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Futures Past 07: Phoenix - Part 1

by Arvy

Futures Past 06:
Hazel + Gold = Green
Home Futures Past 08:
Sweet Dreams...

Part 1 Part 2

RATING - R (for language)
CATEGORY - C(rossover), R(omance), A(ngst)
SPOILERS - The End(XF)
KEYWORDS - X-files/Highlander/Forever Knight/? crossover, Mulder/Scully Romance

SUMMARY

You didn't think it was all happy sailing, did you? With their relationship in doubt, the agents must find a way to look past their differences in order to find each other. Meanwhile, a figure from their past conspires to control their future.

DISCLAIMER

I am Arvy, writer of Futures Past. Cool words were revealed to me the day I held aloft my magic keyboard, and typed, "By the power of..." Sorry. Nostalgia kick ;) NEways, I might look a little like CC with the sun at my back, if you squint and tilt your head just right, but sadly, the characters depicted hereinafter are not, and have never been, mine. They belong to their respective owners: Fox, 1013, CC, Rysher, Tristar, Paramount, etc, etc. I promise to let them return to their regularly scheduled lives after I'm done with them. More or less intact.

Author's Notes

Well, here it is folks. Finally! The next monsterpiece, as promised. And it's been a while in coming, this seventh in the series. I'm starting to think it was a good thing I didn't use roman numerals to number them. Although the plot is pretty much standalone, it does refer to a couple of events in previous stories, especially Crossover and Hazel... So if you want to read them first, email me at unmai@bigfoot.com and I'll be glad to forward them to you. They've already been sent to Gossamer, and will also be up on my website at http://unmai.cjb.net/arvy.

Timeline wise, the main parts happen at the same time as the movie. When I started getting the idea for this sometime before the movie came out, I thought I could somehow weave the story so that season 6 and on, sans the mytharcs, might still mesh with my universe. But seeing how it's gone so far, I'm not even going to try. Way too many inconsistencies to keep track of or explain away. So starting from after "The End", my universe veers off from canon. I'm still hoping to parallel the series somewhat, so if some scenes and situations seem reminiscent of the movie and season 6, it's probably because it was intended.

As for the ? crossover, it's fairly minor (no characters named, and only a small scene), although it does affect the X-files universe. I wasn't even sure if I should acknowledge it. Anyway, hope you like it.

Now sshhhh... Curtains!!!!


The Milky Way
The Archean Eon
Approx. 4 billion years ago

They were an old race, already ancient when the universe as we know it would have been called young. They had been evolving for millennia, and had long since achieved methods of space travel. The barrier of interstellar space had been traversed. But in their travels, they started noticing something.

An emptiness. A void as it were, where the intrepid explorers were expecting fellow life forms, others to share their knowledge, their history with. They already knew that the niche in time that their civilization occupied was early in the development of the universe. But they had not expected this loneliness.

Then it began. It was slow at first, afflicting a few hundred among trillions. But soon the race realized it for what it was.

Evolution.

The final stages of life as they knew it.

They did not know what they were evolving towards, only that it brought about sweeping changes in their biological makeup, in their very existence. The ones who were left were determined not to lose what remained, especially since no one knew the end result of the evolutionary changes. They sent out teams of explorers, colonizers, in an attempt to replicate their life in other systems.

But their course was not to be denied. Evolution couldn't be escaped with a simple change in environment. That was when the decision was made.

Seeding. The process of depositing or encouraging life on otherwise barren planets. In some cases, the explorers found planets that were somewhat hostile towards supporting life. There they used terraforming techniques and then deposited the necessary proteins and molecules that would eventually evolve into intelligent life. In others, they found planets already in the beginning stages of life production. There they simply introduced their genetic material into the already forming biological matrix.

When they entered this particular star system, one that had barely formed, ecologically speaking, they found most of the planets incapable of supporting life, even with considerable terraforming efforts. All except for two, the third and fourth planets out from the fledgling G2 V type star. And the thing they lacked most was time. So they set about implanting their genetic material onto these two planets.

Soon all life as they knew it ceased to exist. They moved beyond their corporeal bodies into a higher plane of consciousness, becoming beings of pure energy, pure thought. But they had left their legacy behind. On several star systems across the galaxy, simple protein chains combined to form complex amino acids within uncountable primordial soups, single-celled prokaryotes divided into multicellular eukaryotes, until finally slugs of various kinds started crawling out of their respective seas.

The beings stood watch as life began to develop across the galaxy. Their children would one day roam the stars, as they themselves once did. Hopefully, the children would not find the galaxy as lonely a place as their parents did.


Wright Field Military Base, OH
Hangar 18
Monday, July 7, 1947
6:43 PM

Dusk fell.

The German Shepherd stuck its head out the side as the jeep rolled over the last rise. The vehicle moved about a dozen more yards before coming to a stop outside the immense hangar housing the craft that had been moved there from New Mexico.

Professor Carlson turned off the ignition, looking to his fiancée as Nurse Garland helped the three people out of the jeep. She hardly took note when the dog jumped off as well. It was quivering with fatigue; it had been almost 17 hours since it had last rested. Neither it nor the others noticed pieces of its hair get stuck on the floor mat in the back.

"Hurry... Faith, in there," Carlson urged the others forward. After saying a final good bye, they entered the hanger and headed for their craft. The three people and the dog climbed into the ship, finally on their way back home.


Interrogation Room
9:12 PM

"You lost them!?"

The quiet fury in the voice belied the calm expression on the speaker's face. His form was shrouded in a miasma of cigarette smoke, which dispelled as he got up from his chair.

General Rex Denning hung his head as the other man walked over to the table. He stopped, leaning over the table until the tip of the cigarette in his mouth was less than an inch from the general's face. The big man was not easily scared. But there was something about the other... He wasn't a military man, yet commanded Admirals and Generals around as if he were the President. According to some rumors, this man had his hands in events the general thought he was better off not knowing about. He shrank back.

"I'm sorry, sir. They surprised us. There was nothing we could do."

The other man pulled away from the table with a grunt of disgust. "Trust the military to..." he muttered under his breath, shaking his head. Both occupants looked up at the sound of the door opening.

"Sorry for interrupting, sir." A young captain stood at the door, a file clutched in his hand.

"What is it? Have they found anything?"

"No, sir. We still have teams combing the area. But there's no trace of them as of yet. We will keep searching, of course."

"Of course, captain." The dark man nodded dismissively. When the newcomer showed no signs of moving, he asked, "Is there anything else?"

"Yes sir." The captain moved forward, holding the file folder out. "These are the results from the preliminary tests we did on the craft."

"Good, good." He shifted the cigarette to get a better grip on the folder. Before opening it, he turned to the man seated at the table. "Good day, General." He waited until the general left, then opened the folder and glanced at its contents briefly. Turning back to the captain, he asked, "How much of the craft had been analyzed?"

"We were able to obtain detailed schematics of one of the engines, sir."

"One of the engines?"

"The craft appeared to be powered by two distinct engine types, sir. We hadn't had the opportunity to examine both before..."

"Yes, yes." The cigarette man waved his hand impatiently. "What else?"

"There were also various force fields being generated by the craft, which some of our best men think may have been used to fortify the craft and its occupants for the stresses of flight. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, we didn't get a chance to examine anything other than the one engine."

The other man sighed, looking through the file again. "I suppose we'll have to do the best with what we have."

"We also found some strange tissue samples in the jeep they escaped in." The captain saw his superior's head raise with a jerk. "There were a few gelatinous substances on the floor mat in the back of the jeep. Initial tests seem to confirm that it's organic, and may have been part of something alive once. It seems to respond somewhat to electrical activity, but it's movements are slowing down. It's almost as if the life, what little is left, is draining out of it with time."

"Interesting," the other responded, looking at the biological report in the file. "Very well. Contact me immediately if you receive any further information. That will be all, captain."

Captain Wainwright retreated out of the room, shutting the door behind him as he heaved a sigh of relief. He'd been uneasy the entire time he'd been inside, and the stench of cigarette smoke hadn't exactly helped. His mind wandered over the recent events. His world, as he knew it, had been turned on its head. Now it remained to be seen how the human race would learn from its newest experience with extraterrestrial life. And how this knowledge could be put to use without the populace suspecting the source of the information.

Inside the room, the smoker wondered about the possibilities.


Laurentian Mountains, Quebec, Canada
Thursday, May 14, 1998
6:39 AM

The whistle of the kettle roused him from his chair. He got up, buttoning up his shirt as he moved towards the stove. He ran a hand across his lips, wishing for the hundredth time for the luxury of a cigarette. Unfortunately, the local store, or at least the one that passed for local in this neighborhood, didn't get its supplies all that often. He'd had to ration himself, and it wasn't helping his temperament any.

The bastards, he cursed, his thoughts wandering to the circumstances leading to his self-enforced exile. After all I've done for them. They had dared try to kill him. He, who had started the consortium in the first place. Sometimes he cursed his condition, that he couldn't claim the credit he deserved. Yet. No one knew the origins of the shadow organization, not even its own members. All they knew was that it had existed as long as they could remember.

Except for him. He'd been the spearhead for its conception. He'd been the one to nurse it from its infancy to the world wide power it was today. He'd been the one to place the ones currently in power into the positions they occupied today. Oh, he would exact his revenge, all right. He would make sure of that. It only remained to marshal his strength until he could strike back.

He already had some feelers out, some ideas for how to make his return. And he still had his project to get back to. The one he'd spent almost a half century on. He thought about the one survivor of the project, the one who'd actually managed to beat the odds. Who would have thought she would be the one. Yes, there was definitely work he had to get back to.

He approached the kettle, moving it off the flame as he finished buttoning his shirt. Suddenly his head jerked up as he heard the noise.

Beee.....


Dana Scully's Apartment, Georgetown, DC
Friday, May 15, 1998
6:30 AM

...eeeeeeepppp!!!

A hand reached out of the covers, hitting the snooze on the alarm clock. The owner of the hand turned in her bed, feeling the space beside her for a familiar body. Her hand encountered nothing but empty space. Special Agent Dana Scully sighed as she pushed back the covers and prepared to get out. True, she missed Mulder. But both of them knew they couldn't spend every night together. They would have to make do with what they could get away with.

As it was, they had found a couple of bugs a month in Mulder's apartment, and an equivalent number in the basement office. They hadn't come across any at her place, which was somewhat surprising, but given that most of the excitement usually wound up happening at Mulder's place, it was also understandable. And although it was possible that a few bugs might have been missed, the Gunmen were good enough that it was impossible they had missed every single one. At least, she hoped that was the case. So, by unspoken agreement, the X-files agents had decided to use Scully's apartment on the nights they spent together.

Her thoughts floated from Mulder to the memo that had come across her desk the day before, the one she had decided to hide from him for the time being. She had been requested to join a team for a meeting the next day. Something about an assassination with international repercussions. But what disturbed her most was the fact that Mulder had been specifically rejected from the team. Sure, she'd been asked to consult before, both as part of the X-files team, and by herself for her expertise. But that wasn't the case this time. Now she was just one of many agents, providing manpower for this particular case. This time, the SAC simply did not want Mulder on his team. Thinking about it, she was glad Mulder hadn't come over the night before. She didn't know how she would have answered him if he'd asked her about her plans for the day.

She didn't know if she should be flattered that she had been asked to be on the case, or angry at Mulder's treatment. They had just made up after the Pine Bluff scare, when he'd left her to work the case by himself. It was only because she had followed him that she'd stumbled onto the sting operation. It had hurt that he hadn't been able to confide in her, although, she amended, he had been under orders at the time.

And then that case with the giant bug... What had he called her? His one in five billion. An old joke, repeated this time in deadly earnest. And when she'd finally let down her walls to believe in what he'd seen... Madness shared by two indeed.

She sighed as she swung her legs out and climbed out. She thought about how the rest of the day, and the next week would probably progress, and pinched the bridge of her nose in defeat.

Some days it just didn't pay to get out of bed.


J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, Bullpen
Monday, May 18, 1998
7:41 PM

Ding!

The elevator doors opened onto the bullpen. He stepped out, holding the single file in his hand. He walked forward, just in time to see the prodigal son come around the corner. He stopped short, clutching the file harder as the younger man walked towards him.

"Can I help you?"

He almost smiled at the question. Who was helping who? He looked at his newest protégé, wondering what he should tell him. Did he need to know now? But he'd spent so much time on this one, just like another, more haunted man. He couldn't resist.

"Actually, I can help you."

That brought the other man up short. "How did you get in here?"

In here? Into his very own playground? God, he'd missed this. "Access, Agent Spender. It's about access. It's what I can give you. It's what can make you." He took in a breath as he came to the crux of his explanation. "It's why I'm doing this for you."

"Who are you?" The agent was obviously lost.

Who indeed? That question could be answered on so many levels. His mentor, his guide, the words were so many. Finally, he chose the one that was the furthest from the truth, yet encapsulated all that he was to the agent in one single word. "I'm your father." He smiled a little at the way it came out. All that the statement left out was a final, "young Skywalker."

"What?"

The alarms chose that moment to announce his recent activity. As the agent turned his head in surprise, he walked past, satisfied for now. Soon, he would have everything he'd wanted.

Soon...

A few floors below, the flames licked at the ceiling, having already consumed the more important items in the room.


Dana Scully's Apartment
Wednesday, May 20, 1998
7:21 PM

"I don't love you, Scully. I've never loved you. You were only a convenient substitute until Diana returned to me. Goodbye." Mulder turned away from her and walked out the door.

"NO! Mulder, no! Don't leave...," she screamed. "MULDER!!!" Her hands reached out to clutch at him, horrified as her fingers seemingly passed through a wraith that had once been her partner, her friend, her lover, her soulmate. A ghost that disappeared in a spurt of flames, just like the X-files, just like her life. The silent scream echoed within her head as she sat up on her couch, drenched in sweat.

For a few seconds, the harsh breathing was the only sound in the room. "Only a dream, Dana. It was just a dream." She turned her head to look at her clock. Almost half past seven. Damn! She hadn't meant to doze off, but she'd been so tired, what with the constant OPR meetings and the consults with Skinner and allies within the Justice Department in a vain attempt to save the X-files. What was left of it, anyway, she amended.

She reached for her phone, intending to call Mulder, just to talk to him. She dialed his home number, but placed the phone back down after four rings. He wasn't home. At this hour? She frowned as she picked up the handset again to try his cellular. She waited through three rings before it was picked up.

"Uhh... Hello?"

She pulled the handset away from her head and stared at it. Definitely not Mulder. The voice on the other end was a woman. For a moment she considered that it might be Agent Fowley, but she was still in the hospital. Placing the phone back to her ear, she asked, "I'm looking for Agent Mulder. Is he there?"

"Oh, I'm sorry ma'am. He's not here. He must have just stepped out."

"Who is this?" Her mind was turning cartwheels now.

"I'm Nurse Watkins. I heard his phone ringing, so I decided to answer it in case it was important."

Nurse? Where the hell was Mulder? A hospital? All at once the answer came to her. Of course. "Nurse, is this Diana Fowley's room?"

"Yes, it is. Should I call Agent Mulder?"

"No," she replied instantly, closing her eyes in defeat. "That won't be necessary. I'll just call back later." She hung up the phone with a sigh. Her thoughts flew back to something Natalie had mentioned while she had been in Seattle a few months back.


DeSalvo's Gym, Seattle, WA
Tuesday, Feb 24, 1998 (3 months ago)
8:57 AM

The hilt of the sword caught in the blade of the other. With a snap of the wrist, the weapon flew out of her hands. She backed up a little as the blade came to rest at her throat.

Natalie pulled the sword away, leaning down to pick up Dana's weapon and handing it back to her. She smiled at her friend. "Nick taught me that move a couple of weeks ago. I've been dying to use it."

"I hope you got your quota of fun satisfied," her friend retorted. But Natalie could see the twinkle in her eye as she said that, and took the retort good-naturedly, laughing along with her friend.

"Yeah, I think I got my fill. Do you want to quit? It's almost nine."

Her friend nodded, and together they walked over to the bench to wait for Mulder and Duncan to finish their sparring. Dana told her friend what had happened the night before, prompting Nat to let out a squeal of delight.

"He proposed? Oh my god! What did you say?"

Dana blushed. "I said yes. What else could I say? I love him so much, Nat."

"I understand. The day Nick proposed to me was the happiest day of my life. At least, it seems that way."

"Exactly."

"So when are you two planning on..."

"Not for a while yet. Like we said yesterday, it would just be too dangerous. But the commitment is enough for me, for now anyway." She paused, fingering the ring on her right hand thoughtfully, then said, "I suppose congratulations are in order for you too. When are you two going to tie the knot?"

"Next year. Nick wanted to do it on the anniversary of our first kiss. He can be such a romantic sometimes."

"You know, I was wondering. Has Duncan ever been married?"

Natalie frowned. "Hmm..." She shook her head. "Not that I know of. Why?"

"Just curious, I guess. Surely after all this time, he must have found someone."

"Actually it's not as common as you might think. Most immortals don't maintain relationships so well."

"Huh?"

"Think of it, Dana. You have two people, at least one of whom, according to the rules, is destined to die. After all, there can be only one, right? Some immortals can see past that. They believe they can overcome the supposed instinctual urge to fight all other immortals when the Gathering finally happens. Duncan's even told me about a couple of his friends who love each other so much, they've been together for quite a few centuries, renewing their vows every hundred years or so." She paused to let out a breath. "But, it's generally hard to build that kind of trust. In fact, from what you told me, you and Mulder have something very special. Don't lose that, Dana. Not ever."

She saw the redhead give her a smile in understanding. She continued, "Most immortals are either loners, or find companionship with mortals, like Duncan usually does. Besides, sometimes, being with someone, day in and day out can get boring. Some mortal couples claim 50 years of wedded bliss. Who knows if the same could be said of a couple of centuries of marriage?" She turned to look away, her thoughts obviously turning to the man in her life. "Personally, I don't see myself ever getting tired of Nick. He still manages to constantly surprise me." Her gaze returned to rest upon her friend. She shrugged, "But, it's been known to happen." She got up, leaving behind a very thoughtful young immortal.


Present Day

Is that what Mulder wants? she asked herself. Is he already getting tired? She found the thought horrifying. It was some consolation that if Mulder were getting bored with her, he would be seeking new avenues, not trying to get back to what had obviously been a failed relationship. But not much. Now that the X-files were gone, for all intents and purposes, he didn't really have a reason to stay with her, did he? Sure he'd confessed his undying love for her. But what did they know of long term relationships? Look at her and Jack Willis. Him and Phoebe. God, him and Diana.

Flash.

An image of Mulder and Diana, in the psychiatric facility in Maryland, holding hands like a couple more intimate than just friends.

She blinked back her tears. No, damn it. She wouldn't cry. She'd promised herself. Unheeding, a drop fell anyway.

Flash.

Mulder looking at Diana's wounded body, then walking away to... what? mourn?

She blinked again, trying to push the unbidden memories and tears away. What had they been thinking? Did they really expect their relationship to last? They had a wonderful friendship before. What she had had with Mulder was the best relationship she'd ever had. Had they destroyed it for the sake of a few brief months of passion?

More importantly, could she live without Mulder in her life? Not for the rest of a mortal life, but forever? Is that what she was looking for from him? Forever? Could he even give her that? Could anyone be expected to?

She glanced at the clock again, deciding she'd given him enough time. She redialed his cellular, and didn't know whether to be glad at the familiar, "Mulder," or not.

"Hey, it's me."

"What is it?"

She gulped. What is it? Couldn't she call him just to talk? Did she only have the right to call when there was an emergency or something? "I just...," she began, then let out a breath. "I just wanted to talk. We haven't spoken more than a dozen words since..." She broke off there, not wanting to be the first to say it.

The fire. Neither of them had spoken about it since Monday night. She had tried to offer him her support when she'd found him in the blackened office, but he'd pushed her away once the events had finally registered. "I want to be alone, Scully," he'd said. Were those the words of someone in a committed relationship? Why hadn't he accepted her offer of help? His next words simply made her bite her lip harder to hold back the sobs.

"I... uh... I can't talk right now, Scully. I'll see you tomorrow."

The click and then the silence at the other end was more deafening than anything she'd ever heard. She felt a sharp pain as she bit through her lip. Her face crumpled as she hugged the phone and curled up on her couch and closed her eyes.


Washington Hospital Center
Lounge

Across the city, a phone slipped, a head bowed, the face hidden behind trembling hands as a man cried.

He had dropped by to see Diana. Curiously enough, he couldn't bring himself to stay in her room more than a few minutes. He walked down the hall, almost reaching the elevators when he realized he'd left his coat in her room. He turned back to retrieve it. As he left, he'd wandered into the lounge, not feeling like driving all the way back to his lonely apartment.

He'd lost. Totally and completely, this time. He, they, had been manipulated from the very beginning, since the moment Spender had been assigned the Gibson case. How could he have not seen it coming? And now, he had nothing. He'd lost the X-files, in more sense than one. But most important, he'd lost Scully.

Reassignment. His breath caught in his throat even thinking about it. He'd failed her. Once again. He'd sworn he would find out the truth, if only to find out what had happened to her during her abduction, what had been done to her. Now, due to his own blindness, his stupidity, he'd lost the only means to do so. They had taken advantage of his beliefs, once again, except this time he hadn't realized it in time to protect himself, to protect Scully, to protect the X-files. They had wanted to stop his work. What better way than to disgrace the only two people determined to continue it?

So when he heard his phone ring, it was with trembling fingers that he'd lifted it to his ear.

"Mulder."

"Hey, it's me."

Oh, god. It's her. What do you mean, it's her? Of course, it's her. Who else would be calling you now? Quick Mulder, hide.

"What is it?"

"I just..."

He heard her pause then continue.

"I just wanted to talk. We haven't spoken more than a dozen words since..."

Go ahead, Scully. Say it. Since I betrayed you. Say it. He'd failed her, just like he'd failed his sister, his father, everyone who'd ever depended on him. What would she think of him now? When he found himself in his office, staring at the soot laden walls, he couldn't even remember how he'd gotten there. All he knew was that Scully was standing with her head against his shoulder. She wouldn't meet his eyes, and he knew why. She wanted to hide the betrayal she felt from him. Betrayal from the very government they worked for, from their superiors, their enemies, but most importantly from the one person who should never have had to enter into that equation. Him. Suddenly he couldn't find the courage to face her anymore, not then, and not now.

"I... uh... I can't talk right now, Scully. I'll see you tomorrow." That's right, Scully, tomorrow. In the safety of the office, where I won't have to face the hurt that you'll hide behind your professional's mask. Not yet, Scully. But I swear to you, I'll find a way to make everything okay. I promise. His fingers slid over the phone, cutting him off, severing the connection.


Margaret Scully's Residence, Baltimore, MD
Friday, May 22, 1998
7:26 PM

"Yeah, mom. He's been resisting the Admiral's stars for a couple of years now. Finally, I get to be the captain and order everyone around for a change." Bill Scully's eyes twinkled as he turned from his mother to look at his friend, and once CO.

"I thought that was what being an XO was all about, Captain."

"I'm not captain yet, Jeff, not for another couple of weeks. Or should I call you Admiral now? Besides, the XO may have some authority, but the captain's the one who gets to have all the fun."

"Jeff's fine, Bill." The guest let out a laugh. "And don't get carried away with all the fun now. If you let becoming captain go to your head, you're liable to run the ship into the docks one of these days."

"Ha, ha. Verrry funny, Jeff. He's a regular comedian, isn't he, mom?"

Margaret Scully laughed as she gazed at her son with a measure of pride. "Now, now, children," she began in a reproving tone of voice, smiling when both the men seated before her let out snorts of laughter at that. Her eyes teared up at their next words.

"To the Eagle." The men held up their glasses in a toast. "A worthier ship there's never been."

"And to her newest captain," Margaret Scully's words were quiet as she held up her glass as well. "Oh, Bill. Your father would have been so proud. I only wish he could have been with us to see this."

"Don't worry, Mrs. Scully. Bill will do the Eagle proud. Just like his father."

Bill Scully simply smiled at the compliment, raising his glass in acknowledgement.

"And now, I do have to get going. Later, skipper." Jeff rose, shaking hands with Bill.

Margaret rose as well. "Oh, do you have to leave already? Do stay for dinner, won't you?"

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Scully. I have an appointment to keep. But how about a raincheck?"

"Actually, that sounds even better. I'll see if Dana can come up sometime this weekend. How does Sunday sound? You two haven't seen each other in..."

"Seems like forever. Yeah, that does sound good. Why don't you give me a call and we'll set things up. You have my new number, right?" he asked, picking up his jacket. At his hosts' answering nods, he nodded as well. "Good night, Bill, Mrs. Scully," he said, heading out into the night.


Arlington National Cemetery
8:03 PM

Rear Admiral Jeffrey Green of the United States Navy let his eyes roam over the series of slabs and markers, squinting against the dim light as he tried to read the nearest epitaph. Rest in peace indeed, he grunted, shaking his head as he checked his watch for the fifth time. Damn it. He said eight. Where was the goddamn son of a...

"Ah, you made it. I see congratulations are in order, Admiral. I hope you're settling in well."

"What do you want?" Green hissed, turning to face the source of the voice. His eyes tried to adjust to the gloom underneath the shaded area. There was a small flare, quickly extinguished until the only thing he could see of the other man was the burning tip of a cigarette. He waited until the other stepped out of the shadows, then walked towards him.

"Now, now, Admiral. Show a little respect. I made sure you were transferred off that boat of yours, didn't I? Provost of the US Naval Academy is no small feat, let me assure you."

"I only did that to be close to my son. You know that."

"Ah yes. How is little Jeremy?"

"The same. Can we get on with this? I would like to see my son before he has to go to sleep."

"Very well, Admiral. I'm here to offer you a deal. On top of the promotion we arranged for you."

"Oh, please," Green cut him off haughtily. "I would have been promoted anyway."

"Maybe," the smoking man shrugged. "However, this next offer isn't something you're likely to come by as easily. Your son is dying of cancer, isn't he? Just like your wife."

Green sucked in a breath, then let it out in a pained gasp. "Yes," he whispered.

"Intractable, isn't that what the doctors said? You watched your wife die so horribly, Admiral. What would you say if I told you I could spare your son that pain, that I could cure him?"

Green's eyes widened in surprise. "You can do that?"

"Of course, Admiral. I have certain... resources available to me. What do you say?"

For the first time since his wife's funeral almost a year ago, Jeff Green allowed something resembling hope to enter his voice. "Can he still remain at Lombardi?"

"I'm sorry. The Georgetown Medical Center simply doesn't have the facilities little Jeremy would require."

"Then where?"

The smoker held up a hand. "So you agree to the deal?"

He paused, regarding the other man coldly. He knew something of the kind of things this man dealt with. But then, what choice did he have? Weighed against a cure for Jeremy, was there anything he wouldn't do? "Yes," he replied finally. "What would I have to do?" he whispered.

"It's actually quite simple, really. You are going to arrange a little dinner next week, Monday if possible..."

As Green listened to the details of the deal, he closed his eyes in horror. Oh Lord, what had he agreed to? And why did he feel like he'd just bartered away his very soul?


Dana Scully's Apartment
Saturday, May 23, 1998
8:15 AM

The sudden ringing of the phone almost caused her to drop her glass of orange juice. She'd been reaching for it when it had gone off.

"Scully."

"Dana? It's mom. How are things, dear?"

She really didn't feel up to talking with her mother right now. She hadn't yet told her about the office, or the X-files. She had been hoping there wouldn't be a need to, but with each passing day, a little more hope seemed to wash away. And with Mulder being so distant lately...

"Everything's fine, mom. How are you?" She tried to inject as much nonchalance as she could into her tone, but knew that her mother was picking up on some of her fear and hopelessness anyway.

"Dana..." her mother started, then seemed to think better of what she'd been about to say. Instead she asked, "Did you know that Jeff Green has been promoted to Admiral? He's been appointed Provost at the Naval Academy."

"Jeff?" Dana tried to search her memory for the name. Her eyes widened as she remembered the rude young boy next door who'd grown into a thoroughly charming Commander in the US Navy, and then made Captain at 35. The last she'd heard, he was the captain of the USS Eagle, her father's old ship. If he'd been promoted, that would make Bill...

"Mom, does that mean Bill..."

"Yes. He's due for a promotion in about two to three weeks. Isn't that great, Dana?"

"Oh, mom. I'm so happy for him. I'll have to give him and Jeff a call sometime."

"Well the both of them dropped by yesterday evening to give me the good news. Bill said that Tara and Matthew will probably be coming up for the ceremony in a week or so. But the reason I called was because I was wondering if you'd like to come to dinner tomorrow night and help celebrate. You could bring Fox too, if you'd like. I haven't seen the two of you for so long. How does that sound, dear?"

"It sounds wonderful, mom. How about I come by earlier to help?"

"That would be nice. It'll also give us a chance to get caught up." She paused. "But won't Fox get bored?"

What could she say to that? Scrambling frantically for an answer, she replied, "I don't think Mulder will be able to come, mom. He's... uhh.. he said that he might be busy tomorrow."

On the other end, Margaret Scully was silent for a few moments. Something was wrong. She'd felt it as soon as Dana had answered the phone. If only she would confide in her, tell her what was wrong... She sighed. But she had to try. "Dana, are you sure everything's okay?"

Damn. How does she do that? If there was one person Dana could never hide her feelings from, it was her mother. "Yes, mom. I'm fine. Everything's fine. I... umm... I'll see you tomorrow. Bye." She hung up, a little abruptly, she realized. But better that than break down completely on the phone with her mother. She drank the last of her juice and headed to the kitchen, her original intention to call Mulder forgotten for the moment.


Mulder's car, en route to Georgetown, DC
Sunday, May 24, 1998
7:42 PM

Fox Mulder wasn't ecstatic. He wasn't jumping with joy either. But he was more relaxed than he'd been the entire week. He'd managed to talk to Senator Matheson, and had procured his support in the upcoming Justice Department deliberations. Running into the congressman had been a stroke of luck. After his informant had told him that the senator could no longer offer him any help, Mulder had pretty much given up on him as a helpful connection. As it was, the senator didn't have all that much sway, but it was better than nothing. He hoped he could convince at least a few others to support him when the fate of the X-files was finally decided.

He hoped Scully was at home. He couldn't wait to share the good news with her. It wasn't much, but it was a start. A brick in the wall he was building to put their backs up against. Just a little while longer, Scully. I swear, I'll make it right. He should have called her, but he'd been excited enough that it had slipped his mind. He noted that her car was in its usual place as he pulled into an empty space. He hurried into the building and knocked on her door. There was no answer, and, after a moment, he realized he couldn't feel her either. As he used his key to let himself in, he was struck by how different everything was now. He would never have dared to enter her apartment so boldly before... before Seattle. Now it was almost second nature.

He stepped into the empty apartment. "Scully?" No answer. Not that he'd expected one. She'd probably just stepped out. He moved towards the couch, intending to wait. He picked up her phone, calling his machine for any messages.

"Mulder... It's me. Bill's in town, so I'll probably be at mom's all day Sunday, if you need to get a hold of me."

He frowned. She was going to her mother's? She hadn't said anything about it to him before. Of course, he hadn't seen her since work on Friday. With a start, he realized how little time he'd actually spent with her this past week, time outside of the office. Suddenly feeling somewhat guilty, he sat back in the couch, deciding to wait for her to return.


Margaret Scully's Residence, Baltimore, MD
8:27 PM

Yes, she decided, something was definitely wrong. Margaret Scully looked across the table at her daughter, who was currently engaged in an animated conversation with Jeff and Bill. To anyone who didn't know her, Dana Scully looked the picture of contentment, happily chatting with friends and family during dinner.

Those who knew her better, like her mother, would immediately note the tightness around her lips and eyes whenever the talk wandered anywhere near work. She'd almost bitten Bill's head off when he'd casually asked where that blasted Mulder was. And she was strangely reluctant to talk about her work when Jeff asked her about it, deftly steering the topic to safer waters.

What Margaret couldn't decide was whether there was something wrong at work, or with Fox, or both. Of course, every time in the past, the two had always been irrevocably interconnected. She would have to have a talk with Fox soon. It was a slim chance, but she might be able to pry something from him that Dana would never tell her. Sometimes, she found herself cursing the secrecy that her daughter's job perforce required.

"Dinner was wonderful, Dana, Mrs. Scully."

The comment shook her out of her reverie. She watched as Jeff rose from the table, moving forward to help her and Dana with the dishes.

"A man with manners. Will wonders never cease? I'm surprised Bill hasn't picked up any of this after being your XO for so long." Dana chuckled, teasing him.

Jeff smiled at the good-natured ribbing. "After that delightful meal, it only seems fair." He shrugged, following Dana and her mom into the kitchen. "You know, now that I'm going to be around here more often, we'll have to do this again sometime. I won't say I don't miss the sea, but there's something to be said for a homecooked meal, every once in a while."

"You know you're welcome here anytime, Jeff." Margaret replied.

"Thank you, Mrs. Scully." Jeff looked up to see Bill gesturing towards his sister. He nodded. "In fact, I had such a wonderful time, I hope you don't mind if I ask your daughter to dinner tomorrow night." He turned an inquiring glance from the mother to her daughter, his unasked question hanging in the air.

"Say yes, Dana. Don't be rude." Bill chimed in from the doorway.

Dana colored up at the comment, and was about to refuse when Jeff added, "Don't worry, I won't bite. I can even make a decent lasagna. What do you say, Dana? After all, you cooked for me, right? Let me repay the favor."

Dana considered the offer again. Tomorrow night would probably be the last night of rest she would get before plunging back into the ratrace come Tuesday. She felt a niggling feeling of guilt at accepting the invitation without consulting Mulder, but pushed the thought out of her mind for now. Knowing him, Mulder would probably be out tomorrow night as well, doing whatever he'd been up to all of last week. And she'd be damned if she was going to spend another night all by herself. She'd enjoyed herself tonight, and she certainly couldn't say that about the past week. She sighed. "Oh, all right, Jeff. Tomorrow night it is."

"Great." Jeff smiled at her. "It's a date." He finished up in the kitchen and moved to the living room, followed by Dana and Bill.

Margaret Scully looked at their retreating backs, and silently wondered.


9:30 PM

They had spent the time eagerly catching up on the myriad happenings in their lives. Finally, Dana rose to put her coffee cup up.

"Are you ready to go, Dana?" Bill asked, reaching for his keys.

"There's no need for you to get up, Bill," Jeff interrupted, getting up himself. Turning to Dana, he asked, "Will the fair maiden allow her willing servant to escort her home tonight?"

Dana blushed. "Still the charmer, aren't you? And yes, you may take me home, my good man."

"That's my girl. Come on. I'll see you later, Bill. Bye, Mrs. Scully."

The two of them walked out to his car. Jeff, acting the part of the perfect gentleman, pulled out the door on the passenger side, placing an arm around her, ushering her in.


Dana Scully's Apartment
9:57 PM

Mulder blinked awake, turning his head to stare at the clock. Almost ten, he realized. And Scully still wasn't home. She didn't usually stay at her mother's this late, not unless she was planning on staying the night. He decided that, with Bill in town, and the next day being a holiday, she may very well have decided exactly that.

He got up with a sigh, heading for the door himself when he heard a car pull up outside. And it was faint, but the laugh sounded a lot like Scully's. He moved towards the window, reaching it in time to see his partner climb out of a parked car. She turned to the man who held the door open for her, giving him a quick hug and a peck on the cheek. She waved goodbye, and headed into the apartment building. Mulder's eyes narrowed as he watched the man stare at Scully's retreating figure for a few minutes before he climbed back into his car and drove away.

It wasn't long before he felt the familiar sensation wash over him. He turned to see the front door open. Scully entered, looking around cautiously, relaxing slightly when she noticed him standing next to the window.

"Mulder. I wasn't expecting you." She walked in, putting her coat up and heading for her bedroom.

"I can see that."

She stopped midstride, her head jerking around to stare at her partner. His tone sounded positively venomous. She flinched at the glare he directed her way.

"And here I thought you were going to your mother's to see Bill. So who was he, Scully? And don't tell me you have another brother that I knew nothing about."

Now he was almost sneering at her. Her eyes widened at his tone, then narrowed in anger. How dare he... "For your information, Agent Mulder, that was Jeff Green, a good friend of mine," she replied through gritted teeth. "He was recently promoted, and I was at mom's, having dinner with him and Bill to celebrate. How dare you even imply..."

"I don't like the way he was looking at you."

Scully blinked. She couldn't believe he'd just said that. How neanderthal could you get? "What?" Suddenly the color of her hair couldn't compare to the shade of red she was seeing now. This was the absolute last straw. "Well, at least he takes the time to look, Mulder. Which is more than I can say of you. Do you want to drag me by my hair to your cave now?"

She watched with satisfaction as his jaw dropped. He was speechless. She continued with her verbal assault. "Oh, I'm sorry," she drawled, her voice dripping with malice. "Did I say something to offend you?" Her voice rose with each syllable. "Why don't you go to Diana and cry your heart out? Cause you seem to be with her every free moment you get." She was practically screaming now. Mulder winced at the volume. "Every fucking day at five, ditch the partner to go see the old lover, is that the game, Mulder? Huh?"

She saw the flushed look on his face as his expression changed from one of surprise to anger. He was livid. "Don't you dare... Don't you dare bring Diana into this, Scully," he shouted back at her. "She's lying unconscious in a hospital room, hanging by a thread. I don't even know if she'll be alive next week. She doesn't deserve this, least of all from you."

"Oh, and I suppose I deserve this? Is that what you think? Because I can't live like this, Mulder. I've tried, but for the past week, it just seems like I'm extra baggage in your life."

"I should have known..." He let out a derisive chuckle, shaking his head. "You knew what my life was like, Scully. You knew what you were getting yourself into. If this is not what you want, don't look to me to change anytime soon." He bit off the last part through clenched teeth, moving past a startled Scully as he headed for the door.

She sucked in a breath as his words sunk in. Her heart broke in two as the implications became clear. He was telling her to get out of his life. Oh, God. It's happening! And she couldn't do a thing to stop it all from falling into a million pieces all around her. It was as if she was across the room, staring at a stranger yelling the words, "Get out, Mulder."

NO! Stop! You don't know what you're saying. The silent screams had no effect on the stranger. "Go on, Mulder. Go to your precious Diana."

He paused at the door, turning to face her. His eyes flashed a dangerous gold, causing her to start a little. "What do you want me to say, Scully? That I love her. Fine. I love her. Is that enough? You want more? How's this? I never loved you. I was only waiting until something better came along. There. Satisfied? Have a nice life." He turned away from her and walked out the door.

Inside the apartment, the redhead stared at the back of the door, stunned. The nightmare had come true. For a moment, she couldn't quite remember what she was supposed to do now. How had it gotten to this? As she recalled the last few minutes, the tears started. She determinedly wiped them away, but they kept falling regardless. She stumbled back until she hit the wall, then slowly slid to the floor. She closed her eyes in a vain attempt to prevent the tears, and found her head nodding.

Exhausted, frightened, and heartbroken, Dana Scully leaned her head against the wall and cried herself to sleep.


Mulder looked at the fist sized hole now gracing the outer wall. He'd almost made it to his car before he'd lost control. The pain had already disappeared, the broken skin on his knuckles healed within moments. If only everything were that easy to fix.

I never loved you? I was only waiting until something better came along? Where had that come from? Suddenly he felt nauseous. He'd barely made it to his car before his breakfast, lunch and dinner decided to become intimate with the pavement. Wiping his mouth, he dared a glance back up to her apartment. Seeing the darkness, he slowly hung his head, turning to get in his car.

He didn't even notice the tears as they rolled down his cheeks.


Fox Mulder's Apartment
Monday, May 25, 1998
7:49 AM

He glanced around his apartment for the millionth time, wondering how it had gotten so bad. He remembered what Scully had said that night on her birthday. She'd stayed on in the X-files division after her abduction because of the work, not him. The only reason she'd not left was to bring the men who did this to her to justice. How could he have deluded himself into thinking otherwise? How could he have thought she would want to stay by his side without the X-files to hold them together?

Scully. His eidetic memory played back the last few minutes in her apartment the night before, second by second, in excruciating detail. He grimaced, feeling the familiar nausea, and grateful that he hadn't eaten anything yet to sacrifice to the porcelain god. What had he done? He hadn't meant a word of what he'd said. Not a one. But the damage was done, wasn't it? Could he take back any of it? More importantly, would Scully even allow him to? He'd betrayed her one too many times. Looking back over the last five years, it seemed to be all he was capable of, somehow. Let her get abducted, let her get cancer, let the fucking bastards harvest her ova for their experiments. He'd let all these things happen to her.

And now, he'd let her down once again. It was only fair for her to leave him. He'd been expecting this day, dreading it for the past three months, hell, for the past five years. When the fates cut the thread that was his life, they'd also unraveled the fibers that were his family, his friends. Little wonder that he never let anyone get so close to him. He'd already lost Samantha. And now he'd made the same mistake over again. He'd let someone else get close. In retrospect, it had been inevitable, yet he'd blindly let himself fall in love. What could he have been thinking? How could he have deluded himself so thoroughly?

He sighed, getting up and reaching for his coat. He couldn't stay in here any longer. He hadn't slept a wink the night before, and now the apartment walls just seemed to be closing in. On second thought, he didn't even want to take his coat with him. He ran out, desperate to get away from anything familiar, anything that reminded him of her.


Dana Scully's Apartment
5:52 PM

She awoke with a start, lifting her head from the couch. She felt the headache even before she opened her eyes, trailing a line of fire from just behind her eyes, all the way to the back of her head. The events of the previous night came back to her in a rush, and the headache only grew worse. She felt a bad taste in her mouth, and rushed to the bathroom.

She'd woken a couple of times before, remembering each time the vehemence of her words the night before. And each time she had to fight to force the bile from rising in her throat. She'd even tried to call Mulder, hoping, praying that it wasn't too late. There had been no answer, not on his home phone, not even on his cell. Knowing Mulder, she was sure he was deliberately ignoring it, ignoring her. She had simply consigned herself to her couch, trying the phone each time she woke up, too tired to even consider doing anything more.

Over. The words seemed almost foreign as she thought about them. It's over. She emerged from the bathroom, her head still pounding. She couldn't seem to think much beyond the fact that she would never be the same again.

Her mind ran over her harsh words from the night before once again. She flinched as she remembered the way she'd cut him down, then asked him to get out of her life. Had she meant it? She stopped next to her couch, forcing herself to think about it.

NO! Of course not, her mind screamed back at her. She blinked, accepting the answer. Of course she hadn't meant it. Not now, not even as she'd said them. But then he'd said...

She sat down hard, her face blanching at the memory. I don't love you. I never loved you. Had he meant it? Could she allow herself to believe that? Oh Mulder. I love you so much. I need you, Mulder, please. Her silent pleas fell upon deaf ears as she felt the blessed darkness wash over her again.

The next time she awoke was to the sound of the phone. She gasped, hoping against hope that it was who she thought it was. Her hands shook as she reached for the handset. She brought it to her ear, wishing, praying with all her might for it to be...

"Dana?"

She almost broke down in tears. It should have been Scully, not Dana. It wasn't him. She blinked, wondering who could possibly be calling her now.

"Dana? Are you there? It's Jeff."

"Jeff?" She was still trying to figure out the caller's identity. For some reason, the name didn't seem quite right. It should have been Mulder.

"Jeff," she said, finally coming to herself. "Listen, I really can't talk..."

"Oh, this won't take long. I was just wondering when I should pop the lasagna in the oven."

"Huh?"

"The lasagna. For dinner, remember? Don't tell me you've forgotten our date."

"Oh, Jeff. I'm so sorry. But, I really can't make it tonight. Something's come up."

"Oh? Don't tell me you have to work on Memorial Day."

"No. It's not that. It's just..." She sighed. "I just got some bad news. That's all. I just need to be alone."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Dana. But you really shouldn't be alone, if that's the case. Why don't you come over, and we can talk or something. Besides, you do have to eat, right? I promise, we won't talk about anything that bothers you. But I've found that it usually helps to have a shoulder to lean on."

"I don't know..."

"Oh, come on. It'll at least get your mind off your worries, if nothing else. You can go back to worrying tomorrow, if you'd like, along with the rest of the government employees."

She almost smiled at the hidden quip. She thought about the offer. Did she really want to talk to Jeff about her problems? Not really, but the food did sound good. It wasn't as if she was going to be able to make anything herself, not tonight anyway. And maybe, just maybe, the dinner would get her mind off the misery she was going through, if only for an hour or so. No longer, she promised herself.

"All right, Jeff. I'll be there in an hour. Is that enough time?"

"Perfect. Just you wait, Dana Katherine. My lasagna's going to have you begging me for the recipe."

"We'll see in an hour, won't we? Bye, Jeff." She hung up the phone, walking into her bedroom to wash herself up and change.


The Reflecting Pool, DC
6:42 PM

This was his fifth stop of the day. He'd spent all morning and afternoon wandering from place to place, but couldn't find a single spot that didn't somehow remind him of her. The little restaurant around the corner where he'd delightfully wiped off the barbecue sauce from her chin, with his fingers this time. The bar where he'd taken her dancing once, just to show her he could, and to find out to his pleasant surprise that she could dance rings around him any day. And now he was at the bench by the pool. He'd finally given up trying to find a way to escape her as he remembered the many times they'd shared this seat, this view.

He stared at the shifting waters, letting his mind wander. Five years of memories coursed through his head, their first meeting, and how awkward it had been, the slow buildup of trust and friendship. He wondered if he might have been better off never confessing his feelings for her that night. They'd been good friends up until then, but if this was what taking that next step brought, he wondered if they hadn't made a terrible mistake. And now, how could they ever go back?

Okay, so she'd left him. Couldn't he live with that, continue without her? Sure the months during her abduction had been terrible, but he hadn't died from it. His mind conveniently edited out the night Melissa had come to his apartment to persuade him to come to Scully's bedside, the night when he'd almost put a gun to his head. He could survive, he told himself. He'd gotten over Phoebe, over Diana. He could do this. All it would take was time, something he had plenty of, something he was sure he would need plenty of.

But god, he missed her. It had been less than a day since he'd last seen her, but he already missed the way her hair fell in her face when she tried to hide the smile he'd managed to evoke in her. The way she'd look at him, her eyes shining with trust that he'd do the right thing, even while arguing full bore against one of his crackpot theories. The way she held his hand, so gentle, yet so strong. The way... oh god... the way she felt in his arms after a night of making love, the way she screamed his name as they lost themselves in each other. Hell, he even missed the small mole on her upper lip that she usually tried to cover up with makeup, something he would never understand.

He thought again of what she'd told him the previous night. She'd all but accused him of cheating on her with Diana. The woman was in a coma, and the doctors weren't even sure if she would ever wake up. What gave Scully the right to insinuate that? Was she that petty, that insecure? He remembered her blatant lie at the Maryland facility, asking him to meet her at the office after he'd clearly felt her presence in the hallway outside. Had she totally misconstrued his conversation with Diana then?

He sucked in a breath as he ran the past week through his mind. Yes, he'd hardly seen her outside the temporary office they'd been assigned to, but that had only been because he'd been afraid to face her without any good news to give to her. He'd been searching so hard, trying to find some way to defend themselves in the upcoming battle. But had he actually lost sight of the final goal? Had he given her the impression that he didn't want to be with her? How could she possibly think that?

Suddenly the image of his Scully in another man's arms floated into his mind. It was all he could do to keep his emotions in check. Yes, he admitted, he was jealous of this Jeff Green. He'd had more of Scully's attention this past week than he himself had had. Of course, he realized, he didn't really have anyone to blame for that but himself. Besides, did he really think she was going to fall into bed with somebody, just like that? Would the Scully he'd known all these years betray him like that, no matter what she thought of him, no matter what he did? Besides, how was her jealousy of Diana any different from what he felt towards this friend of hers?

He jumped up from the bench, reaching for his cell. He had to talk to her. He had to apologize, try to convince her how wrong he'd been the previous night, the previous week. He cursed as he remembered his coat, lying on the couch back in his apartment. With renewed determination, he turned and headed back towards his car.


Jeffrey Green's Apartment
US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD
7:02 PM

Knock. Knock.

The door opened to reveal a smiling Jeff Green. He pulled back, letting her pass before he closed the door behind her.

"Something smells nice." Dana walked over to the kitchen, smelling appreciatively. Her stomach growled as she realized she hadn't eaten anything the entire day.

Jeff laughed at her embarrassed expression. "And I see you're just in time. It'll just be another few minutes. Why don't you go have a seat while I finish setting up the table?" He pointed to his couch, then moved into the kitchen.

Dana glanced around the living room as she waited. Her eyes fell on the mantelpiece, sweeping over the pictures Jeff had lined up there. She let her eyes wander over them, her mind picturing the events they depicted. Memories, captured within a five by seven piece of paper. She smiled at the picture of little Jeremy, scampering around chasing a balloon. The picture was obviously taken in a park somewhere. Her eyes moved past it, coming to rest on an older photo, a wedding shot of Jeff and Kyra. Her face sobered immediately. Sometimes, photos, and memories, were all you had.

She recalled hearing from Bill about his friend's tragic loss almost a year ago. She felt a small shiver pass through her body. Jeff's wife had died of cancer, and from what Bill had told her, it had been extremely painful for Jeff. She had almost followed the same course not that long ago. She could almost picture Mulder and her in the Greens' place. Mulder... She blinked as the thought inevitably led to other, more depressing ones. Mulder, and the state of their relationship pressed into the forefront, overshadowing all other thoughts.

In the kitchen, Jeff pulled the forks out of the cabinet drawers as his mind wandered. He looked down at the silverware in his hands, almost as if he couldn't quite remember what to do with them. Internally, his thoughts were in turmoil. He could do nothing, and nothing would have changed. But then, his thoughts turned to his little boy, lying in the hospital, usually so sick from the treatments, he couldn't even recognize his own father. If there was even a small chance... He closed his eyes, trying to bring his chaotic emotions under control. Forgive me, Dana, he thought as he picked up the phone, dialing the number from memory. "She's here," he said, then waited for the speaker on the other end to finish before he hung up. Half an hour, and it would all be over. He let out a deep breath, reaching into his pocket for the small vial. Upending its contents into one of the wine glasses, he gave the table a final once over, then walked out of the kitchen.

What am I doing here? she chided herself. She needed to think. She needed to figure out what she... no, she corrected herself immediately... what they were going to do. She had to... Her thoughts were interrupted by Jeff's voice.

"Dana?"

He moved out into the living room. "Dinner's ready anytime you are." He smiled as he ushered her towards the small dinner arrangement in the middle of the kitchen. "I hope you don't mind the bachelor's apartment. It's kinda small, but it's more than I need."

She didn't miss the pain in his voice as he said that. It shouldn't have been more. Sometimes life was so unfair. To everyone. She placed a hand on Jeff's arm, squeezing it slightly before sliding into the seat across from him. "Dinner looks wonderful, Jeff," she said smiling at him. "Now to see how good it actually tastes." Her smile widened into a teasing grin as she tried to lighten the mood.

"Oh, you wound me, madame. Dig in and find out for yourself, why don't you?"

Jeff watched as she brought a piece of lasagna to her mouth, blowing on it slightly before eating it. He saw her eyes widen as she chewed and swallowed.

"It's good, Jeff. I'm surprised. Where'd you learn to cook like this?" Privately she wondered if it might be possible to get the recipe from him. It really was good, almost as good as her mom's, but different. "And there's something in here," she said, her brows pulling together as she tried to figure it out.

"Ah, yes," Jeff answered proudly, "the secret ingredient."

"Well..." Dana waited expectantly. "What is it?"

"If I told you, it wouldn't exactly be a secret anymore, would it?" His eyes crinkled as he started in on his plate.

They ate in silence for a few minutes before Scully asked, "So where did you learn to cook, Jeff? Most men I know wouldn't know a dishpan from a broomhandle."

Jeff placed his fork on his plate, moving his elbows up onto the table. He interlaced his fingers, resting his chin on them as his thoughts flew back to happier times. "In my case, I suppose it was the exact opposite. My Kyra couldn't cook worth a damn, and at first, neither could I. So it usually ended up being take-out on most nights. I finally decided that if we were going to survive, one of us was going to have to learn." He let out a small laugh. "When I suggested it to her, she gave me this glare that would have frozen hell over. So, I broke down, and asked my mom for some pointers. It took a while, but now I can cook lasagna, meatloaf, chicken, pasta, you name it." He shrugged slightly, as he turned back to his dinner. "I guess I just had a talent."

"Some talent." Dana chuckled. "If only you could bottle it."

"Tell me about it," Jeff answered wryly. "Sometimes, Kyra would bring her entire clique of friends to try out her husband's excellent cooking, just so she could show me off." He shook his head. "I used to get so mad at her for making me cook for so many people on such short notice. Now..." he trailed off.

"And now, you miss it," Dana finished softly. She knew exactly what he meant, and could certainly relate. She had gotten so pissed off at her father for fighting with her about joining the FBI, and about so many other things they'd disagreed on. Now she'd give anything to be able to talk to him just one more time.

"More than anything," Jeff whispered. "I miss her so much." He closed his eyes, then let out a small laugh. "Look at me, trying to burden you with my problems, when you've obviously got enough on your own mind to deal with. Not to change the subject, but would you like to talk about it?" He could almost see the wall as it slammed down over her face.

"I'd... rather not, Jeff. It's just..." She paused, taking in a deep breath before continuing, "It's just too painful right now." She stopped when she felt his hand move towards hers, squeezing it reassuringly as she had done for him earlier.

"I... understand. But Dana, you know I'm here, right? If you ever want to...," he trailed off, smiling wanly at her grateful expression.

"How...," she began, then seemed to change her mind. "Tell me about Kyra," she said instead.

Jeff blinked. He placed his fork down on his empty plate, then stood up to clear the table silently. Dana sat at the table, watching him go through the motions as the expressions flitted across his face. He placed the dishes in the sink, then retrieved his glass of wine before he moved to the counter. He turned around, leaning against it as he sipped his wine.

"I'm... sorry if I...," Dana began, but Jeff cut her off.

"No." He sighed. "It's alright. You just caught me by surprise, that's all. I haven't really stopped to think about Kyra too much after she... after she..." He closed his eyes, raising his glass to finish draining it in one swallow. He paused to refill his glass, then started talking. "Where do I begin?" He looked away from Dana, his eyes focusing on something in the distance.

Following his gaze, Dana spotted the picture in the living room, the one of their wedding day. She turned back to listen to what her friend was saying.


Fox Mulder's Apartment
7:04 PM

His fingers trembled as he tried to fit the key into the slot in his door. After fumbling for a few minutes, he finally managed to get it open. He ran inside towards his couch, reaching immediately for the phone. He furiously dialed the number he'd memorized so long ago, then sat back to wait as the other end rang. And rang. And rang.

He uttered a curse, slamming the phone down before the machine on the other end had a chance to pick up. He leaned back on his couch, his breath coming out in gasps. He waited a few moments to get his breathing under control before reaching for the phone again. He'd already been a fool once. It was past time to rectify his mistakes.

He told himself that he was utterly calm as he dialed her cell phone this time. The mechanical voice notifying him that the party he'd tried to reach was not responding didn't faze him in the least. He simply dialed her home number again, waiting this time till her answering machine came on and he heard her voice on the recorded greeting.

And then his calm facade cracked.

"Scully? It's me. I'm... I... I'm so sorry, Scully. I didn't mean..." He let out a huge breath before deciding. "This is ridiculous. Scully, if you're there, pick up the phone." His voice dropped, his tone taking on a more pleading note. "Please, Scully. I'm so... very... sorry. I don't know what I was saying last night. I... God, I feel... I feel so stupid talking to a machine. If you're there, Scully, pick up the goddamn phone." He waited for a few seconds, then, "I'm coming over there Scully. We need to talk."

With that he hung up the phone and reached for his coat. He got up and ran out of his apartment, slamming the door shut behind him. He didn't even notice the brass 2 as it came loose from his door and fell to the floor.


Jeffrey Green's Apartment
7:27 PM

"... so, of course, I had to prove myself now. I mean, I couldn't very well let the challenge go unanswered, could I?"

The two of them moved out of the kitchen and into the living room. Sitting down, Dana asked, "So? What did you do?"

"I went up to the jerk and pounded his face in." Jeff raised an eyebrow at the sudden gasp of laughter from the redhead. "What else was I supposed to do? He was drunk and he'd badmouthed pretty much every single woman at the party, not to mention harassing all the married ones. If he had touched Kyra one more time..."

"But, Jeff, an admiral's son?"

"Yeah, well, the admiral wasn't exactly around at the time. And after the party, everyone seemed to remember him slipping and hitting his head against the table. I got more than one pat on the back after that, I'll have you know." He shrugged. "I only did what every other crewman in the room was itching to do. In fact, after the brass had cleared out, the entire crew gave me a round of applause."

"And what did Kyra have to say about that?"

"Oh, she was angry as hell. She went on and on about how she could handle herself around a moron like that, and how could I possibly put myself in such a position by hitting an admiral's son, and what if I'd gotten caught."

"I can imagine. It was a pretty dangerous thing to do."

"Yeah," his eyes twinkled. "But then Kyra took me home to show me her appreciation."

Dana allowed herself a small smile at the picture as she sipped her wine. "You make it seem like you had such a happy marriage. Didn't you guys ever fight?"

"Not too often," Jeff admitted, "but when we did, you can bet the entire base would be talking about it the next day." Seeing his guest's raised eyebrows, he went on to explain. "I knew Kyra for a couple of years before we even decided to start seeing each other. She was my friend before we ever became intimate. So you see, she knew all my buttons, and exactly which ones to push. God..." He shook his head, smiling slightly as he remembered. "When we fought, it was like the Clash of the Titans or something. I remember when we wouldn't speak to each other for days."

"But you always made up," Dana prompted. She couldn't help noticing the parallels between the Greens' relationship and hers. She hadn't had too much experience with serious or long term relationships, but what Jeff had just said would probably sum up her and Mulder's fight in a nutshell.

"Oh yeah. Making up was always the best part." Jeff's voice lowered to a conspiratorial whisper. "In fact, sometimes, the making up almost made the whole thing worth it." He couldn't help a smile at the blush that rose up his friend's cheeks.

"Thank you Jeff."

The quiet statement took him by surprise. "Hunh? Whatever for, Dana?"

"For dinner. For everything. For talking to me about Kyra. I know it couldn't have been easy." She held up her hand to forestall his protest. "No, Jeff. I think this is exactly what I needed tonight. I thought I wanted to take my mind off my problems, but I think, in a way, you've indirectly helped me make a decision." She glanced up at the clock, then turned back to her friend. "I'm sorry to eat and run, Jeff, but I have something I need to take care of."

Green looked at the clock himself, frowning when he saw the time. "So soon? You barely got here. Dana, I haven't seen you in over six years. I thought we could get caught up on what you've been doing with yourself all this time."

"I'm so sorry, Jeff. But this is really important. Besides, you're not going anywhere, are you? Maybe you could come over to my place for dinner sometime. There's someone I'd like you to meet."

Jeff raised his eyebrows at her statement. "Oh? Is this someone special?" Seeing her blush again, he said, "That's a relief." When her expression turned to one of confusion, he asked tentatively, "Um... Dana? You do realize why Bill was pushing you to take my invitation, don't you?"

The look of confusion only intensified. "I was talking about my partner from work, Jeff. Anyway, why would my brother have anything to do with..."

"He was setting us up, or at least he was trying to." He laughed at the expression on her face, which had gone from confusion to realization to outright anger and embarrassment.

"I'm sorry, Jeff. I didn't even..." She trailed off as a new idea presented itself. "Oh my god, you didn't expect..."

"No, not at all," he hastened to assure her. "Bill's a great friend, but he can be a little dense sometimes. I'm nowhere near ready for anything in my life now. I've tried telling him a million times, but he's seemed to have made it his life's work to cheer me up, so to speak."

"That's Bill for you. On behalf of my brother, Jeff, I'd like to apologize..."

"There's no need, Dana. I'm just glad you weren't expecting something I wasn't prepared to offer."

"Thank you, Jeff. You're a sweet friend." She reached over to gently kiss his cheek. "I'll see you later." With that she picked up her purse and walked out the door.

Jeff Green shot a glance at the clock and heaved a breath of relief. He then raised a finger to trace his cheek where Dana had kissed him. Immediately, he rushed to the bathroom and proceeded to throw up.


Dana Scully's Apartment
7:28 PM

His hands reached into his pocket, fingering the keys on the ring as he walked up to her door. His mind was rapidly sorting through various scenarios as he debated what his first words should be.

I'm so sorry, Scully...

No. That wouldn't work. How about, What I did last night... or Every one makes mistakes...

He shook his head. No, not those either. None of them sounded right, for some reason. His steps slowed as he approached Scully's door. He swallowed quickly, steeling himself as he pulled out the keyring. Which was when he realized it. She wasn't at home. He frowned as he pushed open the door, entering the dark apartment. Where could she have gone? He walked in, moving to the couch. Sitting down, he leaned back, trying to calm himself.

Debating the various possibilities, he finally picked up her phone and dialed her cellular again. He almost jumped at the sound of the ringing behind him. He hung up, reaching behind him to come up with her coat and the cell phone within. She hadn't taken it with her, wherever she was. Meaning she was someplace she considered safe. Think, Mulder. Where would she go, especially after what happened last night? His eyes came open as the answer came to him. Of course.

He picked up her phone again, dialing another familiar number. He frowned when he heard a male voice pick up, then realized who it probably was.

"Bill? Could I speak to your sister?"

"Who is this?"

"Fox Mulder. I'm her partner."

"I know who you are, Mulder. And I'm not going to disturb my sister on her day off. You can talk to her at work tomorrow. Good night."

Mulder flinched as Bill abruptly hung up on his end.


Margaret Scully's Residence

"Who was that on the phone, dear?"

Bill turned from the phone to see his mother standing in the doorway. "No one, mom. Just a wrong number."

Margaret nodded, then turned to head back when the phone rang again. She paused, listening as her son picked up the phone again.

"Listen. I told you not to call here," she heard him whisper harshly. "I won't have you taking over her life..."

"Bill? Is that Fox?"

"What? Umm..." Bill looked up, embarrassed at being caught.

"Let me talk to him." She moved forward, taking the phone from him.

"But, mom!"

"Not another word from you, William Scully, Jr. Now don't make me make you go to your room." Her eyes flashed, emphasizing her threat. Hanging his face, Bill reluctantly turned around and left.

"Fox? This is Maggie. Is something the matter? Is Dana okay?"

"She isn't there?"

Maggie frowned at the puzzled tone in his voice. "No. She was supposed to be having dinner with a friend tonight." Her frown deepened at the sudden intake of breath she heard from the other end. "What's wrong? Dana seemed a little preoccupied the last time we spoke. Is everything all right at work?" And, more importantly, between you two, the silent question hung in the air.

"Mrs. Scully." Mulder paused, steeling himself. "I think... I think I've made a terrible mistake."

"Oh, Fox. What happened?" Mentally, Maggie prepared herself for the worst.

"I... We... we had a fight, Mrs. Scully. A really bad one. I don't think... I don't know if we..."

"What about?"

"I don't... if she hasn't told you... I don't think I should..."

Maggie closed her eyes, shaking her head. Of course not. She should have known better than to think Fox Mulder would break a confidence. Maybe she could approach the issue indirectly. "Fox. Listen to me. Have you talked to her about this yet?"

"No," the reply came in a small voice.

Maggie let out a silent sigh. That was the main problem with these two. For all the closeness between them, neither of them really talked. They knew each other inside and out, and at the same time, were almost clueless about the simplest of things. Sometimes it almost made her want to scream in frustration.

"So, tell me. What are you going to do about this?"

The unexpected question caught him by surprise. "Mrs. Scully?"

"You heard me. What are you planning on doing now? Staying in your apartment and sulking? Or are you going to go out and find my daughter and try to climb out of whatever mess you both have gotten yourselves into this time?"

The sharpness of her tone almost threw him for a loop. She'd never spoken to him so harshly before. He almost couldn't find the words, but managed to say, "I... I'm in her apartment now, Mrs. Scully. I've been trying to find her. But I don't know where she is. I know she's angry with me, but she didn't take her cell with her. And she didn't leave any messages or anything. And, after the way I treated her, I'll be lucky if she doesn't request a transfer come tomorrow..."

"Fox...," she interrupted. "Fox, you're babbling. Now we both know that my daughter is not going to request a transfer. She wouldn't have stayed with you for so long if she was that fickle. I'm sure she wants to work this out as much as you do." She paused, her voice growing softer as she continued, "Why don't you wait at her place till she comes back, then talk to her about it. You've always worked out your differences in the past. Will it be any different now?"

"I... I don't know, Mrs. Scully. But I will wait for her, I promise you that. Can you tell me where she went?"

"She was invited to dinner at Bill's friend's place. In fact, she should be back in an hour or so," she said, glancing at her clock. "Fox, don't worry. And don't give up on Dana. She's never given up on you."

"Thank you, Mrs. Scully. What you said... it meant a lot. I'll talk to you later."

"Good night, Fox."

"Good night, Mrs. Scully."

With that, Fox Mulder hung up, leaning back and awaiting a new lease on life.


US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD
7:31 PM

It was so clear what she had to do. She walked towards her car, her mind trying to sort through the various scenarios. Maybe she could swing by his place, or... maybe, she could call him. Of course, it would have helped if she'd remembered to bring her coat along, she chided herself. Not only was she missing a phone, but her sword as well.

What was I thinking? she asked herself, flinching as the answer presented itself in all its glory. The fight, her cutting remarks, the way he'd left, his parting comments, scathing in their intensity. Had he meant them? She hoped he hadn't. She herself had said things she desperately wished she could now take back. The memories raced across her mind, each one in chilling clarity. It took her a few moments to realize that the bright lights swinging across her field of vision were not her imagination, but the too bright streetlights that lined the sidewalk. She stumbled, her hands reaching out to grab a pole. She shook her head to clear it and steady herself before turning back towards the parking lot.

Jeff had been right. When you loved someone as much as she did Mulder, you knew exactly which buttons to push. And boy, had they been pushed. It was almost scary, the amount of power each of them had over the other. But then, it was dealing with that power, wielding it not to cut, but to build that defined a healthy relationship, didn't it?

God, she hoped so. Mulder was the one thing that mattered to her in this life, the only thing. The one constant. And she would be damned if she'd let him go so easily. Not without a fight, Mulder. Not without one hell of a fight. You're not getting out of this so easily. If you even want out... And she didn't believe that, not when she thought about it. Really thought about it, that is. The man had asked her to marry him. Twice! Surely, he wouldn't have done that if he hadn't meant it.

She squinted against the bright streetlights, trying to figure out where she'd parked. For some reason, the light from the streetlights was almost blinding. She could hardly make out the shape of the cars in the lot, let alone figure out which one was hers. Had they been this bright when she'd parked her car earlier?

Through a haze of confusion, she remembered what she'd promised Mulder all those months ago. Forever. And one thing Dana Katherine Scully had never been accused of was going back on her promises. She looked around, her vision clearing up just enough to allow her to recognize her car a few yards away. She headed towards it, resolving to give Mulder a call as soon as she reached home. A few feet from it, she stumbled again. With a small moan, Dana Scully fell to her knees, trembling hands trying to hold herself up. A few seconds later, they gave way as she quietly slid down to lie on the concrete. She never noticed the figures hurrying to her side, lifting her and placing in the back of the van. And in her current state, nor did she notice the man climbing into her car to follow the van as it slid silently out of the parking lot.


Dana Scully's Apartment
8:32 PM

By now, he'd almost worn a trench in her floor, going by the number of times he'd paced across her living room. He'd finally given up a few minutes before, calling the Gunmen for any information on a newly promoted Jeff Green of the United States Navy. He rushed towards the couch when he heard his phone ring.

"Mulder."

"We found him," the gruff voice of Frohike answered back. "Captain Jeffrey Green, late of the USS Eagle, newly promoted to Rear Admiral. He's been appointed Provost at the Naval Academy in Annapolis."

Langly cut in then, "And, listen to this, Mulder. He's been offered the Admiralty and a transfer three times, but he refused each one. This last time, he was the one who requested to be transferred off his ship."

"Any idea why?" Mulder asked.

"Apparently, his son's sick. Cancer. He wanted to be close to him."

"Did you guys find anything suspicious in his file?"

"Only the Provost posting," Byers voice filtered through the speakerphone in their office. "The post was made available for him pretty quick, just when his son was admitted to Georgetown Medical. Other than that, this boy's as squeaky clean as they come. Although, here's another interesting tidbit. His wife died of cancer too. A nasopharyngeal tumor. Sound familiar?"

Mulder pinched his lower lip in thought, then asked, "Do you have an address and phone number for him?"

A few moments later, Fox Mulder waited as the phone rang on the other end. He frowned after the sixth ring, then hung up the phone and reached for his coat.


Jeffrey Green's Apartment
US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD
8:57 PM

Knock. Knock.

The door opened to reveal a scowling Jeff Green. He leaned forward, blocking Mulder's view of the apartment behind him.

"Whatever you're selling..."

"Admiral Green? Fox Mulder, FBI," Mulder interrupted him, holding up his badge. "I tried calling earlier. I was told that Dana Scully was supposed to be here. I'm her partner. Could I speak to her please?"

"Dana?" Green blinked, as if surprised at the question. He then nodded, "Sorry, I must've been on the phone. But, yeah, she was supposed to meet me here for dinner." He frowned. "But that was a couple of hours ago. She never did show up. I'm sorry, Agent... uh, Mulder... did you say your name was? But as you can see, she's not here," he said pulling back as if to show Mulder the empty apartment behind him. "And if you'll excuse me, I'm late for an appointment." With that, Green stepped back into his apartment.

Mulder's eyes narrowed at his statement. Something didn't feel right. He could sense it, but couldn't quite put his finger on what it might be. He followed the other man into the apartment, watching as he retrieved his coat from the nearby closet. "You haven't heard from her at all? She didn't call to cancel or anything?"

"Hmmm...? No...," he replied, shaking his head as if in thought. "No, she didn't. I was actually starting to get worried, but what with her being an FBI agent and all, I decided that she must have been called on a case or something. Is she all right?"

"I'm not sure, Admiral. That's what I'm trying to find out." He fished in his pocket for his card. "I'd appreciate a call if you hear from her," he said, handing over the card.

"Oh, sure, no problem. If that's all, then..."

"Yes. Thank you for your time, Admiral. Good...," he froze as he realized what had been bothering him all this time. Lilacs. It was faint, but unmistakable. He'd bought her that perfume himself. And after the trouble he'd gone through to get it for her in the first place, there was no way he'd forget that scent anytime soon. Scully had been here, of that he was reasonably certain. With a growing sense of panic, he finished, "... night."

"Agent Mulder...?" Green stared at the agent, getting more nervous by the second.

"Admiral Green?" Mulder hoped he got the reverberation, or cadence, or whatever it was, in his voice correct. "Are you sure you haven't seen Agent Scully today?"

The other man frowned. "I've already told you, Agent Mulder. I haven't seen her since yesterday, when I had dinner with her over at her mother's. And now, I'm really getting a bit behind. If you don't mind...," he trailed off, ushering Mulder towards the door. He exited behind the agent, locking the door behind him. "Good night, Agent Mulder."

A dumbfounded Fox Mulder watched as Jeff Green walked towards the parking lot and got into his car. It should have worked, he was almost sure of that. Which left two possibilities. Either Green was telling the truth, or he was a resistor. And with his, luck, he knew which one he'd bet on. Quietly, he walked over to his car, deciding to tail his one and only suspect for a while.


Georgetown University Hospital, DC
Lombardi Cancer Center
9:28 PM

He hoped he wasn't too late. With a prayer, he pulled into the Leavey Center Garage, then raced into the hospital. He never noticed the nondescript Taurus as it pulled into a parking space close to his. He entered the hospital, and ran past the various nurses' stations, right into the ICU. He stopped short at the sight of the empty bed.

He spotted a nurse walking by, and grabbed her shoulder. "Nurse. My son. He was supposed to be in here. Where...?"

"Oh yes. His transfer papers were just signed. They moved him about 4-5 minutes ago. If you hurry, you can probably still catch them," she said, pointing towards the service elevator at the back of the wing.

With a hastily uttered thanks, Green rushed away. He was just in time to squeeze into the elevator as the doors were closing.

"Where are you taking him?" he managed breathlessly.

"That is not your concern anymore, Admiral." One of the men wearing a doctor's coat turned towards him. "He will be taken care of, as promised. Please return to your home. You will be contacted shortly."

Green frowned at the doctor's words. "No. I'm coming with my boy. After what I had to do for that smoking bastard, it's the least you can do."

The four men surrounding little Jeremy's cart leaned in and whispered amongst themselves. Finally, one of them pulled out a cellular phone and spoke into it for a few seconds. "Very well, Admiral. You may come with us," he said, hanging up the phone. "However, we cannot guarantee how long you will be allowed to stay with your son. You have duties here that you have to get back to in order to avoid suspicion."

Green grunted in reply, bending down to brush the hair off his son's forehead. "You're gonna be all right, Jeremy. Just you wait. Soon, we'll go to DisneyWorld, just like I promised you." He leaned closer, brushing his lips against the boy's forehead. "Just you wait, son."

The other men looked silently at each other. Meanwhile, the boy slept on, oblivious.


A few miles out of DC
9:55 PM

"Dammit, Frohike. I need that information now!" Mulder turned the corner, then came to a screeching halt. "Shit! I'll call you back." He turned off his cellphone and stared at the van that had pulled over a few feet ahead. More importantly, he watched as the three armed soldiers slowly approached his car.

"Keep your hands where we can see them and step out of the car, sir. Slowly." Two of the soldiers moved closer, while the third stayed next to the back of the van.

Mulder squinted against the bright flashlights as he stepped out. "I'm a federal agent...," he began as he felt himself roughly shoved against the side of his car. He felt one man pat him down as the other removed his ID and guns. "I want to know what you're carrying. I want to know who's in that van." His shout was abruptly cut off as he felt a sharp blow to his side. He winced, watching as his badge was tossed to the third soldier.

"Step away from the vehicle, sir."

He felt the two men beside him step back, aiming their guns squarely at his chest. He looked towards the third, standing beside the van, examining his ID, when he heard it. His head shot up in surprise. It was so faint, but... There! His eyes widened. He heard it again, a slight moan. Coming from the back of the van. Scully! He held his breath, glancing at his captors warily. He saw their eyes move away from him, watching their superior fold his ID back. He made his move.

With a grunt, he grabbed the two nearest him, swinging around to toss them across the road. Snarling, he lunged forward, aiming for the third man. He had less than a second to note the startled look on the soldier's face. Before the man had a chance to raise his rifle, Mulder swatted him aside. He didn't stop to watch the body land, moving instead to the rear of the van. He grasped the handle, roughly tearing the door open...

... and looked into the startled face of Jeff Green. He glanced past the Admiral, noting the small body shifting restlessly on the gurney. He had all of two seconds to take this in before he felt the sting right above his heart. He was still staring into the van in shock, his hands moving up, his fingers brushing his chest in surprise. He looked down, staring numbly at his bloody fingertips, when he felt the second sting.

Fire! Lancing through his head. He whirled, his head snapping around with the strength of the bullet as it glanced off his skull, ripping away pieces of bone and flesh in the process. His knees gave way, his body sliding noiselessly to the ground. The last thing he saw was the fourth soldier coming around the van, walking up to him through a red haze. With a soft groan, Fox Mulder closed his eyes, and died.


Fox Mulder's Apartment
10:05 PM

The man pulled his trench coat tighter around him, glancing around warily as he moved quietly to the apartment at the far end. He walked up to the door, his eyes moving down from the number on the door to the brass figure lying on the floor. He bent down to pick it up, holding it up against its neighbor.

Forty-two. The answer to everything. He allowed himself a slight smile at the thought. Not quite what he had in mind, but close enough. He clutched the figure in one hand, his other moving up to push open the door.


10:43 PM

At this time of night, especially this far out of the city, there was no one around to hear the strangled gasp from the side of the road. The lone body jerked, the head snapping up, drawing in deep lungfuls of air. For a long moment, the figure simply breathed as the memories came back. The van, the soldiers, the bullets... and then, nothing.

With a sigh, the figure rolled over and sat up. He shook his head, immediately regretting it as a bolt of pain shot through his skull. No matter how many times he died, it still felt like hell, he thought, trying to stand up on shaky legs. He looked around, then glanced at his watch. Damn. Almost an hour. Wherever the van was headed, they were certainly long gone by now. He finally spotted his car a few meters down the road and off to the side. Wearily, he ambled over, dusting himself off before he got in. He pulled out his cell and punched redial, starting his car up while he waited.

"It's me. Turn off the tape."

"Mulder. Thank god, man! We were starting to get worried. What happened?"

Mulder winced at the panicked tone in Byers' voice, his own fear barely under control. He sighed. "I lost them. Any luck on the van?"

"Nah. Without more information to go on...," Byers trailed off. "But we did get something on the Admiral's son. He was supposed to be transferred out of Georgetown Medical sometime tonight."

"I think I figured that one out myself," Mulder replied wryly, rubbing the side of his head. His fingers came away encrusted with blood and flakes of dead skin. "Any idea where to?"

"It says private care in some nursing home in Virginia," Langly chimed in, "but from what you told us, I think we can pretty much assume that that part of the transfer order was bogus."

"Damn." He hit the wheel in disgust. "The one solid lead I had." And worse, Scully hadn't even been in the van. He'd have felt her otherwise. Of course, the realization came too late to actually do him any good, he cursed himself. The feeling of dread was slowly growing, constricting his chest. Frohike's concerned question didn't help any.

"Mulder? What are you going to do?"

"I don't know, Frohike. I just..." Mulder lowered his head, rubbing the palm of his hand into weary eyes. "Give me a call if you guys find anything." The dread finally blossomed into full fledged panic, and the phone slipped out of his hand. He lowered his head onto the steering wheel, his body shaking with quiet sobs.

It was almost a minute before he thought of checking his machine. He drew a long shuddering breath before reaching for the phone again. He could almost hear her frantic voice in his mind from that night so long ago. Four years, an eternity, but fleeting nonetheless.

Mulder...! I need your help!

He blinked, reliving those agonizing moments once again.

The sound of glass breaking, then...

MULDER!!!!

He blinked again, the memory almost surreal in its intensity. He could almost hear the scream echo in the hollow confines of the car. He felt a shiver run through him as he remembered the message on his machine, the one he'd been too late to respond to. "Not again, God... please...," he whispered in anguish, even as his machine finally picked up.

One message. Trembling, his finger brushed against the playback button.

"Sometimes, Agent Mulder, the answers can be in the most unlikely places. I'd pack light if I were you. And remember not to get lost. The world can be a pretty big place."


Fox Mulder's Apartment
11:31 PM

The voice was so familiar, but Mulder couldn't place it for the life of him. He stepped across one of the overturned chairs, walking towards his machine. He played the message again, for what seemed like the millionth time.

He'd hoped and prayed that Scully had simply gone for a drive or something to clear her head. Lord knew, after the debacle of the day before, both of them needed it. But he'd already tried every single place he could think of. He'd had the Gunmen check out some of the places around DC that he knew she frequented, while he called Skinner, Mrs. Scully, and just about everyone he or Scully knew.

Nothing. No one had seen her that day. No one could corroborate her leaving her apartment, or arriving at Green's. But, she'd been there, he would swear to it. And now, this message, just when he needed it. It only served to compound his fear, notching his already blooming panic up the scale. He heard the faint click as the tape finished rewinding.

"Sometimes, Agent Mulder..."

He sank into his couch as the voice droned on one more time, supposedly telling him what he needed to know, yet as cryptic as any of his informants had ever been.

"... pack light if I were you..."

He almost knew it by heart now; he'd played it so many times already. He allowed his gaze to roam around the room, his eyes taking in the books hastily pulled out of the shelves, lying on the floor.

"... pretty big place..."

The lamp lying on its side just beyond. The mounds of papers scattered across the room. He'd even managed to pull out some of the stuffing in his couch trying to find anything, any clue, even one small piece of the puzzle that the message on the machine hinted at. He reached over, hitting the replay button one more time.

"Sometimes, ..."

His eyes fell on his computer, the cursor blinking at the end of the file he'd been reading, hoping that some sort of message had been left on it. His eyes came to rest on the various objects cluttering the rest of his desk, the small clock, the brass 2 lying between the globe and his computer, the various books... the brass 2 next to the globe...

"... The world can be a pretty big place..."

His eyes narrowed. He reached forward to rewind again.

"... The world can be..."

With a start, he jumped up, his legs hitting the coffee table, knocking down most of the objects on it in his haste. He ran towards his desk, and with trembling hands, reached forward, slowly picking up the globe. It had to be this. He was almost positive.

It still didn't prevent a small cry from escaping when he saw the small X inked in red. Right in the middle of the South American continent. He leaned in closer, his eyes barely making out the small numbers and letters etched in beside the mark.

Concluded in Part 2

Futures Past 06:
Hazel + Gold = Green
Home Futures Past 08:
Sweet Dreams...