Title: Itinerant Stasis
Author: J. T. Filipek (jodiefil@hotmail.com)
Rating: PG (for language)
Classification: MSR, A
Keywords: MSR
Summary: (donít have one yet)
Spoilers: Lots and lots of spoilers.  Too numerous to mention
Disclaimer:  You know the drill.  They belong to CC, 1013 Productions and Fox Television.  Not mine, but Iím glad I get to play with them.  This is better than the action figures.  Also, Iíve used fragments of a lot of songs I donít own either.  And, of course, Iíve used Davidís poem, which I also have no claim on, other than loving it.  It appeared in the January 1998 issue of Movieline Magazine.
Post: Anywhere as long as itís complete and my name is on it.  (It would be nice if you'd let me know.
Comments: Will do almost anything for feedback.  Please.  It's how I feed my children. 

ITINERANT STASIS

By J. T. Filipek

Clichť Juice

Home is where the heart is and my heart is out traveling. Up into the wild blue yonder; wingless, prayerful that this miracle of flight will not end, just yet. Also at home with you, on the ground wherever you might be at the moment, grounded like a highschooler; like a wire, a bird and a wire, feet on the ground and my heart is in my throat now, now in my feet, lawfully descending with gravity to the lower; lowest, most sought after most beautifully bound, home. Aspirations involve reparations. We reach for the stars wondering what we are. But my Reason has been found by finding you and looking down. And it is there, not in the stars of fantasized worlds, fifth dimensions, sixth senses, holy parallel potentates of potentialities--that my feet will trace their slow as history itself dance; a walking calligraphy so subtle that it will take 40 years and more and a view from above with an impersonal remove and lofty attachment I hope to barely fail at that mythical two-backed beast; itinerant stasis; like the one I enjoy up here in the well attended air; to read the cursive strokes of my aggregate footsteps, like some fairy tale dissolve, "Once upon a time" or twice written upon our little page of earth, ground, wherever our home may be will be wherever we happen to be.

--David Duchovny

(published in Movieline Magazine, June 1998)

BOOK I

Chapter One

Chicago O'Hare Airport

12:12 a.m.

I've got sixteen minutes to get from Gate 33B to 17E. I've always hated O'Hare. Of all the airports in all the cities we've been to, I have the worst luck in Chicago. I don't know how many times I've found myself running through this airport, trailing after Mulder on my eight-inch shorter legs hoping that we'd make our connecting flight. Mulder usually phones ahead for them to hold the departure of the next flight. FBI sanction makes all the difference in the world. I didn't think to use it this time.

Gallup to Dallas, Dallas to Chicago, Chicago to DC. That was the best I could do for connections. And believe me, I chewed enough customer service ass to get that. Now I'm running down this endless corridor toward the hub of the airport, knowing that I'll have to run back down another corridor even further. I see an airport security officer ahead and race toward him.

"Scully." I'm having some trouble breathing. "FBI." I flash my badge and ID, grateful for a moment to catch my breath. "The flight from Gate 17E, the one to Dulles. I need you to delay it until I get there. This is an emergency and I need to get back to Washington as quickly as possible."

He checks my ID carefully and pulls out his radio. "Command center, this is Snowden. We need the plane at Gate 17E delayed, per emergency request of FBI Special Agent..." He pauses a moment and looks back at my ID. "Dana Scully. Badge number JTT03316613. Please have the plane wait at the gate until Agent Scully boards."

The radio squawks back in a voice barely recognizable as human. I wonder vaguely why they haven't made more improvements in sound in hand-held radios. "Who can we confirm that with?" the voice on the radio asks.

"Assistant Director Walter Skinner." I reply. "Please hold the plane while you confirm."

After what seems an endless amount of time, although it probably isn't more than three or four minutes, the voice returns. "Flight 233 at Gate 17E is being held for Agent Scully. Snowden, please have her proceed to the gate as quickly as possible."

I murmur my thanks to Officer Snowden and head down the corridor at a brisk pace toward 17E. I reach the gate eight minutes later to find an airline employee standing at the closed door to the ramp onto the plane. My badge and ID still in my hand, I bring it before the man's face and he lets me in without a word.

My footsteps echo hollowly as I take long steps down the slight decline of the ramp. The air is warm and humid compared to the air-conditioning in the terminal and smells of jet fuel from the outside. A flight attendant waits for me and takes my ticket, directing me to seat 14C. I move down the aisle holding my briefcase ahead of me, conscious of the looks I'm getting from the other passengers, resentful at the delay of their flight. This is the last-call Chicago-DC redeye, and these people are anxious to get to their destination. I fight back the urge to glare back, or maybe I'm too tired to expend the effort. Tired, worried, terrified--take your pick.

Mercifully, seat 14D is vacant. Although redeye flights are notoriously quiet, I don't think I can stand the idea of someone in the seat next to me trying to make small talk. I sit down, stowing my briefcase under the seat in front of me. As I buckle in, I wonder briefly how many redeye flights I've taken over the past seven years. Dozens? Hundreds? And till now, every one of them has been with Mulder. When I fly by myself, I usually go during the day. Mulder prefers night flights.

We have a rule about night flights. Not anything that's ever been spoken really, just something we've always done. We generally don't talk to one another the entire flight, unless one of us has some brilliant insight into the case we're working on. I usually use the time for reading or catching up on file notes. I'm not very good at sleeping on planes. I've never been a good flyer. Sometimes Mulder will read, too, or listen to music on his Walkman. Or sometimes we'll both just sit there, not doing anything, with one or the other of us occasionally brushing against the other's shoulder. An acknowledgement, a reminder. Lots of times, though, Mulder just sleeps. Airplanes seem to be one of the few places in which he can actually get some sound sleep.

I remember the last redeye we took, while we were still working on the fertilizer cases. The one we worked on right after I came back after I got shot in New York. The flight was a non-stop from Billings to Chicago--two-and-a-half hours. We settled in and Mulder pressed earphones into his ears immediately and burrowed under the blanket he'd removed from the overhead compartment before sitting down. He was so frustrated and angry at where we were and what we were doing, it just rolled off him in waves. Hell, we both were frustrated. But I think it was worse for Mulder. I could tell by looking at him that he was sleeping even less than usual, so I was glad he was taking the opportunity to get some rest.

He slept for a while curled on his side, his back to me. He turned suddenly with a brief, soft snore, lying back in the chair and stretching his feet into the aisle. His movements took me away from the book I was reading and I turned just to check on him. His mouth was slack with relaxation and the worry lines that so often creased his forehead smoothed out. It made me sad to think how infrequently I saw him without the lines anymore.

At rest, he looked much the same as he did when I first met him, when we first started working together. That flight to Oregon, when we hit that pocket of turbulence. Gripping my armrests so tight my hands were sore the next day, everyone around me murmuring and whispering. And I look over and he's got himself bent into two seats, Walkman plugged in, smiling like some kind of mysterious Buddha. It was his best "Spooky Mulder" imitation--my first encounter with Mr. "You've Never Seen Me Panic," although I didn't know it at the time. I was too busy wanting to strangle him with his Walkman cord and too scared to let go long enough to try it. We both were so young then, although neither of us really was.

The blanket slipped off his shoulder and I automatically reached up to tuck it back in, knocking the earphone out of the ear nearest to me. I could hear sounds coming from it, and I wondered what he was listening to. Reaching over, I gently plucked the earphone from where it had fallen just below his shoulder and tucked it into my right ear. I had to lean toward him a bit for it to reach me, and the armrest between us bit into my ribs. What I heard surprised me. Mulder is a classic rock guy, with occasional forays into progressive jazz or, interestingly enough, big band. The music he was listening to was strange, something I'd never heard before. A breathy, flute-like instrument with a piano background--the piano sometimes laying soft disharmonic chords behind the flute, sometimes acting as a melodic percussion, sometimes playing strange counter-melodies. I listened as one song blended into the next with barely a break between them, quiet and soothing in its very discord, mesmerizing. I felt myself drifting...

It barely registered in my sleep-clogged brain when Mulder raised the armrest between us. I felt him shift and push some of the blanket toward me, and I huddled into it. I'd left the overhead vent on because I don't breathe well on planes, and it was making me cold. The music was still playing and, between it and the warmth of the blanket, I was lulled back into a doze. He was warm, too, as we sat, arms and legs barely touching. My eyes closed, I sensed the movement milliseconds before I felt his fingers on mine, where they rested just above my knee. He ran the tips of his first two fingers in light concentric circles around my knuckles, then threaded them through the first two fingers of my hand. I squeezed his fingers lightly, glad for the reconnect. One of so many disconnects and reconnects we've gone through since last summer.

I woke with a start when they turned the cabin lights on. I turned to see Mulder blinking slowly from sleep. Our fingers were still laced together and I was suddenly self-conscious. He sensed my discomfort, I think, because he gave my fingers a quick squeeze before pulling his hand away. A slow, drowsy smile crossed his face and I smiled back as he tugged on the cord, pulling the earphone from my ear.

We had an hour and a half before our connecting flight to Washington and Mulder volunteered to go get us coffee. I stood at the east facing windows and watched as the sky started to lighten with the rising sun. He came up beside me and handed me my cup and we both sipped in silence, watching the sky go from turquoise to rose to gold.

"What were we listening to?" I finally asked.

"It's called *Migration* by Peter Kater and R. Carlos Nakai. Kater is the pianist and Nakai plays the Native American flute. He's a Navajo-Ute." His voice still held a trace of sleepiness, and he fought a losing battle with a yawn.

"Not exactly what I'd expect from you."

"Always keep 'em guessing," he said with a smile. "Actually, I got it from Frohike. One day he gives me this big stack of CDs and says he thinks New Age music is being produced by the government using sound as an opiate and sending subliminal messages. He hands me five or six that he thinks are the worst and asks me to listen to them and tell him what I think. I listened to all of them--synthesizers, space music, all that happy crappy. I told him he was full of shit when I gave 'em back to him. No subliminals, just hour after hour of excruciating boredom. But I kept that one. I just liked it for some reason."

"Me too." We both lapsed back into silence. I thought about the music. It wasn't something I'd ordinarily be drawn to either. It was definitely more Melissa's style than mine. In fact, last time I went to see Mom, I found some of Melissa's CDs and she had solo CDs by both Nakai and Kater. But not that one. I haven't heard it since that night on the plane with Mulder.

God, what the hell happened to Mulder? Gunshot wound? Sick? Fire? I send off a quick prayer that it wasn't fire.

One more time, I mentally kick my own ass for leaving him. What could I possibly have been thinking? Set up an MRI and send him home to bed as if that was what he'd do? I know Mulder better than that. And I let him drive in that condition. Good one, Dana. The artifacts were so important to him, but I should have stayed. He sounded awful when I talked to him on the phone this morning. When she answered the phone.

The idea of Diana being there doesn't make me nearly as angry as it makes me afraid for him. A hundred different scenarios play in my mind and she is directly responsible in 98 of them and an accessory in the other two. Mulder refuses to see what I know about her and he trusts her. No, that's not true. He trusts me. But he doesn't distrust her and I know that he should. I just know it. And it scares me.

I could hear the pain as soon as he started talking. Lord knows, after everything we've been through, I know what he sounds like when he's hurting. And still I had to argue with him. Except it wasn't much of an argument from his side. He just sounded sick and in pain.

Why didn't I start getting home then? What the hell did staying accomplish?

What could have happened to him? Why didn't Skinner tell me? Did I even give him a chance to?

If anything happens to him and I find out she was responsible, she better hope aliens exist and they have extra room on their ship. Because off planet is the only place she'll be safe from me.

++++++

Mulder's Apartment

15 hours earlier

Hurts. Why won't she give me something for the pain? She always wants to give me something for the pain. Hurts. Making me sick.

Where am I? Bed, it's my bed. How? Called Scully. Hurt. Said she'd be right there. Scully can fix this. Why won't she fix this? How did she get me here? Maybe one of the guys. There was a man...

The sound. Way too loud. Sounds like a cartoon ray gun. No, phone. Afraid to open my eyes. Hurts. Hear Scully come into the room. The whispers start again.

What?

"Hello?"

Glad Scully got the phone. Stopped the ringing. Look up. She's standing in front of the light. Can't see her face. Tall. Look how tall. Making me dizzy. Could puke from this.

"Just a moment."

Scully hands me the phone. Don't want to talk. Must be important. Scully wouldn't make me talk. "Hello?"

"Mulder, where are you?"

Scully is on the phone. Scully gave me the phone. "I'm here. I'm resting." She's here, too. Why is she calling to ask me this?

"Where? Who answered the phone?"

I can hear her worry. "I'm home. It's okay." She sounds so far away. "Where are you?"

"I'm in New Mexico with Dr. Sandoz."

New Mexico? Now I'm starting to remember. She left to find out about the artifacts. She's where I would be if I could. She went for me. "Does he have the artifact?"

"Mulder, this artifact. If I'm to believe what I'm hearing about it..."

I know that tone of voice. She's gonna tell me something. I'm gonna think it's one thing, she's going to say it's something else. "What?"

"It has a passage on it from Genesis."

I'm awake now, the headache alternately fading and flaring. "Scully, that artifact is extraterrestrial."

"Mulder, it can't be." Her voice is quiet, but firm.

But I act like I don't hear her. "Do you know what that would mean?" I try to think clearly, but the pain starts to edge back.

"No. It would mean nothing, Mulder."

"No," I answer back. "It would mean that our progenitors were alien. That our genesis was alien. That we're here because of them. That they put us here." I try to sit up, but a wave of nausea hits me.

"Mulder, that is science fiction. It doesn't hold a drop of water."

Why doesn't she understand? Starting to hurt bad again. "Don't you see? All the mysteries of science, everything we can't understand or won't explain. Every human behaviorism--cosmology, psychology. Everything in the X-Files. It all owes to them, it's from them."

"Mulder, I will not accept that. It's just not possible."

Of course she can't accept it. She's not supposed to. Hurts. Don't want her to. "Well then, you go ahead and prove me wrong, Scully." I wanted it to sound like a challenge. Even to my own ears, it sounds like a whine. She hangs up. She knows what to do. I want her to. Prove me wrong, Scully. I want an explanation for how I feel, for what I hear. For the voices. An explanation or a bullet in the head. Either one would do.

I look up as Diana takes the phone. Diana? How did she...? Can't think about it now. Hurts. And I'm so tired. Won't hurt so much if I'm asleep. It's just Diana.

The voice fades in and out. <...artifact/...called/...distress/...find out>

I'm just dropping off to sleep when I hear the door close.

Raise my head. Don't want to. Christ, it HURTS! Why won't Scully fix this? New Mexico. Proving me wrong.

Diana is here again. What the fuck is she doing? Bra and panties. Pulling back the comforter. "Diana, don't."

"Fox, I can make you feel better if you'll let me." Her mouth moves. Can even hear her hear her a little. Like she's underwater. She puts a knee on the bed, as if to crawl towards me.

"Stop it. Just get out." Can't look at her, can hardly see. Hurts.

"You never used to say that." Edgy, tense. What's wrong with her?

"Things change." Can't stand to speak. No room in my head for my voice and the other.

Sit up against the pillows. She is smiling. But her eyes. Her eyes. Hurts. Hurts. Swallow. Can't puke. Her eyes.

want/carl/pissed/gotta/do/this/he's/sick/how/much/can/he/fight/back>

"I told you that night in your apartment how I feel." Stomach is churning. I'm gonna lose it. Her eyes are strange.

"Scully again. Well she's not here, Fox, and I am."

Her eyes. Everything is there. Thoughts she doesn't even know she has. Everything is there. Everything. The lies, the deceit, the betrayal.

It was all a lie. All of it. Hurts. God, it hurts! Her, too. Even she betrayed. Everybody. Except Scully. Never Scully.

My hands are fists. Her eyes. Her eyes look back. Hate her. Hate this bitch. She backs away, off the bed.

"Yes." I answer.

She looks at me curiously as her hand reaches toward the nightstand. Needle on the table.

"Yes."

She lunges forward. Lands on me knocking the breath from my lungs. Needle is ready, aiming for any part of me she can get. Free my arm, grab her wrist and squeeze. She drops the needle. Reaches beneath the pillow.

Stun gun. I barely finish the thought when I feel it pressed against my ribs. Brief flash of fire against my skin and the air whooshes from my lungs again. Muscles stiffen. Hurts. Hurts. Muscles slacken and I fall back against the pillows.

Diana retrieves the needle. She holds it up and taps the side a few times. Pressing the plunger, she expels a few drops of liquid. "I didn't want to do it this way, Fox. Really, it was never against you personally. This won't hurt you. You won't even remember it in the morning."

"Quit looking at me that way," she says. "You know what the stakes are here. When this is all over the winners are going to be the ones still standing and I'm going to be one of them. Everyone betrays. Everyone has a price, Fox. Even you."

"Not Scully." The words are thick and slurry.

"Not Scully." She gives a bitter, caustic chuckle. "Not the precious Saint Scully. Who knows? Maybe not. Whatever. I don't even care. I just want to talk about the artifact." She plunges the needle into my arm.

And the world goes red.

+++++

Chapter Two

Georgetown Memorial Hospital

3:18 a.m.

I feel strangely self-conscious as I enter the sliding doors of Georgetown Memorial, as if the staff of every hospital in DC knows who I am. Between Mulder and me, we've hit about every major medical facility in the immediate area. I go to the information desk, expecting to hear that Mulder is on the fourth floor, where the ICU is, or the sixth floor, the post-surgical floor. I ask the woman behind the desk to repeat it when she tells me he's on two, the special psychiatric unit. It's a short-term unit for evaluating patients for referrals to other psychiatric facilities.

I exit the elevator on two and head down the corridor to where I see Skinner rising to his feet. Not exactly exuberant in the best of times, he looks especially grim as I approach. His expression frightens me.

"They just told me he's in the special psychiatric unit." My tone is accusatory, even to my own ears.

"I told you on the phone..."

"No," I interrupt. "You said there was bad news. You didn't say what was wrong." I realize I'm starting to cause a scene in the hallway. "Look, I'm sorry. It just took me three flights to get here."

He looks uncomfortable, hesitant. "I don't know what else to do, Dana, and no one else does either. I knew you'd want to be here to see him, to talk to the doctors."

Dana? He called me Dana. My stomach contracts when he takes my hand in his. The gesture startles me so much, I barely notice that he's pressed a wad of paper into my hand. I place it in my pocket automatically, still trying to read his expression. "What? What is it?"

He propels me toward an open door. I stand in the doorway facing a wall of monitors. She's in the room, watching the monitors, too. Diana. I feel my teeth clench and the muscles in my shoulders tighten. Rage, like a compact ball of fire in my abdomen, flares up and I almost say something but...

My eyes are drawn to one of the monitors. Oh God, it's him. Mulder pacing in a small barren cell. He clutches his head as if in agony and cries and walks and walks. A lump forms in my throat, and I blink fast against the hot tears that spring to my eyes. Oh God, how can this be?

"Thank you for coming. He was asking for you last night." Diana's voice, beside and behind me.

I have the edge of the counter in a death grip to keep from striking out at her. Thank you for coming, like she's hosting a fucking reception or something. As if I wouldn't come. I think I'd hurt her bad for that if I could just look away from the screen. He screams and I can feel it tearing at my gut. What have they done to him?

A voice from behind me makes me turn around. "You really shouldn't be here." Mulder's doctor?

I look back and forth between the doctor and the monitor. "What's wrong with him? This man right here, Fox Mulder?" I need to look at the doctor, need to see him, but I can barely look away from the stark images on the screen.

He shakes his head in puzzlement. "I'm not sure what's wrong with him and we don't know what to do for him." He sighs. "He's got extremely abnormal brain function, but there's no sign of stroke. We're waiting to run more tests."

My relief at hearing that there are no signs of stroke is short lived. They're waiting. Why are they waiting? "Waiting for what?"

"He's extremely violent. With what we've given him, he should be in a barbiturate coma. But there's brain activity in areas we've never seen before."

"I want to talk to him."

"No, he is a danger to anyone." The doctor is emphatic.

"Not to me." I am just as emphatic.

Fowley interrupts us. "Can we speak in the hall?"

It takes everything I've got not to scream what I know at her. But I know better. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. "About what?" My teeth are clenched together so tightly my jaw hurts.

"Agent Scully?" Skinner says, a quiet warning. I look at him and see the expression that even makes Mulder quake sometimes. He's ordering me into the hall. I look away, angry, and turn toward the door.

"SCULLY!"

The tone of his voice tears at my soul. He calls my name and I turn back to the monitor. I see him walking toward the camera, his gait flat-footed and unsteady. His hand loosely covers his mouth, fingertips grazing his lips. He comes as close as possible, his face filling the screen. I feel him looking into my eyes. He knows I'm here. I feel him looking at me. It's almost like there's nothing between us. His eyes. If I could just talk to him, just for a minute. I'm going to get you out of this, Mulder. Just hang on.

Turning away, I blink back another onrush of tears. Not here. They don't get my tears, and tears now won't do him any good. I hear Diana asking me questions, and I answer briefly, saying almost nothing. I wish she'd shut up. I need to think about what the doctor said. None of this makes any sense. I need more information.

I hear Skinner's voice. "The case has nothing to do with what's happened to him."

How did this happen? I don't understand the progression. When I spoke with him this morning--when she answered the phone--I could hear pain in his voice, but he was calm and lucid. How did he get here? When did he get here?

"Agent Scully says it does. Now you know my background, my previous work with the X-Files. If I can be of help in this case...?"

If she can be of help. Surely she must be joking. Is she being purposefully obtuse? Can she possibly believe that I'd think she could be of help in this?

Skinner speaks again, and I have the sudden feeling of them having a conversation around me. "The X-File here is a fraud. Agent Scully has ample proof of that. Evidence authenticated by a scholar and authority."

Alarms go off in my head. "I never sent you that report." Skinner won't meet my eye.

"Anyway," he continues, finally looking at me. "The case has been resolved." I try to read his expression, unsure what it is I'm seeing. I want to push away the suspicions that are forming, but I can't.

Diana speaks again. "Not as far as it affects Agent Mulder." She looks at me and I look back without hesitation. "If you know what's going on here, why won't you tell me?"

Did her chin quiver slightly?

"Why were you with him last night?" She's the part in all of this that doesn't make sense to me.

"He called me," she replies. Her voice is steady. But there's something about her eyes. "I found him in a university stairwell. He could barely speak. He said I was the only one who'd believe him. About an artifact."

No, that's wrong. He'd have called me, or even the guys. I know it with absolute certainty. Her eyes. She's fishing. She doesn't know.

"You're a liar," I reply evenly.

"Scully." Skinner's voice has an edge I've never heard. Why is he siding with her?

And suddenly I think I know. I understand how Skinner knows about our conversation with Chuck in the basement office. "You're both liars." And I walk away, stinging from Skinner's betrayal. Diana I expected. Skinner came out of nowhere and I don't know if I'm more sad or scared.

I turn the corner toward the elevators, and see Mulder's doctor coming toward me. "Dr..." I look down at his identification badge. "Buchanan. Please, can I have a minute?"

He looks distinctly uncomfortable, but nods. "Who are you?"

I fight a ridiculous urge to show him my badge. "I'm Dana Scully, Mr. Mulder's partner."

"You're with the FBI, too?""

I nod. "What happened here?"

"He was admitted yesterday at about eleven in an extremely agitated state, brought in by EMTs. Ms. Fowley said he hadn't been feeling well and suddenly became violent. So much so that she had to lock herself in the bathroom and call for assistance. We were able--with a great deal of difficulty--to get some blood, enough for a tox screen and chem twenty. That was before he broke an orderly's collarbone. We tried to sedate him, nothing worked. We were forced to isolate him."

He was admitted around eleven. I do some quick calculations, adjusting for the time difference, and realize he was admitted less than ninety minutes after I spoke with him. What happened in that time? "May I see the results of the blood work?"

He shakes his head in indignation. "Of course not." He looks at me as if I'm insane.

"I'm a doctor."

"Then you know the rules about patient confidentiality. Now Ms. Scully..."

He's cutting me off. "Wait, can't I see him, just for a few minutes?"

"Absolutely not. You've seen the state he's in."

I fight to keep the desperation out of my voice. "He won't hurt me. He won't, and maybe I can help here."

"Look Ms., I mean Dr. Scully. I'm not willing to take on that liability, either for me or for the hospital. Maybe when he's calmer."

"Please? I'll sign a waiver, whatever you want."

"No." His tone is adamant. "It's too dangerous. The orderly who was hurt was lucky Mr. Mulder connected with his collarbone and not his head. It's out of the question, I'm sorry. Now, I really need to get back to my other patients." He walks away, not giving me a chance to speak again.

+++++

Scully was here. I heard Scully here. Scully was in that room with them. With Skinner and her, the traitor. I can feel Scully looking at me. Scully is worried and scared. I'm worried and scared for Scully. Too many voices, trying to keep me from hearing Scully. *I'm going to get you out of this, Mulder. Just hang on.* Scully will get me out of this. Scully knows about them. Help me, Scully, help me. Help me stop the voices. I'm tired. I'm so tired. Head hurts. Scully, get me out of here.

+++++

I want to see Mulder again, need to. I head back toward the monitor room in time to see Skinner lead Fowley away and around the corner to another corridor. Quickly I make my way into the room and shut the door behind me. In stark black and white, I watch him pacing the small room and hear his cries, his throat hoarse with many hours of strain. His back to me, he stops suddenly and drops his hands from his head. He turns and walks, sure-footed, toward the camera.

"I know you're taping this. Every word I say. Stop watching me all the time!"

A warning, a message for me? Like before, he moves close, his face filling the screen. Again, I get the feeling that he knows I'm here and he smiles. His eyes. I can see into them and there is no trace of madness. I can see into him and can almost feel him seeing into me, although the rational part of me knows that that's impossible. But still, I want to believe.

*Mulder, do you know I'm here?* I say the words in my head.

He nods slightly and smiles.

*Prove it.* I challenge. *Touch your face.*

He brings his fingers to his lips and blows a small kiss. He can "hear" me. It makes me smile and I wonder if he can hear that, too. He nods and smiles and points to himself. I picture sending him a kiss in return, and he touches his right cheek where I pictured the kiss. On his spot.

*They won't let me in to see you. They're afraid you'll hurt me.*

His face is sad and confused as he shakes his head.

*I know. I told the doctor you wouldn't hurt me. Mulder, Diana's here. She said you called her.*

His eyes narrow almost imperceptibly, and he points at the camera, at me. He called me and she showed up somehow.

*I was right about her. I still think so. She had something to do with your being here, didn't she?*

He nods and lowers his eyelids in contrition.

*I'm going to get you out of here somehow. I'm not sure how, but I'll do it as fast as I can. I might have to be away for a while. Just hang on for me.*

He gives me a plaintive look, but nods sadly.

*Skinner's involved in this somehow, too. I don't know who to trust.*

He puts his hand on his heart, and his eyes meet mine. Trust him. Then he holds up three fingers. Can only be the Gunmen. I hear the door opening behind me and suddenly, Mulder begins his frantic pacing and crying again. I turn away to see Diana in the doorway.

"Agent Scully, I thought you'd gone." She looks at me suspiciously.

I don't even bother to acknowledge her as I brush past her and out the door.

+++++

Chapter Three

I head for Mulder's apartment after finding the surveillance camera in the office. We used to routinely sweep for monitoring equipment, but I don't think we've done it since we were reassigned. Apparently that was a big mistake. I'm assuming that if our office is bugged our homes are, too.

My mind is reeling. Skinner obviously knew about the surveillance equipment. That's the only way he could have known about our conversation with Chuck. But he'd know better than to blurt it out that way.

Suddenly I remember the wad of paper he slipped to me when I got to the hospital. At the next red light, I take it from my pocket and unfold it. It's one of his business cards and he's written something on the back: "Under constant surveillance. You, too. Will help when I can. Don't trust what I say without a signal."

Who's behind all this? I know the Smoking Man is in here somewhere. Anybody else? Is Diana working with him? With someone else? Her own agenda? There are too many questions and no Mulder to bounce them off of.

I'm saddened by Dr. Sandoz' death, and scared on a lot of levels. Skinner was the only one besides me who knew where he was. I have to assume that the piece of the artifact that Dr. Sandoz had was taken by whomever shot him. My first thought was Dr. Barnes, but I called his office right away and he answered the phone. Is he in on this, too?

I reach Hegel Place and find a parking spot up the block from Mulder's building. As I enter the lobby Mr. Gottlieb, the on-site manager, stops me.

"Ms. Scully, I saw Mr. Mulder being taken away by ambulance yesterday. I hope he's alright."

I don't get the feeling that he hopes that at all. Mulder is a troublesome tenant, to say the least. I know I'd hate to manage the building where he lives.

Maybe I can do something to salvage Mulder's tenancy. "He's still in the hospital, Mr. Gottlieb," I reply. "He had an extremely violent allergic reaction to some medication prescribed to him. It's been touch and go. I don't know how much longer he'll have to remain in the hospital. Is his rent due or anything?"

Mr. Gottlieb looks genuinely concerned. "Oh no, Ms. Scully. He's always real prompt with the rent. Paid it a week ago."

I guess Mulder knows better than to miss a rent payment with his track record. "That's good. Like I said, they're not sure how long he'll have to stay."

"Well, you give him my best now, okay?"

"I certainly will, Mr. Gottlieb. I'm going up to get a few things he needs at the hospital, so don't be alarmed if you hear me in the apartment." I give him a smile that I hope looks more real than it feels.

He smiles and gives me a wave as I head for the elevator. I take the lift to the fourth floor and head down the hallway with the thought that it seems as if I spend more time at his house than I do at my own. I reach his door and find that the "4" has joined the "2" in hanging upside down and I straighten them, knowing they'll both fall when I close the door behind me. Unlocking the door, I step inside the dark entryway.

Turning the light on, I see that the entire apartment is in shambles, with things overturned and broken, papers and books scattered everywhere. I have to pick my way through the debris to step further into the room. Reaching Mulder's bedroom, I see marks on the bathroom doorjamb where Mulder apparently hit it with something trying to break in to get to Diana who, according to the doctor, had locked herself in to call for help. In the back of my mind, I wish he'd been able to get in but then he'd be in worse trouble than he already is.

Like the rest of the place, the bedroom is trashed. My eye is drawn to the bed, where a videotape rests atop one of the pillows. I reach for it and notice that there is a yellow sticky note attached to it with my name written in block letters. Digging into my bag, I retrieve a plastic evidence bag and use it to pick up the tape. Beneath it on the pillowcase, there are several yellowish drops that stand out against the pristine white of the cotton fabric. I remove the case from the pillow and place it and the tape on the bedside table. I scan the room, looking for a surveillance camera and note a small hole drilled high in the wall above the closet door. Inside the closet on a shelf behind some boxes, I find the camcorder that probably recorded the tape I was given. I wonder who left it for me. Satisfied, I don't feel the need to search the rest of Mulder's apartment. I'd be willing to bet I'd find similar equipment in every other room. I grab the videotape and the pillowcase and place it in a gym bag of Mulder's.

Back in the car, I realize it's time to get help from the only source I can trust right now. Reaching for my cell phone, I hit the number three on my speed dial. As always, I get a recorded message, but I know one of them monitors the phone constantly. After the beep I say, "This is Scully. I'm on my way there. 'Bout half an hour." The Lone Gunmen don't like lengthy phone conversations or drop-in visitors.

I'm not exactly sure when the Gunmen went from being three strange guys to being number three on my speed dial right behind Mulder and my mother. For so long, I thought of them as Mulder's friends, but as I drive along, I realize they're my friends, too. Maybe the only ones I have anymore since my life has become so centered around Mulder and his quest. No, "our" quest, for it's touched me as much as it has him, it's become a defining thing for me as well as for him. How long has it been since I've seen my friend Ellen? Her son Trent is probably in junior high by now and I don't think I'd recognize him if I passed him on the street. I'm somewhat saddened for the loss of her, but more as a symbol of what my life used to be than her actual presence in it. I mean, what would we talk about now? Soccer? Mutants who practice inbreeding? PTA? Alien abductions? My world is so different from Ellen's it's almost as if I never really knew her, like she's a character I remember fondly from a book or a movie.

But still, Mulder and I couldn't ask for better friends than the Gunmen, especially in the world in which we travel. Byers, Langley, and Frohike are actually unlikely friends for one another, let alone for Mulder and me, but we're truly fortunate to have them. They know things and can do things that no one else can, and they've gotten us out of more than one tight spot. And their loyalty to Mulder is without question and, I think, to me, too.

As always, I park several blocks away and take a circuitous route to their "office," where they publish their newsletter and keep their fingers in several governmental and bureaucratic pies. If something interesting happens, my money is on the guys knowing about it within the hour. Down an alleyway that would scare me to walk if I weren't armed, I reach their door and knock, looking around vaguely for the cameras I know are there, but I've never been able to find. I want to make sure they know it's me.

I must have passed the test because I hear the sound of several locks and chains being thrown to let me in. Byers opens the door to me, careful to stay in the shadows to avoid being seen by anyone who might happen to pass in the alley.

"Agent Scully, come on in," Byers says with a gentle smile as he ushers me into the main room. As always, it is dark and crammed full of electronic equipment I couldn't begin to identify, but I find it strangely comforting. When did open, well-lit rooms begin to make me uneasy? Is that why I seem to spend more time at Mulder's apartment than I do at my own?

Langley and Frohike are gathered around the table in the small alcove that serves as their kitchen and dining room. They're eating something that smells of Italian spices and as my mouth begins to water, I realize I don't remember the last time I ate. I wonder which of them cooked. If it was Frohike, I'm hoping they'll offer to share. He may be a bit eccentric, but I've never met anyone who makes better veal parmesan. Langley notes my expression and gets up without a word to fetch and fill a plate for me. I nod gratefully and dig into what appears to be seafood lasagna with shrimp and scallops and a spicy creamy white sauce. I fill them in on the situation with Mulder, as much as I know of it, and sop at the leftover sauce on my plate with a slice of garlic bread. Not only has Mulder's quest become mine, it seems sometimes as if his table manners have, too.

When I've finished eating, we pop the tape into the VCR and watch as Diana--in a state of near undress, much to my everlasting disgust--gives a failed attempt at seduction and then immobilizes Mulder with a stun gun and injects him with something. Whatever it was, Mulder's reaction was immediate and dramatic and, judging by the look on Diana's face, completely unexpected. She was right to be afraid of him. I've never seen him like that and hope I never do.

I give the pillowcase to Byers and ask them to have it examined and to see if they can hack into the computers at Georgetown Memorial. "They won't let me see him or let me see any of the results of his blood work," I explain. "Patient confidentiality regulations, or so they say."

Frohike snorts his disbelief. "This might take a while, Scully, but we'll get right on it. What do we do in the meantime?" He is ready to charge right in and do whatever it takes.

I realize suddenly how fond I am of this little man--partly, I'm sure, because Mulder says he thinks I'm "hot" but mostly because of his unflagging devotion to Mulder and me. I'll never forget the night he showed up at my apartment when we thought Mulder had died in New Mexico. Frohike had been almost staggeringly drunk and barely able to cope with his grief at the loss of his friend. I loved him for his grief and envied him his ability to show it, to let it out.

"Right before he was shot, Dr. Sandoz said we needed more pieces of the artifact. I think we can assume that whoever killed him has the piece that Dr. Sandoz had, and may very well have the pieces that Dr. Merkmallon had, too. I think I need to get to the Ivory Coast as soon as possible and see if there are more pieces."

"I'm on that," Langley says and jumps up to get on the computer to make travel arrangements.

Byers must see in my face something of the worry I feel. "What is it, Scully?"

I sigh. "I don't know how I'm going to pay for this. None of my credit cards will handle the cost of this and I don't think it'll fall under FBI travel expenses."

"Don't worry about it," he says with a smile.

"Don't tell me you guys can do computer stuff where I'm flying for free. I really don't want to take the risk of being caught."

Frohike grins. "Actually, we can do stuff where you'd fly for free and get triple frequent flyer miles."

"Frohike..." I start, trying to sound threatening.

"Melvin, for God's sake, don't scare her like that," Byers says, exasperation in his tone. "This will all be paid for legitimately. It's on Emesco."

"Emesco?" I repeat doubtfully, trying not to be distracted by the sound of Langley's fingers clicking swiftly over the keyboard.

Byers looks at me curiously. "Mulder never told you? No, he probably wouldn't until you needed to know."

"I think I need to know now," I say, more sharply than I intend to. Another Mulder surprise.

Byers nods with a sigh. "A few years ago when Mulder's father died... Well, between the insurance and the sale of several unused properties, Mulder came into quite a large sum of money. He used it to start a corporation--a *research* company--and he called it Emesco. He wanted a way for us--Frohike, Langley and me--to be able to fund our operation and a way for you two to have access to ready funds in the event of an emergency he's certain is on the way. Quick getaway money. Emesco is how we're able to have all this equipment. Subscriptions to our paper don't generate this kind of income and, in case you've never noticed, we have no other visable means of support. Also, it looks pretty good on the tax records, since we never show any profit, although we sell enough research so that the lack of profits isn't questioned. So, your travel expenses will be on the company."

"Did Mulder come up with the name," I ask and Byers nods. "From where?"

"Come on, Scully," he replies with a grin. "Say it out loud. M-S Co. It was never in question that you would be part of this. I don't think Mulder would do it without you."

I may be way too tired, but I find this evidence of Mulder's love so touching that tears spring to my eyes. Any man can give a woman flowers, but Mulder's gift to me is an escape plan in the event of planetary Armageddon.

Langley springs up from the computer, bringing a printout over to the worktable. "This was fairly tough. The Ivory Coast isn't exactly a travel hot spot, but I did the best I could. Scully, you're going to be on planes for the next thirty hours or so. You're booked on the Concorde to Paris that leaves LaGuardia tonight at eight. From Paris you fly to Algiers, then to Monrovia, Liberia. After that, a puddle jumper to Abidjan, Ivory Coast. I tried a lot of different routes, but this one was the quickest. Sorry I couldn't get you there faster, but all the seats are in first-class, so you might use the time to catch up on some sleep."

I smile reassuringly at Langley. I have the feeling that his trust in me was the most recently won, and I'm very grateful for it. "Thanks, Langley. I guess I'd better get home and get my passport and some clothes."

"Not a good idea, Scully," he replies cryptically.

Byers agrees. "If Mulder's apartment was bugged, yours probably is, too. Plus, we don't want any records showing you leaving the country. We don't know all the players in this game, but I think we can assume that someone is watching for that."

I look at him, confused. "So how do I get into these other countries without a passport, and how do I survive the next few days without at least one change of clothes?"

"Mulder saw to that, too," Frohike answers. He walks over to a large wall safe and twists the combination dial. The heavy safe door opens, causing the air in the room to stir. He enters and returns a short time later with a metal box. Reaching inside, he withdraws a large wallet and hands it to me. "One of several aliases we have set up for each of you. He said that this one should be the first one you use--for sentimental reasons."

I open the wallet and pull out a Virginia driver's license, an international driver's license, and a blue-covered passport, which appears well worn. Opening it, I find myself staring at my own photograph. I smile when I see that the identification section shows that I will be traveling under the name Georgia Hale, born in Bellefleur, Oregon. Georgia Hale--the female version of the alias he used to use when we first started working together. I feel a sudden pang, wishing he were here so that I could tell him what a sap he is. Georgia Hale! George Hale sounds okay for a man, but on me it sounds like a weather condition in the South. Georgia Hale or Laura Petrie. I really have to have a talk with Mulder about going incognito. Still, the tears that sprang to my eyes earlier threaten to fall down my cheeks and I brush them away quickly.

Byers enters the safe and comes out a short time later with a wad of cash in his hand. "Here's three thousand dollars. Now, you'll need to take the train from Washington to New York. They won't ask for identification when you buy your ticket. If you take the two o'clock train, you should get to New York in plenty of time to buy yourself a few necessities for the trip and still catch a cab to the airport. Use the cash for your train ticket and whatever you need to buy in New York." He hands me several credit cards, all imprinted with the name Georgia Hale and Emesco. "Don't use the plastic until you get to Europe, then use it for everything you buy. We don't want to activate the card in the United States, but once you're overseas, it's how we'll be able to track where you are and make sure everything is on schedule."

I nod and put the cash, credit cards and documentation into the wallet and the wallet into my briefcase. "Guys, Mulder is a sitting duck in that hospital. We need someone there to keep an eye on him. I think Skinner is with us, but his hands are tied and he can't be there most of the time anyway."

"One of us can be there round the clock," Frohike offers. "But I think we should see about getting someone on the inside, too. Diana knows us and never liked us very much anyway, so we can assume that she won't let anything slip around us. But nobody pays too much attention to the guy sweeping the floors. We'll get someone on the inside."

I hesitate a little and see them looking at me curiously. "I know this sounds strange, but I need you to find his door or get into the monitor room as often as you can without arousing suspicion."

"Okay," Frohike says, his tone uncertain. "And what do you want us to do then?"

"This is the strange part," I reply. "I want you to *think* to him. I think... No, I *believe* that Mulder is receiving telepathic messages." They look at me as if I'm speaking in tongues.

Frohike looks at me with something akin to awe on his face. "Ooo, Agent Scully. You've said the words that have won you my heart forever."

"I'm not kidding," I reply defensively.

He touches my arm and I look at him, grateful to see understanding on his face. "I know you aren't, Scully."

"Don't say anything out loud because we don't know who anyone is or who they're playing for. But let him know I'll be back as soon as I can. That I'm doing everything I can think of to help him. That I'll get him out of there one way or another. I think... I think they'll try to use my absence to convince him that I've abandoned him." My throat gets tight at the thought and I find I can barely speak above a whisper.

"Scully," Frohike begins. "He'd never..."

"Don't let him think that," I plead with them. "Tell him over and over again whenever you can. Make sure he knows he's not alone. Tell him I lo..." I can't go on.

Byers nods and makes a noise in his throat, less to clear it that to dispel the awkwardness in the air. "Agent Scully, we'll need a way to be in contact with you."

"I have my cell phone," I reply, reaching automatically into my pocket.

"That's a no go," Langley says. "You need a satellite phone for that kind of range. We've got a few extra here. Just take one of ours. Untraceable. Oh, and you'll have to leave your weapon here."

"One more thing," Byers says, turning toward a cabinet in the corner. "If you find any pieces of the artifact, you'll need a way to get them back here." He digs around and emerges with a bag the size of a briefcase. "This bag is lead lined. If radiation is indeed a problem, this will protect you and anyone else you come into contact with. Also, bringing them into the country might pose a problem. If you find anything, give us a call and we'll see about getting archeological credentials faxed to you so that you can get through customs."

I shake my head in wonder. "You guys are amazing. I don't know how to thank you for all of this."

"Anything for you, Dana," Frohike says with a shy grin. "Come on, let's get you on a train to New York."

"We'll call you when we get word on the analysis of the pillowcase and when we can get information on Mulder's blood work," Byers says. "And you be careful. Mulder will have our asses if anything happens to you."

+++++

Chapter Four

Algiers, Algeria

Twenty-six hours later

I'm sitting cross-legged on a toilet seat in a restroom stall in the Algiers airport. I'm sitting cross-legged on a toilet seat in a restroom stall in the Algiers airport with a forty minute layover till my flight to Monrovia, Liberia, then two-and-a-half hours till my flight to Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Only my third airport of five and they're already starting to blend together. Langley worked like a dog to get me the best connections he could, but this all just seems so endless, like something out of Dante. Life has felt like that for a long time.

I'm sitting cross-legged on a toilet seat in a restroom in the Algiers airport rather than in the waiting area because I know I'm going to cry. I know it, I can't stop it, and I hate it. It's finally all catching up with me--everything--and I've never been so scared in my life. It was okay as long as I was moving, doing things, not thinking about it too much. But I've stopped for a while and the thoughts just creep up on me, like so many things in our lives.

So here I am sitting cross-legged on a toilet seat in a restroom in the Algiers airport and I feel the sob working its way up from my gut. It pauses for a while in my chest, lingering there, squeezing my heart like a fist, making it difficult to breathe. The constriction is so great, so intense, I almost wish it would break free and become the wail it so desperately wants to be. Almost.

Instead, it comes out a thin, reedy sound that I would never have guessed could come from me. But as it escapes--slowly, so slowly--the tightness in my chest decreases somewhat, and my breaths come fast, trying to compensate for the brief time I was without air. Finally, finally the tears come and I can feel the heat of fear in them as they roll down my face.

I'm alone. No government sanction, no cover, no weapon, no partner.

No partner.

God I miss him. It's like a part of me is missing. The part of me that smiles, that wants to believe. Even though that part of me doesn't get out much, she's there. Much more than I think she is, much more than I let on to Mulder.

I wonder how he's doing, if the guys are watching out for him. Of course they are, but if something were to happen what could they do? Things must be okay. They'd have called me if there were trouble.

This just seems wrong. I should be with Mulder. Does he know what I'm doing, could he really hear my thoughts? Or does he think I've abandoned him? No, I think he knows. In fact, I'm certain of it. Was this how he felt when I was in the hospital in Allentown and he was breaking into the Lombard Research Facility, or when I was dying and he was invading the Department of Defense facility to find a way to save me? I was scared when those things happened, but I knew he was out there doing whatever he needed to do. For me, to save me. I have to do the same for him. Because that's what love is about.

How did this get out of control so quickly? I don't know if I'll ever forgive myself for leaving him when there was obviously something wrong with him. And for what? Sandoz is dead, the artifact is missing. Why didn't I listen to him when he was telling me what was going on? For God's sake, why didn't I believe him? I blew him off when he said he'd heard Skinner in his head. It's not like I hadn't seen anything like that before. There was Gibson Praise, after all. I'd even been the one to bring the "God module" concept to Mulder.

The God module. Is that what this is all about? Dr. Buchanan said Mulder demonstrated activity in areas of the brain he'd never seen before. Like Gibson. I remember my conversation with the boy and he said he could hear people's thoughts. *Like a radio, but sometimes there are a lot of radios and I want to turn them off and watch some tv.* But if it's the same thing, why is it just now happening to Mulder? What does the artifact have to do with it? And why a rubbing and not the actual artifact itself?

A lot of radios. Is that what it's like for Mulder? Constant noise, different levels of volume and intensity. And absolutely no way to know how to stop it. Gibson would have had his entire life to acclimate to that kind of constant sensory input. For Mulder, it just came out of the blue. What must it be like to suddenly be able to *hear* everything--real auditory sounds and the thoughts of everyone? Oh God, it's unimaginable. This has got to be worth it. I've got to find some way to help him.

But will I find what we need and will I know what it is if I do?

+++++

Georgetown Memorial Hospital

Time Unknown

I sing in my head. *you ain't nothin' but a hound-dog, cryin' all the time* Sing and sing and sing. Every song I know, over and over. *naah naah naah na-na-na-naaah, na-na-na-naaah, hey jude* When I 'm out of songs, I just start over from the number one song and work my way through again. *jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine*

And sometimes it works. Sometimes if I do it loud and strong enough, mine is the only voice in my head. And for a few blessed moments, I'm alone. I can think behind the songs if the voices aren't there.

*love me tender, love me true, all my dreams fulfill. oh my darlin' I love you and I always will. ah, thank you very much.*

Long live The King. Long live all of us. I hope.

But when the singing doesn't work--the voices, the sounds. THE NOISE. Sometimes it's just one or two. That's okay, I can stand that. Except it's so hard to believe that most peoples' thoughts are so mundane, so fucking boring. But when there's lots of voices they get all garbled, woven into one another and they're loud and they laugh and laugh. *there's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold. and she's buying a stairway to heaven.* And I can't stop them and the singing can't stop them. And they stand in the room and watch me. I can feel them watching me.

Like I felt Scully watching me. I felt her believe me, talk to me. She blew me a kiss and I could almost feel it. Miss her. Sometimes I think of Scully and baseball. God, please tell me that wasn't the last good time. *take me out to the ballgame. take me out to the park.*

But that was a good time. I try to think about it when the pain in my head gets to be too much. I think it helps.

I don't know how long I've been here. I don't think I've slept, except a few minutes here and there when the voices were quiet. When there's just one or two voices I'm pretty sure they won't come in here, and I can doze a little. *one is the loneliest number that you'll ever do. two can be as bad as one. it's the loneliest number since the number one.* I can't sleep, though, not really sleep. I don't know what they'll try if I do. I'm afraid to eat and drink, too, in case they put something in my food. A while back, I asked for bottled water with the cap sealed and they let me have that. Guess they were scared that I wasn't drinking and they figured I couldn't do much damage with a plastic bottle. I can eat when they give me whole fresh fruit, but not till after I check it thoroughly for puncture marks and wash it with some of the bottled water. I'm not that hungry, though I gotta say the water tasted pretty fine.

It's funny. I'm afraid to eat here, and I'm afraid to sleep here, but still it's the safest place I can think of to be right now. Okay, it's not that funny.

I don't know how long I've been here. *time keeps flowing like a river--to the sea.* I hear Byers or Langley or Frohike sometimes. Scully sent them to me, to watch over me while she's gone. I'm grateful to know where she is, what she's doing, but I'm scared for her. She's far away and she's alone.

Fowley is here a lot. *the bitch, the bitch, the bitch is back.* I hear her more than anyone else. She thinks she understands what's going on with me and tries sending me thoughts. She tells me Scully is missing and has probably abandoned me. As if I would believe anyone telling me that about Scully, especially her. Even without the Gunmen and what they tell me, I'd never believe that. Fowley tells me I can trust her.

But I've made that mistake too many times already.

Fowley doesn't understand this at all. How could she possibly? She thinks that her conscious thoughts are all I get from her. But there are so many levels, so many thoughts, so many motivations, and conscious thought is rarely the reality. Fowley is scared. I can hear her fear. There's deep-rooted terror there. This didn't work out at all the way she planned it and she knows that Spender the Elder wouldn't hesitate to eliminate her the way he did his own son, her brother. I despise myself for how easily I was led, for what I didn't see.

And she's scared of Scully, of how she underestimated her. She just automatically assumed that Scully would disbelieve and dismiss what's happened to me. Underestimating Scully is dangerous in any circumstances. So all Fowley can do is try what she can--to get me to doubt the one person I've been able to believe in without question for seven years.

The person I should have lost for how stupid and blind I've been. When I think of what I said to Scully at the Gunmen's place... Did I really need to deceive myself so much that I could have hurt her like that? The one person in my entire life who never wanted less for me than I wanted for myself? The one person who's put herself--all of her, her family, her beliefs, her own welfare--on the line over and over again? God, what an ass I am! How do I even begin to ask for forgiveness for that? Or for all the things I've never told her? But I will, I swear. I'll tell her everything and then beg her for her forgiveness. Over and over again if that's what it takes.

And she'll give it to me, wretched ass that I am. Wretched and blessed.

Because in spite of every stupid thing I've ever said or done or how badly she's been hurt in all this, she's out there finding a way to save me. And she'll do it or she'll die trying because that's who Scully is. Because she loves me. I heard it. I heard it in her mind when she was here and I can live through all of this for a chance to hear it in her voice.

Save me, Scully. Save us. I'll make all this up to you somehow, I promise.

*jeremiah was a bullfrog. was a good friend of mine.*

+++++

Airborne somewhere between

Liberia and the Ivory Coast

According to the flight attendant, we'll be landing in Abidjan in a little over an hour. I glance at my watch and realize it's useless because I haven't changed the time since Washington and I have absolutely no idea what time zone I'm in. The flight attendant gives me the correct time and I thank him, resetting my watch.

I'm so tired. I can't remember ever feeling this exhausted. I've tried to sleep on every flight I've taken, but the dreams wake me up. Strange, frightening dreams about the light and the tests. But different than the ones I've had since my abduction. The ones I've never been able to tell Mulder about.

*don't tell anyone, or next time we won't let you go back. we don't want to hurt you, dana. we didn't hurt you last time. we'll hurt whoever you tell.*

I've dozed again and awaken with a start, shaking despite the blanket I've wrapped around me. I'm so tired, but I'm scared to sleep again. Struggling to calm my breathing without drawing the attention of other passengers, I sit up and place the blanket on the empty seat next to me.

Reaching for my briefcase, I take out the paperwork for the person I am now, Georgia Hale. The passport fascinates me. It's completely authentic looking, my picture, entry stamps from a dozen different countries in Europe and Asia. A new passport without those stamps would draw undue attention upon entering a strange country, but Mulder saw to that. I also have both Virginia and international driver's licenses and several credit cards--platinum Visa, Master Card and American Express, all issued in Georgia Hales's name through Emesco.

Emesco. M-S Co. He's known for a long time that it would come to this, to where we are now. And he's carried that knowledge by himself because I've refused to believe it. And even though I've refused to believe it, he won't do it without me. Byers said so when he told me about Emesco. Mulder told me so himself in that hallway outside his apartment.

*I don't know if I want to do this without you. I don't even know if I can. And if I quit, they win.*

He won't do it without me. Even though I've refused to believe, left him to believe alone. How much has he not told me, to keep me safe or because he knew I wouldn't believe him? So he alone has been watching the skies, waiting, trying to find out, trying to prepare--certain that he was right.

I've always been certain of his certainty, even when he himself wasn't. It's what's kept me going during all the times I didn't think I could go on. I truly have had the strength of his convictions. But I've steadfastly refused to believe what he believes.

Why?

Because it flies in the face of science? I've seen what I know of science disproved so many times since I started on this strange journey. But is what we know of science really what there is? Generations before us were wrong about so many things and although we know more than they do, how much do we know of all there is? In reality, we don't know what flies in the face of science.

No, I've refused to believe what he believes because it would be too horrible to contemplate what it would mean if he were right. It would mean that everything I've ever believed in--what I took an oath on my life to protect--was a lie, a mockery. It would mean that everything Ahab and Maggie ever taught us about justice and duty and honor was wrong, some party line handed to us to keep us like sheep. That alone would be too awful to bear. But to know the full scale of the deceit, our utter helplessness to stop the incomprehensible...

Mulder has known the full scale and he's known it alone. And he's kept me with him and he's kept me alive. Because he won't do it without me. Because he loves me. He told me so and I refused to believe that, too. Well, no more. God help us, he's been right about what little we've been allowed to know. Now, instead of working so hard to disprove what he's brought to me, it's time to find more of what we need to prove that he's right. It's the only way I know to help him.

I think about the phone call I got while I was waiting for my plane in Monrovia. The display indicated that the call was from the Gunmen. I quickly pressed the button to answer. "Georgia Hale."

"It's okay, Scully." The voice on the phone was Byers. "This is a secure line and your phone is untraceable. Just thought you'd want an update on how things are going here. Mulder is hanging in there. Frohike has managed to get into the monitor room a couple of times and he's still pretty much the way you described. He seems to know when Frohike is there and Melvin is pretty sure he's faking it. It's a good idea if he is. The hospital is the safest place for him right now."

"Have you heard anything about how he is physically?"

"Hospital staff say he's barely slept since he was admitted and that he refuses to eat almost anything and will only drink sealed bottled water. Frohike says he doesn't look too good, but that he's hanging in there." Byers sounded sad and tired, too.

"What about Mulder's blood work or the analysis of the stuff on the pillowcase? What about prints on the videotape." I prayed he'd have something for me.

"The tape was wiped clean before whoever it was left it for you. No prints. The blood work done on his admission to the hospital shows a high concentration of an unidentified chemical compound. I downloaded their lab data and found that it bears a striking similarity to a chemical--an ergotamine-based drug--Mulder was exposed to in extremely high doses nine years ago. When we first met him. It was a chemical developed by Susanne Modeski in a government lab, and stored for use in a planned experiment on the people of Baltimore. It was in an aerosol form and Mulder was standing behind boxes of it when a bunch of guys shot up the boxes. He absorbed huge amounts of the stuff--breathing it and probably absorbing it through the skin, and he had a violent reaction to it then."

Scully's brow knitted in concern. "Even in small amounts, ergotamine induces anxiety and paranoia. Large doses might even be hallucinogenic."

"Yeah, the effect it had on Mulder was pretty dramatic. Susanne said it was water soluble and not traceable in the blood. Anyway, a compound very similar to it was found on the pillowcase you brought us. So I guess we can assume that that's what Fowley injected him with. I thought maybe the high dose he got before made him more sensitive to it now, so I called Susanne to ask her about it. She said that was definitely a possibility, but that the effects of it should have worn off by now even under those circumstances. So I tend to agree with Frohike that he's faking it to stay in the hospital."

I heard something in his voice that troubled me. "What is it, Byers?"

"Scully, you've got to find whatever you're looking for and get back here as soon as possible. They're talking about transferring Mulder to another facility when his weeklong observation period is over. That's four days. I think if they transfer him, they'll *disappear* him, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah," I whispered. "I should be there."

"No," Byers disagreed. "You have to find something to help him--the artifact, information, whatever. Without that, there's nothing we can do. We need more to go on. Just do it fast, Scully. We'll keep an eye on things from here."

"I know you will," I replied. "I'll keep in touch. I may know more in the next few hours. We're scheduled to leave for Abidjan soon."

"Watch out for yourself, Scully."

"Watch out for him," I answered.

"You're his best chance. Right now, you're all he has." His voice was gone with a soft click.

I'm all he has. I think that's been true for him for a long time, although a part of me refused to believe that, too. God, please let me be enough.

+++++

Chapter Five

The Atlantic Coast

Thirty-eight miles east of Abidjan, Ivory Coast

1:13 p.m.

According to the map I got from Dr. Merkmallon's colleague at the university, it's just a few more miles to the strip of beach that served as his research site. I glance out at the ocean as I drive in the open Jeep on a narrow, pot-holed road they call a highway. I notice groups of men fishing with nets from the shoreline. The sun beats down mercilessly high over my head and the light dapples the water between the waves. I can feel it baking my scalp and the skin of my face. There's a wide-brimmed straw hat on the passenger seat next to me. I threw it there when I realized the hat wouldn't stay on my head driving as fast as I was. I'm glad the linen dress I bought is long-sleeved and light colored. Redheads are just not good sun people.

I spot the predicted s-curve on the road ahead and pull the car over to the shoulder as far as I can in front of another vehicle. Standing on the Jeep's running board, over a slight rise, I see the site near the beach. Walking toward it I can feel where the sand begins as it passes through and in and out of the sandals I'm wearing. As I approach, I see a man, his back to me, staring out at the water.

"Excuse me!" I shout to him to be heard over the waves coming into shore.

When he turns, I'm close enough to see that he's been crying. I look down awkwardly, uncomfortable about intruding on this moment. But I glance up to see that he seems not to find the moment embarrassing at all. He gracefully brushes away the tears and regards me closely through sad, chocolate brown eyes. "May I help you?" The man's voice is deep and rich and he speaks with a slightly clipped accent, somewhat British, but smoother somehow.

"Are you Gabriel M'Boto?" I ask, looking at the name written on the map to the site.

"Yes." He eyes me suspiciously with an expression that gives nothing away.

"Dr. Merkmallon's research assistant?"

He nods and I see tears fill his eyes again and run down the dark skin of his face. "And his friend."

"Then you've heard," I begin and he nods with a sigh. "I'm sorry."

"Who are you, miss?" His tone is more curious than suspicious.

I wonder which of the cover stories I've concocted to use and, in the end, decide to abandon them all. If Gabriel M'Boto was told the "official" version of Dr. Merkmallon's death, he's already been lied to enough. I needed his help and he needs as much of the truth as I can safely tell him.

"I'm with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, in America. I need some information."

He nods in understanding. "That means you have no jurisdiction here. I assume you have some form of identification?"

I nod. "But it won't confirm what I just told you. I am with the FBI but I'm not investigating in an official capacity."

"Does that mean you doubt the *official* story, too?" he asks bitterly.

"What was the *official* story, Mr. M'Boto."

"They said he was killed by Dr. Sandoz who took the artifact and disappeared."

"And you don't believe that?" I ask and he shakes his head. "Why not?"

"Solomon... Dr. Merkmallon and Dr. Sandoz had been corresponding for years on the Internet sharing information. Although they had never met, I would say that they considered themselves friends. He was going there to discuss the artifact with Dr. Sandoz, to compare it to the one that Dr. Sandoz has. I don't believe for a moment that Solomon was killed by his friend.

"I don't think so either, Mr. M'Boto. He was killed for the artifact and Dr. Sandoz was killed for the piece he had."

He looks alarmed. "Dr. Sandoz is dead, too?" I nod. "Who are you, miss?" he asks again, his voice quiet with fear.

I look him in the eye, hoping to dispel any doubt he might have about me. "Mr. M'Boto, it's safer for you if you don't know that. I know you're scared, and I won't tell you that you shouldn't be. The people responsible for Dr. Merkmallon's death are dangerous."

He looks at me with skepticism etched on his face. "And you can catch them? You can bring them to justice?"

"No," I reply. "I won't say that I can. But maybe I can find out why he died, the real reason. If he had been my friend, I think it would help me to know that."

"I would be most grateful for that," he says, his voice soft and thick. "What do you want from me?"

"Some information about the artifact. I need it to help me find out about Dr. Merkmallon's murder and maybe to save someone's life. Someone who's in a lot of trouble right now."

"I'll help you, miss, all I can. But I have to be careful. I have a wife and a small son. I can't put myself in danger."

"I understand," I assure him. "I hope it won't come to that. First of all, has anyone else come here asking questions."

"No, absolutely no one. The president of the university found out about Solomon's death through a telephone call from your State Department. Not even a personal announcement. After they told me, I came to the site to start to pack up his things. I hadn't gotten very far when I was overcome with missing him and I left the tent to look at the ocean and think for a while. That's when you came."

So no one's been here yet. That's good. "How much did Dr. Merkmallon tell you about the artifact?"

"I saw what it did," he replies cryptically.

"What it did?" I repeat, suddenly recalling how Dr. Sandoz' piece spun around on the table, seemingly of its own power.

"Come with me," he says and leads me into the large military-style tent that apparently served as Dr. Merkmallon's living quarters and office. He crosses the room and unlocks a desk drawer, pulling out a large, dark-covered book. He sets it on the desktop and beckons me over to look at it.

Before him is a Bible covered in worn black, hand-tooled leather, the edges of its pages are gold-foiled. There is a deep, thick gouge through the book's spine and into the pages at least three inches. I bring it before my eyes and place my fingers into the gouge. The edges of the paper are ragged, as if they had been ripped.

"What does this mean?" I ask. "What happened to this Bible?"

"Solomon brought this here from his office at the university before he left to consult with Dr. Sandoz. He thought it would be safer here. Miss, before he called Dr. Sandoz--earlier in the day--he found a piece of jagged rock buried in the sand on the shoreline. Some fishermen saw it and brought it to his attention. He brought it back to his office because it seemed similar to another piece he'd found a few weeks before. He told me he placed them on the table before him and was surprised to see that the edges seemed to match, as if they were two fragments of a larger piece. And then when he put them together they began to spin around together, like a child's toy, and that they gathered so much force that they were hurled from the table. Solomon said he found them imbedded in the Bible on the shelf and that the two pieces had fused together."

I stare at him in disbelief. "The pieces were hurled from the table with enough force to drive them into a book this far?"

He acknowledges that his story is strange. "That is what Solomon told me, miss. After he called Dr. Sandoz, he made several rubbings of the symbols on it and sent one to Dr. Sandoz by facsimile. There is another copy in the desk."

"I've seen a copy of the rubbing, but I don't have one with me. May I take the one from here?" I ask, hoping against hope that Mr. M'Boto will allow me to do so.

To my surprise, he agrees immediately. "Yes, I don't want it here. I don't want anything to do with it."

"And I need to see the place where the piece of the artifact was found."

"I wasn't at the site that day, but that group of fishermen were here. One of them speaks some English and I think I can get him to show you the place. But, miss, after that, I'm leaving." He reaches into the desk again and brings out a copy of the rubbings and two notebooks. "Here is the rubbing from the artifact, and these are Solomon's notes. That's all I can do. I don't want to know what you find."

He heads for the door. "But someday, if you're able to explain, I would like to know what happened to Solomon and why."

I nod, and am suddenly filled with a feeling of apprehension. "Mr. M'Boto. My Jeep is parked on the roadside next to yours. Is there a place where I can conceal it, hide it from anyone who might pass by?"

He gives me a sad smile of resignation and understanding. "Drive it down the slope and you'll see a group of large rocks with a stand of tall grass around them. Drive around to the side of the rocks and no one will be able to see your vehicle from the road. While you do that, I will go and speak with the fishermen. Come back here afterward."

I do as he says and meet him back at the tent about fifteen minutes later. "It's arranged, miss. The man in the bright green shirt. His name is Lisimba and he will speak with you about what he saw."

"Thank you Mr. M'Boto."

"Miss, did you hide your vehicle because you fear you will be followed here?" There is apprehension in his voice.

"I think maybe that's possible," I reply honestly.

"Then I think, miss, that it's time for me to go to my family."

I reach into my bag and withdraw several hundred dollars in cash. "Take this, Mr. M'Boto," I say, pressing the money into his hand. "It's American money. I'm sorry, but I didn't have time to exchange it for your currency. Is there a place you can exchange it?"

He nods. "In the city."

"Then take it and use it to take your family away from here for a while. Is this enough?"

He looks at me in wide-eyed wonder. "Oh yes, miss. With this we can go away for several weeks. Thank you, miss. I will be going now." He smiles at me tentatively and heads through the flap that serves as the door to the tent.

I place the notebooks in the lead-lined case that Byers gave me and take the rubbing of the artifact with me to go and speak with the fisherman. Leaving the tent, I see that M'Boto is already at his car and pulling away.

The fisherman in the green shirt sees me approach and comes to meet me. "Ma'am," he says and it sounds like *mom.* "The man who work with the professor, he say you want to see where the rock was found."

"Yes. The rock has markings on it, like this." I show him the copy of the rubbing.

"Was not here that day myself, but I will ask them." He takes the rubbing and runs to the others, showing it to them all in turn. There seems to be a lot of fast and loud discussion among the men, full of agitated hand gestures and shaking of heads.

Lisimba returns to me a short time later. "They say the rock had these markings. I will show you where it was, but the others are afraid."

He turns and heads down the beach without a word, apparently expecting me to follow. We edge toward the waterline and I remove my shoes, not wanting to ruin them in the tide. I can feel the wet sand between my toes, and I find the feeling comforting somehow. Several hundred yards down the beach, he stops and points to a spot on the shore where several good size boulders and rocks jut from the sand. He points to the area and then turns and runs back in the direction from which we came.

I crouch down at the waterline and see what appears to be a small piece of stone showing through the sand. Reaching into the water to brush aside the sand and seafoam, the water feels extremely warm, almost hot to me. Beneath the sand, imbedded in it, is a large tablet with markings like those on the rubbing. I touch it tentatively and a tingling surge of heat runs up my arm and suddenly I have feelings of... feelings of...

No! I rise slowly and back away somewhat, my eyes glued to the spot where the stone has quickly been covered again by the sand. Sweeping my eyes back and forth, I see two pieces of stone wedged between some of the smaller rocks. I pick up the smaller of the two--one about the size of the piece that Dr. Sandoz had--and examine it closely. It, too, has markings that resemble those of the rubbing. I get no unusual feeling from this piece. I reach for the other and find that it is longer and slightly wider than the other one. I weigh them in my hands and they seem lighter than they should for their size. Reaching into the lead-lined case, I retrieve two squares of a strange, metallic cloth I find in a side pocket. I carefully wrap each piece separately and put them into the bag.

I find I'm hesitant to return to the tablet under the sand but at the same time, I can't stay away from it. I remember Mulder saying that the piece that Sandoz found was fused to the rock beneath it, and I wonder how I can free it. I suppose I'll have to go back to Dr. Merkmallon's site and look for some tools. I stoop down again, and scatter the sand under the water to find the edges. It's attached seamlessly to something beneath it and I run my fingers all the way around it. Again, I feel the tingling heat and feel my breaths start to come in short gasps. Pushing up with my legs, I pull and the piece comes free with such ridiculous ease that I fall on my ass in the sand.

And my mind is flooded with images, overwhelming me, blocking out everything else.

I know I'm sitting here in the sand, but it's like I'm watching myself sitting in the sand. The warmth in my arms is spreading through my entire body. It doesn't hurt, but it feels strange, invasive.

I'm shaking. I'm shaking so violently I can hardly sit up. No, it's not me. It's the ground. It's vibrating from tremors within the earth. And the noise. I've heard this before, this deep steady rumbling. Oh, God, run! Gotta move! I had Mulder to help me before. Scared, I'm scared. Holding the tablet.

I think to put the tablet into the case with the other two pieces and close it securely. Rising to a stand, I look out at the water and it is rolling and bubbling as if it's boiling. In the distance, I can see a big wave coming in toward shore. Turning, I run toward the stand of grass where the car is hidden but the earth trembles, rolling unevenly beneath my feet and I fall several times during the effort. The sound is getting louder, almost deafening, and I feel the pressure of it pushing against my eardrums. I stumble again, and struggle to my feet once more, the case securely held in my right hand.

Finally, gasping with the effort, I reach the Jeep and secret myself in the space between the passenger door and the rock, looking back to the place where I found the tablet. I drop the case at my feet and press my hands against my ears, hoping to decrease the pressure and pain. I'm thrown off balance again and my shoulder collides painfully with a sharp edge of the boulder. Righting myself, I watch the water again. Waves, one right after another, crash against the boulders at the shoreline, sending sea spray and mist into the atmosphere.

Something is rising from the water--slowly, majestically--and I can feel my mouth drop open and my breath stop in my lungs as more and more of it emerges.

"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!" I hear my voice in my head repeating the phrase over and over again. "It's true. Oh God, Mulder, you saw it. You saw it. I see it. Oh my God!" I can feel myself screaming the words, but I can't hear them over the deafening noise.

Will it ever stop coming out of the water? Oh, God, I've never seen anything this size in my whole life. It's gigantic, monstrous. All of the words I have aren't enough. I think of a word I've read, but never actually spoken out loud. Behemoth.

Finally, it clears the surface of the water and the tremors in the earth stop. I watch in awe as it ascends--slowly, inexorably. Once free of the water, it is surprisingly silent, making only a soft humming noise. As it rises into the sky, it's size blots out the sun leaving even the area where I am concealed cast in shadow.

Vaguely in the distance to my right I hear a man's voice. "No! No!" I turn my head and through a space between the rocks, I see a lone figure coming over the ridge, running full tilt toward the beach. "No!"

I turn my head back to the craft and watch it hover for a while, perhaps a hundred feet over the water. Then in the blink of an eye, it's gone--without a sound, without a trace. It's not even a speck in the distance.

The man reaches the shore just as the ship darts off. His back is to me, but I can see he is wearing jeans and a lightweight jacket. He falls to his knees in the wet sand. "No!" he cries again. I watch him claw at the sand at the water's edge, using strange straight-armed movements, screaming in frustration as handfuls of wet sand slip through his fingers. Finally he stops, weak with his efforts, and bends to rest his forehead in the shallow water.

Suddenly, I'm very conscious of my red hair shining in the sunlight. If the man turns toward me, he might see it and my cover would be blown. I reach for the hat in the passenger seat and put it on my head, tucking my hair beneath it as best I can. The hat blends in much better with the tall grass I'm standing in.

The man crawls on hands and knees along the stretch of shoreline from which the ship came. The beach looks strangely unaffected by what happened, the crashing waves quickly filling the gaping maw with displaced sand. He sifts through it, but his movements are slow and his posture belies his disappointment. After a few minutes, he gives up and rises to his feet, looking out onto the water, his arms hanging loosely at his sides, his shoulders slumped in defeat. He turns then, to make his way from the beach back to the road at the top of the ridge. He doesn't seem to see me, but I finally have a clear view of his face.

It is Alex Krycek. And I can see the tears that streak his face as he walks away from the beach.

+++++

Continue to Chapter Six.