Title: Patchwork (conclusion of Circles)

Author: The VS10 Producers

Rating: PG-13

Category: Case file

Archive: Exclusively on the VS10 site for two weeks, then
with permission.


by the VS10Producers



Undisclosed Location
Wednesday, 2:54 a.m.

It was cold. The air smelled damp and musty, and the surface she
was lying on was most definitely not her bed.

Slowly, Scully opened her eyes, her lashes sticky with too much
sleep.. or something worse... and discovered a ceiling made of
chain link fencing. Where the hell *was* she?

Looking around her, she saw that the walls were made of the same
wire fabric. She was sitting on a cot. Like a temporary detention
area. A military--

She sat bolt upright, wincing at the pain in her throat. Lights. A
strong arm choking off her air. Mulder rushing toward her and
being knocked to the ground. Mulder!

She quickly scanned her surroundings and found him almost
immediately on the other side of the wire wall. He lay on his back
on a cot like her own.

"Mulder," she called out to him from where she sat. Under the
circumstances, she wasn't sure who was watching. He stirred at her
voice, turning his head in her direction, but still asleep.

"Mulder!" she called a little louder. He opened his eyes, shivering
slightly as he came awake. She could see his breath misting in the
cold air.

"Mulder, thank God you're all right," she said, watching him rub
his eyes and the back of his head. The rifle had at least left a bump,
if not a gash where his fingers were exploring.

"Where are we, Scully?" he groaned, trying to prop himself up on
one elbow.

"I don't know. But I have a feeling our little excursion into the
field last night wasn't a welcome one."

Mulder squinted down at his watch. "'S three a.m." he slurred.
"We can't have been here long."

"We must have been brought here after the field. It can't be far
from Clayville. Damn that Krycek!"

Mulder shook his head in response. "Too many clues. He gave us
too many--"

The sound of a chair screeching across the concrete floor down the
hall cut him short. A soft, heavy thud. Footsteps-- first walking,
then running.

The two agents' eyes met in panic. "Get down," Mulder hissed out
before lying back down on the cot. Scully followed suit and lay
motionless, every muscle tensed for whatever was coming.

The hurricane fencing rattled and tinkled as someone tried to open
Mulder's gate. Through her lashes, Scully could see the flash of
hands working through a ring of keys. They found the right one,
flung the opened lock to the floor, and rushed into the cell.

"Stop playing possum, or you'll both regret it."

Scully opened her eyes wide at the order just in time to see the
speaker kick Mulder in the heel with a steel-toed boot.

It was Krycek.

Mulder hauled himself up as fast as he could manage while Krycek
ran to open Scully's gate. Scully got up and clung to the woven
wire as Krycek fumbled with more keys. Mulder poked his fingers
through the barrier and wrapped them around hers possessively.

"Ah," Krycek sighed out reminiscently as the latch clicked open,
"Such fond memories of dark basement cells. Too bad the both of
you won't enjoy the pleasures I've had in places like this."

"You're a sick bastard, Krycek," Mulder half chuckled, half
sneered out. They pulled the door to Scully's cell open.

"You don't know the half of it." He flashed a gleaming smile at
Mulder, then nudged his head in the direction of the exit. Three
pairs of feet slapped furiously down the hall, the sound of them
drowned out by a whining siren that had begun to pierce the air
around them.

Krycek led them through a maze of equally dimly lit hallways,
service tunnels lined with water pipes that went on for a few
hundred yards at least, and up slippery metal ladders that wobbled
as they climbed. At last, they came through a door that opened up
into a corrugated metal shed filled with farming tools and smelling
of gasoline, motor oil and fertilizer. It was dark, but they could see
the silver lining of moonlight on the edges of a windowsill.

"Wait here," Krycek huffed out, trying to catch his breath. They
could hear him swallow hard, taking a deep long gulp of air to
soften the sound of his breathing. In the next moment they saw a
slightly brighter shade of dark as Krycek slipped through a nearby
doorway, and into the night.

"Where do you think he's going?" Scully whispered close to
Mulder's ear.

"He brought us this far, Scully. I guess we just wait and see."

It was about ten minutes of tense, back-aching crouching, the tiny
noises of the shed settling into the ground, and the scratching of
small field creatures and insects before they both realized Krycek
wasn't coming back.

Mulder carefully opened the door he'd seen their savior use, and
grabbed Scully's hand gently to follow him. They were in another
field, although this one had been harvested in the fall, and it was
wide open and muddy. Not far ahead, they could see the straight
man-made line of a road.

Their shoes sucking into the muddy ground, they walked with
knees high and backs crouched, fearful of being caught, but
wanting to move as quickly as possible.

Upon finally reaching the road, they homed in on one of the few
pools of light from a lamppost. The faint hint of dawn brightened
the horizon, and revealed that the road stretched to forever in both
directions with no sign of civilization.

"What do we do now?" Scully said hopelessly, flapping her arms
limply to her sides.

"I guess we walk," Mulder answered, leering down at Scully's
feet. "Unless…"

"Unless what?"

He grinned widely at her. "Unless you care to show a little leg.
*That's* bound to attract some kind of attention."

She shook her head in mixed humor and exasperation, and walked
toward the direction of the rising dawn, swaying her hips a little
more than she normally would. Mulder followed, still smiling at
the short dark silhouette ahead.


Hoover Building
Wednesday, 8:04 am

"Skinner didn't say anything, he just sounded pissed," Mulder told
Scully as she straightened his tie and he fixed the collar to her
blouse in the elevator up to the Assistant Director's office.

"He calls us on your cell phone at 6:00 in the morning, tells us to
get our 'asses back here' and doesn't give any explanation. I don't
know about you, but that's not what I was hoping for when we got
back to the motel," Scully said with a sigh.

"A little snuggle under the covers, perhaps?" Mulder inquired in a
low whisper.

"Try a nice hot shower and clean clothes," she shot back.

"Hey, you've got on clean clothes," Mulder pointed out. Scully was
busy using the metallic doors of the elevator as a mirror to help her
wipe a smudge from her jaw line. She turned for just a second to
glare at him before going back to her inspection. Changing into
clean clothes had been all they had time for when the newspaper
delivery person at dropped them off at their motel just before 6 am.
The nice woman hadn't even accepted the money Mulder had
offered her for giving them a ride in to town.

"I'd love to get my hands around Krycek's neck right now," she
huffed as the car stopped, the doors opened and they stepped into
the hallway.

"You think he set us up?" Mulder asked, letting just the tips of his
fingers on his right hand come to rest on the small of her back as
they hurried toward Skinner's door.

She glanced at him over her shoulder, confused. "You don't?"

"When it comes to Krycek, I don't know what I think. But one
thing is obvious: we did learn something."

"Don't go anywhere Krycek tells us to go," she whispered as he
opened the door and waved her into the office in front of him.

Kim was at her desk and smiled wanly at them when they entered.
"He'll be right--"

The inner office door opened abruptly and revealed a stern faced
Assistant Director. "In my office, now!" Skinner interrupted Kim
and jerked his head to indicate the two agents were to follow.
Mulder was almost certain that little blue vein on the Assistant
Director's neck was about ready to pop any minute.

They didn't even bother to take their usual seats, partly because
they hadn't been offered. Skinner stood behind his desk, hands
clenched into fists and resting on the desk blotter. "I want a full
explanation of what happened in New Jersey and I want it now!"
he hissed.

Mulder licked his lips and looked over at Scully. "Sir, we
investigated the disappearance of Greta Wilson, as you requested.
We found the local authorities to be particularly uncooperative and
the other women who have experienced similar disappearances
were equally closemouthed. We were investigating the actual crop
circles themselves when we received word that Mrs. Wilson had
been returned. We went over to question her, but she was
extremely distraught. Scully offered to examine her and managed
to ask a few questions. We went back to the motel." He stopped
just short of giving the AD a description of the events of the rest of
the evening, and he omitted any mention of the chip Scully found
at the base of Greta's neck.

"When you interrogated Mrs. Wilson, Agent Scully, exactly what
did you ask her?" Skinner spit out.

Scully fought to hide her discomfort at the force of Skinner's
anger. "I tried to get her to talk about what had happened. I asked
what was the last thing she remembered. She remembered the last
quilting circle meeting, but not the field or anything about it. Sir,
when Mulder and I were investigating the crop circle, the pattern
of the circle exactly matched the pattern the women were making
on the quilt they were finishing. It was too much of a coincidence,
so I asked Ms. Wilson if she knew who'd picked out the quilt
pattern. She didn't know and she said she'd never seen the pattern
before. She was coughing and I asked Mulder and Mr. Wilson to
bring her some water. At that point, I decided it would be best to
let her rest. We were planning to come back today and continue
our questions."

"Well, that's not going to happen," Skinner said, finally dropping
to his seat with a frustrated look on his face.

Mulder was ready to take the bait. "May I ask why, Sir?"

Skinner took off his glasses, tossing them carelessly on his desk so
that he could properly rub his eyes. "Because Greta Wilson
committed suicide last night. She ingested the entire contents of a
bottle of sleeping pills. And her husband is blaming your
interrogation of his wife for pushing her over the edge."

Mulder swallowed, opening his mouth to speak, but the words
wouldn't come. Scully was shocked, too, but managed to find her
voice. "Sir, that's not possible! When we saw how exhausted she
was, we left. Her husband, Mr. Wilson, even thanked us for
helping. Sir . . ."

Skinner shook his head sadly, then leaned forward and retrieved
his glasses, putting them back on his face with exaggerated
movements. "Regardless of his feelings yesterday, today he is
devastated and outraged. He's looking for someone to blame and
you are the lucky recipients of his anger. Furthermore, the same
connections that brought this case to the attention of the FBI are
now working to see that you two take the full brunt of that anger.
There is a pending wrongful death suit, naming you both, and a
review by OPR to see if your actions were in any way
unprofessional or outside Bureau policy. If anything is found in
that review, you will be brought up on criminal charges."

It was Scully's turn to drop to the nearest seat, her face clearly
showing her incredulity. "Sir, I can't believe this," she muttered.

Mulder had managed to recover somewhat and put his hand on her
shoulder. "It's OK, Scully. We'll figure this out."

"You weren't in that room, Mulder," she whispered. "It was just
Greta and me."

He pursed his lips and shook his head, silently entreating her to
remain quiet on that piece of information. Finally, he looked back
over at Skinner. "Sir, how much time to we have before the

Taking in a deep breath, Skinner looked up at Mulder. "Two days.
You have exactly two days to get to the bottom of this."

"There has to be an autopsy of the body," Scully said suddenly.

"Scully, don't bother. Even if Wilson would agree, the OPR won't
let you near that body with a scalpel," Skinner told her gruffly.

"But will he allow the FBI to conduct the autopsy?" she asked.

Skinner turned thoughtful. "Very possibly. It is still an FBI
investigation. We could request it."

"I think that would be wise, sir. We need to keep control of
whatever evidence that is gathered."

Skinner nodded. "You need to do whatever you can to clear your
names before that OPR meeting. I suggest you get right on that."

"Thank you, sir," Mulder said. He reached down and took Scully's
elbow, helping her stand. "We'll be in touch," he promised.

"Please do," Skinner retorted.

They were silent all the way to the basement. Mulder's hand never
left Scully's back. He could tell she was still extremely upset, but
was doing her best to hide it. He also knew she was going over
every detail of their time at the Wilson home the day before,
examining each action or comment she made for any possible
indication that she or he had pressed the woman too far. It was a
process he was putting off for the time being, knowing it wouldn't
do for both of them to be introspective at the same time. Someone
had to keep their head above the rising waters.

"Want a cup of coffee?" he asked, when he had her seated at her
side of their shared desk. She shook her head numbly and refused
to even look at him as he took his place across from her. "You did
nothing wrong," he said, wanting to get the words spoken before
another minute passed.

She raised her head from her intense inspection of her nails. "You
weren't in that room, Mulder," she reminded him sadly.

"You examined her for what . . . ten minutes? And I was in that
room when you found the chip."

She closed her eyes, silently begging him to give her a reason to
believe that she truly was blameless in the woman's death.

"Scully, something caused Greta Wilson to kill herself. But I'm
willing to bet my bottom dollar it had nothing to do with us and
everything to do with that quilting circle."

"We're betting more than our bottom dollar, Mulder," she

He sighed. "I know."

"I have to view that autopsy," she said firmly. "I need to find out
what else was done to her."

"Scully, how are you going to do that? They're treating us like
suspects," he pointed out gently. "I truly doubt any pathologist
would allow you . . ."

"I'm hoping we don't get just any pathologist," she said with an
upturn of the corner of his mouth. "I'll call Mel Harmon. Ask her to
snag this case."

Her suggestion was the first ray of sunlight he'd seen and he
jumped on it. Mel was one of a handful of friends they had a
Quantico and by a happy coincidence, was a damn good
pathologist. She'd already helped them on one case in the recent
past. During the investigation of a man who could travel through
time, Mel had been injured, as had Mulder. Thanks to Scully's
good work, the case had been resolved and both Mel and Mulder
had recovered.

"Remind her she owes us one," he said, allowing himself a full-
blown smile.

He was irresistible, she couldn't help smiling back. "I think she
remembers it differently, Mulder. She thinks we owe her one."

He shrugged. "Then tell her we'll owe her two. Just get her on this
case and make sure you can observe, in whatever capacity you can

"Including illicit, I suppose," she chuffed.

"Whatever works, Scully," he said. "We're already in hot water,
might as well wade out to the deep end."

* * *

The Morgue at Quantico
Wednesday, 10:00 am

'Snagging the case' had proved to be a lot easier than getting
permission for Scully to observe the procedure. The fact that her
friendship with Mel wasn't widely know had helped, but only up to
a point. Scully was under strict orders to keep a safe distance from
the body at all times and not to 'interfere' with Dr. Harmon.

Mel Harmon kept up a running commentary as she worked, as
much for Scully's benefit as to record her findings. When her
words were meant for Scully alone, she turned carefully away from
the microphone that hung over the center of the autopsy table.
Scully held up her end of the bargain by standing off to the side
with both hands jammed in the pockets of her scrubs. Avoiding

"I see nothing that would contradict the initial finding of suicide by
barbiturate overdose," Mel concluded for the microphone's benefit.
Then, to Scully, "What makes you think this isn't what it appears to

"History, I suppose." Scully pitched her voice low enough to avoid
activating the mike. "Mulder's finally wearing off on me."

Mel chuckled. "I saw that coming a long time ago." Then she
sobered. "Now that I'm finished here, what was it you were hoping
I'd find?"

"I wish I knew." She hesitated for a moment, biting her lip.


"There's a scar on the back of the victim's neck."

Mel's eyebrows rose. She turned back to the table, turning the
body's head away from her to look closely at the back of the
woman's neck. "I don't... wait. " She lifted the left shoulder off the
table, fingers probing a spot at the base of the neck. Then she spun
on Scully. "A chip?"

Scully nodded. "You'll want to excise it, though I don't imagine it
will stay in the evidence locker for very long." At Mel's worried
frown, she added. "We're being careful, Mel."

Her friend snorted. "That would be a first."

Scully walked over to her friend and squeezed her shoulder fondly.
"If you want to bow out, I'll understand. But I need to ask another

Mel's smile was fierce. "Name it."

"Dig. Test everything you can think of, then test again. I don't
know what I'm looking for, but..."

"...but I'm your only hope of finding it," Mel finished her thought.

Scully put every ounce of gratitude and affection in her smile.
"You're *our* only hope."

* * *

10:20 am

Mulder slowed down the car as he approached the area's perimeter.
The cornfield looked considerably less ominous now in daylight,
yet he knew he needed to remain cautious.

Never knew when a rat might get underfoot.

For that very reason, when he stepped out of the car, Mulder drew
his gun. Before he made it twenty yards into the field, he realized
there was nothing left to see.

"Damn it!" he bellowed into the open air not caring who might
have heard him at that moment. The field had been harvested-- or
rather, run flat-- with something that had cut the stalks to pieces.
Whatever pattern had been visible from the air was now in ruin.

"How the hell do they destroy everything so damned fast?" he
wondered aloud.

That's when he noticed the zigzag pattern that was cut into the dirt;
creating several almost linear paths that led from one end of the
field to the other.

Mulder walked over to the nearest track and knelt down. It was a
tire track, but a very small one. It was either a very wide bicycle
tire... two of them riding side by side. Or.... "Golf carts?" He stood
up and scanned the area. There must have been a dozen or more of
them driving over the area. The tracks followed a pattern almost as
intricate as the original crop circle, but they all seemed to merge
into a single path that led to a wooded area just north of the corn

He pulled out his cell, punched in the number one and hit send.

"Scully," the voice on the other end responded.

"Feel like a walk in the woods?"

He could almost hear the eyebrow go up.

"Only if it starts raining sleeping bags," she shot back. Pause.
"Mulder, where are you?"

"By the crop circle, Scully, or what's left of it. I found some tracks
that look like a golf cart convention. They're leading into the

"Wait a minute, backtrack for a second. What do you mean 'what's
left of it'? The crop circle is gone?" she asked incredulously.

"Everything's been chopped down. I'm following the tracks as we
spea-- Shit!"

"Mulder, what's wrong?"

"Gopher hole. I tripped."

"Be careful." Then, "Mel says 'hi'."

Mulder smiled in spite of himself. "Hi, back." He huffed into the
phone as he stumbled over another rough spot.

"Try to stay out of trouble, okay?" Her teasing tone didn't quite
hide the genuine concern.

"Walk in the park."

Scully snorted and hung up.

Mulder clicked off the phone and kept walking. Several minutes
later and still following the golf tracks, he practically tripped over
himself. "Damn," he muttered out loud as he looked down. When
he took note of the ground, he saw exactly why he'd nearly taken a

The tire tracks suddenly expanded. In fact, they became huge,
cutting deep and hard into the ground. Widely spaced. Too wide to
be anything but--

His cell phone trilled, and he snatched it to his ear, expecting

"Agent Mulder? This is Chief Donaldson. You think maybe you
and your partner can get up to my office."

"You want us to help you?" Mulder paused for effect. "Can I ask
what changed your mind?"

"The other members of the Quilting Bees - they're gone."

"What? You mean they're missing now, too?"

"No, Agent, if only that was it. No, all of those women - they were
all found dead earlier today."

* * *


Clayville Hospital Morgue
4:08 pm

Mulder was biting sunflower seeds and spitting them into his hand
before returning the shells to his pocket. He knew he was going to
get hell from both Scully and his dry cleaner, but he couldn't be
held responsible for his actions. He'd been standing outside the
double doors to the morgue for over five hours, he'd been chased
out twice already and he was just about to the point where he was
going to blow a gasket. Finally, he couldn't take it any longer. He
pushed one of the doors open and stepped inside.

"Mulder," Scully growled, low in her throat.

Mel Harmon glanced up, eyes dancing with amusement over the
plastic protective goggles. She seemed rather cheerful for someone
who'd driven two hours just to spend five more on her feet.

"Ah, Mom," Mel teased, "he's just bored. You really need to invest
in a Gameboy or something for his next birthday."

Mulder shot her an evil look, then turned pleading eyes toward his
partner. "Scully, c'mon, I'll be good. Just give me something," he
whined. He caught himself doing it this time, and cleared his
throat, trying for a more professional tone. "You haven't found
*any* commonalities?"

Scully stepped back and looked at him for a moment before raising
her goggles to the top of her head. Mel continued to work. "The
majority seem to have ingested sleeping pills or some other
narcotic. One apparently went out to the garage, plugged the doors
and left the car running. Only one went so far as to slice her wrists.
I got the feeling they didn't want anything that would take a long
time or that might be discovered before it was finished."

He winced and bit his lip.

"I can tell you that although it's really hard to pinpoint, there are
indications that this was not done simultaneously. From the looks
of it, some of these women killed themselves early in the evening,
some in the middle of the night and a few in the early hours of the

Mulder puzzled on that. "Like a chain reaction?"

Scully shrugged. "It wasn't done at one time. But it all happened
within a few hours."

Mulder grabbed another handful of seeds and popped a couple in
his mouth.

"Mulder, if you get any shells in one of these bodies," Scully

He put his hands up in surrender and started backing toward the
door. "Are you about finished?" he asked, and this time made sure
it didn't sound like a six year old begging to go out and play.

"We have to close on this one and we have one more after that.
Then we'll be done," she told him, giving him a smile before
dropping her goggles and joining Mel back at the body.

As he started his pace in the hallway again, his cell phone rang.
Quickly checking to see if any hospital personnel were around to
yell at him for having it turned on, he answered. "Mulder."

"It's Skinner," the voice on the other end said shortly. "I thought
you'd want to know. In light of the other suicides, Wilson has
decided to drop the wrongful death suit. The OPR has cancelled
their review as well."

Mulder took in as much air as his lungs could hold and let it out in
a rush. "That's good news, sir."

"I would think so," Skinner replied dryly. "What has Scully come
up with in those bodies?"

"All suicides, sir. But the times of death are indicating that they
didn't do it at one time. They were spread out during the night."

"So you don't think it was a suicide pact?" Skinner asked.

"Sir, at this point, I'm not entirely sure these are suicides," Mulder
said slowly.

"But you just said . . ."

"Sir, these women died by their own hands, there is little doubt of
that. But whether it was of their own volition or they were forced
into these acts, that remains to be seen."

Skinner was silent for a few seconds, then Mulder could hear his
boss sighed on the other end. "Just go where the evidence leads
you, Mulder."

"As always, sir," Mulder responded with a grin. Skinner had
already hung up. Mulder was sliding his phone back in his jacket
pocket when the exit doors at the end of the hall opened.

A man came rushing straight at Mulder and had the agent up
against a wall with an arm against his larynx in the blink of an eye.

"You son of a bitch! You killed her! You called her in the middle
of the night and started up with this crop circle shit and pushed her
over the edge! Well, maybe you ought to join her!" the man yelled
and pushed harder against the agent's neck.

The double doors to the morgue flew open and both Scully and
Mel ran into the hall. Scully had her gun out trained on the man
just as Mulder brought his own weapon to bear.

"Release him immediately and put your hands up!" Scully shouted.
The man reacted instantly, dropping Mulder and spinning around.
Now, both agents had guns trained on him. He stood there, hands
in the air for several seconds and then he seemed to dissolve. He
crumbled to the ground, shaking with sobs.

"Lizzie! Oh, god, Lizzie why did you do this?" he gasped out and
curled into a fetal ball.

Mulder coughed a few times and was tugging on his shirt and tie,
wincing as he tried to swallow. Scully was at his side, a silent
glance ensuring that he was going to be all right. Slowly, she
stooped to the cowering man and placed her hand on his back, then
at his throat checking for a pulse. She looked up at Mel, who was
still trying to take it all in. "Mel, call for a gurney. I think he's
going into shock."

Scully turned her attention back to the man. "Sir, can you tell me
who you are?" she asked gently.

Mulder was getting his bearings back after the attack, but the name
the man had said struck a chord. "Lizzie? Lizzie Johnson. That's
Lizzie Johnson's husband, Scully," he told her, holstering his gun.
The man was quite obviously no longer a threat.

The man uncovered his face for a moment, and looked woefully up
to Mulder. "Why did you call her? Why couldn't you just leave us

Mulder cast a confused look to Scully. "Sir, Mr. Johnson, I didn't
call your house last night. I can assure you I did not make any call
to your wife."

Scully decided to intervene on her partner's behalf. "Mr. Johnson,
we can check the phone records and prove it wasn't Agent Mulder
who called last night."

Johnson shook his head, whether not hearing or not believing was
anyone's guess. "She wouldn't kill herself. We were doing so good
again," he continued to mumble as tears streaked down his cheeks.
"We'd put it all behind us." He broke down into more sobs and
curled back into a ball again.

A gurney and an orderly appeared, followed by a resident and a
nurse. "I think he needs to be sedated, and I'd like him under police
guard. He attacked my partner," Scully told the resident. The
young woman nodded and went about giving orders to the staff.

Scully finally had time to come over to where Mulder was standing
and give him her full attention. She reached up to loosen the top
few buttons on his shirt and with an exasperated sigh, he allowed
her to examine his neck. "I'm fine," he told her, though he didn't
expect it to have any effect on her actions. She didn't disappoint
him, she continued to check him out.

"There might be some bruising. Tell me right away if you have any
trouble swallowing later tonight," she told him and patted his
shoulder. "I think we can rule out an xray," she told him, dropping
her eyes.

He smiled at her and raised her chin so she had to look at him. "I
know that took a lot to say, Scully, and I want you to know I
appreciate it," he teased. He pulled her into a brief hug then held
her at arms length. "You finished already?"

"No, we heard the commotion and came running out to save you,"
she said with a dead eyed stare, but a twinkle in her eye. "We still
have the last body to go."

He nodded, accepting her comments on her rescue attempts
gracefully. "I think I'm going to do a little digging of my own
while you work."

"Where are you going?"

"I'm curious about something," he said cryptically.

Her gaze narrowed. "Mulder, you're curious about everything," she
said pointedly.

He gave her a wide grin and headed down the hallway toward the

Scully's smile faded as she turned back to the double doors. Inside
the morgue, she found Mel standing motionless next to the table,
her expression thoughtful.

"Hey, no daydreaming until we're done." Scully snagged a pair of
gloves from the pop-up box next to the sink and pulled them on.
Mel didn't seem to know she was even in the room. Scully walked
up to her friend and touched her shoulder. "You okay?"

Mel jumped, then looked down at Scully with a faint smile. "There
was something strange about the ribcage." She leaned over the
body and pushed the incision open, pointing as she spoke. "Here,
where the rib spreader cracked this section?"

Scully peered at the area. "I don't see what--" Suddenly, she
couldn't breathe. The shock of recognition must have shown on her
face as she looked back at Mel, who nodded. "How did we miss

"I'll have to confirm it with more tests, but I'd say there's a very
good chance this woman had Paget's carcinoma of the bone. If she
knew, it might have had something to do with her decision to end
her life."

Scully's mouth had gone dry. Deja vu-- the chilling kind-- had
rendered her speechless.

Mel put a hand steadying hand on Scully's shoulder. "You look
like you've seen a ghost."

Scully shook her head slightly. "You have no idea."

"Dana, *tell* me."

Even as she gave Mel the details of Teena Mulder's illness, and
how she'd believed it to be the cause of the woman's suicide,
Scully began to second guess herself. Yes, finding Paget's again in
another unexplained suicide was disturbing, but it hadn't yet been
confirmed. And even if it *did* turn out to be Paget's , this was
just one victim out of many. The others had apparently showed no
sign of the disease.

"Dana, I can see the wheels turning. You've already decided not to
tell Mulder about this."

Scully puffed out a long breath. "Not until we're certain. We have
to finish the final autopsy, then retest the others." She felt an
inordinate rush of relief at the small reprieve. She would tell him
when she knew something for sure. Not now. Scully straightened
and smiled up at her friend. "Now, let's finish this up before
Mulder gets back."

* * *

Scully was still bent over the body when Mulder poked his head
into the autopsy bay some time later. Mel saw him and said
something to Scully. She looked back at him over her shoulder.
"We'll be awhile, yet."

"Can you take a break for a minute? I've got something to show

"Go ahead, Dana. I'll finish up."

A look passed between the two women that Mulder couldn't quite
read. Then Scully pulled off her gloves and tossed them at the bin
next to the table. "I'll be right out."

Mulder nodded and let the door close. A few minutes later, she
joined him in the hall, still dressed in scrubs. Mulder jerked his
chin toward the autopsy bay doors. "Anything turn up?"

She shook her head. "Nothing definitive."

He shrugged and took out his notebook. "Scully, in every case,
those women received a phone call last night. Or at least the phone
rang and they were the ones to pick it up. I have some approximate
times here." He handed her the notes and she read them intently.

"Mulder, judging by these times, if they're correct, the phone calls
almost match the times of death or very near."

He nodded and she gave him a look. "But you were expecting

He nodded again, smiling this time. "Scully, it was something
Johnson said. The call pushed Lizzie over the edge. I think he's
right. I just wasn't the one to make the call."

"So the person who made the calls . . ."

"Has a lot of explaining to do," Mulder finished. "I need to get my
hands on the phone records for each of these houses, see if I can
get any information on the source of those calls. I think that will
bring us one step closer to the responsible parties."

She bit her lip and nodded.

* * *

Clayville Police Department
5:14 pm

Mulder held his cell phone next to his good ear. Johnson had really
done a number on him earlier, and his cheek still throbbed dully
from the punch. A rifle whack to the head and a decking by an
angry husband bent on bloody murder didn't put him in the best of

Chief Donaldson had been slightly more accommodating today,
letting him use an empty cubicle for his research. Easy listening
'hold music' assaulted his eardrums. He was humming along with
an instrumental version of "Walkin' in Memphis," remembering
the Cher concert a few years ago, when the crackle of someone
picking up a receiver interrupted his musings.

"Welcome to Sprint Customer Service, this is Lisa. How may I
help you?" a much-too-perky female voice greeted him.

"Yes, Lisa this is Agent Mulder of the FBI. I'm calling about
account 555-4154. I'd like to request a phone record of calls made
and received between the hours of 5 p.m. last night and 8 a.m.
today. My badge number is--"

"I'm sorry, sir, I cannot disclose that information at this time. You
will have to mail or fax us a copy of a warrant for records of the

"May I speak to your manager, please? I'm sure we can clear this
up and get down to business."

He heard the woman sigh on the other end, thinking about this
proposal. When she came back on the line, she sounded uneasy.
"Agent Mulder, these are standard procedures. I'm sorry, but
anyone you speak to will give you the same answer."

"This is a critical situation. Doesn't that qualify as an exception to
standard procedures?" he asked in the most authoritative voice he
could manage. He wondered if he were sounding at all like
Skinner. Scully had mentioned the similarity recently.

"If you'll just hold--"

"No! No, wait don't do that. I've been on hold for--"

"What would you like me to do, Agent Mulder?"

"Just," he sighed in defeat, "give me your fax number, and I'll see
what I can do."

She rattled off a number to him, thanked him for calling Sprint in
that awful perky voice, and hung up. He beeped off the phone, and
pushed the antenna back into place with his forehead.

He'd been hitting road blocks at every turn. If the phone
companies weren't accepting his badge number, they were telling
him such phone accounts didn't exist. The recent area code
changes in this part of New Jersey weren't helping matters either.
The red tape just hadn't all been trimmed away yet. It seemed
nobody wanted to take responsibility for their own customers.

Wiping the tension out of his eyes, he prepared himself to make his
next call, but this one was on the speed dial.

The Assistant Director answered, grumbling into the receiver. He
had a bad habit of holding the mouthpiece too close when he was
distracted, and the sound of breathing against plastic sounded like
static to Mulder's ears.

"What is it, Mulder?"

"Sir, I'm going to have to request a subpoena to access the phone
records of all the Quilting Bee members."

"I thought I'd hear this request from you earlier."

"Yeah, well, I tried it the old fashioned way first. You know,
follow protocol, etcetera, etcetera."

"Humph," Skinner laughed into the phone, the sharp spurt of static
slicing into Mulder's ear again. "Since when do you follow
protocol, Agent?"

Mulder chuckled darkly to himself, "Since my way hasn't gotten
me very far out here in the sticks. Ask a simple question, and I'm
wanted for murder." He gently caressed the swollen part of his
face, wincing at even that exploratory touch.

"I'll have Kim set up the form, and I'll approve it--" a beeping
sound interrupted the AD's sentence, "--right away."

"That's my other line. Thank you, sir. Would you have Kim fax it
over to the Clayville police department?" The beep insisted again.

"It'll be there within the hour."

"Thanks." Mulder pressed the flash button on his phone and
answered, "Yeah."

"Mulder, it's me."

"Scully, I think my ear is going to fall off."

"That bad, huh?"

"Let's just say I'll never be interrupting your dinnertime with
surveys on how much television you watch weekly."

"Well, take a break. I need you down here at the morgue as soon as

His ears perked up. "You found something!"

Silence. "Just get down here as soon as you can." She disconnected
before he could press for more information.


Clayville Morgue
6:30 pm

He found Scully in a small room off the side of the morgue, seated
at a computer terminal. She looked up from her work and noticed
him before he reached the door. She'd been waiting for him, and
she wasn't smiling.

"Made any headway?"

"Mulder, let's go out into the hall," she suggested, glancing
uneasily over to the wall of storage units. She led him back into the
office, where Mel had been sitting in the visitor chair while Scully

"Hey, Mel."

"Mulder," the pathologist greeted, burying her nose into a cup of
steaming coffee as they passed behind her. They exited through a
secondary door that led straight to the hallway.

It felt cold and empty and Scully was holding her elbows as if she
were warding off a chill as well. She was holding her breath,
clearly excited about something, but at the same time, acting as if
she were holding back.

"Come on, Scully, hit me with it." He leaned against the wall,
composure relaxed, hoping to make her feel a little more at ease.
With dry, slightly bloodshot eyes, she gazed up at his warm
inviting expression, then joined him against the wall. She crossed
her arms tighter, in an attempt to simulate physical support,
preparing herself to continue.

"Greta Wilson was dying from something else before she
committed suicide."

"What?" he asked, curiously.

"Paget's Carcinoma. It was the early stages, but it was still there."

This time Mulder held his breath. He knew the disease. It was the
same disease his mother had suffered from. He shifted his shoulder
blades, pushing them hard into the solid wall. Squinting down at
her, he now understood her reticence.


"And," she continued, "all the women in the Quilting Bees circle
suffered from the same disease."

Mulder pushed himself away from the wall and faced her. "I wasn't
aware the disease was so common."

"It's not. In fact, it's highly improbable that such a high ratio of
women suffering from the disease in one community would even
exist. Statistics would suggest it impossible."

Mulder looked to the ceiling and blew out a puff of air. There were
some obvious conclusions that were begging to be jumped to, but
he refused to take the bait. He could read his partner almost as well
as she could read him, and there was something else she wasn't
ready to tell him. It was written all over her carefully blank face.
He also knew that pressing her would be futile. Time for a

"Let's get some dinner and you can tell me the rest."

She let the surprise show in her eyes for just an instant before the
professional mask returned. "Okay. I'll see if Mel wants to join us."

She gave him an odd look, then headed back through the doors.

* * *
7:35 pm

They sat in the small diner several miles away from town so they
could talk without fear of being overheard by one of the
townspeople. Though Mulder was finally getting cooperation from
the Clayville Sheriff's Department, he still wasn't sure if they were
being completely forthcoming with every detail about the case.

Besides, there was nothing like a little diner comfort food to loosen
the lips. Or, so he hoped.

Scully ordered a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a tuna sandwich,
while Mulder braved the house special of meat loaf and garlic
mashed potatoes.

"If you think you're going to get lucky tonight, you'd better think
again, garlic breath," Scully said with a light chuckle.

"I know that's your way of letting me know you want to taste them,

"Damn straight it is," she retorted. She smiled, but it faded quickly.
Then she grew quiet... suddenly fascinated with the napkin holder.
Her water glass. The cars in the parking lot. Everything but him.

Mulder watched her for a few minutes. Then he reached over to take
her hand. She sat up straight, eyes fixed on his.

"Mulder, I think there's something more going on here than just
Paget's Syndrome."

"Okay, I'm listening."

"I don't think we're dealing with ordinary malignant cells."

"Malignant cells in and of themselves are rarely ordinary, are they,

"No, you're right, they're not. They're usually highly irregular in
their shape, which is one of the reasons they're identifiable as

"So what makes these even more irregular?"

"Well, that's just it. They're not."

"They're not, what?"


"You've lost me, Scully."

"The women were all definitely in one stage or another of Paget's
Disease. We were able to identify the condition through the
molecular structure and the other symptoms that we overlooked at

"But, Mulder, the very nature of cancer is that there is no real
pattern or structure to the cells themselves. There's no rhyme or
reason to when they manifest themselves. But--"

"-- but these cancer cells were too orderly, too predictable in their
appearance and indicators to be your run of the mill Paget cell,


"So, what are your Scully sensors telling you it means?"

"That as abnormal as cancer cells are, these particular cells are even
more of an anomaly. Mulder, we've both seen this before."


"Think. When have we seen a perfectly healthy person suddenly
become deathly ill with millions of parasitic cells attempting to take
over his entire body?"

Recognition came almost immediately and Mulder's reaction was
just as swift and equally as angry. "That sonofabitch has his dirty
hands in this, too?"

"It would make sense that Krycek has something to do with this,
given his penchant for playing games with his remote control

"So these are nanocytes in the women's bodies?"

"I think it's possible that these cells were manufactured and
implanted. That these women were given this disease."

"But why? Why this disease? Hell, why *any* disease?" Mulder
opened his hands in a questioning gesture.

"Well, it could be as simple as the reason Krycek gave Skinner the
nanocytes - control. But to be honest I'm not sure what exactly
whoever did this to these women expected to gain from controlling
them," Scully answered carefully.

"It was more than just control, Scully. Krycek wanted control of
Skinner because he knew that Skinner had a power that he could tap.
These women had no power; there was no reason to want to control
them. No, Scully, it was more than just control. These bastards used
the disease as a cover for something else."

"But what? And why? And who?"

"You do have a penchant for the sixty-four dollar questions, don't
you?" He picked up his fork and waved it at her food. "Eat while
you have the chance. We've got a long night ahead of us if we're
going to get those questions answered."

"Where do you propose we start?" she asked as she pushed her soup
spoon into the mound of garlic mashed potatoes.

"With the 'who', of course." He pushed the fork into a hunk of meat
loaf. "Krycek."

* * *


Clayville Inn
9:03 pm

Scully was dozing in the seat next to him as Mulder pulled the
rental car in to the parking lot of the motel. When he reached a full
stop, he leaned over and ran his finger down her cheek. She sighed,
yawned and opened her eyes. She stretched and he winced as he
heard her vertebrae cracking and popping.

"I think we're due for some R and R," he chided. "Maybe a nice
bubble bath."

"Mulder, we have a hundred and one things to be doing . . ."

"And not a single one of them can be accomplished at this hour,"
he retorted. "Scully, I have to get a subpoena for those phone
records, and that will take a judge. It's almost 11 pm, I doubt I
could get one now and there wouldn't be anyone at the phone
company to release the records anyway. C'mon, we've worked
hard, we deserve a little 'us' time."

"Well, when you put it that way," Scully smiled and opened her car
door. Mulder was halfway to the door when he stopped, staring off
into the distance. Suddenly, he took off at a dead run and tackled a
figure that had just stepped out from the shadows.

Scully gasped, grabbed her gun and had it trained on the two
combatants, but couldn't get a clean shot. Mulder was tossing the
unknown against the wall, getting in a couple of good punches to
the face and stomach before the other man threw a right to the jaw
that sent Mulder back a few feet, landing sprawled against the
hood of a car.

In the dim light of the motel overhang, Scully could finally make
out a face. Alex Krycek.

Mulder didn't stay out of it for long. He launched himself off the
car hood, taking Krycek down in a tackle that would have done
any defensive linebacker proud. Both men hit the cement sidewalk
and rolled, fists flying and groans marking each target hit.

Scully stood there a moment, considering her options. The last
time the three of them had been in similar circumstances, she'd
shot Mulder in the shoulder to keep him from killing Krycek. How
many times in the ensuing years had she wondered at the wisdom
of that course of action? She brought her gun up just as Mulder
gained the upper hand and had Krycek pinned to the ground.
Mulder reached around and grabbed his gun, sticking right under
Krycek's chin.

"You killed 11 women, you bastard!" Mulder gasped, getting his
breath back. "I oughta send you back to hell where you came

"Mulder," Scully cautioned, but made no further move to

Mulder's flicked off the safety with his thumb. The sweat started
popping on Krycek's brow.

"Mulder, it wasn't me, I swear," he rasped. "It wasn't me," his
voice trailed off in fear or surrender, it was hard to tell.

"Like I could ever believe you, you son of a bitch," Mulder spat
and his finger twitched on the trigger.

"Mulder, goddamn it, you have to believe me! Why would I come
here if I did it? I'd be miles away from here, you know that!"

Mulder seemed to be working that over in his mind. Scully shifted
nervously from one foot to the other. She didn't really believe that
Mulder would ever pull the trigger, that he would kill someone in
cold blood regardless of how evil they were. But then again, there
was a tiny part of her who would never blame him if one day he

Mulder made up his mind in the blink of an eye. He grabbed
Krycek by the shirt and pulled him up to his feet. The gun was still
quite firmly in Mulder's hand, but he thumbed the safety back on.
Krycek never lowered his gaze from Mulder's, but reached up to
wipe the blood from his mouth.

"You two have a funny way of saying 'thank you'," Alex muttered.
Mulder grabbed him by the back of his leather jacket collar and
propelled him toward the door to their room.

"I don't know. You're alive. I'd say that's more than enough thanks
for what you've done," he replied and after Scully had opened the
door, Mulder shoved Krycek into the nearest chair. Noting that
Scully had her gun trained on their suspect, he holstered his
weapon and leaned against the low dresser with his arms crossed.

"So who are you going to finger, Krycek? And make it snappy,
Scully hasn't been to the range in a week and she might decide to
take out her frustrations on you."

Krycek regarded Scully and then dropped his eyes. "I don't know,"
he said. When Mulder started to lunge again, Krycek put up his
hands in defense. "Wait, I know how that sounds. I know of them,
I just don't know the specifics!"

Mulder glowered at him, but went back to leaning. Scully tapped
her foot inpatiently. "Get on with it!"

"You might want to consider leaving 'red' behind," Krycek said to
Mulder. At their joint snort, he turned to Mulder again. "I mean it
this time."

"I'm sure you do," Mulder said calmly. "But it's not going to
happen. So do tell, what do you know."

"There's an airbase, abandoned in the first round of budget cuts
back 8 or 10 years ago. It's been falling into disrepair, but
apparently someone has found a use for it."

"Where?" Mulder demanded.

"I'll show you," Krycek replied, all teeth.

"Not in this lifetime," Mulder shot back.

"Look, it's not a set up! You want to find out who is responsible
for those women, who took them, who made them sick . . ."

"How do you know they were sick?" Scully demanded, taking a
step forward.

Alex chuckled softly, with a desperate air. "It's not the first time
they've used that. Paget's carcinoma. Pretty damned rare to find 11
women in a town that size, don't you think?"

"You're saying it was manufactured?" Mulder asked, a sense of
dread filling him.

"Yes, that is exactly what I'm saying," Krycek said pointedly.

Scully was licking her lips. "I don't suppose you have any proof,"
she interjected dryly.

"Proof," Krycek laughed again. "What more proof do you two
need? You got so close they had no choice but to kill those
women! You said I killed them. I think you oughta go look in a
mirror. If anyone is at least partly to blame for those deaths, it's the
two of you and this investigation!"

Mulder glanced over and noticed that Scully had paled at Krycek's

"Don't listen to him, Scully! He's a liar and he'll do anything to get
out of this."

"Just keep tellin' yourself that, chief," Krycek said. Mulder took a
step and backhanded him hard, bringing blood to the other corner
of the double agents mouth.

"Cut it out!" Scully shouted. There was a moment when the three
of them just stood there, staring at each other. It was Scully who
broke the spell. "Mulder, we have to go have a look at the airbase."

* * *
9:50 pm

Mulder checked the odometer and let up on the gas. "It should be
right here."

Scully lowered her window and peered into the empty darkness. "I
don't see any-- Wait!"

He spotted it at the same time and slowed to a crawl. Off to the
right, at the limit of the headlights' reach, was a small structure. "It
looks like a gatehouse." He pulled off the road and cut the engine.

Mulder clicked on his small maglite, adjusting the lens to produce
a narrow but intense beam. Then he shone it on his own face so she
could see him waggle his brows. "Stealth mode." He popped the
door locks and got out.

Scully rolled her eyes, but adjusted her light before she followed

It indeed was a gatehouse-- what was left of it. As they drew
closer, they saw remnants of a chain link fence clinging to posts
where the gate had been. As their eyes adjusted to the darkness,
they could make out two large shapes in the distance.

"Hangars?" Scully whispered.

"Maybe. Whatever they are, we're not their only recent visitors."
He pointed his light at a group of overlapping tire tracks
paralleling their path.

Scully grabbed his arm and hauled him to a stop. "Mulder, do
those tracks look familiar?"

"Yeah." He pulled his arm free and moved it around her shoulders.
"Let's find out what made them."

They headed for the building on the left. It was indeed a hangar, a
huge corrugated steel structure with a large overhead door in front.
The door was closed, but an entrance door on the side stood
invitingly ajar. Mulder and Scully exchanged a look in the

Mulder leaned over and whispered in her ear. "Wait here."

She gave him a look that was clear, even in the dark. Without a
word, she walked to the door and went inside. Mulder followed,
shaking his head.

Inside, the darkness was total. Scully's light was sweeping the vast
space twenty yards ahead of him. As the it fell on a large vehicle,
they both froze in their tracks.

"It's a Hummer," Scully called back to him in a stage whisper.

Her light moved on, finding another truck. And another. One
whole side of the building was parked full of them. The floor was
tracked with mud, criss-crossed with treads just like those they'd
seen in the field and on the road coming in.

"Mulder, look." She was pointing her light at the far wall, behind
one of the trucks.

Mulder came up behind her and added his beam to hers. Something
was back there, covered by a tarp. "Supplies, maybe."

They squeezed between the two nearest trucks and found there was
quite a bit of space behind the row. Mulder reached down and
pulled the tarp back. "Golf cart."

Scully had already moved to the next tarp and uncovered another
cart. She bent down, looking at something near the floor.

"What have you got?" He started toward her, but she stood up,
holding something in the beam of her light. "Cornstalks."
Suddenly, she shifted her light to a point behind him, and he turned
to look. "Mulder, it looks like an office."

The trucks had hidden it from their view. The door wasn't locked,
and there was even an overhead light that worked, as they abruptly
discovered. Mulder had automatically reached for the wall switch
inside the door and nearly blinded them both with the sudden glare.

Scully gave him a squinty frown. "I guess I can assume we've
discarded the stealth approach."

He moved past her to a desk across the room. "I don't hear any
weapons being cocked, so I guess we're clear." He began pulling
out drawers and rifling the contents. "The golf carts tie this place to
the crop circles. All we need is something to tie it to the women."

"And something to tie the place to whoever is responsible." Scully
started searching a filing cabinet next to the door. The first drawer
was full of office supplies: paper, ink cartridges, boxes of paper
clips. She closed it and pulled out the second. Mulder's excited
voice turned her around.

"Scully! This is it!" He waved a sheet of paper in the air. "Names,


The gunshot was so unexpected and so close that it stunned her.
Before she could recover, she was pulled back against someone by
an arm tight across her throat. She grabbed the arm with both
hands, trying desperately to pull away.

Mulder was down, on the other side of the desk. She couldn't see
him, and suddenly breathing seemed less important than finding
out how badly he was hurt. "Let me GO!"

"If you'll calm down, I will."

Shock stilled her movements. The voice was...

"That's better."

No. It wasn't possible.

The arm moved from her throat, and she drew a ragged breath,
suddenly afraid to turn around.

"Dana, look at me."

She turned. And stared in total disbelief.

It took two tries to find her voice.


It couldn't be. Her brother stood before her with a gun trained on
her chest. The same gun he'd just used to--

"Mulder!" She spun around, intent on finding her partner, too
numb to think beyond that goal. The rest... the rest was an illusion.
A nightmare... Anything but what her eyes were telling her.

The man grabbed her shoulder with steely fingers that held her
fast. "Wouldn't you like to know why I'm here?"

No sound from the other side of the room. Mulder could be dead.
She spun on the man who looked like her brother. "I don't know
who the hell you are, but you have to let me go to my partner."

"Him?" The man snorted. "He's not worth your time, Dana. I'm
here to offer you a way out."

"Who are you?"

He tightened his grip on her shoulder until the pain made her eyes
water. "You know who I am."

She shook her head. "I know who you look like."

"You know who I *am*. I can see it in your eyes." The face, as
familiar to her as her own, looked down at her kindly.

Her voice choked down to a whisper. "You are not my brother."

"Haven't you ever wondered how the two of you have managed to
stay alive all these years? It was me, Dana. I've risked my own
position, time and again, to keep you safe. But this is the end of the

"You're lying." Please God, don't let this be true.

"Am I?" He seemed to search his memory. "Okay, tell me this:
how would I know about your bunny? The one Billy boy hid from
you. He killed it, Dana. He didn't mean to, but he put it in a box,
and it died."

"No." It was barely a whisper.

"Yes. Ask me anything. Something only Charlie would know. I
need you to believe me, Dana."

"My brother would never do what you've done."

He chuckled. "Oh, Dana. For such an intelligent woman, you can
be so incredibly naive. You still think you've chosen your own
path, don't you? With everything that's happened, you still believe
in the future."

"I want to go to my partner."

Blue eyes pleaded with her. "I've seen the future, Dana. And there's
nothing you can do to change it. Not with Fox Mulder. What I'm
offering you is not just survival. You'll have everything you could
possibly want."

"I'll take my chances."

His expression turned to stone. "They said you were a lost cause.
I'd hoped that wasn't true." The gun barrel came up, pointing at her
head. "This is your last chance. The most important choice of your
life, Dana. Come with me and live, or stay with him and share his

Scully squared her shoulders and put everything she was feeling
into her eyes. "Go to hell."

For just an instant, the man's blue eyes softened with something
like sorrow. "Good bye, Dana."

The gun moved so swiftly, she had no time to flinch. The barrel
came down hard as the floor rushed up toward her in a blaze of
pain and light.

What seemed only seconds later, someone was pulling her to her
feet. "Mulder?"

"Not quite," came a familiar voice, inches from her ear.

Reflex jerked her away from him even before her spinning brain
put a name to the voice.

Alex Krycek grabbed her shoulders and turned her back to face
him. "We don't have time for this. I've got Mulder in your car. Do
you want to come along, or would you prefer to walk back to

His face was swimming in and out of focus. Her knees refused to
lock, and she hated knowing he was holding her up. "You bastard.
You set us up."

"I suggest you can the attitude. You need me, no matter how much
that turns your stomach."

*I've got Mulder in your car.* She stopped struggling. "Is he all

"He's bleeding all over your leather seats. You want to stand her
awhile longer and tell me what you think of me, or can we get him
to the hospital first?"

She wasn't surprised to find that her car was now parked just
outside the door. Krycek, after all, had learned hot wiring the same
place she had. Quantico.

He kept her upright with an arm around her shoulders while he
opened the back door. Mulder was sprawled across the seat with
his back against the door, and Scully had to catch him when it
opened. He was out cold.

Krycek went around to the drivers side and got in, leaving her to
struggle with her partner's dead weight. She got him situated on
her lap and closed the door just as Krycek peeled out toward the
main road. It was all she could do to keep Mulder from slipping
out of her arms as they bounced over the rutted surface.

When they reached the main road, she was able to locate the
source of the bleeding. The bullet seemed to have followed the
same path her own had done years ago, only in the reverse
direction. The exit wound, and the heaviest bleeding, was in the
front this time. His shirt was soaked all the way to his waist.

Krycek wasted no time getting them to the hospital. He screeched
to a halt in front of the ER entrance and laid on the horn for a
moment. Then, without a word, he got out of the car and
disappeared into the night.

* * *

Clayville Hospital
Post surgical wing
Three hours later

"The doctor left orders for pain medication for you, Miss Scully."

Scully turned her head carefully. Mulder's nurse was looking down
at her with concern. "No, thank you. I'm fine." She straightened
slowly in her chair and turned back to Mulder. "It will make me
sleepy and I want to be here when he wakes up." She reached over
and took his hand.

"I can see that you're in pain. If you change your mind...."

Scully smiled. "I will. Thank you."

The woman finished checking her patient, and left the room. Scully
sagged back in her chair, rubbing wearily at her burning eyes.

The nurse was right. She was in pain. A lot of it. But very little
came from the wound in her head.

Her concussion was mild, they said, but enough to dim her
memories of the events directly proceeding the blow to her head.

Not dimmed enough, though. Not nearly enough.

The man who shot Mulder. If he was indeed her brother-- and she
was coming more and more to believe that he was-- the
implications were almost incomprehensible.

Greta Wilson's death. The disappearances, not just here, but...

Could it have been Charlie all along? Putting them in danger, but
somehow keeping them alive? Not because Mulder was important
to them, but because of *her*?

She replayed every memory she could grasp, searching for the
signs she must have missed. Anything that could have warned her
that the enemy was so close. So treacherous.

So loved...

"Scully, what's wrong?"

She jerked her head up at the raspy whisper. Mulder was looking
directly at her, eyes dark with worry. She got up and sat carefully
on the side of his bed. "Nothing, Mulder. Nothing's wrong."

He reached up and touched her face, then brought his damp
fingertips out for her to see. "Then what's this?"

She swiped quickly at her eyes. "How do you feel?"

"Better than I should, apparently. How long have I got, Doc?"

She chuckled in spite of herself. "You're fine, Mulder. The round
went straight through."

He gingerly moved his left shoulder. "Feels familiar."

"Yeah," she whispered, eyes downcast. Suddenly, the tears were
clogging her throat.

Mulder's fingers lifted her chin. "Scully, tell me what's wrong."

She looked into his eyes, drawing strength from the love she found
there. "I know who shot you."

His eyes widened, but he said nothing.

The words poured from her, bitter as bile on her tongue. All the
while, his gaze never wavered. Never once showed her anything
but complete trust. That, more than anything, destroyed the last of
her control.

He held her to his chest, rubbing his cheek against her hair, making
soothing sounds as she wept.

Finally, she sat up and looked at him. "I'm sorry, Mulder. I don't
know what--"

He touched two fingers to her lips. "Don't."

She nodded. For now, there was nothing more to say.

"How's your head?"

"I hope you're referring to the bump on it and not what's going on

He gave her a stern look. "You're in pain."

She reached up to brush her fingers gently through his hair. "Not
so much, now."

"Am I interrupting?"

They both looked toward the voice. Skinner was standing in the

"Not at all, Sir. I didn't know you were here."
Scully stood up and tugged self-consciously at her rumpled

"I've been out at the air base." He looked at Mulder. "How are you

"I'm fine, Sir. What did you find?" Mulder asked the question in a
tone that said he already knew the answer.

"There's no sign of the evidence you reported to the sheriff, Agent
Scully. I don't imagine that comes as a surprise."

"No, Sir. Not really." Mulder was speaking to Skinner but his eyes
were on Scully.

For a long moment, no one spoke. Then, Skinner walked to the
foot of Mulder's bed. "I don't like the feeling I'm getting here."

"What feeling is that, sir?" She lifted her chin and held his steady

"The one that says there's more to this than I'm being told."

She felt Mulder's warm hand close over hers where it rested next to
him on the bed. Then he coughed-- for effect, she thought, until
she looked at his face.

"Sir, Mulder needs to rest." She pressed the call button.

He just looked at them for a long moment. "I'll see you back in
DC." He left without waiting for a response.

When he was gone, she turned back to Mulder. "Are you okay?"
She reached out to feel his forehead, but instead found herself
staring dumbly at her shaking hand.

"Scully, come here." He pulled gently with his uninjured arm, and
she let herself lean into his embrace. After a moment, she pulled
her legs up onto the bed and burrowed her face against his neck.

"We have to tell him, Scully."

She nodded against him. "I know."

When the nurse came around with his meds a short time later, she
found the two of them cuddled together in the narrow bed, sound

* * *

She'd managed to pull the box of old photographs from the back of
the closet without too much difficulty. She'd been meaning to get
to them for so long, but time had always found a way to escape

Now time was running out.

She picked up one from the pile of haphazardly placed photos and
sighed. She pushed a silver wisp out of her eyes and found her eyes

She'd wanted to cut the child's hair so desperately - such a pain to
wash! She was always fussing when the soap got in her eyes or
how long it took to dry it, especially when the weather turned cold.
Winter on the vineyard was never very pleasant; the child was
always walking around with a runny nose.

But now, she fingered the picture, tenderly. She'd give anything to
be able to braid the long, dark hair again.


She sorted through the pile of photos until one oversized document
caught her attention. It was the piece of paper that sent her world
into a final tailspin. The order to cease the investigation was in
faded black ink; why she chose to save that piece of hell, she'd
never been able to figure out.

Maybe as a reminder of what evil still lurks in the world, though
why she felt she needed a reminder was beyond her as well.

And now time was passing too quickly.

A splash of blue and red caught her eye. Her baby boy, in his
favorite striped shirt. Oh, Fox, can you ever find it in your heart to
understand? She'd never expected him to forgive her; she could not
even forgive herself. But understanding was a gift she could only
dare to hope for.

She picked up the phone and dialed a little used, but well
remembered number. The answering machine responded on the
other end.

"Fox? It's your mother. I need to speak with you. I..., I have to talk
to you. Please, There's been so much left unsaid, but I hope you
can understand."

She hung up the phone and proceeded to look at the pictures again,
fingering them tenderly and then brought the one of the young boy
up to her lips to grace it with a small kiss.

"Please, understand, Fox."

Teena picked up the trash can from under the secretary and
brought it closer to her by the couch. Next, she picked up the
lighter-- one that *he* had given her-- and held the flame to the
edge till it caught fire. She held it for as long as she could, until the
heat came too close and forced her to drop it into the bin.

The process was repeated with photo after photo. Each time before
lighting the photograph, she held it up to her lips and tenderly
kissed it.

"Please, understand, Fox."

The phone rang. Teena picked it up, expectantly.


The Mytharc Continues...

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