Title: The River

Author: CeilidhO

Summary: What if Scully had accepted the transfer to Salt Lake City? Three years later, she and her new partner are assigned to a bizarre string of kidnappings, with terrifying and dangerous results. (Prequel to "Disciple")

Disclaimer: I own nothing, Chris Carter owns everything. We all know the drill. Please don't sue me.

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Dulles International Airport

Washington, DC

July 2, 1998

5:14 am

Dana Scully stared out of the darkened window, watching the winking, blurring lights that were the distant airplanes. Alarmingly close, a massive jet idled at a low whine just in front of the gate, the stylized 'W' on the tail fading into the spreading dawn. Her stomach was cold and tight with fear and anticipation. The thin, Styrofoam-packed seat below her squealed as she shifted position.

His face, so close she could see each hair in his stubble…

Stop it. If she thought about him now, she'd never have the strength to get on that plane.

She watched the small children in the row of seats that faced her. The older child, a boy, leaned over the younger girl, whispering to her softly. His hand covered hers as they ran their fingers over the words in the brightly colored book on the girl's lap. Their lips moved in silent tandem as the girl struggled through the story, sounding out each letter under the boy's watchful eye. For some reason, Scully was moved almost to tears.

She clenched her icy hands in her lap as she wrenched her gaze away, staring back out the window with her eyes glazed, seeing something entirely different than the far off runways. She saw a musty hallway, and an unshaven man.

"What's wrong?"

"Salt Lake City, Utah. Transfer effective immediately."

She saw every detail of his face as the realisation sunk in.

"You can't quit now, Scully."

"I can, Mulder. I debated whether or not to tell you in person…"

"We're close to something here! We're on the verge!"

"You're on the verge, Mulder. Please don't do this to me."

How dare he. How dare he ask for her to stay, after everything? A transfer was a transfer. She was Special Agent Doctor Dana Scully, and she played by the rules. She just held him back, anyway. She was so tired of being hunted, of uncertainty and paranoia. Why couldn't he just leave her alone?

"After what you saw last night, after all you've seen, you can just walk away?"

Didn't he understand that she was leaving precisely because of all she'd seen? That she couldn't see any more, that her eyes screamed from all she'd seen?

"I have, I did, it's done."

"I need you on this, Scully."

"You don't need me, Mulder. You never have. I've just held you back."

His every motion radiated his pain. She couldn't take it, not his enormous burden of hurt, not on top of her own. Not now… His eyes struck her with anguish.

"But you saved me! As difficult and as frustrating as it's been sometimes, your goddamned strict rationalism and science have saved me a thousand times over! You've kept me honest ... you've made me a whole person. I owe you everything ... Scully, and you owe me nothing."

She owed him the most extraordinary years of her life. She owed him the time where she had felt the most emotion packed into every second. She owed him the way he had made her come alive. But she was tired of feeling so much all the time. His gaze raked her face.

"I don't know if I want to do this alone... I don't even know if I can ... and if I quit now, they win."

Suddenly, Scully was back in the departure lounge, her body stiff and sore, and tears running silently down her face. She wanted to go to him so badly…

A hoarse voice shouted: "Scully!" It was long and drawn out, full of fear and desperation, a cry she had heard on a thousand cases, a cry she heard whenever Mulder thought that he'd lost her.

"Mulder?" she exclaimed, right out loud, on her feet in a single motion, scanning the lounge for him. Her hair whipped into her face. It was then that she saw the strange looks of the surrounding travellers, and the utter emptiness of the room, the complete absence of Mulder.

In a horrid lurch of loneliness, she subsided to her chair. It was all in her mind, then. A fantasy… How humiliating, how ridiculous. She was a grown woman.

His face, so close she could see each hair in his stubble…

And then, the acid mocking voice in her head: Kiss it and make it better…

She flinched away from the memory. Outside the window, in the thick, dark morning, the plane's engines started up abruptly, filling the room with a low, droning undercurrent of sound. After a few minutes, the tin voice burst over the loudspeakers.

"All passengers on flight HP-151 direct to Salt Lake City, please report to Gate 23. We are ready to begin pre-boarding."

Pre-boarding already. There wasn't much time left. Every airport reunion scene from every movie she'd every seen flashed across her vision in a moment of sharp stabbing longing. Mulder vaulting over the seats to her, Mulder taking her in his arms, Mulder whispering fervently in her ear his promises of undying devotion, just Mulder, standing beyond the crowd, an awkward, lopsided smile on his face, his eyes soft and vulnerable. Just to see him again, to feel him again…

"Flight HP-151 to Salt Lake City is now boarding in Gate 23."

Desperation filled her, poured ice on the gaping pit of pain and nerves in her stomach. The cold flooded her body. Quickly now, grasp at the life preserver, something, anything. If something didn't warm her, pull her to the surface right then, she'd drown of agony.

Warmth, heat, fire. Anger. She lunged for anger, pulled it to her, lit fire to her blood and heart. Righteousness jammed iron strength into her body, pulled her upright, dragged her boarding pass from her pocket and marched her to the line of passengers waiting to file onto the plane.

How dare he, indeed. How dare he do this to her? She was right, of course, and he was crazy to expect so much of her. She was just one person, and only so strong.

In an uncontrollable slide, her boarding pass was taken from her grasp, and she was waved through. All of a sudden, she was on the wrong side of the divide, past the point of no return. The unbearable pit of agony and desperation gave one last icy, nauseating throb as she took in the emptiness of the departure lounge.

He wasn't going to come. He was never going to come.

Dana Scully turned and walked down the ramp, and disappeared into the dawn.

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A/N: Hey everybody! I'm back, and I'm giving this prequel thing a try. Let me know what you think, and if you're still interested in this storyline.