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He is the Master of His Fate, She is the Captain of Her Soul

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Mulder and Scully were woken up on Thursday morning, May 25th, to the jarring sound of the 6:00 alarm on his bedside table. He reached over and shut it off, before turning back to wrap his arms around her and pull her closer to him. Scully sighed and nuzzled against his neck.

“Good morning,” whispered Mulder.

“I don’t wanna get up,” she groaned.

He chuckled, and then Scully started to pull away, before sitting up in bed. Mulder stared up at her strong back, his eyes roaming from her shoulders down to the small dimples above her ass.

“I suppose I should get dressed and go home,” she sighed.

Mulder’s hand reached out to caress Scully’s naked back. “I was thinking, uh, maybe you should leave some clothes here.”

She turned to look at him, a small smile slowly spreading across her face.

“I can make room in my closet,” Mulder continued, grinning as she started to move towards him. “I mean, I’ve got clothes at your place. It only makes sense that you leave some here, too.”

Scully nodded, smiling as she slid her body over his, lying on top of him, the glint in her eyes filled with amusement and happiness. All too soon, reality rushed in around them again. Desperate to hang on to the moments of bliss, Scully clung to Mulder as he wrapped his arms around her, holding her to his chest. She inexplicably felt tears begin to prick her eyes, and felt slightly annoyed at her heightened emotions of late, inwardly groaning at her PMS.

After showering and getting dressed, Mulder and Scully left his apartment together, before heading their separate ways, Mulder to FBI headquarters and Scully back home to Georgetown to get ready for work.

As Mulder approached his basement office at 7:45 am, he found the door open and Assistant Director Skinner waiting just inside the doorway. As he peered into his office, he also saw two men in suits emptying his filing cabinets and placing his X-files into the white cardboard storage boxes that were on a wheeled metal cart. He stepped inside his office with a knotted stomach.

“Agent Mulder,” Skinner said as he turned to face him.

“What the hell’s going on?” he asked.

Skinner gave him a long look before clearing his throat. “Your department is being audited.”

He watched the agents taking more of his files out of the cabinets. “Under whose orders?”

“The Director,” replied Skinner.

Mulder sighed. “What’s this about?”

One of the agents turned around to face him, acknowledging his presence in the office for the first time. The agent looked to be in his late 30’s or early 40’s, was balding, and wore glasses. “Special Agent Chesty Short. The Director has instructed the accounting department to perform a cost/benefit evaluation of the X-Files, Agent Mulder.”

As he turned to look at Skinner, locking eyes, Mulder felt his heart sinking into his stomach. Was this what Danny had warned him about?

“How long is this gonna take?” asked Mulder.

“We’re hoping to have our numbers crunched by the end of the morning,” Agent Short replied. “The Director wants this completed right away. We’ll also be meeting with you and Agent Scully during the evaluation process, which could take several days once we turn our report in to the Director. Do you happen to know when you expect Agent Scully to arrive?”

Mulder sighed again, and gave a slight shrug of his shoulders. “I’m sure she’ll be here by 9:00.”

Agent Short nodded, and went back to removing files from the cabinets. Ten minutes later, the agents from the accounting department and the files were gone.

“What’s really going on here, sir?” Mulder asked, walking over to stand behind his desk.

Skinner shoved his hands in his pockets. “The Director feels that more attention needs to be paid to what you do down here, especially now that the recent surge of media attention around you has increased public awareness of your work at the FBI.”

He sat down at his desk and sighed, shaking his head. He had a bad feeling about this. “What kind of chance do I have of keeping the X-Files open?”

“I can’t say,” replied Skinner. “But if I were you, I’d give some serious thought to any long-term plans you might have that don’t involve staying down here in the basement.”

Mulder stared after Skinner as he departed the office. Despite his uneasiness over what was happening, he found he wasn’t filled with the same kind of anger or despair as he’d endured in the past when the X-Files had been taken away from him. The first time he’d been removed from the X-Files, his partnership with Scully dissolved, and he was forced to transcribe wire taps six years ago, he’d felt lost and hopeless. When OPR took the X-Files away from him and he’d suddenly found himself working under Kersh, he hadn’t been filled with the same kind of despair because despite the Bureau’s threats to do so, he and Scully hadn’t been separated. Sure he was bitterly angry over it, their assignment was boring, mind-numbing routine, and his work had come almost to a standstill, but he still had Scully and so it wasn’t so terrible. It could’ve been worse.

But as Mulder sat at his desk, he realized that if the X-Files were indeed taken away from him after this evaluation by the Director, there would be no getting them back; that this would be the end. He also realized, with some surprise, that this wouldn’t be the end of the world. It was bound to end sometime, sooner or later, and it had only been a matter of when. Mulder thought back to his work over the past year, and again admitted to himself that he hadn’t accomplished very much since recovering from his illness last summer. He’d worked some interesting cases but as far as making progressive steps forward, not much had been attained.

*****

Scully heaved a sigh as she walked into the basement office at 9:06 am, approaching Mulder’s desk and sitting down in the chair facing him. He looked her over, noticing she seemed bothered by something.

“You all right?” Mulder asked tentatively. He wondered if she’d found out about the audit.

“I’m fine,” Scully brusquely replied, crossing her arms in front of her. She’d stepped on the scale that morning to find she’d gained another pound, and she’d spent the rest of her morning grumbling over it.

He looked at her. “Come on, what is it?”

She sighed, and shrugged her shoulders. “It’s nothing, really. I’ve put on some weight, and I’m just irritated by it.”

Mulder stared at her, believing this subject matter was dangerous territory. “Well, it’s not noticeable.”

“To me it is,” Scully replied tersely, looking down at her lap.

He immediately wanted to change the subject. “I don’t suppose you’ve heard about the official evaluation our department is getting?”

She looked up to stare at him. “What? What kind of an evaluation?”

“The Director has requested a financial evaluation into the X-Files, to determine whether the benefits outweigh the costs,” replied Mulder. “And they took our files… to evaluate them.”

Scully’s eyes widened slightly. “You’re not worried, are you?”

Mulder found he could answer honestly, no matter what the outcome, and shook his head. “No, I’m not.”

She smiled, and nodded. At that moment the phone rang, and after locking eyes with Scully, he reached to press the speaker phone button.

“Mulder.”

“Agent Mulder, this is Chesty Short. I need you to meet with me in my office at 11:00. I assume you know where the Accounting Department is.”

“I’ll be there,” he replied, looking at Scully, before hanging up the phone.

At 10:45 am, Mulder shut off the computer and stood up from his desk, looking over at Scully sitting at her table in the back, typing on her computer.

“I hope we get those files back soon,” she said, without looking over at him. “Quarterly is next Friday.”

Mulder groaned. He had forgotten. After grabbing his suit jacket from the back of his office chair, he walked over to lean against the glass partition. “Do you wanna have lunch in the park today?”

Scully looked up at him and smiled, feeling pleasantly surprised. “Sure.”

He nodded, and then left the office. Mulder took the elevator to the second floor and made his way past the human resources office, to the accounting department. He then approached Agent Short’s desk and sat down in the chair beside it. The desk was piled with X-file cases and receipts.

“Thanks for coming,” Agent Short greeted him. “We’re just about finished with calculating the expenses your department has incurred for the past year and I have to say, things aren’t looking very good.”

Mulder sighed. Agent Short proceeded to discuss the cost of airline travel, motel rooms, and the gas and meal expenses put on their FBI-issued credit card. He then took a manila file folder containing their car rental receipts, and started to add them up on his tape machine calculator.

“Lariat car rentals. Totals…” Agent Short looked at the total and whistled at the amount. “Would you like to see the figure?”

He handed the tape to Mulder, who glanced at it and noted the $1,033.56 amount, before handing the tape back to Agent Short.

“Is that a lot?” Mulder asked.

Agent Short stared at him. “A lot? Gas, expenses. The motel rooms alone. By FBI standards these numbers are out of control.”

“We could start sharing rooms,” Mulder deadpanned.

Special Agent Short paused, staring at him unamused. “You're under evaluation. There has to be a point when we say no.”

“You can't really compare what we do to other departments in the Bureau,” replied Mulder.

“Right. This business with aliens.”

Mulder felt himself growing impatient with Agent Short’s self-important tone. “Well, there's more to it than that.”

“But at the end of the day, you'd say aliens are your real focus,” Agent Short replied.

“That's the reason I got started, yeah,” Mulder said defensively.

Agent Short grabbed one of the X-files on his desk, looking down at it. “Investigating your sister's abduction and the government conspiracy around it. Both of which have been resolved, correct?”

Mulder felt contempt for the accountant rising up in the pit of his stomach. “Nothing has been resolved exactly.”

“In this case report here it's concluded your sister is dead as well as the men who took her,” Agent Short stated unsympathetically. “This is your handwriting here on the report, Agent Mulder?”

He showed Mulder the file, and he glanced down at it. “Yeah.”

“So, what exactly is left to investigate?” asked Agent Short.

Mulder sighed. “There is a lot more to the supernatural than simply the existence of aliens. There are crimes that are committed, lives that are lost, due to paranormal occurrences on a regular basis. Who’s to say these people’s lives are no more deserving of justice or these crimes are in no more need of prosecution than those which can be attributed to more every day causes. The work Agent Scully and I perform is an important public service, one that you’d be hard pressed to find two other law enforcement agents that are qualified to pursue.”

Agent Short sighed and sat back in his chair. “Agent Mulder, this evaluation isn’t really about whether or not what you do is valid. It’s about whether or not what you do is in the FBI’s best interests. And from what I can see, the money just keeps bleeding out with not much benefit to the Bureau. The upside to this, is that once you know exactly how much money is bleeding out, you can more successfully strategize and cut costs. Anyways, that’s all for now. Let Agent Scully know that I’d like to see her up here after her lunch break.”

Mulder nodded silently and stood up from the chair, and then gave the accountant a look. "I think a successful way to cut that motel room cost in half is to start renting one room instead of two."

Agent Short stared at him, again unamused.

"See? I'm strategizing already." Mulder then walked out of the accounting office, heading back to the elevators.

*****

At 12:41 pm, Mulder and Scully were in John Marshall Park, sitting on the blanket she had grabbed from the trunk of her car and placed down on the grass. It was a beautiful spring day, warm and sunny. The park was filled with casual visitors, mostly government employees also enjoying their lunch breaks. Mulder had already finished the capicola and spicy ham sandwich he’d gotten when they’d stopped at Downtown Deli on their way to the park, and was sipping from his Coca-Cola bottle while Scully finished up her mixed greens salad.

He gazed at her stocking-clad feet, crossed in front of her at the ankles and devoid of shoes, which had been kicked off and were lying at one corner of the blanket. Mulder started to seriously consider an existence beyond the X-Files. He wasn’t exactly sure what he would do with himself all day, but he’d have Scully, so it probably wouldn’t be so bad. There were a hundred things she could do, she was capable of so much more than he was. What exactly was he qualified for? Other than chasing after monsters with a badge and a gun? He supposed he could retire. By simply walking away from the X-Files, their lives would immediately be so much safer, and so there wouldn’t really be a need for the emergency black box. So, technically, he didn’t exactly need to work in order to pay the rent and put food on the table.

But what his life would be after he was finished with the X-Files was a blurred image to Mulder. The X-Files had been the only life he’d known for the past nine years. He supposed he could continue his work in his own way, without the FBI, but that would present challenges. The biggest challenge being Scully. For all her renewed commitment to the work, Mulder suspected that deep down she’d be open to moving on. And without the X-Files and the FBI, there wouldn’t be any real compelling force to motivate her to continue this kind of work. She’d want to just get on with her life. With a feeling of surprise, Mulder found that idea nonthreatening, the idea of getting on with his life and leaving the X-Files behind didn’t fill him with fear or trepidation.

“Oh, my mom called while you were meeting with Chesty,” Scully grinned, placing her empty salad carton into the plastic bag.

“Yeah?” he smirked. She’d taken to derisively referring to Agent Short by his first name, something that made Mulder feel a little better.

Scully took a sip from her bottle of water before replying. “She’s having a Memorial Day BBQ at her house on Monday afternoon, and she’d like for you to come.”

Mulder started to give her a small smile, which quickly turned into a grimace. “Is Bill Jr gonna be there?”

“No, he isn’t,” she replied, smirking at him. “But Charlie and Jennifer and the kids are going. I’m guessing Jack would be excited for you to be there.”

He smiled, and slid closer to her on the blanket. Their eyes met, gazing at one another, and Mulder leaned over to softly press his lips against Scully’s.

She broke the kiss, whispering, “We’re working, Mulder.”

His face pulled just inches back from her, grinning. “No, we’re not. We’re on our lunch break.”

“Mulder, there are other government workers in the park right now, possibly even FBI agents. Someone will recognize us.”

“I don’t care anymore, Scully. We’re not in any danger. There’s no government conspiracy. There’s no one watching us, listening to us. Not anymore. You were right. They don’t give a damn about us. We’re no longer a threat. We’re just a big red number on the FBI’s budget.”

She sighed at his bitter tone, and watched him sitting there dejectedly. “Kiss me again,” Scully whispered.

Mulder turned his head to look at her, and smiled. He then kissed her ardently, his hand moving to sink his fingers in her hair.

An hour later, Scully was sitting in the chair beside Agent Short’s desk, where he reiterated the numbers he’d calculated regarding the expenses of their traveling all over the country to conduct their investigations.

“I see the money bleed out, but it just doesn't seem to make the results of your work any better,” Agent Short said. “So many of the cases you investigate are left unexplained. Makes it hard to justify the expense.”

“So much of the work that we do cannot be measured in standard terms,” Scully explained.

“How would you measure it?” he asked.

“We open doors with the X-Files, which lead to other doors.”

Agent Short picked up a case file. “Doors leading to… ‘A conspiracy of men who cooperated with alien beings to create human-alien hybrids.’ So we could all become slaves of an alien invasion.”

Scully stared at him as he read disdainfully, and decided to give this asshole as direct an answer as she saw fit. “I believe that there was once a conspiracy. I believe I was taken by men who subjected me to medical tests, which gave me cancer and left me barren.”

“But you don't believe in aliens,” Agent Short stated.

“I've seen things that I cannot deny,” Scully replied.

He looked down at the case file again. “Like, say this, uh… ‘black virus,’ which, if I were exposed to it under certain conditions, would grow an alien being inside me.”

She stared at him. “I’ve seen the virus.”

“But not an actual alien,” replied Agent Short.

Scully swallowed, pausing. “I was taken there, to Antarctica. But due to my weakened condition, no, I didn’t personally witness this happening. However, Agent Mulder did. And there’s no reason to believe he didn’t.”

Agent Short brought his hands up to his eyes, rubbing with his fingers. “You started seven years ago with the promise to be objective. But I can’t see your assignment to the X-Files has paid off for the FBI. You have some 160 case files here, but not once have you drawn any good, hard conclusion.”

“It’s the nature of the work,” Scully replied calmly.

“That’s the same answer I get from Agent Mulder,” he said.

Well, there you have it, she thought, pursing her lips and raising her eyebrows.

He stared at her. “Seems to me you’re not objective at all.”

“Agent Mulder says I keep him honest, as a scientist and a medical doctor,” replied Scully.

“And a scientist is unbiased,” Agent Short stated. “But because you don’t refute Agent Mulder’s findings, my conclusion would be you’re a believer.”

Scully stared at him, silent.

“We sign your checks every week. I just need to put down here what all the money’s going for.”

She nodded. “I’ve seen evidence of the paranormal… that hasn’t made me exactly a complete disbeliever.”

Agent Short smirked at her, nodding his head. “That is all, Agent Scully. The evaluation is finished, at least my part in it. My report will go to the Director this afternoon, and then I can assume you’ll hear from him at some time in the near future.”

After she made her way back down to the basement office, their X-files were soon returned. Mulder and Scully then spent the remainder of the afternoon filing their cases away back into the cabinets. Just before 4:30 pm, the office phone rang and it was Agent Short asking Mulder to return to his office. He begrudgingly left the basement and headed back up to the second floor.

Scully remained behind, finishing up the filing and hoping they would be able to leave work after Mulder returned. It had been a long, trying day. She turned around and caught sight of the poster behind Mulder’s desk, remembering that Agent Short had called her a ‘believer.’ Maybe she was. Maybe she wasn’t so skeptical anymore. But that wasn’t without good reason. She thought back to the young woman she was when she walked into this office for the first time and laid eyes on that poster. In some ways she was the same person, but in many other ways she was so very different. She never could’ve imagined in her wildest dreams everything that she was going to see and do. Where would she be if she’d never been assigned to work on the X-Files? Who would she be? She owed so much to Mulder, to their work together. Scully liked the person she’d become, even if that was a believer. Her eyes and her mind were open, unlike that close-minded weasel in the accounting department.

Mulder entered Agent Short’s office, contempt and annoyance flooding his stomach. “You said you were finished.”

“Turned in my report and was asked to go over a few things,” Agent Short replied, before indicating for Mulder to sit down in the chair.

He remained standing.

Seemingly unbothered by this, Agent Short continued. “As you know, the times we live in, the world is changing fast.”

“I'm missing your point,” said Mulder, after a brief pause and sarcastic head shake.

Agent Short turned to look at him. “As I said, this is an evaluation, Agent Mulder, to understand what you do, so if you go forward, you can do so more responsibly.”

Mulder sat down in the chair, and stared at the accountant. “That sounds more like a threat.”

“Cost/benefit analysis,” Agent Short stated. “But, if you want the truth, I really don't care one way or the other. You mostly record bizarre facts on bizarre cases. In other words, information gathering. Something, it seems to me, you can easily do on the Internet.”

“I can't do my job from an office, I promise you,” replied Mulder.

“Nowadays, the most advanced space exploration is done sitting in an office, Agent Mulder. Why? It's just too damn expensive putting men in outer space.”

Mulder felt anger bubbling in the pit of his stomach. “I'm not looking in outer space.”

Agent Short nodded. “Bringing us to the point. If you spend so much time and money looking for aliens, responsibly you should narrow your search.”

“To where?” Mulder asked sarcastically.

“Wherever they are,” Agent Short replied. “It's not unreasonable. It's just a matter of reducing your vision.”

Mulder glared at him. He’d like to fucking reduce this guy’s vision. He stood up from the chair and started to walk away from the desk.

Agent Short stood up, and called after him. “Oh, Agent Mulder, one more thing.”

He turned around, and walked a couple steps back towards the desk.

“You are not to take on any more cases until the evaluation is completed,” stated Agent Short.

“Excuse me?” replied Mulder defensively, staring at him.

Agent Short nodded, with a slight smirk. “The Director needs to go over my report, and then he’ll make a decision. Nothing you need to worry about, though. I doubt you and Agent Scully need to use the excuse of having a case in order to share a motel room, although maybe that's necessary for a woman as frigid as her. That would certainly be a more reasonable explanation for your weekly road trips.”

Rage filled Mulder’s stomach as he looked at the sneer plastered on Agent Short’s face, and he lunged for him. Agent Short’s eyes widened in fear and he tripped backwards trying to get away. Other agents in the office quickly ran over to intervene as Mulder’s swinging arm smacked the glasses off Agent Short’s face just before he stumbled backwards and landed on his ass behind his desk.

Mulder then turned around and walked determinedly out of the office, down the hallway to the stairwell, where he walked down the two flights to the basement. He then made a right turn into his office doorway, where he saw Scully standing behind his desk, staring at his ‘I Want To Believe’ poster.

“I think I'm in big trouble,” he said, a sheepish look on his face.

Scully turned from the poster to face him. “Oh, Mulder, how many times have they tried to shut us down?”

“Yeah, but I never actually assaulted an auditor before,” he replied.

She stared at him in surprise, and instead of feeling disappointed in him over such behavior, she found herself feeling amused, and she smiled. “Did you hurt him?”

Mulder brought his hand up to rub his forehead. “I reduced his vision a little bit.”

The office telephone started ringing and he turned to answer it on speakerphone. “Mulder.”

“Agent Fox Mulder?” asked a male voice.

“Speaking.”

“My name is Billy Miles. I don't know if you remember me.”

Mulder locked eyes with his partner, both remembering clearly. “Oregon, seven years ago. You had multiple abduction experiences. I'm here with Agent Scully.”

“Billy, are you all right?” she asked.

“Yeah. This may seem weird, me calling like this, but, uh, I don't know where else to turn.”

Mulder could only think of one reason he would be calling. “It happening again, Billy?”

“Yeah, but not to me this time,” Billy replied, before hanging up the phone.

Scully looked up at her partner as he hung up the phone to the sound of the dial tone.

“More alien abductions, Scully,” Mulder said, somewhat temptingly.

“Hmm, I don't know how we could possibly justify the expense,” she replied thoughtfully, a slight hint of sarcasm to her tone, as she walked around Mulder, heading for the doorway.

He turned to follow her. “We'd probably turn up nothing.”

Scully smirked, and continued towards the doorway. “Let's go waste some money.”

They both left the office, smiling, and made their way to the FBI’s parking garage.

*****

On Friday, May 26th, Scully and Mulder boarded the 7:00 am US Airways flight out of Washington, D.C., and after an hour layover in Charlotte, North Carolina, they boarded the 9:30 flight to Portland, Oregon, expecting to arrive around 12:30 pm. A flight attendant passed by Mulder with the drink cart as he sat in the aisle seat, wearing his reading glasses, and looking through the original case file on Billy Miles and the other abductees from Bellefleur, Karen Swenson, Ray Soames, Teresa Nemman, and Peggy O’Dell.

Scully sat by the window, looking through the autopsy reports and medical records on the victims. She suddenly felt a strong wave of nausea, and started to breathe deeply through her nose and exhale slowly out her mouth.

“Are you okay, Scully?” Mulder asked, looking up from the file.

“I think I’ve got motion sickness or something,” she replied, continuing her slow, deep breathing technique.

The overhead lights came on, signaling passengers to fasten their seatbelts. The pilot then announced they were now approaching the Portland airport and were about to make their descent.

Mulder started put the file away, taking the autopsy reports from Scully, when the plane started shaking violently. Passengers screamed and belongings were tossed about, bags falling out of the overhead bins, as Scully grabbed on to Mulder’s wrist. The plane was then brought under control, and she sighed in relief. She looked at Mulder, and they locked eyes.

“This must be the place,” Scully said.

He smirked, nodding. “You feeling all right?”

She took a deep breath. “I think I’ll feel a lot better once we land.”

After landing and disembarking the plane, they retrieved a car rental from the Lariat counter and drove northwest, coming upon the sign ‘Welcome to Bellefleur, Oregon’ just 90 minutes later. Not long after, they were pulling their rental car into the driveway of Billy Miles. As they got out of the car and started to approach the house, Mulder felt a strong sense of déjà vu and paused. Scully turned back to look at him, his suit jacket removed and the sleeves of his cornflower blue dress shirt rolled up to his elbows.

“This was our first case together, Scully. Does it feel strange… coming back here after all this time?”

“Does it feel strange to you?”

Mulder closed his eyes and raised his arms, slightly shrugging his shoulders. “I don’t know. What’s the feeling when you… when you walk down an old path but you’re, you’re a different person?”

“You mean for all that’s changed?” Scully asked.

“Oh, well, for all that hasn’t,” he replied.

She nodded her head. They were different people from when they started on this path together, and here they were back here in Bellefleur, Oregon, a town that didn’t look all that much different from when they left it.

Billy Miles then came out of the house, dressed in his brown sheriff’s deputy uniform. Mulder and Scully were pleased to see him, and that he seemed to be doing well. It was a nice thing to see, considering the state he’d been in when they’d last seen him. When Scully saw the wedding ring on his finger, she felt truly happy for Billy Miles, happy that he could overcome what had happened to him and live something resembling a normal life. But unfortunately he revealed that the marriage hadn’t worked out.

After Billy explained about the crashed navy jet, the unidentified craft, and the missing deputy, they encountered Billy’s father, Detective Miles, who appeared just as miserable as he’d been seven years ago. The four of them then drove out to the crash site on Rural Highway 133, experiencing déjà vu all over again as Mulder and Scully once again came face to face with the large spray-painted ‘X’ on the road. They both remembered that night, when their car lost power on the road and nine minutes seemingly disappeared into thin air.

Scully walked along the road, checking out the site, and found three shell casings from a .38 revolver. Billy Miles then confirmed that the deputy carried a .38 super. The deputy had clearly been shooting at something over here, but what that might’ve been Mulder and Scully could only guess, although they each had their suspicions. After Scully learned that the missing deputy, Ray Hoese, had a wife and child, her and Mulder drove back into town to speak with the deputy’s wife.

Upon arriving at the deputy’s home and knocking on the front door, the door was answered by a young woman who looked to be in her mid to late 20’s. As Scully held out her FBI badge and identified herself, Mulder recognized the woman immediately as Teresa Nemman, the girl who had come to them for help after Peggy O’Dell had been killed, believing she was going to be taken and killed as well. Teresa seemed shocked to see them on her porch, and then quickly invited them inside as her baby started crying. As they stepped inside the house, Scully looked back at Mulder as he tilted his head and gave her his ‘déjà vu’ look again. They then sat down in a couple living room chairs, facing the couch where Teresa sat holding her months old son.

“I'm sorry,” Teresa said. “I sort of lost it when I realized who you were.”

“We, uh, we came to see if there's anything that you could tell us that might help to find your husband,” said Scully.

“We had no idea you were his wife,” Mulder added.

Teresa nodded. “I don't know if it's important. Maybe I just hope it's not, but Ray and I have a connection that's even deeper for us.”

Mulder looked at her, realization dawning. “He's an abductee, too?”

“He kept it a secret from almost everyone,” Teresa replied. “It doesn't make you real popular around here.” Her baby then started fussing, and she picked it up to sit on her lap, rubbing the baby’s back. Mulder glanced over at Scully.

She watched Teresa soothing her son, and she gazed at them affectionately. It was a very cute baby.

“His experiences were a lot more terrifying than mine,” Teresa continued. “He was taken many times and tested. I have extensive medical records on him and photos of his scars. I'll get you the files.”

Mulder nodded as Teresa stood up and handed the baby to Scully. “Can you hold him?”

She quickly glanced over at Mulder as she took the baby, feeling a little embarrassed even though she wasn’t exactly sure why. But then she cuddled the child on her lap as Teresa went in search of the files. Scully took a rubber yellow squeaky duck from the coffee table and showed it to the baby. Mulder watched her cuddle the baby, suddenly feeling overwhelmed as a flurry of mixed emotions flooded his stomach.

“What do you see?” Scully said quietly to the baby. “What do you see?”

After first refusing the toy duck, he then grabbed and squeezed it to make the squeaky noise. Mulder watched Scully wistfully, a slight smile on his face, as she began singing softly to the baby. He watched her eyes light up, noticed how quickly she became absorbed in playing with the baby, saw how naturally it came to her. Mulder’s heart constricted, but he also noticed that Scully didn’t really seem melancholy at all. Soon after Teresa returned with her husband’s medical records, and Mulder and Scully departed her home. They got into their rental car, and he started to back out of the driveway.

“So what do we do now, Mulder?” Scully asked as she buckled her seatbelt.

He swallowed, pausing. He momentarily thought of driving her back to the airport and sending her home to Washington. What was she even doing here? He thought of the young woman who had walked into his basement office seven years ago. The young woman with her whole life ahead of her, with no inclination that she would ever suffer cancer and infertility, among other tragedies, by aligning herself with him. And here they were, back in Bellefleur again. And for what? What was the point anymore?

“Mulder? You okay?”

He turned to look over at Scully’s concerned expression. “I’m fine. Just getting tired.” He glanced at the clock on the dashboard and saw it was almost 5:00 pm. “You hungry?”

“Yeah, I’m starving,” she replied emphatically.

He chuckled. “Okay, let’s get something to eat. And I suppose we should check into a motel.”

They drove to the Silver Cloud Motel, the same place they’d stayed at seven years ago, and checked into two rooms. The motel appeared to had undergone an extensive renovation since they were last there. After Mulder showered and changed into a black t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans, they drove to a local diner. While Scully had heartily enjoyed her fish dinner, she noticed her partner hadn’t eaten very much. He’d also barely spoken 10 words to her since they sat down in the booth.

“Mulder, are you all right? You’re awfully quiet.”

“Yeah, I’m okay,” he sighed.

She looked at him thoughtfully. “Are you worried about the X-Files? About the audit? We’re probably in serious trouble for coming out here.”

“That’s the last thing I’m worried about,” Mulder scoffed, before taking a sip of his iced tea.

Scully nodded, and wondered what was bothering him. She dropped the subject, knowing he would eventually tell her in his own time. She pushed her plate away and groaned.

“I shouldn’t have eaten something fried, but it was so good,” said Scully.

Mulder shrugged. “Live a little.”

“But I’ve gained three pounds in five weeks,” she replied. “I should’ve had a salad.”

“Like I said before, it’s not noticeable,” Mulder said. “Besides, it’s not a big deal. It’s just three pounds.”

She sighed. “It’s noticeable to me. Even my clothes are feeling tight. It’s important to stay as fit as possible. Can’t chase after alien spaceships if I’m so round I can’t fit into my pants anymore.” She winked at Mulder, grinning.

He looked at her, smiling, and reached his hand across the table to play with her fingers. “You’re supposed to be round and soft, Scully. You’re a woman. And there’s a lot more to life than chasing alien spaceships.”

Scully chuckled, nodding her head. “Let’s get out of here.”

Once they paid the check, they drove back to the motel, and after saying goodnight, retreated to their respective rooms.

Mulder sat up on his motel bed, with his back against some pillows and his legs stretched out in front of him. It was after 7:00 pm and he had the television turned on, but the volume muted. His mind kept returning to the image of Scully holding that baby at Teresa Hoese’s house. Something clutched at him and ached deep in his chest, and he clenched his fists in helpless rage.

He wanted so much for Scully. As this thought came to him, he realized that he actually wanted things for himself, personal things he’d tried to never think of over the years. He’d never given much thought to fatherhood, had done everything in his power to avoid ever having to think of it. At least until the word ‘IVF’ entered into his vernacular. Mulder not only felt for Scully, but he now felt a deep sense of loss for himself. He not only wanted her to experience the joy of motherhood, he wanted to see her round with pregnancy and with that radiant glow as she carried his child. He wanted to watch Scully hold his child in her arms while he contentedly nursed at her swollen breast.

The FBI was up in arms over the cost of their motel bills, rental cars and gas, plane tickets and meals. The FBI cared nothing for the loss of their family members, everything they had to give up to devote their lives to the work. The FBI didn’t care about that. But Mulder did. Maybe it was necessary to come full circle, to end where they had begun. It was time to move on. And as he moved off the bed to gather the medical records on Deputy Ray Hoese, Mulder was determined that this would be their last case.

*****

As Scully unpacked her pajamas from her duffel bag, laying them on the bed, the tension headache which had started out as a dull throb in the front of her head when they left the diner was now full-blown pain, like a band tightening around her forehead. When she turned to walk towards the bathroom, she suddenly felt dizzy. She quickly turned back to sit on the bed, breathing deeply. After a couple minutes, her dizzy spell seemed to have dissipated and she no longer felt like the room was spinning. She moved off of the bed and walked into the bathroom to turn on the shower, but as she pushed back the shower curtain she suddenly felt cold to the bone and started shivering, despite the warm night.

What was going on? She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been sick. It had to have been when she was suffering from cancer. She hadn’t really been ill since. She wanted to be with Mulder, and so she grabbed her room key from the desk and shoved it in her pocket, before leaving her motel room and walking next door to his room.

He was lying on his bed looking at the files that Teresa Hoese gave them, including pictures of the bruises and scars that Ray Hoese had received during his multiple abductions. Scully knocked, and Mulder looked up at his door.

“Who is it?” he called out.

“It's me,” she answered.

He set the photographs down on the bed and walked to the door, opening it to see Scully standing there still dressed in her white button-down blouse and black suit pants. She stood there shuddering, looking unwell and extremely pale.

Mulder looked at her, concerned. “What's wrong, Scully? You look sick.”

“I don't know what's wrong,” she replied.

“Come in,” he said, reaching out to grab her arm, drawing her into his room.

Scully walked over to the bed, where she sat down and huddled, still shivering. Mulder closed the door and went over by the bed, crouching down and facing her.

“I, um… I was starting to get ready for bed and I started to feel really dizzy, vertigo or something, and then I just… I started to get chills,” she explained.

Mulder immediately stood up, turning down the sheets and blankets on his bed. “You want me to call a doctor?”

Scully moved off the bed as Mulder placed his hand on her back. “No, I just… I just want to get warm.”

She then climbed back onto the bed, pausing as he took off her shoes and dropped them to the floor. She got under the covers and he tucked her in, before getting on the bed to lie down behind her.

“Oh, good,” whispered Scully.

Mulder then embraced her in a warm, spooning cuddle.

“Thank you,” she said.

He held her tight, pressing his mouth against her back and gazing at her. She sensed the pregnant pause and his eyes on her, and remembered how quiet he’d been all through dinner. She wondered if he was going to tell her what was bothering him.

“It's not worth it, Scully,” he said quietly.

Another long pause. She didn’t really know what he was referring to. “What?” she asked.

“I want you to go home.”

“Oh, Mulder, I'm going to be fine,” Scully replied.

He shook his head. She didn’t belong here. “No, no, I've been thinking about it. Looking at you today holding that baby… knowing everything that's been taken away from you…”

She now knew what had been bothering him since they left Teresa Hoese’s, and she felt emotion clutch at her heart, could feel the tears start to threaten. They hadn’t said one word regarding her infertility since he’d come home from England and she’d decided against attempting IVF again.

“A chance for motherhood and your health and that made me…,” Mulder continued. “Think that... maybe they're right.”

“Who's right?” she asked, sniffling.

“The FBI. Maybe what they say is true, though for all the wrong reasons. It's the personal costs that are too high.”

As Scully began to feel tears well up, Mulder whispered softly in her ear. “There is so much more you need to do with your life. There's so much more than this.”

“There are costs to everything, Mulder,” she sniffled, her voice cracking. “And sacrifices.”

He shook his head slightly. They’d sacrificed enough. That Agent Short was right. There was no more conspiracy. He found his sister. Was there any real point in continuing?

“What is left to sacrifice for?” Mulder asked.

Scully didn’t have an answer. They’d both lost so much, had sacrificed and suffered. The only thing they had left to lose was each other.

He gently stroked her face, before whispering, “There has to be an end, Scully.”

Mulder softly kissed her cheek and leaned his head on her shoulder, as he slid his hand up to meet hers. Scully clasped his hand and held it near her mouth, and began to cry. Was she truly ready to walk away from the X-Files? And why would he want to send her home, while he stayed here without her?

“I’m not going home,” she said through her tears. “I’m gonna be fine, Mulder. Why would you want to carry on without me?”

“Scully…,” he sighed. “I know you’re going to feel better, I know you’re going to be fine. But what about six months from now? A year from now? And I’m not going to carry on without you. And end for you is an end for me. I can’t do this without you, you know that.”

Fresh tears welled up in her eyes and brimmed over. “But then what are you going to do if the Director shuts us down, closes the X-Files?”

He slightly shrugged his shoulders. “I’m gonna be with you, that’s what I’m gonna do. Haven’t you been telling me for years to get a life?”

Scully started chuckling, and Mulder kissed her again, grinning against her cheek.

“You getting warm?” he asked.

“Yeah, but someone once told me that the best way to get warm was to get naked with somebody else who’s already naked,” she replied, grinning.

He lifted his head from her back and gave her a look of feigned shock as she turned to face him. “Agent Scully, we are working on a case.”

She snorted. “I have no intentions of having sex, Mulder. I just want to get out of these clothes.”

“Party pooper,” he joked as he moved away and got off the bed.

Scully slid over to sit on the edge of the bed and started to unbutton her blouse, when Mulder stilled her hands and shook his head.

“Let me do that,” he said quietly, as he lowered himself to kneel on the floor beside the bed.

Mulder unfastened the remainder of her buttons, sliding the blouse off Scully’s shoulders and down her arms. He then unbuttoned and unzipped her pants, motioning for her to lift her hips, and then slid them off her legs, taking her nylons with them. His hands then moved slowly behind her back, reaching up to unclasp her pale pink bra, before it too was removed and tossed to the floor.

Scully wished her nudity didn’t reveal every flaw of her body, the extra three pounds she’d gained, and the little places she thought were beginning to sag. She gazed down at Mulder as he looked up at her, his eyes filled with tenderness and emotion. He reached out to touch her, and his hands slowly caressed from her neck, across her shoulders, down over the swell of her breasts, over her belly, to rest on her panty-clad hips, before sliding down to caress her thighs. As Scully looked down at Mulder, at the love and reverence in his eyes, she saw that he would have looked at her and touched her the exact same way if she’d been 50 pounds heavier.

“You feeling any better?” he whispered.

“Yeah, a little,” she replied, nodding.

He then stood up and removed his black t-shirt, jeans, and socks, before crawling underneath the bed covers with Scully. Mulder turned up the volume on the television, handing her the TV remote to find something she’d like to watch, and returned to studying the medical records on Ray Hoese as she snuggled up against him, her shivers gradually subsiding.

*****

Early the next morning, Saturday the 27th of May, Scully awoke in the bed in Mulder’s motel room. He was lying behind her, still asleep, with his arm and leg wrapped around her body, his hand cupping her bare breast, and his face buried in her hair, clinging to her as if he would never let her go again.

But Scully then suddenly felt an overwhelming wave of nausea, and forcefully prying herself from Mulder’s hold on her, she frantically crawled over him and off the bed.

“Scully?” Mulder said groggily, as he watched her walk fast into the bathroom, still blinking himself awake.

She dropped to her knees in front of the toilet and heaved, purging her stomach.

“Scully.” He’d followed her into the bathroom and knelt behind her, tucking her hair behind her ears and placing one hand gently on her back. She continued to heave, and Mulder continued to rub her back. He stared at her, eyes wide. He hadn’t seen Scully sick like this in years, and seeing her draped over the toilet was triggering painful sense memories of her cancer.

She groaned and flushed the toilet, before moving to sit back against the wall, with her knees bent in front of her chest, and closing her eyes.

“You’re going home, Scully.”

“Mulder,” she sighed, opening her eyes to look at him crouching down in front of her, dressed only in the navy blue boxer briefs he’d slept in.

He shook his head. “No, I mean it. I’m taking you to the airport.”

“You’re not staying here without me,” Scully replied firmly. “Besides, I feel a lot better now that I’ve puked. I actually feel hungry. How about you take me to get breakfast instead of the airport?”

He sighed, staring at her, and then grinned. After Scully got dressed and headed back to her motel room to get ready for the day, she met Mulder at their rental car at just past 9:00 am and they drove to the local diner. By 10:00 am, they were standing at the register paying their check, and as they exited the diner a middle-aged man dressed in jeans and a plaid flannel button-down shirt was entering.

“You the FBI people?” he asked them.

“Yeah, that’s us,” Mulder replied, glancing at Scully.

“A bunch of police and an ambulance just pulled up in front of Ray Hoese’s house about 15 minutes ago,” the man said.

Mulder and Scully locked eyes, and after quickly thanking the man, they drove to Teresa Hoese’s house, where they were greeted by Billy Miles. Teresa Hoese was gone, and there was definitely an appearance of a struggle. Mulder discovered a green patch burned into the carpet of the nursery, and after calling Scully’s attention to it, he went to search the rest of the house. Right after she explained to Billy Miles what the patch was, a biological toxin emitted from the bloodstream of an alien, she had another dizzy spell and almost fainted. But the feeling quickly passed, and after joining Mulder outside the house, they soon were speaking to Richie Szalay, a teenage boy who claimed to have been out in the Oregon woods off Rural Highway 133 with his friend Gary Cory, who then disappeared. The boy claimed to have seen Detective Miles out there, and that the detective knew what was going on. Scully raised an eyebrow, but Richie seemed sincere, and quite panicked over his missing friend.

Richie got into the backseat of Mulder and Scully’s rental car and they started to make their way out to Highway 133. During the drive, Richie explained to them that Gary Cory had claimed to have been a multiple abductee when he was younger; that he was taken many times and tested on, sometimes away from home for days.

“Didn’t anyone notice he was missing?” Mulder asked.

“Oh, yeah, all the kids in school would wonder where he was,” Richie replied. “But Gary’s parents didn’t want him talking about it, and would simply tell people that he was staying with relatives out of state whenever he was gone. It’s not like they could go around town saying their kid was taken by aliens. But Gary hadn’t gone missing at all over the past two years, and he’d hoped the abductions were over for good. See, he got real sick about a year and a half ago, and was in the hospital for a while. I think he assumed the aliens didn’t want him anymore.”

Scully glanced over her shoulder at Richie. “But wasn’t Gary worried about being abducted again? Why would he go out into those woods looking for a UFO?”

Mulder turned his head to look over at her, an uneasy feeling settling in the pit of his stomach.

Richie sighed. “His parents still refuse to talk about it, and they pretend as though it had never happened. Gary wanted proof that it was all real, that all that stuff had really happened to him.”

Once they reached the forest where Gary had disappeared, Mulder parked the car alongside the road and looked over at Scully as she unbuckled her seatbelt.

“I think you should stay in the car, Scully.”

“Mulder, I’m fine,” she said emphatically, opening her passenger side door. He sighed, and exited the car.

Richie then eagerly led them to the area where he said he and Gary had gone searching for the downed UFO. He explained to them how the beam of his flashlight had hit some strange spot in space out there, which bent the light. Mulder then pressed him for more information.

“Well, I yelled, ‘Gary!’ and I looked… but he wasn't there, you know?” Richie said. “He wasn't anywhere, man. And then the flashlight got really hot and I dropped it. It's right around here somewhere.”

Scully started to walk away, looking down at the ground in search of other forensic clues, as Gary looked for the flashlight. As she stepped into the center of a nearby clearing, she suddenly felt a powerful dizzy spell, like the forest was spinning around her, and then she fell to the ground.

Mulder and Richie found the scorched flashlight, and after picking it up to examine it, Mulder sensed the forest had gone eerily quiet. He looked around and couldn’t see any sign of Scully, could no longer hear the sound of her walking through the leaves and broken twigs. Immediately panic rose up in his gut and his heart started pounding.

“Scully?” he called out.

There was no response. Mulder hurriedly started walking in the direction she had gone off in, and then he started to run, almost tripping over the branches and rocks on the ground. As he approached the clearing, going around some trees, he saw his partner lying on the forest floor.

A wave of relief washed over him, but was immediately replaced by worry. “Scully?”

He ran to her side, again saying her name as he got down on his hands and knees next to her. Her eyes fluttered open, and she was breathing heavily.

Mulder placed his hand on her neck. “You want some water?”

“What happened to her?” asked Richie, who had followed Mulder to the clearing.

“Can you just get her some water?” he replied impatiently.

Scully gasped, and Mulder gently gathered her up in his arms. She was clearly groggy and disoriented. “I just… I just… I just hit the ground,” she panted.

“Here, lie still,” he said, cradling her in his arms as she rested against his leg and staring down at her pale face, just barely able to keep his anxiety in check.

“Why is this happening to me?” Scully asked, her head lolling. She was still having trouble focusing her eyes. She felt sick and exhausted, something she hadn’t felt in years. She had no idea why she should suddenly fall ill now.

Mulder wished he knew. “It's okay. It's okay.” He tried to reassure her, and brushed the hair back from her face.

She was still breathing deeply, trying to fight off her feelings of nausea. “What the hell's going on, Mulder?”

“I don't know,” he answered honestly. “But these aren't just random abductions, Scully. We've got to warn Billy Miles of that.”

She felt a little confused by the change of subject. What did abductions have to do with whatever was going on with her? “Warn him of what?”

What Mulder did know was that the abductions had clearly nothing to do with methodical, ordered testing. “These abductees aren't just systematically being taken,” he told her, believing there was something final, terminal, about what was happening here, and softly brushed the side of her face again. “They're not coming back.”

Scully’s eyes widened slightly as she realized what Mulder was implying, and instantly thought of Teresa Hoese and her cute baby, feeling saddened and worried. Richie then appeared holding the bottled water he’d grabbed from the cup holder in the front seat of the rental car.

“Can you sit up, Scully?” Mulder asked.

“Yeah, I think so,” she whispered.

He slowly raised her into a sitting position, and she took the water bottle from Richie. After swallowing several mouthfuls, Mulder was pleased to see her breathing become more steady and some color return to her face.

“Do you want me to call for help?” Richie asked him. “We can get her checked out by the doctor.”

“I’m fine,” Scully stubbornly answered before Mulder could reply. She then started to move, Mulder holding onto her to help her stand up. “I don’t need a doctor. We have to go talk to Billy Miles.”

Mulder sighed as she brushed herself off. The last thing Scully needed right now was to work. She needed to go lie down somewhere. He momentarily thought about driving her to the hospital, even if it did bring about her wrath. The three of them walked back to the rental car, and after a silent ride to Richie’s house, where they dropped him off, they then started heading over to the home of Billy Miles.

“We’re going home, Scully,” Mulder said as he turned off Richie’s street.

“What do you mean?” she asked, turning her head sharply to look at him.

He sighed. “We’re gonna talk to Billy, help him figure out a way to protect any other known abductees in the area, and then we’re going back to D.C.”

Scully felt her throat constrict, and tears begin to prick her eyes. The idea of leaving Billy Miles to deal with this by himself didn’t sit right with her. She and Mulder were needed here, these people needed their help, their protection. “Maybe we can come back.”

Mulder glanced at her, and saw she looked unhappy. He didn’t want to leave either, but Scully’s well-being was his top priority.

“I’ll go to the doctor, Mulder. And if I’m cleared to go back to work safely, we’ll come back and help Billy with this.”

He shook his head, and sighed, resolutely watching the road. “Once we go back to Washington, Scully, I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be the end of the road for us. There’s no way the Director is gonna let this slide.”

She swallowed, and pushed this painful thought away, as they pulled into Billy’s driveway. His squad car was there as well as his father’s. As they approached the front door, they found it left open. Mulder called out Billy’s name, but there was no response. He and Scully then reached for their weapons, and entered the house cautiously. As they peered into the kitchen and walked into the living room, Scully called out for Billy. Again there was no response, or any sign that anyone else was in the house. Scully looked up at Mulder with a tense, worried expression. He met her eyes, his expression also grim, and shook his head. After searching the entire house, there was no sign of Billy or Detective Miles.

“We got here too late,” Mulder said as they left the house.

Scully looked at him, her eyes widening. “Do you think he was abducted, too?”

He glanced over, noticing the fear etched across her face before she quickly masked it. “Yeah, I do. We need to contact the sheriff’s department and report Billy missing.”

It was after 5:00 pm when they had completed filling out the necessary paperwork and departed the sheriff’s station, and there were no available flights back to D.C. that evening. Mulder and Scully spent the rest of the night camped out in his motel room. They’d ended up ordering a pizza, but neither of them ate very much. Nor did they speak very much, remaining mostly silent for the rest of the evening, both lost in their own thoughts, which weren’t really too far off from each other. Billy Miles had called them to ask for their help, and they had failed him. They’d failed Teresa Hoese and her husband.

*****

On Sunday, May 28th, Scully and Mulder boarded the 9:45 am flight out of Portland and landed in Washington, D.C. at 5:40 pm local time. They spent a quiet evening at her Georgetown apartment, and on Monday, for the third morning in a row, Scully once again awoke to Mulder tightly clinging to her, his arm and leg protectively locking her against his body.

After they had both gotten out of bed, Mulder decided that a national holiday was the perfect time to spend the day at the office as the building would be deserted. So while the rest of America was enjoying family picnics and BBQs, Mulder and Scully decided to spend their Memorial Day in the basement office writing up their report on the events which had occurred in Bellefleur, Oregon. Headquarters was quiet, and only a small handful of agents had been seen as Mulder and Scully entered the building. They then spent a subdued morning sitting at the desk discussing what had happened over the past few days, while Mulder began to type the report on the computer. After a lunch break at the diner which sat two blocks from the Hoover Building, they returned to the basement.

As Mulder unlocked the office door, Scully suddenly felt a wave of nausea. “I’ll be back in a minute,” she said to him as he stepped across the threshold. “Ladies’ room.”

He nodded and she walked away, quickly heading to the bathroom. Scully was just inside the stall when she bent over the toilet bowl and heaved. After purging her stomach of its contents, she slammed the lid and flushed, before sitting down. After a couple minutes of slow, deep breathing, she exited the stall and walked over to the sink. She stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her face was red and her eyes were bloodshot. After washing her hands and rinsing her mouth out with water from the tap, she took a few paper towels, soaking them with cold water, and placed the folded towels against her forehead. After a few minutes, she soaked the towels with cold water again and placed them on the back of her neck. The queasy feeling then subsided, and her eyes were no longer looking so red. After taking a deep breath, Scully left the bathroom.

As she approached the doorway to their office, she heard Mulder talking to someone.

“Why me? And why now?”

Scully stepped in front of the doorway, looking into the office, and for a second couldn’t believe her eyes.

“I want to damn the soul of that cigarette-smoking son of a bitch,” said Alex Krycek.

“Mulder?” she spoke questioningly, her eyes wide.

At the sound of her voice, Krycek, Marita Covarrubias, Skinner, and Mulder turned their heads to look in her direction.

“What the hell is going on?” Scully asked.

“You still have a chance to save Billy Miles, Teresa Hoese and her husband,” spoke Marita. “The other abductees. They’re still there, in the Oregon woods. You can save them, but you have little time. Once the ship is repaired, they’ll be gone.”

Scully looked at Mulder, and they locked eyes. The others stood by and watched their silent conversation. She then turned her attention to Marita. “I don’t suppose you have any proof of this?”

Krycek and Marita glanced at each other, and then stared back at her.

“There may be a way of getting our hands on some,” said Mulder, before walking over to the desk and getting on the telephone. He didn’t want to believe Alex Krycek of all people. He’d much rather put a large dent the size of his fist in Krycek’s skull. Mulder hadn’t actually laid eyes on him since Krycek had confronted him about the alien invasion in his apartment two years ago. Sometimes Mulder didn’t know who he hated more, Cancer Man or Krycek. But right now, the pendulum was swinging heavily in Krycek’s direction.

Forty-five minutes later, the Lone Gunmen arrived in Skinner’s office with Chinese take-out and their laptop computers. They grouped around the conference table, and got down to work. As the afternoon progressed, the sky darkened with clouds and a thunderstorm rolled through the area. Scully remained mostly silent as the Gunmen talked with Mulder and Krycek, sitting down at the table with her arms crossed in front of her protectively. Krycek spun a vague tale about the Cigarette Smoking Man wanting to somehow revive the conspiracy, the downed UFO, the Alien Bounty Hunter wiping out all evidence of the abductions and tests. Soon the Gunmen were printing out page after page of information, and they all stood around the conference table discussing satellite data taken from Bellefleur, Oregon.

“What's amazing is that even the military satellites don't see it,” Frohike said.

“But J.P.L.'S Topex Poseidon shows it only as waveform data,” added Langly.

“And here it appears simply as a microburst of transmission error on the European Space Agency's ERS-2,” said Byers.

Skinner looked across the table at Byers with a bemused expression. “In other words?”

Frohike looked up at Skinner. “In other words, you'd never know it's a UFO.”

“If you didn't know what you were looking at or looking for,” concluded Byers.

“No wonder we couldn't see them,” Langly said.

Krycek pressed the palm of his hand against his face and spoke impatiently. “Listen, it is not going to be there forever.”

Marita glanced over at Mulder. “As we all stand here talking it's rebuilding itself.”

Scully had grown increasingly uncomfortable as the afternoon wore on. She didn’t trust Krycek as far as she could throw him, and why should she believe anything Marita Covarrubias has to say? This plan of theirs seemed awfully dangerous, and their real intentions were arguable. Scully decided she couldn’t take any more and walked out of Skinner’s office, and started to pace the hall outside.

Despite the fact that Mulder had been paying rapt attention to what the Gunmen and Krycek were saying, and was completely absorbed in his own thoughts concerning their present circumstances, he immediately abandoned them and followed Scully, closing the door behind him and shutting the rest of them away.

Scully turned at the sound of the door closing, her hands on her hips. “Mulder, if any of this is true…”

Mulder immediately interrupted her. “If it is, or if it isn't, I want you to forget about it, Scully.”

She stared at him, her brows furrowed in confusion. “Forget about it?”

“You're not going back out there,” Mulder said firmly. “I'm not going to let you go back out there.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked in disbelief.

He had made his decision, and he wasn’t going to budge. “It has to end sometime. That time is now.”

She wasn’t convinced. If something was to be done, they would do it together, like always. “Mulder…”

“Go home, please,” he said.

“I am not going home,” Scully said resolutely. “And I can’t just forget about it. I thought you’d know that about me after everything we’ve been through.”

Mulder thought there was no way in hell that she was going back into those woods. “What we’ve just been through is you unexplainably collapsing.”

She averted her eyes. “I was exhausted.”

“I’ve seen you exhausted,” he said. “And I’ve seen you running on empty. I’ve never once seen you go down. Now, Scully, you have to understand that they're taking abductees,” he said emphatically, before concluding more quietly as he put the fear that had been gnawing at him out in Oregon into words. “You're an abductee.”

“I was taken by men,” Scully retorted.

He shook his head. “You don’t know that. And I don’t know that. It’s not worth the risk. I'm not gonna risk…” Mulder paused, finding it hard to voice his fear, looking at her meaningfully. “… losing you.”

His voice nearly broke when speaking those last words, and Scully walked slowly into his embrace. She pressed her face against his, her hand gripping the back of his neck, and Mulder closed his eyes as they clung to each other. Scully knew what had to be done. She could demand that Mulder not go back to Oregon, remind him that he’d promised not to carry on without her. But they would just be failing Billy Miles again, and Teresa Hoese, and the countless others out there whose lives depended on someone like Mulder. How could she ask him to stop, to walk away?

“I won't let you go alone,” she whispered, and Mulder’s eyes opened. He’d expected her to put up a fight, to argue her way into going with him, or demand that he not give an ounce of credence to anything Krycek had just told them.

Once again, Scully inexplicably felt tears spring to her eyes and she didn’t want to let him go. Mulder held on to her tighter, pressing her body against his. They each felt an indescribable sinking feeling, anxiety knotting their stomachs. The sound of the office door handle caused them to reluctantly pull apart, and then Skinner appeared, asking them to come back inside to discuss their options.

Thirty minutes later, Mulder and Scully were back down in the basement, having left the rest of the group around the conference table in Skinner’s office. Mulder had called in a last-minute favor with the US Marshals, and had gotten himself and Skinner on the 5:30 pm nonstop flight to Portland, Oregon. After grabbing his duffel bag from the trunk of his car, he was standing in his office waiting for Skinner’s call to let him know he was ready to go.

Scully sat on the edge of the desk, her arms crossed, chewing her bottom lip. Mulder walked over and sat in the chair facing the desk, his hands moving out over the top of her skirt to caress her thighs.

“I don’t like this,” she said, her voice breaking.

“I know,” he whispered.

She swallowed. “Krycek’s explanation doesn’t even make sense to me. Why would this Alien Bounty Hunter need to destroy evidence of tests that were done all those years ago? Why all of a sudden would it be necessary to remove Billy Miles or Teresa Hoese, when they hadn’t been taken or tested on for the past seven years? It makes no sense, Mulder.”

He nodded. “I know, Scully. There’s something else going on here, some other reason why they’re being taken.”

“What?” she asked, unfolding her arms to rest her hands on top of Mulder’s.

“That’s what I need you to help me figure out while I’m away.”

Scully sighed. The plan was to request all the medical files on Billy, Teresa, Gary Cory, and any other Bellefleur residents who had unexplainably gone missing recently, and have them faxed to Skinner’s office so she could review them.

Tears stung her eyes as Scully once again chewed on her bottom lip, trying to fight them back. “I don’t like you going out there without me. You need me.”

“Scully,” he breathed. “I need you to be safe. I told you it’s the end. This is it.”

“You also told me the end for me would mean the end for you,” she replied, her tone slightly accusatory.

Mulder nodded his head, his hands moving to grip hers as she remained sitting on the desk front of him. “It is the end for me, for the both of us.”

She gave him a puzzled look.

He sighed. “When I get back from Oregon, I’m handing in my letter of resignation.”

Scully’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open in shock. “What?”

“I’ve been thinking about it for days, ever since we first pulled into Billy Miles’ driveway, watching you hold Teresa Hoese’s baby. It’s over, Scully. We’ve both lost so much, there’s nothing really left to sacrifice. And I refuse to sacrifice you or your health, your well-being. We’re done. It’s over.”

Tears welled up in Scully’s eyes, and brimmed over. Was she ready to walk away from the X-Files? From the life she’d had for the past seven years? There was a time when she was desperate to get out, but she’d made her peace with her choices in life, with her path, the destiny she’d found for herself. Was she ready to give that up? But Mulder was right. The only thing left to sacrifice was each other, and the longer they worked, the more danger they put themselves in, the more they risked to lose.

“Mulder…” Scully cried, the tears now falling freely.

“It won’t be so bad,” he said, grinning. “I could move out of my apartment, and come live with you.”

She looked at him, her wet eyes widening in surprise.

But then Mulder felt slightly nervous. “Well, I mean, if you’d have me. We both know I’m a slob. But I think my fish would like it at your place.”

Scully chuckled through her tears, and smiled at him.

"So is that a 'yes'?" he asked, smirking at her.

She sighed, smiling down at him, and nodded her head.

“I want a life,” he stated, his voice low and fervent.

They gazed lovingly at one another as Mulder got up from the chair, tenderly taking Scully’s face in his hands. He looked down at her, his eyes smoldering with green fire as the blue of her eyes sparkled, and then he pressed his lips to hers, soft and slow and undemanding, feeling the tears cascading down her cheeks. At this moment the phone rang. Skinner was back in his office and ready to go.

Scully wiped her tears, and they exited the basement office, locking the door behind them. Once they’d made their way to the fourth floor, Mulder entered Skinner’s office while she waited outside.

“Ready to go?” Mulder asked.

Skinner nodded, before glancing back at the Lone Gunmen and Marita Covarrubias. Mulder noticed that Krycek was gone, and locked eyes with Skinner.

“He said he was going to try and track down some information,” Skinner explained, shrugging.

Mulder sighed, and they turned to walk out to the hallway. Once Skinner walked through the doorway, Mulder paused and turned around to look at the Gunmen. They stood there, watching him.

He swallowed, feeling a lump grow in his throat. “Promise me you’ll look after Scully while I’m gone.”

“Of course, Mulder,” Byers said sincerely.

“Why wouldn’t we?” remarked Frohike.

“I’m pretty sure that’s down in writing somewhere,” Langly added.

He nodded, sighing, and then left the office.

Scully stood outside Skinner’s door, and after Mulder told her he’d call her in the morning, she watched them walk down the hallway to the elevator. The doors opened and they stepped on, both holding black duffel bags. She watched as Skinner pulled out his cell phone, making a call. Scully locked eyes with Mulder, and they gazed at one another, before he silently mouthed ‘I love you’ as the elevator doors closed. And then they were gone.

*****

Mulder and Skinner landed in Portland, Oregon just before 8:30 pm local time, as the sun was beginning to set, arriving at the forest outside Bellefleur an hour later. While setting up the laser motion detector beams in the area where Richie had led him just a few days earlier, Mulder looked up into the clearing and saw that the beams all ended at a spot in space, as if stopping against something invisible. His heart started pounding as he walked towards it. He then cautiously stuck his hand in the space where the laser beams ended.

Back in Skinner’s office at FBI headquarters it was going on 1:00 am, and Scully and the Lone Gunmen were still looking through files and satellite data. She picked up Billy Miles' medical file and saw that he’d been hospitalized a year ago for three weeks. Teresa Hoese, her husband, Gary Cory, and others had all been sent to the hospital with the same condition at some point in the last 18 months.

Scully felt her stomach bottom out. “This just can't be.”

“What are you looking at?” Frohike asked, walking over to stand next to her.

“Medical records,” she replied. “Billy Miles and other known abductees in Bellefleur, Oregon. They all experienced anomalous brain activity.”

Byers looked at Ray Hoese’s file. “Electroencephalitic trauma.”

Her heart was pounding. “Which is exactly what Mulder experienced last year.”

As soon as Mulder put his hand in the strange invisible barrier, a bizarre sensation began to spread through his body. He felt mesmerized, as if he was free of any worries or cares. Forest sounds abated, there was nothing but calm silence. He thought he heard a man calling his name, but it was from somewhere far away. He saw a circle of brilliant white light, with Billy Miles, Teresa Hoese and her husband, and other faces he didn’t recognize standing inside it. He felt compelled to join them, the feeling was overwhelming, and he walked towards the circle of light. But a small voice in the back of his mind frantically protested, pleaded with him to go back, to run away, telling him that someone was waiting for him. He wished he could remember who that was.

Mulder hesitated a moment, then stepped into the circle. The others welcomed him warmly, and he looked up at the bright light coming from the ship hovering above, feeling like this was where he belonged.

Back in Skinner’s office, Langly stared at Scully. “I don’t understand.”

“There was something out there in that field,” she said, remembering what had happened to her in the Oregon woods. “It knocked me back. Because it didn't want me. Mulder thinks that it's me that's in danger of being taken.”

“When it's Mulder who's in danger,” concluded Frohike.

She suddenly felt weak and disoriented, the room was spinning.

“Scully?” Frohike said, concerned.

She fainted, the Lone Gunmen catching her as she fell, and everything went dark.

From the woods of the clearing, the Alien Bounty Hunter stepped confidently into the circle and approached Mulder. At the moment they locked eyes, the frantic voice in the back of Mulder’s mind grew louder and started screaming one word: ‘Scully!’ But as he looked into the Bounty Hunter’s face, he knew it was too late and that his suspicions had been correct. They weren’t coming back.

*****

After Scully came to, she was still on the floor in Skinner’s office, the Lone Gunmen huddled around her.

“Scully, are you all right?”

“What should we do?”

“Call an ambulance.”

She started to sit up. “I’m fine!” she insisted. “Mulder’s the one who needs your help.”

“There’s not much we can do for him here, other than look after you,” Langly said.

Scully shot him a cold look.

Byers cleared his throat. “What do you want us to do, Agent Scully?”

“Help me get up, for one,” she replied in a weak voice. “I need to get to the airport.”

“No way, young lady,” Frohike scolded, helping her up off the floor. “You’re going to the hospital. We don’t want Mulder coming back here and kicking our asses.”

She started to protest, but then immediately turned around, running for the trash can as nausea overwhelmed her, and heaved over it, purging her stomach.

The Gunmen stared at each other in concern.

“Okay, you two try to get ahold of Mulder or Skinner and warn them,” Byers said. “I’ll drive Scully to the hospital.”

Byers walked over to Scully, still bent over the trash can, and placed a calming hand on her back. As she stood upright and looked at him, tears welled up in her eyes, threatening to spill over.

“I’m scared,” she whispered.

“I know,” Byers replied quietly.

Scully then felt dizzy again, and leaned against him. Byers led her out of Skinner’s office and out of the building, getting into the driver’s seat of Scully’s car, and drove her to Georgetown Memorial Hospital. Once she was in the emergency room, undressed into a hospital gown and sitting up in a bed, she waited to see the doctor. Byers was sitting in the chair against the wall. Scully had told him he could leave, and he mumbled something about making Mulder a promise a long time ago. She kept hoping her cell phone would ring, that Mulder would call her back. She’d called him when she first arrived at the emergency room, but the call went straight to his voicemail.

After urine and blood samples were taken, all Scully could do was wait. She didn’t want to sleep, she wanted to stay awake in case Mulder called her, but it was after 2:00 am and her exhaustion was pulling her under.

Four hours later, Scully slowly awoke to the familiar hospital sounds. Consciousness quickly came back to her and she remembered why she was there, remembered the events of the past few days. She grabbed at her cell phone on the bedside table, but there were no messages from Mulder. Not even a missed call. It was 9:00 am in Oregon. He would’ve called her by now. There was one painful explanation why he hadn’t, but she refused to think about that, holding out hope that everything was all right.

As she sat up in bed, she looked over at the chair Byers had once occupied to see Frohike sitting there, bent over with his elbows on his knees. She opened her mouth to say something, but then a doctor walked into the room carrying a clipboard. He was African-American and young, in his early to mid 30’s, wearing a white lab coat over blue scrubs and a stethoscope around his neck.

“Good, you’re awake,” he greeted her with a warm smile. “Hello, Dr. Scully. I’m Dr. Hughes. Uh, your preliminary tests show a number of things. You were suffering from exhaustion and mild anemia, some dehydration. A quantitative blood test also measured the exact amount of hCG in your blood, and so I’d say you’re about seven or eight weeks pregnant.”

“That’s not possible,” Frohike blurted out.

Dr. Hughes turned to look at him with a mildly amused expression, before turning back to Scully. She was staring at Frohike, and although she agreed with him, knowing this was impossible, something was also telling her this might be probable.

“He’s right,” Scully told the doctor. “I can’t…”

“Yes, I know,” Dr. Hughes replied, nodding. “We’ve got your medical records here, and I see you were diagnosed with premature ovarian failure three years ago after going through some fairly rigorous and experimental cancer treatments. Even though your cancer went into remission, the treatments could’ve caused your reproductive system to fail. We are currently running more tests, just to make sure everything checks out fine. We’re looking for a number of things that could give off a false positive for pregnancy. However, you’re not displaying any of the other symptoms for those conditions. So, if I was a betting man, I’d say that you’re not experiencing anything other than a typical first trimester.”

She was in shock. But how? Did the last IVF attempt somehow work? She doubted it. Did she conceive naturally? Her ovaries didn’t produce eggs anymore. But what if they somehow started to again? But how? POF doesn’t just heal itself. Mulder’s prayers for a miracle? Scully glanced over at Frohike, a smile starting to spread across her face, and he raised his eyebrows at her in a look of pleasant surprise.

“I’m going to start you on neonatal vitamins, and along with some food, should clear up your anemia in no time,” Dr. Hughes continued. “I’m gonna keep you here overnight for bed rest, and unless we get some unexpected test results back later today, you’ll be able to go home tomorrow morning. I’ll be back this afternoon to discuss those test results with you.”

Scully nodded absent-mindedly, a faraway expression on her face. She hoped Mulder would call her soon.

Dr. Hughes cleared his throat after turning back to look at her. “You know, the human body is an amazing thing. You’re not even close to being the first woman who was told it was impossible for her to have children of her own, only for that to be proven wrong. A woman’s ability to bring life into this world, even against the greatest of odds, is a real miracle.”

She returned the doctor’s smile, and then he left the room. Tears welled up in her eyes and brimmed over. Frohike rushed to her side.

“Is there anything I can do?” he asked. “Do you need anything? Do you still feel sick?”

“I’m fine,” she said, smiling through her tears. She felt so unbelievably happy, and more than ever wanted to see Mulder, to tell him the news, to see the look on his face.

Frohike actually believed her this time.

Scully then cleared her throat and wiped her tears away. “Have you heard from Mulder? Were you able to contact him?”

He shook his head. “We tried calling both him and Skinner last night, but were only able to leave messages. Byers is with Langly back at Skinner’s office, and I’m hoping they’ve been able to talk to them.”

She sighed, nodding. “When did you get here?”

“Oh, a couple hours ago,” Frohike replied, shrugging. “We couldn’t leave you unattended. We’re under strict orders to look after you. Langly is supposed to relieve me soon.”

Scully snorted. “Thanks.”

About 15 minutes later, Langly and Byers entered the hospital room.

“You guys find out anything?” Frohike asked after they closed the door.

“Uh, yeah,” Byers replied, glancing over at Scully as she immediately smiled at him. “Starting at 1:00 am Eastern Standard Time and continuing for the next two hours, there were multiple UFO sightings all over the Pacific Northwest and northern California. Starting at 4:00 am our time, MUFON chapters in those same areas started lighting up the message boards reporting missing members.”

Scully stared at Byers, her stomach tightening into knots of fear and anxiety, and she spoke with urgency. “Did Mulder find the UFO?”

Langly and Byers glanced at each other, their expressions turning somber. Langly nodded silently, and Byers looked at him again.

“Um…,” Byers began, pausing briefly. “We also intercepted communication transmissions between the Bellefleur sheriff’s department and the FBI field office in Portland. Then a transmission to FBI headquarters here in D.C., and then one final transmission in response.”

“The transmissions were requesting a search team,” Langly said quietly.

Scully looked at him with wide eyes. “Mulder and Skinner called out a search team? Did they find the abductees?”

Byers shook his head, and swallowed, glancing nervously at Langly. “The search team was requested for a missing FBI agent. And… it was Skinner… who made the request.”

“They’ve been searching the forest for the past five hours, but so far…” Langly trailed off, looking down at his shoes.

She closed her eyes and didn’t respond, her trembling hand reflexively moving to the hollow of her throat to touch her cross, but she then remembered she’d removed it along with her clothing. Scully fought to keep her emotions in check, to listen to everything the Gunmen had to say.

“From what we’ve gathered from Skinner’s transmission to headquarters,” Byers continued. “He was with Mulder, and then he turned around to find he was gone. There was suddenly a blindingly bright light where Mulder had last been seen, then a bright flash, and a large craft was then seen in the sky before it disappeared. The FBI’s only response to this was that Skinner immediately return to Washington.”

Frohike closed his eyes and shook his head. “What about Krycek and the blonde?”

A look of disgust crossed Langly’s face. “Marita got a phone call from him, and he told her everything we’d just learned from the transmissions. Apparently, he’d also gone out to Oregon and claimed to see the whole thing happen. Marita then left Skinner’s office. We don’t know where she went.”

“We’ll find him, Agent Scully,” Byers said reassuringly. “MUFON chapters around the country are on alert. Finding Mulder is our number one priority.”

She nodded. She felt numb. This certainly wasn’t the first time Mulder had vanished, gone missing. Nor was it the first time anyone had thought he was dead. She kept expecting him to just walk through the door. She was fighting the tears, quelling her emotions, believing that speaking it aloud would make it all too real.

The Gunmen glanced at each other, and then uneasily at Scully. They all thought she’d probably like to be alone, and so they quietly walked out of the room.

*****

Scully hadn’t wanted to sleep, didn’t think she even could, and fought it as long as possible, but her body’s exhaustion eventually pulled her under again, and she woke up at just past 3:00 pm on Tuesday, May 30th. An hour later, Skinner entered her hospital room.

“Agent Scully.”

She looked at him, coming out of her reverie. “Hi.”

“Hi. How you feeling?” Skinner asked.

“I'm feeling fine,” Scully replied. “They're just running some tests on me.”

He sighed. “Well… um…” He face twisted in pain, unable to say the words.

Tears welled up in Scully’s eyes, and her voice broke. “I already heard.”

“I lost him,” said Skinner, his voice breaking. “I don't know what else I can say. I lost him. I'll be asked… what I saw. And what I saw, I can't deny. I won't.”

“We will find him,” Scully cried, remembering how happy she’d been to hear her news, how much she’d wanted to make Mulder happy as well. “I have to.”

Skinner nodded in understanding, and started to walk out of the room.

Scully needed to tell him. “Sir, um… there's something else I need to tell you. Something that I need for you to keep to yourself.”

He looked at her questioningly.

“I'm having a hard time explaining it,” she said, feeling like she could either laugh with pure disbelief or cry over her heartache. “Or believing it. But, um…” Scully paused, a small smile breaking out on her face, joy mixed with heartbreak. “I’m pregnant.”

Skinner stared at her, speechless. She tried to smile, and through her tears, she let out a mixture of a laugh and a weak sob. She’d gotten her wish, her deepest heart’s desire, only to endure a sick twist of fate. Nothing could ever be simple for them. Skinner didn’t know what to say, he could only nod. After telling her he’d check up on her later, he promptly left the hospital room.

As the afternoon turned to evening, and the hospital darkened with the onset of night, she could no longer maintain her Agent Scully exterior, her professional ‘Dr. Scully.’ The more time passed without Mulder walking through the door, without hearing his voice on the phone, the more reality began to sink in. She laid down in her hospital bed, in her darkened room, and a guilty and grief-stricken Dana began to weep.

At the sound of sobs coming from Scully’s hospital room, Frohike left the chair outside the door and hurriedly walked inside. He grabbed the chair against the wall and pulled it behind him to sit beside her bed as she continued to sob. Frohike reached his hand out and stroked her forehead, brushing her hair back.

“We’re going to find him.” Frohike hoped he sounded confident, and that he could give her some courage despite the questions and doubts in his own mind.

Scully let out a shuddering sob, trying to catch her breath. “It’s my fault. I should’ve been out there with him.”

“Hey, now,” Frohike said, his hand wiping the tears from her cheek. “Don’t talk like that. You obviously were in no condition to go out there.”

She sobbed anew with fresh tears, thinking of the child that Mulder might never know about. It was so unfair. How could God be so cruel? Mulder had been on the verge of a real life, on the verge of finally having a family, and he might never know. What was the point in getting a miracle, only to have her soul ripped from her? She wanted to die.

Frohike furrowed his brows. He didn’t like seeing Scully in such despair. It scared him. “Don’t give up hope. Didn’t you come back to us? Huh? We found you, didn’t we? We’ll find him.”

She sniffled, and nodded her head. She knew Mulder had believed the abductions were final, that they were not going to be returned. She could only hope and pray this was one of the rare times that Mulder was wrong.

Frohike pushed the chair back quietly against the wall, but remained there and eventually dozed off. Scully’s tears had quieted and she merely lay there on the bed, quiet but awake. Her hand moved down to caress her belly, and she smiled. But she wasn’t content, far from it. She was alone. Half of her was missing. But now there was another life growing inside her, a life that also belonged to Mulder. She wondered if the baby would look just like him. A tiny smidgeon of hope began to blossom in her heart at this thought, hope for a future. She had to find him. As Scully’s eyes grew heavy, and sleep began to pull her under, she uttered a silent promise.

*****

Total darkness engulfed Mulder, and the excruciating pain began to subside. He'd felt like dying from the pain. He couldn’t hear or see anything. He couldn’t move. Cold metal restrained his wrists and ankles. He couldn’t sleep. He didn’t know where he was. He didn’t know what was going to happen to him. He’d never felt so lost, or afraid. Would there be an end to this? Was there a light at the end of the tunnel? He tried to remember how he got there. But his memories were fuzzy. He had been with Skinner. But he couldn’t remember why. He couldn’t think of any reason why he would’ve been somewhere alone with Skinner, and not with Scully.

As her name was spoken in his mind, Mulder suddenly heard whispering. He strained to listen, but the sound was gone. Memories came forward: running his hand through silky, red hair, strong arms and legs wrapping around him, soft lips pressing against his. Scully. Scully. Scully.

The whispering was back, but as Mulder quieted his thoughts to try to discern what was being said, it was gone. He couldn’t tell whether the whispering was coming from somewhere around him, or if it was only inside his head.

Scully, help me.

The voice whispered again, familiar and clear. I will find you, Mulder.