A full moon shone brightly in the night sky, casting slanting shadows across the golden sand. Ghost crabs scuttled between the rays of light, completing their nightly dance for food. The waves lapped against the sand, slowly carrying away the grains before depositing them again in a never-ending cycle that had begun thousands of years before. The scene depicted nature at its finest: unaffected by human activities, pure and unadulterated.
The few inhabitants of the island had picked the area for that reason. It was virtually unknown by most people; in fact, it did not even appear on most maps. People who lived there typically came because they wanted to escape from the world. There was no governmental body, no true laws except the immutable laws of nature. As such, the island had become a safe haven for some of the most cunning criminals along with people who had simply become tired of the fast-paced modern world or disillusioned with their governments. In short, the occupants ranged from a white-collar criminal who had embezzled millions of dollars from the software company that he had worked for to a retired senator who had realized after many years in office that the political system in virtually every country was inherently corrupt.
Even amongst the eclectic band of inhabitants on the island, however, two stuck out like sore thumbs. They were relatively new to the island, having arrived only four years before under rather mysterious circumstances. Rumors about who they were and where they had come from spread quickly around the island until every person seemed to be telling a different story about their origins. Some said that they had killed four people in a bank heist from which they collected nearly two hundred million dollars. Others claimed that they were former spies on the run from virtually every government, including their own, while still others thought that they were scientists who had discovered the key to eternal life and had subsequently been banished to the island because their government feared what they might do with this knowledge.
One thing that made the newcomers so mysterious was that they rarely ever interacted with the other people on the island. The man would come into the store every weekend to gather enough supplies for the two of them for the week before disappearing back inside their small house again. He rarely talked to anyone else, and when he did, it was usually only to give cursory answers to a question. The woman was even more mysterious; she would come into the store instead of the man perhaps once a month or so, and no one had ever heard her utter more than two words on these visits. They both worked a small farm on a plot of land behind their house (which was too small to truly be afforded that title; a better descriptor would actually be cottage). It was obvious that one of them had money stored up, for the food they produced never sold for enough to cover all the items they bought. Yet somehow they managed.
Another odd thing about the newcomers was the visitors who occasionally came in on speed boats, which provided the only means of transportation to and from the island. Many of these people would come in carrying files or other boxes of equipment that no one could identify. They would always leave the day after they came, sometimes carrying other files or equipment back with them and sometimes going empty-handed. One of the other people on the island had tried to break into the house to discover the identity of some of the mysterious items in the boxes, but somehow, the two people had been alerted, and they stopped the would-be thief before he entered the house. After that point, no one dared to try to rob them again. Though the people looked to be in their late forties, they were still in excellent shape, and they both simply looked dangerous, a condition which merely perpetuated the outrageous rumors.
And so for four years, the two people had kept themselves completely isolated. It was obvious they were running from something or someone, but no one had yet worked up the courage to ask who or what. In truth, many people did not want to know, for they feared the answer might be more catastrophic than anyone could imagine.
The small cottage was rather non-descript, similar to the other dwellings on the island yet still unique. The outside was rather mundane; it had been built from wood that was in remarkably good condition considering the age of the cottage. Originally, the wood had been painted white, but this color had faded to a dusty grey. Though it had been painted numerous times since it was built, the color never lasted, and every owner eventually gave up and allowed the grey tint to remain. Despite the off-colored walls, however, the cottage appeared well cared-for. The windows were spotless, and the roof looked to be freshly shingled. A small garden in the front supported a variety of colorful flowers which bloomed for a good portion of the year due to the perpetual warm weather. The farm behind the house was similarly well-tended. All of the crops grew in immaculately straight rows, and anyone would be hard-pressed to find a single weed.
The house itself had just enough space inside for a small kitchen, a bathroom, a living area, and a bedroom. Though the furnishings and decorations were sparse, the place still appeared homey. The owners appeared to be looking for function and comfort over style, and they had achieved this effect remarkably well with the deep-seated tan sofa in the living room and the matching armchair. No one who entered the house would see anything out of the ordinary. It appeared perfectly natural for two middle-aged owners.
Behind the crops lay another strip of land which had also come with the house. This piece of land was wooded, containing a large forest of trees which extended back beyond the boundaries of the property. Buried just within the forest, however, was a building that most people never knew existed. It was a large shed, measuring about fifty feet on either side. At one point in time, it had likely been used as a barn, but it was currently employed for other purposes.
Two people sat inside on a brown sofa which had seen better days. Two large tears across the back revealed a good deal of yellowing stuffing, and the legs contained a number of deep scratches and gouges. The people seated on it, however, ignored these shortcomings. They appeared to be in an intense debate about something else, something so important that nothing else mattered at the moment.
The man was tall and lean with long legs that he had stretched out across the floor in front of him. His longish dark hair was turning grey in numerous places, clearly indicating that he was likely in his mid to late forties. Deep gouges crossed his face, especially at the corners of his eyes, but he still appeared powerful. His body was well-muscled, and his eyes were clear and sharp. He was obviously a man who had fought against the world for most of his life, who had failed time and time again but still not admitted defeat. His green eyes shone with determination, with a unique desire to keep going even when everything seemed to be going to hell.
The woman had a similar power though hers was less obvious upon first glance. She was petite, likely no taller than 5'2" or 5'3", but, like the man, was in excellent condition for her age and size. Her red hair had dulled over time, but it did not yet show signs of grey (a situation likely helped by her use of hair dye). Her clear blue eyes were intelligent; one could look into them and immediately see that she was no average woman. She, too, seemed to carry the scars of her past on her shoulders, but she also managed to sit up straight and to continue to face the world with a strength and determination that few could claim to possess.
The man stood up and began to pace across the room, turning frequently to avoid the various electronic equipment and boxes of files stacked haphazardly around the place. As he turned, the soft lights in the room illuminated a black holster on his hip which housed a dangerous-looking hand gun. Further inspection of the room would reveal a number of other guns ranging from shotguns to semi-automatic machine guns placed at strategic points. The two had a veritable arsenal in the shed, a fact which seemed incongruous given their rather peaceful surroundings.
"Mulder, sit down," the woman instructed. "Getting agitated is not going to help matters at all."
"At least I'll feel like I'm doing something," Mulder argued though he complied with the request. He looked to her, and a thousand words flowed between them. They interacted like two people who shared a single mind. It was obvious that they had known one another for years and were completely comfortable around each other. They did not need to communicate verbally; they understood everything that remained unsaid.
"We are doing something, Mulder. We've been doing something for years now."
"Not that it matters," Mulder muttered, looking down at his lap.
"We don't know that yet."
"Look at us, Scully!" Mulder cried, exploding suddenly and violently from the couch. "Just sitting here waiting when we could be out doing something to stop this."
"Mulder, we've done everything we can!"
"What if we haven't? What if there was something somewhere along the way that we could have done differently. Something that would have changed our situation ever so slightly so that we wouldn't be sitting here right now?"
"Mulder, calm down."
"No, think of it, Scully! One little thing, one small decision made differently could change the entire outcome of our lives. A butterfly that flaps its wings in South America-"
"Can cause a hurricane in the United States?" Scully said, her tone of voice clearly conveying her skepticism. "Mulder, we need to stop dwelling on the past. What if's aren't going to help us now. We made the decisions we did, and we can't change them now. We're just going to have to concentrate on the future."
"Mulder, look." Scully grabbed his hand between both of hers, causing him to look directly at her. "We both made mistakes in our lives. But everybody does. We're not perfect. Could one decision have changed our current situation? Maybe. But honestly, I'm okay with where we are now. I've gotten a lot more out of this life than I ever believed possible. And come what may, I'm happy with where I am now."
Mulder scoffed. "Yeah right."
"You aren't happy with where you ended up?"
"Of course I am. But I started with nothing and gained so much. You on the other hand have lost everything you had and all you have to show for it is, well, this." He gestured at the disorderly shed around them.
"You're right, Mulder. I have this." She squeezed his hand. "I have the twenty years we've spent together. I have the trust and love that we've spent so long developing. I have you, Mulder, and I wouldn't change that for anything."
Chapter 2 (Scully)
I watched him trying to puzzle out my last words. It was interesting to see the emotions play across his face; I had always enjoyed watching the subtle changes of expression as he thought hard about something. He had long ago claimed that he thought I could read his mind. In truth, I could not literally read his mind, but I could read him. The casual smirk, the slight raise of his eyebrows, the subtle dilation of his pupils were as easy for me to read as the English language. One of the benefits of being together twenty years was that you got to know a person as well if not better than you knew yourself. It was the reason we could have an entire conversation without speaking, the reason that I knew what he was feeling even when he refused to give me this information. It was what had made us great partners, what had kept us together for so many years. For though we were complete opposites, our differences allowed us to share a connection deeper than any that I had ever shared with another person.
"What about a few years free of mutants and government conspiracies?" he finally asked, his lips upturning slightly. He had decided to use humor to escape from the situation; I had known from the beginning that he would. Mulder had always had difficulty expressing his feelings; in all honesty, I had this same difficulty. I suppose this was one of the reasons that it took us seven years before we finally admitted how we felt about one another. My confession was unusual, and I knew that it scared him more than anything. He knew I would not express my emotions quite so clearly unless I felt that the situation was dangerous enough to require such an action. And I did feel that the current situation fell into this category. As much as he wanted to ignore the danger, it was still there, and we had to acknowledge it.
"Mulder, can you please be serious for a moment?"
"Actually, I much prefer to be Mulder."
He sucked in a deep breath and tilted his head back so that he was looking at the ceiling. When he looked back at me, his normally vibrant green eyes seemed dull. "Scully," he said, his voice choked as if he were in great pain.
"I know, Mulder." And I did know. I understood how much pain he felt, how much he felt that he had left undone, that we had left undone. I cursed those seven years that we had danced around each other, seven years in which we could have been considerably happier if we both had not been so goddamned stubborn. But I completely believed what I had said earlier. We were together, and in the end, that was all that really mattered.
Simultaneously, both our eyes travelled to the clock. The second hand seemed interminably slow, as if we were moving past it at relativistic speeds so that time dilated. The physicist in me immediately rejected this preposterous suggestion, but I could not help but wonder if time truly had slowed down in the outside world, leaving us waiting with baited breath. Anticipation coursed through both of our veins as we tried to determine what would occur when the hour hand finally hit the twelve. We only had another couple hours to wait, but it seemed as if that time would never come. Of course, I was perfectly happy if it never did. Twelve o'clock was likely to bring something more horrible than anyone had ever experienced.
A calendar hung next to the clock, its pages open to the current month. It was December. We should have been preparing for Christmas like many of the other people on the island. We should have been arguing over what kind of tree to buy, where to put it, how many decorations to put up, and all the other silly squabbles that come up during Christmas time. We should have been baking dozens of cookies and preparing for the arrival of more family members we could count. In short, we should have been doing anything other than simply sitting there watching the second hand sweep slowly across the face of the clock.
But there was no joy, no Christmas spirit to be found in the house. It was not because either of us was anti-Christmas; though I had spent some interesting Christmases with Mulder, I was usually a traditionalist, and I had managed to involve him in the typical holiday festivities over the past few years. But this year was different. This year, we had nothing to celebrate. We had bigger concerns than the size of the tree or gifts we planned on buying one another. We were not concentrated on December 25 but rather three days before this date.
The date was not marked on our calendar, for we had reached a tacit agreement that any mark would simply degrade it, reduce the significance of the date. Anyway, there was really nothing to write on the calendar. We could not label the day as "Final Alien Invasion" or "Armageddon," for such titles seemed ridiculous. Besides, we both knew the importance of the date whether or not we marked it. It had been burned into both our minds more than ten years before.
Mulder suddenly broke his gaze from the clock. His restless hands left mine and traveled down to the holster on his hip. Pulling his gun from it, he released the clip and checked it before reloading it and replacing the gun. He had repeated the same ritual nearly a dozen times over the past two hours. It was a matter of comfort for him, something familiar for him to do so that he could stop concentrating on the inevitable future even for only a few minutes. As soon as the gun was back in its holster, I reached for his hands and covered them again with mine, pulling them into my lap. "Sit down, Mulder." My voice was soft. I did not intend to beg, but my words certainly had a pleading quality to them.
Mulder sat beside me, turning his hands so that he could grab mine in his. Our fingers curled around each other, a tangible representation of our lives over the past twenty years—separate yet inextricably linked. We sat in silence for a few minutes, both lost deep in thought. I could tell he was remembering everything he had done with his life; I could tell he was also blaming himself for various wrongdoings that he believed he had committed over the years.
"Stop it, Mulder."
"I'm not doing anything."
"This is not your fault."
"It sure feels like it."
"Mulder, for once in your life, can you please admit that you are not to blame for everything that goes wrong in this world?"
"I'm not to blame for everything that goes wrong in this world." His voice was flat and monotonous, devoid of its usual humor.
"For God sakes, Mulder, you sound like. . . like. . ."
"Like the world's about to end?" This time, the corners of his lips did quirk up slightly. I bit my tongue and turned away from him. In truth, that was what I had been about to say, but I had stopped myself just in time. "Well, Scully, the world is about to end, so I think I'm entitled to sound like that."
"Goddammit, Mulder, not everything is about you."
"I'm aware of that."
"Sometimes I wonder if you are."
"You know, Scully, if these really are my last hours on earth, I would prefer not to go out fighting with the only woman I ever truly loved."
That statement shut me up. When I said earlier that neither of us had ever been good at expressing our feelings, I was not exaggerating. Hearing Mulder tell me he loved me was a rare occurrence. I did not doubt his love, of course. It was often tangible, apparent to even the casual observer simply by the way he looked at me. I knew he loved me, and he knew I loved him, so neither of us felt that we needed to say the words aloud often. Sometimes, however, I wish I heard them more—and under better circumstances..
"It's funny," Mulder continued. "They put you with me to shut me down, and you're the only thing that's kept me going. There were times when the only reason I got out of bed in the morning was because of you, Scully. When I was in hiding, I kept wondering why I didn't just let them capture me. After all, I had done what I set out to do—I found my sister. But then I thought of you and. . . and William, and I decided I could hang on for just one more day.
I never told you why I went to that government facility when I did. I know you've been wondering that. After all, I was pretty sure that doing so would guarantee that they would find me, and you know that I knew that. But I did it for you, Scully. You and William. The man who gave me that information told me that going there was the only way I could save the people I loved. He said that the information stored at that facility would be vital for our survival in the future. I was willing to risk my life and my freedom if it meant saving you and William. I was willing to do anything for the two of you. I hope you know that."
"Of course I do." Tears were now pooling in my eyes. I had rarely heard Mulder express his sentiments so freely. The intense emotion etched into his face affected me more than I wanted to admit.
"Not that any of it mattered. I got the information, but I didn't save anyone. I've just forced us both onto this godforsaken island in the middle of nowhere."
"Mulder, if you blame yourself one more time, I'm going to pull out my gun and shoot you."
"I don't doubt that. So in the spirit of not spending our last couple hours fighting, I'm going to stop blaming myself."
"Good." I leaned toward him slowly, stopping just before our lips touched to whisper, "I love you, Mulder. More than anything." I do not know why I was compelled to say those words, but I felt at the time that it was absolutely necessary that I tell him how I felt. Though he might know, some things were simply better when said aloud.
Chapter 3 (Mulder)
As soon as she said those words, I knew she felt exactly the same way that I did. The next two hours could very well be the last two we spent together. All bets were off. It was time to forget about our stupid inability to express our emotions and just say what we felt. And so I responded with those same three powerful words. "I love you, too. Now and always." And with that, our lips merged.
We had never gotten married. It was something we had actually talked about briefly after William was born, but then I had to go into hiding, a necessity which delayed the process indefinitely. And the next time we met, I was in a military prison on trial for my life, so the circumstances were not exactly conducive to a wedding ceremony. Once I escaped from that hellhole, we were trying to remain inconspicuous, so a marriage did not seem advisable. Besides, we had more pressing problems—namely, the end of the world—to concentrate on.
And so we had never married. I often wondered if Scully regretted this fact. I knew that most women dreamed of their wedding day. They started planning it out when they were still young girls, deciding what dress they would wear, where it would be held, who would be invited, etc. But Scully had never realized those dreams, and it was my fault just like pretty much everything else that had gone wrong in her life.
I had actually asked once more after escaping from jail if she wanted to get married. She had simply shrugged me off, telling me it was not important. This threw me off a bit until she explained that as far as she was concerned, we were married in every way except having an actual license signed by a judge. In many ways, I guess she was right. We had long ago decided to adhere to the marriage vows. We knew that we would always be there for one another in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse. . . until death do us part. Unfortunately, the last condition might occur much sooner than either of us wished.
As I looked at the woman next to me, I suddenly realized that no matter what happened, she was right. At least we were together. And for the next two hours, I was going to make sure that that was the only thing which mattered.
With one hand behind her back, I slowly lowered her to the couch, supporting myself with my other elbow above her. The couch had been with me through so much over the years that it had been impossible to give it away which was how it had ended up in the shed along with everything else that we had hoped to use to forestall the upcoming invasion. But none of that mattered now. The invasion would come, and we would face it together when it did, just as we had faced countless horrors together over the previous few years.
And so that was how we ended up curled together on the couch when the clock struck midnight. We had planned long and hard, and we had intended to be ready when the time came for the final invasion. The shed had been stocked with enough food and water to last the two of us for years along with copies of all the X-files (courtesy of Skinner). We had plenty of firepower to fight for a long time. We were as prepared as we could possibly be.
And yet when the clock struck midnight, we had our guard down. Our guns had been discarded as we were undressing, and neither of us was focused on the upcoming invasion. Not that any amount of planning would have prepared us for what happened next. We could not have anticipated the next event, could not have planned for anything which occurred after the stroke of midnight.
As soon as the last chime sounded, a brilliant light flashed outside, seeping into the room through the small crack beneath the door. It spread quickly, causing me to turn my head. Horrible memories flashed through my head—memories of my sister's abduction so many years before, memories of my own subsequent abduction, so many memories of horrors that had occurred after similar flashes. I heard Scully cry out and knew immediately that she was remembering her abduction. With no other option, I pulled her closer to my chest, hoping that somehow we could accomplish together what neither of us could accomplish alone.
Chapter 3 (Scully)
I must have passed out at some point in time after the flash of light because the next thing I knew, I was opening eyes to a less intense light pouring into the room. Immediately, I noticed that Mulder was no longer with me; I could not feel his body heat wrapped around me nor feel his heart beating against his chest. Panicked, I sat up straighter, and a soft light blue sheet fell from my body. Glancing around, I realized that I recognized my current surroundings though I had not seen the room in countless years. It was my old bedroom—the one I had on the last base my family had stayed on before I left for college. Everything was exactly how I remembered it, from the white dresser decorated with stenciled butterflies that my mother had painted when I was nine to the light blue curtains hanging around the window that my mother insisted on having to make the place feel more like home.
My first thought was that I was hallucinating. Of course, I had no idea why I would be hallucinating that particular room. The bedroom was not special; I had no fond memories of it. It was just another place where I had slept on a long list of rooms in which I had slept during my childhood because of our frequent moves. I had plenty of fond memories of other places, plenty of other places that I could truly consider home. Most of them involved Mulder who was currently conspicuously absent.
A groan to my left told me that I was not alone in the room. Wondering if Mulder was indeed in the room, I turned my head quickly to discover someone I never thought that I would see again. Her brown hair framed her beautiful face, accenting her delicate features that had stolen the hearts of countless boys over the years. She stretched lazily, opening her eyes slightly to glance at a clock on the table beside her bed. A deep blue color shone through the gap in her eyelids.
"Missy," I breathed, hardly daring to believe my eyes.
"Ten more minutes, Danes, please," she said. "Unlike you, I don't need to be at school freakishly early." She closed her eyes again and started to roll over, but I scrambled out of bed and stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. I needed to see her, to touch her and confirm that she was real. And she certainly seemed to be. I could feel the warm flesh of her shoulder beneath the thin material of her nightgown, could see the steady rise and fall of her chest as she inhaled and exhaled. It was definitely Melissa; she might have looked no older than eighteen, but I easily recognized my sister.
"Am I in heaven?" I asked aloud.
This time, only one of Melissa's eyes opened, accompanied by the raise of an eyebrow. "Are you smoking something, Danes?" she questioned. "Because you always told me that that stuff was horrible for your health."
I shook my head slowly, still trying to decipher what was going on. As I moved my head to the right, I caught sight of my reflection in a nearby mirror. What I saw caused a hitch in my breath, and I quickly rose from the bed to approach the mirror and investigate more closely.
I was no longer myself. Correction, I was no longer the forty-eight year old version of myself that I had finally come to accept. I looked as I had when I was sixteen from the smooth, unlined cheeks to the dimples in the corners of my mouth which never truly disappeared but became less endearing as I grew older. My hair was still a brilliant red, my body still lithe and free from pain.
"Did you see a pimple or something?" my sister's groggy voice asked from behind me. I turned to her, still rubbing a hand against the smooth skin of my cheek in disbelief. "You shouldn't rub it," Melissa told me, yawning as she sat up straighter in bed. "You should know that, Dr. Scully."
"Melissa, how old am I?" I questioned.
Melissa's eyes narrowed as she studied me curiously. "Is this some kind of quiz?"
"That's exactly what it is," I lied, hoping to get an answer out of her.
"You're fifteen. Your birthday is February 23, 1964."
"So that would make it 1979," I reasoned. "Which would mean you're eighteen."
Melissa regarded me suspiciously, obviously wondering if I was attempting to trick her. "Actually, I'm still seventeen. My birthday's not until next month. It's only September 18."
"Oh. Okay." I turned back to the mirror, attempting to process all the information. I could still see Missy's eyes regarding me with concern. Finally, I turned and left the room, attempting to escape the unwavering gaze in any way that I could.
When I entered the kitchen, I saw my mother standing in her customary place by the stove. The savory scent in the air told me that she was likely cooking bacon, a staple breakfast in our house while I was growing up. Of course, it was always accompanied by fruit of some kind. My mother insisted on healthy eating.
"Dana, good, I was beginning to worry. You're usually up before this time," my mother said, glancing up at me from the frying pan. "Go ahead and grab what you want. I assume Missy will be down in a few minutes."
"Uh. . . yeah. She should be." I walked over to the sink, stopping for a moment as I tried to recall where we had kept the plates in this particular house. Unfortunately, I did not have Mulder's eidetic memory, and I knew recalling this fact would be virtually impossible. Before I could start inconspicuously opening cabinets to find the elusive dishes, my mother stepped in to save me.
"I got plates out already. They're over there." My mother pointed to the edge of the counter where a stack of four plastic plates sat. This stack told me two things: 1, my father was currently off at sea, an all-too-common occurrence while I was growing up, and 2, my oldest brother, Bill, was already at college.
"Thanks, Mom," I said, grabbing the plate from the top of the stack and walking over to the still-sizzling bacon. I felt as if I was living in a dream world. Everything seemed completely unreal, and I kept expecting to wake up and find myself in an alien ship with probes extruding from every orifice. The thought of this caused an involuntary shiver to travel down my spine, something which did not escape the eagle eyes of Margaret Scully.
"Are you okay, Dana?" she asked, turning to face me fully. Her brown eyes were filled with concern for me, and I forced a smile to allay her fears though my mind was racing with concerns of my own.
"I'm fine, Mom," I assured her.
"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Melissa said, shuffling into the kitchen. Even with sleep-tousled hair and a loose-fitting nightgown, she still appeared stunning. I had always envied her for her seemingly effortless beauty, and I felt the familiar twinge of jealousy work its way to the forefront of my brain. Immediately, I suppressed this feeling. I should have been happy to have her back. It was not the time to be concerned with petty issues like beauty. I had to figure out what had happened. And I instinctively knew that to do that, I would have to find Mulder.
"She's been acting strange all morning," Melissa continued, taking the next plate from the stack and beginning to fill it. "She actually asked me her age and then confirmed the date with me. It was weird."
"Are you sure you're not sick, Dana?" my mother asked me, leaning forward to press the back of her hand against my forehead.
"Just a little tired," I lied, pulling away from her hand after a couple seconds. Taking my plate to the table, I sat down and began to eat, ignoring the concerned looks that both my mother and my sister continued to shoot in my direction.
Luckily, both were distracted by the rather loud arrival of the youngest member of the Scully clan. Some quick math told me that Charlie had just turned twelve, and he certainly looked the part. He had the same red hair as all of us; his was cut close to his head, a cut that he insisted upon to mimic his father and older brother, both of whom he greatly admired. His cheeks were covered with freckles, and his blue eyes, so similar to my own, were clouded with sleep. He wore plaid pajama bottoms and a stained grey shirt. My mother continued to buy him new pajama shirts, but he always managed to stain them within the first week, so she eventually gave up.
"What's for breakfast?" he questioned, his words partially muffled by a wide yawn.
"Bacon, toast, and oranges," my mother announced, pointing to the food items spread out across the counter. "You have to eat some of everything."
"Yes, ma'am." Manners had been instilled in all of us early on; our parents were ma'am and sir more often than not, and we addressed most strangers with the same titles of respect. Even though he was twelve and rambunctious, Charlie still had certain manners which kept him relatively in line.
Breakfast was quiet, mainly because I was unsure of what to say and the rest of the family was too tired to say anything. Neither Melissa nor Charlie were morning people; it had always been Bill and I who could wake up at early hours of the morning and immediately feel wide-awake. In fact, this trait was one of the main things which allowed me to complete medical school.
When we finished eating, I disappeared into the room Missy and I shared, quickly finding an outfit from my closet. The clothes seemed strange and foreign, but they fit me well, and as I stared at my reflection in the mirror, I easily recognized my past self. The only problem was that my brain was still living in the present.
Chapter 4 (Mulder)
I awoke with a start to find myself lying on something soft. Glancing around, I quickly realized that I was no longer in the shed though the room appeared just as cluttered. I also realized that Scully was no longer with me; she had a distinctive scent that I could sense from a mile away, and I could not currently smell it.
It did not take me long to recognize my surroundings. I was in my old dorm room at college. The sports posters on the walls and the textbooks stacked haphazardly in the corner of the room were both immediate giveaways. Of course, this recognition was followed immediately by a second thought: Why the hell am I here?
I pushed myself up in bed, rubbing sleep out of my eyes. A glance at the alarm clock beside my bed told me it was just after 6:30 in the morning. I also caught a glimpse of a second figure in a twin-sized bed on the other side of the room. For a moment, I searched for a name before my excellent memory provided one: Brian Jackson. A physics major, spent much of his time in class or doing work. He was not a jock in any sense of the word; in fact, I had always thought he was a bit of a dork (not that I ever told him this). But he and I got along fairly well during the semester we lived together, mostly because we both kept to ourselves.
Standing up, I approached the mirror, running a hand over the stubble which graced my chin. A calendar hung on the wall next to the mirror; it was open to September 1979. With my mind racing, I attempted to remember where I was at that time. It would have been my second year at Oxford. I was likely training for basketball season (which was probably the reason I was up at such an ungodly hour). I was dating Phoebe. . .
Shaking these thoughts from my hand, I glanced at the mirror, not surprised to find my eighteen-going-on-nineteen-year-old self staring back. So it seemed I had somehow traveled through time—or, more precisely, my mind had traveled through time, leaving my fifty-one year old body behind to occupy my much younger one. I could not conceive why it had happened, but I had no doubt that it had. After all, time travel was considerably less strange than other things which had happened to me over the years.
Turning from the mirror, I approached the closet I remembered as mine (the basketball posters on its door were also a dead giveaway). Pulling out a pair of sweatpants and an old t-shirt, I donned these articles of clothing and left for my morning run, knowing that exercise was a sure way to start my mind working so that I could figure out how I had arrived in the present situation.
As I traversed the campus I had not seen in countless years, many of my college memories came flooding back. Looking back, I realized I was rather stupid in college; in fact, I was slightly surprised that I had survived it. Of course, I now had a chance to change everything that had happened. When I had speculated about the difference a single decision could make, I did not expect to actually have a chance to test out my theories, but it seemed that I would have such a chance.
I quickly realized that my eighteen-year-old body was considerably more amenable to exercise than my fifty-one-year-old one had been. I ran hard for forty-five minutes, returning to my dorm slightly winded but without the pain to which I had become accustomed. It was nice to be able to run again without worrying about the effects of aging. I had not been able to run that way for years.
Once I had showered and changed into clean clothes, my roommate was awake, gathering his books for classes that day. With a jolt, I realized that I did not know what my schedule for the day was like. I had no idea what classes I was taking much less what times I had to be there. Luckily, Brian came to my rescue. "You better get going, Mulder, or we're going to be late for math."
"Sure. I'm coming." Grabbing the bag that I recognized as mine even after all these years, I followed him out the door.
The building in which we had math was a large stone structure that I remembered well. It had long, empty hallways which we had discovered were excellent for skateboarding during my freshman year. One of my friends was fairly adept at picking locks (I had actually picked up the skill from him), so we had access to just about every building after hours. This access allowed us to enjoy certain pastimes we could not otherwise enjoy—such as skateboarding down the hallways or filling the offices of various professors with balloons.
When I walked into the classroom, a couple guys waved me over to a small group of seats near the back. Their long legs and muscular frames immediately told me that they were members of the basketball team, and it did not take me long to remember their names once I deduced this fact. Greeting them by name, I took a seat beside the taller one, our starting forward who stood at nearly 6'8" and could dunk without even thinking about it.
As we began to talk, my vision suddenly went black as two warm hands covered my eyes. My knee-jerk reaction was to reach behind me and remove the hands from my eyes in any way possible, but I suppressed this reaction with some difficulty, realizing that at this point in time in my life, not everyone I met was working against me. A familiar voice remarked, "Guess who?"
"Phoebe," I said, turning to face her. Her hands dropped from my eyes, and she took the seat behind me, leaning forward so she could place her arms on the back of my chair. She looked younger than I remembered, but her perceived youthfulness could have something to do with the fact that my mind was still fifty-one years old. She still had the soft brown hair that I remembered, the same brilliant blue eyes, and the same tall, elegant figure . She truly was stunning, and it was no wonder that I had fallen so hard for her while in college. But I was older now—in mind at least—and certainly wiser.
"I missed you last night, pet," she cooed into my ear. One of the things I hated about Phoebe: her insistence on using ridiculous pet names, usually spoken in some tone of voice she believed was sexy or sultry but which usually made her sound like an idiot. And she was certainly not an idiot. Phoebe was one of the smartest women I had met (though Scully easily had her beat). Her only problem was that she used her intelligence to manipulate people. Mostly men like me.
"I had stuff to do," I replied gruffly, turning back to the front of the room to face the teacher who had recently entered.
Phoebe was nothing if not persistent. Turning her head, she let her breath wash across my ear, an action which had likely reduced the insides of plenty of men (including, at one point in time in the distant past, me) to jelly. "Are we on for tonight?" she questioned softly.
"We'll talk about that later," I replied in a tone of voice which I hope conveyed the fact that I wanted the conversation to be over. Luckily, Phoebe seemed to receive the message, for she sat back in her seat. I could almost sense her small satisfied smile, for she believed she had gotten to me once again.
After class, extensive searching of my bag produced a rather crumpled but still readable schedule that informed me that I did not have another class for an hour. "Phoebe, can we talk?" I called to her. She had waited across the small grassy field, likely hoping to hear me affirm that we were on for that night. Of course, not even Phoebe Green always gets what she wants.
"I was thinking we could go off campus for dinner tonight, love," she said as she approached me. "Then we could go back to my room for some. . . recreational activities. My roommate's gone for the weekend."
"Actually, Phoebe, I don't think this is going to work."
"Oh." Her smile faded slightly but returned quickly. "How about tomorrow night then? I know of a good club not too far from here."
"I don't just mean tonight's not going to work. I mean this relationship in general is not going to work."
Sometimes even intelligent people can be rather dense. "I'm breaking up with you."
"Because this isn't what I want." Because I'm in love with someone else. Have been for years, actually. Of course, I did not voice these thoughts aloud, knowing they would only lead to questions that I was not prepared to answer.
"Well, what do you want? Because I can always-"
"No, Phoebe, you can't."
"I don't understand."
"I don't want to date you anymore."
"Good God, are we going to talk in circles all day?"
"I just want a reason, love."
"Because you do that."
"Call me by those stupid pet names. There's your reason."
"That's just a habit. I can always stop."
"Phoebe, just let it go." And with no other option, I simply walked away. I had not expected the break up to be quite so difficult, but in retrospect, I should have known it would not proceed smoothly. Phoebe Green was the type of girl that every guy longed to date. I doubted that anyone had ever broken up with her before.
I half-expected her to follow me, but she seemed to be too shocked to be capable of movement. Walking quickly, I managed to turn the corner before she started moving, and I lost myself in a small crowd of students exiting a nearby building. Turning a second corner, I found myself directly in front of a payphone and began digging through the pockets of my jeans for change. Before I inserted the quarters, however, I remembered the time difference and quickly checked my watch. It was around 2:00 in the morning in California—too early to call. With a sigh, I replaced the coins in my pocket and started off for my dorm room to complete some work before my next class.
Between classes and basketball practice, I did not have a chance to call Scully until nearly 8:00 that night—at which time she was likely already in school. And so I waited until midnight that night to call. I was anxious to call, for I knew that talking to Scully would put everything that had happened in perspective, just as it always did. And so I spent the last hour before I called repeatedly tapping my pencil against the desk, thoroughly annoying my roommate. He finally left after thirty minutes of the constant sound (he had always been nonconfrontational), but instead of stopping, my tapping simply increased in volume.
It was not until I had the phone in my hand and was dialing the operator that I finally relaxed. Scully would pick up; I was sure of this. I was also sure that together, we could puzzle out what had occurred and why. Fortunately, I had heard enough stories of Scully's childhood to recall the name of the base on which her father was stationed at the time, so it did not take long for the operator to connect me. Just after the second ring, I heard a click as someone picked up the phone.
"Hello?" Maggie said. I nearly greeted her by name but stopped myself just in time.
"May I please speak to Dana?" I questioned.
"Can I ask who's calling?"
She seemed satisfied with this answer, for I heard the muffled sound of the phone being placed on a table as she left to find Scully. In another minute, I heard the unmistakable sound of the phone being picked up once more. "Mulder?"
I did not realize until that moment exactly how much I had been looking forward to hearing her voice again. As soon as I heard my name uttered in her voice (which was admittedly slightly different than I remembered but nevertheless recognizable), I felt a sense of peace wash over me. I was okay. "Hey, Scully."
"God, it really is you."
"No, it's the other guy who calls you Scully and himself Mulder."
"I'll talk to him, too, if he can explain what the hell is going on here."
"Now I'm hurt, Scully."
"Mulder, what happened?"
"Well, you haven't lost your one-track mind I see. I think we traveled through time."
I could feel her glare even though thousands of miles separated us. "Thank you for that wonderful hypothesis, Mulder. Do you have any idea how or why?"
I paused for a moment, moving the piece of gum I chewed from one side of my mouth to another. I had thought a lot about those two questions that day, and I still did not have a satisfactory answer. "Maybe we've been given a second chance," I speculated.
"A second chance to do what?"
"Save the world? I mean, we were talking earlier about how one decision could affect the fate of the entire human population. Maybe we're being given a chance to make the right decision this time."
"Let's say I do believe that. Who gave us this chance?"
"God? They say he works in mysterious ways."
"I've never heard of him moving anyone back through time before."
"Are you going to tell anyone other than me what happened?" When Scully was silent, I continued. "Exactly. You'll never tell anyone anything because it will make you sound crazy. So maybe this has happened to someone else, but they didn't tell anyone so they didn't run the risk of sounding crazy."
"Time travel is impossible, Mulder."
"'For nothing is impossible with God'."
"I didn't know you knew the Bible."
"I'm a man of many talents."
"Even if time travel was theoretically possible, actually travelling through time would cause more problems than you can even imagine. The grandfather paradox, for example."
"We won't have to worry about that one Scully since we're already born."
"But what if something we do now changes our lives in the future?"
"I believe that is the point, Scully."
"Whose point, Mulder?"
"Look, this is probably a discussion that is best had in person."
"That's going to be hard to do when you're in England and I'm in California."
"Trust me, I'll find a way." I smiled slightly to myself, knowing Scully would spend hours trying to determine how I would do this. Before she could ask me, I continued, "So how was your day?"
"Not bad. I had forgotten how easy high school was." She paused, and I remained silent, instinctively knowing that she had more to say. Finally, she continued in a voice barely above a whisper. "I missed you."
I understood how hard it had been for her to make that confession. And so I did not make light of the situation, did not make one of my customary jokes. Instead, I simply said, "I missed you, too. More than you can imagine." I was completely serious, and this gravity could be heard clearly in my voice.
"It's a bit sad that we can't go one day without seeing each other," she remarked. It seemed we had switched roles; she was now the one making the jokes. We had both confessed our true feelings, and this was as much as we could reasonably expect. Returning to our traditional light-hearted flirting was only natural.
"Well, my day was not quite that good. College is actually slightly difficult, especially Oxford. I have finished my work for the weekend though. And I also broke up with my girlfriend today."
"Yeah. Phoebe. Short dark hair, green eyes, two small horns on the sides of her head. You might remember her."
Her soft laugh was like music to my ears. "I remember how completely wrapped up in her you were twenty years ago."
"That was twenty years ago. And I was stupid."
"You'll get no argument from me there."
"Thanks for your support."
At that moment, the annoying voice came onto the line telling me that I needed to deposit more change to continue the conversation. Exasperatedly, I dug through my pockets until I found the desired coins and shoved them rather hastily into the slot. I missed slightly on one of them, and the coin bounced to the ground. "Shit," I muttered as I heard the jingle as it landed in some dark corner.
"You okay, Mulder?" Scully questioned.
"Yeah. I just dropped a quarter. That's okay. I've got plenty. I thought this would be a long conversation."
"Isn't it past midnight there?"
"I'm an insomniac, remember?"
"You still need sleep, Mulder."
"What I really need right now is to talk to you."
"Everything? Nothing? I don't really care."
"You know, there is some quantum-mechanical phenomena which seem to allow for travel faster than the speed of light which would effectively allow one to travel to the past. Some particles seem to exchange information instantaneously to maintain correlations. Einstein called this 'spooky action at a distance'."
"See, Scully, I knew you could find the right thing to say to put me to sleep."
"Fine, if you don't want to hear this, I'll just stop talking."
"No, continue. It's vaguely interesting."
"Extremely interesting. Certainly more interesting than anything any of my professors said in class today. Of course, it would be more interesting if I was actually there with you while you were lecturing. I'd like to see you."
"No, you wouldn't. I was rather awkward at sixteen. Or rather, I am very awkward at sixteen."
"You were beautiful."
"You don't know that."
"I've seen pictures."
"Pictures don't tell the whole story."
"They tell a thousand words' worth, and that's enough for me."
We talked for the next hour, usually about nothing in particular though sometimes Scully would bring up some interesting fact she knew about time travel and we would debate the point for awhile. Of course, I should have expected her interest in this phenomenon; after all, she was a physics major.
Eventually, my quarters ran out, and I was forced to say goodbye to Scully. I returned to my room in a considerably better mood than I had left it in. My roommate was already snoring loudly in his bed, but I did not mind the noise. After sleeping for so many years with the television on, snoring did not bother me. Once I pulled off my clothes, I slipped into bed in my boxers, ready for a relatively restful night of sleep after which I could hopefully figure out what had happened.
Chapter 5 (Scully)
I heard from Mulder twice more over the next week, but we unfortunately did not come any closer to figuring out what had happened to us. I was slowly adjusting to being sixteen again, but the adjustment was taking a good deal more time than I had initially expected. It had taken me some time to remember my friends' names on the first day since I had not seen them in so long, and all the gossip was completely foreign to me. It did not help that I had been fairly isolated over the last few years with mostly Mulder for company. And while I did not mind having only Mulder for company for extended periods of time, he had a unique personality that made talking to him very different from speaking to anyone else.
On Thursday, I was gathering a couple of books from my locker for my first two classes. For once, my friends had not accosted me as soon as I entered the building, so I was free to lose myself in my own thoughts instead of searching through my mind for the identity of people they described. Because I was concentrated on puzzling out how we could have traveled through time, I was not paying much attention to my surroundings. As I closed my locker, I heard a voice which startled me more than anything had all week.
"You look very pensive there, Scully," Mulder remarked. I turned to face him fully, knowing that my mouth was hanging open in an unattractive manner. But I was too surprised to have the presence of mind to close it immediately, so I spent a few moments with my jaw dropped.
"Mulder, what are you doing here?" I questioned once I had regained full control of my mouth.
"I came to see you," he said, shrugging. As he executed this simple action, I allowed my eyes to travel his body. He certainly looked younger; his soft, brown hair had no hint of grey, and his face was smooth. He still had an impressive array of muscles though this seemed only natural given the amount of time he spent exercising. His movements now were more graceful and smooth, reminding me more of how he looked when we first met so long ago. I wondered briefly why he had not had more relationships in his life; after all, he looked like the man every girl dreamed of dating.
"Why?" I finally asked, bringing my eyes back to his familiar green ones. Though he may have been younger, his eyes remained the same.
"I told you that we needed to talk about what happened in person."
"I didn't realize that meant you were going to fly across the world."
"Did you not want me here?"
"Of course not. I'm just surprised. Don't you have school and basketball?"
"I told coach that I was going to take a couple days off practice for personal reasons. Since our season doesn't technically start for another month, he let me go. As for school, I've worked my way ahead, so I can take off for a couple days without getting behind. Anyway, neither of those things is important right now. We need to figure out what happened to us and why."
I nodded in agreement, still amazed to see him standing there. As I stared at him, I heard the sound of the bell ringing, indicating that I had two minutes to reach my first class. But my legs did not seem to want to move, so I remained rooted to the spot, my eyes still locked on him. As we stood there, his head cocked to one side. "I never did give you a proper greeting, did I?" And before I knew it, his lips were on mine, and his tongue was exploring my mouth. Suddenly, it did not matter that we had traveled thirty-three years into the past. We were still Scully and Mulder, and we were still together. Age made no difference.
We finally broke apart to the ringing of the second bell. The hallways were empty by that time, and Mulder glanced around with a smile. "Did I break your perfect attendance record?" he questioned, turning back to me.
My euphoria over seeing him again put me in an unusually playful mood. "Actually, Jimmy Kirk broke it last week," I informed him.
"Really?" His eyebrows arched as a lazy smile spread over his face. "Well, I'll just have to work on making you the latest to class. Or maybe I should just ensure that that you miss your class entirely." He started to lean forward again, but I stopped him with a firm hand on his chest.
"I do need to get to class, Mulder."
"I thought you said high school was easy."
"I'd still like to graduate. And unfortunately, that requires going to class."
"Missing one class won't kill you."
"I have a test today."
"That's what make-ups are for."
"I'll see you later, Mulder. Then we can talk."
"Fine, Scully. Break my heart." His wide grin told me that he was not serious; in fact, he rarely was. I shook my head at him as I turned and walked away, ignoring the overly dramatic pleas for me to return.
An hour later, I walked out of the classroom considerably sleepier but no more well-informed about biology. A couple of my friends walked beside me, chatting about the most recent break-ups, and I gave the occasional nod to show I was listening. As I walked through the doorway, I heard Mulder's voice again. "Boo!"
I jumped; I admit it. Even though I should have expected him to be waiting for me when I left the classroom, the sudden noise still startled me. "Mulder, I thought I told you that I have classes."
"Spoilsport. Come on, Scully, it'll be fun. I promise."
"People will notice if I'm gone, Mulder."
"So I need to be here so no one becomes suspicious. My mother and sister already think I'm acting strangely; if I start skipping class, they'll know something's up."
"You're a teenager, Scully. They should expect that something's always up. Now, come on, let's live a little."
"Mulder, I don't know if you know the real definition of living a little. Your idea of fun is visiting sites of supposed alien abductions."
"Which reminds me, there's a place only about an hour or so from here with three different people who claim to have been abducted."
"But maybe they can tell us something to stop the invasion."
"The invasion doesn't occur for thirty-three years, Mulder."
"But they're already planning it. They're working on the vaccine as we speak."
"How do you propose we stop them?"
"I don't know, but maybe this is the reason we're here."
"Look, Mulder, I think this is best discussed later. Right now, I have class."
"Fine, Ms. Goody-Two-Shoes, go to class. I'll see you at later."
I had to admit, he was true to his word. I walked out of the classroom to find him once more waiting for me. This time, he held a book in his hands entitled Human Psychology. With eyebrows raised, I approached the corner where he sat, wedged between two sections of lockers. "Are you just going to follow me to all my classes for the rest of the day and wait there until I come out?" I questioned.
"Possibly. But I am getting work done." He indicated the open book which looked to be halfway finished. "There's an interesting section in here on belief in supernatural phenomena. Evidently, this is evidence that I 'feel inadequate and thus need to believe in something beyond myself'."
"Well, do you?"
"Do I what?"
"Only at the shooting range with you."
Before we could continue the conversation, a voice behind me remarked, "So, Dana, are you going to introduce us to your friend?"
I turned to face Kristen who had been one of my best friends through high school. She was a couple years older than me, but since I was ahead in school, we were in the same grade. Her father was also in the navy, stationed at the same base that my father was, so we had common ground on which we could relate. For the most part, she was down-to-earth; for this reason, we got along fairly well. She had wanted to pursue a career in journalism, so we had ended up at very different colleges. Though we had attempted to keep in touch through college, fate had different plans, and I did not see her again after leaving high school.
"Right. Kristen, this is Fox Mulder, but he goes by Mulder. Mulder, this is Kristen."
"You never told me you were dating anyone," Kristen remarked, viewing Mulder with suspicion as if afraid that he had somehow tricked me.
"It's a relatively. . . recent occurrence," I lied. Only if you consider twenty years recent. Or rather, thirteen, since you spent the first seven acting rather idiotic. And then those other two were wasted. . .
I forced my mind to stop musing before it went too far off track. Kristin had seemed to accept that Mulder was not a mad-axe murderer, and she extended a hand which he accepted. As his hand slid from hers, he turned back to me. "So, is it lunchtime now? I'm starving."
"You know you could have gone to eat somewhere anytime. There's plenty of fast food places around," I pointed out.
"I could have, but I would much rather eat with you." His green eyes sparkled as he looked at her, and she shook her head at him. His only response was to place his hand on the small of her back as she led the way to the cafeteria. No matter where or when they were, some things never changed.