So, until last week, the site hadn't bothered to inform me I had reviews on this old prologue! To answer some questions, the fic as a whole *is* being worked on (along with like, a dozen others) but currently exists mostly as random scenes that are yet to be joined together. I wanted to say thanks for the reviews, so here is chapter one!

Mulder's eyes flickered open, squinting at the harsh strip lights overhead. He tried to move but his joints and muscles ached and instead he found himself just groaning.


He turned his head just enough to see where the voice had come from. Skinner was sat on a plastic chair beside his bed, a folded newspaper on his lap. He looked tired and drawn as if he hadn't slept for several nights.

"Sir? Where am I? What happened?"

Mulder tried to sit up but Skinner was instantly on his feet, pressing a hand to Mulder's shoulder to prevent the movement.

"Easy Mulder. Don't try to move yet."

"Where's Scully? Is she OK?"

Something flickered across Skinner's face but whatever it was disappeared in an instant.

"She's fine."

"Where is she?" Mulder felt a stab of hurt when he realised she wasn't at his bedside. Scully was always there when he woke up in a hospital, just as he was always there for her when the tables were turned. If she wasn't there then something must be seriously wrong.

"I'm trying to find her."

Mulder was about to question Skinner further when a nurse bustled into the room.

"Mr Mulder! It's good to see you awake at last. I'll page Dr Sheppard immediately, he's going to want to take a look at you." Skinner stepped back as she grabbed a cart from the corner and came to stand beside Mulder's bed. "I just need to check your blood pressure and heart rate, is that OK?" Mulder nodded and she worked quickly, wrapping the cuff around his arm and pinching the tip of his finger with the heart rate monitor. The cuff tightened painfully but after a few seconds it released and she removed both it and the monitor.

"Am I OK doc?" Mulder asked lightly.

"Healthy as a horse according to these," she smiled. "I'll send Dr Sheppard over as soon as possible." Pushing the cart back to the corner, she left as hurriedly as she had arrived. Mulder's attention instantly switched back to Skinner. He felt more lucid now and his mind was racing, trying in vain to fit the pieces together.

"What do you mean you're trying to find Scully? Is she missing?"

"Not as such, I just haven't seen her for a while now."

"What do you mean? You saw her the other day."

Skinner's face contorted into a frown. He sat back down on his chair and pulled it closer to Mulder's bedside.

"Mulder, what's the last thing you remember?"

"We were in the woods in Oregon, just you and me. There'd been reports that there was a UFO out there so we went looking for it. Scully stayed in DC because they were taking abductees." He stopped because Skinner's face had slowly changed. If he hadn't known better he'd have thought the older man was about to cry. "Sir?" he asked.

"That's the last thing you remember?" Skinner pressed. Mulder concentrated hard but nothing more came to him.

"Yes. I think, I think maybe there was a light, a very bright light." He paused again and looked at Skinner's face, suddenly nervous. "Sir, how long have I been in this hospital bed?"

"In this bed? Three days."

Mulder sensed that Skinner was holding back, so he kept prodding.

"How did I get here?"

"Nobody knows. Nobody remembers you arriving and there's no record of your admission."

"So that's where Scully is? She's investigating how I got here?"

"No, she doesn't know you're here."

"What? Sir, please, just, cut the crap. What's going on? Where's my partner? What's happened since we were in that forest?"

Skinner snorted.

"A lot's happened since then Agent Mulder. Honestly I'm not sure how much to tell you until you've been seen by a doctor."

Mulder felt panic started to rise in his chest. The pieces were falling together and he didn't like the shape they were forming.

"Sir, when you said I'd been in this bed for three days, how much time elapsed between us being in that forest and me appearing in this bed?"

Skinner actually sniffed and Mulder thought he saw his eyes glisten. He stared at the other man, noticing things he hadn't before. The slight graying of the hair where his stubble was poking through. Too many wrinkles at the corners of his eyes and mouth.

"Sir, I have to know!"

Skinner met his eyes and took a deep breath.

"Almost sixteen years."