FOLDBACK Part I

Sequel to PhaHks/FOCUS,

Number 3 in a 4 Book Series.

AUTHOR: (GenieVBRATING: Okay folks, here's the deal: X-RATED!!

ANGST!!

And: SLASH. Mulder Torture/Scully-Skinner Romance/Mulder-

Other-SLASH Romance/Mulder-Scully Romance,

Language, Violence, disturbing scenes.

SPOILERS: "PhaHks" & "FOCUS" by GeeLady (GenieVB). Various

X-Files episodes & FTF.

THANK-YOU'S: X-RAE'S VISIONS by

RaeLynn! & THE CHURCH OF X by Erika M! & my

BETA READER Swenglish! & Everyone who has

read and enjoyed my previous books (and tells me,

because it's spurred me on to keep writing more!)

Thank-you ALL!

Special thanks to XObserver for nominating

"PhaHks" for a Spooky Award for Best 1998

Crossover!

DISCLAIMER: The X-Files series, movie, characters,

are the property of Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen

Productions and the Fox Network. I don't want

any credit, fame or fortune from X-Files, I only want

to write about your show and characters to entertain

myself and others.

SUMMARY: Mulder gets involved in an investigation

that sends him back to Scully & the X-Files, and into a

deadly struggle for their lives and their future.

YOU reeeealy ought to first read ""PhaHks" & FOCUS".

or there may be things in "FOLDBACK" you just won't

completely clue into.

PERSONAL DISCLAIMER: "I've noticed some of my ideas

sort of paralleled CC's in certain episodes for this Sixth

season. Coincidence, folks. I started writing FOLDBACK

last year, June! 1999 And no way am I going to change

them now!" :-O

As always, I drool stupidly for

feedback.

"The pounding waves

are calling me home.

Home to you.

The pounding sea

is calling me home.

Home to you..."

("The Old Ways." by Loreena McKinnet)

FOLDBACK

--

The small six-seater commuter began it's descent and

Mulder breathed a sigh of relief.

Flying never used to bother him, but the flight to Seattle from

D.C. had been excruciating. He'd had to dash for the bathroom

once or twice when the feeling of claustrophobia and nausea

peaked. He hadn't throw-up, but the unease and tension hadn't

waned even now.

Maybe it had been the cabin pressure. Maybe the movement.

Maybe because he didn't like the sensation of something big

and powerful and confining moving him.

Though the little six-seater amphibian single engine was better,

the ground or rather, the water, never looked so sweet.

Mulder had come home (a hotel room in not a bad little waterfront

joint in Seattle) from his run, checked his messages and, feeling like

Jim Rockford, immediately called back on the one crucial message.

Connie Allenby had heard about him through the locals and called

his answering service, leaving a vague message about needing his

specialized skills on "a terrible thing that's happened". . He listened

to the details she'd managed to stammer out. Promising him a wired

advance for travel and hotel expenses, she'd begged him to come

and he'd left Seattle the next morning on a special commuter airline.

It was slower and they didn't offer peanuts or cake but the coffee

was good and it was a damn sight better than a boat-ride. Or another

trip aboard a commercial flight where he'd have to lay-over in Vancouver,

hop another jet and then spend the majority of the air time on his knees

in the commode, doubled over in pain and throwing up a week's worth of

meals.

The pilot cut the tiny craft's engine and skimmed across the water to

the dock, leaving twin wakes pushing out across the choppy water.

The passengers climbed out, the peer wobbling beneath their feet

at the unaccustomed load. Mulder cursed under his breath as the

wind whipped salty spray over his feet. Shouldn't have worn the

new sneakers.

A short walk to the tiny Port office and a phone call, and in thirty

minutes a taxi arrived to take him to his hotel. Later he would see

about renting a car. Not an abundance of car companies to choose

from was his guess. Not on a island, and certainly not this island

of Vancouver, with it's tiny coastal towns stretching up and down a

mostly unforgiving coastline with many miles in between.

He checked his appointment book, already knowing the address

and name of the person he was scheduled to visit.

A shower and food was due. After placing his dinner order, he studied

a map and the "Visitor's Guide" with a "Welcome to Nanaimo" on the

front he'd picked up from the hotel lobby. Two or three rental car

agencies were featured. He had a forty-mile trip in the morning.

The food arrived, a chicken sandwich, and, though hungry, he bit

into it cautiously and chewed thoroughly. His type of hernia was

unforgiving if fed too quickly. He'd had about enough pain for this

decade, thank-you.

Decided he'd leave in the morning with enough time to arrive to check

out the crime scene first and then make the hospital by noon.

His services were expensive. His invented job still new and somewhat

unfamiliar feeling. He wasn't only a psychologist. Not just an investigator

either. He, in his chosen self-made profession, filled a gap in crime

investigation. Where the police and the crime-scene specialists left off,

he stepped in. Working directly for the victims, he was still his own boss.

That part was perfect.

Survivors of violent crime, those were his clients. Those who had the

money and the time and the desire to know "why them". Unsolved cases.

Usually domestic related in some way. Almost always bloody.

Seattle had seemed as good a place to settle as any and, considering it's

history of domestic and signature murder, was better than most for his type

of work.

He traveled light as most of his consultations had not taken him out-of-

country.

This was the first one so far. He'd brought two changes of clothes, toiletries,

his gun, his I.D. and lots of curiosity. The rest of his meagre belongings were

back at his hotel room in Seattle. Had decided against an apartment, that

was too "settled". Seattle was temporary, he kept telling himself.

Mulder'd been practicing his new job for almost five months and though

the work was not steady, it was challenging. He was enjoying using his

brain for something other than self-analysis. Among other skills brought into

his new line of work were a Phd, twelve years as an F.B.I. field agent along

with a unique perspective on what it was like to be the victim of gross crime,

having endured an eight year stretch of it himself.

He knew exactly what it felt like.

Post his eight year abduction-torture fest, had been over a year's "hospital"

recovery, a good doctor and plenty of "rest".

When those doors had finally swung wide for good, he'd bolted out of that

Recovery Centre like a kid at recess without looking back. He hadn't even

glanced at the name on the high, metal gates as his taxi sped down the

lane to sanity, wanting to erase from memory ever having seen the inside

of it.

Now he had a new job. New home.

But no Scully.

And that was the only thing about the whole situation that bothered him.

The Allenby house was very large and very rich and sat on a spruce-treed

lot damn near the size of D.C.. Mulder wanted to check through the house

to get a picture in his head about the events of a single night that had blown

away Connie Allenby's world. A night that would forever alter her life,

whether she knew it or not.

She had provided him with a key sent via courier. Connie, his client, had

money.

But no family anymore.

He knew what that felt like, too.

The estate sat at the end of a long, tree-lined lane that twisted up into the

hills behind Campbell River, a salty, ocean aired, picturesque town on the

east coast of central Vancouver Island.

Here is where his client had lived and almost died.

Mulder glanced at the name-plate - The Allenby's - on the mailbox as he

drove the rental car up and up.

Allenby's:

Donald Allenby, murderer of children: Jennifer and Dylan, husband of

sole survivor, the wife and mother - Connie Allenby.

Allenby's was now Allenby. Singular.

Used the key and entered the double oak doors. The alarm code had

been disabled. Not by the police or his client, but by the perpetrator of

the terrible deed that had taken place here.

Her husband, Donald, one week ago, had come home from the East,

entered his den, loaded his 1908, bolt-action Twenty-Two rifle and shot

three members of his family once in the back. The fourth, a daughter,

had been found dead also but with no wounds to speak of. The coroner

determined the cause of death to have been "extreme shock and fright".

Connie, no longer wife or mother, though seriously wounded had lived.

Mulder found his way to each of the crime areas of the house. Tried to

get the feel of the place. See and get an understanding of the home, the

family and the energy of the humans who used to live, laugh and argue

in it.

Money.

Everywhere, every corner he looked was money. The best quality, the

most expensive of everything. As if lining their walls and floor with wealth

would cushion them against harsh things. The alarms and bolts on the

doors, the bars on the ground-level windows, the air-conditioned, filtered,

sweetened "only-the-very-best" interior air shut off from the raw

atmosphere of the surrounding woods...

Like the Allenby's themselves maybe. Protected and guarded. Against

what? Like so many: robbers, murderers, the world.

Evil.

Cities were filled to capacity with people trying to keep themselves safe.

Mulder remembered something a professor of his had once said to a

classroom of young people like him who still had everything to learn

about the ways of the world:

"Locks are very useful...for keeping out honest people."

The bedrooms. Other than the bloodstained bedsheets in the son's,

they were the typical domain of teenagers. Posters of the most recent rock

and movie star heart throbs. A stuffed horse collection in Jennifer's room.

Model railroad in Dylan's.

Connie and Donald Allenby's bedroom was thickly carpeted opulence

and about the size of a basketball court. Expensively draped picture

windows looked out over manicured lawn and old growth spruce that

blocked all eyes that might glance up from the highway at the bottom of

the slope beyond them.

The Den.

What could he find out about Donald Allenby here?

A single unexpected terrible event and nothing is ever the same again.

Mulder also had first-hand experience with that.

COURTENAY GENERAL HOSPITAL, VANCOUVER ISLAND.

"Do you have any idea why your husband would do this?"

Mulder liked to keep the questions simple and to the point. Get the usual

ones out of the way first and then ask the tougher ones. And then ones his

mind came up with later that often proved the most integral to the solving

of the crime. It was something instinctual perhaps. He really didn't know

himself why his guesses were so often right.

Connie was a petite, fine-boned woman with dyed-auburn hair. Even in

the hospital with tubes sticking out of her chest and snaking from her nose,

she had tried keeping it properly coiffured and had "teased" it with rigid

conformity to match her class's rules about what constituted "taste".

"No, I told you, Donald couldn't have done this. He wuh-was a loving

father and a g-good husband to me. That's why I can't believe them when

they tell me he "just snapped"! Donald didn't even hunt. Th-that Twenty-Two

was a collector's piece. I didn't know it even fired. Donald never, never took

it out of the display case. He had a permit and everything, it was registered..."

Mulder nodded, familiar with Canadian weapons laws.

She went on to describe a business man who traveled and then came

home to his loving wife and two children. A man who, other than his clubs

and salesman travels that took him far and wide, stuck to hearth and home.

A man she said, according to their neighbors and friends, was not violent

at all. A little naive perhaps, a little too willing to lend a hand with money

and time but not someone who would with forethought and intent, load

tipped casings into his favored collector's piece and then fire that weapon

into the spine of his wife and son, finally turning the weapon on himself.

All without any warning.

And even if he was the kind of man to do such an act, why not leave a

note explaining the sixty-four dollar question the locals newspapers had

been printing over and over for lack of better selling news: WHY?

Connie Allenby insisted her husband and children had been murdered.

"I know these questions are difficult but can you tell me what they- not

just the autopsy - but what the Medical Examiner said regarding Jennifer's

death. Did he postulate any ideas, theories to you personally, beyond the

autopsy findings I mean?"

"They let you see it like I requested, didn't they?"

He nodded.

"I can't tell you anything more. He didn't say anything to me. I..." She

began to cry softly, "I didn't ask. "

"I'm sorry. Um..." He cleared his throat. "Your husband traveled a lot?"

"Yes."

"Is it possible that he may have had...made contacts with business people,

maybe people he didn't know as well as he might have? Maybe people who

had gotten him involved in something illegal or dangerous?"

"Donald wasn't like that."

She was mourning her husband and murdered children. She would think

the best of the dead.

"It might have been something he didn't know was dangerous or illegal.

It might have been something that he found out by accident, something he

couldn't do any thing about." Or live with.

"But why shoot Dylan? Or hurt Jennifer?"

Another excellent question. Jennifer had been thirteen. Dylan, sixteen.

What had been going on in the Allenby household prior to that night?

If there was anything to know, had the kids known it? Complained about

their parents "uncoolness" to their friends? Kids talked. Highly doubtful

he'd find out anything from friends but it didn't hurt to check it out.

Had Dad said anything to his son, if there had been trouble? Had daughter

overheard a significant conversation and gotten on the phone to someone

else and gossiped about her weird parent? All parents were weird when

you were thirteen.

Had dad Allenby even maybe told one of his children something before

he and they joined the dead? Sometimes a man will confess things to his

children he wouldn't have to courage to reveal to his wife. Sometimes

those children repeated such things to others.

The kids were dead. But kids talked to their friends and their teachers,

too, sometimes.

"Do you think you could give me the names of any friends, favorite

teachers the kids may have had. If they overheard anything your husband

had said, a phone call, something like that, they might have spoken

to someone about it.'

"They would have spoken to me." She admitted.

Mulder nodded, sympathetic, but he knew it wasn't true. Kids generally

told their parents maybe one fifth of what the parents thought they did.

Connie Allenby provided him with several names. He had already made

the rounds on the adult Allenby's friends and work associates and come

up with very little that the local RCMP hadn't. Connie had also given him

full access to Donald's business papers.

He'd found hundreds of contracts, expired and new, in the den's safe.

Donald sold state-of-the-art micro-processors for a huge company out of

Toronto. The names on the contract some of the same folks who'd had a

hand in the Shuttle Arm. Interesting work, if you can get it. Paid well,

too, obviously.

The first name on the list was Jennifer's former music teacher and local

resident, Erika Lyons.

A short drive up the coastline back to Campbell River. He pulled into a

driveway of a house just outside of town sitting back from a tree-lined

blacktop road.

The door was answered by an attractive redhead in her early twenties.

"Yes?" Beethoven could be heard on a piano from somewhere inside

the house.

"Erika Lyons? My name is Fox Mulder, I'm a Crime Consultant, I'm here

regarding the alleged murder/suicide of the Allenby's-"

"Alleged?" She scrutinized the I.D. that was held up for her inspection

and the tall, dark-haired man in the black suit and sunglasses standing

on her porch. Man In Black, she thought.

"Well, that's what I'm here to try and find out. I'm investigating the case

further on behalf of Mrs. Allenby and I was hoping, if you don't mind, to

talk with you for a few minutes about Jennifer. She was a student of

yours?"

"Yes. She was one of my best students. Real potential." She glanced

behind her. Someone was working hard at the Moonlight Sonata. "Uh,

look, I don't want to interrupt my student, but we can talk in the office.

Won't you come in?"

He followed her inside and was lead to a small study off the main hall.

Seated in it already was a man he assumed to be the husband. "This is

my husband, Jerry. Hon, this is Mister Mulder, he wants to know about

Jennifer. Um, coffee?"

Thanking her, Mulder declined, though exchanging nods and hands-

shakes with the husband.

"It's a terrible thing." Jerry offered and returned to his desk and the

papers strewn across it.

Mulder sat on the leather love seat, coming right away to the point.

"Mrs. Allenby - Connie - doesn't believe her husband is responsible. I

can't really go into details but what I'm trying to find out is any reason

behind why Donald Allenby would want to murder his family and then

himself."

"But why come to us? I mean, we didn't really know the Allenby's

beyond their daughter taking piano with my wife." Erika's husband had

swivelled around, ignoring the paperwork for the time being.

Mulder addressed Erika, "Mrs. Allenby indicated that Jennifer came

here for piano lessons three times per week for five years and that you

and she were actually friends and not only teacher and student. You

were a kind of big sister to her."

"Yes, I guess we were. She told me things sometimes. I think she was

a pretty lonely kid. She kept pretty much to herself. Well, the Allenby's,

they were,...they all pretty much kept to themselves."

"It's a long shot but I was hoping maybe in the weeks prior to the tragedy,

she might have said something, mentioned something, anything, to you...

perhaps something that was not right at home? Mrs. Allenby stated that

things were perfectly normal and nothing unusual had happened but it's

been my experience that kids pick up on things that others miss, even

mom and dad. Did she say anything to you to indicate that things at

home were not normal? Did she seem upset in any way?"

Erika thought for a moment. "No. Not really. I mean, she wasn't upset-

wait a second, well, - but that's not what you're looking for..."

"Maybe not, but I'm just trying to establish the circumstances, the state

of the family, in the time prior to the murders. You've remembered

something?"

"Yeah. Um,...she asked me something, just a second.." Erika paused,

"It was a kind of funny question...she asked me if Jerry ever cried." Erika

looked at Jerry and back at Mulder.

"She asked you if your husband cried? Do you have any idea why she

would ask you that?"

"I thought, at the time, that maybe she'd seen someone crying, a man,

and she wondered if they all did. But then she was thirteen. And then I

thought, maybe,.." She stared at Mulder to emphasize her own thought,

"maybe she was talking about her dad."

Erika watched her unusual house-guest nod slightly at the information.

He seemed to be picking at it, running it through mental files. "How long

before the murders did this happen?"

"Wasn't it her last lesson, honey?" Jerry said.

"My god. I think it was, about three days before. The last lesson before-"

Mulder nodded. "It might be nothing but it also might indicate that

something was wrong in Donald Allenby's private affairs, if it was her

father Jennifer was referring to."

Erika asked:

"How will you find out one way or another?"

Mulder said:

"I don't know if I will be able to. But there must be some reason for him

to have done this terrible thing. I really appreciate your time. Thank, you."

He rose to leave.

Erika and Jerry escorted him to the front door while Moonlight began again.

Erika offered as the three walked down the front steps, "You know, about

the Allenby's, they were private people, I mean in their personal affairs. But

they also got involved in all sorts of community activities. School...Connie

was a long time P.T.A. member. Donald I think was part of a Local Business-

man's Association and the Millionaire's Club and two or three other groups.

They seemed...happy. I just can't imagine why he'd do something like this."

Mulder nodded and shook their hands. "I really appreciate your time. I

guess sometimes there just aren't any easy answers."

He thought as he left, MOST of the time there are no easy answers. He

would visit Connie in the hospital again, tell her what he'd learned, ask a

few more questions and hope she'd be more forthcoming with some honest

answers. Had Donald been the Ward Cleaver she made him out to be or

was there a skeleton in the closet?

Mulder drove to his beach hotel, ate dinner, changed into shorts and a

T-shirt. Jogged a few miles. Changed to jeans and a light sweater, strolled

the rocky shoreline. He wished Scully were there so he could share the

raw beauty of the place with her.

In fifteen years, both of them had been to some incredible spots. But

always work related. Often dangerous. Never just for them.

He realized he had never seen Scully just out walking on the beach

without a care in the world and he wondered, did it change her face?

What did she look like as a free woman? He'd never seen her shopping

with her mother, walking a dog, sitting by a wood fire, curled up with

a blanket and sleepy-eyed.

He'd spent a quarter of his life with her and didn't really know what life

was like with her. Those few weekends spent together at her apartment

had been warm and comforting but fleeting. A few hours and many of

those talking about his recovery or the past or her work or his search

for work.

Never just about them.

And almost nothing about "what" and "when" - their future.

Kisses and a promise.

He wasn't even sure what settling down meant. He didn't know how it

felt to be part of a couple, his past relationships had been short and

sweet. More short than sweet, usually ending with angry words and hurt

on both sides.

He'd been upper-class Phoebe's "sweet, young thing". But always on the

lookout for a step up the ladder, she'd tossed him when more professionally

effluent fodder had come along.

Diana - whatever happened to her anyway? Probably banging her

latest somewhere - high-shooter and self-worshipping, had checked out

when his interests had diversified into the X-files and suddenly she was

no longer the sole reason for his being. At his defending of his own

position when she'd taxed him about it, she'd pitched his ring back in

his face fast enough.

Two down.

A secretary here, a bar pick-up one night stand there just about covered

his other intimate forays into love-land.

And then one day in walks this teeny little woman with barely styled,

fire-hair, in a conservative pants-suit that left no doubt but that she knew

where to kick a man. Not to mention wearing big, big eye-glasses.

And his heart starts palpitating like his first wet dream had just

materialized before his eyes.

History, as they say, told the rest. For him, his life really began that

day. For real.

Life. Not just getting up every day, shaving, shitting, breathing in and

out existence.

But living. That tingle-jingle-nervous wreck thing that happened maybe

once or twice during a lucky man's eighty.

He knew it because soon some of the still raw hurt from Diana had eased

and then eased some more until one day he went looking for it and found

it gone.

Dana Scully had effectively wiped it out. And he had no idea why.

Scully.

"Scully" because it kept the professional mental distance needed to

his control and sanity. It made her tantalizing curves into straight angles,

her soft hair into a stiff, brush cut, and her erotically female smell into

a guy's day old socks.

Dana was the woman. Scully was his partner. It allowed him control of

his normal, male urges when faced with her. She had it all.

His intellect looked and said: Brains.

His heart reached out and saw: Compassion.

His penis twitched and shouted: god help me!

So "Scully", the partner-and-it-makes-no-difference-that-she-is-a-sexy-

woman.

The last name basis thing kept him from thinking too much about

how his wary but grasping soul was calling out for his partner.

That was simply Not Allowed.

After a day spent with her crawling through the woods, or overnight in

the confines of the car or under her disconcerting watch while he shivered

in a hospital gown, his videos in the privacy of his painfully bachelorfide

apartment did their work. Enough of those would successfully crowd her

out of his thoughts for another day or two.

Old news.

Now he wanted the opposite of course. And so, of course, he was living

on the opposite coastline. But he had this job. He had this case.

Work. He had to work.

What would Scully think of the case?

Mulder returned to his hotel room and dialed her home number in D.C..

Really, though, he just wanted to hear her voice. Five months away from

her and it was getting harder and harder to stay away.

"Hey." He said and smiled when he heard Scully's warm contralto.

"Hey yourself!"

"Got a joke for you. This guy visits this restaurant all the time and he

really likes this one waitress. One day the waitress comes up to him and

says, "You know, Norman, I really don't like you. You come in here all the

time, sit and stare at me and you're really giving me the creeps." After the

waitress walks away, Norman says to himself: "Gee, I really liked her.

I'm kinda' glad, now, that I didn't carve her name into my chest."."

Scully chuckled into his ear. "Mulder, this is long distance."

"I can't believe you don't think that's funny."

"You're cute."

""Cute"? Kill me. You busy?"

"No. I'm sitting here watching a news cast on the Royal Family's latest

sex scandal. I've got an, oh-so-fascinating, point by point report in my lap

detailing the ext-reem-ly meticulous autopsy one of my students just

performed for his final. In short, I am bored out of my skull." But her

voice was grinning.

"Wish I was there to dispel some of that boredom."

"Back at ya', hon'. Just leave your jokes out west."

It was good to hear her. He'd meant it, too. He flushed at the "hon".

"How about you? Where are you anyway?"

Mulder stretched out on the bed, tucked his hands behind his head,

cradling the phone between ear and biceps. "Me? I am in a hotel on

a semi-tropical island."

"Without me? Thanks, pal."

He chuckled. "I'm spending most of my time in the local fish town

of Vancouver Island."

""Fish" town?"

"Yeah, little spot called Campbell River. Fish folks. They eat, drink

and breath fish here. The Town Hall has a big fish over its entrance.

The local bar is called Gill-espies. They held a classical music festival

here a few months ago, the theme was fish. They are very serious

about their fish here, Scully. Dead serious. Paranormally serious. All

the restaurants serve nothing but fish. I'm eating fish and smelling fish.

I'm dreaming about eating fish. I don't even like fish." He dropped his

voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "In fact, I've become...sort of...

scared of fish, Scully. My toilet got plugged? - it was a fish!"

Scully smiled into the phone. "You'll survive."

"It's gorgeous, but I've eaten so much salmon, I'm fighting this urge

to spawn. Care to fly out and cure me?"

"What? No Porns?" Through the phone, Mulder heard her close her

binder, putting an end to the boring report. "Soooo, Mulder, what

are you doing there?"

"I'm here on a case. If you were here we could have a little vacation

maybe - but no fishing."

Mulder couldn't know that at the other end of the phone line, a lip

trembled. "I'd be there if I could."

"I know."

"So what's the case? Can you talk about it?"

"Well confidentiality and all, no, but it's interesting. I have a feeling

it's going to turn out to be either a dead-end or just not the way my

client would like. I think she's hiding in the fantasy that only bad

things happen to bad people."

"Mmm. So what are you going to do?"

"I have to see her one more time tomorrow and, unless I get more

concrete information from her, I pick up my last paycheque and head

back to Seattle." He didn't think of Seattle as home but it was just a

little bit closer to Scully and that was a good thing.

"Ummm, when do you think we might...be able to get together?"

Mulder's heart beat faster. He wanted to. He wanted to go home.

Really home. Maybe he scare up the same sort of thing he was

doing in Seattle back in D.C. "As soon I can. Sooner than that if

it's possible." He had put out résumé's, feelers, "the Word". Nothing

had materialized. "I just don't know, Scully. I wish I did."

"I miss you."

Mulder's throat constricted at how quietly she'd said it.

God, it was getting tougher to make the phone calls. It was like he'd

left on a business trip and now he couldn't go home. He felt like a man

excommunicated from his home town and from the one most important-

most vital - to his sanity.

"I,..." Rubbed his eyes,.."I miss you too, baby. I wish I could be there."

He realized he'd said the affectionate pet name only after it had come

out. Didn't care. "Soon. Soon, I promise."

"Please." She was crying now. He could tell because her voice was

perfectly modulated.

"Sweet dreams, Scully. "

"'Nite, Mulder. You too."

Mulder had already given his sincere condolences to his client

on his first visit.

Platitudes would be insulting now. He was there to look for what his

client wanted: answers.

"Mrs. Allenby, can you think of anything, anything at all that leads

you to believe that Donald didn't do this - besides what you know of

his character."

Very, very tough question to put to anyone.

Mulder knew that. He'd had it put to him, in so many words. It

had been asked about him, to his face and behind his back.

/"Fox Mulder, is it? What were you and your father

arguing about? Who would want to murder your father,

Agent Mulder?"/

And:

/"Has your son ever been in trouble with the law, Mrs.

Mulder? Can you give us any reason, Mr. Mulder, that

would exclude Fox's possible participation in the

disappearance of his sister?"/

Hard, painful questions arriving when your defenses were about

as low as they could go. When your life felt like it had been taken

over by strangers or monsters that did nothing but make the pain

worse by their questions and doubting eyes.

He knew how much pain Connie Allenby was in, so made his

voice soft like silk; tried to convey through it's delivery that he

understood how she felt. He knew.

"I know this is a hard question but I haven't been able

to find anything significant to explain why a total stranger would

enter your house, murder your family and leave without taking or

disturbing anything. As far as I have been able to determine, there

appears to be no other explanation other than- "

"No! Donald didn't do this, I told you. He wouldn't. He couldn't."

Connie Allenby was sitting up and breathing raggedly into an

oxygen mask. Her chest had become congested from days of

"lie still and let yourself heal".

Mulder was painfully familiar with that very same phrase.

"Lie still, Mister Mulder, while we pull out this chest-tube.",

"Now hold still while we irrigate your open thigh.", "Don't

move for a minute so the Doctor can examine your artery line

to check for clots.". Yup, he'd done the hospital tour plenty

o' times himself, usually chronic bronchial infections the

result for his efforts to be good and "lie still".

"I'm telling you, Donald could never have done something this!"

"But you said yourself it was dark. There was a storm that night

and the power had gone out. And you were asleep. How can you

be certain it wasn't Donald?"

"Donald wasn't a violent man. He was good and kind and never

hurt anyone. He didn't even back out of his East-coast deal and he

was losing hundreds of thousands on it. They were counting on him!"

Mulder blinked. It was the first time she'd mentioned anything of

the sort. "East coast deal? What kind of deal? Did it have to do with

the micro-processors?"

"I'm not sure. Sometimes, in business, it's not good to talk too much

about transactions with big corporations. If information leaks, it can

give competitors an advantage. There wasn't even anything on paper

yet, Donald said. He didn't tell me everything but I over-heard things

of course."

"What things?"

"Well, nothing. Just money talk and computer chips and things, and

where he had to travel and who he had to see."

"Any names specifically? Any unusual sounding phone transactions?"

"No. But he had so many. He had to travel everywhere. England,

Washington, Germany, He flew all over."

Mulder nodded, filing it away. It still told him nothing new. "Anywhere

else?" He couldn't help but let part of his mind drift back to Scully and

last night's phone conversation.

Connie Allenby mentioned a few more places. "Russia, once he even

had to go to Van Dieman's Land. And Antarctica. I laughed when I heard

him mention that one. It seemed ridiculous."

Mulder's mind snapped out of it's wanderings and came to rest back

on Connie Allenby and her mourning face and tears that ran from the

corners of her eyes.

"Antarctica?"

"Eh, yes. Donald laughed himself and said he guessed they needed

computers in the snow too."

Mulder breathed slow and steady while his heart skipped every other

beat. "And Russia. You mentioned Russia. Your husband was there?

Often?"

"Yes."

Mulder rubbed index finger and thumb across his forehead. A tiny

dent appeared between brows as one thought joined hands with

another that made, once it was forged, an unbreakable chain.

"England too?"

She nodded.

"Did he ever mention the name Krischgau? Kurtzweil?" /"Computer

chips and "things"..."/

"Not that I remember."

"Did he ever do business in D.C.?"

"Yes. I said he traveled. He was an excellent salesman."

Mulder forced a pleasant nod of agreement. "I'm sure he was. Mrs.

Allenby, I'd like to check the house once more if you don't mind. Just a

final going over to make sure I missed nothing."

"All right. Please tell me right away what you discover. You may think

I'm just a silly, mourning wife, but I just know Donald didn't do this."

Mulder didn't think she was silly. He broke speed laws on his way

back to the Allenby mansion.

He still didn't know what he was looking for but he had a hell of a lot

better idea what Mrs. Allenby's dear, departed had gotten involved in.

Who he might have been doing business with. He had a pretty awesome

idea about that.

He had.

A hunch.

As Connie had mentioned, there was nothing in his business papers.

And nothing else in the safe. Connie had assured him that the den safe

was the only one. There were no safety deposit boxes that she didn't

know about and those contained jewelry, insurance papers and the

Allenby's wills.

He'd nodded at that information too, smiling at the trusting wife of a

world traveling salesman.

There were always hidden accounts, secret deposit boxes, even

deals the details of which Donald would have kept from a wife who

had only showed a superficial interest in her husband's business affairs.

Unfortunately he didn't have the time or the manpower to tear the

mansion apart looking in every cubby-hole for what he didn't know.

Nor did he have the connections to have so-and-so and Joe-Blow

check world banks for Allenby's name.

The actual murder scenes themselves, however, he could check. And

wanted to do so again.

The body outlines put there by the hand of the local RCMP were still

in place marking the last moment of life of two children. Each asleep in

their beds and totally oblivious to the respective manner in which they'd

died. The equally ghostly shape of the father who had deep throated the

barrel of the rifle and pulled the trigger one last time was also there in

the upstairs landing.

Yeah, there was a question: Who in hell would stand at the top of a

staircase to do himself in? Pretty strange spot to pick to breath your last;

to eat a bullet. Pretty fucking strange.

Mrs. Allenby's bed was bloodstained but no outline as she had survived

the dreadful night by managing a blood-choked, gurgling call to 911.

Mulder tore open the Allenby's senior's closets and rifled through them,

looking for something, anything, that might support the tiny idea that had

wiggled its way into his thoughts and wouldn't back down.

Nothing.

He checked dressers, under the bed, the safe again. The bathroom vanities,

shelves.

Zero.

Wandering back into the son's bedroom,. Mulder sat down on the edge,

the very edge of Dylan Allenby's four poster. He looked around at the two

dimensional outline of what once had been a human being, a young man

who played hockey.

Mulder stared at the blood soaked sheets, now drying. They smelled of

urine and metallic, iron-rich blood.

He noticed something he hadn't before. A stain. A small stain. Not blood.

Touched it and his fingers came away wet with something. Something slick.

He rubbed index and thumb together, sniffed it. No odor but it felt greasy.

The deceased child's bedroom suddenly became so much more confining and

deadly. Something had been lurking here so much more frightening than a

crazed father with a rifle.

Mulder had come looking for evidence to explain the murders. To try and

find out why a reportedly loving father had tried to kill his entire family and

himself, almost succeeding in all cases. To learn these things and then take

that knowledge to the surviving wife. He hadn't.

In the end, what he thought he'd discovered was a multiple murder/suicide,

just as the local authorities concluded. Terrible, yes. But a crime seen more

and more often. Daily, almost, yet people still, very naturally, wanted to

know why.

They wanted answers. Ones that made sense to them. As Connie Allenby

did. But random violence was a fact of life. People snapped, they blew up,

they directed anger. Sometimes, they killed.

Mulder had come looking in order to find any substance to Connie Allenby's

insistence that her husband had been murdered along with the children, that

Donald Allenby was, in fact, an innocent victim and not the man who had

pulled the trigger on his sleeping wife and kids.

He'd not found that evidence.

That's what Mulder had come looking for.

But tonight, he'd come looking for something else...

/"Russia, England, Van Deiman's Land, Antartica...Donald traveled..."/

Mulder had come looking for something, and - Jesus Christ -

There it was.

He arrived back at the hospital in time to see them draping a white

sheet over Connie Allenby's body. He intercepted the man he knew

had been her doctor.

Clutching the man's elbow, Mulder blurted "What's going on? When I

left, she was fine, she was perfectly fine!"

Doc frowned at the contact and at the man almost yelling into his face.

"Who are you? A member-.."

"No. No, I'm not a member of the family. She was my client, I was working

for her, looking into this case- what the hell happened to her?"

"I'm sorry, - Mister...?"

"Mulder."

"Mulder. I'm sorry, but unless you're a family member or relative I cannot

discuss details of the untimely deceased with you. If you'll step this way,

perhaps we can call one of her relations and--"

""Untimely"?? You bet it's untimely. She was doing just fine. I wasn't

gone more than two hours and you're telling me in that time she just

crashed? Just like that?"

"As I said, unless you are a relation, I cannot-"

"There ARE no relations. They're all dead!"

"Then I can't help you. If you have anything you need to discuss, you'll

have to take it up with the Attorney's at Law representing-"

But Mulder had already bolted out of the hospital and in moments was

laying rubber back to the Allenby mansion. He wouldn't be too late. He

wouldn't!

Forty minutes drive. Forty goddamn minutes! He should have taken a

sample of the oily residue. He should have said to fuck with proper

permission, etc. and just taken a sample and shipped it to Scully. To

the Lone Gunmen, to anyone! But he hadn't. Against his better judgment,

he hadn't.

"Fuck!" He cursed his own conscience. His own stupidity. Tried to blame

his eight year abduction ordeal for some of his shortsightedness but that

was just an excuse. In reality, he'd failed to recognize the one clue screaming

at him from the murdered corpses:

None of them had woken up!

The bedrooms were spaced far apart in that gargantuan house and not

one victim had woken up to the sound of a rifle-blast from down the

hall. No one had dived under the bed or tried to call the police! Only

Connie, a few moments later had done so, when it was already all over.

Jennifer hadn't budged and she hadn't even been shot. Why was she

dead? The question had crossed his mind of course. Coroner had

explained it.

People do die from shock and fright.

He'd seen it himself in South America.

But the others.

No silencer had been found as evidence. Just the rifle and a loud

bitch it would have been. How could he have been so goddamn blind!?

But he'd wanted to do things properly this time around, through the

right channels, build up a reputation for doing things by the book. Be

a good boy and do all his homework.

Get good grades and maybe they'll let you back onto the play ground.

That had been the goal. Not erase his past from the eyes and minds

of the Bureau, but at least prove that some of the assumptions about

him had been wrong. He was not a rebellious nut who finally cracked

under the strain. Not crazy or paranoid.

He'd been so caught up in the potentials for ass-kissing, he'd forgotten

to actually-for-real-investigate the goddamn case!

Part of it was his vulnerability, he knew that. He was tired of trouble

and had just wanted a few months easy haul.

But not now. Not fucking now.

Jesus! - he was out West squishing his toes in the sand while things

in the land of Cancer hadn't faded, they'd probably spread! He'd had

enough of hiding out in the sun and surf. Fuck the "job", he was going

home. Fox Mulder was about to put himself back, back on the board and

back in the game.

It was long overdue.

Mulder beat his hand on the steering wheel, willing the vehicle to go

faster than the seventy-five he was already doing on the twisting,

night-blackened highway and soon saw the distinct orange glow and

brown billowing balloons of toxic smoke ascending into the night sky

over Campbell River before he even turned into the long driveway that

marked the entranceway to the Allenby Estate.

At the top, fire vehicles, flashing lights, people running every which

way, and thousands of gallons of chemically treated water were not

enough to prevent the century old mansion from collapsing under

it's charred remains.

It went down in a Forth of July fireworks just as he stepped out of the car.

He didn't waste time asking around but found the man with the blowhorn.

That usually signaled Sergeant. "Was the safe recovered?!" He yelled into

the stocky man's ear.

Over the deafening noise of shattering wood and brick, water, sirens

and shouting, the older man put a hand to his ear. "WHAA!?"

Cupping his hands on either side of his mouth, Mulder shouted it

directly into his ear:

"I SAID WAS THE SAFE RECOVERED? WAS ANYTHING RECOVERED?!"

Firechief shouted back: "ARE YOU KIDDING? I ALMOST LOST A MAN

IN THERE. THIS FIRE WAS DELIBERATELY SET!"

"HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT?!"

He pointed, "THE EMPTY FIFTY GALLON DRUM OF JET FUEL ACCELERANT

WAS OUR FIRST CLUE!!"

Mulder turned away and strode to his car. He was parked under

towering deciduous trees, the bark hanging off in long strips. Rare

things. Trees that shed their bark yearly like snakes, the wood

underneath as hard as stone. No insects could infest these. Nothing

could burrow underneath and rot it from the inside-out. Not even a

chain-saw could scar them.

The Allenby house, now just charred bricks and skeleton frame,

groaned in the hands of the fire.

Into the night sky, flames and smoke took it's ashes to heaven.

Erika Lyons had just finished her Karate class. She was going for

black belt in two weeks and practice, practice, practice. The

parking lot was almost deserted at this time of night and the last

thing she expected to see was a dark green rental Saturn roar up

beside her. The passenger's window lowered and she saw the

last person she'd expected to see lean over to speak.

"Get in!"

She instinctively backed up. "Fox Mulder?"

"Erika, please get in. We have to talk."

"What's goin' on?" I'm not getting into any car with a strange guy,

I don't care how good looking!

"I have to talk to you. This is important. Please!"

She didn't move.

Whatever he wanted to say was apparently important enough

for him to compromise by getting out instead. He came around

to the passenger's side, looking around.

Erika also looked around, dismayed to see the parking lot as

empty as it had been a moment ago. He was spooking her.

"Erika. I don't have time to explain it, but you have to believe

me. Forget you ever spoke to me."

"What?"

"I can't tell you any more except that I was involved with something,

years ago. When I was in the FBI It was dangerous and it's followed

me here. Or it was here already - whatever! - but you and your husband

have to forget that you ever talked to me about Jennifer or Connie or

the Allenby murders. Any of it!"

She shook her head, trying to clear it. "I don't understand, I thought

you said you'd didn't think you'd find anything, so what's-"

"I said I don't have time to explain! But if you don't do as I say, you

could be in danger. Connie Allenby is dead."

Erika suddenly felt the fear he was trying to instill in her. "But, she

was doing okay, I heard it on the news."

"She didn't die a natural death. I can't explain to you how I know

that but I'm telling you, that unless you do as I ask, you and Gary

might ...be in danger too."

Erika heard between the lines. He'd been about to say: end up

dead too!

"She was murdered? Maybe we can help-"

Fox grabbed her arm. It didn't hurt. "No! You can't. All you need

to do is forget either of you ever saw me or what we talked about."

"I need more than that, you can't just grabbed me off the street

and order me to shut up about something like this! I'm not an idiot,

I know how to take care of myself."

"Don't you understand? The last person to speak to me about the

murders was Connie Allenby and she is dead!"

Erika felt chilled suddenly in the hot, humid night air. "You think

they were all murdered, don't you?"

"Yes. And Connie was not suppose to survive. The only reason

she did was because somebody got sloppy. Now they've finished the

job."

"Jesus." Whispered. "What are you going to do?" Suddenly she

was worried about Mister Mulder. He was unshaven and looked

haggard, like he'd had no sleep for a few.

"I have a friend, back in DC who'll help me. I'm going back. I

need you to promise me you'll do as I ask. Just forget everything."

"Okay--all right. I promise."

"Jerry too."

"I said okay. I'll tell him. I'll explain, but he's going to ask questions..."

Fox took a folded paper from his pocket and stuffed it in her hand.

"This is the name and number of my friend. If you have any doubt

about what I've said to you, call her. She'll confirm my...character."

Erika nodded.

Mulder got back into his car.

"Good luck." She said as he closed the door.

He nodded in thanks and drove to the parking lot exit, turned right

onto the main road and disappeared.

"Holy shit."

"Oh, god." Scully replaced the receiver.

/"Is he for real? Should my husband and I be worried? Are

these people really like he said? Are we in danger?"/

Scully replayed the questions over and over in her head.

A woman named Erika Lyons had phoned her long distance

at home:

/"Mulder. Fox Mulder - he was here on this murder case

questioning us about it and then last night he came back

and told us to forget everything; that if we didn't we might

end up dead! Christ, I'm scared. He said he used to be with

the FBI and this is related to it. Will you please tell me

I'm not crazy!"/

Scully had assured the woman (even though she heavy-gulped

through the whole conversation), that she should not be scared

and to just take his word on it. Just do as he said and everything

would be fine.

"Shit!" Scully paced in her living room. What the hell else was

she suppose to have told her?: "Oh, no don't believe him, he's

crazy." ?

No good because what if he was telling the truth? What if Mulder

had not gotten "sick" again and this case of his really was linked to

the conspiracy of lies? What if there really was the danger he said

there was?

She could have told Erika to, yes, believe him and then what?

The woman might get so frightened that she run to the police and

she and her husband could just end up dead. IF what Mulder was

saying was not just paranoia and the flaky remnants of a year long

bout of psychiatric disturbance, the danger to those people could be

very real. These Men Who Deceived did not play by the rules. They

played dirty and they played for keeps.

Oh, god, Mulder, can't you stay out of trouble for just a few months?

Murdered client, Erika had said. Gutted house, burned out evidence,

Mulder had told her, clutching at her arm, with bloodshot eyes.

It's happened before, Dana Scully, remember? Your very first case

on the X-Files with a mystery named Fox Mulder. Burning hotel room

and all they could do was watch it and all the evidence they'd gathered

go up with it. But for one small item.

Which had "been misplaced", they'd said when she went down to

evidence to retrieve for further testing. At the time she'd thought it

strange but, oh well, shit happens.

And, Agent Scully, your next to very last case before your partner

vanished? Burned out office. Everything black and curled and Mulder

standing there in such grief and shock.

"Oh, man. Oh, god. Okay,...okay..." Scully forced herself calm.

I still believe him, I still believe IN him, she chanted in her head.

Mulder is well now. Whatever happened on that island, he'll explain

when he gets home.

At least he was coming home.

Except he had not called her yet and it had been almost twenty-four

hours since the last time Erika Lyons had seen and spoken to Fox Mulder.

"Mulder, where are you?"

Mulder drove for five days straight, sleeping in a road-side motel twice

and cat-napping in the car the rest of the time. No goddamn plane this

trip. Besides the extra hours allowed him time to think.

Going home was just fine but what the hell was he going to do once

he got there? How the hell would he convince Scully and begin his

search? He was not FBI, he had no badge of authority.

Scully was not going to be terribly pleased (at seeing him she would

be, yes), but not with his reasons for being there.

He sighed heavily. He would tell her the truth. She would just have to

believe him.

"I don't have that proof. The place was burned to the ground...everything..."

Mulder stared at her, his eyes bright, his hands shaking. He smelled of

sweat. Three and a half days after Erika's phone call, Mulder had showed

up at two A.M. at her apartment, used his key and let himself in. He right

away had come to her bedroom and woken her up.

It was fortuitous on his part that he had. That morning, Scully had been

planning on placing an All Points Nation-Wide Bulletin out on him.

After throwing her arms around him, the explanations had started.

The Theory.

The whole Shadowy Island Murder Conspiracy right there inside

Scully's Sunday Late, Late Bedroom Show.

"...I would have sent you the sample if I could have. I would have

shipped you a body but I didn't have the access, Scully. I had no real

authority. Connie Allenby, Connie, the woman who died in the hospital

whom I believe was murdered, if I'd had the resources, I'd have gotten

her body to you or an autopsy report - lab results, something! - but

without the proper authority, I couldn't do a damn thing. I was in another

country, I couldn't just go in, wave my badge, confiscate a body and Fed'

Ex' it out. She was my client and she was murdered."

Scully pushed her sleep-mussed hair back from her face. "Mulder how

can you be so sure?" He was sitting facing her, twelve inches away,

determined, intense and driven. It was like fifteen years had been

erased from him.

"How can you be sure that the fire and her death were not just

coincidences? She may have had sudden, serious complications from

her surgery. The woman was shot in the back, Mulder."

"And her daughter found dead on the scene. And her son shot. And

her husband, a supposedly loving man, supposedly after coming home

from a supposedly successful business trip, went into his study, loaded

a rifle, a never-before-used collector's piece, shoots only one kid in the

spine, leaves the other alive. Then he walks down the hall to his supposedly

still sleeping wife, shoots her. Then stands a the top of a curving

staircase, shoves the end of that rifle in his mouth and pulls the trigger

with his toe! Don't you think that's an awful lot of supposed's?"

"Mulder,..." she sighed. "Did it ever occur to you he did what he did

because he was insane?"

"Until I found the Black Oil, yeah."

She sighed. "You don't know that's what it was, I think it's flimsy, what

you're advancing. I think it's thin. And I think you've jumped to conclusions."

Scully flipped back the sheets and found her robe. She headed for the

kitchen, turning lights on all the way, better to dispel the creeping darkness.

She plugged in a kettle.

Mulder followed her sudden retreat.

"Haven't you been listening? I checked that crime scene, Scully, I was

there. I've seen this stuff before, I know what it looks like. So do you! It

may have only been a visual examination but I found evidence of the Black

Oil in three places, including the spot where the father died. It was overlooked

by the locals because they wouldn't know what they were seeing and why

in hell would they be looking for it anyway? It was hard to spot unless you

were looking for it. It was blind luck I found it."

Scully grabbed cups from rack and spoons .

But Mulder was nothing if not relentless. "Scully, I saw the Black Oil, it

was at my client's house, at the crime scene. I spoke with Connie Allenby.

I checked the house and find the Oil. Fifty minutes after speaking with my

client, she's dead. I get back to the house. It's going up in flames, the

fire deliberately set!"

He stopped and stared as she struggled to believe him. He saw it was

a struggle. "Scully, I'm not wrong about this."

She scooped powder into two cups, wanting something hot and sweet,

but at Mulder's persistence, abandoned the cocoa tin momentarily,

turning to face him. Crossed her arms. "Tell me all the reasons why you

suspect your client was murdered? What happened on the Island?"

"It' s complicated but I think Donald, the man they say

murdered his family and killed himself, I think he was being

manipulated somehow. I interviewed a woman named Erika

Lyons, she was their daughter's music teacher-"

"She phoned me."

"Erika. Yes, I told her to phone you. What did she say?"

"Well, she was scared, Mulder. She said that you said she and her

husband would be in danger if she spoke about what you'd

discussed. She sounded terrified, Mulder. Are they in danger?"

"I'm not sure. I don't think so, not if they keep quiet."

Scully stared and Mulder saw it was with uncertainty. "What

else did she say?" He asked.

"She said you looked anxious and thought that you hadn't slept

in days." She turned and poured out two cocoa's, an extra heaping

scoop in Mulder's, he probably needed the calories. Handing one to

him, he took it from her hand automatically, without thought.

"Of course I was anxious, my client was murdered and her house

was burned down!" Mulder saw the fear in Scully's eyes. Not fear for

the case or the danger it could pose but fear for him; his sanity.

"Don't you believe me?"

Scully couldn't look at him, that sadness had the power to

envelope her, always. She could sink into eyes like that and

never find her will again. "I'm inclined to, yes."

"Hey, thanks." He slammed his untouched drink down on the

counter beside them. "I'm taking all my medication, Scully! This

has nothing to do with illness or delusion. I went to Vancouver

Island to investigate a domestic case of multiple-murder/suicide.

What I found was three bodies and a witness who swore the

police were wrong. I followed up. I did the proper investigative

procedures, I checked out the house, the background of the dead

suspect and the murdered family and those who knew them.

Guess what? Nothing to indicate foul play."

"But I thought-"

"At first. Then I dug further and take a shot at what Donald Allenby

did for a living? His wife said he was a traveling salesman for a

computer company. Scully, this man Donald Allenby sold micro-

proccessors, but he traveled everywhere, China - remember China?

Russia, remember that? - I'll never forget it. England, Scully. Van

Dieman's land. Antarctica, Scully! When was the last time you heard

of someone flying to the Antarctic to peddle 2000 Pentium's? Computer

chips - nothing unusual - except he traveled to every goddamn port

across this planet. And his family was infected with the Black Oil.

Whether you believe me or not, I was there and I saw it. Now they're

all dead. Doesn't that say something to you?"

Scully bit the inside of her cheek just so her voice would come out

steady. "Yes. I just don't know what. You said that Donald Allenby was

being manipulated. How?"

"I don't know. But I have an idea. I think he was involved in some way

with the Smoking Man and whatever-the-hell he's involved with, or

used to be; this pyramid of lies that's still going on. But I think Donald

wanted out. Only they wouldn't let him. But a person who wants out so

deep into the game risk's the team, so to control him, they infected his

family with the Black Oil, with this medium which I believe is extra-

terrestrial in origin. This stuff, if left in the body, eventually kills it. I think

they infected them and I think they held that over his head. They have

a vaccine, I've had it injected into me. They must have waved it in front of

him; cooperate and we'll inoculate you loved ones. But I don't think he

could live with it."

"Mulder-"

"Just hear me out! He might have been ready to speak to someone,

maybe his wife, maybe his kids or the boys at the golf club but I think

they had someone watching him. - they knew - so they made it look

like a case of domestic violence except nobody who knew Donald

Allenby believes that. And neither do I, not after finding what I did."

"How did "They" know you were even there, by the time you got

there, Allenby was dead, wasn't he? How did they know you had figured

it out?"

"They had someone watching him. So they were watching me."

A thrill of horror shot through her. Speculations. Theories. Leaps. So

much of it sounded more like illness than truth. In the past, even when

Mulder had been wrong about some things, he'd been right about others.

Though inclined to believe him, she didn't know what to think.

"Okay. So what do you intend to do about it? How are you going to

pursue it, prove any part of it?"

"I don't know. I'm not sure if I can in this particular case, but it was

enough to wake me up. I've had enough "convalescence", I'm sick of

hiding and I've walked down enough beaches to last me from here

to eternity! I'm ready to work again."

She closed her eyes. She was already defeated and there was no

point in trying to convince him to go into nice, simple, relatively safe

P.I. work, trailing cheating husbands and wives.

"How?" Simple question.

He had an immediate answer.

"The X-Files." He said.

"Mulder, The X-Files are gone. Our old office? - it's being used to

store furniture. Those few cases that were salvaged from the fire,

are packed away under lock and key. There are no X-Files anymore."

"Then you have to request to have them re-opened."

"Mulder-"

"Skinner is Director now, Scully. He has the clout. He'll do it. He'll

do it for you if not for me. All you have to do is walk in there today

and ask."

It was "today". Yes, Monday. Workday. "And what will you do?"

"Try to get reinstated into the FBI I'll take the exams again, I'll go

the course, I'll kiss-ass, I'll bribe somebody if I have to but I'll get in

somehow."

Scully looked at him. She was tired. It was late. "This is crazy."

"No, it's not. I'm not. I'm not crazy, Scully. And if you think that,

there's no point..."

She stared. "What do you mean?"

His animation had fallen. "If you think I'm standing here, crazy,

that I drove five days straight for nothing, then there's no point in

saying anything to you. Not point in me being back, not in why I

came, not even in us."

Those words, god how they cut. "I see." She whispered. "Get

you the X-Files, or there may be no "us"? Is that what you're saying?"

"No. I'm saying I came home for two reasons, Scully. One was to

get back in the game. The other was to be with you but if you don't

believe me, after all this time, all these years, after everything we've

been through together, if you think either I'm lying or just crazy,

then there's no trust. And I can't live without trust between us, I need

that trust. Trust is hard for me but I always ended up trusting you. I

still want to."

She took his hand. "I do trust you. I just don't, I'm afraid of how far

you'll go with this. I'm afraid of what... might happen..."

"I am too, a little. But I have to try. I can't sit on my laurels. I don't

have any, remember?"

She smiled a tiny bit at his attempt to ease her worry with humor

but it did not ease.

More seriously, "Scully. I'm not ready to retire yet."

She thought about arguing more but gave in. She wasn't twenty

anymore and to face what she felt the day was going to be like, a

couple more hours shut-eye was still on order.

"I'll talk to Skinner tomorrow."

After a shower, Scully checked on her man-home-from-the-sea, gave

him a light peck on his cheek and left him to sleep the morning away. It

had been wonderful having him in her bed again. He'd showered, slipped

in beside her and they'd wrapped themselves around each other. She'd

allowed herself to forget her promise to talk to Skinner and just float in

his feel and smell for a few wonderful hours.

But now she was sitting outside Director Skinner's office, trying to think

of some way to convince him to re-open the X-Files. Skinner would ask why.

He would wonder.

Skinner would see her face and then know.

Mulder.

Mulder wanted them.

Scully heard all of Skinner's next statements: But Mulder was no longer

in the FBI. But Mulder was just six months out of a Psychiatric Recovery

Center for PTSD and severe manic depression. But Mulder was...

She practiced her answers but in reality she knew she was doing this

more as a favor to Mulder than as something in which she believed. She

believed in Mulder. She'd believed in the X-Files. She just didn't believe

in Mulder IN the X-Files. It was too soon. He was too fragile. Not right now.

And if she indulged in her most selfish wish, not ever. She wanted him

whole and safe and in her bed. Not hunting or getting hurt. Not hunted.

Not vanishing without a trace.

Skinner would know all that, too. She supposed he knew how she still

felt about Mulder. She supposed he knew a whole hell of a lot about both

of them.

But she would ask. Mulder trusted her to ask. She'd promised him.

"Are you serious?"

Yup. Skinner's words were right on the nose.

"Sir-"

"This has nothing to do with tying up "loose ends" so don't try to pawn

that off on me, Scully, I know you too well. This is Mulder. Isn't it?"

Scully passed her tongue over her teeth. "Sir, Mulder is going to try

for reinstatement into the Bureau. He feels he will best serve in that

capacity by doing what he does best-"

"If you try to sell that to the Review Committee like you're trying to

sell it to me, they'll be wondering about you, not Mulder; about where

your head is not to mention your common sense."

"Sir, Mulder is back in DC." May as well tell him the truth. The X-Files

were dead and that's the way it appeared they were going to stay. "And

he intends to re-apply to the Bureau despite his past reputation and the

notations that will have to be made on his record should he be accepted."

They both knew she meant his psychiatric treatment and the fact of his

continuing dependence on medication for depression and stress disorders.

"He knows his status will be limited. But he needs this job. He needs a

place to come to." It wasn't the whole truth and nothing but the truth but...

"What happened in Seattle?" Skinner asked her, seating himself in

his padded, high back chair.

Scully pursed her lips. They hadn't made him Director for nothing. He

was good.

"Mulder stumbled upon something unexpectedly while pursuing a

private investigation on Vancouver Island. Uh, it was a domestic

murder/suicide case. Mulder believes based on evidence he

discovered at the crime scene that it was not strictly a domestic

crime of passion. He feels that it may have been a...cover-up. One

involving certain individuals with whom we are both familiar..."

She watched Skinner rub his eyes tiredly behind his reading glasses.

"...And that it also may be connected with a conspiracy.." Scully could

see Skinner's expression change from polite tolerance to "the look". It

said: "Oh, brother, here we go!"

"In other words, the Smoking man?" Skinner linked his fingers together

and shook his head. "Scully, has Mulder been taking-?"

"Yes. He's taking his meds regularly. Sir, I know how it sounds but in

the past, I have usually found good reason to trust Mulder's instincts.

Despite his anxiety to get back into the Bureau, I don't believe this is

a case of making an excuse."

"So why does he need the X-Files to further an investigation of

non-domestic murder in Canada? Even if the Smoking Man were

involved which I highly doubt - based upon what evidence?- the

man must be seventy if he's a day. He's probably in a rocking chair

with an afghan tucked around his knees, sipping hot water and

reminiscing about the good ol' days."

Scully bit her lip. She stood stiff and straight, arms crossed. Defensive

but not belligerent. "Mulder believes that the Black Oil may have been

used on these people, to what purpose, he couldn't say but if he had

access to those remaining X-Files, he might be able to find an answer."

"And if not? Will he do Audio Surveillance? Be satisfied with escort

work? Transcription? Domestic Terrorism? Investigate Joe American

and his Garage-Based Anti-Government Survivalist Freedom Club?"

Scully looked at the floor in front of her.

"The problem, Scully, is I alone, despite being Director, do not make

the sole decisions. I have to justify myself before the Board and two

other people before it goes to Lady President. Mulder and his quest

- because I know that's what this is - is no longer an option. There is

no X-Files Division anymore. It's been discontinued. Mulder can reapply

to the Bureau. And if you or someone else writes a letter of recommendation,

he might get in. But he won't be working on the X-Files. I'm sorry, but

they no longer exist."

Scully heard what she'd expected to hear. Mulder would probably get

back in, his record of achievement under then Assistant Director Skinner had

been impressive if for somewhat unorthodox work. But there were no

X-Files, as she'd tried to tell him. There were no investigations of the

paranormal done now. There never would be again.

"Yes, sir. I'll communicate that to him."

At least he wasn't doing background checks or interviews.

But he was soooo bored.

Transcribing was tedious, thankless, and would advance his career

about as fast as changing his tie on a daily basis would.

But he was back. And using whatever resources were

available to him to find out as much as he could about

Donald Allenby and his work. Maybe it would lead him

somewhere, to a starting point. The illegal stuff he could

always do on his off hours, with the help of the Local

Chapter of the Lone Gunmen and their magic fingers.

His side project was having them put out inquiries into the

where-abouts of his sister. Not that he knew her name now, her

married name, or have any idea where she lived. But he'd had

computer representations of her likeness made up from as much as

he could remember of their one and only meeting as adults, having

the technician age her by twelve years. She had always looked

young for her age and he wanted to be conservative. He also

had the mock-ups done in several hair-styles and colors.

The Lone Gunmen had been distributing them over the Internet

for days, setting up their mega-puter with an automatic States-

based-Server E-mail-Search and forwarding program as well as

distributing electronic copies to every site nation-wide that

accepted jpg's of over one-half Meg'. Maybe, if he got lucky,

somebody, somewhere would recognize her. "They" of course

would find out about his little quest. He didn't know what they

would do (if anything), about it.

But when it came to this he didn't care. "I promise to think

about it." She had said after not seeing him for twenty-five years.

Well, she'd had plenty of time and he wanted an answer now.

He wanted that much at least before the day he died.

Did she even know their mother was dead?

Scully would be at his desk any minute. Despite the strain

that had developed between them, they still caught lunch

together. He endeavored to talk about things other than how

much he hated his current position, about the X-Files or his little

clandestine search for Samantha Somebody-formerly-Mulder.

"Mulder." Scully arrived and they set off together to the

corner bistro that was, as usual, packed. Even the Snack-

Bar was full.

They took their food out doors.

"How is your case?" He asked when they'd settled themselves

on cement steps by a water fountain. The concrete was hot

under the noon summer sun.

"How'd you know I had a new case?"

"I heard."

Scully smiled a bit. Mulder had an amazing gift for "hearing

things".

"Well, I haven't started it, really. It's a spree murder case and

they're finding me an assistant, probably a profiler. I don't know

any details yet."

"Spree murder? Locals and maybe a profiler usually handle that

on loan from VCU. It's odd they're giving the case directly to a senior

field agent. Unless the victims are high society. Who do they think is

the "most wanted"?"

"They don't know, I guess that's why it came here. Plus the medical

side has got them puzzled. A pathologist seemed the most efficient I

guess. It's families. More than one. Similar M.O.'s."

"Oh."

Scully was surprised he didn't inquire further. That something

was weighing heavily on his mind was clear.

"How about you?"

He shrugged. "What can you say about transcription? My typing has

improved."

Scully felt awkward. And sad. Mulder was physically back in the

Bureau but the parts of him that counted didn't seem to be there at

all. There was nothing driving him. Unless he was hiding it.

"How are your inquiries into the Allenby case going? Anything new?"

"No. The case was closed. I have no voice in it now that my client's

dead."

"I'm sorry Skinner didn't re-open the X-Files."

"Thanks for trying. I'm looking a bit on the side, into the Allenby

thing. At least I have a job, it gives me room to breath on my own a bit."

She wasn't sure what that meant. Did he mean he had some resources

at his disposal so to assist him in his private investigation or that he had

room to stretch away from her? He had gone out and found his own

apartment a week ago.

One week can change so much. Mulder back in the FBI. A new case

on her desk, a new assistant about to arrive, Mulder in his own apartment,

and five days worth of noon lunches that were about as enjoyable as

double root-canal.

Seven days since their fight.

How it started was innocent. She did not want him pursuing the

Allenby "case", though she hadn't said that, not is so many words.

What she had said were all the wrong things though, at the time,

they'd felt right.

"Skinner made his decision, Mulder. The X-Files are gone. They're

buried. They don't exist. Why can't you let them go?"

It had been said in the heat of her need to keep him safe because

there was one thing she was sure of, if he somehow found his

way back to the X-Files, it would all start all over again. She

didn't know if she had the strength anymore. And, at that juncture,

she didn't feel selfish for thinking that it was him she wanted,

and not his goddamn quest!

"Because I need a damn answer, that's why. I'm not willing

to just walk away and forget it - what they did to Samantha,

to you. What they did to me! I'm not saying it was them, but

if they were the ones who took me, then they owe me. Big time!

Eight years worth of interest. Did you think I'd come back to

DC just to buy a house and RSP's?? That's not who I am,

Scully."

"I thought you wanted this, Mulder?"

"What, exactly?"

"This. This; a home, a decent, normal, life. ME! You went to

Seattle to rediscover your independence, to prove yourself. To

the world, or to me. But I don't need that from you. All I need

is you." She'd felt her heart drop at his pained expression at

her next words that had just popped out: "But I guess that's

not enough for you, is it? I guess I'm not. But you know what,

Mulder, you AND the X-Files is too much for me."

"I don't have the X-Files, you just said so yourself."

"I don't think it matters. You're pursuing them anyway with this

Allenby case. And if this one doesn't pan out, it'll be some other

one. And then another. With or without the X-Files, you'll chase

this quest, this "thing" you've been looking for your whole life, until

it kills you. As much as I've wanted answers to, I am tired. I need

some peace. And I can't just stand around waiting for this thing to

destroy you. I won't just bide my time and wait for it to happen."

He'd stared at her in disbelief. "I can't... I can't believe you're

saying this."

She looked down to the floor between them. Twenty feet became

a canyon in the ten second interval from his last, aching word, his face

expressing the breaking of something inside him, and when he turned

and walked out.

She'd sat, sick to her stomach with what had just transpired, not

knowing how those words had escaped her lips. She'd wanted to

speak other things like "I love you and can't bear to see you hurt."

or "Please be careful and come home and night."

But it had turned ugly because of her terrible fear for him. And for

her doubts about her own inability to see him through anything like

the death-throes he'd endured at GreenLawn Recovery Centre not

even a year ago. Somehow, her heart had over-ridden her rational

mind and screamed at him. Screamed so he would leave. Screamed

so, if he was gone, she would not have to shoulder the horrible

possibility that he might die, and she powerless to prevent it.

He had picked up his things a day later and moved to

his own small apartment across town. He'd left her spare

key and a note saying "I'm sorry, Scully." on her counter.

A key and a scrap of paper ending almost fifteen years of

hope for her.

That was a week ago and she was still numb with it.

How Mulder was about it, she didn't know because he never

spoke to her, not about that.

Lunch ended with unease as they went their separate

ways back to their separate corners of the Bureau.

"YOU HAVE E-MAIL". When Mulder returned from lunch, the

tiny 3-D Java Postman was dancing across his computer screen,

carrying a letter in one hand and tipping his hat with the other.

Some computer-Head had waaay too much time on his hands.

Mulder muted the voice-mail. He'd had to get used to using a

computer all over again. So much had changed. Everything was of course

bigger and better, faster and smarter than he remembered.

"This is only a 2005 CP with a hundred Gig and Tri-Di Mem' but then,

you're not gonna be playing Ground Zero, are you?" The young Agent's

attempt at levity had produced a bored stare and the young man had

quickly demonstrated how to turn the thing on and then stormed off

in a snit.

Mulder read the short letter from an unfamiliar addy'.

It was polite but to the point.

FOLDBACK PART II

Scully arrived at Mulder's cubicle to find nothing but his recently

vacated chair. Very recent as it was still swiveling a bit from the

motion of its owner's flight.

Scully looked and spotted tall and dark pushing out double,

swinging doors into a main corridor that lead to she knew where:

the Down elevators. To the Bureau basement and the sub-basement

parking levels.

She knew he hadn't expected her since she'd had no intention of

coming to his floor. But she was tired of the strain between them. It

had showed itself again at lunch and allowed little patience in her.

She wanted to rectify it, somehow and so halfway back to her own

office, she'd turned heel and followed him to his designated work-

space.

Even if their romantic relationship was at and end, she wanted the

friendship salvaged. She wanted something of Fox Mulder in her life.

Mulder had left his screen on and Scully leaned over to switch

it off when she saw the name at the top of an e-mail he must

have been reading: "Fox".

No one ever called him that. In her memory, he was "Mulder".

To everyone, workmates and, once upon a time, family as well.

Scully felt the slightest twinge at reading his personal mail

but sat down and read quickly. Maybe it would give her a clue

on his present state of mind. He had been so closed off and

evasive. Even more so than in the days after their fight.

/"Fox, (it read);

I came across your Missing-Person's" E-Search. You can probably

guess, then, who this is.

I had no idea you were alive. Father told me you had died years

ago. I'm glad you're alive and well, Fox, and I understand your

need to find me. That's why it is so hard for me to say what I must

now say:

I do not want to renew our relationship. I have my growing

children and their needs and what is best for them. My husband is

also concerned that they would have trouble adjusting to a "sudden

uncle". And it would be too hard on me as well.

At one time, perhaps... but I think, now, we would find ourselves

strangers with nothing to say to one another.

Can you understand that?

We thought you were dead. I mourned for you, Fox, but I had to

go on with my life and have gone on with it. It's a good one. I hope

yours is as well.

I hope you can forgive me when I say I want no further

contact from you at all.

I know this must be hard on you and that I must seem unfeeling

but it's been too long. Too many things have happened and I'm

not ready to delve into my past. I don't think I ever will be.

When I was gone, you had to learn to forget. So did I. I can't

dig it all up again now.

I wish you well and hope for your forgiveness,

Samantha Mueller."

Scully closed her eyes. Oh, God.

She found him. Crept down the dusty, little used basement steps

so the elevator bell would not startle him into another sudden

running away.

Locating him by the quiet sobs he was attempting to stifle, she

found him seated on a filthy heating duct behind the stairs leading

to the next level down.

Scully sat beside him and didn't say anything for a moment but he

acknowledged her presence by scooting over a foot to make room.

She waited as he tried to calm his emotions, trying to avoid

the panic. He'd cry, hold his breath and be beaten as it gushed

out again with more chokes.

Sobs and silence. Sobs and silence. Trying to avoid a full-blown

attack of panic by controlling the emotions that caused the panic

to begin with. A vicious circle that he sometimes could not talk

himself out of.

Finally his breathing calmed somewhat and he was able to

get out in between gulps of air: "I'm. used-to-the. attacks.

Almost. But-just-not-hav-ing-them. In. public."

"I read the e-mail. I'm sorry." Both for reading it and what it's

stone-hard words would mean to him.

"It's not enough. Not. after-thirty-five-years. It's-not. enough.

to. get-a. brush off. I won't. I won't-accept-that."

Scully knew his hope, one of them, had been in the restoration

of his family to some degree. That had been his hope since that

night in 1973 when his sister was ripped away from his family

before his eyes and the remainder torn asunder by proximity.

"I have. to see her."

Scully swallowed. How to say it gently? "She doesn't want to,

Mulder. Why set yourself up for more hurt?"

"Because. I deserve. more-than-this."

It was true. Sometimes, though, the world didn't play fair.

"How? How will you find her?"

Breathing closer to normal, "The Lone Gunmen. Langly designed

a way to extract private e-mail information. He might be able to get

a street address from the Server."

The shit was just getting deeper and deeper. "Mulder. How

can you be sure she's really your sister? And if she is, what

will you do if she won't talk to you? Or if she won't even come

to the door?"

His tears had stopped and his breathing was calmer. "Then I'll

know. But I have to try. I want to talk to her, just once more."

""Once more"?"

He nodded, sniffing. "I saw her, years ago. You were still sick

and I didn't want to bring it to you. Couldn't burden you with it.

But she came with the Smoking Man, said he was her father,

that he'd taken care of her since the night she disappeared."

Scully sat in absolute shock. "Why didn't you tell me, Mulder?

My god, why didn't you tell me later?"

"He was trying to buy me, Scully, with a cure for you and Samantha

for me. He wanted to own me. I didn't take the deal. And I didn't tell

you about the meeting with Samantha because I didn't want to

believe it."

Scully thought she understood. "You thought she wasn't the real

Samantha?"

"No." He looked at her sadly. "She walked away from that meeting,

Scully. After over twenty years, she just walked away. I was afraid

she was real."

Scully swallowed the hurt she felt for him and let the anger she felt

against Samantha rise.

She hated the woman. Even if she understood her, even if she could

comprehend a sister's feelings of not stirring up old, dried mud or a

wife and mother's feelings of keeping trouble away from her loved

ones, even though Scully understood all that, still she hated

Samantha Mueller.

"...And you are to report directly to me, Agent Mulder."

Mulder was seated before Walter S. Skinner. Not an interview,

just a polite welcome to the Bureau, Skinner style.

"Yes, sir."

"You and Agent Scully will not be working together. You

have your assignment and she has hers. I feel I must emphasize

this."

"Yes, sir."

Skinner wrote as he spoke, rarely looking up at his "newest"

Agent.

Mulder straightened in his chair. Skinner never changed. He still

used his old "you're-not-indisposable-Agent-Dunzel" routine

designed to put the Agents on guard against too much cockiness.

It still worked. He couldn't help but feel nervous.

"Your reinstatement is probationary. Whether you stay depends

upon you alone. You will be issued no weapon and due to your

dependence on anti-depressants, you will be forbidden to

carry arms of any kind on duty. This will be made note of on

your jacket."

"Yes, sir." He had his personal fire-arm strapped to the inside calf

of his lower left leg and actually felt guilty because, well, because

this was Skinner.

"During any assignments, should they be handed to you in the future,

you will not at any time venture out on your own without the knowledge

of your direct superior, meaning myself. You will also be assigned a

partner should the need arise during said future assignments. Should

any one of these restrictions be violated, it will result in a Board of

Inquiry and possibly your immediate dismissal. "

"I understand, sir."

"Any questions?"

"No, sir."

"You can go."

"Yes, sir."

Mulder moved to exit only to be stopped by Skinner's usual:

"Oh, Agent Mulder, one thing more..."

Mulder turned and respectfully waited.

"Welcome back."

Mulder stared directly at Skinner, his eyes unblinking. "Thank you,

sir."

Skinner hadn't failed to note the stiffness in his old, and now new,

agent. He muttered to the closed door. "Don't fuck this up, Mulder."

Still, he felt uneasy. Being Director meant having brass handles on

the toilets and mints by the sink. It didn't mean ultimate power to

decide what went down where and when and against or for whom.

What it did mean, however, was being under scrutiny. It meant

great responsibility. It meant you had eyes on you all the time. So

now, because of this step taken, so they would, too, be on Mulder

whom he had literally taken under his wing once more.

Already the air felt more electric. More alive than it had been. It

was Mulder-current. Somehow, when Fox Mulder was near, people,

places and situations vibrated.

Skinner felt odd. Suspended. He realized after a minute, that he

was listening for something. Then it hit.

He was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

During the week of Mulder's official reinstatement into the

Bureau, the day it went on record, Scully received a visitor.

"Agent Scully?"

Scully looked up the autopsy she was performing on the most recent,

unexplained dead child. Her newest assignment. Her case handed to

her one week ago and just now had her work load allowed the body

taken out of the freezer and thawed for her inspection.

A child of twelve, dead in his bed.

No wounds, no signs of asphyxiation.

Not even a blemish.

"Yes?" She stripped off her soiled gloves and tossed them into the

disposal along with her gown and shoe-booties.

The thoracic cavity was wide open and her new young visitor made

the mistake of taking a peek.

He paled, swallowing convulsively. "Ah, Agent Scully, I'm Morgan

Beyer, I've been partnered to work this case with you."

Scully tried to show decent manners but her surprise showed in her

face. Young. Real young. Academy-fresh. Blonde hair. Thin face.

Gray eyes. Eyes determined to prove themselves.

He explained: "I'm hot off the press and they're peddling me to every

department."

Scully nodded, understood. Once, many, many years ago it seemed,

she'd been the new kid on the block and they'd done the same to

her. Every new recruit, unless blessed with super-specified talent,

were run ragged, learning the ropes through many trials and errors,

bearing the brunt of the "grunt" jokes, viewed in general as just the

newest poker stuck up many a S.A.I.C.'s ass.

For her, it had been less of a battle, trained as she was in pathology.

However, she had still done her share of this n' that, until landing the

X-Files under Mulder.

"Oh, yes." She remembered being told she might get an aid. "I was

told I'd be getting a new assistant." He was no blinking partner

if she had anything to say about it. "I don't usually get cases like this

anymore except when the investigations come to a dead end as badly

as this one has."

Beyer looked up and down the corpse, trying, she guessed, to get

used to it. Before the case was over, he'd most likely be seeing a few

more.

"How many so far?" He asked.

"This makes twelve."

"Twelve? Twelve dead kids?"

"Along with but not including the accompanying murders, yeah.

Nation-wide."

"Oh." He said. "That's still weird."

Scully removed her various implements of dissection from the

detachable table-tray and walked them to the sink. The catch-basin

was next and she could see Beyer turn green at it's contents. It was

a grisly thing to see your first time, she knew, the catch-basin

being where all the stray body fluids seeped down the slightly

convexed autopsy table, pooling into it.

Scully heard Beyer take a couple deep breaths. He couldn't have

been more than twenty-five.

"Usually, I only see the inside of his room one or twice a week."

"Well, you might be seeing a lot more of it because it looks like we

got another."

Scully looked at her young and eager companion. Suddenly she

felt very tired.

"Okay. I'll get changed and we'll go."

Beyer nodded, opting to wait for her outside in the hall.

They drove to the crime scene. Beyer tried to make himself

useful by driving.

"You've been with the Bureau a long time." He said, not a

question.

Tongue in cheek, "Oh, decades."

"I didn't mean it like that."

"Sorry. Long year."

"You were with the X-Files at one time." Not a question again.

"Yup."

"With the Legend of Spooky."

Her anger rushed in like the tide. "Agent Mulder, yes, who

could investigate his way around a case with one leg tied behind

him, out-classing most on his worst day."

Beyer winced a little. He heard she'd been the one who'd

committed the guy.

"I,..uh,...look, I'm sorry. Jokes circulate, you know how it is."

She nodded once. "Agent Mulder is still an agent within the

Bureau. I'd appreciate it if you'd remember that. He's just had some

bad luck and some illness."

"I said I was sorry." After a minute, "What happened to him?"

"Don't those stories circulate also?"

"Maybe I'd like to hear the real one."

She sighed, weary of this battle. "Maybe you could ask him yourself.

He been through some rough times, that's all."

"Okay. Fine. I was just making conversation."

They arrived to find the usual S.N.A.F.U. crime scene pandemonium.

The press were having a field day, swinging their cameras this way

and that and homing in on Scully and Beyer when they pulled up.

"I hate the press." She commented. Especially when fresh shit hit

the wind, like eighteen months ago on the nightly "News-Minutes":

"THIS JUST IN: MISSING FBI AGENT FOX WILLIAM

MULDER, KIDNAPPED AND PRESUMED DEAD RESURFACED

LAST WEEK IN DC. DETAILS ARE SKETCHY BUT THIS

NEWS TEAM HAS HEARD A TALE OF WOE AND HUMAN

TRADGEDY FROM THOSE SOURCES CLOSEST TO HIM..."

(There had been no "close sources", only the scuttlebutt

circulating around the Bureau halls and most of that

gossip inaccurate and misleading. Scully had fumed as

the news team's spokes-person driveled and the crap

flew) "...THAT SPECIAL AGENT FOX MULDER'S CLAIMS

OF ALIEN ABDUCTION AND RAPE-TORTURE CONFIRMED

SUSPICIONS THAT THE ENTIRE DISAPPEARANCE HAS

BEEN A HOAX! AND THE REASON BEHIND IT, THE MAN

HIMSELF, DEEPLY DISTURBED BY THE LOSS OF FAMILY

AND POSITION WITHIN THE BUREAU."

The later reports on "Living News", hadn't been much better. They'd

made him sound about as legit' as the check-out stand's "Believe It

or Not" cover stories.

Beyer flashed his badge and Scully followed suit. He would soon

tire of the novelty of having a lens in his face everywhere he went.

Soon they were in the suburban moderate house getting their

first glimpse of a fresh murder. For murder it must be.

Though only thirteen nation-wide thus far, three of them had now

occurred in or around DC.

As most of the crime details had been kept out of the news, Scully

had been careful not to drop any information Mulder's way.

These crimes were similar to his own over and done with investigation

on Vancouver Island. Too similar to be coincidence.

But they were murders. Simply that. Spree killing was the flavor

of the decade. Not even just Spree but Serial-Spree.

Scully wanted to keep Mulder in the dark about what her new case

entailed, if at all possible. She wanted to see him rebuild his life. Have

him stay safe and not running around shouting to he populous that his

old nemesis was back and murdering perfectly normal families. She

did not want Mulder to end up at a place like Walburg or GreenLawn

ever again.

Scully also wondered what he would say and do once he did

find out the details of this case, because he would find out.

Of that, she had not the slightest doubt.

Wanting to be open and honest with him and talk to him about

it but wanting him safe and calm and not caring about murders,

Black Oil, Cancer Man or aliens, she was a mouse caught between

a cat and a trap.

It was a laugh, keeping Mulder out of things, she knew. May as

well try to keep the tide from going out to sea.

May as well try to stop a comet.

People everywhere were freaking about the murders because

there was no warning in the night. Suddenly whole families were

dead by gunshot and by mystery.

The mystery; one dead in his or her bed, the last breath having

occurred, to all appearances, in slumber, and not a scratch on the

body.

Scully tugged a pair of latex gloves from a box of two dozen

and snapped them on. /"I know how you love snapping on the

latex."/ Beyer's mention of Mulder had turned her thoughts to

him and it was tough to drag her mind back to business.

Eventually, at the sight of a dead child, she managed.

No signs of struggle on this child either. White cotton pajamas.

Model jet fighters dangling from the ceiling shade. School books

piled on the dresser. Clothes on the floor. Dirty bowl and spoon

on the side table.

"Have these bagged for analysis." Scully said. It was routine.

She really didn't expect to find arsenic in the food residue. If

anyone had wanted to kill this child, that would have been a

very obvious and stupid way to do it. None of the other bodies

had produced evidence of poison.

Beyer was interviewing the parents who were, understandably,

prostrate with grief. Nothing was missing from the house. No

strangers had recently been seen in the area. No odd phone-calls

or visitors. No threats. No change of diet, no complaints from

Anthony (the dead child's name) about bullies in school or

reports of pain or illness.

Not a goddamn thing.

Scully finished her autopsy the next day and submitted her

report: Death by unknown factors.

Bagged and readied the body for shipping to Atlanta. Maybe

they could scare up something. Maybe some new genius just

out of medical school might have a lightbulb moment and save

some lives, and careers too.

Three days later another one. New York. Samples shipped to

Quantico. She could find nothing in or on this child's body to

indicate the reason he'd expired either. He had died. Death

has a cause, if not old age and organ failure, then something

else.

Mother's cause of death: gunshot to the upper spine.

All tests showed the child to be a healthy ten year old girl.

Except that her heart wasn't beating.

Scully sent lab samples out to other pathology departments

and labs once more. Someone better find something. Scully

had her staff start wearing full protective gear as a precaution.

Masks, gloves, gowns, pants, shoes, eye-gear. The whole shebang.

Something absolutely stumping the tops of the medical world

was killing these kids.

The next day, the junior half of the team, Beyer, was pulled

away to another murder in Baltimore. The corpses would be

sent her way as usual.

Four hours later, Scully got a cellular call:

"Scully." she announced.

"Agent Scully, this is Morgan Beyer. I'm in Baltimore and you'd

better get down here."

Scully excused herself from her one class and left the autopsy

bay, pulling her hair-bonnet and eye-gear off. "Why? What's going

on?"

"What's going on is your old partner - Mulder - is down here and

correct me if I'm wrong but I was under the assumption that he

isn't suppose to be working real cases?"

Little prick! "What's happening?"

"The guy has flipped. He's spooking everyone, ranting something

about our stiff being his sister! I thought he had no family?"

The shit was hitting hard and fast. Mulder had found out, somehow

he'd found out and sooner than she expected.

Now he knew what her assignment was all about and fuck, fuck,

fuck!!

Scully hoped Beyer was making this call in a private location.

Bereaved family's usually didn't appreciate graveyard lingo. "Just

tell me what he's doing? How'd he get in anyway?"

"I don't know, claims he had a tip but I think he bluffed his way.

But he's demanding to see the crime scene and pissing everyone

off, including the on-site S.A.I.C.!"

Oh - fuck. Scully stripped off her gown and gloves. Gathered up

keys, Badge, gun. "Look, Morgan, I need you to do something for

me--" Tucked her gun in the waistband at her back.

"What? I'm going to have the Beef-Squad haul his loony ass out

of here is what I'm going to do!"

"Beyer, please! This is important. Consider it a professional

courtesy to me, as my "partner"?" She bit her tongue on the

damn word.

Beyer was silent for a few seconds. "What?"

Scully was in the elevator to the parking level. "I need you to

isolate him. I know this sounds strange but that woman just may well

be his sister..." No God! Please! "...I don't have time to explain, but

he's been looking for her for years. Make it clear to the S.A.I.C. that

Mulder did come there on an anonymous tip. Okay? Are you

listening?"

"Yeah, but-"

"No! Beyer, if I have to kickback half my paycheque to get your

help on this I will. Please! Just do this for me? If Mulder says he

got a tip, then he got a goddamn tip! Get him in a room somewhere

in the house, handcuff him if you have to and hold him until I get

there."

She was in her Explorer and flooring it.

Beyer cursed. "Okay. I'll bullshit the S.A.I.C. You are gonna owe

me for this." He closed the connection.

You only have one lousy S.A.I.C. to sweet-talk, she grumbled

silently, I have Mister Federal Bee-Aye-Director.

Enroute to Baltimore, Scully broke the sound barrier. She hadn't

driven so dangerously fast since the Bus-Station. Since the day of

Mulder's return.