand away, uncomfortable, but he didn’t seem to notice her discomfort. One disadvantage she was learning about Spender was his lack of humanity in even the most human circumstances.

She gripped the wheel and stared straight ahead, feeling trapped like an animal with a predator close by; a feral beast ready to strike. She’d been well aware of the danger thus far but it felt more real now than ever before, and she was in deep.









2630 HEGAL PLACE, APT 42

ALEXANDRIA, VA

FEBRUARY 14, 1999

 

It had been a few days since the El Rico incident. Mulder hadn’t heard a thing from Diana since he last saw her at her apartment. None of the bodies had been identified as hers, thankfully, but he had no idea where she was.

He’d tried explaining to Kersh what happened, what was happening. He hadn’t missed the way Scully’s eyebrows lifted, the gentle huff he heard next to him when he uttered the phrase sleeping with the enemy. It was a poor choice of words, certainly, considering the events that had brought them to where they currently stood. 

But she’d defended him this time, in spite of what she believed or didn’t believe. 

I wouldn’t bet against him, sir.

He smiled at the memory. Scully sitting beside him, once again backing him up in the face of her own uncertainty and skepticism. Things felt right between them again, if not completely, well on the road to redemption.

In any event, it seemed Diana had just… disappeared. And with her had gone any uncertainty he’d felt about his and Scully’s partnership.

Scully was back in his corner, and he intended to keep her there.

He lay on his couch, the couch he’d been sleeping on almost every night since Diana left him all those years ago. Near the end, when things had gotten strained, she’d rarely slept over at his place because he’d been packing and the mess was everywhere. It hadn’t been conducive to romance, or intimacy, both things they’d lost months before anyway.

He knew even then things weren’t going to get better between them. He wouldn’t admit it to himself at the time but he’d delayed moving into her apartment on purpose because the idea of it had been abhorrent. Moving into Diana’s apartment would have made him into something else; something he wasn’t. 

Who was he now? What did he really want? 

His thoughts turned to the kiss he and Scully had nearly shared in his hallway. It hadn’t occurred to him exactly how badly he wanted to kiss Scully until the opportunity had been stolen from him. And as close as they’d gotten, they’d never been able to successfully recreate those conditions. Doing such a thing would mean telling her how he felt about her and that was next to impossible.

His eyes closed and he then tried to think about the familiar kiss of Diana, someone he’d known intimately before, for years. 

But he couldn’t think of her in that way, he was realizing. Not anymore. He much preferred the unknown. The mysteriousness of Scully’s lips. The wild blue yonder.

He knew it wasn’t just about the mystery with Scully, or the chase; she wasn’t just one more pursuit on his endless list. It was that when he thought about her and wondered how she tasted and how she would feel wrapped around him and how they would fit together his heart beat wildly, crazy with anticipation. 

He thought about that almost-kiss every time he looked at her lips now, which was constantly. That almost-kiss that he finished in his dreams every evening, night after night. And how he never thought of the hundreds of times he’d kissed Diana, not anymore. 

He knew the truth. He wanted Scully. He desired her, he craved her.

He was in love with her.

And when his hand moved down to unbuckle his belt and seek to relieve the arousal growing in his pants he could no longer deny that, as much as he’d convinced himself he didn’t want to over the past few months, he had already made his choice. 

He’d made it long before Diana Fowley came back into his life. 

His imagination went wild as he thought only of Scully, her eyes piercing his, her soft hands on his chest, her lips pressed against his, and himself buried inside her as they drove each other to ecstasy. She hovered above him in his mind, his fantasy; her lips curved into the smile he so rarely got to see as he told her he loved her. 

His heart was full to bursting with a strange mix of passion and yearning and confusion and desperation, and her name tumbled out of his mouth for what must have been the thousandth time in this quiet, lonely apartment. 

Scully…

He felt his impending release, familiar but lonely, as he heard in his mind the words he wanted her to say to him so badly.

"I love you, Mulder…” she whispered. “I’ve loved you for so long…”

It was all he’d wanted to hear for years, from Scully and only from Scully. 

At her declaration of love he came, and as he turned to his side he felt so heartbreakingly lonely; missing her, feeling terrible for ever doubting her, and guilty for reducing her in this manner rather than simply being a man and telling her his truth. 

Minutes later, after he’d cleaned up and calmed down, he shuffled back into his living room and looked at the new X-File on his desk, their first back, one they were set to begin investigating in a few days, after appropriate preparations had been made. 

He smiled at the thought of having the X-Files back, and more importantly having Scully back. He hoped it was a sign that perhaps they were on track again at last, that maybe without the distraction of Diana they could move forward again towards the truth.

And maybe even towards their truth.

Opening the Ziploc baggie next to the file, he let the gold band he was to use on this assignment tumble into his palm. He slid it onto his finger, regarding it closely. 

This ring might not symbolize a real marriage, but it felt more right on his finger than the one Diana had picked out for him ever did. 



 

Chapter Text

Chapter 13: The Ascent




She thinks about this more than she’s comfortable; the images pouring forth like scenes from a favorite movie, or one of Mulder’s oft-visited porn tapes. She’s thought about it since it nearly happened: in dreams, in waking. 

“I don’t want to do this alone.”

He inches towards her so slowly the anticipation is intoxicating, the sound of approaching truth deafening. She can smell him, he’s so close. Only this time, there is no interruption. There is no bee.

He comes to her with no hesitation or uncertainty. He grasps her face between his hands and kisses her the way she’s wanted him to for so long: with passion and fire, and the love she feels so desperately for him is reciprocated with intensity. 

At first they know nothing, tongues gliding over lips and teeth, and noses bumping together as if they’ve never kissed another soul. As if this is the very first time for either of them. But then, as dreams go, everything becomes mind blowingly perfect. His lips are supple, wet and smooth. Perfection. She combs her fingers through his hair and her own lips part, letting him inside. 

She wants to smile with utter relief but she does not, because she still doesn’t believe it. How can she believe this is finally, finally real? She is Dana Scully, she is his Dana Scully. She sees things with her own eyes, touches things with her very fingers and cannot believe. 

But it’s the reason he loves her. 

“I owe you everything.” 

She allows her smile to show now, no longer thinking, no longer worrying. He smiles in return and carries her back inside his apartment, lays her down on a bed she’s never laid eyes on like she belongs there, like she’s always belonged there, and they start to tear each other’s clothes off. Yearning washes over her, engulfing her; a savage appetite. His hand slips beneath her shirt with ease and familiarity, skilled fingers that know exactly how to please her, and she gasps and arches into his welcoming touch. 

Why can’t this be so easy in real life? Somehow she knows this is all a dream, it can’t be real, it’s much too good to be true.

But she wants to believe.

His lips travel along her neck, across every surface of her body until she is quaking with anticipation. She doesn’t have to wait long, because that’s how dreams work, and soon he is parting her legs and she arches again, guiding him inside her. She doesn’t see him but rather feels him as he makes her whole.

“You made me a whole person.” 

He moves within her; warmth and comfort and desire that can only be described as the physical manifestation of their trust and it feels so perfect, so good, so right. 

The only thing that feels right.

"Scully... I love you,” Mulder says; the three words she hasn’t stopped thinking about since he’d uttered them months ago, as her memories blur together with fantasy. “I only love you. There could never be another.” 

She’s so desperate to know this, to hear him say it. 

She doesn’t want to stop. She never, ever wants to wake up. And he is relentless. He will not stop either, not until she sees stars, and soon she does; soon she is coming so hard, her hands on his face, their foreheads locked together, as it should be. 

As it always should have been.












1450 AUTUMN TERRACE

ARCADIA, CA

FEBRUARY 26, 1999

7:46 AM



Scully woke tangled in sheets, cresting. Her hand went to her mouth in surprise as she rode out a much needed orgasm, induced by merely a dream. 

A dream. This had never happened to her before.

Her eyelids grew heavy as she finished, and she rolled over, recalling to her great horror that she was actually sharing a bed with the very man she’d been fantasizing about. 

Mulder had finagled his way into her room last night claiming an inability to sleep on an uncomfortable mattress, but she knew he just wanted to be close to her. She wanted to be close to him too, so she’d let him.

The sheets were tangled around his own body as well, and demonstrating her complete lack of self control in such a vulnerable moment, her eyes landed on his crotch. It was clear that, indeed, he’d been quite comfortable on her mattress. The size of his bulge shocked her, and for a brief moment she wanted to laugh; between the sharing of the bed, his erection, and her orgasm, they’d practically had sex. Too bad they’d both slept through it.

By the grace of God he was sleeping soundly and hadn’t noticed her embarrassing infraction. She felt her body relax, coming down from before, and it was a strange but wonderful sensation to be looking at his face in real life during such a moment, rather than only in her mind. She had an urge to leave the bed but she stayed, watching him sleep, allowing herself this indulgence. She’d never been able to do this before, so close, his face so beautiful, his breathing slow and steady. 

"You made me a whole person,” he’d said in her dream. 

He’d said it in real life, she corrected herself

She should have said it back. She should have told him the truth. She should have told him “I could never be whole without you, either. ” Then maybe they wouldn’t be in this mess right now.

After the distraction of El Rico they hadn’t revisited their fight at The Lone Gunman. She felt better than she had before, however; their conversation in the train yard had been a long time coming. And now that Diana Fowley had disappeared and it was just the two of them on the X-Files again, she felt more secure in her role as his partner. 

Although now, that role had switched to ‘fake wife’ literally overnight.

His left hand laid on his chest and she stared at the gold wedding band on his finger. For a moment she let her mind wander to what that might be like: Mulder as a husband, as a lover.

Or even a father.

She hadn’t seen any children around this suburban community, which she’d noted as odd. It made a strange kind of sense, as kids certainly would be a threat to the strict rules and regulations that were enforced. But the environment alone had gotten her thinking, and longing for something she knew she could never have.

As she watched him, she wondered what he was dreaming about. Who he was dreaming about, really. Either of the two scenarios she pictured were scary, and rather than let her mind linger on one in particular, she rolled out of bed and headed downstairs on shaky post-orgasmic legs to the kitchen. Surely the awkwardness of Mulder waking in his condition with her in the room would push their already glacial progress back another couple of years.

She leaned against the counter and waited for the coffee to brew. She’d forgotten to throw on her robe in her distraction and suddenly realized when he did come downstairs he’d see more of her than she was comfortable with. He’d already seen enough of her in a decontamination shower, courtesy of Diana Fowley, thank you very much. But there was really nothing to be done about it; she wasn’t about to go back upstairs and risk waking him.

After a few minutes of sipping her coffee and reading reports, she heard the shower turn on. She tried to focus on reading but it was hard not to think of Mulder, naked in the shower, an image she now knew by memory rather than simply imagination. She pictured steam swirling, water dripping down his body as he surely moved his hands down south to take care of his morning situation-- 

Stop it, she scolded herself. Then, almost as abruptly, oh, fuck it. She censored her feelings enough for Mulder. She was tired of censoring them for herself. 

She let her thoughts wander where they wanted, and her legs closed involuntarily to keep her arousal at bay. She was wearing shorts and a camisole, a far cry from the nightgown ensemble she’d sported before to keep all this from becoming too… intense. Apparently it hadn’t worked out the way she’d expected.

Eventually he appeared, wearing sweatpants and a white T-shirt. She felt immediately exposed, having far less on than him, but from the way his glance roamed over what she knew was a pair of extremely pert nipples she figured it was worth it. He was surprised, having never seen her in quite this state of undress before. 

“Morning,” he said, trying gallantly to keep his eyes off her chest and failing miserably. She raised an eyebrow as she sipped her coffee, but was smiling on the inside. Eat your heart out, Spooky.

“Morning. Sleep well?” she asked knowingly. 

“Um. Yeah, your mattress is much better than mine. Thanks.” 

He avoided eye contact as he went to the fridge and pulled out some orange juice, sipping it directly from the carton. 

“That’s all yours now, you know,” she said with veiled irritation.

“Sorry,” he mumbled with his mouth full of orange juice. He pulled a glass out of the cabinet anyway and poured himself some. “You got in kind of late last night.” 

It sounded harmless but she could tell he was fishing. She had gotten in rather late, and had missed the creature Mulder saw attacking the Schroeders because of it.

“Traffic,” was all she said. Her response was so clipped that she could tell he knew she was lying.

“Scully. What took you so long?”

She looked him in the eye, unsure of how to proceed. There was virtually no reason for him to be upset at her revelation except for the very huge and obvious reason before them. But deep down she wanted to see how he’d react. 

“I bumped into Detective Kresge,” she said. “He happened to be at the San Diego field office working on a case.”

He looked confused, but she could pinpoint the moment recognition crossed his face. “Oh.” 

The truth was, she’d been about to head back to Arcadia early in the afternoon when Kresge had asked her out to dinner and she’d accepted. They’d eaten, they’d laughed, and he hadn’t once asked her about Emily Sim, which she was grateful for. But when he’d tried to kiss her at her car she’d gently pushed on his chest, knowing it wasn’t going to lead anywhere. She was in way too deep with her feelings for Mulder. She didn’t want Ed Jerse, the sequel.

“How’s Detective Kresge doing?” Mulder asked, enunciating each syllable of the name.

“He’s doing well. Promoted to superintendent, actually.”

“Mm-hm,” Mulder nodded. “Good for him.”

She smiled, kind of enjoying this. It was nice to see the shoe on the other foot for once. 

“Did he have any insight on the case at all?” Mulder asked.

“Oh, we didn’t really talk much about the case,” she admitted. “Just, you know. Catching up.” Her eyes flickered up to his and she sensed his distress, although he was trying to remain calm. 

“I hope you told him you’re married,” he smirked.

“Must have slipped my mind.”

“So… are you gonna leave me here in this house all by myself again today?” he asked, apparently done talking about her date.

“What will happen if I do?” she asked.

“I don’t know, but my sanity is in jeopardy, Scully. This place is pretty much my worst nightmare.”

“Why does that not surprise me?” she laughed, knowing this to be the case already. 

“I wasn’t kidding when I said you fit in here, though,” he added. “I like what you’re doing with your hair. It’s very… suburban.”

Her hand went to the bottom of her hair, where it had been curling up a bit. She actually didn’t like her most recent haircut and was surprised he’d even noticed. 

“Suburban? Is that a good thing?”

“It suits you,” he said. “But then again, everything suits you.”

She was taken aback by this overt flirting. She’d noticed it a lot lately and wondered if it was compensatory for everything Diana-related that was still lingering in the air. 

“Thanks,” was all she could think to say. She didn’t press the obvious unspoken observation: that she fit in here, and he didn’t. 

Picking up her coffee, she moved to the couch. “Is that really what you think of me, Mulder? That I belong in a place like this?”

He looked at her, and she could tell he thought she’d taken offense. “No, not a place like this, exactly. Just… you know. Your normal life.

“I think that ship has sailed,” she said a bit wistfully. In more ways than one. She tried daily not to think of the children she would never have. She failed daily.

“That’s nonsense,” he said. He grinned at her in a familiar way, and it was nice to feel somewhat normal with him again. “You’re a catch, Scully.”

She looked at him skeptically, questions in her eyes. It was a nice compliment, but all she wanted was for him to want to be the one to catch her.

“Well-” he said, probably to prevent yet another moment from getting too heated. “I guess I’m gonna go and put on a polo shirt or something. Check one of those CC&Rs off the to-do list.” He turned with a smile and headed back upstairs. 

She wanted to believe him, that he really thought she was a catch. It was all she wanted. He was her everything, even though she still was too afraid to tell him so. 

But it felt like it didn’t matter as long as Diana Fowley was still out there, Diana Fowleying around. She had him in every single area that mattered except one; the area in which Diana Fowley still had her beat. 





PARENTI MEDICAL GROUP

ZEUS GENETICS

GERMANTOWN, MARYLAND

JUNE 1999



Diana sat in a parked car, assembling her papers. Zeus Genetics was just one of the many establishments that had been utilizing her research for alien hybrid experiments. This was supposed to be a quick progress meeting with Dr. Lev. 

“I’ll wait for you here,” Alex said next to her. 

The repercussions of her research over the past several years were only now beginning to come to light. She didn’t want to think about the effect her work had on innocent people. She knew it probably didn’t matter in the end; everyone was headed for Armageddon regardless. But the deeper she went, the worse she got at compartmentalizing, which was something she always thought she’d been pretty good at.

Slowly but surely, she was beginning to feel the noose tightening around her neck, of guilt, of hopelessness. She’d come too far now to ever pay penance for any of the things she’d done. She wanted to be a good person, she always had. But she’d run out of options long ago.

As she prepared to exit the car she noticed a woman with bright red hair emerge from the front door of the facility. She recognized her instantly: Agent Scully. A man came out behind her and took her hand, but she couldn’t pull her eyes away from Agent Scully, and she found herself wondering about her, curious to see that she had some kind of personal life. A life that involved making babies. It wasn’t necessarily odd or unusual; what was odd was that she’d never thought of her in that way before: as a person, a human being. Someone who wanted more out of the life Diana had pigeonholed her into.

Her eyes then drifted to this man Agent Scully was apparently making babies with and as she fully comprehended who she was seeing she swore her heart stopped dead in her chest. 

It was Fox.

What are they doing at a fertility clinic?

Her mind raced through the variety of reasons they could be there. Was this an investigation? Or perhaps some other kind of procedure? Why was Fox holding her hand? 

She watched them walk to a car in the parking lot, and before Agent Scully could open the door, Fox stopped to face her. Even from a distance of about fifteen yards she could see worry in Agent Scully’s eyes, maybe fear. 

But then Fox did something so unfamiliar that it nearly took Diana’s breath away. He reached up to touch Agent Scully’s face, his thumb rubbing gently along her temple. The other woman’s eyes closed and she pulled his hand to her stomach. They stood like that for a good thirty seconds as Diana felt the hope draining away from her; the absolute certainty that Fox did indeed love this other woman crashing into her like a runaway freight train.

He’d never touched Diana like that, ever. Not in their entire time together. The intimacy before her was astonishing. And the way she held his hand against her abdomen was a clear indication of exactly what they’d come here for, together.

She ducked down a bit to keep hidden. She felt invasive watching them in this moment, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away. 

“Huh,” Alex muttered from beside her. “Didn’t see that coming.”

“What?” she asked him. She eyed him, taking in his meaning. Was he trying to get a rise out of her? Could he possibly know about her past with Fox? And how could he? “What are you talking about?”

“Oh nothing, just never saw those two as the mommy and daddy type.”

She looked back over to the pair and silently agreed.

Kids? Fox? Not only was the sight before her unusual on its face, she happened to know for a fact that Fox didn’t want children. At least he hadn’t before. 

He hadn’t with her, she completed the thought.

The implications of Fox and Agent Scully attempting to make a baby at Zeus Genetics presented a huge dilemma for Diana. She knew exactly what went on at this clinic; what went on at half a dozen fertility clinics in this area alone. The odds of them winding up at one that was involved in Project Crossroads weren’t staggering by any stretch.

But could she warn them somehow? Should she interfere? It was obviously too late to stop it, but if they knew what they were getting themselves into...

“What… should we do, Alex?” 

He shrugged. “Not my problem. Not yours, either.” He looked at her. “Is it?”

“Of course not,” she replied, maybe too quickly. Maybe too defensively.

Alex pinned her with a look. “You know him, don’t you?”

“We all know him.”

“No, that’s not what I mean,” he clarified. “You know him, know him.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” She wasn’t sure why she cared what Alex thought. Regardless, her skills at being a liar were of little use against a better one.

“Wow,” he said, and she knew there was no use denying it further. She sighed.

“It was a long time ago.”

“Before or after?” he asked.

“What?” 

Before, or after ?” he repeated, deliberately.

“Alex, I don’t know what you’re asking,” she responded, confused. She honestly didn’t. “Before or after you? Why do you care?”

“No, Diana. Before or after you got into all of this?” He gestured everywhere, and she knew what he meant.

“Before,” she said hastily. He eyed her suspiciously.

His words, however, made her wonder. Spender had, in fact, approached her shortly after she’d started dating Fox. It never occurred to her at the time to make that connection. Was it mere coincidence? And now, with what she knew about their relationship, how could it be? Even as a strong believer in fate, this seemed far too clean.

She watched Fox leaned in to kiss Agent Scully on the forehead and open her car door. After a few seconds, they were gone.

She tried to imagine Fox as a father. She could picture it in her mind, feel it in her heart. She could almost envision it more clearly than she could envision herself as a mother. 

They’d had exactly one conversation about having children and, although she hadn’t thought about it much lately, she’d lied to him when she said she couldn’t imagine it, especially right near the end of their relationship when she’d considered leaving everything behind- leaving the Syndicate behind- to fix what she had with Fox. She wondered what her life would be like if she’d chosen another path. 

Her thoughts then turned to Agent Scully, to the two of them holding a baby between them, Fox looking at his partner in a way he’d never, ever looked at Diana. She felt the familiar stirrings of jealousy once again and knew this time they would remain, perhaps forever.

In this moment Diana Fowley fully grasped the grand sum of her life - and she didn’t like what she saw. 













#42 HEGAL PLACE

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA

JULY 1999 10:33 PM




He heard knocking and expected it was Scully. Ever since the IVF procedure had failed, she’d been spending more and more time at his place. Mulder never wanted to see her hurting so he welcomed it, and after their respective recoveries from the man-eating mushroom case at Brown Mountain, she’d kept even closer to his side. 

Instead, when he opened the door, he once again saw the most unexpected person he could think of.

“...Diana? What are you doing here? Wh-where have you been?”

He hadn’t seen or heard from her in months, ever since the El Rico incident. When he and Scully were reinstated to the X Files, he assumed she’d gone back to Europe. Hoped, if he was being entirely honest.

“I need to talk to you. Can I come in?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea; I’m expecting company.”

She smirked. “That company wouldn’t happen to be Agent Scully, would it?” 

He sighed. “What do you want, Diana?”

“It’ll only take a minute.” She made her way past him and he closed the door behind her. She walked into his living room and spun around, removing her jacket and throwing it on the couch.

“I thought you said a minute,” he said, annoyed. “Don’t get comfortable, please.”

“I’ve always been comfortable here, Fox,” she purred. She crossed her arms over her chest and removed her top in one swift motion. Before he could say anything, do anything, she pounced.

She pushed him back against the wall, kissing him fiercely. His eyes bulged and he tried to remember the last time they’d even spoken. She’d kissed him, he’d told her this wasn’t the time… 

He hadn’t been clear enough. As usual.

“Diana-” he began, but she was not in the mood to listen. She reached for the bottom of his shirt and began to lift it over his head.

He panicked, thinking if Scully arrived and found Diana here, surely he wouldn’t get another pass, if he’d ever even had one in the first place. 

“Stop, stop,” he mumbled, pushing her away. Thankfully, she obeyed and stepped back, looking at him, face flushed.

“This cannot happen,” he said. “If I gave you the wrong impression before, I didn’t mean to, and I’m sorry.”

“I lied to you,” she suddenly blurted. 

He blinked. “What? When?”

“I did want children. I do want children, Fox. I want them with you.”

What the fuck? Where the hell was this coming from?  

“What? I- Why are you telling me this?”

“Because you lied to me too, Fox,” she said. He saw tears forming in her eyes and could barely keep up.

“I lied about what?”

“About wanting children,” she said. His confusion was palpable until she uttered her next words. “I saw you, Fox. At the clinic. With her.”

His first thought was absolute confusion at being assaulted with this topic at such a random moment, but he then became extremely protective of Scully. This was her business, their business. What the hell did Diana have to do with any of it? And how did she even know about it?

“What were you doing at a fertility clinic?” he asked. 

She waved the question away, and he might have pressed if he weren’t more immediately concerned about this invasion of their privacy. 

“I need to know, Fox,” she said. There was ice in her stare. “Did you change your mind about wanting children? Or did you just not want to have them with me?”

He shook his head and opened his mouth to speak. He wasn’t prepared to talk about this. He hadn’t lied to her all those years ago; he hadn’t wanted to have children. Maybe his willingness to participate in this endeavor with Scully meant he’d grown, or more likely Diana was exactly right: he hadn’t wanted them with her. 

“I never lied to you. This is something I wanted to do for Scully, as… as a friend.” 

He knew the words were weak and untrue the moment he said them. And every time he played down his feelings for Scully he felt shame. It wasn’t the reason and they both knew it. But she charged forth anyway.

“Then it’s not too late, Fox. It’s not too late for us. To start over. To go back to the beginning.” There was desperation in her eyes he was unfamiliar with.

He blinked. “Diana, I… I don’t want to hurt you. That was never my intention. But I don’t know why you came here, why you’d make these overtures out of the blue.”

“Because I want to know, I need to know,” she said. She looked very upset. “Maybe we can work on this, figure it out. We now know the truth, the real truth. We can do this together, be parents together.” She took his hand. “We were great together, don’t you remember, Fox?” She sidled up to him, dragging a finger across his chest. “And that night… the night we spent together all those months ago… wasn’t that great, too?”

He didn’t know what to do to make her understand, to make her stop. Besides the fact that this was all in fact much too late, he did not want to get back together with her, and he had truly never pictured having children with her. 

“Diana, I don’t know what you want me to say. You lay all this on me after I sleep with you one time… are you serious? This is crazy!”

She stood there in her bra, uncharacteristically vulnerable, searching his eyes. Maybe she wanted him to have some kind of revelation; admit he’d been wrong this entire time and choose her. But that was never going to happen. He hadn’t been clear and he knew it. If he had, he wouldn’t be in this situation at all, he was certain of that much.

He bent down to pick up her shirt and handed it to her. “I’m sorry if I gave you false hope, I truly am. That was my fault. And I will take responsibility for it. But this is not going to happen, Diana. And it has nothing to do with you, or whether or not I want or wanted kids. Honestly, none of that matters.”

“Then what is it?” She looked so confused and disappointed, and he couldn’t believe they were back here: that he’d made her fall for him again and he was now in the position to crush her like she had done to him all those years ago. “Tell me!”

There was only one thing to say that would make everything clear. She’d asked him already, and now he had an answer. 

“Because I’m in love with her!” he exploded. 

Saying the words out loud felt so liberating, so right on his lips: truth tumbling out like an inevitability. Silence permeated the apartment as his stark admission hung in the air, bouncing around the walls that had witnessed that very love grow these past six years. 

Diana stared, holding her shirt to her chest, probably having expected this. He didn’t know what else to say, so he waited for her to make the next move. 

“What is it about her, Fox? Really?” she asked quietly.

He knew she wanted something more out of him, something that wasn’t simply listing all of Scully’s obvious qualities on his fingers. But the truth was far more than that. And far more simple.

“She never stopped believing in me,” he said. 

Diana took a long, last look and nodded slowly. She pulled her shirt back over her head, grabbed her jacket, and left his apartment for what he hoped was for good.





***





“Do you remember anything, Scully?” 

They sat on his couch, remnants of sushi takeout strewn across the coffee table. The plan had been to watch a movie but he apparently preferred talking to her. She loved that about him.

“What do you mean?”

“Brown Mountain. Before they found us.”

“Oh. That.” 

His fish tank gurgled and hummed, spattering aquamarine lights on the walls. She was comfortable in his apartment again, finally; the incident that shall not be named having faded mostly from her memory. 

He’d kept true to his word all these weeks and the name “Diana Fowley” hadn’t escaped his lips. Scully wasn’t entirely sure how transparent she’d been, how obvious it was that she was in love with him, but as far as revealing her feelings openly she felt like it was still the wrong time to take that particular plunge. Diana Fowley was still lurking around: a cobra surely awaiting its next opportunity to strike. 

Don’t underestimate a woman,” she’d told Mulder a couple of weeks ago. “They can be tricksters, too. ” They’d both known she hadn’t been talking about Karin Berquist.

Scully turned slightly from her position next to him, propping her head up with her elbow, her legs tucked underneath her. “I remember you were dead,” she answered him. “It was awful. I’ve feared the worst about you so many times already, Mulder. It should be second nature to me by now.”

“...But it isn’t?” he pressed.

“No.” She would never stop worrying for his safety, ever. “I remember the feeling more than anything, knowing you were gone. Like in New Mexico… those days that passed, how hopeless I felt. How certain I was that was it. It was loneliness unlike any I’d felt before… it was difficult to comprehend, really.”

Mulder looked at her. “I know exactly what you mean.”

She gave him a small smile, relieved that it felt like the two of them again, somehow. She could still remember being whisked away from Brown Mountain in an emergency vehicle, not knowing which way was up and which way was down and what was real, if anything. It had been terrifying then and, even now, thinking back to the possibility of being stuck inside a hallucination with no escape, it was still terrifying.

But he’d been there, right beside her, and she could feel him reaching for her even with her eyes closed.

In a single moment as their fingers touched, she’d been snapped back to reality.

“It’s disconcerting not knowing what’s real,” she continued. “It’s hard enough trusting anyone, let alone worrying about whether or not I can trust my own eyes.”

He was quiet. She realized she’d implied she didn’t trust him and she didn’t want him to think that.

“Mulder, I-”

“Scully… have you forgiven me? Really?” He looked at her and she saw pain in his eyes. 

Things had been much better since their fight in the Gunmen’s basement, but she was now realizing she hadn’t officially accepted his apology. So much had happened since then; it gutted her that this had been weighing so heavily on his heart.

“Of course I have.”

He closed his eyes and as he exhaled his chest visibly deflated. “Good. That’s good.”

She wasn’t angry with him anymore, but even if she wanted to be, she couldn’t. The nature of their lives forced her reliance on him, her trust. She would be eternally entangled with him.

She knew this in her heart as much as she knew anything. She only hoped he knew it, too.

“I accused you of making this personal when I should have seen what you were doing for what it was: searching for the truth,” he continued.

She nodded. Although she couldn’t stand the mere sight of Diana Fowley, and it had definitely become personal, he wasn’t wrong.

“What matters is the truth,” he said. “It’s what we’ve taught each other, what we’ve learned from each other all these years. And I need you to know this, Scully. I’m sorry I behaved in a way that caused you to doubt me, because the truth is…” he swallowed visibly, “...I need you.”

I need you on this, Scully.

Her heart nearly stopped beating. “You do?”

“Yes, I do. Without you, everything I’ve worked for, all of the things I’ve ever searched for… it all just falls apart.”

She smiled at his words, but his real meaning still eluded her. Yes, he was talking about the work, but back in his hallway he’d muddied the lines between professional and personal. He had done that. And now he was leaving her in such a state of confusion she didn’t know when things were personal and when they weren’t anymore. 

She wished they could go back in time, get a do-over. A kiss would have been the perfect way to tell each other this was more than just work, this was more than just the quest.

“You said I owe you nothing, but I do,” she said. “You’ve taught me to open my eyes, Mulder. And I’m trying to do that, not only for the X-Files, or for you, but for myself.”

“You’ve taught me the same thing, though, Scully,” he insisted.

“What do you mean?”

“You taught me not to close my own eyes to the truth, to the real answers. When you think you can prove me wrong, you’re not afraid to try.” He smiled. “You’re that last piece of my puzzle, and I need that piece to get the full picture.”

“Even when the picture is something you don’t want to see?” 

He shrugged. “The truth may hurt, but it’s all that matters.”

She smiled, at last, and in this moment felt that somehow, some way, they would be okay. 

“Arthur Dales was right, you know,” he continued. “About you.”

“Who?” she asked.

“Florida. The hurricane,” he reminded her. “He said I was lucky to have someone as savvy as you by my side.”

Dales had also passed out after a few more glasses of whiskey but it wasn’t his opinion that mattered anyway. 

“I am lucky, Scully. Very lucky. And grateful.”

She smiled and her insides felt warm again, the same way they had in his hallway. “Even though I challenge and provoke you incessantly?” she asked.

“Especially because of that.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“I mean it. I will always want you around to prove me wrong, Scully,” he chuckled. “Always.”

She sighed and scooted closer to him, propping her feet up on his coffee table, and rested her head against his shoulder. He mimicked her actions, resting his own head on hers.

“Mulder?”

“Yeah?”

She slid her hand along the couch, the journey seemingly interminable until she found the warmth of his hand. “Do you remember the night they put you in that psych ward… you know, after the VinylRight case? Before the X-Files got shut down?”

Before, before, before. Before Diana Fowley came screaming into our lives.

“Vividly.”

“I never told you this, but…” she gathered herself. This felt important. “I did see it that night, in your room. That… creature. It wasn’t madness. And I wouldn’t have been there at all if I hadn’t believed you in the first place.”

You have to believe me, Scully. No one on this damn planet does or ever will.

He was quiet, maybe processing the weight of this. The trust she felt with Mulder was unlike anything she’d ever experienced and she wanted him to know it, to feel it the same way she did: that even when she didn’t see, when she couldn’t see, she could still see him.

She would always see him.

“I want you to know that I believe in you, Mulder. I always have.”

He tightened his grasp, squeezing her fingers. When he touched her she felt like a whole person.

“I know you do, Scully.”

He didn’t say the words aloud again, not here and now, in this time, this place. But she knew the truth. 

You’re my one in five billion.

She’d never forget, because he was hers, too.




Chapter Text

Chapter 14: The Betrayal

 

THE WATERGATE APARTMENTS

WASHINGTON, D.C.

JULY 1999




It’s over.

It was truly all over.

Diana sat alone in her apartment with the copy of Native American Beliefs and Practices that Spender had given her months ago in the hospital. She’d read it cover to cover multiple times, and often turned to it in times of confusion and hopelessness. It seemed she had little to live for anymore and whenever she felt that way her mind always crept back to the work.

The savior this book promised hadn’t turned out to be Gibson Praise. It hadn’t been Cassandra Spender. So who could it be?

Not only did the work feel particularly hopeless at this point, but having any kind of future with Fox felt so, as well. As each day passed Diana knew there was nothing to be done to win him back; short of kidnapping him, brainwashing him and somehow forcing his heart to feel something it didn’t, she was out of options. 

She wondered why, if Fox were truly in love with Agent Scully, he hadn’t done anything about it. And why hadn’t Agent Scully? What exactly was holding them back? 

She thought about her own past, and how she’d avoided romantic entanglements like the plague until Fox had come along. Even now, she couldn’t explain it; it was just something that had happened. Maybe there really was no explanation for why nothing was happening between Fox and Agent Scully either. If there was a reason, she’d probably never know it. 

Alone in her thoughts, her cell phone buzzed from the pocket of her jacket, which was strewn across the arm of her couch. She dug around and looked at the caller ID.

Fox.

“Hello? Fox?” she said, answering after the fourth ring.

A familiar voice answered, but it wasn’t the one she expected. “I’m so sorry, he can’t come to the phone right now.”

Diana felt her stomach drop. “...Alex?!” She hadn’t spoken to him since the fertility clinic.

“Your boy isn’t looking so good.” She heard a rustle, then moaning she couldn’t deny was Fox. She could hear him whimpering in the background, in a clear state of distress. “ Scully… Scully…” she could hear him saying. “Fucking Krycek…”

Fucking Krycek was right. What the hell was going on?

“Looks like Mulder wants to be where the action is,” Alex said cryptically. “Although I think you should come get him before somebody else finds him.”

“Alex, what action? What are you talking about? What is going on?” She could hear Fox mumbling “Scully” over and over. She couldn’t decide if she was more hurt or annoyed.

“I’m thinking maybe I called the wrong person,” Alex said, clearly enjoying the hell out of this. “Maybe I should have called Agent Scully instead.”

“No!” she responded immediately. “Tell me where you are.”

“American University, southwest stairwell of the biology building.” The phone clicked off, and she was on her way.

When she arrived she was not prepared for the sight that awaited her. Fox was curled up into the fetal position and grabbing his head, wincing in pain. His cell phone was next to him, crushed beyond repair.

“Scully...” he was moaning, and every time the name escaped his lips it pained her. “I need Scully.”

“Fox, it’s me, it’s Diana,” she said. She bent down and touched his shoulder. 

“Scully…”

She didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t Scully, she couldn’t be Scully. But she could tell he was in pain and she wanted to help him.

“We should get you to see a doctor,” she suggested. She realized as the words came out how stupid they sounded, considering the only thing he’d asked for since she’d arrived had been, in fact, a doctor. But she couldn’t bring herself to call the woman she knew he was in love with.

“I just need to go home, I have to rest,” he sputtered, and she nodded, knowing that was something she could do. She helped him up slowly and they made their way down the stairs, across the campus and to her car without drawing any unnecessary attention. 

When they arrived at his place she dug his keys out of his pocket and helped him inside. It was unusually hot in his apartment and she wondered if perhaps his air conditioner was broken. They made their way into his bedroom. 

“What are you feeling? Can you describe it?” she asked him.

“I don’t know, I just… my head,” he said as he stumbled towards his bed. He started to take his shirt off and winced again, so she helped him undress down to his undershirt and he got into bed. “I’m hearing voices.” 

This gave her pause. “Voices? What kind of voices?”

“They come and go,” he explained. “It’s hard to describe. I think… I think I feel a bit better now.” 

“Just relax, Fox,” Diana said as she pulled the comforter over him. “I’m going to get you some water. Then we’ll figure out what’s going on.”

She searched his kitchen for the glasses, which he’d moved since she last used his kitchen. The tap blasted lukewarm, surely from the blazing hot weather, and as she watched the stream of water swirl around the sink, waiting for it to cool, her mind raced.

Voices. He’s hearing… voices?

She might have thought nothing of it if she hadn’t just been thinking about Gibson Praise and his abilities, and her search for the one person who was going to save humanity. But now her wheels were spinning wildly.

Eventually the water cooled and she filled the glass, taking a dish towel and dampening it. She returned to his bedside and he drank the water, sighing and sinking back into his pillow. “Thank you for helping me get home.”

“Of course,” she said, and held the damp cloth to his brow. He immediately moved his own hand to hold it, pushing hers away. She became aware in the moment he had no intention of letting her touch him in any intimate way and although he was unwell, although she suspected it was over between them in any event, it still stung.

“Can you tell me what happened to you?”

“I think I just want to sleep,” he said. 

“You won’t even tell me how this started?”

He hesitated, and she wondered briefly if he was deciding how much to reveal. Things had been awkward the last time they’d seen each other, but it had been purely personal. She had no reason to suspect he was suspicious of her. 

“Scully and I were investigating a case, and I don’t know exactly how, but I’m having some kind of reaction to… an object we found.” He winced again, every word probably causing him pain. 

“And this object didn’t affect Agent Scully?” she asked. 

“No, she…” he trailed off, again hesitant to reveal more, but seemed to change his mind. “I think it’s only happening to me. I was exposed to something years ago, something… alien.”

Ten years ago she might have been a bit more skeptical of this revelation. But she knew this was all quite real, and that by the very nature of Fox’s work, exposure was entirely possible. 

Just then his phone rang. Fox turned over and made no effort to get it so she answered it.

“Hello?”

Yes… I’m looking for Fox Mulder…? ” It was, of course, Agent Scully. She sounded confused and slightly irked, and Diana still found her behavior amusing in spite of everything.

“Hold on, please.” She held out the phone, and only because she wanted to annoy the other woman, she added, “...Fox?”

He took the phone and she sat silently next to him on the bed, listening to his end of the conversation. They were arguing about something, probably the very X-File he’d been just referring to. Fox didn’t seem to mind what Diana heard and it was a small comfort. But then she heard words that piqued her interest.

...Artifact...

...Extraterrestrial…

...Genesis...

These words weren’t uncommon in the files themselves; she’d gone through most of them during her tenure in the basement. But used together… her mind continued to reel.

This artifact, whatever it was, had been drawn to Fox. Why? Was it truly the source of whatever was causing him distress? 

“Well then, go ahead and prove me wrong, Scully,” Fox grumbled into the phone. 

He was exhausted and Diana knew his head hurt, and she wanted to enjoy his annoyance with his partner but she couldn’t. Maybe it was the familiarity with which he’d dismissed Agent Scully; despite his frustration Diana knew he wasn’t really angry. 

Fox handed her the receiver and turned his back to her, covering his head with his comforter and seeking sleep. His body language indicated clearly that he had no more use for her; she’d served her purpose this afternoon.

It was in this moment, this final rejection by the man she loved, that a strange feeling came over her: that the timing of all of this had been preordained somehow, driven by destiny. Any nagging doubts that had clouded her mind and perhaps her better judgment over the past few months were drifting away like sand through a sieve, and she felt her old reliable modus operandi creep over her like camouflage.

The work. 

Could Fox himself be the very person the Company had been searching for, for years? 

She wasn’t stupid, and she hadn’t been a believer in fate her entire life for nothing. Fox had to be the one. Very suddenly, she’d never been more certain of anything. And she remembered what Spender had told her. The three of them seemed to indeed have been thrown into the mix together, just as he’d said, for a singular purpose: to finish the work.

If Fox knew, if he only knew what he was, how important he was, surely he would agree to what needed to be done. To save the world. When he came out the other side a hero, he’d understand.

It occurred to her she was at a crossroads. Her first instinct was to turn Fox over to Spender. But when she thought of Fox ending up in the hands of the man he hated, the man who’d controlled so many aspects of her own life for years, she hesitated. 

She could warn Fox, tell him what was going on. Let him decide what to do. She’d never fooled herself into believing she could keep her deception from him forever, but she had entertained the hope that if he did learn of it, he might understand. That when he learned everything she’d been doing, the sacrifices she’d made, and the reasons she’d made them, it would all be worth it in the end for the truth. 

For his truth.

She stood to leave his bedroom, knowing what she needed most desperately of all right now was time. She was due to check in with Spender and the unanticipated distraction of the fox had kept him waiting. Spender didn’t like to wait.

She clicked the receiver back on, dialing. She then removed her jacket as she waited for an answer.

Yes?”

“I received a call from Agent Mulder this evening, he was in a particular state of distress.”

“Distress? Why?” Spender asked.

“I don’t know why,” she lied. “But I’m staying here until I find out.”

I’ll be in touch.”

She hung up the phone, knowing she didn’t have long to make a decision. Her mind was reeling with possibilities, choices and consequences and feelings and it was all wrapped up in what she now suspected Fox could discern with his newly forming powers. If she wasn’t careful, he might learn everything. And there would be no stopping it.

There were questions she needed to ask him, important questions that would ascertain her beliefs and help her make the right decision. Perhaps there was a way to keep his mind off her thoughts and on something else. She began to undress, a strong suspicion coming over her that between his half-conscious state and her half-naked body in his line of sight she could easily get the information she needed. 

Fox was a smart man, he always had been. But he was still a man. And from everything she’d witnessed over the past few months, everything she’d known about him since the night she met him, he could be incredibly stupid around women. 

She’d just pulled her shirt off when she rounded the corner and found Alex sitting stock still in a chair in the corner of the living room.

Jesus- ” she dared a glance into Fox’s bedroom. Still not moving. She closed his bedroom door quietly. “Alex!” she hissed. “What the hell are you doing here?!”

“I had no idea you two were still so cozy,” Alex said. 

“What, are you jealous?” she challenged, hands on her hips, standing there in her bra. 

“No,” he said smoothly, and she believed him. It didn’t matter. She’d never cared before, and she certainly didn’t intend to start now. “It just irks me when I’m the last one to know something.”

“There’s nothing to know,” she said, bristling. “He’s sick and he’s resting.”

“Ah,” he said, with a smirk on his face she found all too familiar. “Is this ‘nothing to know’ why you’re undressing in his apartment?”

She shrugged, crossing her arms across her chest. “It’s hot, and I’m getting comfortable. I’m going to be here for a while. As if it’s any of your business.”

“It is my business,” he said. “Especially if you have a personal relationship with the guy who’s quickly becoming the most important man on the planet.”

It occurred to her then that Alex was the link between Fox and Spender she hadn’t anticipated. She wondered how he knew about Fox, his current condition, any of it, then the answer came to her. Skinner. Alex had had Skinner under his control for months now, and if AD Skinner knew, Alex knew. 

And if Alex knew, Spender certainly wouldn’t be far behind.

“It’s over between us,” she said flatly, not wanting to believe it.

“Doesn’t look over,” he indicated, his eyes raking over her body. “Surely you wouldn’t be… so foolish as to put the project at risk for the sake of your personal pleasures?”

A line straight from Spender’s playbook. She shook her head. The nerve.

“What are you doing here, Alex?” she asked. She stole a glance back towards the bedroom where Fox was snoozing away. “You have to go. If he finds us here together-“

“Then… what? He’ll know you’ve been sleeping with the enemy?" He smirked. "Seems like he’s the one who’s been doing that.”

She drew her lips into a tight line, wanting to say no more. Wanting to reveal no more. And she felt oddly protective of Fox. “I can handle him, Alex. Please go.”

Alex stood and moved towards the door. “I know you know what he is, what he's become. And the old man’s going to know now, too.”

A chill ran up her spine at this; that her suspicions were in fact correct, and she wasn't the only one who knew about it. Fox was in danger now that was beyond her control.

“Think carefully about your next move, Diana.”

He took one long look at her, then at Fox’s bedroom door, and as he left the apartment she had the crippling realization he had taken all of her options with him.




***




Fire. His brain was on fire. 

It had been smoldering since Diana found him in that stairwell and brought him home. What he remembered was bits and pieces: her helping him to his feet, just barely. Walking, driving; it was all a blur. He didn’t even remember calling her. Had he called her? He only wanted Scully. But here was Diana, walking with him through the door of his apartment once again.

“Fox, what happened? What’s wrong?” he could hear her asking him.

“My head…” he answered, holding it with his hands. The pain was intense. “Before, I was hearing… voices, loud voices…”

She looked at him thoughtfully. “When did this start? Do you know what’s causing it?”

He wanted to talk to Scully; that’s who he needed to tell. But Diana was here and she had been on the X-Files, after all. And she wanted to help. “I don’t know, I…” He wasn’t sure how much he should reveal, but he knew she would probably believe him. So he told her.

Diana was silent, looking at him hard, and he wondered what she was thinking. The aural dissonance he’d experienced in Skinner’s office had been returning in fits and starts, but right now there was nothing.

She wasted no time getting him undressed and into bed, and he was in such pain he let her. He remembered asking for Scully as he drifted in and out of consciousness, knowing she could somehow figure this out, that she was the only one who could help him.

When Scully did call, he could immediately detect the annoyance in her voice. 

“Mulder, where are you?” 

The question was pointed, but it wasn’t the question she was really asking. She’d called him at his apartment, not on his cell phone. She knew exactly where he was.

“I’m here. I’m resting.” I’m doing exactly what you asked of me.

“Who answered the phone?”

It wasn’t lost on him that her first questions, those that would typically inquire after his health, were instead focused on the woman answering his phone. The woman whose voice she must have recognized.

Fucking Diana, answering his phone. She was too comfortable here, and he’d allowed it. He was more annoyed with himself than anything else, but his head hurt too much to care right now. 

“I’m home. It’s okay.” He’d promised Scully that Diana’s name wouldn’t come out of his mouth again. This was awkward enough, and there were more pressing matters.

He wanted to tell Scully about his condition, but she clearly hadn’t been just patronizing him when she told him she’d find the artifacts. She’d actually found one. She was in New Mexico, hours away, and he’d have to wait to see her again anyway. He didn’t want her rushing back on his account; not when they were so close to the answers they’d sought for so long, again.

What she described didn’t surprise him, however; somehow he’d known the truth ever since he saw that artifact. There was something inside him that had reawakened, and he knew not what exactly, but it was most definitely alien. It had to be. This wasn’t a theory, or a hunch. He felt it deep down inside him; he knew it in his soul the same way he knew he was human, the same way he knew the sky was blue. It was simply the truth.

Scully, however, didn't have the luxury of being in his position.

“Mulder, that is science fiction. It doesn't hold a drop of water.”

“You're wrong,” he said. “It holds everything. Don't you see?” 

See it, Scully. See

“All the mysteries of science- everything we can't understand or won't explain, every human behaviorism; cosmology, psychology, everything in the X-Files, it all owes to them… it's from them.”

“Mulder, I will not accept that. It is just not possible.”

They were dancing again, and through it all, through everything they’d been through in the past several months, it felt wonderfully familiar. And as frustrating as the dance could be, he loved it now more than ever. 

I’ll always want you around to prove me wrong.

“Well, then, you go ahead and prove me wrong, Scully.” 

His head pounded as he handed the phone back to Diana and dove back underneath the covers, desperate for sleep. He hoped she’d take the hint and leave. It felt as if his mind wouldn’t rest, couldn’t rest. 

Tunguska. This all went back to what had happened to him in Russia, he knew it. Whatever vaccine he’d been given had merely rendered the microbial alien life inside him dormant and the artifact must have had reawakened it. It was all so clear to him now.

He needed to see Scully in person. When she saw him, the state he was in, she would have to believe. She couldn’t prove him wrong this time, he was sure about that. But he also knew she’d go to the ends of the earth for the truth if she had to. 

That truth was inside him now. She would have to believe.

He squeezed his eyes shut and time passed; he was vaguely aware of voices in the living room, which was odd, considering he’d thought he was alone with Diana. But his aural dissonance had been coming and going so frequently it was difficult for him to discern which voices were real. In any event, the silence soon returned and he could feel sleep approaching at last. 

 



***




He awoke dazed, distracted, and in pain. For a moment he forgot where he was; the room was dark, only dim lamplight from his living room illuminating the form of Diana sitting on the edge of his bed.

“Fox…” she whispered. 

“Where’s Scully…?” he moaned, rolling over, his back to her. “Please, go.”

“Tell me about this artifact, Fox… let me help you, please.” 

“I don’t...” he said, pain reverberating within each word. “I want Scully…”

He heard her sigh. “It’s never going to work with her, Fox. You have to see that.”

Besides the fact that he was in no state to navigate this love triangle at the moment, he knew it was a fool’s errand in any case. 

“I know her, Diana," he mumbled into his pillow. "You don’t.” She didn’t get it, she never would. He didn’t want to bother trying. “Please, just let me rest.”

She was silent for a minute, and then suddenly, as if switched on by his rejection, the voices returned.

“...Must deliver him to the facility…”

“...It has to be Fox…”

“...The work..”

“What did you say?” he asked, suddenly fully at attention.

“I didn’t say anything.” He couldn’t rest. He rolled over in the bed, gripping his temples in pain.

“Fox?”

“...He knows, he has to…too late…”

“...I have no choice…”

“...So many years…”

“Fox..? Are you alright?” she asked. And what had occurred in Skinner’s office suddenly became clear to him.

He was reading her mind. He could hear her thoughts.

“Who was here before?” he asked her. “I heard voices in the living room. Were you by yourself?”

“No.” he heard, plain as day. But her lips didn’t move.

“Yes. Of course,” she lied. “What kind of question is that?”

Tell me it isn’t true, tell me…

He sat up in the bed, and slid out, backing up against the wall. 

“It’s starting… the artifact… he doesn’t suspect…” the sound of her voice came from closed lips.

He shook his head, it can't be... The trust he’d given her over the past few months, the trust he’d always had in her as long as he’d known her… had any of it been real? Had any of it been true?

Mulder pressed his hand to his temple.

“not possible… gain his trust… Alex...” Her thoughts continued, uncontrollable.

Alex? Could she mean Krycek? Had he been here, in this apartment? Was she involved with him? 

And if she was… could that mean… Jesus, he’d been so stupid ...

“You’re lying,” he said firmly. “Someone was here. Why were you talking to Alex Krycek?”

She began scrambling, climbing off the bed. Through his haze he could see her standing there, clad only in her skirt and a bra. “Fox, you’re not well. I think I need to take you to the hospital.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you,” he said firmly.

Liar, she’s a liar, he thought. After everything, Scully had been right. And he’d ignored every sign, every indication. Pushed aside every shred of her evidence because he wanted to believe.

She reached for him. “Fox, please…” 

“Why is it so hot in here?” He was sweating; from the pain, from the betrayal, from what else he didn’t know, but he felt like hell. “Why are you here?”

“You’re not yourself, Fox.”

“Where’s Scully?” He had a sudden urge to locate the only person he knew he could trust. The only person he should have trusted all along. He’d wanted to believe that Diana was at the very least his friend, that she was worthy of his trust. He’d wanted to believe it so badly he’d become blind. Why did this keep happening to him? Why was everyone in his life such a fucking disappointment? 

Everyone except Scully, he corrected himself.

He wanted to scream, to rage at the injustice, but he had no one to blame but himself. He’d broken all of his own rules for Diana and now all he had left was shame and regret.

Trust no one.

“Why are you here, Diana? Why are you back in Washington? Was this entire thing a setup? Just to get to me, to get to the X-Files?”

“No, of course not…” She looked afraid of him, and he could hear her conflict. 

“I never wanted any of this, you have to believe me…”

“Spender…”

“Tell me the truth! he shouted at her. “Are you working for him ? For that black lunged sonofabitch?!”

He heard her searching her mind for something to say, but no words were forthcoming. It didn’t matter in any event, Mulder heard it all. The whole truth. Everything she’d hidden from him since the day they met.

“The Company… all along… the truth… the Syndicate…”

“Fox, I…”

He shook his head, the cacophony getting louder and louder. The pain was unbearable. “I don’t believe this… Diana…”

“I love you.”

He fell to his knees, this unspoken declaration the last thing he heard before he passed out completely.








GEORGETOWN MEMORIAL HOSPITAL 

WASHINGTON, D.C.

JULY 1999




Scully burst through the doors of the medical facility, panicked. She’d switched flights twice, the anxiety and fear of flying completely pushed to the back of her mind in favor of the more pressing matter at hand.

Mulder’s in serious condition.

Skinner had never sounded so grave, and she worried that he hadn’t been more forthcoming over the phone. She never would have left Mulder’s side at all if she’d known he was in real danger. 

The things she’d learned in New Mexico only strengthened her belief that whatever this artifact was, it held power she didn’t understand. The cosmic galactic radiation all over it indicated Mulder could be right, that whatever this artifact was, it had come from outer space. And that radiation was not only affecting Mulder, but had put Albert Hosteen in critical condition as well.

She felt a connection with the old man that was more than just sympathy; it was empathy, for she was reminded of her own cancer and how incredibly lucky she’d been to survive. Was the source of Albert’s cancer the same as hers? Could it possibly have originated from exposure to the craft: weeks and weeks of translating and handling it? It was far too coincidental not to be the case. She had no idea how much time he had left, but she sincerely hoped she’d be able to speak to him again.

And she prayed Mulder’s own prognosis was not so dire.

When Skinner grabbed her hand a fear took root that continued to grow as she saw Mulder locked in that room all by himself. Then that fear turned into dread. This was much worse than she’d expected.

How would she learn how to help him if she couldn’t even talk to him? If he couldn’t tell her with his own words what had happened to him? She couldn’t trust doctors; she couldn’t even trust Skinner. 

And she certainly couldn’t trust Diana Fowley, whom she was not pleased at all to be confronted with once again.

“Thank you for coming,” Fowley said. “He was asking for you last night.”

Ignoring Fowley, she tried to listen to the doctor. Abnormal brain activity. No sign of stroke. She was trying to take what the doctor was saying and make sense of it, but thoughts of Diana Fowley at Mulder’s apartment again- at night, no less- irritated her to no end. 

“...he’s a danger to anyone,” the doctor finished.

“Not to me,” she declared. She just wanted to be with Mulder, to see him up close. She knew he would never, ever hurt her.

“Can we speak in the hall?” Fowley interjected. 

Scully turned to look at her, never before having wanted to punch anyone in the face so fervently. “About what?” 

It was disconcerting enough that Mulder would have Fowley at his place again after everything she and Mulder had talked about over the past few weeks, but it was downright suspicious that Fowley was the last person he’d apparently spoken to before ending up in his current state. Maybe Mulder wouldn’t see it that way, even now, but Scully wouldn’t put anything past the woman at this point.

Skinner seemed to want to move the drama out of the observation room, and gently motioned for them to step out. Scully took a last look into the monitor where Mulder faced the camera and shouted directly into it. “Scully!”  

The sound of her own name had never ached so much.

When they were out in the hallway, Fowley faced Scully. “When did all this start?”

You tell me, Scully thought. Mulder seemed to go from having a slight headache to being a psych ward patient after spending time with you.

“When we took this case, when Skinner gave it to us,” she said, looking at her boss.

“What kind of case is it?” Fowley asked.

“Investigation into a murder,” Scully answered shortly.

“Of whom?”

Skinner interrupted. “The case has nothing to do with what’s happened to him.”

“Agent Scully says it does,” Fowley insisted. “Now you know my background, my previous work on the X-Files. If I can help on this case…” 

Scully regarded the other woman. She had no desire to tell Diana Fowley the details of what was really going on here. What was her angle? If she truly wanted to help Mulder, why was she asking for information rather than offering it? 

“Why were you with him last night?” Scully asked. 

He wouldn’t lie to me. He’s finished with you. Tell me why.

“He called me. I found him in a university stairwell, he could barely speak. He said I was the only one who would believe him, about an artifact.”

The only one who would believe him, Scully repeated in her mind. Not a chance.

She’d tried Mulder’s cell phone multiple times before finally reaching him at his apartment. It had been turned off, or disconnected. It was odd, because Mulder’s cell phone was never off. But she’d brushed it aside at the time, thinking maybe in his disillusioned state he’d forgotten to charge it or left it somewhere.

He called me.

Now she wasn’t so sure.

“You’re a liar,” Scully said, venom in her voice. 

She glared at the other woman, daring her to argue, fed up with these games. It was more manipulation, more posturing. It was as if Fowley had taken what little she knew of Scully and Mulder’s relationship, made a huge assumption, and called her bluff about it. But Fowley knew nothing about their relationship, nothing. 

She didn’t know Scully was his one in five billion.

Skinner made to protest, but she stopped him, knowing just as she had been right about Fowley, Mulder was probably right about Skinner. No one was to be trusted, not anymore. “You’re both liars.”

She turned and strode out of the hospital, frustrated at her inability to see Mulder but determined to help him in whatever way she could. Her mind raced with thoughts of the piece of the puzzle she already had: the artifact that had caused this. It was the only thing she had to go on, and that artifact had come from the Ivory Coast.

The answers were in Africa, and she planned to find them there. She would do whatever she could to find the cure; to save him.

I’m afraid… I’m afraid to believe.

She was afraid again, but this time she was afraid not to believe. Not believing could cost her Mulder’s life.

 



***




Twenty two hours later, Scully found herself wandering the coast of Africa. She was exhausted, hot, and desperate. Her hair was plastered to her neck and her clothes stuck to every inch of her skin, but as the breeze whipped across her face and sand stung her eyes, she saw.

She finally saw.

The waves crashed and receded, revealing the surface of what she could only describe as an enormous spacecraft. 

Dana Scully’s entire world changed in a single instant.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15: The Transfer 

 





GEORGETOWN MEMORIAL HOSPITAL

PSYCHIATRIC UNIT

JULY 1999



He was trapped in a padded cell, all alone.

It wasn’t the first time he’d been dismissed as crazy, although as death seemed to be closing in on him, it could very well be the last. And as he glanced desperately around this prison like a trapped animal in a cage, when he tried to call for help only one sound would come out.

“Scully!” 

It was the only word he could summon. 

His brain pounded and ached, and it was an unusual situation to be in; completely coherent but unable to make his own body respond. The cacophony of voices were dimly carrying on in the background of his mind, presumably from outside his cell; an almost soothing, reliable presence. It troubled him that he could not hear her anywhere. 

Mulder was used to being alone; he was alone most of the time, had felt alone most of his life. The only time he didn’t feel alone was when Scully was near. And her absence now was more palpable than it had ever been before.

He screamed for her; pleaded, begged. 

Scully will come, she has to come.

But she didn’t come. Maybe she couldn’t. 

After a while he stopped screaming. What was the point? He sat still, back straight against the wall of the cell, staring at the door, waiting for her.

He sat this way for thirty-six hours.




***




Mulder heard the door unlock and hoped beyond hope it was Scully but, instead, Skinner came in. 

When he’d heard voices in Skinner’s office, it had been just a jumble of confusing words and phrases, not enough to know what was really going on. But now as his boss entered the cell, he could hear the truth: Skinner had been compromised by Krycek, and his life was in jeopardy. 

Mulder wasn’t sure how much he could trust Skinner. But in the quiet calm of the cell what he heard above everything else in the other man’s mind was genuine concern for his well-being. 

He was here, after all, and he wanted to help.

Grateful it hadn’t been Diana coming in, at least, Mulder assessed his situation. The message he’d written had been intended for Scully but she wasn’t here. 

Help me.

He didn’t know where she was, how long she would be, and he could be running out of time. Skinner might be the only person who could help him right now.

He put on a show to get the message into Skinner’s pocket, to get the ball rolling, to get the truth to the surface; the truth of what he’d become, of what was inside him.

He hoped he’d live to see Scully again. This time she would have to believe.

 



***




Diana stood at Fox’s bedside, watching him. He was fully unconscious, finally, and she was uncertain what kinds of drugs were coursing through his veins to allow him to rest, but he looked peaceful. She was grateful for it.

“I know what you’re thinking, Diana,” came a voice followed closely by cigarette smoke.

C.G.B. Spender stood on the other side of the bed. She narrowed her eyes, unsure what to reveal. There was no way out for her anymore, no way back.

“You love my son,” he said. “Don’t you?”

She reached out to touch Fox’s cheek with her hand, and while she didn’t really feel like divulging her innermost desires to a man who surely had no reason to care, it felt like it mattered so little at this point.

“I do.”

“I can sense your conflict,” he nodded. “That although you know what must be done, although you know this is the right course, you can’t help but wish it could be different. That it could be someone else.”

She did wish it were someone else lying here, not Fox. And she wanted him to live, even if that meant he didn’t choose her in the end. 

If Fox remained in this state, he would become the very thing he’d sought his entire adult life: alien. But this wasn’t like Gibson Praise, or even Cassandra Spender. This was different. What Fox had inside him was essentially killing him: it would turn him into someone, some thing she no longer recognized. And more quickly than anyone was prepared for.

She hadn’t expected this. She wanted to do everything she could to prevent that, but… the work. 

“What we need is more time,” she said. “Time we don’t have because we’re losing him.”

Spender looked at her. “But if we were to remove what's killing him… perhaps Agent Mulder could survive.” 

“You want to… take away parts of his brain?” The thought hadn’t occurred to her: that maybe it was possible to isolate those portions and remove them from Fox. Maybe that would save him. “The parts… that are alien?”

Spender looked at her meaningfully. “And perhaps… if someone else were willing to carry the burden… take on his suffering. Someone who knows what this gift could mean…?”

Was he suggesting…?

“Do you mean…?” she trailed off, not wanting to say it, not even wanting to put the ludicrous idea out into the open. It seemed Spender was volunteering.

Spender eyed her carefully. “You could have him back,” he said. “Maybe this will be my final purpose. To carry this immunity so that everyone can survive.” He reached out and touched her hand, that cold contact she wasn’t used to. “So my son will survive.”

He pinned her with his standard intense gaze, a signature curl of smoke rising from the smoldering white stick between his forefingers. She honestly couldn’t tell if he’d just thought of this to spare his son for her sake or if he’d been planning to do this all along; become the ‘savior’ regardless of who he had to carve up. But if he was offering, and if it could truly save Fox’s life… did it matter? 

She looked down at Fox, lying asleep in his hospital bed. He looked so helpless. Maybe this was a viable alternative? 

“What you’re suggesting could kill him anyway,” she pointed out, the reasonable part of her brain taking over. “Damage his memory, his motor functions. This is his brain we’re talking about. The slightest mistake…” 

She knew as much as anyone how dangerous this could be. But what choice did they have? Shooting him full of drugs could only last for so long. 

She thought of Fox all those months ago, how he’d travelled halfway around the globe to Antarctica to rescue his partner.

She thought of Agent Scully, whom Skinner had told her was in Africa searching for a cure to save him. 

And she thought of herself, standing here doing virtually nothing to help him.

This, she could do. 

She nodded her acquiescence. “What do you need from me?




***




“Fox…Fox…”

He’d never hated the sound of his own name more. 

Upon hearing her voice again, he only felt anger and betrayal. Foolishness. Part of him wanted to let her explain; and if she could not, to let her mind explain for her. 

The other part of him never wanted to see her again.

Diana entered his room and approached his bedside. There was pain etched into her face. He hoped she at least had the good grace to know it was over between them. 

“I know what’s happened to you. I know what you’re suffering from. I’ve been sitting back and watching.”

He couldn’t understand the look in her eyes, how unfamiliar she suddenly was. This was a stranger, this wasn’t Diana. Not the Diana he thought he knew.

“A decade, I’ve been lying to you for a decade. I’ve been lying since we met.”

“I know you know,” she continued, her spoken words interweaving with those flying around her brain. He tried desperately to comprehend it all. “I know you know about me… that my loyalties aren’t just to you but to a man you’ve grown to despise.”

“Your father. This entire time… how did we end up here?”

His father? What was she talking about? 

“You have your reasons, but as you look inside me now you know that I have mine.”

“The work. The greater good. The truth. That’s what it’s always been about for me, and he gave me that opportunity.”

Mulder was still unsure what to make of everything. She was trying to tell him the truth, but the thoughts he could now hear whirring through her mind betrayed further truths: she didn’t believe it was over. After everything, all of this, what she’d done, she still held onto hope that they could be together.

“There’s still a chance for us, Fox.”

“Fox… Fox, I love you,” she said. “I’ve loved you for so long,” And her thoughts mirrored this sentiment. “You know that, too.” 

She believed it utterly, that she loved him… but he didn’t understand. Why would she betray him this way if she loved him? How could she allow this? 

Did she even know what love was?

Did he?

Diana’s declaration felt hollow and empty, meaningless; he couldn’t help but think instantly of Scully and how it was she from whom he wanted to hear these words, how it was she from whom he wanted a declaration. Right words… wrong person.

Scully would never, ever have let this happen to him. 

“...I won’t let you die to prove what you are, to prove what’s inside you,” Diana was saying. 

“Fox… you have to understand… what you have can save so many lives…”

“There’s no need to prove it. It’s been known for so long.” 

“I’ve known it for so long. Knowing the things I know has come at a great cost… but now I won’t hide anything from you ever again.”

He couldn’t help but notice she had no choice in that particular matter, not anymore.

“Now we can be together,” she said. 

He marveled at her delusion in this moment, that she could possibly think there was a future for the two of them after what she’d done. But he found himself thinking of Samantha, of his belief in aliens, even his feelings for Scully, and quickly realized there was indeed a fine line between hope and delusion. Love apparently made all the difference.

“I’m going to help you, Fox… I’m going to save your life… maybe then you’ll forgive me...”

It had certainly taken him long enough, but he finally knew the truth. He didn’t want her help.

She leaned down and kissed his forehead and her lips were cold, distant. He only wanted Scully. Even in the bitter cold of Antarctica, her nearly-comatose lips had been somehow warmer, more welcoming; entirely devoid of what he now saw were Diana’s ever-present agendas.

His eyes welled up as he lay motionless and wondered where Scully was, why she hadn’t come to see him. And he felt incredible guilt over the fact that he’d doubted her, even for a second. Why had he fought so hard for Diana all this time? Why, when all he needed was to see Scully? 

He’d told her he always wanted her around to prove him wrong and when she’d tried to do just that where Diana was concerned he’d rejected that proof, even though she had been completely justified in her distrust. Now he was suffering the consequences.

How would Scully react when she learned of Diana’s treachery? He knew this was vindication she’d earned but an outcome she’d never desired.

Would he die here without ever seeing her again? His heart ached at the notion.

He heard relief in Diana’s thoughts as she turned to leave, knowing she’d said her piece, but he felt none of his own. He only felt the harsh sting of betrayal.








IVORY COAST

WEST AFRICA

JULY 1999



The air hung heavily in the tent, sticky and oppressive. Waves crashed onto the shore outside and Scully hoped beyond hope they were simply waves of saltwater this time, and not blood.

She lay awake on her cot, wanting to sleep, but unable to. Her mind was alive with thoughts of the craft, and she didn’t miss the irony of what was going on in Mulder’s own beautiful mind thousands of miles away from her.

She missed him terribly; the tightness in her gut paired with the ache in her heart was longing she could barely contain anymore.

Her fear for his condition was unfortunately familiar, but worse than ever. They hadn’t spoken since she’d heard that familiar smirk on his face before he hung up the phone.

Then go ahead and prove me wrong, Scully.

But she couldn’t; she wouldn’t prove him wrong, not this time. Not when proving him wrong meant accepting he was actually dying.

She was in Africa to prove him right, for once.

Mulder wasn’t technically dying, though; she knew that now. He was more alive than he’d ever been because of what was inside him. And what was inside him was extraterrestrial after all. But she knew soon enough his body would no longer be able to withstand it. She wasn’t used to accepting such a thing so freely and willingly but here and now, in this place, with time working against her, she had to believe to find the cure. Skepticism was a luxury she couldn’t afford in this particular fight.

She’d spent the last several days and nights toiling over the symbols on the surface of the craft, looking for connections she knew only Mulder could make.

In Antarctica, he had arrived for her just in time, armed with a cure, armed with the means to save her life.

She’d arrived here with nothing.

It isn’t nothing, she told herself. It can’t be. It just wasn’t anything she could understand. She wanted to believe but what she needed was Mulder to help her make sense of it.

Although his death felt impossibly imminent and she knew everything else was secondary, she couldn’t help but wonder, again, what might have been if they’d only finished that kiss. If they’d only been rewarded for their momentary bravery rather than continually punished for it. 

If perhaps Diana Fowley’s perpetual, insufferable, nauseating presence in their lives could have been entirely avoided.

Or maybe it all would have been for nothing.

No, she told herself. It isn’t nothing

It can’t be.  











GEORGETOWN MEMORIAL HOSPITAL

PSYCHIATRIC UNIT




Pain.

First and foremost, he only registered the pain. He heard Scully’s voice, sensed her worry. He used every single bit of his very limited strength and agency to try and tilt his head towards her, to no avail. 

He had no idea where she’d been. He had no idea how long she’d been gone.

But she was here. She was here, now.

“Mulder, it's me.” 

The three words that could bring him back to life had finally arrived.

“Scully… I knew you’d come,” he said, but she could not hear his words.

“I know that you can hear me. If you can just give me some sign…”

He tried. He wanted to, badly. But he was so tired. His body couldn’t react.

“I’m here, Scully. I can hear you,” he said. But again, she couldn’t hear him.

“I want you to know where I've been-- what I found.” She looked down at him, and it was difficult to see her from his angle, frozen in place. But he saw when her lips were moving; when they weren’t. “Africa, the Ivory Coast,” her thoughts came. “I’ve been halfway around the world, Mulder.” She spoke again. “I think that if you know... that you could find a way to hold on. I need you to hold on,” she pleaded, her voice breaking. Scully’s voice never broke.

He listened, the only thing he was able to do, and heard her desperate fear for him wrapped up within a multitude of medical jargon he couldn’t quite understand. Her presence in the room soothed him; and in this moment he could think of a million things he wanted to say to her that he couldn’t.

“Don’t give up,” her mind revealed. “Please stay with me, Mulder. Fight. I can’t do this without you. Please hold on.”

“I found a key- the key- to every question that has ever been asked,” she continued. “It's a puzzle. But the pieces are there for us to put together and I know that they can save you if you can just hold on…” 

“I can’t do this alone.”

“Mulder…” at that moment, her voice broke again. He felt her hand take his, squeeze it, the first contact they’d had in days. Her hand was warm and full of life, and he felt grounded for the first time in what must have been days.

But then he heard something he didn’t expect. 

“I saw it, Mulder… I saw… The truth you’ve searched for is out there, it’s within our grasp. But I need you to help me understand it.”

“Please… hold on,” she said.

Help me…” she thought.

He wanted to tell her she didn’t need his help; that she’d always been able to see. She only needed to want it badly enough. Maybe now she could.

Maybe now she could help him.

She stayed by his bedside for a long time, her hope and determination giving him the strength to hold on like she wanted him to. He heard her turning the intricacies of the puzzle over and over in her own mind, desperate to find the answer, to find the cure to save him. She took every possibility into account; every alien influence was considered, as if she had taken over his role in their dynamic, if only for the time being. 

And in the blink of an eye he knew that to do this, to find the answer, to put the puzzle together, it had to be the two of them. Him and her, together. He needed her, and she needed him. One could not exist without the other.

“I have to go now,” she whispered, her lip trembling. “I don’t want to, but I have to.” She stood and looked down at him, into his frozen eyes, and smoothed his sweaty hair away from his brow. 

And then he heard it, clear as a bell, as if she’d spoken the words with her lips.

I love you, Mulder.” 

She leaned down and pressed her lips to his forehead. Warm, giving, selfless; so unlike Diana’s kiss.

He suddenly remembered the Padgett case a few weeks back; how he had wondered, hoped, believed that Padgett had been talking about him. 

Agent Scully is already in love.

For just a moment, thoughts of his impending death were insignificant, because Scully loved him. 

I love you, Mulder.

Now he knew for sure, and his heart soared.

“Don’t give up,” she said firmly and audibly, then turned to leave. He watched her walk away, trusting her completely to do whatever she could to save him. He knew she wouldn’t give up on him. 

He would not give up on her, either.





***




Michael Kritschgau was the last person Diana had expected to see helping AD Skinner. She’d been certain he had been silenced properly years ago. She didn’t know him, not really, but she knew of him; had recognized him from her work at Roush. And she was pretty sure from the look on his face he’d recognized her as well. 

Now, it seemed even he was aware of how valuable Fox was, and was willing to go to extreme lengths to obtain such proof.

Diana had been clinging desperately to the hope that this could all still turn out okay: that Spender could save Fox, and the work could be completed. Optimism had never been her strongest personality trait but, with nothing left to lose, she clung to it now like a seahorse gripping a frond of seaweed in a riptide.

When she saw Spender and Fox’s mother talking across the room, however, things began to unravel. She couldn’t help but envision a young Fox Mulder: where he’d come from, the events that had transpired to make him into such a broken man. 

Diana had been numb to her guilt for so long that lying to Fox and everyone else around her had become second nature. But over time the numbness was wearing thin, as if the longer the truth of her betrayal was known to him the more the guilt could seep through.

Perhaps Mrs. Mulder truly believed Spender planned to help her son. Or more likely, she simply knew questioning the man was pointless in any case. Spender did what he wanted, and the mother of his son surely knew as much.

After Spender had administered Fox with one more injection that Diana truly hoped would be his last for a good while, Fox’s eyes had closed, and he’d drifted into a state of unconsciousness that she knew would last for some time. 

She watched Mrs. Mulder sign Fox out of the hospital against medical advice, and she watched the older woman gently dab a handkerchief to her eyes as her son was wheeled away by a stranger. 

Diana practically sleep walked through the transfer from the hospital that could do nothing to the underground Department of Defense facility where they would certainly do something. She wasn’t entirely sure if that "something" was the right thing, anymore. What she did know was that the control she thought she’d had over this situation was rapidly dissolving with every passing minute.

Everything was moving so fast, like a dream, and soon she was staring at Fox, laid out across an operating table with his arms splayed to either side, like Christ on the cross. Her own personal Jesus.

How did we get here?

An apparatus was placed on his head. It was a device she knew well- she herself had helped develop it. It would scan his brain, helping locate and retain the irretrievable information inside so that the operation could go as smoothly as possible without altering his memories too much. It wasn’t perfect, however: it read dreams and fantasies, but also had the capability to plant them as well, be it purposefully or inadvertently.

There was also no guarantee this procedure wouldn’t damage his brain permanently if he did survive.

After the prep was finished and the surgical team had been notified to begin, Diana and Spender were alone with Fox. 

“A father has high hopes for his son, but he never dreams his boy is going to change the world,” Spender said from behind her as she watched Fox lying there. “I’m so proud of this man… the depth of his capacity for suffering.”

Diana turned to him, placating. “Like father, like son.” Regardless of what was going on in her mind, her emotional turmoil and confusion, she couldn’t let Spender reconsider. 

“They think what he has is killing him, but in actuality he’s never been more alive,” Spender said. 

He looked at Fox like prey, and Diana found it interesting that Spender seemed to be rewriting history even as they stood here. Lies upon lies, upon more lies. Now that Spender was poised to receive what was inside his son, what had previously been a death sentence seemed now to be a blessing. 

He wanted whatever it was that Fox had inside him; he wanted it badly. And it seemed at this point he’d say just about anything to get it.

She tried to decipher his riddles but she felt herself weakening with every moment that passed. He couldn’t know she was onto him, not yet. Not until she figured out what to do. 

“Do you think he dreams?” she asked. The apparatus attached to Fox’s head was far from perfect; there was really no way to know what state he was in.  

“Oh, I’m sure he dreams,” Spender assured her.

“About what, I wonder?”

“Dreams all men who are owned by the world have, a simple life full of simple pleasures,” Spender pontificated. “Extraordinary men are always tempted by the most ordinary things.”

She wondered about this; about whether or not it was true for Fox. Whether or not it was true for Spender. She thought of her own life and whether it was even true for her: ordinary things had never been what she sought. She’d always wanted to be extraordinary.

What was she now?

She looked down at the sleeping fox, completely helpless, at the mercy of whatever his mind and the apparatus concocted. His eyes twitched ever so slightly and she wondered if he could hear them. Whatever he dreamed of, she hoped it brought him comfort.

“Dreams are all he has now,” Spender said, and for a moment she thought perhaps he’d slipped up; revealed something he hadn’t intended. 

“What did you say?” she asked, turning around to face him.

Spender appeared slightly chagrined; at least, as chagrined as he allowed himself to appear. 

“-For the time being, of course,” he clarified. “We all have such places— borne of memory and desire,” he continued. “Dreaming of the things we once had, or perhaps the things we’ve forsaken. Hundreds of little joys…” he looked reflective, “to open a door and have a woman beckon you in… to have her make a fire and lay the table for you… and when it’s late, to feel her take you into her arms.” 

His gaze had turned towards her, and she felt incredibly uncomfortable. She wasn’t sure if he was trying to distract her from his misstep, or if he’d actually once had those things, or if it was even some poor attempt at seduction. Whatever it was, she was tired of listening to him. 

“Wherever he is, I’m certain he’s at peace,” he concluded, or at least she hoped.

She didn’t believe him anymore, any of it. He expected Fox to die, and soon. But she wasn’t surprised. She’d known from the start this endeavor would be a long shot.

Was there anything she could do to stop this? Everything was already in motion. If she attempted to get Fox out of here, she would certainly be apprehended… and for what? What would it matter? Without removing the brain matter that was killing him, he’d die anyway.

She looked around as the surgeons began to file in, a dozen of them at least, flanking Fox like greedy, starving vultures. She thought of poor Gibson Praise lying on a slab, his brain exposed, and how she’d allowed it. She’d just… allowed that.

What had she become, truly?

She thought of the book she had back at her apartment, nestled into the top drawer of her nightstand; how it was the only thing she’d had over the past several months, the only thing that had kept her going. The only thing that she could use to possibly justify any of this, if only to herself. If she did seek assistance to get Fox out of here, how would she explain why she’d gone along with any of it? Would anyone help her? Would anyone believe her?

Would anyone care?

She went over her ever-dwindling options in her mind: AD Skinner. Michael Kritschgau. Even Alex, for fuck’s sake. And she knew none of them could help Fox.

None of them would help him.

But in an instant, she knew who would. She knew the only person who could. And it was the last person she wanted to involve.

It occurred to her she’d driven a fox-shaped wedge between herself and her only option over the past several months that there was no hope of dislodging now. The irony struck her; that the only person in a position to help her was the only person who would never, ever trust her. 

She had to find a way of getting Agent Scully to understand what was going on, and what needed to be done, without directly asking her.

The answer came to her in an instant. The book. It could help. She had to try.

Diana turned to face Spender, her attention back on the task at hand: making him believe nothing had changed. “What would your place be like?” she asked him.

“Pardon?” He looked confused, as if the mere notion that anyone would ask him about his personal life was absurd.

“The place you’d go to in your mind,” she said. “What would be there?”

He looked pensive, and for the first and only occasion in the entire time she’d known him, she thought she saw a faint glimmer of regret. 

“Ordinary things,” he said simply.

He gave her a weak smile, but she saw a glint in his eyes as he left to prepare himself for surgery.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 16: The Fall

 

 




The child is father to the man. 

This phrase bounced around in his head like a mantra, some kind of code he needed to crack. A piece of Fox Mulder’s ultimate puzzle.

The boy was six, maybe seven. Mulder watched him build a sandcastle on the beach like he had so many times in his dreams; even before his hospitalization. Night after night the boy came to him, as if he wanted to tell Mulder something, and night after night he got no answer.

A dream is an answer to a question we haven’t yet figured out how to ask.

Mulder hadn’t actively sought parenthood in his lifetime. He was never sure why, so he chalked it up to a bad childhood, bad parenting. He didn’t hate his parents but they’d left much to be desired and he worried he’d be the same for his own kids.

Perhaps it was maturity, perhaps it was experience. Perhaps it was coming into contact with the only woman with whom having children felt right. But when Scully had asked him the question he’d never really entertained before, regardless of his apparent reservations, the answer had come to him faster than the speed of light. 

The answer is yes

She’d been so happy, maybe the happiest he’d ever seen her. It wasn’t until that moment that it had truly hit him how much she actually wanted to be a mother; how everything the two of them had been through over the past seven years had robbed her of that opportunity. 

He’d thought, even then, maybe now is the time… maybe now could be the right time for me to tell her how I feel, to tell her how much I love her.

But still, he hesitated. Their timing, yet again, was atrocious. How could he have convinced her he wasn’t simply telling her what he thought she wanted to hear?

It hadn’t been the right time, not yet. It never seemed to be the right time.

Besides, none of that changed the fact that, in the end, he really was just a coward.

When the in vitro failed, both of their hearts had been broken. At first he believed it had affected Scully far worse than him, but as the days turned into weeks the dreams began, and the boy arrived. It made him realize he’d wanted that child more than he’d ever allowed himself to hope for. And he’d wanted it with Scully.

He’d been lying in his hospital bed, fading in and out of consciousness, not really certain what was real and what was fake. He thought about Diana and her betrayal. He thought about how he was probably going to die, and how much he wanted Scully to see him, how much he desired her forgiveness. How much he wanted her to see what he’d become, to believe it. He was desperate to show her once and for all that extraterrestrial life was real, and that he was living proof of it. 

He remembered asking for Michael Kritschgau, knowing he was the only one who would be capable of exposing the truth, come hell or high water. If Mulder was going to die to prove this, so be it; he wouldn’t put Scully through that. It had to be Kritschgau.

Diana had put a stop to Kritschgau’s interference, however, and quite frankly, he didn’t understand what she was up to anymore. She’d seemed to genuinely want to save his life, to stop the phenytoin injections. But he’d never forget that it was most likely she who’d turned him over to C.G.B. Spender in the first place.

He sensed now that the cigarette smoking bastard was injecting him with something else; something that was not simply phenytoin. The voices disappeared, the pain disappeared, and he was suddenly in a car, sitting shotgun to his worst enemy.

His father: an unwelcome new truth.

I’m dying, you idiot. If I could get up I’d kick your ass.

He was aware that he must be experiencing some kind of hallucination, that none of this could actually be happening, and yet it felt absolutely real. He could hear the rain on the windshield, the sound of the wiper blades; could smell Spender’s cigarette as he lit another for Mulder.

“I don’t smoke,” Mulder objected, and immediately thought of all the times he used to. Times of weakness, insecurity and confusion.

“Maybe now you do,” Spender suggested. 

Although such occasions were few and far between, Mulder found himself believing the man.




***




They pull up to the curb, and Spender turns off the car. “This is your new life,” he says. 

Mulder watches him go, off to god knows where, and looks out the car window. He thinks of Scully a few months ago, in one of their familiar rental cars, driving, driving. 

“Don’t you ever want to stop? Get out of the damn car, live something approaching a normal life?”

He considers that thing he sometimes considers when he has doubts: that just giving up could make everything so easy. It would be the easy choice, the safe choice. The simple choice. Like that night he gave up on Scully and allowed Diana into his bed.

But it had been neither safe nor simple and it feels as wrong now as it did then. Nothing seems to matter when Scully isn’t with him. 

“I don’t want to be left behind, Mulder,” she’d told him at the train yard. “I don’t deserve that from you, after all we’ve been through together.”

He wants to listen. But Scully isn’t here.

Does he get out of the car? Here and now, without her?

He wonders what Scully would do, if it she were here instead of him in front of this suburban house, in this unfamiliar neighborhood. He wonders if there’s a dog in the backyard, or maybe kids.

He makes a decision; or, at least, his dream makes it for him. Scully would weigh all the evidence. She would see what there was to see. She would “have a look around.”

The house isn’t his taste; it’s The Falls at Arcadia, it’s his mother’s house; some amalgamation of domesticity he’s probably suppressed. It’s not terrible, however; someone has thoughtfully filled the fridge with enough sunflower seeds to last him a month, if he stays here a month.

He is a man of habit, after all.

When Deep Throat arrives, Mulder is more confused than ever. Some of this is fantasy, some memory. Both intermingle together in a dreamlike world that feels real and yet somehow not quite right. He doesn’t know what to believe; he doesn’t know where any of it is coming from.

And Scully still isn’t here.

Now he’s lying in a bed again, handcuffed. Just as in his real life: locked down, unable to free himself from his nightmare. Diana is here now, wanting him, and he’s reminded of what happened last time; the last time he gave in to this. But he has no control over his subconscious, which seems to be wanting to show him something, to communicate something. 

He lets her in, again, if only in his fantasy.

Then something is different. He sees the boy on the beach once more, and something is terribly wrong. Something bad has happened. The sandcastle is damaged and the boy is crying.

“That’s okay, you can build it again,” Mulder says, consoling him. “Just start again.” He reaches out to wipe the tears from the boy’s streaming eyes and feels a tightening in his gut.

Vignettes of an ordinary life shutter along like slides in a projector; another case to solve, another hypothesis. He’s given back Samantha, as if she were never taken from him at all. He’s married to Diana again. They have children together. An entire life, flashing in front of him: a life he’d forsaken, but it’s not his life. 

It’s not Fox Mulder’s life.

He looks in the mirror and sees gray hair. He’s aging, time is passing. Diana has passed away.

His lips curve down into a frown and he can tell there is wetness in his eyes. But he feels nothing. Her death is as empty and meaningless as this life.

And then he is an old man, something he’s never really pictured much. Maybe he’s always assumed he’d be dead long before it happened.

The boy is here again, and he’s standing atop an enormous sandcastle in the shape of a UFO. It’s strange: whenever Mulder is standing on this beach he is at peace. Just him, and the child, and his mission.

Suddenly the boy kicks the mound, chunks of sand chipping away from the UFO. Mulder is crushed.

“What are you doing?” Mulder cries. “Why are you destroying your spaceship?”

“It’s your spaceship,” the boy accuses. “You’re destroying it.” 

The boy reminds him of himself as a child: determination with a dash of indignation. He throws a handful of sand at Mulder in frustration. “You were supposed to help me.”

He was supposed to help. Instead, he’d abandoned everything he’d known.

He’d abandoned Scully.

“Don’t you ever want to stop? Get out of the damn car, live something approaching a normal life?”

He knows the truth. In a way, he’s always known it. The life of Fox Mulder, no matter how ordinary, would always - and only - be extraordinary with Dana Scully in it.

 




***


The book had mysteriously appeared, as if from nowhere.

Well, not nowhere, exactly… the interdepartmental correspondence stamp on the envelope indicated that Scully had a friend somewhere in the FBI.

Native American Beliefs and Practices. A foretelling of mass extinction. A myth about a man who can save us from it. 

That's why they took Mulder. 

Her words to Skinner echoed in her head over and over, and the more they did, the more certain she was that she was right. It didn’t make much sense to her- X-Files rarely did- but she knew in her gut it must be the truth. 

She and Mulder had uncovered countless bits of information over the years; an enormous pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces that had amassed and needed only to be assembled. She didn’t know how to assemble this picture, however. She could see the edges, the curves and indentations, and how they were supposed to fit together, but she had no idea what the final picture was. 

Maybe only Mulder did.

She suddenly thought of Gibson Praise and of the shame she'd felt for letting him out of her sight for even a moment. It was her responsibility to watch over Mulder. She should have stayed with him every minute, and now, wherever he was, he was in even more danger.

Was it possible he was, in fact, some kind of savior? Was there indeed some world-ending plague headed their way, someday, that he could stop? It seemed fitting, somehow. 

As she scoured the pages of the book, she saw handwritten notes in the margins, as if someone, presumably the person who’d sent her this book in the first place, had been wondering the same thing. And from the sheer amount of notes, scribbled and scrawled in the margins at varying angles and in various hues, they’d been wondering it for some time.

Nowhere in the book was Mulder mentioned by name, even in the notes. She deduced that whoever had taken him must have learned of his alleged importance rather recently. This realization had perhaps come on as suddenly as his illness.

Kritschgau? It was her second guess after Skinner, but she figured it couldn’t be him due to the FBI return stamp. The only other person at the Bureau she could imagine being involved was Diana Fowley, and surely it couldn’t be her.

Scully didn’t know what she believed anymore, about coming plagues and alien/human hybrids. She’d seen enough to know any of it was possible, and as much as her brain fought against all of it, the one thing her heart kept telling her was that she needed an open mind to save Mulder. 

There was a place inside her, however: the deepest of dark places, that wondered if perhaps Mulder was willing to die for this, for his quest. To prove to the world what he was, and, if necessary, to do whatever he had to do to save it.

It wasn’t the first time she’d wondered this.

How far would Mulder go?

She wondered, and wondered. How far would he go? And then another question presented itself to her.

How far would she go?




***




Scully spotted Agent Fowley in the hallway of the Hoover Building, the foul stench of Morleys as pervasive as the other woman’s treachery. She’d honesty hoped never to cross paths with the woman again, but here they were. 

“Bum a cigarette, Agent Fowley?” Scully asked shortly. I’m onto you.

“I don’t smoke,” Fowley replied without facing her.

“Funny. I could have sworn I smelled cigarette smoke on you.”

Fowley whipped around. “Let’s cut the crap, shall we?”

“Yes. Let’s,” Scully agreed. She moved aside a couple of steps, shifting them out of the center of the hallway.

Fowley’s eyes flashed. “What is it you want from me, Agent Scully?”

“I don’t want anything from you. It’s Mulder who needs your help.”

Fowley looked perturbed. “And what makes you think I can help him?”

“That book you sent me,” Scully said. It was a shot in the dark, but Scully had nothing to lose, and indeed she saw it: a moment of recognition in Fowley’s eyes, ever so slight, that made Scully certain she was right. Seven years as an investigator had honed her abilities well.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Okay,” Scully nodded dubiously, even though it wasn’t okay, it wasn’t at all. “But let’s just say, hypothetically, you did send me a book that explained why Mulder is in danger. Let’s just say, hypothetically,” Fowley’s face was slowly draining of color, “that you knew where he was… wouldn’t you want to do whatever you could to help him?”

From the look on her face, the woman was putting on a front, Scully knew it. She wasn’t sure how much Fowley knew, but she knew something. Her lips formed into a thin line, but she said nothing.

“I just want you to know that this, right now, is the one thing you and I can agree on,” Scully continued. “What’s inside Mulder? What he’s become?” -she could hardly believe she was admitting this- “If any of this is true, I don’t understand why you of all people won’t help me save his life. As a former agent on the X Files, at the very least.”

Fowley crossed her arms. “I don’t know how to save his life, Agent Scully, and I certainly don’t think you and I could ever agree on anything.”

“Is that so?” Scully challenged. “Even on wanting him alive? We can’t agree on that, Agent Fowley?”

The taller woman sighed. “Even if what you’re saying is true, I know you don’t believe in any of that stuff anyway. So I’m not sure what you want me to do about it.”

Scully didn’t know how to respond to that. She didn’t know how much Mulder had told Fowley about her. 

“Is... that what Mulder told you? That I don’t believe in any of this stuff?”

Fowley scoffed and shook her head. “No,” she answered, and Scully wasn’t sure if she was lying, but in any event, she respected her discretion. “Just my own opinion. But I don’t think Agent Mulder would disagree, for the record.”

Scully let this in, determining its accuracy. And she couldn’t help but wonder: was her inability to believe in the things he believed in really what was holding her back from him? Was that what was holding them both back from each other; from something more? From the truth?

It seemed whenever she was around this woman her confidence that Mulder indeed needed her eroded like an infection, but today she wasn’t interested in letting that happen. 

You made me a whole person.

I need you on this, Scully.

I need you.

Fowley’s words were the only disease; not what she and Mulder had.

Scully shook her head. “Whatever Agent Mulder thinks about my beliefs is none of your business,” Scully said as sternly as she could. “This isn’t about that, anyway,” she lied, “it’s about finding him alive.”

It was a lie because loving Mulder wasn’t something she could separate from needing him alive anymore. 

“Of course it is,” Fowley said with disdain, somehow knowing her thoughts. 

“Just because I don’t think the same way you do, or the same way he does, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about him," Scully insisted. "And it certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help me.”

“I don’t have time for this,” Fowley sighed. The elevator dinged and she made to step in, but in that moment Scully made a decision: that she was not going to let this woman have the upper hand over her anywhere near an elevator ever again. 

Or anywhere else for that matter.

Dana Scully was completely, utterly, one hundred percent done with Diana Fowley.

“Look, I’ve had enough of this posturing, Agent Fowley. I get that you have a job to do for that cigarette smoking son of a bitch, whatever scruples you may have relinquished to do it. I know you don’t like me very much, and maybe we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot.” Scully looked at her, hard. “But I’m appealing to the person who must exist underneath all that cleavage and ambition.”

The hall suddenly grew quiet as agents stopped their conversations and turned to this, by far the most interesting one taking place at the moment. Fowley’s eyes flashed, and Scully knew she’d hit a nerve. 

Fowley looked around surreptitiously and stepped closer the the wall. “You think you can see right through me, don’t you, Agent Scully?” she hissed. “That I don’t care about him just as much as you do?”

“If you cared, you’d help me,” Scully argued. “I know you know where they took him. Tell me!”

Fowley’s eyes darted around the corridor again, where Scully knew people were staring. The rumors of their feud were certainly already brewing and probably had been ever since Christmas. 

Scully collected herself and moved towards a conference room door, gesturing for Fowley to follow her. The room was mercifully empty. The door clicked behind them and Scully whipped around to ask her one last time. 

“Where's Mulder?” 

Fowley pinned her with a stare and it seemed like the other woman was just as done with her as Scully was in turn. “Maybe before you go around blaming everyone you can find for what's happened to Mulder, you could think about what you could have done to prevent it.”

This was so cruel and unnecessary. Scully already felt terrible for leaving Mulder when she had, for not taking care of him when she should have. For not knowing how ill he’d been.

Scully searched the taller woman’s eyes for a sign, an indication that there was some way to get through to her. The book had been an olive branch, but it was useless without Mulder’s location.

Why wouldn’t she help? 

Scully decided to do just what she’d said she would do: appeal to the human part of Diana Fowley that she knew had to exist.

“I just want you to think,” she began. “Think of Mulder when you met him.” 

She knew nothing of their life together before she’d shaken his hand in the basement office all those years ago, but it had to have been something good, something of substance, at some point. She may never understand Mulder’s insistence upon defending this woman, but she knew him well enough to know he must have had his reasons. 

“Think of the promise and the life in front of him,” she continued. 

She couldn’t help but think of Mulder herself when she’d met him: extending his hand, all eagerness and brilliance and guilelessness. How she knew even then her world would never, ever be the same again. 

“Think of him now," she thought of her partner, her one in five billion practically comatose and at the mercy of the most devious people she'd ever encountered. "...and then try and stand there in front of me, look me in the eye and tell me Mulder wouldn't bust his ass trying to save you,” she finished.

She knew it was the truth, because that was just Mulder. Mulder was traveling halfway around the world, Mulder was trudging through snow and ice. Mulder was wrapping her freezing naked body in his only coat, breathing life back into her with warm lips. 

Mulder was giving everything he had because he never, ever gave up.

Fowley looked at her, steel in her eyes. “I'm thinking, Agent Scully. I'm always thinking." She set her jaw and Scully could tell she had more to say, but couldn’t. Or wouldn’t.

Maybe it was pride, or petty jealousy. Maybe it was simply not wanting to give Scully the satisfaction of winning a point, even if it could help Mulder.

But before Fowley turned to leave, Scully saw in her eyes what she could only identify as a glimmer of fear.

Maybe it was none of those things. Maybe, just maybe, Diana Fowley was in danger, too.





***




Diana stared at rows and rows of brain scans: Fox’s brain scans. It felt almost poetic that they’d arrived here in the end. 

She remembered one of their first meetings, in her office, when Fox had approached her for help. How she’d stared at the scan of Luther Lee Boggs’s brain, searching for signs of the God Module, and Fox had come up next to her, so close… and even then she’d known she loved him.

The work had gotten in the way, of course. The damned work. She knew now, with a decade of lies and deceit behind her, how she could never have had them both, not completely. 

She’d made her choice years ago and that choice was not him.

“I hope you see the poetry in this, Diana,” a snake-like voice came from the operating table as she made her way over. It was eerie, the way he seemed to read her mind. She closed her eyes, feeling utterly trapped.

“You’re removing genetic material that may kill your son,” she said, upset, more to herself than to him. 

“We’re forcing the next step in evolution to save man. We’re doing God’s work, Diana. Without this immunity, everyone would die.”

His words were the truth, but there was something about his eyes that told her he believed otherwise. 

“This knowledge is God’s blessing,” he continued, and he reached out to take her hand. “I’ll carry on for Mulder from here.”

A smile crept across his features, slowly, a Grinch-like grin. It was the same smile he’d presented to her months ago as he’d effortlessly disavowed his own dead wife, for the good of the project, and it was at this moment that Diana fully understood. Her own ambition had clouded her thinking to the point where she could no longer see Spender’s. He was not only aware that Fox might die- he was fully prepared to sacrifice his son; as easily and willingly and readily as he had Cassandra.

She’d never fooled herself into believing Spender was some kind of philanthropist, or that he actually cared about anyone but himself; but she had always believed that his selfishness stemmed from a true megalomaniacal desire to save the world in his own name. To take credit; to consider his legacy complete. 

He wasn’t doing God’s work. He was God, and that was exactly the way he wanted it. 

Now, as he stared up at her with those phony eyes, she knew the truth, the whole truth: he had absolutely no interest in saving the world. 

He just wanted to watch it burn.

She felt sick, barely registering doctors moving around her, or the hum of equipment. The relentless blip blip of whatever machine was keeping Fox alive. For the moment. 

Suddenly, horribly, Fox’s eyes opened and looked directly at her, and although she knew it couldn’t be possible, although there was no way he was conscious enough to recognize her behind her mask, somehow she knew that he did. 

His eyes filled with tears, and her own did as well as the reality of the moment hit her. He was going to die, and although she'd had very little choice in the matter, she had helped facilitate it. She felt her heart constrict like a tight fist was around it, squeezing it, tearing it out of her chest. 

The only way out is through.

She thought of the years and years of her life given to Spender, to his cause, and what she’d sacrificed to do so. How the only thing that mattered to him were the ways in which she’d been useful.

The only way out is through.

She thought of Fox, of the promise that had lain before him; exactly how Agent Scully had implored her to. She thought of his potential and how she, Diana, never really understood him the way he’d needed her to. Fox’s final rejection settled in fully as she realized the only person on this planet that truly understood him, that truly deserved him, was the very woman she’d tried to tear him apart from all these months. 

The only way out is through.

Finally, the incontrovertible answer arrived. There was, in fact, no way out for Diana Fowley. There never would be. 

The only way out was out. 

Diana tore her eyes away from Fox’s long enough to attempt to stop the tears that threatened to fall, and to catch the breath that left her body as she headed towards the door. 

She made a choice, finally. And it was the first right choice she’d made for as long as she could remember.









THE WATERGATE APARTMENTS

WASHINGTON, D.C.





Diana waited for what felt like days. 

She considered running, but what was the point? Spender would find her. It was too late for her to move forward. 

She didn’t bathe, she barely ate. The terror and isolation vibrating through her body were unmatched and felt completely deserved. 

Was Fox alive? Had Agent Scully arrived in time? Or had her key led them to their deaths? Had they both been caught and executed? She’d never know. The uncertainty gnawed at her.

A knock came at her door, eventually, as she knew it would. 

“Come in,” she called from her perch on a chair by the window. 

The door opened easily, as it was unlocked. Alex entered with a look on his face she could only describe as resigned.

“You didn’t run,” he said, as if he’d expected her to.

She shrugged. “Sorry to disappoint you.”

He sighed, and his face was tormented. She’d never seen him quite this way. 

“He wants to see you. Before-” he stopped his sentence. They both knew what was going to happen.

“I don’t want to see him,” she said, shaking her head. “Not ever again.”

“He’s not going to like that.”

“Since when do you care what he likes?” 

She was trying to be strong, but she was completely exhausted. She was weak in mind and body, prepared for the inevitable. 

Alex shook his head. “Well, Mulder lived. Agent Scully found him and they escaped. I suppose that’s what you wanted. What I don’t know is why.”

She felt relief coursing through her veins at this, at knowing her final act of rebellion had been successful. How Spender was certainly displeased. And that pleased her.

“Why’d you do it?” Alex asked. He sounded genuinely curious. “Knowing what was at stake? The project? After everything he showed you, made you? Taught you?”

She shook her head. “Pursue my own self interest. That’s what he taught me.”

He looked at her, as if truly seeing her for the first time, and nodded, maybe even in understanding. Pursuing self interest. It was perhaps the one thing she and Alex now had in common. 

He closed the door and approached her, and she stood up as they faced each other, his hand wrapped around his gun, finger on the trigger. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small stack of surveillance photographs that showed the escape she had helped facilitate, handing them to her.

She looked down at the photographs of Fox being helped out of the facility by Agent Scully, their arms wrapped around each other. She’d done the right thing, she knew, but even now these images stung.

“I don’t understand, Diana,” Alex said, shaking his head. “You could have used a dozen keycards. You could have gotten away with it. Why did you give yourself up?”

She turned around so her back was to him and closed her eyes, tears forming, the first time she’d cried since she left Fox all those years ago. She’d never planned to die for him, but she was about to. 

“I wanted Fox to know it was me,” she said simply. 

Alex was closer to her now, just behind her. She could feel his breath on her neck, and his hand moved to her shoulder, gripping tightly. An apology.

She stared out the window and focused on a tree in the distance. A crow sat on one of the branches, still and solitary, and even from her distance she could see its black oil-drop eyes gleaming, staring directly at her as if in judgment. She was reminded of that frigid day in Las Vegas; of the avian witness to their nuptials. That was the moment, it seemed to say to her, the moment things should have changed.  

It was too late for that, now. Far too late.

“You were right, Alex,” she said, as she felt the cold barrel of his gun press against the back of her head. “I never had the stomach for this job. But I suppose it’s a good thing you do, isn’t it?”

He said nothing, but she got her answer when the shot rang out, a deafening crack and shattering of red glass unfurling before her as if in slow motion. 

Then everything turned black.










Chapter Text

Chapter 17: The Constant

 

 



She walks alone on a beach, feeling the sand between her toes, the breeze gentle against her face, the waves crashing onto sand. Crystal blue water. No blood. No boils. No locusts. She closes her eyes, enjoying this: the solitude. 

Loneliness is a choice.

At first there is no one around, but then a man appears. Kind, familiar, he approaches and gives her a warm smile.

“Where is Mulder?” she asks the man.

Albert Hosteen doesn’t answer her question, instead only gazes at her with wrinkled, soulful eyes, imploring her to grasp the things that are beyond her understanding. 

“I have a message for you,” he then says. “From someone you love.”

“What?” she asks, confused. “Who? What message?” 

Please, not Mulder, she thinks. Please tell me he isn’t with you yet. Somewhere deep inside she knows Albert is either dead or close enough to talk to the dead.

“Your sister,” he then says, much to her surprise.

“You- you’ve spoken with Melissa?” she asks hesitantly. This is a dream, just a dream, she thinks. 

He nods solemnly. “She told me to tell you... that great change is coming for you and your partner.”

Scully pauses, reflects. These are the same words Albert spoke to her at Melissa’s funeral, so long ago. It hadn’t meant anything then, but now…

"What kind of change? When?” Please don’t tell me he dies, please… 

“You must help him,” Albert continues. “You must save him. But then... change. Change that you desire.”

Change that she desires… could he mean…?

She glances around the beach and feels it palpably: loneliness. The loneliness she’s chosen for most of her life. 

She suddenly knows he must mean what she thinks he means, what she wants him to mean, because that’s how dreams work.

“How will I know?” she asks. “How will I know when things will change? How will I know when it’s right?” 

She wants it to be right for them now, but it’s never right for them now. 

Albert doesn’t answer but again, as he did so many years ago, responds by simply pointing a weathered brown finger directly at her heart. 




***




Scully awoke on the floor of her apartment to the sound of rustling at her door. Her eyelids could barely open, so deep had her sleep been.

She got up to investigate the noise and saw that something had been slid beneath her door. It was an envelope, unmarked. Inside was a keycard for a building operated by the Department of Defense.

Her first thought was Kritschgau; that perhaps he’d been a party to what had happened to Mulder all along. Perhaps it had been him keeping Mulder captive, letting the life drain away from him as it got Kritschgau closer and closer to his revenge. Closer to his proof. And maybe he’d finally hit his limit; perhaps his conscience had finally got the better of him.

But when she found a note nestled inside the envelope she couldn’t have been more surprised at who’d sent it; at whose conscience had actually gotten the better of them.

She unfolded the note and read.



Agent Scully- 

 

I want you to know you were right. 

I should have fought harder. I’m not excusing or justifying anything I’ve done over the past several years of my life, but suffice it to say, I’ve made difficult choices; choices Fox never knew about. 

I did send you that book. I thought if you understood why I did what I did, you might understand that I believed I was doing the right thing. I believed Fox would understand as well- that he would accept the work I was doing was for the good of everyone, for the world. But I was deceived, and now I have only myself to blame for my own foolishness.

I owe Fox an explanation I’ll never be able to give him. And I’ll never forgive myself for betraying him. All I ask of you is to please understand that harming him was never part of my plan. I hope you can believe that I did everything I could to save his life, and I’m sorry I couldn’t do more.

Please take care of him, Dana. I know you will.

D.F.



Scully stood in her doorway, stock still, trying to process what she was reading. At the bottom of the note was a D.O.D. address that would, ostensibly, lead her to Mulder.

She knew she had precious little time to get to him but she couldn’t move. What was she to make of this? Was it a trap? What would she find when she arrived? A dozen guards with guns? The cigarette smoking man, ready to pounce?

A dead Mulder?

She wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to believe anymore, who she could trust, what she should do. But there was something about this note, about the other woman’s words, that struck a chord somewhere within her heart.

She suddenly remembered Albert Hosteen being here with her in her apartment, remembered them kneeling down to pray for answers, and then everything that had followed.

Had it only been a dream?

Her first instinct was to question her own sanity. Had he really been here? Or had her lack of sleep over the past few days caused her to hallucinate his presence? There were a number of external factors that could have caused the visitation.

But… no , she shook her head determinedly as she held Fowley’s apologetic confession in her trembling hands. She thought of Ahab, how he had come to her once in the night as well. 

This meant something. 

She was so confused, not knowing which way was up and which was down anymore, but she remembered Albert pointing a gentle finger towards her heart.

There are more worlds than the one you can hold in your hand, he’d told her before she’d fallen into a deep sleep. It was so hard for her to see that, to understand that some realms were beyond her understanding. 

Some truths were not for her.

Diana Fowley had been wrong in so many ways, but there was one thing in the end she and Scully had in common: they both cared about Mulder. She was being sincere, Scully knew it in her gut, and even if it was the first time she was being so since the day they’d met, this was when it mattered most.

That thought pushed every other from her mind as she found herself moving with purpose towards her hallway, towards the street, towards her car. Towards this address, wherever it would take her. She would go wherever he was. 

She felt ill-equipped at the moment to make this decision with her brain. She would have to make it with her heart.

In this moment Scully chose to do what Mulder had asked her to do for months. 

She chose to trust Diana Fowley.




***




Scully...I knew you’d come.

There had never been a doubt, not really. Even while stuck in his nightmare vision he knew at some point Scully would arrive. 

He’d waited, and waited. He’d seen the life he might have had if Diana had stayed, if he’d never found the X-Files. If he’d abandoned his search. 

If he’d never met Scully.

I knew you’d come.

“Mulder, you’ve got to get up,” he heard her voice. “I don’t know how much time we have…”

He wanted to, but he was stuck. He tried to break free of his mind prison, of whatever was keeping him tethered to the wrong path. She was the right path. 

She was the only path.

Get up, he heard her saying in his dream.  

He wanted to get up, to obey, but his mind was engulfed by thoughts and dreams and memories. He felt adrift, and he searched for something to cling to, something to hold onto. His mind was screaming so loudly to get free.

“You’ve got to get up, Mulder,” her real, actual voice was saying.

He saw her face materialize like shoreline breaking through fog and all he wanted was to go to her, to go with her. To leave this place. But he couldn’t move.

He couldn’t do it alone.

I don’t want to do this alone. 

“No one can do it but you,” she continued quietly. But she was wrong; she was the one he needed, she was the one who could help him. She was the only one.

I need you, Scully, he said, every part of his body paralyzed, but she couldn’t hear him.

“Mulder, help me…” she whispered.

He could feel her drawing nearer and in his mind they were in the forks of West Virginia again, clawing at the dirt, uncovering truth.

Help me, Scully.

“Please help me…”

He’d been all of the things she’d accused him of: a traitor, a deserter, a coward.

A traitor for trusting Diana over her.

A deserter for abandoning her, for leaving her behind in this nightmarish fantasy; for leaving her in the dark, something he’d sworn in that trainyard he would never do.

A coward for not telling her all the things she deserved to hear from him: that she was the only thing in his life worth living for. 

But she was here for him, still, in spite of everything. 

He felt wetness on his cheek, a real tear that wasn’t his own. And through that single tear he felt her desperation, her dedication. 

Her love.

His eyes opened.

Help me, Scully.

“You... help... me...” he grunted, his arm finally breaking free, wrapping around her neck. 

And she did, just as he knew she would.









2630 HEGAL PLACE 

HALLWAY OUTSIDE APT 42

ALEXANDRIA, VA

(ONE WEEK LATER)




Mulder had survived his ordeal, which Scully had to convince herself was the most important thing. The appropriate tests had been run and his memories and brain function seemed to be back to normal.

Even with all of her medical training she had no particular expertise on the brain and was nervous he might have permanent damage. There was no way to know what exactly had been done to him in that operating room, not for sure. All the doctors could do was let him rest, and heal. 

After a few days he was given a clean bill of health. She could only hope he would be okay.

She brought him home to his apartment and tended to him in his semi-conscious state. She stayed by his side, quite literally, and watched over him. After a few days he was well enough for her to go home, but not before apprising him of the things she’d discovered while in Africa, and her encounter with Albert Hosteen.

She didn’t mention Diana Fowley. She still wasn’t sure what to say, or if the woman actually deserved any kind of explanation as far as Mulder was concerned. Scully had never intended to keep Fowley’s involvement concealed from Mulder forever, but when Skinner called to inform her Agent Fowley’s body had been discovered after a neighbor reported a bad smell seeping from under the door down the hall, it changed things. 

Scully still couldn’t believe that Fowley had done a damn thing to help either one of them. But she had. And now she was dead. The petty jealousy Scully had felt over the past several months felt trite and insignificant. 

Mulder deserved to hear the truth, and she would give it to him.

She knocked on the door, steeled herself for this task. At first he was playful, lighthearted, and while part of her was relieved he seemed like himself again, she prepared herself to deliver the grim news.

Mulder had other plans, however.

“Scully, I, uh-- I was comin' down to work to tell you that Albert Hosteen is dead. He died last night in New Mexico. He'd been in a coma for two weeks. There was no way he could've been in your apartment.” 

This news shocked Scully. “He was there. We-- we prayed together,” she insisted. 

He eyed her and with a single look they were dancing once again. She could tell from his eyes what he was thinking, almost as if she had acquired his mind reading skills.

A visitation. A ghost. A spirit. 

See it, Scully.

“Mulder, I don't believe that. I-- I don't believe it. It's impossible.”

“Is it any more impossible than what you saw in Africa?” he inquired. “Or what you saw in me?” 

The truth was she probably did believe it, because she had no choice anymore. She knew as surely as she was standing here now that an alive and well Albert Hosteen couldn’t possibly have been in her living room when she’d thought he was. That she’d been dreaming, or hallucinating. Or maybe what she could intuit from Mulder’s look that he believed was right, and she’d seen a ghost.

“I don't know what to believe anymore,” she admitted, as tears started flowing. 

She sensed Mulder nodding as he stepped closer to her, prepared for their usual dance. He’d anticipated this, surely. But she was tired, so tired of these well-trodden steps. 

“Mulder, I was so determined to find a cure to save you that I could deny what it was that I saw.” 

She’d seen the craft on the beach, the sea of blood. She’d seen the locusts and the shaman. She’d seen all of it. It had all led to Mulder. She would have believed anything to get to him, accepted anything to save him. And that knowledge scared her.

She could feel herself beginning to break down already, but in his eyes she saw patience and understanding.

“...And now I don't even know… I don't know what the truth is, I don't know who to listen to, I don't know who to trust.”

Her own faith in everything she knew, in science, in God, in all of it, had been so shaken during this ordeal; she truly felt a bit unhinged. She’d thought she could trust Skinner, and she couldn’t. She’d thought she couldn’t trust Diana, but in the end she had. Everything felt upside down.

She decided before this went any further she’d have to simply rip the band-aid off. It was the best way to deliver this kind of news, the way she’d been trained, the way he’d been trained. Both as a law enforcement officer and as his friend.

“Diana Fowley was found murdered this morning,” she said with no preamble. 

His eyes lifted to hers in what seemed like resignation, as if he was surprised and somehow expected this all at once. She didn’t want to talk about Diana Fowley any longer than necessary but Mulder deserved the truth of how she’d helped him in the end.

“I never trusted her, but she helped save your life just as much as I did,” she revealed. “She gave me that book. It was her key that led me to you.” 

Mulder looked unsure of what to say, how to react.

“I'm sorry. I'm so sorry,” Scully said, genuinely upset by the conflicting emotions rolling around in her mind. “I know she was your friend.” 

She reached out to pull him into an embrace, partly for comfort, but mostly because she couldn’t bear to look him in the eyes and watch him break down over some other woman. 

But he didn’t. His next words weren’t about Diana Fowley at all.

“Scully, I was like you once,” he said, wistfully, pensively. “I didn't know who to trust and I-- I chose another path, another life, another fate where I found my sister.” 

He was speaking softly into her ear and she could feel each hair on her neck standing at attention. “And even though my world was unrecognizable and upside down, there was one thing that remained the same.” 

She knew how he felt; unrecognizable and upside down was an understatement.

He took her face in his hands and caught her eyes in a gaze so intense she’d never seen anything like it before, and they’d shared several such gazes. His determination in this moment to get something important across was evident. 

He was here, right in front of her, and in a single moment as she felt his touch, she was snapped back to reality.

She thought of Diana Fowley, and how she’d died for Mulder after everything. I know she was your friend, Scully had told him. The words echoed inside her head like absolution she hadn’t intended to give. 

You were my friend,” he clarified, almost in answer to her last words to him, “and you told me the truth.”

She remembered being in that train yard, their bond having felt so broken and battered, and how she’d fought for him. Her truest friend.

“Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant, my touchstone,” he declared.

Her tears fell freely at this as she smiled in relief. When she looked into his eyes everything felt put back into its proper place, their trust intact. 

Here they stood again in Mulder’s hallway, the do-over she’d so desperately wanted now within her grasp. But even though she was free to try again, to kiss him properly, it felt like this moment was too big; it seemed to transcend all the complicated, messy feelings of the last several months.

This wasn’t about a kiss, not right now. It was about this moment; this opportunity to tell him what he needed to hear, what she wanted him to know. The same way he had all those months ago when she’d been headed out the door.

This moment wasn’t about what they might become. This moment was about what they were; here and now, to each other.

Constants. Forever.

“And you are mine,” she responded. 

It was naked, uncomplicated honesty, finally.

He smiled and nodded in return, his eyes bright in absolute understanding.

She then leaned forward to kiss his forehead, in his hallway, just as she’d done all those months before. She held his face between her hands as she remembered what Albert had told her. 

There are more worlds than the one you can hold in your hand.

The meaning wasn’t lost on Scully but she had a fleeting thought that the world she was currently holding in her hands was the only world she ever wanted to be a part of.

Her thumbs slid down his face and danced softly across those beautiful lips that she still hoped to press her own against.

She would, someday. Great change was coming for them, and soon. She could feel it. 

Loneliness is a choice, she remembered thinking not so long ago. It had been a time when things were confusing between her and Mulder; a time when her love for him had been clouded by doubt.

She’d always believed there was nothing in her life more constant than her own faith: in herself, her science, her rationality. But she knew the truth now more than ever before: above all else, her faith was in him. It always had been. And no matter where their lives might take them, no matter what twists and turns they would encounter, and no matter how much longer it took them to get there, she knew for certain loneliness was no longer her choice.





***




He climbs the mound of sand- his sandcastle, his spaceship- and soon he is joined by the young boy once again. They build together, laughing and smiling. After a while the boy looks up at him, taking his hand. 

“I want to show you something,” the boy says. “If you’re ready to see.” 

Mulder nods, smiling. He’s been waiting for this, wanting this answer for a long time. The real answer, not the one the smoking man had shown him.

And suddenly the boy is Scully. She is right here next to him. It’s been her all along.

She is with him, holding his hand, and she sees the spaceship. 

She sees.

“This is ours, Mulder,” she says. “Yours and mine. And we built it together.”

He nods, knowing the truth. This has always been the truth, will always be their truth. 

“Let’s keep building, then,” he replies with a smile.

They kneel down in the sand and build.


















 

 

 

 

 

Epilogue




A tiny cry pierced the air and Mulder’s eyes flew open. He felt Scully shift in the bed next to him, and he leaned over to kiss her temple.

“Stay, I’ll get him,” he said softly.

He slid out of bed to scoop their son up out of his bassinet. William instantly quieted as Mulder held him over his shoulder, carried him to the changing table, and changed his diaper. 

When he returned to Scully she was sitting up in bed, turning her bedside lamp on. She reached her arms out as he handed her the baby.

“You can leave the light off, you know,” he smiled.

“I know,” she said, as she got William to latch. “But I want to watch him.”

Mulder slid back into bed next to her and touched their son’s soft head as the newborn nestled into Scully and began to nurse. It had barely been a day since he first laid eyes on William in Democrat Springs but after a whirlwind of activity they’d finally come home from the hospital.

He knew he should probably go back to sleep and take advantage of William’s current state of silence but in this moment he could only agree with Scully. All he wanted to do was watch, so he did. 

He watched Scully look at the baby, their baby, and she absolutely glowed. Everything about her as a mother felt right, and although he’d entertained the possibility in the past, seeing it in the flesh made him believe it even more fervently. 

He had a fleeting moment of self-awareness as he realized what Diana had said to him in his fever-vision all those months back had been right: looking at his family now, everything else seemed unimportant. Silly. 

Childish.

He knew, however, that he hadn’t been wrong. Having a child with Diana would never have been right. It could never have felt the way he felt right now. Even before, when he and Scully had only been friends, he’d been prepared to have a child with her because he knew, absolutely knew he was bound to her forever, no matter what.

These thoughts of his past with Diana were clouding his mind, and he had a strong desire to focus on the task at hand, his task, which was being present for his family. He knew he had to tell Scully what was on his mind to banish the thoughts forever.

To be free of Diana Fowley, once and for all.

He sat up in the bed to face her. “Scully, I need to tell you something.”

She looked up. “What is it?”

“I want to be with you, really… be with you.”

“Well, I just had your baby, Mulder, so I certainly hope you do,” she said playfully, cooing at William. But Mulder wasn’t in a playful mood right now. He was serious. 

“I think...in order to do that, I need to be completely honest with you.”

She looked up from the tiny infant and her brow furrowed. “What is it, Mulder?”

He sighed. “I should have told you this years ago, actually,” he said uncomfortably, his hand on the back of his neck. “But it’s… been difficult, for obvious reasons. And it’s been weighing on me more heavily lately.”

“Okay.”

When he looked into her eyes, telling her the truth felt like the only thing to do, although he had no idea how she would react when he revealed it. 

“I was married once. Before you and I met.” Her eyes flashed. “It was a long time ago.”

The “M” word hadn’t been uttered by either of them up to this point. Hell, they’d only just dropped the “L” word to each other for the first time a few hours ago. He may very well have gone to his grave with this secret. But as he looked at her now, holding what was essentially living proof of their unassailable bond, he knew complete and utter transparency was the only course.

“Oh,” she said. Her eyes dropped, and he could tell she was disappointed to hear this. On what level, he wasn’t sure. 

He waited, and she said nothing for several seconds. As he watched her he could practically hear the gears in her head turning, piecing it together. He knew what would come next, inevitably, as if he’d activated Richie Lupone’s Rube Goldberg machine, and the noose was tightening around his neck.

“Diana Fowley?” she asked, with an air of veiled trepidation.

“I was young, and it was a mistake. But I just… wanted you to know,” he affirmed. “The whole truth.”

She nodded back, thoughtful, then turned her gaze back to the child in her arms. The child that was half his, half hers. She smiled as she gently stroked the infant’s cheek.

“Thank you for being honest with me, Mulder.”

He moved his head lower to better catch her gaze. “Are you upset?”

She looked at him tenderly. “Of course not. How could I be upset about anything right now?” She smiled, indicating William. “Nice job on the timing, by the way.”

“It wasn’t intentional, I promise,” he chuckled softly.

“How long… did it last?” she asked.

“About two years,” he admitted. 

She nodded thoughtfully. “But I’ve seen your FBI profile,” she said suddenly. “It has no mention of a divorce.”

“Yeah, that’s what happens when you’ve got Langly for a buddy,” Mulder explained. “Most guys take you out for beers to cheer you up. He took me for a good scrubbing.”

She laughed softly, and reached out to hold his hand. She didn’t say anything for a while and he knew she was processing it all. 

“I suppose if Langly scrubbed it, it never happened, then,” she pointed out. 

“Even so,” Mulder said, “I still wanted you to know.”

She thought a moment. “It explains a lot, to be honest," she admitted. "Why haven’t you told me this before?”

He’d wondered that too, for years. The answer was obvious. “Because I didn’t want you to know, Scully,” he sighed. “I knew how you felt about her. Not to mention how I felt about you, and how it made me sick to think about revealing that to you.”

“But… later? Even after she died? Why not then?”

He thought about everything that had brought them here together. If he traced it back, oddly enough, Diana was the one who had set the ball rolling. If she hadn’t persuaded him to unearth the memories of his sister that spurred him along this journey in the first place, he and Scully might never have met.

He closed his eyes and thought of all the events that led them here; the moments that had defined both of their lives. He remembered every step that had led to he and Scully taking that ultimate one: how they’d been each other’s constants, how he’d kissed her at the New Year’s ball drop at midnight and waited for her so patiently to be ready. Months it had been, until she’d finally let him in: body, heart, soul. How the rain had pounded against his bedroom window that night as their bodies had moved together, slowly and reverently. Finally.

How love hadn’t meant what he’d thought it did before that night; not at all.

Every choice he’d made, every fork in the road had led them both to each other, right here and now. And as he looked down at their son and up to her he knew why he’d never said anything.

“I guess I’d convinced myself that telling you would somehow lessen what we have together,” he confessed.

“But that’s not true,” she said with a smile. “I didn’t know you then, Mulder. You can’t change your past. And even if you could, why should you? Everything you’ve gone through has made you the man you are today.” She reached out to lay her hand against his cheek and his eyes closed. 

He covered her small hand with his larger one. They fit together so perfectly. “I know. I know that now, and that’s why I’m telling you.”

She smiled down at their son, then looked back up at him. “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” she asked. 

He shook his head. “Only that I love you,” he said, meaning those words more than he ever had in his life. Maybe he’d never meant them at all before her. “Diana was in my past, and that part of my life is over. The love I feel for you, though... that love is endless, Scully.”

She closed her eyes and brought his hand to her lips to kiss it. Her eyes peered at him over his own fingers and he watched them actively changing in hue: aquamarine, cornflower, cerulean. Scully. How did they do that?

She brought his hand down and a smile spread across her face that put every truth he’d ever searched for to shame. The truth they both knew; this love they shared that they could no longer deny. That he no longer had any desire to deny.

“I’m in love with you too, Fox Mulder,” she said. 

His insides fluttered in an inherently Scully-induced manner. He would never tire of hearing her say the words. 

“I think I have been since I met you,” she continued. “I only wish I’d been brave enough to tell you sooner.”

He sympathized with her admission; how much heartache and shame they could have avoided if they’d both been braver. 

“I wanted to tell you in Antarctica,” she revealed to his great surprise. “I was about to say it but you found that gas can and then… life intervened, I guess. I lost my nerve.” She looked him right in the eye. “I regret that.”

He shook his head. “I have so many regrets, Scully… things you know I’d change if I could.”

His list of regrets was long, especially when it came to Scully. Countless mistakes that, especially during the time Diana had been in their lives, had hampered their progress towards the inevitable; towards each other.

But there was one regret he held higher than any of them.

“That goddamn bee,” he chuckled. “How many things that would have changed if we hadn’t been so rudely interrupted. How many times I’ve wished for a do-over of that moment.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” she said softly, and he believed her. 

Their smiles mirrored one another’s, understanding that now was not the time for regret. Now was the time for action. 

“There aren’t any bees in here, are there, Scully?” he grinned. 

“No, there aren’t,” she replied.

He took her face between his hands and leaned in, so grateful to not be afraid, to not be confused. To know with such certainty she was his and he was hers, and there were no more questions anymore. 

Their lips touched and he felt it again; that feeling of absolute bliss that occurred every time he was lucky enough to kiss her. That feeling he suspected would never, ever go away.

He knew the way she kissed by heart now; the taste of it, the softness of her rosy lips, the tiny sighs of satisfaction she probably thought he couldn’t hear but he could, always. Her unoccupied hand combed through the hair at his nape, twirling softly. 

Two days postpartum he knew the kiss couldn’t lead anywhere, but it didn’t have to; it was everything, all he could ever want in such a full, perfect moment.

He suddenly felt a sharp pinch at the back of his neck and he reeled backwards, eyes wide, looking for another arthropodal interloper. No fucking way.

Instead he saw only Scully, eyebrow raised, a mischievous look in her eye.

“I had you big time,” she said, barely containing her glee. 

They shared a laugh as William fussed in protest. Mulder reached out to comfort him.

“I’m not used to sharing you, Scully,” he chuckled as he stroked the infant’s head.

After a moment, a slight smile appeared at the corner of her mouth. “Wow, Mulder. Marriage.” She shook her head. “I never pictured you as the marrying kind.”

“Oh?”

“It’s just so... ordinary.”

"I might be more ordinary than you think,” he laughed. He looked at her earnestly. “Is… that something you’d consider? Someday? Maybe?”

She smiled in surprise. “Someday. Maybe. Do you think you and I could dabble a bit in the ordinary?”

“I think we could,” he replied honestly, looking down at the tiny baby nestled in her arms. “I really think we might even be good at it.”

She nodded, her eyes shining, and he kissed her again softly. She reached out to turn out the light as he laid his head on her shoulder and closed his eyes, the quiet sounds of William nursing a pleasant symphony to his ears. 



***



He’s on the beach again, the wind blowing through his hair, the waves crashing onto the sand; only this time there is no spaceship. There is no mission.

There’s only him, and Scully, and their child.

It’s nothing less than extraordinary.







 






THE END