Title: But The Kite-String Broke

Author: Neoxphile

Rating: PG-13

Spoilers: Anything from The Pilot to The Truth is fair game, but particularly JTS to The Truth

Category: snark-angst

Feedback: Feedback me and I'll love you forever neoxphile@aol.com

Website: If you're looking for more of my fics (and there are lots) go to the links at the bottom of the page.

Disclaimer: Everyone with an IQ above room temperature realizes that I do not own the characters, who are the creation of Chris Carter and 1013 productions. I'm merely borrowing them for my own twisted use.

Summary: The Lone Gunmen discover that being heroes only began with their deaths. Heaven has plans for them...

Author's notes at end

First there was a pink fog, and it hurt. Not terribly, not like it would be to be ripped limb from limb or skewed with hot pokers, but rather the pain of suffocation, the half sweet pressure of pneumonia - pain with a vein of perverse pleasure. It was so hard to think in the fog, hard to remember where they'd last seen pink. John Gillnitz. The dead terrorist. The pink liquid, glowing. The fire doors.

Fire doors? The pink faded to white, and they looked for the doors that had trapped them in with the dead man whose body harbored a world-killing virus. John was gone. So were the doors. For a moment a wild hope sprung up within their chests. The doors were gone! They were free! By some miracle they'd escaped the suffocating gloom of the virus filled room, and now they could tell people. Yves, Jimmy, Scully, Doggett and Reyes...

But everything else was gone too. The walls, the morose, yet dim friend, the entire building... There was nothing but a white fog that rubbed up against their shins like sycophantic kittens. The three friends looked at each other, no answers were read in any of their eyes.

Langly spoke first. "I guess we're not in Kansas any more."

"We've never been to Kansas," Frohike groused.

"I don't mean to kill your argument in its infancy, but do either of you have any idea where we really are?" Byers politely interrupted.

Langly shrugged. "I don't see a yellow brick road."

Frohike glared at him, but Byers saw something. "Does there seem to be a faint light in that direction?" he asked, pointing at something along the horizon.

"Looks like," Frohike admitted.

"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's go," Langly said, leading the way towards the distant light. The others scrambled to keep up.

The fog continued to swirl, and there seemed to be no landmarks to look to whatsoever. Even peering down they couldn't see the surface they walked on. There was nothing but the dim light they trod towards. It wasn't hot or cold, and they realized that they no longer hurt in any way, so they shrugged off the strangeness and counted their blessings.

"So what happened back there?" Langly's voice seemed even more nasal with his nervousness, and he kept pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose.

"We saved the world," Frohike deadpanned, doing his best Mulder impression.

"I'm asking a serious question!"

"Well, with the help of that jerk Fletcher, we finally tracked down Yves, who was looking for this man she planned to kill. Turns out that the man was a bio-terrorist," Byers explained. " She wanted to kill him to keep him from releasing a virus that would be fatal to pretty much everyone. We chased him down a corridor, and since time was running out, we did the only thing we could...we pulled the fire alarm which sealed off the doors... But what I don't understand is, why aren't we dead?"

"How do you know we're not?" Frohike asked.

"What, are you suggesting this is heaven?" Langly asked, looking around at the nothingness.

"Maybe it's purgatory," Byers suggested.

"Nah, only Catholics go there, and I'm not one. Maybe...maybe it's hell," Frohike said with a shiver, even though it wasn't cold.

"Maybe it's none of the above, and we're all in intensive care, dreaming away our comas," Langly said, firmly rejecting the notion of hell.

"Where every we are, maybe that will give us a clue." Byers stared hard through the gloom. There was something in the light. Something that blocked part of it. Whatever it was, it was big.

None of them spoke for a long while. Although they were filled to the brim with questions, they were afraid that if they articulated even one they'd never stop. As if they'd release the floodgates and drown themselves in fear and doubts.

Once they reached the sole landmark, however, there was no point in keeping their mouths shut. They were dwarfed by it. Opalescent pillars rose up for to incalculable heights, and its crossbars were as thick as telephone poles. They looked at it with awe.

"It's...it's a gate," Frohike said, breaking the silence.

"A very big gate," Byers affirmed. "A big white gate."

"Pearly," Langly corrected him.


"We're obviously standing at the pearly gates." The others gave him blank looks. He sighed deeply. "Didn't you guys watch cartoons growing up? This is just like that."

Byers shook his head, his expression one of disbelief. "These are not 'the pearly gates'," he said firmly.

"Actually, your friend in the glasses is correct," a mild voice said off to their right.

All three heads swung towards what they thought was the source of the voice, but saw no one. Instead they were met by a strange sight. As if by magic a podium that seemed to be made of clouds and light rose up from the ground. A large white book drifted down from above and came to rest, open, on the podium.

"Oh, that's better," the same mild, and hidden, voice said. A small, previously unnoticed door in the gate swung open, allowing someone to come through. A man with salt and pepper hair smiled at them. He wore a long flowing robe that, by some paradox, managed to be a pristine white with faded colors swirling underneath.

Langly started at him, then blurted out " Micah Hoffman is God??"

The man's laughter was musical. "Goodness no, I'm just an angel, Saint Peter."

"Micah Hoffman is Saint Peter?" Frohike gasped. "How does a 60's counter-culture icon achieve sainthood?"

"Dear me... I seem to have some explaining to do. I'm not this Hoffman, although I do look like him to you. You see, God, in his infinite wisdom, decided that I ought to appear to the newly departed in the form of someone who would bring them comfort. Someone they respected, admired. Unfortunately, reactions vary, and I wonder if I just ought to post a sign, although it would have to be quite large to accommodate all the human languages..." He shook his head gently as his voice trailed off. "Since you three are quite calm, relatively speaking, I wonder if you could solve a mystery that I'm too busy to solve. Tell me, who is Gerry Garcia? Many people see me as this man, but are too overwhelmed to explain."

"Um... He was a musician in a band called The Grateful Dead," Frohike explained.

"Really. That's both disappointing and appropriate," the angel remarked.

"Are we... are we dead?" Byers stammered, his eyes still agog.

Saint Peter gave them a sad and gentle look. "I've never liked this part...I'm sorry, the answer is yes. You died heroes' deaths."

"Are we here because we're going to heaven?" Langly asked eagerly.

"The angel gave them another beautiful smile. "That's something we need to talk about."

Despite the smile, the gunmen felt nervous.

"You mean we're not here because we're going to heaven?" Byers asked in a shaky voice, giving Saint Peter a crestfallen look. Of the three of them he'd worked the hardest to live a vitreous life, so the thought of that coming to naught was devastating.

Saint Peter looked uncomfortable. "Maybe we'd be more comfortable discussing this in my office-" With a wave of his hand the foggy gloom and the gate disappeared. Instead they were all in a brightly lit room, sitting in comfortable, white, armchairs. While they liked the soft overstuffed seats, they were less than thrilled that their clothes were gone, inexplicably replaced by white robes.

"That's better," Saint Peter exclaimed brightly. He was sitting across from three nervous gunmen, who gave him their full attention. "Now, as I said you died heroes' deaths, but- "

"All that porn isn't mine. I'm just keeping it for a friend while he's gone," Frohike blurted out, looked horrified by what he said, then clasped a hand over his mouth.

The Saint only nodded. "Well...anyway, your brave sacrifice of life for the lives of others does entitle you to enter the kingdom of heaven. However, there is also another option I think we should discuss."

"What's the other option? Do you mean you could make us live again?" Langly asked eagerly.

Saint Peter held up a hand to stem off questions. "Let me lay it all out for you, and you can ask questions after I explain each option."

Three heads nodded. Saint Peter delicately cleared his throat. "As I said, you could go to heaven. If you chose that option you would go through those gates we met by earlier, and begin your heavenly existence.

"Once in heaven, all your Earthly cares would fall away. You would no longer need to worry about food, clothing, shelter, a job, money...those you left behind."

Byers couldn't contain his question, so he hoped that it wouldn't offend. "We wouldn't have to worry about our loved ones, you mean, right?"

The angel shook his head. "You wouldn't worry about them. Since one of the gifts of heaven is peace, you would completely forget about them until they to ascended to heaven. Until you saw them again they wouldn't enter your thoughts."

"I don't know if I like the sound of that," Frohike admitted. His thought had been on those very people they would be forgetting.

"Many people are attracted to the thought of a worry-free existence. Those people do not think that the price is too high to pay considering what they receive in exchange."

"What if we're not those sort of people?" Langly asked.

Saint Peter chuckled to himself. "I thought that, given your cause of death, the conversation might go this way. There are actually three types of beings that live in heaven. The first type are angels, like myself, who have always been God's chosen. The second type are those we just talked about, the peaceful souls. The third type are God's agents on Earth, and that is the second option I want to present to you."

"Are they...alive?" Frohike asked.

"No. They are as dead as the peaceful souls, but different in many ways."

"How so?" Langly asked.

"Before we discuss that, I think that we should take a little fieldtrip so you can see what you would be giving up if you choose not to become peaceful souls."

"You don't have to go to the trouble," Byers objected.

"Perhaps not, but I insist." He stood up suddenly. "Come on, let's go."

Another door mysteriously appeared, leading Byers to wonder at the possible significance. The statement " All doors will open to you," Bounced around in his head but before he could decide if it was from the bible, a movie quote, or even a dream, they'd already passed through it.

"Here's where we see all the shiny happy people," Langly whispered before starting to hum the REM song, which he continued to do until he noticed Frohike's glare.

The people, peaceful souls, did look happy, but only slightly shiny. Although there was a swirl of fog hugging the ground, the place they were going bore little other resemblance to the emptiness the gunmen had awoken in. Instead of grayness there was light. The sky a bright blue, cloudless.

"Or the clouds are at our feet," Frohike mumbled to himself. No one seemed to hear him.

Beautiful buildings lined both sides of the street. Most were identical, that they supposed from the size were dwellings. The rest seemed to be community buildings, some churches, some that looked like arenas or playhouses. One large one had a billboard out front that proclaimed "Bingo games starting hourly."

Byers gave a small grin. "I guess my grandma was right."

"About what?" Langly asked him.

"She always said that there'd be bingo in heaven," Byers explained.

Frohike's attention was on the people who steadily entered and exited the buildings. They all did look extraordinarily happy. No one looked worried, bothered, or scared; they all had an air of serenity about them.

"Do they look happy to you?" Saint Peter asked suddenly as they all watched the hustle and bustle.

"Well yeah," Frohike replied. "They look pretty happy to be here."

"Don't you envy that? You could be this happy." There was a new edge to the saint's voice. "You could be this carefree. You could choose this right now."

"But at what price? I think I speak for all of us when I say that I couldn't choose this without knowing what the alternative is," Byers said, and the others nodded in agreement.

"Very well."

Five minutes later they were reseated in the office. Saint Peter gave them a calculating look, trying to gauge their understanding of the situation. "What do you know about guardian angels?" he asked.

"There are a lot of them in cartoons," Langly replied immediately. "Oh, and there was that movie, ' It's a Wonderful Life.'"

That was enough to try even the patience of a saint. He sighed. "I think this is going to be a long conversation."

"Guardian angels look out for mortals who are in trouble, right?" Byers asked, hoping it would be the thing to erase the despair from the saint's face.

"Yes, that's right," Saint Peter said, perking up a bit.

"And they go to Earth and talk to their charges, advising them to make the right choices," Frohike added.

"No," the saint corrected. "That's movie stuff."

"So guardian angels don't offer advice, gotcha," Langly said. "That throws out the entire plots to Highway to Heaven and Touched By An Angel, though."

"I wouldn't mind being touched by- ow!" Frohike rubbed his ribs and glared at Byers. Byers just shrugged.

"Angels don't talk to mortals at all," Saint Peter told them, pretending not to have any idea what the tiff had been about.

"So they just like push them out of the way of cars and stuff? That sort of rescuing has got to be hard to accept without an explanation," Langly commented.

"Not as hard as you would think, since guardian angels don't rescue mortals from danger either."

"If they don't talk to people, or save people, what do they do?" Byers asked, a note of exasperation creeping into his voice.

"A guardian angel's primary role is to observe."

"What good does that do?" Frohike asked.

"When a guardian angel feels that the mortal in his care is in danger, he or she conferences with his or her supervising angel. This is an angel who has been a guardian before, so they're experienced. If their angelic supervisor feels that intervention is necessary, he or she will act on the guardian's behalf," Saint Peter explained.

"They have a meeting?? Disasters happen fast. Don't people die while these little chats waste time?" Langly complained.

"Actually, these meetings take no time. Literally. One of the perks of being a powerful celestial being is that our angel supervisors are able to conduct meetings outside of time. If action is necessary they can reach the mortal before even so much as an additional second has passed."

"But what if the supervisor doesn't think anything needs to be done?" Byers asked.

"Then the event unfolds without divine intervention," Saint Peter told him.

"Just like that? It sounds like a gamble."

"Our supervising angels are very well trained, and make few poor decisions," he hastened to assure them all.

"I've heard enough," Frohike declared. "Sign me up."

"Are you sure?" Saint Peter asked.

"Definitely," Frohike said with enthusiasm.

"I won't have you sign a contract, nor do I expect answers from Byers and Langly just yet, though."

"I won't change my mind," Frohike asserted.

"That's fine."

"I really mean it."


Byers got the feeling that the inane conversation had the potential of droning on and on, so he interrupted. "Are the people that the guardian angels watch over assigned at random?"

"No, no," the saint said. "While that sounds lovely in theory, it'd hardly be fair. Most good souls who choose to be guardians do so because they are worried about the people that they leave behind. Naturally, personal interest in the fates of those being watched over is a great motivater."

Langly leaned forward in interest. "So you mean we'd be assigned to people we know? If we choose to do this, I mean." He made a grab for his glasses, which were sliding off his face due to gravity. Saint Peter smiled to himself. Neither Langly nor Frohike actually needed their glasses any more, but most long-time wearers took such comfort in their familiarity that he didn't have the heart to tell them.

"That's exactly right," he told Langly.

"Who would we be assigned to?" Byers asked eagerly.

"I'm afraid I can't tell you until when and if you decide to do this."


"Yes, sorry, it's in the angelic bylaws."

"Oh." Byers looked disappointed.

Saint Peter gave them a lovely smile. " It's getting late, and I'm sure you gentleman are tired. It's been a long day."

"Has it?" Frohike asked, suddenly realizing that he had no idea how long it had been since they'd woke up in the fog.

"Indeed. I think it's time that the three of you get settled into your new home."

"Wait a minute," Frohike said. "If I'm going to be a guardian angel, shouldn't I live on Earth to be near whomever it is I'm watching over?"

"While you will be spending a lot of time with your assignment, no one is in crisis all the time. Every guardian angel has a home in heaven where they can stay when they're not busy."

"If you spend the night up here, how would you know if there's a sudden problem down there?" Langly asked.

"There are alarms," Saint Peter replied.

"An angelic ADT system??" Byers exclaimed.

"Something like that. Each guardian sets up his or her own alert method."


"Let's go, then." They followed Saint Peter out into heaven again, and stopped before what somewhat resembled a building. Unlike the others on the street, this one seemed amorphous. Much as if jello was primarily composed of light. Saint Peter turned and looked at them. " Here it is."

"It looks a little...strange," Frohike said.

"That's because it's not done yet. Now, let's talk about this house. On Earth you three were roommates, right?"


"Would you like to continue being roommates, or would you each prefer to have your own apartment?"

"You could do either?" Byers asked, surprised.

"Of course."

The lone gunmen looked at each other. "We'd rather be roommates," they chorused.

Saint Peter nodded, then raised one hand. He waved it in the direction of the shimmery building. They watched in awe as the building slide and solidified. Within a minute it became a very nice looking two-story building.

Frohike gave Saint Peter an apprehensive look. "I just thought of something. What if I'm a guardian angel, and they decide not to be. Does that mean that we won't be able to be roommates...or friends?"

"Oh no. If they decide against it, they'll just live here full-time. They won't be able to relate to what you're telling them regarding your assignment, but they'll still remember you. You wouldn't count as 'living' to them, so there's no problem there."

"Good." Frohike looked relieved.

"Let's go in, shall we?" Saint Peter walked up the steps, and opened the door. " Technically there's no near for doors, since there's no such thing as crime, pests, or adverse weather here in heaven, but it's what people are used to, so after the first few peaceful souls requested them, we began including them on all the buildings."

The house opened into a large living room. The far wall cut away to reveal a kitchen, and several doors flanked the other walls. "Through those doors are your rooms. I hope they're to your liking. I'll be back in the morning."

"Thanks," they replied as he left. They were eager to explore their new home.

The house was perfect for them. Lacking only piles of fragrant laundry, it had all the comforts of their earthly home, and then some.

Langly swung open the door to the nearest bedroom. " Look at these computers." He drooled. " We could never have afforded anything like this when we were alive. Especially after Yves when missing."

"Never mind the computers, look at this! It's a plasma tv and DVD player, with a big stack of dvds," Frohike said in the living room.

"DVDs like what?" Byers asked, poking his head out of a bedroom.

"Let's see...Angel Eyes, Angel Season one, Charlie's Angels, Pennies from Heaven, My Blue Heaven, Spirited Away, It's a Wonderful Life - huh, I thought Saint Peter didn't like that one - All Dogs Go to Heaven, Angels in the Outfield, The Prophecy... I'm sensing a pattern here," Frohike said with a grin.

They loved the rest of the house, especially the cloud-soft beds in the rooms they barely fought over. Ironically, the best night's sleep of their lives followed their deaths. They were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when Saint Peter arrived in the morning.

Oddly, the saint brought donuts. "You won't get anything this good at Dunkin' Donuts or Krispy Kreme," he said by way of a greeting.


"So, have you two made up your minds?" he asked Langly and Byers as he helped himself to a chocolate honey-dipped donut.

"I'll do it."
"Count me in."

"Great!" he exclaimed, brushing bits of honey-dip off his fingers. Even in heaven nothing was mess-free.

"I suppose you'll want your assignments now?"

"Yes!" They replied quite loudly.

"Well, let's go back to my office and discuss it."

Back in the office, the gunmen bounced excitedly in their chairs.

Saint Peter chuckled. "I can see you're all excited to learn who your charges will be."

"Gee, what gave you that idea?" Frohike quipped.

"Which one of us gets Yves and Jimmy?" Byers asked.

"Actually, none of you do."

"Do they already have guardian angels?"

"No. You see, not everyone needs a guardian angel. Many people, like your Jimmy and Yves, don't seem to need divine intervention. They'll be ok without you," Saint Peter explained.

"So they're reserved for screw-ups?" Frohike asked.

"Well, not exactly. It has more to do with the amount of danger they face, self-imposed or not."

"So who do we get then?" Langly asked, wishing to get on with the conversation.

The saint gave them a pleased look. "Frohike, your charges will be Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Langly, yours will be John Doggett and Monica Reyes. And Byers, yours will be William Mulder," he said, giving them a smile.

Frohike and Langly looked very pleased, but Byers wore a puzzled expression. "I love Will to death, but why would he need a different guardian angel than his parents?"

Saint Peter's expression became grave. "Even in heaven those below God do not have a perfect ability to predict what will happen in a mortal's life. My own ability to see the future is dim, so call it a hunch."

This didn't make Byers look any happier.

"Hey, I just thought of something. Did we have guardian angels?" Frohike asked.


"What does 'um' mean?" Langly asked, giving him a suspicious look.

Saint Peter sighed. "As I said, not everyone has guardian angels. We thought you boys would be ok on your own, but your sudden heroic turn took us by surprise."

"So you thought we'd back down??" Frohike exclaimed, standing up.

The saint shrugged helplessly. "What you did was lovely, but it was also out of character."

Byers was getting anxious. "Should we...check in on people now?"

"Not yet. Before you can assume your angelic duties, you need to meet your supervisors and be trained."

"So we'll be doing that soon?" Byers pressed.

"Actually, there's one more thing we need to do first..." Saint Peter stood up and waved his hand about.

The gunmen realize right away that they're outside, but, unlike the outside in heaven, there are clouds in the sky. In the distance they can see a long row of white things protruding from the ground. As they walk closer to the objects, they hear a ringing voice that seems to be emanating from a distant man wearing black.

"Dearly beloved we have gathered to lay to rest..."

Byers looked at Langly and Frohike. "Do those look like caskets to you?" he asked, pointing. The others nodded, and all three trailed after Saint Peter like ducklings. Once they were within sight of the caskets it became obvious that the dim objects they'd noticed earlier were a row of crosses.

Vaguely aware of the mourners, the gunmen focused instead on the caskets that the minister was speaking over. Closed though they were, each man was able to feel a tug in the direction of their own bodies, so they knew which was which.

Saint Peter spoke gently. "Your friends have gathered to say good-bye to you, and I thought you might want to say good-bye as well."

"Why? We'll be seeing them all again when we're their guardian angels," Frohike said, staring at his own casket.

"I didn't mean say good-bye to the people you know, Frohike. I meant bid farewell to your earthy forms." He nodded in the direction of where their bodies lay in satin lined boxes.


It made sense to them in a way that the saint would give them the chance to say good-bye to their own forms. There was no way to reassume the lives they'd once lead, so they too mourned their own passing. The thought of never again going back to their own lives brought unashamed tears to their eyes.

The preacher eventually finished speaking, and some of the mourners said a few words, that the gunmen appreciated in theory, but barely heard. At last the crowd began to drift away.

Kimmy the geek lingered for a moment, before touching each casket and saying "Vaya con dios, amigos." He looked upset as he walked away.

"I guess he really cared after all," Byers said wistfully as they watched his departure.

Doggett was speaking to Skinner as someone who worked for the church began to fold up the chairs. "Arlington. You must've pulled some big strings to get those guys in here."

"Yeah, don't you usually have to be a solider to be buried here?" Frohike asked. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you."

"It's the least I could do," Skinner said in reply to Doggett's question.

Reyes, looking very sad, asked Doggett if he was ready to go, he was so they left. Skinner wanders over to join Scully, who is standing with Yves and Jimmy. Skinner tried to offer some comfort to her, but she told him she'd catch up. There was stuff she still needed to say to the others.

"Do you think this will be the last time we see Jimmy and Yves?" Langly whispered, not quite remembering that they can't be heard by the living.

"I hope not," Frohike replied.

They realized that Scully was speaking. "They meant so much to me. I'm not sure if they ever really knew."

"I did!" Byers said loudly, disappointed that she failed to notice.

"Nobody knew ... what heroes they were," Jimmy told Scully.

"Don't be fooled, Jimmy," Frohike advised their young friend. "You would have done the same thing in our place. I know you would."

"It's not right. It's not," Yves declared.

"Oh come on, we couldn't have let all of humanity be infected, now could we?" Byers rebuked her gently. She didn't reply.

"No, it's not," Morris replied, joining the- living- trio from behind. "Langly said to me the ones who never give up, they never die." He paused for a moment, looking thoughtful. "I still don't know what that means."

"That means that like everyone buried here, the world is a better place for them having been in it. It means that they're gone, but they live on through us all," Scully told him. Jimmy put a comforting arm around Yves. Scully gave Fletcher a look to keep him from trying the same.

"At least they have each other, right?" Byers asked his friends.

"Right," they declared, still looking at Jimmy and Yves, just in case it was the last glimpse of them they'd have.

They were slightly dazed when they reappeared without warning in Saint Peter's office. "Hopefully you won't be seeing much more of my office," the saint said pretending to be stern.

"Yah, it'd be like being called to the principal's office all over again," Langly joked.

"Think of me as one of many vice-principals," Saint Peter said, extending the metaphor. "God, of course, would be the principal here. And you don't want to go to his office, believe me."

They exchanged a look. "It doesn't sound like being called to the carpet by God is any fun," Frohike said.

"But God is all loving and forgiving," Byers protested.

"Tell that to Lucifer," Saint Peter said, rather sardonically. He reached over and pushed a button on his desk. "Arlene? Please send them in now."

"Send who in?" Langly asked.

"Your supervisors. Normally new guardian angels each have their own supervisors, but since Frohike and Byers' charges are related, we thought two would do."

The office door opened, and two people entered. A man who had a dark complexion and who was wearing a scowl, and a thin dark-haired woman. " I think you might know your supervisors," Saint Peter added.

The Gunmen stared at them wide-eyed. "I thought you were evil!" Langly blurted out, addressing the woman.

Diana Fowley smirked at him. "And I thought you were ball-less cowards. Guess we both learned something new about each other."

"Seriously, did risking your life for Mulder earn you a get out of hell free card or something?" Frohike couldn't resist asking.

Byers, who was raised not to say anything if you can't say anything nice, confined himself to incredulous looks.

"Who gets Shaft?" Langly asked, sticking the other foot in his mouth. X did not look amused.

"You do." X's voice came out near a growl.

"What? Wait! Fowley can't be our supervisor, she hated Dana!" Frohike wailed. Fowley's smirk deepened.

"Yes, well, being an angel supervisor means being big enough to put the differences one had in life aside," Saint Peter said. No one looked convinced.

After the gunmen had a good pout, Langly's spirits brightened. "Hey I just thought of something," he said, trying to rouse the others from their blacken moods.

"What?" Byers asked listlessly.

"Frohike is assigned to Scully And Mulder. So that must mean that Mulder is alive and kicking, despite what those cultists tried to lead her to believe. Maybe once we know where he is we can tell her and...oh yeah. I forgot."

"It is nice to know that Mulder is alive," Frohike said, trying to cheer him up now.

"It was a dumb idea, though. We can't talk to people. Duh."

"And I bet we're not allowed to talk to each other about our charges," Byers said, looking to Saint Peter for confirmation of this additional unpleasantry.

"You can confer with your fellow angels on anything you like. It's not as though there are security issues in heaven. We never accidentally let in agents from the other side," the saint said with a smile.

Langly burst out laughing, while everyone, including Fowley and X, who'd hung around to listen to them mope, gave him concerned looks.

"What's so funny?" Frohike finally asked.

"We're agents! God's agents. All that time in our life hanging out with FBI agents, and now we're a sort of agent. Don't you think that's funny?"

"Sure, especially considering we'll have less troubles with security clearance than any of our friends ever did." Byers grinned.

Things were suddenly looking up.

They started guardian angel school the next day. The class space was reminiscent of 20th century classrooms everywhere. Designed to remind new guardians of their own earthly school days, it usually put the "students" in a studious frame of mine. Usually.

Langly, Byers and Frohike took seats together. Byers wanted to take seats in the front, but he was out-voted, and they ended up in the back of the room. Sitting there made Byers faintly nervous, because he remembered all too well that the last row was where the troublemakers typically camped out. Apple polishers, like he'd been, usually sat up front. He wondered if there would be any snap judgments against them on account of where they were sitting. Other guardian angel trainees filed in and took seats.

When their instructor came in the room, the gunmen were no the only ones who couldn't help but staring at him. The man swung his hips as he walked, and curled his lip back as he surveyed the room. He had dark hair, and sideburns, and while he wore white, he wasn't exactly wearing a robe.

Frohike gave Byers a wide-eyed look. "Is that...?"

Byers didn't answer because the instructor began addressing the class. "Hello. I'd like to welcome ya'll to the first class of guardian angel training. First I'm going to pose some questions, and get your answers, to see what we need to work on in depth."

"Great!" Someone in the front row simpered.

Frohike rolled his eyes and whispered, "brown-noser."

"First hypothetical question. Suppose your charge is going to be attacked by her ex-husband. What do you do?"

"Beat him up," Frohike said impulsively.


"Hirer someone bigger to beat him up!" Langly shouted.


To the dismay of their instructor, every class continued much in the same manner for the next two weeks of guardian angel training.

Eventually guardian angel training drew to a close. Since there were no grades, which Frohike and Langly should have been rather grateful for, but weren't, the entire class was going to be honored with a brief ceremony, and a celebratory banquet. Given that it was a feast in heaven, the food was promised to be both delicious and fat-free.

However, before the ceremony, there would be one final session, one meant to clear up last minute questions, of which there were many since the instructor was seldom given to pausing his lecturing in order to answer any. Though it was not really Byer's nature to think ill of anyone who wasn't a criminal, even he couldn't help but think that their instructor had been something of an attention hog.

As the question and answer session began, everyone paid close attention, even the gunmen. Though they might have given an air of inattention while in class, they'd really been following along. They were more concerned about what they hadn't yet learned, though.

The instructor curled his lip, they thought perhaps it was a smile, and addressed them after everyone took their seats. " I think we ought to begin now," he said with a nod. "Who has a question?"

One of the people in the front raised a hand, "How long will it be before we start our assignments?"

"That depends on your charge. If they're out of danger, it might be quite a while before you are needed. On the other hand, you might be required to visit them immediately following tonight's banquet."

The gunmen exchanged looks. While they were eager to see their old friends again, they were hoping not to be thrown into adverting peril straight away.

Another person had a question. "When we first visit our charges, will our supervisors be there, or will we go alone?"

"You'll go alone, although your supervisor will check in on you to see how you're doing."

Many of the angels looked anxious, but the gunmen were relieved. There was no way they wished to start out with X and Diana Fowley in tow.

The questions and answers continued for a while, and each answer added to either their relief or anxiety. There were few answers that resulted in neutral feelings. Before they wrapped up the session, Byers spoke up. "If our charges aren't requiring our attention, is it permissible to assist a fellow angel? I mean, we three all know each other's charges, so perhaps we could lend perspective."

"That's something we allow guardian angels to work out themselves. Some prefer no interference, and others welcome additional view points. Of course you'll have to clear it with your supervisors, but that should be no problem."

The gunmen frowned. They might have more trouble than their instructor could anticipate.

To their relief, none of their charges seemed in dire danger, because they spent a leisurely week watching their way through DVDs and programming their new computers. Langly, however, anxiously checked on the detection systems they'd put in place, and made himself quite a nucense to X with repeated questions about its efficiency. X finally snapped that it was working, and he should stop asking stupid questions. The problem, it finally became apparent, was that while they were able to set up detection systems, they didn't really understand what the alert would be. They'd made the assumption that their would be alarm. They were wrong to think so.

The first test to the system came in the form of a ringing doorbell. Though all three of them heard it, only Langly was compelled to see who was at the door. Rolling his eyes over the laziness of the other two, he swung the door open. The visitor necessitated his looking downwards in order to detect.

Standing there was someone rather short. Not abnormally so, since this person was supposed to be. Langly frowned slightly, he didn't like the idea of there being children who were peaceful souls, since it stuck him as going against the proper design of the universe. The small blond boy was giving him a hopeful smile, which made him wonder if there were school fund-raisers in heaven too.

"Yes?" Langly prompted, wishing to know who their small visitor was.

"Are you Langly?" the child asked in a sweet, clear, voice.

"Yup, that's me," Langly declared nasally.

"Oh good. My daddy needs you," the boy said in a serious voice. Langly just looked at him in shock.

A few minutes later Luke was sitting in their living room with them. Byers and Frohike were looking at him with interest, but Langly looked slightly afraid.

"So tell us how the alarms work. You are here as part of the alarm system, aren't you?" Frohike asked.

"No, he's obviously a peaceful soul," Byers objected. "You can tell by the way he's dressed."

"I'm both," the boy said simply. "The system you set up sends someone that's connected to your charges to you when there's a problem."

"Wow, that's much harder to ignore than an alarm," Langly said, summoning up the smallest of smiles.

Luke nodded. "That's the idea."

"So..." Langly began nervously. "What's wrong with your dad?"

Before he told them, Luke curled himself up in the chair, making him look even younger than he was. They could sense that this was painful for him, even all these years since he'd seen his parents. "Daddy found a body," he began, wrinkling his little nose in distaste. He apparently wasn't the sort of little boy who reveled in things grotesque and violent. " and one of the doctor-lady's students told her that the man who killed the lady killed other people too."

"A lot of people?" Langly asked, imagining observing Doggett examining a score of bodies. He looked slightly green.

"No. Just some. The student, whose name is Rudolph- like Santa's reindeer!- told Daddy and the other agents who he thought the murder was. Someone named Ray... Reg... Regali," Luke spit out with effort. " 'course when Daddy and Reyes asked him, the bad guy said he didn't do it."

"But he did," Byers guessed.

"Sure he did. You don't 'spect a bad guy to tell you he's a bad guy, do you?" Luke asked, giving Byers a look that suggested that he was worried about Byer's intelligence. Byers blushed.

"This bad guy, Regali, is he planning to hurt your dad?" Langly asked anxiously.

"No, but I'm afraid Daddy might hurt him," Luke replied.

"Why is that a problem?" Frohike asked in surprise.

Luke gave Frohike a surprised look. " It'd be wrong. If Daddy hurt him, he'd be doing a very bad thing. It's not ok to punish whoever you feel like, even if they're bad men. While they're alive, that's what jails n' courts are for. And when they die..." He trailed off meaningfully, making them all think that there were many people who didn't find Saint Peter such a nice guy to talk to.

"Why do you think that your dad would hurt him?" Langly asked, feeling as though he was definitely missing something.

"Rudolph told him that the bad man was the same one that...hurt me," he finished in a small voice.

"Uh oh," Langly said.

Luke nodded rapidly. "Uh oh is right. You need to make sure that Daddy doesn't hurt him, or else my daddy might be a bad guy too. He can't be a bad guy, or I might never see him again," the child concluded morosely.

Since Langly couldn't bear to see the sadness on the small face, he found himself rashly declaring. "Don't work Luke, I'll make sure he does the right thing."

Luke beamed at him, but Langly wondered how he was going to carry out his promise.

A moment later, X opened the door without knocking. The scowl on his face kept any of the gunmen from protesting that he should have better manners. X fixed his look on Langly. "I told you the system is working fine."

Langly gave him an apologetic smile. "I assume that young Doggett here told you the situation?"

They gave him startled looks, then it sunk in. Although they were used to calling John "Doggett" he wasn't the only one. Luke's last name was Doggett too. " Um, yeah." Langly gulped.

X continued to glower. "I assume that these two will be coming with us?"

"If it's not a problem," Byers said meekly.

X sighed. "No, I suppose not. I'm only going to show you how to do this just once, mind you. I don't have time to play nursemaid all day."

Frohike thought to mention the outside of time thing, but decided that it probably wouldn't be a good idea. Instead he thought of something else. "Hey, I thought you didn't have to come with us on our assignments," he said, remembering something from the question and answer session.

"I'm not going with Langly on his assignment. As soon as I drop you off, I'm leaving. Much to my displeasure I'm obligated to demonstrate how getting to Earth works... Come over here so we can leave," X snapped.

They walked over, but Luke stayed in his chair. " What about you?" Langly asked. "Aren't you coming?"

Luke shook his blond little head. "Can't. It's 'gainst the rules."

"Well, I guess we'll see you later, then," Langly told him. A moment later they vanished. Luke sighed and walked through the front door. The swung close behind him on it's own accord.

There was a moment of pink fog, which cleared immediately. As soon as it cleared two things became immediately apparent: one, they were in a bar, and two, X was no longer with them.

"Great!" Frohike grumbled. "He calls that showing us what to do? We're never gonna get back. I'm sure he planned it this way-"

"Shut up, Frohike!" Langly exclaimed. Before Frohike could get upset he saw Doggett coming through the front door.

Pretending nonchalance, Doggett approaches a man they assume must be Regali. Regali tips his drink sardonically, acknowledging his presence. "Well, well. It's the FBI agent."

Doggett sat down next to the parolee. "I'm not here as an FBI agent. I'm here as a father."

Langly and the others crept closer, so they could better hear the conversation.

Regali assumed an expression of surprise. "Whoa. What could that mean?"

"I want to know what happened to my son," Doggett said, his eyes burning.

"I don't know who killed your son. But I like you, FBI. I really do. I'll tell you how it could have happened, hypothetically."

"This could get ugly," Langly whispered. Though why he does he wasn't sure, because none of the living could hear them.

Regali continued. "Say there was this guy - a businessman. And say this businessman - in the course of doing business - has to associate with any number of thugs, sickos, perverts. Like Bob Harvey, for example. And say this Bob Harvey likes little boys. Yeah. Disgusting. Say one day, Bob Harvey sees a little boy riding a bike, and he can't stand it. He grabs the boy. So, Harvey takes the boy back to his place only he doesn't tell the businessman what he's doing. So, the businessman walks in on him. You see what I'm saying, FBI? The boy sees the businessman's face. The businessman who never did nothing to this little boy. That's a problem. Well ... every problem has got a solution, right?" he finished with a sly, what-can-you-do? smile. It was obvious that he expected Doggett to understand. Before Doggett gathered his wits to reply, Regali was already on his way out of the bar.

"What do we do to get in touch with our supervisor?" Frohike whispered frantically as Doggett also slid off the bar stool, gun drawn.

"Um, Elvis said that we're supposed to, um-" Byers stammered.

"I think it will be ok, guys," Langly told them.

"What makes you think that? He looks furious!" Frohike protested.

Langly gave them a smile, and led them outside, two steps behind Doggett. "Just watch," he instructed them.

When Doggett got outside, Regali was already dead, a bullet piercing his eye. A woman noticed that there was someone new there, and began to scream. "Oh, my God. He shot him. He just took out his gun and shot him."

Looking as startled as Doggett himself, Byers and Frohike spun around and looked at what Langly obviously already saw. Brad Folmer stood against the wall, splattered with blood.

Frohike and Byers gawked when arrived back in their house. "How did we get back here?"

"Dunno, guess we just sort of get where we need to without putting in an effort," Langly said with a shrug.

Byers eyes were still wide. "What I want to know is how you knew that he wasn't going to be the one to kill Regali. How did you know?!"

"Well, when we were in training, we were told that some guardian angels would just know what their charges were going to do. I looked at Doggett, and...just knew."

"But he had his gun out," Frohike objected.

"He wasn't going to use it. Threaten him, maybe, but Doggett wasn't going to shoot anyone."

"I hope that wasn't just a lucky guess," Byers said grimly.

A couple of days later, the door bell rang again. Langly got it, and somehow wasn't surprised to see little Luke standing on the steps. " Is your dad in trouble again already?" he asked, sounding exasperated.

The small blond head shook violently. "Nope. We're gonna go see him, though."

"What do you mean?" Byers asked from behind Langly's shoulder.

X approached just then. "Are they ready, Luke?" he asked the boy.

"I think so. They're a little confused, though," he confided.

"I think that's a natural state for them." X remarked, showing the smallest glimmer of humor.

They were on the beach, a few yards away from where Doggett stood with his ex-wife. " Mommy!" Luke exclaimed happily, closing the distance. He tried to take her hand, but of course, couldn't. He didn't look all that disappointed, though, as he stood with his parents. Doggett has his arm around Barbara as they stare at the crashing waves.

Langly noticed then that Doggett was holding a polished wooden box. The inscription on it said simply, "Luke Doggett. January 9, 1986 - August 13, 1993". Doggett turned to Barbara, and looked her in the eyes. Then he slid the top off the box, and let the wind scatter their son's ashes. While he watched them land in the water and be borne away by the waves, he cried without shame. Luke gave his father an encouraging look, as if wishing that he would be ok now.

After the last of the ashes leave on the waves, Barbara touched Doggett's arm, then walked away. Doggett stood alone for a moment, then turned and walked away as well. Luke watched after him for a second, then began to come back over to where the gunmen and X still stood, transfixed.

While they watched, Doggett finally reached Reyes, who had kept a respectable distance. Doggett reached for her, and she submitted to him wrapping his arms around her. Doggett buried his face in her hair, still crying. Reyes held on to him, sharing his grief.

Langly looked down and noticed the tears in Luke's blue eyes. "Are you ok, Buddy?" he asked in a concerned voice. Of course Luke wasn't, but what else could he say.

Luke sniffed. "Yeah... I think my dad's gonna be ok, now, don't you?"

Langly ruffled the boy's hair. " I think you're right."

"Do you know Monica Reyes?"

"Yeah, sure."

"I think...I think she'll be good for my dad," Luke confided solemnly.

"So do I, so do I," Langly told him, still watching the two lonely figures.

Things were quite for a couple of weeks. On the advice of their supervisors, they practiced dropping in on their charges during moments of calm. Frohike was able to tell them where Mulder was, and they wished that they could tell the living.

During this quiet period, they'd invited Saint Peter over for a movie and cheese-steak night, but the angel had to regretfully decline, saying something about a plane accident. So they decided to just do it without him. They never even considered inviting X or Fowley.

Their cheese-steaks were only half eaten when the doorbell rang. Langly glanced at the door, but it didn't seem "for" him the way that it did when it was Luke calling. He watched with interest as both Byers and Frohike got up instead.

Langly didn't know who the bald man who entered the house was. "Who are you?" he asked, looking up from the sandwich. " That's captain Scully," Frohike," Frohike answered before the man got a chance to say anything. The others gave him surprised looks. "What? Scully has pictures. I can't help it if you're unobservant."

"Yes, that's right." The bald man finally spoke, "I think my daughter is about to make a terrible mistake."

"What sort of mistake?" Byers asked.

"There's a man, all scarred, who claims to have been sent by Fox Mulder. The other agents Dana work with think that he is Mulder."

"But Mulder's not scarred. I just saw him yesterday," Frohike objected.

"Yeah, but they have no way of knowing that. They haven't seen or heard from him in months, remember?" Langly replied.

"What sort of mistake is she going to make?" Byers repeated, hoping to keep everyone focused.

"I don't know," the captain admitted.

"You don't know?" Frohike said, giving him a disbelieving look.

Captain Scully shrugged. "I know that she's struggling with something. I know she wishes that she could turn to me for advice. But I don't read minds, I just pick up on strong feelings. I wish I could tell you more." He gave them an apologetic look.

"You and agent Reyes would have had a lot in common," Langly said.

"What?" The captain looked confused.

"Never mind." He looked over at Frohike and Byers. "Am I coming with you?"

"I don't see why not," Frohike said.

"Thank you for looking after my little girl," Captain Scully said while they prepared to leave.

"We're just doing our job," Byers replied. Then they vanished.

As soon as Captain Scully went outside, he saw a boy waiting for him. "Do you think they'll do a good job?" he asked him.

The boy shrugged. "They're new, but I think they know what they're doing."

"Let's hope so," the captain said, giving Luke a hopeful smile.

When they appeared in Scully's apartment, they found that they've wandered into the middle of a conversation. "I wish the captain had given us more to go on." Langly sighed. The others hissed at him to be quiet. He shrugged and shut up, it was their case after all, he was only sight-seeing.

Scully, who was sitting on the couch with Reyes, protested something they'd come in too late to hear. "Nobody's ever going to believe that that's Mulder."

The gunmen look around. "Mulder's definitely not here," Frohike whispered. Langly and Byers nodded, even without having seen him as recently as Frohike had, they could feel that the other man was not there. Their friend had had a certain air around him, and it was absent in the small apartment.

"Somebody did this to him. Whoever that is is going to know it's him. I mean, that's what he's afraid of," Reyes pointed out.

"Did something to him...they must be talking about the scarred guy the captain mentioned. But how could anyone mistake him for Mulder?" Byers asked. "And what was done to him?"

"If he's so afraid, then why did he run?" Scully countered.

Doggett was standing, almost pacing. "You still don't believe it's him."

"You know a person in so many ways. Ways that a test can't even begin to know," Scully said firmly.

"Look, I'll be happy to run his DNA again for you but I don't have to tell you what a long shot it is. I mean, it came up a perfect match," Doggett grumbled. His expression suggested that he thought Scully was being stubborn and ridiculous. He hadn't often worn that expression after he and Scully had become friends.

Reyes looked at Scully. "You asked why he'd run. Stop and think how hard this is for him. I mean, the way he looks."

"If that was Mulder, I wouldn't care," Scully said.

Frohike walked closer to her, and leaned close to her ear. "Dana, that's not Mulder. Really. I don't know who this guy you're talking about is, but it's not him."

"Uh...you know she can't hear you, Man," Langly pointed out.

Frohike sighed. "I know. But I thought it was worth a shot."

Byers eyes widened, though not because of anything that was said. "We need to go check on William. Now."

The three of them make their way to the nursery. William was laying on his back, looking up at his mobile. They crowd around the crib.

"There's no one here," Langly said, giving Byers a look. "Looks like you were worried for nothing."

"Oh, there you are!" Frohike crowed "I bet you miss us, do you miss the silly men?" he continued, not paying attention to the others rolling their eyes. For a split second he thought the baby made eye-contact. It made he wonder if the old wives' tale about babies being able to see ghosts was true. Before he could mention it to the others, light from the hallway broke in as the door opened.

A man with thick scars covering exposed surface of his body, that were visible even in the dim light, slipped into the room. " Hey mister, you don't belong in here," Byers said warningly, momentarily forgetting that he couldn't be heard.

"That's not-Mulder," Langly guessed.

"Well, obviously. You don't think there are any other scarred guys running around Scully's place do you?" Frohike griped.

The man approached the crib and took out a small cloth pouch containing a hypodermic needle.

"I don't like the looks of that," Frohike growled.

"Maybe he's diabetic and forgot his shot," Byers said, sounding hopeful.

The man filled the syringe with an unknown substance then took out another small container with stuff in it. After he opened it, he poked his little finger in it, covering it with a pasty substance. He reached down and removed William's pacifier. William didn't seem to mind when the man rubbed the stuff on his gums, but he grimaced at the taste.

"I think that we-" Frohike said, but stopped when the man took the syringe and leaned down into the crib.

Langly and Frohike blinked and stared at Byers. They were no longer in William's bedroom. Instead they were in what appeared to be a waiting room. A bored woman behind a desk gave them a disapproving look. "Ms. Fowley will see you now," she intoned nasally.

The three of them went through the door that the woman pointed to. Fowley gave them an unfriendly look. "What do you want?"

"There's a man at Dana Scully's house right now, and his about to inject something into her son," Byers said in a breathless rush.

"So?" Fowley asked.

"What do you mean, so? I'm supposed to keep my charge safe, and someone injecting stuff into him isn't safe," Byers said hotly.

Fowley rolled her eyes. "It's harmless."

"How do you know that?" Frohike demanded.

She waved her hand dismissively. "Angelic powers. You go back there, and you'll see that I'm right. The doctor with be telling Scully the same thing."

"Wait, I thought time wasn't supposed to move when we met with our supervisors!" Langly protested.

"Only if the supervisor thinks that the situation is an actual emergency. Which this isn't," Fowley said smugly. "Shut the door behind you please."

They angrily trooped out.

Fowley was apparently right, because the gunmen found Scully at the hospital. "I hope the witch is right, and there's nothing wrong with William," Byers said fiercely.

"Wow, you're about the angriest I've ever heard you," Langly remarked.

"That baby is important to me," Byers explained. "To all of us, I think." Frohike and Langly nodded.

Scully and Reyes leave their seats in the waiting room as the doctors approach. Scully immediately started to ask questions. "How is he? Is he all right?"

The doctor, whose name tag said 'Whitney Edwards,' gave Scully a reassuring look. "He's good. He's doing fine."

Scully finally smiled. "Oh God."

"Yeah, what she said," Langly added.

The doctor explained that he was being observed for a little while, but she thought he could go home soon, which made Scully look relieved. "What did you find?" she asked.

"Nothing," Doctor Edwards replied simply.

Scully didn't say anything, but the look on her face suggested that she was thinking hard.

Reyes gave Doctor Edwards an incredulous look. "How could you find nothing? There would have to be something."

"Maybe he didn't really inject him?" Frohike wondered.

"Then why would they have brought him to the hospital?" Byers objected.

"To get him one of those inflated gloves with a face?" Langly suggested, then blushed when the other two glared at him.

Doctor Edwards talked more to Reyes than to Scully, who still hadn't spoken. "There's some slight bruising on the head where something clearly broke the skin," she admitted. "But... he's fine."

Perhaps her own recent brush with inept medical care was on her mind, because Reyes was not satisfied with that answer. "What about a tox screen?" she persisted.

"There's an elevated amount of iron in his blood but other than that, your son is completely normal," Doctor Edwards added, giving Scully a direct look.

A look of comprehension filtered across Scully's face, but Reyes was still in the dark. " That doesn't make sense."

"No ... I think it does. It makes perfect sense now," Scully told her.

"I think she knows something we don't," Byers said.

"Obviously," Langly said, rolling his eyes.

"I think we should keep an eye on Scully. She doesn't seem like herself," Frohike said, sounding anxious.

They followed the agents to work the next morning. Langly claimed that they needed to keep an eye on Doggett's temper towards the scarred mystery man, but they all knew that they were burning with curiosity about what would happen next.

When they arrived, they saw the scarred man sat alone in an interrogation room. Langly looked the man over. "Looks awfully smug, doesn't he?"

"Yeah, not scared at all. Pretty brave for someone who is probably going to be arrested at any moment," Frohike said, glaring at the man. Byers didn't say anything, but instead gave the man hateful looks.

The scarred man seemed to smirk when Scully entered the room. Scully's eyes were filled with contained fury. "I have seen my share of the hideous of the disgusting and the repellent, but you, sir, are the most perfect expression I will ever see of all that is vile and hateful in life."

"Wow, he tops Donnie Pfaster? She must really hate him," Frohike said, thinking about Mulder's confidence in him about the dead man and his two run ins with Scully.

The scarred man seemed to tease Scully. "That may well be, but for a moment, you believed it - that I was him."

Scully denied it. "I never believed it."

"You wanted to believe," the man insisted.

"She did not!" Langly objected hotly.

"You are as false as your face," Scully said angrily.

Instead of answering her, he stood up and walked over towards the two-way mirror.

"Hey, how would a person know that was a two-way mirror? Unless..." Frohike stopped suddenly when he saw that Scully was about to speak again.

"I bet you wish night and day that that bullet that was meant to kill you had succeeded," she said acidly.

"No way!" Langly exclaimed staring at him in amazement.

"The way Mulder talked about him, it doesn't seem like the little weasel to try to pull this off," Frohike said, his voice a mix between astonishment and begrudging admiration.

"Well, maybe it's not him. There are a lot of people who have been shot," Byers objected.

The man's next words only serve to solidify their suspicions. "You're wrong about that. When I look in the mirror I see something much different than the world sees. He could destroy my face and my dignity when he shot me in that office...but he couldn't destroy the one thing I love most - my hatred of him."

Scully didn't give him a look that offered any pity. "Your cigarette-smoking, son of a bitch of a father."

"Looks like Mulder was right about Spender being CSM's kid," Langly said.

"And Mulder's," Spender added. Scully was not surprised by this, but the gunmen were.

"Holy crap!" Frohike shouted, then looked embarrassed about the outburst.

"Who knew?" Byers asked, looking equally shocked.

"I just hope that Mulder and CSM don't ever reenact a scene from Starwars, is all I'm saying," Langly told them, shaking his head. "Mulder....shoooo.....I am your father...shoooo."

"Knock it off, Blondie," Frohike growled. Langly held up his hands in surrender.

"You counted on the DNA ... that we'd buy it without question and not look any further. DNA's what Mulder shared with Jeffrey Spender," Spender told her.

"I'm no scientist, but wouldn't there have to been a lab error? I mean, half-siblings only share so much DNA," Byers commented.

"This is the Quantico lab we're talking about, what are you expecting, accuracy?" Frohike asked. Byers shrugged.

"Half brothers raised apart - that's about all that Mulder and I ever shared." Spender didn't sound angry or sad about this.

Scully didn't look sad either. Angry on the other hand... "You haven't seen Mulder, have you? You haven't even talked to him. So, getting caught at the FBI ... winning our trust was all towards one thing. It was only to get to William."

Spender didn't flinch. "Sitting here, you'd wish me dead. Shortly, I'll do you the favor."

"He's not really going to kill himself, is it?" Byers asked.

"What's a matter, Byers, you worried about his soul?" Langly asked mockingly.

Byers shrugged helplessly. "Well, a little. He's a jerk, but no worse than Fowley..."

"Oh, like she's such a great role model," Frohike said with a roll of his eyes.

They shut up when Scully pulled out the bottle that had been found with the syringe. "I had this checked. It's an unknown metal that you injected into my son."

"It's a form of magnetite," he told her with a deep sigh. "A gift."

Scully gave him a disbelieving look. "A 'gift'?"

"Gee, and I thought that babies liked stuffed animals. Who knew that injections of strange metals were more appropriate gifts for one's infant nephew?" Frohike asked sarcastically.

"Having failed as a conspirator to control alien colonization, my father wanted nothing more than to see the world fail, too."

"Well, that clears things right up," Byers said in disgust. "He's a nutter like his father."

"So, what, you've prevented it now? You've ... prevented alien colonization by injecting this metal into my son?" Scully asked, clearly not the only one who was confused.

"Your son is the one thing the aliens need. I took revenge on my father by taking William away from them."

"Isn't that sort of contradictory? He screws his father by allowing him to realize the syndicate's original goal? Am I the only one who thinks that's odd?" Langly asked.

"Like anything that has to do with the Smoking Man is ever sane," Frohike grumbled.

"So, he's all right now? I mean, just like that?" Spender nodded in response to her question. "So, it's over. They'll let him be."

Spender gave her a sad look. "It'll never be over. They'll always know what he was. They'll never accept what he is."

"I take it back. It's the aliens that aren't sane. Can you imagine being upset with a baby?" Frohike said with an angry shake of his head.

"Well, I can protect him," Scully said with bravo.

"And if you can't?" Spender pressed. "Look at me ... what they did. Is this what you want for your son?"

Scully's eyes filled with tears. The gunmen gave each other worried looks.

"I don't like the sound of this..." Byers told them.

Scully paced her apartment, stopping frequently to look at William and to swipe at her eyes with a tissue.

"What is she doing?" Frohike whispered.

"I think she's trying to decide something," Byers whispered back. Frohike nodded.

At last Scully stopped, in front of the phone. She reached out an unsteady hand and picked it up, hitting a button on auto-dial.

The phone rang a couple of times, and a familiar voice on the other end asked who it was. It took a couple of heartbeats for Scully to say anything. "Mom...I need to tell you something."

"Oh, good, Mrs. Scully will know how to make her feel better," Byers said with relief.

They missed what Mrs. Scully said, but they thought it must have been a demand to know what was wrong. Slowly, painfully, Scully related what had been happening, and all that Spender had told her. There was silence on the other end for a while, then they could hear a reply. "What are you going to do, Dana?"

"I don't know, Mom. I don't know. Maybe, maybe I could just take William and go into hiding. Change our names, hope that if Mulder is still alive he'll find us..."

"If William is with you, they'll always be able to find him. They've taken you once, and you know Fox has said over and over again that they re return to the same victims repeatedly. They must be able to track people, maybe through DNA. Surely someone has tried changing their names before..."

Scully's tears spilled down her cheeks. "You're probably right. I just don't want you to be, because I want to be with him. Maybe...maybe you could take him. They don't know who you are. He'd be safe with you...." Her voice wobbled.

"Maybe that would be best." Byers sighed. "At least until Mulder got back, anyway. I'm sure he'll figure out how to keep them from being found after that."

"No, Dana."

Scully looked like she was in complete shock. She'd clearly expected her mother to agree to take William. "Why?"

"I'm old-"

"You're not!" Scully protested.

"I'm too old to go into hiding with a baby. If there's the off chance that they found us, I couldn't protect him. You need someone younger to take care of him. Someone who doesn't have any ties to you."

Byers looked aghast. "She can't mean that she wants Scully to give him up!"

Frohike looked stubborn. "She won't. Someone will talk her out of it. They have to."

Scully hung up abruptly, and brought William to his room. A few minutes later she went to bed. The gunmen decided that it was safe to leave her overnight, but they vowed to return in the morning.

Scully sat in William's room, watching him as he reached for his star and moon mobile. Reyes appeared in the doorway, and the lone gunmen followed her into the room.

Reyes must have been helping her put the room that Spender had pretended to sleep in to rights, because she said tentatively, "Dana ... the room's all fresh for you. I threw out all the old bedding and bought some brand-new stuff, okay?"

Scully sounded tired. "Thank you."

Reyes still seemed nervous. "I know it's impossible to stop thinking about what he said about William ... but it's all lies, Dana and you were the one who proved it."

"See? I knew someone would talk her out of this foolishness!" Byers exclaimed excitedly. Frohike looked more doubtful, but he kept his comments to himself.

"And how should I prove it now? By insisting that I can protect him ... only to learn too late that I can't?" Scully asked.

Reyes gave here a sharp look. "You say it as if you have a choice."

"Reyes will talk her out of it, won't she?" Langly asked Byers. Byers didn't say anything, the look of excitement off his face, replaced by one of despair.

"He didn't have a choice to come into this life. I don't have a choice about what he is or was ... but I do have a choice about the life my son will have ..." Scully said in a trembling voice. She turned away from Reyes, and looked down at the baby. "... And shouldn't I choose that he never have to be afraid of anyone or anything? And can I ever really even promise him that?"

Reyes' brown eyes filled with sorrow. "But who can?"

Scully reached over and tapped a star on the mobile, then burst into sobs. The gunmen looked at her, not knowing what to do, and wishing more than anything that they could really be there to comfort her.

Langly insisted that Reyes would still make Scully come around, which is why they followed her back to her apartment. Doggett arrived not long afterwards.

Reyes had spent the entire drive home frantically thinking, so she knew what she was going to tell Doggett. As soon as he got there, she greeted him with a hug and a kiss.

"Would you look at that? It might be possible to be an FBI agent and not have your relationship move at glacial speed," Frohike quipped.

"Well, yeah," Langly drawled. "Even Dawson and Joey had their first kiss sooner than Mulder and Scully."

"You watch that? You are such a girl," Frohike told him.

"What's the matter?" Doggett asked Reyes, because he'd noticed how puffy her eyes were.

Fresh tears sparkled in her eyes. "Oh John, it's terrible. That asshole Spender has Scully convinced that the only way she can protect William is to give him up."

Doggett wrapped his arm around her. "So Maggie will take him for a few months until Mulder comes back and-"

Reyes shook her head. "She's going to give him up for adoption."

"She can't!" the gunmen wailed involuntarily.

Doggett tried to sound soothing. "It might be the best thing-"

"It's not!" Reyes said fiercely. "You don't know what it's like. You grew up with your natural parents. You never wondered who you were, and why someone gave you away. I love my adopted parents, but it's not enough. Once you know you're adopted, there's an emptiness in you that nothing can fill."

"Poor Monica." Byers sighed.

"I'm sorry," Doggett said simply, at a loss for meaningful words.

"I don't want that for William, John. He's a miracle baby. If he's not with his mother, he'll never know how hard it was for her to bring him into this world, all that it cost her. He won't know who he is," Reyes told Doggett.

Doggett's face assumed a pained expression. "But there's nothing we can do about that. If we can't talk her out of giving him away, it'll be out of our hands."

Something gleamed in her eyes. "It doesn't have to be."

"What does she mean?" Byers wondered aloud.

"Dunno," Langly confessed.

Doggett had the same question as Byers. "I don't know what you mean."

"We could take him, John," Reyes said with a note of pleading in her voice. "Neither of us has ever been taken by...them. They couldn't track us. We're not strangers, so it wouldn't be as traumatic for him to be with us. We could give him back when it's safe. It could work!" she insisted.

Doggett gave her a sad look. "Don't you think they know about us? One of them hit me with a car. You were with Dana when you got him back from the cultists. They have to know who we are. He wouldn't be safer with us than with her."

"But who says he's in danger? The only evidence we have that they'd even bother looking for him is the speculation of that idiot's. We don't know he's in danger if he stays with someone who loves him," Reyes said desperately.

Sighing, Doggett gathered her into his arms. "His mother is the only one who has the right to make that decision, and we need to stand by whatever she does. That's what friends do when there's something at stake in a no-win situation."

Reyes didn't answer, but sobbed instead.

The receptionist was doing her nails this time. "I suppose you want to see Ms. Fowley?" she asked archly.

"Yes please," Byers mumbled.

They sat around for what seemed like an hour before they were admitted into Fowley's office. Fowley gave them a scathing look when they entered. "You. Again. What is it this time?"

Frohike gave her a flat look. "Dana Scully is about to do something she'll regret for the rest of her life, and we want you to stop her."

Fowley tented her hands and gave them a level look. "I know you think I don't care because Scully and I have past disagreements, but not influencing her course of action is the kindest thing."

"How can you say that?" Byers protested. She loves William more than anything, so how can being separated from him be 'kind'?"

"She can live with being apart from him. With knowing he's safe. If anything happened to him in her care, it would destroy her. You know it's true," Fowley said in a softer tone than they'd ever heard from her, even compared to when she and Mulder were young.

"But the only reason she thinks that she can't protect him is because she doesn't know Mulder is alive, and worries that she can't do it alone," Frohike replied.

"At this point she is alone. She and Mulder might never be reunited. As nice as it is to think about long-term affects, the living have to be concerned with the here and now. Have you already forgotten that?" Fowley asked.

The gunmen hung their heads. " No..." they mumbled.

Fowley gave a wry smile that they didn't catch. "Byers...You'll keep an eye on William. Someone who cares for him will always be there, watching over him."

"It's not the same as him being with his parents," Byers said miserably.

Fowley shrugged. "It's the best anyone can do."

Byers looked at the flag hanging from the side of the house, and his lip curled in disdain. "Did I ever tell you how much I dislike buffalo?"

"No, I don't think it's ever come up," Langly said, without a trace of sarcasm. He realized that Byers was upset, and was trying to be kind.

"Well, I do," Byers said firmly.

A car pulled into the yard and a couple come outside to greet the driver. Next to Mulder and Scully, who were glamorous for more reasons than the faint air of danger and excitement that clung to them like faded perfume, the man and woman looked utterly ordinary. They were the type of people that the gunmen passed everyday they were alive without a glance.

The social worker exchanges pleasantries with the man and woman, and tells them that there's a final paper to be signed. They agree to sign it without really having heard a word she's said since she got out of the car.

The man looks eager, but there's hesitation on the woman's face. "Maybe she won't want him," Frohike said, looking as though he were trying to will her to reject the baby.

Byers sighed. "He'd just go to someone else then."

The woman finally gave voice to her concern. "I keep asking myself a question. I know there's been a medical exam ... but are you sure he's okay? "

Her husband tried to quiet her. "Now Honey-"

But the woman persisted. "Why would the mother give him up?"

The social worker looked sad. "You should understand ... this was a life choice by a single mother and a terribly difficult decision for her. But I can say it was only for the good of the child."

"It had better be." Byers hissed. "If anything happens to him, so help me..."

"We're angels, we can't haunt them," Langly said, trying to get a smile. It didn't work.

"I'd find a way to make them sorry," Byers insisted.

Frohike shrugged at Langly, it was all bluster because Byers was too soft-hearted for his own good, but it wouldn't be fair to point that out.

The social worker went to the car, and reappeared a couple of minutes later carrying William. The couple looked very happy as she placed him in the woman's arms. Byers gave an angrily resigned shake of his head, and the three of them disappeared.

Once they got to heaven they had to face the music. As much as they didn't want to, they had to talk to the captain. They walked back to their house as slowly as they could. Frohike stopped suddenly. "I was thinking about Luke," he told Byers and Langly.

"What about him?" Langly asked in his nasal voice.

"Well, him and the captain too. They're peaceful souls, right?"

"We know that," Byers reminded him.

"So why do they know what's going on with their loved ones?" Frohike asked. He jumped when a very small hand reached for his arm.

Luke smiled up at him. "It's because we're part of the alarm system, of course."

"But that was only put into place a short time ago. You and the captain seem to know a lot more than what's gone on recently," Frohike protested.

"We feel them. Because they remember us we know what they know," Luke said, sounding very unlike the seven-year-old boy he had been. "We're part memory, you know, so we're connected to their other memories too, even the ones we missed."

"You sound really grown up and scary right now," Byers told him nervously.

"Thank you," Luke replied.

"I, uh...I didn't really mean that as a compliment," Byers said sheepishly. He'd thought the scary part made it obvious.

Luke shook his head. "No. Thank you for looking after our loved ones. If not for you we'd never know what's happening to them."

The gunmen didn't know what to say. Then they saw the captain waiting for them in front of their house.

It didn't make them feel any better that the captain greeted them with a gentle and understanding smile. "Thank you for helping Dana."

Frohike looked miserable. "We didn't. There was nothing we could do to keep her from giving her son up. We tried, but our supervisor said we couldn't interfere."

"I'm sorry." Byers looked even more miserable than Frohike.

Instead of trying to make them feel guilty, the captain beamed at them. "Don't you realize that you did what you were supposed to?"

They were confused. "I don't think I understand," Frohike confessed.

"Dana did the right thing. Keeping William would have been the wrong choice."

"How could keeping her son have been the wrong choice?" Byers asked, sounding upset again.

"It would have been the wrong choice because it would have been the selfish one," the captain said sternly. "The baby would have been with her, but he would have been in more danger."

"You don't know that! Mulder is going to come back-" Byers protested hotly.

The captain only nodded. "He probably will at that. But the fact remains that he's not there now."

"That's what Fowley said too. What if it was only a week or two before he returned? There's no way of knowing if he's going to be back soon. And yet you both think that this is the right choice. Separating a boy from his parents forever just because things are hard right now." Byers eyes blazed.

Captain Scully stayed calm under the verbal assault. "How do you know it's forever?"

That stumped Byers.

Frohike, however, had a question of his own.

Frohike looked at the captain and gave voice to what he'd been thinking about while Byers ranted. "How did we help anything?"

"What do you mean?" Captain Scully asked, looking puzzled. "The proper out-come is proof-"

"No. How did WE help? Nothing we did affected anyone's actions in the least. Sure we tried to convince Fowley that she needed to intervene, and if you're right, had we gotten her to, we would have been pushing for a bad outcome. So at best it looks like all we did positive was to fail to change Fowley's mind. Even she doesn't seem to have done much to help, she just let nature take its course," Frohike told him.

The captain looked surprised. "She made the choice she did because of you, you know. Because of how you died."

"What?!" Langly yelped. Frohike and Byers looked equally startled.

"She thought about what the three of you did, and how you died. It convinced her that it was possible to put aside self interest for the greater good. If the three of you could give up your very lives for others, it seemed a small thing to give up her own happiness for her son's sake," he explained to them.

"Even if that's true, that's still not anything we did. At least not recently. It shouldn't have mattered if we'd gone to look in on her or not, since that doesn't change her knowing about how we died," Frohike said, sounding frustrated that he still didn't understand.

The captain shook his head. "I think you still don't understand."

"Obviously," Langly said, rolling his eyes.

"I'm sure Saint Peter explained to you that you can't communicate with the living, but did he tell you how you help?"

"He said that we're there to watch, and to report back to our supervisors if we think there's something that should be intervened about, so the supervisor can change things," Frohike said.

"Ah. That's only half of the equation, you know," the captain told them, looking contemplative.

"This isn't going to involve a lot of math, is it?" Byers asked. He'd never gotten over his childhood hatred of the subject.

"The other half of the equation is the answer to why. Why can't you communicate with the living? The reason is that you already do."

"I know that's not true. I tried to talk to Scully and Spender, and neither of them heard me," Frohike protested.

"That's not what I mean. When you become a guardian angel, part of the result is that you become a more tangible presence to the living. Now, I don't mean they can see or hear you, because you know they can't. What I do mean is as soon as you agree to become their guardian, a little voice seeps into their unconsciousness, and to a lesser degree their consciousness too."

"And what does that voice say?" Byers asked, a note of condescension in his voice.

"In Dana's case, the voice asks what you would do in her shoes," the captain said, looking at Frohike.

"But I wouldn't have given William away," Frohike corrected him.

"Perhaps not, but it's her perception of what you would do, regardless of what you really would do."

"It's not really comforting to know that we're a voice in someone's head," Langly said with a wry look.

"She doesn't think of it that way. None of your charges do. They don't know why their thoughts turn to you. Or at least agent Mulder and my daughter don't. The others didn't know you well enough to consciously contemplate what you would have picked in various situations," he explained.

"Ok, say this is true. Why do we need to visit them at all?" Byers asked.

"Because, like Frohike said, what they think you might have done might not match what you'd really do in their place."

"This is all very circular logic," Frohike complained.

The captain shrugged. " A lot of human behavior and thought can be attributed to circular logic. Why should this be any different?"

"No, I like it," Byers said. " It's a system of checks and balances, fail safes and back up plans. At least two of the three possibilities- what they think we would want them to do, what we really do think they should do, and what the supervisor thinks they should do- have to match up before something is allowed to occur. It's reasonable."

"You would think so, what with your love of laws and orderliness." Langly teased him. Byers and Frohike both seemed calmer, so he took it upon himself to invite the captain in for a drink. They could all use one. Maybe they'd have several. They already knew it wouldn't cause hangovers. Fortunately there never has been a prohibition in heaven.

Scully, Doggett and Reyes managed to keep out of trouble for a while, investigating a house that seemed to be haunted by the ghosts of sitcom characters. The gunmen didn't understand what that was all about, but it seemed to be presenting no danger to the trio they looked after, so they didn't worry about it.

William, too, was doing well. Byers seemed half accusing when he reported back how well the baby was adjusting, as if he saw the little boy's efforts to cope as a betrayal. Langly and Frohike tried not to make too much of it, because they knew how upset Byers still was over not having been allowed to influence Scully to keep them.

However, not all was well, they soon learned, when a dark-haired teenage girl showed up at their house one day, asking for Frohike.

Frohike's first thought was the girl would have grown up to be a very lovely woman, had she lived to adulthood. Her hazel eyes were a lot like her brother's, but her face was far more delicate, decidedly feminine. Her hair think and long, and she would have been tall, already was for her age. She was much prettier than the faux Samanthas that had been sent to torment Mulder.

"I always wanted to meet you," Frohike said wistfully. " Just to see who was worthy in Mulder's eyes for a lifetime of searching. Your brother loved you a lot. Still does, I suspect."

"I know," she said gravely, looking down. " He's never really understood what happened to me, and only half accepted it."

"Is he looking for you again? Is that why you're here?" Frohike guessed, wondering if perhaps Mulder had found some other sort of evidence that lead him to doubt his final meeting with his starlit sister, something he only talked about once after a couple pitchers of beer.

She shook her head. " No, but I think he's planning to do something dangerous. Soon."

Langly and Byers hung back shyly, until the girl went to sit with them in the living room. " Fox has always been impulsive," she said, startling them by using the man's first name.

"Fox. Sometimes it's easy to forget that that's his name. He doesn't let anyone else call him that," Langly told her.

Samantha smiled wanely. " He didn't want me to call him that either, and tried to get me to call him Mulder, just like he demanded of our parents. Of course, being the bratty little sister I was, I didn't listen."

"He probably didn't mind. Not really." Byers tried to reassure her.

"Anyway," she attempted to gently steer the conversation back to the reason she'd come. " He's gotten some sort of crazy idea that he can defeat the people who make the world an unsafe place for William and everyone else. And we have to keep him from acting on it.

"I wish I could see him again, to explain things in a way that would make him understand what happened to me so he can move on, but I don't want him to die in order to be able to have that conversation with him."

Frohike wished that Samantha had more information to give him, but he got the feeling that she simply didn't understand what her brother's plans were. Despite having been a big focus of the X-Files, no one had ever explained it to her; and Mulder's chaotic feelings about all the X-Files encompassed was a poor map, and their own attempt at explanations only left her more confused. A few stillborn attempts to question her about the specifics Mulder's plan got them nothing but frustration. Frohike admitted defeat and thanked her for the warning. She still looked worried but smiled as the gunmen made their disappearance.

The Sahara has a quiet beauty to it, but this desert was ugly. Frequent sandstorms had taken their toll on the area, all of which had left it with a chewed, ragged look to it rather than the smooth dunes. It was also nearly sterile with no cute sand rodents, coyotes, or even slithering snakes; the only signs of life were twisted sage and stunted cacti.

All of which served to make Mulder's sudden appearance the more startling to Byers and Langly who hadn't seen him in nearly a year. He was where Frohike had left him, so he at least was unsurprised when the ground trembled and erupted as the trapdoor within it was suddenly flung open.

Mulder climbed the ladder and clambered out with Gibson right behind him. He shaded his eyes with one hand, and as he always did upon crawling out, took several deep breaths. Before fleeing, he thought his only phobia was fire, but he'd since learned differently. He was afraid of the sand. Despite Gibson's reassurances that he'd made such a hiding place before, and that the wood Mulder had insisted on using to shore up the walls made it even more stable, he still feared a cave-in.

Their shelter collapsing and burying them both warred with super-soldiers killing William and Scully as his most frequent nightmare. He wasn't quite sure, but he suspected that the new fear stemmed almost entirely from his own recent premature burial.

The gunmen were surprised at how thoroughly they were able to perceive his emotions. They'd been taught that they'd gain clarity with experience, but it was still more than they ever expected. Unfortunately, Gibson Praise was still an enigma to them because they were not his angels. So they were forced to put aside their awe in order to pay attention to what the boy was saying.

"Mulder, all you're going to end up doing is getting yourself killed." Gibson protested in a tone that suggested they'd walked in on the middle of an argument. One oft repeated.

Frohike exchanged looks with the others. Samantha might not understand the X-files and all it entailed, but Gibson certainly Did. So if he was worried...

Their looks were bleak.

"Gibson, this could be my chance to find out if it's true. Don't you realize how important that is?"

"Mulder - "

"Dammit, Gibson! I know you're still a child chronologically, but you're bright enough and mature enough to understand this. If it's not true, and I've been here for no reason, I can go home to Scully and William."

Frohike shivered. longing for his family emanated from him like tidal waves.

"But..." Gibson hesitated. " How can you take care of them if you die looking for the truth?"

Mulder shook his head stubbornly. " I'm not doing them any good here."

Byers covered his eyes with his hands. " He doesn't know about the baby." He moaned. " He doesn't know Scully gave him up." Scully's fears that Mulder hadn't gotten any of her messages after their encounter with the shadow-man were apparently true they now realized. Mulder had thought it too risky to attempt any further efforts to find news from home, and ignorance was bliss. Langly patted Byers on the shoulder, knowing how badly the other man felt, because he did too.

"If you're not doing either of them any good, why are you here?" Gibson challenged. " Why have you been out here, with me, instead of with Scully and your son?"

"And that's the million dollar question," Frohike muttered, tasting Mulder's confused thoughts on the answer.

"You know why." Mulder answered sharply.

"What do you say, pal, will you be so kind as to reiterate for the viewing audience?" Langly asked hopefully.

"I bet Scully would love to be here to listen. " Byers added bitterly.

Fortunately for them, Gibson didn't accept that answer. " Explain it to me again. So it makes sense."

Mulder sighed deeply. " I'm looking for confirmation that what I was told is true," he insisted stubbornly.

"How is it easier here than in Washington DC?" Gibson asked, goading him.

"It's easier because...because he said that if I came here, and proved willing to make sacrifices, to sacrifice my happiness to be with my...family, it would show him that I was worthy of the knowledge."

"He who?" Frohike wondered aloud.

Gibson gave Mulder a sad look. " For your sake I hope that he's actually got the information you're looking for, because you've given up a lot for it."

I hope so too," Mulder said, sounding hollow.

They weren't sure where Mulder had gotten what could be considered a car only in the loosest sense of the word, but they were sure that he was ripped off no matter what he'd paid for it. At one point and time it might have been a white boniville, circa 20 years ago, but now it was mostly rust-colored. And the fact that the antenna had been a wire coat-hanger in its last life time promised that the trip would be less than entertaining.

Frohike made a move to slip onto the back seat when Byers grabbed his arm. " I'm not sure we ought to. This car doesn't look safe."

"Dude, we're dead," Langly pointed out. " You only die once, remember?"

Byers looked sheepish, and got into the car without another word.

Gibson didn't look like he thought much of the car either. " Drive carefully, Mulder. And do anything stupid."

"Would I do something stupid?" Mulder asked, pretending innocence.

"Does the pope sh*t in the woods?" Frohike asked.

Gibson just smirked and watched Mulder get in and start his "car." Fortunately, Mulder didn't have long to pilot his rat-trap car, because he pulled to a stop in front of a silvery 60s style dinner.

"Are we there, or did we break down?" Langly wondered aloud.

Mulder got out of the car, so they quickly followed him. The fact that they didn't need to open the doors first helped.

When they caught up to Mulder, he was peering around the diner's shabby interior with a wary expression. " Who are we looking for?" Byers whispered. Frohike shrugged. Mulder seemed to catch sight of someone, and began to walk towards the counter.

The man was dressed much like a lumberjack, which was odd considering they were not very far from the desert.

"Who is that?" Langly asked when the man turned to look at Mulder. Few people still wear handle bar mustaches, so his surprise wasn't unwarranted.

"Mr. Hale?" The man rasped. His voice was roughened from years of smoking, which made the gunmen a little nervous. Even Mulder looked a little taken aback.

"Not everyone who smokes is evil," Byers insisted.

"Name five smokers you know who aren't," Frohike demanded. Byers shrugged helplessly.

"Oh hell, name two," Langly said giving him a disgusted look. Byers turned back to the conversation that Mulder and the stranger were having, pointedly avoiding the questions, since Reyes was the only one he could think of and she'd quit a while ago.

"Right, George Hale," Mulder said, sliding onto the stool beside the man.

"From the condition of your skin, I'd guess you'd been out in the desert for a while," the man said, but though it sounded like it he was not making small talk.

"A year," Mulder agreed.

"Sounds like you're a man who is serious about what he does Mr. Hale," the man said with the faintest of smiles. He reached into his pocket and slide something across the counter to Mulder. Mulder palmed it and stowed in a pocket before any of them got a look at it. To Frohike's frustration, Mulder wasn't thinking about the object.

"I like to think that I'm a driven man," Mulder agreed.

"Sounds like a reasonable assessment." The man nodded. He then gave Mulder a hand drawn map. " " When you get there, follow this path to find the information you need."

"Thank you," Mulder told him with a pleased smile.

"Good luck." The man replied. " Why don't you have a piece of sweet potato pie before you leave? My treat."

Mulder, unable to resist pie, took him up on the offer. The gunmen exchanged uneasy looks, they didn't know what the meeting they'd just witnessed was all about, but they knew that it probably wasn't going to lead Mulder down a safe and easy path. That's just not the way Mulder worked.

Mulder let his guard down that night, and told Gibson where he was planning to go, though he continued to block the what portion of the plan out of his mind. Rather than take another trip in his "car" the gunmen went to the location on their own and waited for him there. They stood around waiting for a while, wondering what was so special about the area. A sudden racket told them that they weren't going to be alone much longer.

The gunmen looked up as a white helicopter marked with the number 45 flew over their heads, above the mountaintop readying to land. There were at a military-secure facility in the mountainside guarded by a lot of armed military personnel. The men looked grim and serious.

"Uh...this doesn't look good," Langly said nervously.

The helicopter landed within 100 feet of the gunmen. The blades made them nervous, even though they were in no danger of being injured. A military man opened the helicopter door and several people got out. First two men, a woman, two more men ... and Mulder. He walked out, surveying the place.

"Mulder! What are you doing?" Frohike shouted, but he still hasn't found a way to be noticed yet.

"It looks like they're headed for that bus...Should we go too?" Byers asked.

"I haven't been on a bus in ages," Frohike grumbled. " At least this one probably won't have any smelly winos on it."

Following after Mulder and the others, they all got into a square green transport bus. Military men closed the door. Langly looked around the bus nervously, not liking the blank looks that everyone, including Mulder, wore. " Kinda like pod people..." He muttered. The bus drove into a long, dark tunnel inside the mountain nearby.

The busy stooped abruptly, and the gunmen looked around expectantly. The building wasn't as fancy as they were expecting for a secret government facility. It was just rather plain and bunker-like. Three men approached the bus, moving with a sense of purpose. The others began to stand up and make ready to get off the bus, so the gunmen followed them as they unloaded from the bus. The other men and the woman went immediately to the three men who met the bus, but Mulder did not, and the gunmen stayed with him. He exited the bus and walked away in the opposite direction. He glanced behind him to see if anyone saw him. No one but the gunmen have. He's in the clear. He then took off, running down a different tunnel than the one the three men are leading the rest of his busmates down.

"This can't be good." Langly gasped as they ran to keep up with him.

"This is why we never had guardian angels," Frohike said as they continued to run. " We wouldn't ever do anything this damn stupid. Never."

"Not unless it was for a noble cause," Byers added.

Frohike frown over his shoulder. " Speak for yourself."

"You just try to hide-" Byers started, but they were at a door suddenly. A blue door, and it was opening.

Mulder walked through it, then along the passageway it opened into. Eventually they find themselves at top of metal stairs that leads into an open tunnel. Frohike looked down and tried to reason with Mulder again when he looked down to see that there are dozens of government workers and military personnel below. " Stop. You're going to get caught. Don't you realize that?" Either not hearing him, or merely ignoring him, Mulder makes his way down the stairs. Sighing with frustration, they continue to trail after him, expecting the very worst.

Mulder walked quickly along the catwalk. At first, he seemed to be trying to look casual and as if, but he soon settled for just getting to his destination jogged.

"So, uh...giving up the 'I'm not doing anything I shouldn't be' pose and running...that's not good right?" Langly asked as he shoved his glasses back up his nose. They were falling from all the running.

"I think not." Byers sighed.

There's an object in Mulder's hand all of the sudden. He used the key card to disengage the electronic lock. The lock was noisy, but the door opened without a sound. They followed as Mulder made his way through another tunnel. His lack of hesitation made the gunmen sure that he knew where he was going. A large blue door opened abruptly. Mulder shut it quietly and made a beeline for the main computer terminal in the room. Mulder sat in a chair in front of it, and the gunmen crowded around him, not that he noticed. The computer had his full attention as he looked up at the screen in front of him. Encrypted nonsense filled the screen from top to bottom- characters that make no effort to be words. With a series of keystrokes typed by Mulder, the screen cleared. " Hey, when did Mulder become a hacker? He should have let us know, we could have asked him for favors now and then too, instead of mostly the other way around." Langly complained.

"He helped us a couple of times," Byers protested.

"Yeah, a Couple, but-"

"Shut up!" Frohike growled. " Something's happening."

Words were suddenly appearing on the screen: END GAME

"'End game'? That's ominous." Langly shuttered.

Mulder quickly supplied the required code. Gibberish filled the screen again, but it was rapidly replaced by words that were arguably intelligible.

DECEMBER 22, 2012


The gunmen weren't sure what it was about, but from the intense concentration Mulder was paying to the screen as he read the words, it was quite clear that he understood exactly what the cryptic message was trying to convey.

The sound of the lock mechanism disengaging interrupted Mulder's reading of the code, so he quickly abandoned the terminal. Mulder hid behind another door, ready to spring at the person who interrupted his session. The door opened and Knowle Rohrer walked in. The gunmen exchanged shocked looks. " Ain't he the guy that died after Shannon McMannon protected Agent Doggett from him?" Frohike hissed. The others have no answer, since that's what they'd been lead to believe as well. Rohrer examined the abandoned terminal that Mulder was recently seated at - the de-coded message still on screen.

Rohrer looked around suspiciously, obviously aware that someone had recently been there. The gunmen gave each other worried looks, because Mulder's hiding place left much to be desired. Their fears were not alleviated when Mulder approached Rohrer from behind. Mulder hit him over the head with something heavy, but not heavy enough. Rohrer shrugged off the blow, and grabbed Mulder by the neck, picking him up as if he's a toddler, and throwing him through the glass computer screen. Mulder fell to the floor with a crash, but apparently is mostly unharmed by the glass. He picked himself up off the floor and rushed for partially open door.

"Run Mulder!" Frohike yelled in vain as Rohrer lumbered out of the room after Mulder. Mulder ran as fast as he dared to, but Rohrer is quick as well as powerful.

Mulder ran down the tunnel toward the door that would take him back into the main tunnel, if he could make it there before Rohrer caught him. He stops running when he sees a man blocking the doorway. Mulder paused abruptly when he caught sight of a man standing in the shadows. Mulder started to head away from the mystery man, until looked back at Rohrer, who is closing in on him, and decides to go towards the man standing in the doorway instead. The man looked slightly familiar, even wrapped in shadows. He suddenly moved forward into the light.

The man was Alex Krycek.

"This is not happening." Byers moaned. "How could scum like him find a way to manifest when we haven't been able to?"

"Maybe Mulder can't see him," Langly suggested hopefully.

Distracted by Rohrer, Mulder ran past Krycek without a glance, intent on closing the door before the super-soldier got there. He got the door closed, but felt no safer as Rohrer angrily battered the door with his shoulder. Not knowing how long the door could stand up to the assault, Mulder tried to decide where to go to get away from the crazed being.

Eventually, Mulder paused, finally catching sight of Krycek. The sounds of Rohrer trying to get in were momentarily forgotten. "No! You're dead!" Mulder shouted at Krycek, who didn't seem phased by the accusation.

"So much for that theory," Frohike complained, giving Krycek at hateful look.

Krycek looked at Mulder instead of at the gunmen. "Go," he told the living man.

Mulder didn't move, so Krycek stared at the door, from which thumping noises were still issuing regularly. " There's others," he added.

The Klaxon alarm blared to life screaming like the damned. Mulder turned around to see armed military men running on the catwalks heading toward him. When he looked back, Krycek was gone.

He had disappeared because Frohike had tackled him, and was interrogating him. "How come he can see you?" he demanded to know.

Krycek shrugged. "I'm no angel." He smiled nastily. "Ghosts can manifest to whomever they want to. We're not bound by any rules like you chumps are. Makes me glad that I don't have your job."

"As if you'd even been offered it," Byers spit out. "You're probably a ghost to avoid being in hell, coward that you are."

Krycek shrugged. "Believe it if it makes you feel better about yourself."

"Let's go," Frohike demanded. "He's not going to be able to help us figure out how to be seen."

"Not that I would even if I could," she said. "There's nothing to be gained from charity."

"Not that you would know," Byers shot back.

The Lone gunmen tore off down the hallway that Mulder had run through a moment before. Their delay cost them. Despite being slow at first because he was confused by the apparition, Mulder has already brought trouble crashing down on himself by the time the gunmen caught up to him. Military personnel had already swarmed in on him, and he ran along the catwalk away from them, only be to stopped by Knowle Rohrer, who'd found a way around the sealed door to double back. Ignoring him, Mulder climbed the stairs. Rohrer followed hot on his heals.

Mulder crossed the catwalk and headed toward the stairs for the next level. But before he did Rohrer reached Mulder and pulled him down from behind and pinned him to the catwalk railing. Rohrer had Mulder's neck in a vice-like grip while pushing him downward over the railing. Mulder flailed ineffectually, and Frohike attempted to hit Rohrer, but the super-soldier didn't notice. The building personnel gathered on the ground below to watch the commotion, seeming to be as captivated by the goings on as they would be at a boxing match.

"Look at those bastards," Frohike said, then turned to address the crowd. "Enjoy the show, Ladies!"

Byers and Langly were paying more attention to Mulder. "Come on, you can break free," they chanted desperately, feeling completely useless.

"Frohike, should we see Fowley?" Byers called loudly over Frohike's insults at the crowd.

Frohike shrugged. "She wouldn't do anything, and you know it."

Meanwhile, Mulder fought to maintain his balance and continued his feeble efforts to fight off Rohrer. Struggling to find a way to keep himself from being thrown over the railing, his foot finds and braces against a canister bolted to the catwalk floor. Using the leverage the canister afforded him, Mulder flips both himself and a surprised Rohrer over the catwalk railing. Rohrer, unprepared, falls into the electrical wires running across the tunnel. Mulder remained above hanging from the catwalk railing.

Looking down at Rohrer, as his body sizzled and jumped on the wires, Langly shuddered and looked green. "I can never eat a hamburger again," he said mournfully.

No longer merely watching, people swarm below in futile attempts to aide Rohrer, who is obviously beyond hope. Others catch Mulder as he scrambled to get all the way back onto the catwalk. He too looked hopeless.

Mulder was soon being handcuffed. The gunmen expected him to yell about his rights being violated, and explain that Rohrer wasn't really dead, he was a super soldier and Doggett's theory about them not being able to die was true, but he just docilely let them lead him away. He looked resigned. Defeated.

"We should have asked Fowley to intervene." Byers fretted.

Langly snorted. "Are you kidding? She's completely unreasonable. She never would have lifted a finger."

"But we should have asked anyway," Byers insisted.

"Why, so it'd look good in the paper-work? A gold star for effort?" Langly retorted.

Frohike, looking severely depressed, didn't add anything to the conversation. He just stared after the men who lead Mulder away.

The next several hours passed in agony. Not able to do anything else, the Gunmen sat on the floor of Mulder's cell in the brig with him, and willed him to start cooperating with the soldiers who kept coming in once a hour to question him.

The door opened again, and two guards entered

"What are you thinking?" the guard barked.

"Where am I," Mulder suggested.

"Wrong answer!" The guard barked, violently hitting the wall above Mulder, presumably to intimate him.

"What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking about getting the hell out of here," Mulder replied sarcastically.

"Wrong... answer!" The guard shouted, hitting Mulder in the belly. Mulder groaned in pain.

"Just tell him what he wants to hear, Mulder," Byers whimpered. Langly nodded in agreement.

Bored of brutalizing Mulder, the guard walked out. At the door he paused, turning around with a final directive. Mulder No sleeping! The door closed leaving Mulder in darkness.

An hour later the metal door opened and the same guard walked in. He stopped in front of Mulder, staring down with an angry expression. Mulder doesn't respond with any change of expression.

"What are you thinking?"

"About my son ... about his mother."

"Wrong answer!" the guard barked, swinging his stick very close to Mulder 's face. Mulder ducked away, which is the only reason the blow did not connect.

"Now, what are you thinking?"

"What do you want from me?!" Mulder asked plaintively, close to breaking.

"Wrong... answer!" the guard growled again, attempting to hit Mulder in the head. Mulder grabbed at the stick to keep from being injured, but the guard is stronger and pressed the baton against his neck, making him gasp and struggle. "I want answers, you hear me? I want answers!"

The two were in that locked position for longer than the gunmen could bear. Mulder continued to gasp. Finally the guard let go. He stood and walked out. The metal door clanged shut, leaving Mulder in darkness once more. A few minutes later another guard entered the cell and took Mulder 's clothes from him, ignoring his pleas to be told what they expect from him.

An hour later the door opened again, and the first guard walked in. Mulder, lying naked on the cold floor, tried to cover his eyes from the sudden bright light.

"No sleeping!"

The guard knocked Mulder's hands away from his eyes with his booted foot.

"Did you hear me?" he demanded.


"Even the dead heard you," Frohike said wearily.

"What are you thinking?"

"What should I be thinking?" Mulder asked, attempting a new tact. Anything to prevent further injury.

"You're a guilty man. You entered a government facility illegally in search of non-existent information! You failed in every respect!" the guard stated.


"Say it!" The guard pulled his hand back as if to beat Mulder. But he waited for Mulder's response.

"I'm a guilty man. I failed in every respect. I deserve the harshest punishment for my crime," Mulder said in a dead voice, expecting a blow to follow his admission.

Instead the guard walked out and the door closed. Mulder and the gunmen breathed a sigh of relief. When the next hour passed, it didn't bring another visit from the guard.

Mulder started when the door to his cell buzzed. The unfriendly guard hadn't bothered him for quite a while, but he was always afraid that the man would come back to hit him some more. He knew he couldn't defend himself, so the thought of a beating filled him with dread.

Langly, bored of sitting, stands at the door and watches the guards who sit talking next to a metal gate that separates Mulder's Cell from the rest of whatever the building is. To his utter surprise Scully and Skinner walk though the door, showing their Ids to the guard, who opens the gate for them.

"You won't believe who's here!" Langly whispers excitedly.

Scully talked to Skinner as they made their way down the hallway. Langly only caught the tail-end of their conversation. "I don't know. I just know that Mulder's being held here indefinitely," Skinner said.

"What for?" Scully asked, looking worried.

"For the murder of a military man," he answered grimly.

The guard inside Mulder holding cell opened the door to let Scully and Skinner in. The guard remained in the cell. Mulder stood by the window. He was dressed in prison orange and was quiet. Mulder didn't turn around to acknowledge their presence. He only turned when Scully called him.

"Dana," he said, using her name like an endearment.

Scully rushed to him, hugging him. "Oh, my God," she said softly.

"Mushy stuff," Langly commented, wrinkling his nose as the agents embraced.

Concern, not for himself, filled Mulder's eyes. "You okay?" he asked Scully.

She's taken aback. "Am I okay? Mulder, I haven't seen you in such a long time," she said, touching his face. "I was so worried," she said gently.

"Well, it's okay, I'm all right. They're treating me really well in here."

"I'd hate to know what he would consider 'poorly'," Frohike grumbled.

"Maybe in comparison to the aliens..." Byers offered with a shrug.

Scully doesn't believe him either. "What's happened to you?" It's not clear if she meant recently, or the entire time he'd been away.

"Nothing. I'm squared away," he told her, turning to look at Skinner. "Oh, hey, Walter. It's good to see you, man." His voice didn't sound right.

Skinner masked his concern with his characteristic gruffness. "Have they told you what the charges are, Mulder? What you're doing here? "

"Oh, yeah, yeah. We're clear on that."

"You're clear on what?" Scully asked.

"My crimes."

Scully didn't reply, wondering why he was talking that way, and hoping it was an act. "Mulder-"

Mulder interrupted. "I murdered a man, Dana. I went looking for something that didn't exist, and I ... I made a terrible mistake. I should be punished severely."

"Mulder, snap out of it. You know that wasn't a man," Frohike scolded, worried that the abuse damaged his mind.

"Whatever you were doing you have the right to a lawyer ... to an inquiry and process of law," Skinner insisted. "I don't think you heard me," Mulder said, casting a furtive glance at the guard.

"All right - time's up," the guard stated.

Scully's eyes searched Mulder's face. "We're going to get you out of here."

"And why is that? I'm a guilty man," Mulder told her.

"Time's up. Let's go." The guard was becoming impatient.

"Uh ... excuse me." Mulder walked away from them, going to the far wall. He didn't look back to see Scully's hurt look, didn't notice her staring at his back. As she and Skinner leave, she looked at him once more, and saw that he hadn't moved.

Skinner and Scully leave with the guard, obviously more despondent than when they arrived. Neither of them spoke as they walked away. The guard stared hard at Mulder, but he wasn't doing anything to arouse suspicion. Just standing at the window, playing with his lower lip.

The guard didn't notice that Mulder has a new guest, but the gunmen do, and they were not happy about it. Krycek made a face at them when Mulder blinked.

Mulder whispered quietly enough so the guard doesn't hear. "I don't understand. Why are you helping me?"

"Because you can't do this alone," the ghost the him.

Starting him, the guard spoke to Mulder. "Let's go." Then he grabbed his shoulder. By the time Mulder looked back, Krycek was gone. The guard led Mulder away from his cell.

The gunmen lingered. "Do you think we're that spooky when we return to heaven?" Byers asked, looking at the spot Krycek had occupied a moment before.

"Who would notice?" Frohike asked, thinking once again that he'd give anything to be noticed by the living.

"Where are they taking him?" Byers asked.

Frohike shrugged. "We'll have to follow to see."

The gunmen didn't like Mulder new cell any better than the one before, but Mulder seemed to like the window, even if it's darker than the one before. Mulder stands in front of that window stretching upward and facing the light. He has his back to the door. He didn't notice when the guard opened the door, remaining outside it. "Mulder."

Mulder turned around slowly. He moved away from the light and a little closer to Scully and Skinner. He has a strange look on his face.

"Mulder!" Scully said.

Mulder sniffed the air around him. He fixed his stare only at Scully and said, "I smelled you coming, Clarice."

Scully and Skinner looked a little stunned. Scully threw an uncertain glance to Skinner. Mulder released a chuckle and a smile. Scully took a deep breath at being once again exposed to Mulder's exquisite sense of humor.

"Oh, my ..." Scully didn't seem too amused nor has she moved closer to Mulder. "Damn it, Mulder. It's not funny to see you putting on that act."

"No, that is funny," Mulder said fixing Scully with a look and walking toward her. "What's not funny is what they do to you in here if you don't put on that act."

Mulder reached for Scully, cupping the back of her head with both hands, and drawing her to him. Mulder kissed Scully slowly, his thumbs gently caressing her cheek. Scully reaches up and touches Mulder. This is the reunion they both need. Mulder wrapped his arms around Scully, drawing her nearer to him without breaking the kiss. Skinner and the gunmen look slightly uncomfortable to be witnessing what should be a private moment.

"Get a room," Langly joked.

Mulder and Scully pulled away from each other. Mulder humorously turned to Skinner. "Come here, you big, bald, beautiful man."

"The only thing you're going to be kissing, Mulder, is your sweet ass good-bye, with the trouble your in," Skinner replied unamused.

"Uh oh," Frohike said. "Looks like the fun is over." The others sighed.

"Uh-huh, I kind of gathered that right around the 50th brainwashing session," Mulder said, then kissed Scully's hand.

"Mulder, why are they doing this to you?" Scully asked plaintively.

"They think that they're preparing me for my trial. For my testimony," he replied.

"Your testimony's not going to matter. Not with the case they're building," Skinner said.

"Not building. Rigging," Mulder corrected.

"Yeah, I don't think you understand the seriousness of the charges. This isn't some routine wrist slapping. You're on trial for your life," Skinner told him.

"My trial's a forgone conclusion. What they really want is for me to admit my guilt and help them out. What's really on trial here is the truth," Mulder said.

"Mulder, they're saying you killed a man," Scully admonished him.

"Have they produced a body?" Mulder asked. Neither Scully nor Skinner answered. Scully looked over at Skinner.

"That's a good point," Frohike said, nodding his head.

"You can't produce a body because you can't kill a man who won't die," Mulder said sardonically.

"Well, body or not, they've got 30 witnesses from that government facility ready to testify against you," Skinner pointed out.

"Mulder, we'll get you the best lawyer," Scully said.

Mulder laughed." Would you defend a man who believes in aliens against the FBI and the military? It's never going to happen. Skinner can defend me."

"I can't represent you."

"Sure you can," Byers encouraged.

"You know all the facts, the details the whole government conspiracy." Mulder looked at Skinner. "More than that, I trust you."

"Mulder..." Scully said warningly.

"They can't try me without exposing themselves. I know what I'm doing," Mulder insisted.

No one said anything for a moment, but then the door opened so the guard could let Doggett and Reyes into the cell as well. Mulder looked up as they entered, seeming surprised that they'd come to see him as well.

"Whooo, now it's a party," Mulder said, not unkindly.

Doggett stepped into the cell and glanced at Mulder. The two men look at each other for a moment. "Agent Mulder," he said, sounding grim.

"What's the matter?" Scully asked

Reyes explained for him. "We've been working off what little we have but the military just got back to us."

"You ready for this? I know this is impossible, but they're saying they got Knowle Rohrer's body," Doggett said, sounding angry.

7:12 AM

Mulder was lying on his cell floor, dressed in orange, sleeping. A gentle, familiar hand touched his shoulder waking him.

"Mulder, it's me."

Mulder looked up at her. "Is it time to go?"

"No. That's why I'm here." Mulder got up and yawned. "Mulder, I need you to talk to me. Confide in me ... or we'll lose."

"We can't win, Scully. We can only hope to go down fighting."

"Don't talk like that," Byers snapped.

Scully was unhappy with him as well. "You're scaring me. Mulder, I'm so scared that I've just got you back and now I'm going to lose you again."

"I know what I'm doing."

"Well ... whatever you're doing ... you have no idea how much has already been lost ... What I've had to do..."

"I do know. Skinner told me."

"I still can't believe Skinner was the one to tell him," Frohike said wistfully.

Just then Scully began to cry. "Our son, Mulder ... I gave him up." Mulder nodded, gathering Scully into his arms trying to comfort her, while drawing comfort from her. "Our son. I'm so afraid you could never forgive me." She sniffed.

"I know you had no choice. I just missed both of you so much." His voice broke.

"God, where have you been? Where have you been hiding?"

"In New Mexico." He buried his face in Scully's shoulder, perhaps hoping she'll stop asking questions.

She was undeterred. "Doing what?"

"Looking for the truth." Mulder laughed at how absurd that sentence sounds. Scully chuckles, too. Then she pressed her lips to him, apparently forgiving him that easily.

"You found something, didn't you? Huh?" she asked, pulling away from him to look into his eyes. " What did you find?"

"I can't tell you," Mulder replied gravely.

"Won't," Frohike hissed.

"You found something in that facility? That's what you were doing, right? Mulder, what did you find out there?" she asked again. Insistent.

"Scully, I can't tell you," Mulder pleaded.

"That doesn't make sense."

Mulder sounded sad. "You've got to trust me, Scully. I know things. It's better you don't."

The lone gunmen walked into the courtroom before their friends, and looked around for a place to sit. They realized that they could have begun a tumbling act and no one would have noticed, but it felt more respectful to sit quietly like everyone else. Not long after getting themselves settled, Skinner walked in carrying a briefcase. He stood in the center of the room for a moment, then turned to arrange the things on his table.

Off to the side a man walked into the room calling Skinner. "Assistant Director Skinner."

"Who's he?" Langly whispered loudly.

The man introduced himself to Skinner. "Special Agent Kallenbrunner. I'll be handling the prosecution. I'm out of the L.A. Field office."

"Ohhh...land of the loonies. Wonder if he brought a magic crystal."

Frohike elbowed Langly, making him shut up. "What's your problem? They can't hear us," Langly complained.

"Byers and I can," Frohike snapped. "We'd rather hear them," he said, waving to the living people in the courtroom.

Langly settled back in his seat, and glowered.

"How did you get this assignment?" Skinner asked the Kallenbrunner.

"I was a Federal Prosecutor in D.C. Before joining the FBI. And you?"

"That's a good question," Skinner growled. Kallenbrunner took a seat at the table opposite Skinner, and neither of them gave the other very friendly looks.

The jury soon arrived, lead by the tooth pick man. "You can't tell me that this wasn't rigged," Frohike grumbled.

Kersh cut Frohike's complaints short ."Let's bring in the defendant. This proceeding is called to order."

The back door opened and Mulder walked in, still dressed in his orange prison garb, accompanied by a guard. He isn't restrained.

Kersh's voice boomed. "Mr. Kallenbrunner you may proceed."

"I have no witnesses to call. I will submit to the court, however the sworn testimony of 30 men and women who saw the crime," Kallenbrunner said with a bit of triumph in his voice.

"Assistant Director."

"I move to dismiss these proceedings on the grounds it violates the accused's rights to a fair trail. I'm not a lawyer. You're not a judge. This is not a court of law," Skinner told Kersh.

"This is a military court of law. You may want to familiarize yourself with title ten of the U.S. Code. But I suggest you call a witness," Kersh replied smoothly.

"And that makes it better than a kangaroo court how?" Byers asked no one in particular.

Skinner stalled. "Then I move to delay this trial. My central witness, Marita Covarrubias works for the united nations and I can't locate her. And I've received no help from the U.S. Government locating her."

"I have to deny that request. Do you another witness, Mr. Skinner?" Kersh asked.

"I'll call a witness but I would like to do so under protest," Skinner told him.

"Both the panel's judgments and rulings are sovereign, Mr. Skinner. There is no record."

"Excuse me? This isn't a secret tribunal. As you've so kindly informed me, it's a court of law," Skinner fumed.

"Military court of law, Mr. Skinner."

Mulder turned to Skinner. "It's okay. Try your case."

"This is going to suck..." Frohike moaned, covering his face with his hands.

Scully sat and faced the jury a moment later. She looked faintly angry, and the gunmen didn't blame her.

"Please state your name for the court," Skinner requested.

"My name is Dana Katherine Scully. I was assigned nine years ago to the X-Files to spy on Agent Mulder whose methods the FBI distrusted."

"Assigned not just as an agent, but as a medical doctor. A scientist. And as a serious scientist you came to believe in Agent Mulder's theories," Skinner proclaimed.

Scully agreed. "I came to believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life and in a conspiracy inside the government to keep their existence a secret."

"The proof was overwhelming. It was even scientifically undeniable," Skinner said.

"I believe as do many respected scientists that life came to earth millions of years ago from a meteor or a rock from Mars." She seemed slightly annoyed by Skinner's zeal.

"So, what you're saying is, life-- human life- is extraterrestrial by definition."

"Whoah, that's a leap," Frohike complained. "He's not gonna get away with that."

Frohike was right. "Objection. What does this nonsense have to do with Mulder murdering a man in cold blood?" Kallenbrunner asked loudly.

"Agent Scully will prove that a government conspiracy exists to deny the existence of extra-terrestrials," Skinner replied.

"You are not here proving government conspiracies Mr. Skinner. You are here to defend Fox Mulder," Kersh said sternly.

"And I'm trying to do that," Skinner said shortly.

"It's your case, Mr. Skinner," Kersh gave up. The gunmen were surprise. He was usually a pit bull from what they'd heard.

"So, a meteor crashed to earth but along with the biological building blocks on it there was something else - an alien virus." Skinner asked Scully.

Scully nodded slightly. " I believe there was a virus which thrived here prehistorically. I believe that virus infected early man and transformed his physiology."

"Changed him into something else," Skinner concluded.

"Virus induced evolution?" Langly asked. "Isn't that the plot of a Greg Bear novel?"

"Darwin's Radio," Byers agreed with a nod.

"Into an alien life-form himself," Scully gravely pronounced.

"And what happened to these aliens?" Skinner asked her.

"They died in the last ice age, 35,000 years ago."

"And the virus?"

"It lay dormant underground until it surfaced once again during our current geologic period," Scully replied.

"And the government knows of this?" Skinner asked expectantly.

"Gee, do you suppose he thinks he knows the answer?" Frohike asked, unimpressed.

"The government learned of this virus in 1947 when a UFO crashed in Roswell, New Mexico," Scully told him.

"A UFO crash revealed a virus?"

"The virus thrived underground in petroleum deposits. In black oil. It has sentience. It can think. It has the ability to communicate and it communicated with the UFOs."

"Oh God, she sounds like one of those street people." Frohike covered his face again.

"And the government knows this, too." Confirmed as if she'd said something easy to accept.

Scully turned to look at Mulder before replying." In Roswell, they captured aliens from the spacecraft wreckage. They salvaged various alien technology from them and from their data banks they learned of the alien plan to 're-colonize' the earth."

"Talk about manifest destiny," Byers commented.

"Is this all leading anywhere?" Kersh complained.

"Yeah. The destruction of mankind," Mulder said.

"Anyone got a snare drum?" Langly asked.

"I'll warn you once, Agent Mulder," Kersh told him.

"Geez, talk about lacking a of sense of humor." Langly glared at Kersh.

"And what did the government do with this ... information of an alien takeover?" Skinner asked Scully.

"They kept it a dark secret. If it had gotten out there would have been wild panic."

"Isn't THAT the plot of Men In Black?" Langly squawked. Byers nodded.

Kersh had had enough. "Mr. Skinner, are we finished?"

"No. There's the matter of Agent Scully's own abduction in 1994," Skinner told him.

"Abduction by whom?"

Scully spoke up. "By the military working with the government conspirators to develop a breed of human-alien hybrids that the aliens would use as a slave race."

Skinner dismissed her. "Thank you, Agent Scully. Your witness, Mr. Kallenbrunner."

Kallenbrunner stood. "All these ET's running around ... it's hard to keep these aliens straight without a scorecard. I myself have never seen an alien. Could we call one as a witness?"

"Could we get ALF?" Langly asked hopefully. "Or Space Ghost!"

"Superman would be more believable," Frohike said.

Scully wasn't amused by the question, at least the one she heard. "You're being facetious."

"No, I'm not," Kallenbrunner protested. "I'd like to see some proof."

"There are the mars rocks ..."

"No. I need something good. Something amazing. Something really cool," Kallenbrunner said in a smarmy tone.

"What is he, sixteen?" Frohike glared.

"I don't know what you mean," Scully said shortly.

"Well, what I mean is, you have no proof to back up one word you just told us. Agent Scully, isn't it true that you and Mulder were lovers, and you got pregnant and had his love child?"

Langly began humming the mo-town song "love child" under his breath until Byers and Frohike both threatened him.

"Objection!" Skinner yelped.

Kallenbrunner ignored Skinner's outrage. "Thank you. Next witness."

Scully turned to look at Mulder. Mulder ever so slightly shook his head, no and mouthed that it was okay. Scully slowly got up and left the witness chair.

As Jeffery Spender walked in, Kallenbrunner looked stunned by the other man's appearance. "Looks like Spender's left him speechless," Byers said smugly.

Frohike nodded towards Mulder. "He's not the only one. Poor Mulder hasn't seen Spender lately, huh?" Mulder looked upset.

Skinner doesn't flinch as he addresses the scarred man. "Can you state your full name?"

"Jeffrey Frank Spender."

"Mr. Spender, I know you didn't hear Mr. Kallenbrunner, but he'd like to make a mockery of the X-Files. You worked on the X-Files yourself."

"Yes, until three years ago."

"Until three years ago makes it sound like he worked there for a long time. And he didn't," Frohike muttered. "He was only there a little while."

"Give the guy a break. Someone injecting you with chemicals is bound to alter your perceptions," Byers scolded.

"When you were shot in the X-Files office. Shot by your father," Skinner announced dramatically. "Can I ask you to please tell the court exactly who your father was?"

"He led the government conspiracy to exploit the existence of aliens."

"Oh great, now Spender's credibility is shot too. Skinner's a good guy but a crappy lawyer," Byers said.

Kallenbrunner objected, "There's no government conspiracy that I've seen established here."

"I agree with Mr. Kallenbrunner. I don't see where this is going," Kersh said.

"If you agree with him so much why don't you marry him." Langly snipped.

Skinner disagreed. "If I can prove this conspiracy, it will justify Mulder's actions and you will have no choice but to acquit."

"I hope this isn't the entire basis of your defense, Mr. Skinner," Kersh taunted.

Skinner looked to Mulder, and Mulder encouraged him to go on, so he addressed Spender once more. "You have a relationship to Agent Mulder don't you, Mr. Spender?"

"Ah!" Langly shrieked.

"To, not with, you dolt," Frohike hissed.

"He's my half-brother. His mother had an affair with my father," Spender replied.

Skinner nodded. "And he never knew that. Not until he met you at the FBI."

"He didn't know both his father and mine were in the alien conspiracy. His father was a reluctant member. When Agent Mulder began to know the truth about this connection, my father had his father killed by an assassin named Alex Krycek."

"He killed him to silence him?" Skinner asked.

Spender frown. "Mulder's father lived his life in shame. No, not for the conspiracy but for a terrible decision he made."

"Involving Agent Mulder's sister," Skinner stated.

"The aliens distrusted their human collaborators. Members of the conspiracy were made to surrender family members as human collateral," Spender agreed.

"See? Not just witches want your kids. That's why I'm never having any," Langly said.

"You're not having any because you're dead, and even if you weren't no woman would touch you," Frohike corrected. Langly shrugged.

"So, Mulder's father gave up Mulder's sister. His own eight-year-old daughter," Skinner intoned.

"Mulder witnessed his sister being abducted by aliens. It haunted him to no end. It's why he pursued the X-Files," Spender said, glancing at his half brother.

"What became of her? Samantha?" Skinner asked.

Spender looked sad. " She was returned. She was sent to California where we were raised together. She was taken many more times and suffered horrible tests." Mulder's face looked sad too as Spender spoke.

"Mulder spent years looking for her ...several times thinking that he'd found her but he was tricked," Skinner grimly revealed.

Spender agreed. "Samantha was part of a cloning experiment done by the conspiracy. She herself died in 1979."

"By your own father's hand essentially."

"When I went to work for the FBI, I didn't know of my father's crimes. When I stood up to him, he shot me."

"You know, being dead is a better deal than being one of the smoking man's kids," Byers griped.

"When I didn't die he subjected me to the same horrible tests," Spender continued.

"The same tests?" Frohike wondered. "Does that mean Samantha got all scarred too?"

Skinner turned away from Spender to look at Kallenbrunner "Your witness."

Kallenbrunner attempted a sympathetic expression. "Mr. Spender, I'm sorry for your suffering. I'm sure none of us can really imagine what it's like. Your father must be brought to justice."

"I believe my father is dead," Spender replied in a flat voice that betrayed no emotions.

"At least he's not up there with us." Langly smiled. "Must be hot where he is."

Kallenbrunner smoothly continued. "Mr. Spender, you're here to speak for the character of Agent Mulder. In reports you filed while an FBI agent I see here you describe Mulder as ' arrogant,' 'difficult,' 'control freak widely disliked by his peers.'"

Spender objected. "Those reports were written before I knew the truth."

Kallenbrunner was unfazed. "This report calls him 'uunstable prone to violent outbursts.' I have the report right here if your memory needs refreshing."

Spender just stared at him.

"Thank you, Mr. Spender."

Spender had a look of profound regret on his face when he left the witness stand.

After Spender's unfortunate testimony, Mulder was lead back to his cell. Mulder did nothing but lie on his hard bed and stare at the ceiling, brooding about how badly the trial was going. Langly had followed Doggett home, but soon returned, telling the others that Doggett and Reyes were at a lose as well. So the gunmen passed the time by grimly telling each other the worst "heaven" jokes they could think of.

The sound of the door opening made them stop talking. Scully walked in, her eyes on. Mulder left his bed shortly before she arrived, so he was now sitting on the floor against the wall. Scully stopped in front of him as the door closed behind her.

Mulder made no move to stand, but looked up at her from his place on the floor. "I know what you want and I can't give it to you," he said in a flat tone.

"Mulder reads minds too? You've got competition Frohike," Langly quipped, receiving a baleful look as reward for his efforts.

Scully ignored Mulder's preemptive refusal. "Make them a deal, Mulder. Guilty on a lesser charge. Maybe they'll go for it and they'll let you walk out of here."

"And pigs might fly," Frohike muttered darkly.

Mulder didn't look at her. "I'd rather die, Scully."

"How can you say that? How can you say that, Mulder, to me?"

"Yeah, given how many times she nearly died for his crusade." Byers nodded.

"Because this is greater than you or me. This is about everything we worked for for nine years. The truth that we both sacrificed so much to uncover and to expose."

Scully knelt so he couldn't avoid her eyes any longer. "Well, then, expose it, Mulder! Take the stand. Whatever it is that you're withholding take the stand and hit them full force."

"I can't."


"Yeah, why?" the gunmen repeated like a Greek chorus.

"I just can't."

"Oh geez, this isn't going to be like him being 'just gone' is it?" Langly complained.

Fortunately Scully was deaf to the comments from the peanut gallery. "You say this is greater than us, and maybe it is, but this is us fighting this fight, Mulder, not you. It's you and me. That's what I'm fighting for, Mulder. You and me."

Mulder just shook his head in a resigned manner, and Scully left. When she was gone Mulder took up his staring.

"This is not good." Frohike seethed. "And that bitch Fowley won't help us."

Langly shrugged. "Maybe we could ask X to help."

"That's insane," Frohike said, shocked. "Mulder's not even his responsibility."

"But..." Byers hesitated. "Maybe he'd do something anyway, given he and Mulder knew each other."

"They weren't exactly friends," Frohike insisted, thinking of what Mulder had told them about the man one philly-cheese-steak-and-beer night after his murder.

"But it's worth a shot," Langly insisted. Frohike shrugged.

Even if their meeting didn't go well, they knew they liked X's secretary better than Fowley's. Instead of giving them a look of boredom that told them she equated them with pond scum, she was attentive and friendly. As soon as they explained it was an emergency, she announced them right away. " Misters Langly, Byers and Frohike to see you sir." They really appreciated the "misters" part of the announcement.

X looked up at them when they came in, and looked less friendly than his help. "What do you want?"

Frohike spoke up. "Mulder is about to do something stupid, and we don't know what to do about it."

X's look remained dark. "Fowley is your supervisor," he reminded Frohike.

"I know. And I also know she won't do anything for us. That's why I'm here to ask you to intervien. Not as a supervisor, but as someone who knew and respected Fox Mulder."

"I don't know if I'd go so far as to say I respected him..." X muttered. "You really think he might listen to me?"

"I hope so, sir," Frohike said. "Unless you can think of a way to let us become visible to him..." He trailed off hopefully.

X put down his file and stood up. "I'll try talking to him, not that I think it will do much good."

The gunmen exchanged a look, hoping that Langly's supervisor would be able to work a miracle.

X gave Mulder a disgusted look. "Get up."

Mulder couldn't quite make him out in the dark. "Who's that? Who's there?"

X walked out from the shadows and stood in front of Mulder.

"What are you doing here?" Mulder asked numbly.

"Hopefully talking some sense into your stupid ass!" Frohike shouted, but Mulder didn't even blink.

"That's what I'm here to ask you?" X asked.

Mulder smirked at his old contact. "I'm putting the truth on trial."

"What truth? Who's truth? You think these men will even hear it?"

"They're afraid to hear it," Mulder told X.

"He's not going to cause a ' You can't handle the truth!' scene in the courtroom, is he?" Byers asked.

X shot Mulder a disgusted look. "They're not afraid. They have too much power to be afraid. You're going to learn that, just like I did. You'll die learning it."

"I'm not afraid of that."

"Well I am," Frohike said. "I'm afraid you're going to die for no reason."

"There's a truth even you're afraid to speak now because you know it's futile," X said.

"No. Because I refuse to accept it," Mulder insisted.

X looked slightly less grim. "Then you're going to need help."

"How can you possibly help me?" Mulder asked plaintively.

X reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a slip of paper and handed it to Mulder. Mulder opened it up and read the handwriting on it.

756 N. MAPLE

When Mulder looked up, X was gone.

Langly nudged the others. I've got the feeling that Doggett knows something new."

"Like how you knew Doggett wasn't going to shoot his son's killer?" Byers asked.

"Exactly," Langly agreed with a nod.

"Then we better get going," Frohike said, glancing once more at Mulder's depressed face.

When they got to Doggett's house, he was sitting on his couch, talking to someone on the phone. "They said this is where I could find the body, at Fort Marlene." Doggett paused to listen. "Right....The deceased's name is Knowle Rohrer, former marine last employed by the D.O.D."

The gunmen weren't the only ones wondering what Doggett was talking about; Reyes stood by the kitchen counter listening in on Doggett's side of the conversation.

Doggett continued to insist on answers. "No, I don't want a call back. I want to talk to your superior..."

The dial-tone sounded abruptly, informing them all that he'd been hung up on. Reyes noticed a shadow pass by Doggett's kitchen window just then.

Doggett was annoyed. "Son of a bitch hung up on me!"

"Shhh!" Reyes hissed at him. "There's somebody in your yard."

Taking her warning seriously, Doggett reached for his holster on the coffee table. He unholstered his gun and walked toward Reyes to look out the window she had.

"Where is he?" Doggett asked quietly.

"Outside. Duh!" Langly hissed, ignoring Byers and Frohike's eye-rolling.

Reyes pulled out her own gun. "He was at the back door."

They both went to the back door, Doggett turning out the lights in the rooms as they passed through. Doggett peered out the kitchen window and spotted the shadow as it passed by the window once more.

Doggett whispered to Reyes. "I got him. He's coming around."

Doggett and Reyes positioned themselves bythe front door; their guns out and prepared for the worst. The doorknob rattled. Doggett looked at Reyes, who nodded that she was ready. Doggett reached over and opened the front door.

Doggett shouted at the still unseen intruder, "Stay where you are! Federal agent! Hands in the air!"

The shadowed figure of the long-haired Native American teenager raised his hands in the air. Doggett pulled him into the house and pushed him flat against the wall, doing a quick search for any weapons. When he doesn't find any, Doggett turned the young man around to face him, his gun aimed directly at him. Reyes stood on the side, her gun trained on the young man.

Doggett growled at him. "Who are you? What are you doing skulking around my house?"

The boy answered quickly, "I didn't want to be seen. I don't want to endanger him."

"Who are you talking about?" Doggett barked.

"Someone who wants to help Mulder," the boy responded cryptically.

Doggett and Reyes looked at each other, surprised. The gunmen were surprised too.

In the courtroom the next day, Mulder sat next to Skinner, looking grim. The Gunmen had retaken their seats and looked at him, wondering what Mulder was going to do about X's advice.

Marita Covarrubias walked in then, and took the witness stand.

Skinner glanced at her impassively. "State your full name for the court."

"Marita Covarrubias."

"And your former government title?" Skinner asked.

"Special Representative to the Secretary General of the U. N. " she said.

"The United Nations." Skinner clarified. "A position giving you unrestricted access to countries and leaders around the world. Isn't that right?"

"Yes," Marita responded in a clear voice. She doesn't look at Mulder.

Skinner continued his interrogation of his star witness. "How did you use this power?"

Marita didn't look away. "Basically, to further the interests of a secretive group of men who called themselves the syndicate."

"What were their interests?" Skinner asked.

"Power," Byers said.

"World domination," Frohike retorted.

"Full on insanity," Langly proclaimed, and for once the other two agreed.

"Developing an alien virus vaccine before the Russians developed one," Marita answered.

"And how'd they go about that?" Skinner asked.

Marita paled slightly. "By testing innocent civilians all over the world. Test subjects were tracked through a DNA identifiers in their small pox vaccination scars."

"Looks like Scully's wacky theory was right," Frohike grumbled, checking his own arm for a scar. There were no longer any marks on his body.

Skinner continued. "Without subject's knowledge?"

"Mostly. Some developed suspicions. I saw Russians who cut off their arms to prevent being tracked," she said.

"Oh! Is that why they cut off Krycek's arm? The whole 'they can't use you to test the black oil if you only have one arm' thing never made sense when Mulder told us about it," Byers remarked.

"What did make sense that he told us?" Frohike asked grumpily, still annoyed with Mulder's silence.

Skinner nodded. "As they did to an American man that you worked quite intimately with."

"Did he just imply that she and Krycek were doing the naked pretzel?" Langly gasped.

"If they were, I envy the bastard," Frohike said, admiring Marita from his seat. "She's not Scully, but who is? Not bad at all, though."

Marita chose only to answer Skinner's direct question, "Yes. Alex Krycek."

"Did you believe in the syndicate? In their international conspiracy?" Skinner asked.

"No, she thought they were the black oil Easter bunnies," Langly growled.

"No. I was paid for my access."

"Ok, not that sort of believe," Langly said, turning slightly pink. No one noticed.

Skinner looked grim. "In fact, you came to hate them."

Marita nodded. "Yes. It's why I helped Agent Mulder when he approached me."

"But you were found out. And the syndicate punished you for this."

For a brief second, Marita faltered and her composure wavered at the memory of her experiences of being a test subject. "They turned me into a ... a test subject."

"Testing what?" Skinner asked innocently.

"Cosmetics," Frohike growled.

Marita looked in control of her emotions again. "They were pretending to work with the aliens to infect the entire population with an alien virus, but the conspirators were trying to save themselves by secretly and selfishly developing a vaccine. The conspirators believed all life in the universe had been infected with the virus including a race of shape-shifting alien bounty hunters who policed the conspiracy for the aliens. But they were wrong and it led to the destruction of the conspiracy."

"Am I dense or did she just not answer his question?" Byers asked Frohike and Langly. They shrugged.

"And who destroyed it?" Skinner asked her.

"Street people!" Frohike moaned under his breath.

"A group of renegade aliens who had avoided infection with the virus through self-disfigurement," Marita said.

"And the conspirators themselves - what happened to them?" Skinner wondered.

"Snap crackle pop." Langly grinned meanly.

"They're all dead now. Killed by these same faceless aliens," Marita said.

"Then what are you afraid of now?" Skinner asked.

From his seat Mulder watched Skinner. Marita remained silent.

"Why resist testifying here today?" Asked again, but Mulder's eyes were still fixed on the woman. "Because the conspiracy continues just in another form by other men," Skinner proclaimed.

Kallenbrunner yelped, "Objection. Mr. Skinner can't ask questions and give the answers."

"Sustained," Kersh said.

Skinner ignored them both. "Fox Mulder's on trial for murder here. The man he's accused of killing is one of these new conspirators. An alien replacement for a human being. What they're calling a super soldier. You can prove this, can't you?"

Marita remained silent. Her expression had a hint of fear in it.

"You know who these men are, don't you? Ms. Covarrubias?" Skinner persisted. Still Marita didn't reply.

Mulder continued to watch the proceedings until he felt a hand on his shoulder. Mulder turned to see that it was Krycek.

"Oh god, not him again," Frohike said, covering his face with his hands.

Krycek ignored him, speaking softly to Mulder instead. "They'll kill her."

"What's he care? If she dies they can do the naked pretzel again," Langly said. "At least theoretically. We should have asked Saint Peter about that part."

"Only if they ended up in the same place," Byers pointed out. "She's not half as evil as he was."

"Good point." Langly sighed.

Skinner stared at her. "Ms. Covarrubias, I asked you a question. I need an answer."

Mulder intervened before it was too late. "No."

Skinner turned to Mulder in surprise. For the first time since she entered the courtroom, Marita looked at Mulder. Mulder glanced at Marita who had a look of relief on her face. Kallenbrunner looked a bit surprised at this development as well. Skinner moved closer to Mulder .

Mulder sighed, "It's okay. Let her go."

Skinner disagreed with a growl. "What the hell are you doing, Mulder? She's the last best witness that we have."

Mulder looked defeated. "Doesn't matter."

Marita still looked a bit frightened of being made to talk. Skinner turned to Marita." Thank you, Ms. Covarrubias. I got nothing else."

Skinner sat back in his chair. Marita looks fearfully at Mulder. She dipped her head slightly in thanks. Mulder nodded his thanks to her for the effort. Then she left, letting Doggett in behind her.

"Assistant Director," Doggett called to Skinner. Skinner got up to meet with Doggett at the back of the room.

Mulder, Kallenbrunner and the panel waited patiently while the two men confer. When they were done, Skinner turned to the panel and makes an announcement ."I have an unscheduled witness that I'd like to call here today."

Surprisingly, neither Kallenbrunner nor Kersh protested, but when Doggett appears in the doorway with Gibson Praise, Mulder did. "No, not him."

"Mulder, sit down," Skinner ordered.

Mulder pleaded with Skinner. "You don't understand. I'm trying to protect that boy."

"Well, now he's here to protect you."

"Mr. Kallenbrunner? Do you have any objections to this witness?" Kersh asked. Kallenbrunner almost smiled. "Not like Mr. Mulder here does."

Gibson Praise moved to sit in the witness chair. Mulder crossed his arms on the table and rested his chin on them, watching Gibson from that vantage.

Skinner addressed the boy. "Can you tell us your name?"

"Gibson Andrew Praise."

"Can you tell us what happened to your parents?" Langly asked. "What? I can't be the only one to wonder."

"Do you know this man?" Skinner asked, point at Mulder.

"Yes. He's my friend. I hid him in the desert for the last year."

"Mulder met you as a chess prodgy. You're life was endangered because of your highly unusual brain activity."

Kersh interrupted. "Cut to the chase, Mr. Skinner."

"Here we go again..." Frohike whined.

Skinner glared at Kersh. "Gibson Praise can read people's minds. Mulder and Scully proved this scientifically. There's a certain 'junk DNA' which all humans share but has no apparent function. Gibson's ' junk DNA' is functional. DNA which is believed to be alien."

"Shouldn't he add 'and if you read any of my reports you'd know that?'" Byers asked.

Kallenbrunner looked skeptical. "You're trying to tell us this boy can read minds?"

Gibson answered for himself. "Yes."

Mulder finally looked away from Gibson. "He's reading your mind right now."

"And the minds of the judges, too?" Kallenbrunner asked in disbelief.

"Yes," Gibson confirmed, looking at each judge in turn, and staring at the last. "Even his," he said, pointing an accusing finger at the toothpick man.

Kallenbrunner looked amused. "And what makes him so special?"

"He's not human," Gibson declared.

"He's one of them," Mulder added.

The smile fell off of the toothpick man's face. Mulder stood then and started to approach the toothpick man who rose at the accusation.

"One of them! I want that man examined!" Mulder ranted.

Skinner intercepted Mulder, keeping him from the judge, obviously worried what Mulder had in mind for if and when he got to him.

At the same time, Kersh stood to reign in order in the court. "Mr. Skinner control him!"

Mulder howled, "You're afraid!" Guards moved up to Mulder to restrain him.

"Mulder!" Skinner yelled.

Mulder continued to yell as the guards dragged him away. "You're afraid of what I know! You're afraid of the truth!"

Kallenbrunner watched the guards as they remove Mulder. Only the gunmen noticed when Gibson turned around to look at toothpick man who was no longer smiling but looking grimly back at the boy. Gibson looked scared.

"Uh oh," Langly said needlessly.

Two guards escorted Mulder down the hallway and into a cell. Skinner, Doggett and Reyes were there as well as the Gunmen, who'd been sticking to him like glue. Mulder looked agitated.

"Where's Gibson?" he demanded to know.

Reyes answered his question. "He's with Scully ... in good hands. "

Mulder shook his head in disappointment.

"We spent the night talking to him. Gibson knows you're concerned. We're protecting him now," Doggett told him.

Mulder looked angry. "He shouldn't have done what he did - exposing himself like that."

"Well, the boy was trying to protect you and it looks like it may have worked," Skinner disagreed.

Reyes explained, "He says three judges are wavering. They're leaning in your favor."

Mulder smiled at their naivete. "It's going to take a little more than that the way things are going. We were never going to win."

"Take the stand, Mulder. Testify," Skinner insisted again.


"Then we'll testify, me and Monica," Doggett declared.


"Both of us have seen too much ... " Reyes began.

Mulder looked frantic." Listen to me, they'll destroy you. They'll put you out on the street."

"What's left for us on the X-Files?" Doggett asked grimly.

"We came to this job to give it our best. It's the way we're going to leave." Reyes added.

"It's not about how good you are. They control the game. They own it." Mulder objected.

"Then let's shove it up their ass," Doggett replied.

"Go, Doggett, Go Doggett, Go Go!" Langly cheered, but he was the only one thrilled by Doggett's idea.

Kersh looked impatient in the courtroom. " Mr. Skinner?" He prompted in the silence.

Skinner looked up, suddenly business-like. "I'd like to call John Doggett."

Doggett entered the room and made his way to the witness chair. "Agent Doggett ... you've been on the X-Files for two years. And with all that you've seen how do you feel about this term ' paranormal'?"

Doggett looked slightly amused. "Well, the way I look at it, calling something paranormal is just a way of avoiding a real explanation."

Skinner nodded in agreement. "You're a skeptic. But I see here in your own case reports some very detailed descriptions of things that a skeptic would never believe in ... these so called 'Super-Soldiers.'"

"Well, that's a whole different deal," Doggett admitted.

"In what way?"

"'Cause I've seen it with my own eyes; shot ... drowned ... even ground up in a garbage truck. And they just come right back to life," Doggett declared.

At Doggett's words, Kersh looked down and snuck a glance at the toothpick man who just continues to sit there staring at Doggett without reaction.

"What are they?" Skinner asked.

"Robots sent from the future?" Langly interjected.

Doggett shrugged. " Well, the best I can figure they're some kind of secret military project- ordinary men made invincible."

Kallenbrunner objected. "What does this science fiction have to do with anything?"

Skinner patiently explained. "Agent Doggett is going to tell you that the man that Mulder is accused of killing is a super soldier. A man that Agent Doggett served with in the marines. Name of Knowle Rohrer."

Kallenbrunner seethed. "Objection. Agent Doggett was not present at the murder nor has he seen or examined the victim."

"That's because I've been getting the bum's rush from the government," Doggett pointed out.

"Objection sustained," Kersh said. Doggett turned to look at Kersh, a little more than surprised. Perhaps realizing for the first time, despite their past history, that Kersh may not be on the side of justice after all.

Skinner looked unflustered. "Well, then, let me ask you, Agent Doggett if a super soldier is invincible, how could Mulder have killed this man?"

Doggett smirked. "He couldn't. The way I understand it they only way to kill a super soldier is with some rare metal. Agent Scully says it's a form of magnetite from some meteor that fell to earth."

"And Mulder's not accused of doing that, is he?" Skinner asked unnecessarily.

"No, sir."

"I wish I had popcorn." Langly sighed.

"Your witness," Skinner said.

Kallenbrunner stood to question Doggett. "Agent Doggett ... in going over your files I must say ... it's an honor to speak to a man whose record is distinguished by such duty to his country. Now, I'm not going to doubt a man of your integrity, Agent Doggett, even if he tells me a story I find too incredible to believe."

"Thank you."

"Just as you must not doubt the integrity of Fox Mulder on whose behalf you're here to testify," Kallenbrunner added.

"Correct," Doggett replied stiffly.

"Even if Mulder believes these so-called super soldiers are aliens?" Kallenbrunner asked.

Mulder's look suggested he realized where Kallenbrunner's going with this questioning. Doggett shot Kallenbrunner a look but remains silent.

Kallenbrunner persisted. "He believes they're aliens, you know. You said you were a skeptic."

Doggett finally replied. "That's right."

Kallenbrunner looked triumphant. "So an alien conspiracy which Mulder has built his defense on must be entirely unbelievable to you, too."

Kersh looked at Doggett expectantly. Doggett stalled, unable to answer the question against his own beliefs. Mulder understands the situation Doggett's in. Doggett turned to look at Mulder, unwilling to lie. Kallenbrunner sat back down.

After a brief recess, court resumed, with Reyes on the witness stand in front of Skinner.

"My name is Monica Reyes. I've been with the FBI since 1990."

"Funny, I didn't think she was that old," Byers commented.

"Scully looks younger than she is too," Frohike insisted.

"Before coming onto the X-Files, Agent Reyes, you worked in the New Orleans field office investigating cases of satanic ritual abuse," Skinner stated.

Reyes agreed. "I did."

"Did you ever prosecute any of these satanic cases?" Skinner asked.


Kallenbrunner became agitated. "For god's sake, Mr. Skinner, we're trying a man for murder not taking a trip down memory lane."

"Shut up, jag off," Frohike growled.

Skinner seemed angry as well. "I'm showing the court that Agent Reyes is level-headed and objective on strange and extraordinary cases. That her belief in aliens comes from firsthand experience. And she can offer you hard proof that there is an alien conspiracy!"

If Reyes didn't feel up to the task, she didn't let it show. "I was called on last year to protect Agent Scully who was pregnant and whose life was in danger because of her pregnancy."

Kallenbrunner was still snippy. "What does this have to do with aliens?"

Reyes tried to explain."I drove Agent Scully to a secluded location in Georgia where it was believed she could deliver safely. But we soon discovered we weren't alone. I was attacked and had to defend myself against an assailant, who was shot at point-blank range. Who should have died, but didn't. This assailant was then joined by others like him who surrounded Agent Scully and me, and witnessed her as she gave birth to her son."

Her explanation confused Kallenbrunner " Witnessed her? What do you mean?"

Reyes turned to look at him." We were confused as well. But we came to understand that her son was a kind of miracle child. Its birth was all important to these people; these so-called Super-Soldiers, who I believe are humans replaced by aliens."

"Why would Scully's child be important to aliens, Agent Reyes?"

"We came to learn that Scully was one of a number of random women who had miraculous childbirths and these women all had been abducted as part of a government program to secretly manipulate their biology operating offshore on a navy ship using these women as surrogates."

"Surrogates?" Kallenbrunner asked.

"For alien babies." Reyes replied.

"William is not an alien!" Byers exclaimed.

"Relax. Any port in a storm, you know?" Frohike said, but he too wondered if Reyes really thought William was not as human as his parents.

"To create a slave race." Kallenbrunner remarked sardonically, repeating the earlier testimony.

"Yes. "Reyes agreed.

"A program conducted by the Navy, on a ship which is where?" Kallenbrunner asked.

"The ship housing this program was exploded on the Baltimore dock," Reyes told him.

Kallenbrunner looked smug. " So, in other words, we have no true evidence past your good word." Skinner shot the man an annoyed look, but he kept questioning Reyes. " You claim Scully gave birth to one of these alien babies. How can you be sure of this, Agent Reyes?"

"I saw her child do things that could be explained no other way. I saw him display amazing powers. He'd move objects with his mind."

Kallenbrunner looked interested. " Really? Do you think we could arrange a demonstration for the court? That we could see that ourselves?"

Reyes looked away. " No. The child was given up for adoption to an anonymous family."

Kallenbrunner pretended astonishment. " She gave up the miracle child? The proof of everything that she and Mulder claim that they've risked their lives for over the last nine years - she just sent it off to some strangers?"

"Yes, to protect him!" Reyes shouted.

Kallenbrunner gave a dismissive wave of his hand." Thank you, Agent Reyes. That's all."

Reyes, not content to be dismissed so easily, continued to speak to him. " You don't care about that child or what Scully had to sacrifice. You're only too happy she had to give it up so there's no proof," she said bitterly.

"Agent Reyes," Kersh barked.

Reyes swung around and pinned Kersh with a look, slowly advancing toward him, anger and contempt dripping from every word she said. " You don't care what these people have sacrificed over the last nine years - what's been lost to their cause. You make a mockery of it, gladdened it proves your point."

Kersh blanched, but tried to maintain authority. " Agent Reyes, that's enough!"

Reyes gave him a scornful look. " What is the point of all of this? To destroy a man who seeks the truth or to destroy the truth so no man can seek it? Either way, you lose."

She glanced at Mulder once before stalking off, letting the door close heavily in her wake. Kersh looked uncomfortable as she left.

Not realizing they had three passengers in the back seat, Doggett and Reyes drove as quickly to Scully's as they dared. She looked tired when she let them in.

"Are you ready for this? We may have found Knowle Rohrer," Doggett said.

Scully looked shocked. " You found him?"

"His body," Reyes said with a small frown.

Scully was confused. " What are you talking about? There can't be a body; he can't die. Knowle Rohrer is a super soldier."

"Exactly. But they're saying it's him - the man Mulder killed," Reyes told her.

"Who's saying it's him?" Scully asked.

Doggett spoke up. " I got some guy on the phone at Fort Marlene who didn't know that he was supposed to give me the run-around. I got him to send the victim's corpse to Quantico."

"Sounds like someone is in trouble." Langly sniggered.

"It's there now?" Scully wanted to know.

Reyes managed a cautiously optimistic look. "We've got a car out front."

Hearing the conversation,Gibson called uncertainly from another room. "Agent Scully?"

When he came into the room, Scully gave him a worried look. It was plainly written on her face that she was afraid to leave him alone now that he'd fingered the toothpick man as one of the super soldiers. Reyes and Doggett noticed her apprehension.

"Agent Doggett can stay with him." Reyes gently insisted.

When they got to the lab, Scully quickly put on a lab coat, knowing the time they had with the body was limited. Reyes watched as the shorter woman uncovered the body.

Reyes was startled by the body's charred appearance. "Oh, my god. This is Knowle Rohrer?" It wasn't possible to tell from looking.

Frohike hissed through his teeth as the gunmen looked at the body. "As ugly as we were, at least we left prettier corpses."

"I wonder if there are any after-life beauty contests. With our bodies intact like they were, we'd be shoo-ins."

Scully picked up and read the paperwork that accompanied the body. "That's what it says here." Her frown suggested her doubt.

"Well, how could anyone tell if it wasn't?" Reyes asked with a puzzled look.

"I need you to get me Knowle Rohrer's medical records," Scully told her.

"They'd have to come from the military. I don't know if I can."

"You've got to, Monica; whatever it takes. I need those records for Skinner. I need them for Mulder."

Reyes stared at Scully for a moment, then left without a word when she realized the she was Scully's only hope. After she left Scully pulled on gloves and began to work over the body, treating it with respect.

Byers watched the autopsy with a squeamish look. "I'm glad we don't remember that part, especially since Scully probably wasn't the one who did it, so whoever it was probably didn't give a damn about us."

The others heartily agreed.

In court the following day Skinner was busy looking through his notes, with Mulder sitting next to him with a blank expression.

Kersh looked bored of the proceedings, as if it was taking a lot longer than he bargained on. "Mr. Skinner. Please call your next witness."

Skinner stood up to do so, but the back door opened and Scully walked in holding a thin report. "Assistant Director ... " When she reached him, Scully handed the report over to Skinner, who immediately started reading it.

"Could it finally be good news?" Byers wondered hopefully.

Scully cast Mulder a reassuring look and whispered to him "I found it."


"What's going to get you off," she said firmly.

Skinner got the court's attention. " I want to move to dismiss again based on new evidence I just received that there is no victim. That the body of Knowle Rohrer is not Knowle Rohrer, but that of a man who died of a broken neck and whose body was burned postmortem."

Kersh looked annoyed. "Motion denied."

"You can't deny it!" Scully exclaimed.

"You're out of order and in contempt of court, Agent Scully!" Kersh thundered.

Scully was not cowed. "You're in contempt. I have evidence proving that Agent Mulder is innocent."

Kersh narrowed his eyes. "You have no authorization to examine the body, Agent Scully. Have her removed from the courtroom."

Mulder stood up. "If she's got evidence, you got to listen," he insisted. Then he turned to watch as guards escorted Scully out of the courtroom.

"Order! Remove the defendant from the courtroom. This trial is adjourned!" Kersh shouted. Even Kallenbrunner looked aghast at what's happening in front of him. In the middle of it the judges left as well, to confirm on their decision.

Skinner just watched in confusion as more guards threatened to take Mulder away as well. When Mulder settled down Sinner and Kallenbrunner sat back down as well, brooding on different things as they waited for the verdict.

Kersh addressed them. "Gentlemen ... we have a verdict. If you'd rise."

Skinner stood, but Mulder defiantly remained seated, earning a glare from Kersh. "Acting fairly and impartially, this panel finds the defendant ... guilty of first degree murder under aggravated circumstances. Is there anything you'd like to say on your behalf, Mr. Mulder ... before we decide your sentence?"

"No!" Byers howled. "They can't believe he's guilty, they can't!" Neither Langly or Frohike made a move to reassure, because they couldn't take their hollow eyes off of Kersh.

Mulder spoke surprisingly softly, given his earlier outburst. "Yes." He stood and looked directly at Kersh, addressing only him. "I'd like to congratulate you on succeeding where so many before you have failed. A bullet between the eyes would have been preferable to this charade. But I've learned to pretend over the past nine years - to pretend that my victories mattered only to realize that no one was keeping score. To realize that liars do not fear the truth if there are enough liars. That the devil is just one man with a plan but evil, true evil, is a collaboration of men which is what we have here today. If I am a guilty man, my crime is in daring to believe that the truth will out and that no one lie can live forever. I believe it still. Much as you try to bury it, the truth is out there. Greater than your lies, the truth wants to be known. You will know it. It'll come to you, as it's come to me faster than the speed of light."

Mulder glanced over at the panel, and following his gaze, The gunmen saw Krycek and X standing behind the judge. They look depressed by the verdict as well.

Mulder continued to speak, now addressing the other judges as well. "You may believe yourselves rid of your headache now and maybe you are... but you're only done it by cutting off your own heads."

Krycek and X were gone by then, and the envy the gunmen felt that those two could make themselves visible made them feel like weeping.

Wanting to be alone, Scully sat quietly on her couch. Respecting her need for privacy, everyone else, including the gunmen were in the kitchen, waiting to be needed.

When the phone rang, Scully didn't move to pick it up. Doggett put down his cup and went into the living room to answer the phone. He walked past Scully who didn't seem to notice he was there, but she was listening to him speak.

"Yeah." He paused to listen. "I'll tell her." He didn't say anything when he hung up.

"Who was it?" Scully finally asked.


"Agent Doggett?" Scully said hesitantly when he didn't elaborate.

Doggett didn't look at her for a long while, but then he finally turned to her with a sad look on his face. "Death by lethal injection," he said softly.

Scully fell apart, sobbing her heart out. Frohike looked grim. "We have to find a way to appear to Mulder before it's too late," he said fiercely.

"But I thought it was impossible," Byers protested.

"We just haven't wanted it badly enough," Frohike insisted. "We have to try harder." Seeing his heart-sick determination, the others didn't try to talk him out of it.

To pass the time, the gunmen took turns trying to will themselves to appear to Mulder. Frohike thought that Mulder saw him for a second, but Mulder's face returned to blankness before he could say anything to him. Discouraged, Frohike sulked for a while before suggesting that maybe things would work better if they all tried at once. Before they could make the attempt, they heard the sound of footsteps in the hallway.

Mulder was lying on the floor of his cell when the door opened, making it suddenly too bright to see. He feared it was Rohrer, whom he didn't know was just arriving, or someone else coming to kill him. He didn't move.

"Get up," Doggett demanded.

"What is he doing here?" Langly asked loudly. Frohike and Byers shrugged.

Mulder still couldn't tell who it was, and he was too tired to identify Doggett's voice. "Who's there?"

"I'm here with Skinner. Get up," Doggett repeated.

Skinner spoke so Mulder would know it was him. " Move it, Mulder."

"What are you doing?" Mulder asked, sitting when he heard his friend's voice. Being on the floor took its toll on him, so he needed Doggett's help getting up.

"We're not alone!" Byers exclaimed suddenly, listening to something in the hallway.

"Duh. Skinner and Doggett are here," Langly said with a roll of his eyes.

"No! I hear Rohrer. He's talking to one of the guards."

"Crap!" Frohike shouted, wishing he could get the three living men moving before they became another trio of the dead.

"We're getting you out of here. Come on," Doggett quickly explained. Doggett helped him out of the cell, while Skinner shut the door to it behind them. They made their way through the halls as quickly as possible, Skinner unlocking the locked doors with a key he somehow got ahold of.

The gunmen ran after them. "Do they know Rohrer is here?" Frohike asked. "Because they're not acting like they know that an insane indestructible man is after them."

"At least we're going in the opposite direction." Byers gasped.

The suddenly blaring alarm let them know that they had been found out, although Frohike still isn't convinced they know about the roving super soldier. To their luck, the night duty officer was one of the responders to the alarm, so his post is abandoned. Skinner looked first to make sure he was, then motioned Doggett and Mulder to follow.

There was one final door, so Skinner took out the key to unlock it. Mulder walked through it straight into Kersh. The three men froze, uncertain of what would happen next.

"You're never going to make it this way," Kersh said, but they couldn't tell if was a threat or not. Kersh just stared at them. " Come on."

Kersh turned around and lead them on an alternate route out of the building. While armed military personnel are headed in one direction, Kersh lead Mulder, Skinner and Doggett in another direction and to safety.

At the top of the stairs, Reyes stood by the cut hole in the wire fence. She held it open so the men can get out. She had a vehicle waiting for them, and they gratefully piled in. They drove a while down the road that took Mulder to Scully who was waiting next to another vehicle with Gibson Praise.

As soon as the vehicle stopped, Mulder got out and made his way to Scully. The others joined them.

"Mulder?" Scully asked, looking surprised that Kersh was with them.

"You've got to move out," Kersh commanded.

Scully still looked confused. "What's he doing?"

"What I should have done from the start." Answered gruffly for himself.

Kersh gave them instructions on how to best get away. "You want to go north to Canada. Get to an airport. If you're not off the continent in 24 hours you may never get out, you understand?"

Mulder looked at his friends, knowing how much they risked for him. "None of you will be safe now."

Doggett smiled tightly. "You let us worry about that."

"Good luck," Reyes told them.

"Are you going to follow Doggett and Reyes?" Byers asked Langly then.

Langly shook his head. "Nah. I think they'll be ok right now. It's more important to help with Mulder this second. I'll check on them in a little while. It's not like I wouldn't be able to find them later." He laughed.

Scully moved toward the vehicle provided by Reyes. With a parting gesture of gratitude to Gibson Praise, Mulder followed Scully. They both got into the car leaving their trusted friends behind.

Mulder drove down the road past a sign that said Interstate 95 South Bound.

"Hey, aren't we going the wrong way?" Frohike groused.

Scully noticed the sign too. "Mulder, Kersh told us to head north. You just got on a road going south."

Mulder nodded. "That's right."

"Where are you going?" Scully asked.

"Yeah, where?! After those people risked their asses to rescue you-" Frohike ranted until Byers covered his mouth so they could hear Mulder's answer.

Mulder said, "To see a man about The Truth." Scully cast him a worried look, but didn't say anything.

The SUV made its way down the road for miles. Then Mulder abruptly pulled off to the side.

This is the break Frohike was waiting for. "Ok, this is it. One last try to see if we can do this."

"One last try," Byers agreed.

Mulder leaned over to check on a sleeping Scully before letting himself quietly out of the car. The gunmen pile out after him, determined that this time they'll be seen.

Mulder unzipped his pants when it became apparent to them that whatever it was they were doing by willing themselves visible was working. Mulder was looking right at them.

Frohike said the first thing that came to mind. "Hey, hot shot! You might have the common courtesy of doing your business there downwind."

Mulder's eyes were wide. "Oh, boy."

"Why don't you just finish draining the little lizard and then we'll talk?" Langly asked him, slightly embarrassed for the man who hadn't expected an audience.

Byers decided to cut to the chase. "We're very worried about you."

"It's craziness, man. Turn around," Frohike demanded, relieved that Mulder could finally hear his concern.

"Just hang a big U-ie and never look back," Langly added.

Mulder frown at them. "I can't."

"Why risk perfect happiness, Mulder? Why risk your lives?" Byers asked, sounding devastated that their message was going unheard after all.

"Because I need to know the truth," Mulder said stubbornly.

"You already know the truth," Byers insisted.

Mulder hesitated, then gave them an answer Frohike knew was true, even if he couldn't accept it. "I need to know if I can change it."

Langly didn't hear Mulder's thoughts, so he just looked confused. "Change it?"

Frohike was still angry at Mulder. "For crying out loud. All you're going to do is get yourself killed."

Scully woke up in the car alone, and got out to see what he was up to. "Mulder! What are you doing?"

Mulder said, "I'll be right with you, Scully," zipping his pants. They both got back into the car, neither of them seeing the gunmen any longer. They were still there, though.

Langly gave Byers and Frohike a sidelong glance as they watched the car drive off. " So... do you think we've blown it with the guardian angel gig?"

"That's possible," Byers admitted.

Frohike clapped then both on the back. "Look on the bright side. We're heroes, so Saint Peter probably won't throw us out of Heaven. It'd be bad PR. If our wings get clipped, we'll have more time for movies and cheese steak."

"But what would happen to them all if we're not watching over them?" Byers fretted.

"They'll have to stand on their own," Langly told him. "I think they did a pretty good job of that before we got the job of watching over them, don't you think?"

With that, they returned to heaven, ready to face the angelic music.


Note: yes, I'm aware that Release aired after William. However they were produced in the reverse order, and I think they ought to have left them that way. Hence the reverse-from-the-show order within this story.

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