Title: Deliverance From Evil
Authors: Jacquie LaVa and Tess
Category:  MSR, post-col
Rating:  R to NC-17
Spoilers:  Up through Season 7 "All Things", and FTF
Disclaimer:  These characters belong to CC and company - We're just using their clones to show how we think the mytharc will play out 
Feedback:  We would adore it:  char@chaffin.com, and tnv099@aol.com

Summary: Mulder and Scully discover the horrifying truth about the alien colonization - and the ensuing battle will test their strength and their commitment to each other -

  ~ Prologue ~

"If I quit now... They win."

But 'They' had already won; They'd already defeated the world.  When he spoke those words to Scully in the dim hallway outside his apartment, three years ago and mere minutes before a deceptively innocuous looking bee unwittingly became a catalyst for the upcoming battle... Mulder didn't know just how outnumbered they really were -how outnumbered they had always been.  And he had no sort of grasp on how far back it went, how many decades the Colonizers had walked among the human race... and how many of them actually populated the earth.

By the time he and Scully found out - really found out... it was too late.  Colonization, as they had feared, was happening everywhere -and actually had been happening for a very long time.

Slowly... insidiously... relentlessly.


  It seemed as if one day was normal, just like any other day in the life - and the next was insanity... but that's not really how it went down.  It had been going insane for years and years, but Mulder thought it was just your normal 'world-is-changing" sort of shit. Cities growing bigger and meaner and more drugged-out... less people believing in a Supreme Being, and more people out for only Number One. 

Maybe that would have happened anyway, but not as rapidly - not as gruesomely.  And he supposed so many people like Scully and him, good people who worked hard and did their best to make a difference in the world... those people went about their regular business and never saw the evidence of it because they had been living in it all their lives.  Another culture, that's what it was... how could they have fought against it?  They grew up in it.  Their parents, if not completely taken over by it at a young age, at the very least allowed it to happen.  There was no stopping it; Mulder could see that now.

On the day before he had begun to somehow understand, and believe, what had become of their world as they knew it - and what was about to continue to happen... on that day he and Scully had made a monumental decision for themselves - had decided to put it all behind them, and leave the Bureau.  This decision had not come about lightly; they had agonized over it privately and in shared conversation, for a long time.  Yet they had ignored what their hearts and minds told them about the state of their careers - had ignored the obvious, that it was time to stop it before the weariness and desolation of their lives threatened to steal their very humanity.

Both of them were so tired of the personal loss and the heartache and the loneliness and uncertainty of life itself.  Their birthdays had come and gone, with the gaining of another gray hair or two and losing another year.  Then, a case - a monstrous case of murder - and yes, they had seen worse... but this one was the final, proverbial straw.  This one broke them - and made them decide, once and for all. 

Made them decide that they wanted a life - what there was left of it, they wanted it.  Together. 

And when, close on the heels of that decision, came the knowledge of their world ending all around them - together they fled, when there appeared to be no other choice...

  ~ Chapter One ~

  The quiet stillness of the garden was shattered by the sound of sandaled feet approaching.  One person broke free of the crowd and stepped forward, embracing the man who waited for him peacefully.  As his lips brushed over the man's bearded cheek, he cried out as if struck by lightening and stumbled away, clutching his head in agony.

The crowd surged forward and several men laid their hands on the quiet figure.  Violence erupted briefly before the crowd dragged their captive from the garden.  As peace settled over the garden once again, he held his head in residual pain and watched the retreating figures of the crowd as they led their prisoner away.  The man fell to his knees as his soul did battle with his demons.  Dragging himself to his feet, he followed.

As the sun rose, regret was an acrid taste in his mouth and he took himself to those who had conscripted him.  Railing at them bitterly, he threw their blood money at their feet and left.  Standing on a hilltop, seeing what he had wrought with his greed and anger, he fell against a tree and was sick.  Collapsing to his knees, he coughed and heaved, expelling the sickness and evil within him in an oily, black pool of vomit.  Lurching to his feet, unable to live with his sins, he prayed for forgiveness - and in the dawning pink light of that Friday morning, Judas hung himself.

"Scully, I don't know about you - but I'm tired."  They were sitting very close together on her sofa, empty wineglasses on the table in front of them and a low- burning fire flickering in the fireplace. Scully had leaned her head on his shoulder, one hand twined in his and her breath soft and warm in his neck.  Warm - she was warm and vital and alive, and Mulder's fears at that moment seemed really silly - yet he couldn't shake it.  Even before the events of the past week it had been nagging at him - and every day it got a little stronger.  He was certain something monumental was about to happen...

"I'm wiped out too, Mulder.  Why don't we call it an early night?  I think we could both use the extra sleep, don't you?"  She'd looked up at him through heavy lashes, smothering a yawn against his sweatshirt, and Mulder had squeezed her shoulders and dropped a kiss on top of her head.  He'd hated to leave; it was cold out and beginning to rain - he didn't want to drive home.  But they both needed some decent sleep; they'd talked long and hard that evening about the decision to quit the Bureau. 

It wasn't the first time they'd discussed it but for some reason they always stayed, always took that next case.  This time, however... just talking about it wasn't going to work.

They'd come off a grueling case; a man who'd killed his entire family, of a wife and eight children... for the simple reason that they made too much noise while he was watching the evening news.  The only reason he could give the investigating team, his eyes calm and his manner placid and eerily sane as his deep voice had uttered the excuse.  Then he'd held out his hands for the cuffs to be slapped on... and had walked to the patrol car with a confident stride. 

Scully had lingered next to the blood- spattered crib, with its burden of identical twin infant boys, no more than three months old... and her face had been awful to see.  She had needed the support of Mulder's arm when she walked down the blood-slippery staircase.

In the equally-bloody foyer the murderer, Darrell Moore, had paused by the fallen body of his wife, Marjorie; for an instant he'd gazed down at her with vague regret in his face, then he'd looked up and met Mulder's unblinking stare, before allowing police to pull him from the house. 

Mulder had watched the patrol cars drive away, stepping aside for the last of the stretchers to enter and take away the last of the bodies.  He'd turned to Scully, wondering if she'd noticed the look Moore had given him and the odd sheen of his dilated eyes... but the face she presented was too pained and too heartsick - and he wisely remained silent.  He'd put an arm around her shoulders, not caring if anyone noticed and wondered at the familiarity of the gesture -needing her contact and warmth as much as she welcomed his.

Now Mulder stood and stretched his stiff legs, knowing he should leave before it got any later; they were both exhausted.  Scully stood as well and detained him with one small hand as he moved toward the door.

"Mulder, stay... it's late and nasty out; I don't want to be alone and I think you don't either.  We still have so much to decide -" She stared up at him with soft, tired eyes; the day had taken its toll on her and they still had the bulk of the investigation to work through. "Tomorrow we can think about what we want to do.  Right now I just want to sleep." 

Mulder nodded and followed her back to the bedroom, snapping off lights as he passed them.  He didn't question whether Scully wanted him in her bed, and Scully didn't ask.  Neither of them wanted to be separated by so much as a wall between a sofa and a bed. They left the lights off in the bedroom; Scully turned back the covers on both sides while Mulder brushed his teeth with her spare toothbrush, and he stripped down to boxers and undershirt while she ran water in the sink and prepared herself for sleep.  When she came out of the bathroom clad in her blue satin nightshirt he was already in bed. 

Mulder watched with sleep-heavy eyes as Scully slid between the pale peach sheets; lying on their sides they regarded each other with serious intent. He traced her pale face with a worried finger; this day had been especially tough on her.  The killing of children had always been horrible to contemplate, but Scully had the hardest time with it, her innate professionalism and impartiality taking a nosedive when their cases turned up this sort of atrocity.  He leaned in closer, until his lips could touch her, kissed her mouth gently and whispered against her lips, "Sleep, okay?  Sleep now..." She returned the soft pressure with a barely audible, "Um-hmm..."

They slept.

The tall, slender figure in the draped black wool cloak wouldn't speak to him in words.  Instead she stood there with her equally-slender hands held palms-up, at waist-level - and stared hard, as if just by staring her message would get across.  Although her stare was tangible he could not quite see her face, but in this instance it didn't seem to matter, for Mulder understood every word without the benefit of identity.

'It's time.  You know it - your woman knows it.' 

"My woman... are you referring to Scully?  What do you know of Scully?"

'I know of her. She's your woman - she has always been yours - and it's time.  Get her away from here.'

"Why?  Why should we leave?  I don't understand."

'Yes, you do.  You know what I'm talking about.  You've always known.  The world as you know it will cease to exist - and you will not live if you don't leave as soon as you can.'

"What's going to happen?  Can you at least tell me that much?"

'You know.  The oil...'  At the mention of the word 'oil', the figure in draped black wool raised her slender fingers and eased back the hood covering her head; he could see a glint of deep reddish-brown wavy hair - and something about the way it curled around the edges of the wool made him think of...


Mulder awoke with a choking gasp of panic, drenched in a cold sweat. Eyes wide with residual fear, the dream was so vivid in his mind, the word 'oil' reverberating through his suddenly aching head.  He glanced down when a small movement beside him caught him unawares; in his nightmare- state he'd forgotten Scully lay beside him still deeply asleep.  In the grip of the dream he must have reached out for her comfort, for his fingers were laced tightly through hers.  On his back staring up at the ceiling, Mulder forced himself to take deep calming breaths as he filtered the details of the dream past his still- pounding head.

He could still feel her presence, smell her.  She'd smelled the way he'd remembered the adult Samantha had smelled - that same delicate perfume.  Although the face had been obscured in some way, he still knew her.  And though he knew the adult Samantha was not really his sister, not really human... she'd been as close as he'd ever gotten to having Samantha all grown up.  And the sense of loss was just as great, because this time she had only been in his dream to warn him. 

If there had at least been a voice... but no, she had communicated with him using thoughts instead of words.  The feeling radiating from her had been urgent; Mulder had felt it and had reacted to that urgency with an elevated heartbeat and a cold panic.  As he lay next to Scully and reconstructed the dream Mulder could feel again the way this Samantha's thoughts had curled around him, thick and tangible. 

Once, he and Scully had found themselves stranded in McGrath, Alaska; on the tail end of a manhunt that had dragged them from Atlanta to Anchorage they had gotten snowed in during the worst winter on record in Interior Alaska and had not been able to fly out when scheduled. 

Walking back to the motel from a small café where he and Scully had eaten lunch, Mulder had felt ice fog curl around his face and invade his throat as he struggled to keep his breathing shallow; the frozen condensation was thick and tangible... just the same as this mental conversation had been, invading him within the dream.  It had chilled him then and the remembered feel of something so viscous and alien was doing a number on him yet again.

"Mulder, what is it?  You're shivering..." He gave a start - so deep within his thoughts that he'd never felt Scully stretching beside him, or sitting up next to him and laying a hand on his tense arm. He shook his head to clear it and looked down into her sleepy eyes, kissing the top of her head.

"I had a dream, Scully - and I think we need to talk..."

She thought he was a nut... he could tell.  After he'd replayed the dream for Scully, she'd looked at him with worried eyes.  "Mulder, it was a dream, nothing more than that.  Not surprising that you'd have a disturbing dream; God, I've had my share of them!  And today was awful for both of us.  Add that to all the talking we've been doing, about leaving the Bureau... I'd be more surprised if you didn't have a nightmare." 

Mulder leaned up against the headboard; all through the telling of it he'd been sitting straight up in bed as stiff as could be.  Now he tried to relax and winced at the ache in his abused back.

"This wasn't a nightmare, exactly - more like a warning.  She was warning me - us - to leave, Scully.  And she knew about the black oil."   Mulder rubbed at his eyes, then met Scully's still-worried gaze.  "Over the years I've learned to trust my instincts, and right now every instinct I have tells me to run a mile and take you with me."  He reached out a hand and wound his fingers through Scully's, noting their icy feel.  She returned the squeeze of his grasp but her voice showed her skepticism.

"Mulder, think about it - where would we go?  If this is indeed some sort of telepathic warning, if in some way you have been contacted about the possibility of alien colonization... then where could we run?  Wouldn't that colonization be everywhere?  Wouldn't it be impossible to escape?  All this time we've been told that once colonization began it would be irreversible.  If we believe it, that there are aliens waiting to harvest us like a crop of potatoes..." Mulder's angry retort broke through her reasoning.

"If?  IF, Scully?  Jesus!"  He jumped up and away from the bed, pacing around in frustration.  "After all you've seen, all that both of us have seen... you can still find a way to doubt?  Just as you said, we've been told.  Over and over again we have been told about it, been involved in it, dragged into it.  Are you forgetting the virus?  Forgetting what you went through, how you almost died?  No, actually worse than that... how you almost became a little sustaining meal for one of those bastards' offspring!" 

He reached her side and a hand shot out, grasping Scully's arm and jerking her to her feet.  Mulder pulled her up against him until they were nose to nose. 

"I haven't forgotten, Scully.  What it felt like to stand there in front of a vat of green death, seeing you floating in it, knowing you were a whisper away from something that horrendous.  This time a worse fate than death... nurturing one of those... things... inside of you.  Knowing that when it burst from your chest the Scully I knew would be nothing more than a memory and I'd have to find a way to kill something that had been a part of you, no matter how hideous that part truly was..." 

He found himself shaking with anger, not so much at his partner but against everything they'd fought - always fighting an enemy of some sort.  Always another monster, either human or otherwise.  God, he was tired of it.  He leaned his newly aching forehead against Scully's and shuddered when her arms slowly came about him; he eased his grip upon her arms and hugged her as tightly as she was holding him.  She ran a soothing hand along the back of his neck and her small whisper was hoarse in his shoulder.

"I'm sorry, shhh, Mulder... so sorry.  Of course I remember; I've never forgotten it either, though I wish to hell I had.  I knew what was going to happen to me, I really did - somewhere in my consciousness I knew.  That I was going to die in the most agonizing way, that my mind would be cognizant of everything as it happened to me.  What was growing inside me... God, Mulder..." 

She pulled her wet face from his shoulder and stared at him.  "It communicated with me.  It was only an embryo of sorts but it had a fully developed mind - it told me.  Horrible things... it told me and as it told me it was enjoying itself, Mulder - enjoying the pain and the overwhelming fright I was feeling."  She shivered and her eyes flooded anew with hot tears as the torturous images she'd held inside for so long were finally allowed to escape. 

Mulder cradled her in his arms and rocked her back and forth, nonsensical murmurings of comfort warm against her temple.  In a moment of shared reflection he found himself fighting to banish her nightmares, instead of the other way around... and glad to be the one at her side in the night, giving her support.

  ~ Chapter Two ~

Scully came awake slowly.  She could hear Mulder's soft murmur coming from the other room.  His voice took on an urgent quality and she slipped from the bed to investigate.  Entering the living room, she saw him hang up his cell phone and make some quick notes on a pad of paper.

"What is it?" she asked.

Mulder glanced up.  "I'm sorry," he murmured.  I didn't want to wake you yet."   She walked across the room to stand next to him.

"What is it?" she asked again.

"Darrell Moore," he sighed.  Mulder's hand slipped to the back of her neck, cupping her sleep-warmed skin.  "He was scheduled to be arraigned today but has been rushed to the hospital instead."

"Why did they call you?" she questioned.

"I asked them to keep me informed," he told her.

"Why, Mulder?" she cried.  "This isn't an X-File.  Please, let's just leave it behind us and let the police handle it."

Mulder clasped her icy-cold fingers in his hands.  "I don't know why, Scully.  I can't explain it," he said.  There had been something about the man's eyes, Mulder thought.  Something...  "Look, I'm just going to run out there, hopefully get a chance to talk to the guy."

Scully shook her head and turned toward the bedroom.  "Give me twenty minutes," she said over her shoulder.  Mulder stepped forward and laid a hand on her arm. 

"No, Scully," he said, turning her to face him.  "I'll go."

"Mulder," she protested.

"Look Scully.  I just think it would be better if you let me go alone."

"I'm a professional," she reminded him icily.

Mulder clamped both hands on her shoulders.  "Scully," he chided. "This has nothing to do with your abilities to do the job and you know it."  His thumbs stroked along the sides of her neck.  "But this case...I saw what it did to you."


"No, you listen to me, Scully.  I practically had to carry you out of that house yesterday!"  He took a deep breath and deliberately softened his tone.  "You are a great agent, but sometimes everyone needs to step back."  His eyes were solemn.  "I think that time is now for you.  Please."

Scully stared at him for a long, uncomfortable moment before she acquiesced.  She let him pull her close and wrapped her arms around his waist.  "I'll meet you at the office in a couple of hours," he told her as she pressed her cheek against his shirt.  She stepped back and played with a loose thread on his collar. 

"I know we still have some things to talk about," she began.  "But we've pretty much made our decision, haven't we?"

Mulder stroked the soft skin of her face with gentle fingertips. She closed her eyes briefly and nestled her cheek in the palm of his hand. "Yeah," he nodded.  "We're going to finish this case, wrap up some loose ends at the office and then we're going to tender our resignations."

Scully bit her lip worriedly.  "Are you... are we sure this is the right thing to do?"

"Do you remember what you told me last night?" he asked softly.

She nodded.  "I said that every day I felt a little more tired and a lot less human."

He nodded sharply.  "I want us both to be human, Scully... human and alive and full of life and energy - so we can figure out what we really want from this life - and from each other."  He stared at her intently.  "I know what I want, Scully... do you?"  She met his probing gaze with one just as serious and unsmiling.  And she nodded, taking a deep breath and releasing it in a shuddering sigh. 

"Okay."  She straightened her back and set her shoulders.  "This time, I'll let you go alone and I'll meet you at the office. I have some research to do."

"What research?" Mulder asked curiously.

"Vacation spots, Mulder.  I expect you to take me someplace warm and sunny where the only thing we have to do is lie on a beach and just be."  Her smile was impish as if simply the thought of lying on a warm stretch of sand with him was enough to lift ten years off her battered soul - enough to fill an eternity with exactly what she wanted from that life they both strove to retain.

"Don't forget to pack a bikini," he tossed over his shoulder as he grabbed his keys and opened the door.

Scully stumbled into Mulder's office several hours later looking wildly around the room for him.  She sank shakily into the chair behind his desk.  It can't be, she thought.  It isn't possible.  She reached for the telephone on the desk, intent on finding Mulder and jumped out of the chair when her cell phone rang shrilly.  Clapping one hand over her pounding heart, she pounced at the sound of her partner's voice.

"Where the hell are you Mulder?" she demanded.

"Scully, listen to me for just a minute," he said urgently.

"No, Mulder!  I need you to listen to me," she said tightly, her voice rising to be heard over his.  "There's been a cult suicide--"

"A cult?" he interrupted.  "Listen Scully, what I have to tell you is urgent.  It can't wait!"

"Mulder!" she said sharply, demanding that he listen to her.  "There are several survivors.  One of them is conscious and in a hospital. He told the police that the leader of the cult... that his eyes..." her breath caught.  She cleared her throat and reached for a piece of paper.  "He said that the leader's eyes were clouded with a 'black haze of evil'," she said reading from the paper.

"Oh God!" she heard him gasp.

"Mulder... Skinner has already approved everything.  I need to get out there, do the autopsy before anyone else does.  We... we need to interview the survivors quickly."

"I'll stop at your place and grab your bag," he said.  "What time is our flight?"

She gave him the flight information.  "I'll see you at the airport in three hours."

Scully hurried through the airport to the gate where their plane was already boarding. 

"Mulder!" she called, rushing over to him.

"Let's go," he said, following her onto the plane.  They stowed their bags and sat down.  Scully lifted the armrest between their seats and twisted to face him.

"We're flying to Philadelphia and then we hop a commuter flight into Scranton-Wilkes Barre," she said, explaining their travel itinerary. "From there we rent a car and drive to a town called Centralia, PA."

She reached under the seat and pulled out her briefcase.  Flipping open the lock, she withdrew several sheets of paper.  "Reports are just starting to trickle in, but this is what I've been able to find out so far.  Jason Martin, aged fifty-eight, was the leader of the cult.  He was the fourth child of George and Nancy Martin and raised in the coal regions of Pennsylvania.  George was coal miner as were Jason's two older brothers.  Rather than become a miner himself, Jason entered the seminary and began to study to become a priest, making his mother extraordinarily proud."  Scully flipped through her notes, handing several pieces of paper to Mulder who scanned them briefly before looking back at her, as she continued.

"He washed out of the seminary in his third year.  I haven't been able to get his school records from the seminary yet - a field agent from the local office is working on that right now.  He was married and widowed twice.  I'm requesting the death certificates to ascertain the cause of death of his wives..." She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and consulted her notes again.

"Anyway, he drifted from job to job and tried his hand at many different forms of organized religion.  Apparently, Jason had a problem with authority figures and that was why he was unable to keep a steady job or settle into any church.  Finally, in 1992 he formed Eden's Promise - a cult that promised to lead its members back to Paradise."

The flight attendant passed their row with the beverage cart and Mulder signaled for two cups of coffee.  Scully shifted the pile of papers around on her lap and gratefully accepted the steaming beverage from the attendant.  Mulder sipped his coffee and ran his eyes over the notes that he had spread out on the tray table.

"I assume that the price of admission into Paradise was all of a person's worldly goods?" he asked.

Scully tapped the tip of her nose with her forefinger.  "Right."

"Okay, tell me the rest."

"Well, details of the cult's activities are kind of sketchy right now.  We should know more when we get there."

"And where, exactly are we going again?" Mulder asked.

"Centralia, Pennsylvania," Scully reminded him.  "It's an old coal town.  Back in 1962 a fire started in one of the mines and no one was ever able to put it out.  The fire has been burning now for almost forty years.  In 1998 the federal government bought the houses and business of the almost thirteen hundred residents of the town and relocated them into surrounding communities."  She flipped through her notes again.  "As of 1998, only forty-two people remained in Centralia - mostly the elderly who refused to leave their homes."

"Nice, remote area... not a lot of need for a police presence with only forty-two residents... good place to go to avoid prying eyes," Mulder speculated.

"Exactly," Scully agreed.  She played with the papers on her lap, organizing them and stacking them nervously.  "Mulder," she began. "What the survivor said about Martin's eyes... you don't... I mean, it's not possible that it's..." her voice trailed off as she looked at him pleadingly.

"Scully," he said, taking one of her hands in between both of his. "When I got to the hospital today, Moore was waiting for me."  He lifted his eyes to the overhead bins, remembering the scene he had encountered when he had arrived at the hospital.  "Moore was dying and no one could figure out why.  His heart rate was elevated; brain activity was haywire - all over the place.  His internal organs were shutting down."

Mulder gently chafed the soft skin on the back of her hand beneath his thumbs.  Swallowing hard, he continued.  "I walked up to Moore's bedside.  The doctors and nurses were running all over the place but he was oddly quiet and calm.  He looked me in the eyes and asked me, 'Do you know what makes an ordinary man turn on his wife and baby boys; his sweet little girls?  It's a dark, bitter evil - a sickness that you didn't even know was growing inside of you...'"  Scully watched quietly as Mulder swiped his hand over his eyes.  "He told me that it was as if one moment he was a regular guy and the next moment so consumed by a black, caustic rage that he couldn't control.  The next thing I knew every machine in that hospital room began shrieking and whistling.  The doctors and nurses pushed me out of the way and as I stepped back I saw Moore's eyes roll into the back of his head and Scully... I swear... I know I saw that same black film slide over his eyes."

He trembled and Scully slid closer, pressing her body into his for support.  "He died a few minutes later.  There was thick brackish-colored blood streaming from his ears and nose, seeping into the sheets.  Blood so dark it looked black... I started flashing my badge around; ordering the sheets to be burned and the body to be placed in the refrigerators at the hospital morgue until you could come down to do the autopsy.  Then I called you and, well... here we are."

Scully shivered and stuffed the papers back into her briefcase.  She tucked it back under the seat and settled her head on his shoulder, her hand gripping his leg through his trousers.  They spent the rest of the flight quietly lost in their own thoughts.

The police had barricaded the main road into Centralia many years ago because of the fire raging in the underground mines.  There was a crack, reminiscent of an earthquake fault line that ran directly across Route 61 and all over the town; steam and acrid smoke poured up from cracks in the ground.  The hillsides around the town were sprinkled with scorched, bared trees.  Mulder drove slowly through the dying town, now bustling with the activity of police, federal agents, members of the National Guard and coroners.  Bodies were being tagged and placed into black bags before being stacked onto Army trucks for transportation to the county coroner's office.

Mulder and Scully pulled out their badges and stopped a young police officer that directed them to the agent in charge.

"Agents Mulder and Scully out of the Washington office," Mulder told SAC Scott Dannon. 

Dannon looked up with a face weary and sick from the carnage surrounding them.  "Yeah, A.D. Skinner called and told me to expect you.  What can I do for you folks?" he asked briskly, trying to hurry the conversation along.  He wanted to go home, take a shower for about ten hours and then crawl into bed with his wife and maybe never crawl back out.

"We were told there were survivors, one of whom was apparently interviewed by the local police," Scully said.  "We'd like to speak with him as well as the officer who took his statement."

"There were eight survivors," Dannon said shaking his head.  Eight people out of five hundred..."  He blew out an unsteady breath and forced himself to focus on the agents standing before him.  "All of the survivors were taken to the closest hospital."  He rubbed his hand over his face, leaving trails of soot over his cheeks.

"Logan!" he shouted across the field.  A young police officer looked up and jogged over.

"Yes sir?"

"These are Agents Mulder and Scully.  FBI - from Washington.  Give them directions to the hospital where the survivors were taken," he ordered.  Turning to the man and woman standing before him, he continued.  "You'll send me copies of your interviews?" he asked, happy to turn some of his duties over to someone else.

"Absolutely," Mulder agreed.

Dannon nodded curtly and strode off and the rising steam and smoke of Centralia's burning mines quickly obscured him.

Scully squinted at the directions Officer Logan had hastily scrawled on a scrap of paper. "Turn left at the next light," she instructed. "The hospital should be one block up on the right."   Mulder flicked on the turn signal and glanced over at her as he waited for the light to turn green.

"What are you thinking?" he asked quietly.

She shook her head.  "Truthfully, Mulder, I don't know what to think," she told him.  He nodded and stepped on the gas pedal, turning the corner and following the signs to the visitor's parking garage at the hospital. 

They strode quickly past the reporters gathering outside of the hospital doors and into the building, flashing their badges at the woman seated behind the reception desk who directed them to the emergency room.  Several minutes and another flash of their badges later, they were talking to one of the attending physicians.

"Two of the victims are in critical condition," Dr. Campbell told them.  "I don't know that they will make it through the night."  He flipped through a stack of charts on the counter at the nurses' station.  "Four others are still unconscious, although at least two of them are showing marked improvement and I am hopeful that they will regain consciousness shortly."

The doctor looked up at the two agents before continuing.  "Mr. Gilbert is conscious and will be moved to another floor when a bed is available.  His condition is guarded but stable."  The doctor set down the charts and smoothed his hands over them.  "The final victim, Veronica Holland, died en route to the hospital."

"Would it be possible for us to speak with Mr. Gilbert?" Mulder asked quietly. 

Dr. Campbell frowned.  "I would rather you wait until tomorrow," he began.  Mulder moved impatiently and Scully laid a restraining hand on his arm.

"It's vital that we speak with him as soon as possible," she urged the doctor.  "I understand your concern for your patient's well-being, but 493 people have died today.  Surely you can appreciate our need to move quickly."  Scully's tone was polite and professional but beneath it was the faintest hint of urgent pleading.

The doctor sighed and nodded.  "All right.  But I will trust you not to overwhelm Mr. Gilbert," he cautioned strongly. 

"Of course," Scully soothed, looking at Mulder for his agreement. He nodded and Dr. Campbell led them down the hall and past the guard stationed outside of the patient's room. 

"This is it," he told them.  "Thirty minutes," he warned sternly before turning on his heel and returning to his other patients. Mulder and Scully entered the dim room cautiously.  Scully glanced at her partner and tilted her head slightly toward the bedridden man, indicating that Mulder should take the lead in questioning him.

"Mr. Gilbert," Mulder began.  "I'm Agent Fox Mulder of the FBI. This is my partner, Agent Dana Scully.  We're hoping that you are feeling up to talking to us for a few minutes about what happened this morning."

"I already gave my statement to the police."  Dennis Gilbert looked back and forth between the two agents wearily.  A big, muscled man in his early thirties, Scully noted that his eyes seemed sunken and his face held an unhealthy pallor.

"Please, Mr. Gilbert," Scully urged.  "We won't stay long.  I know you have been through a terrible ordeal, but we really need for you to help us understand what happened today."

The room was silent for a moment following Scully's plea.  "Mr. Gilbert?" Mulder prompted softly.

Dennis Gilbert looked toward the window.  "I met Reverend Martin eight years ago.  My girlfriend, Sandy, had heard about him from some friends of hers who were always raving about the good work he was doing at the church he had started.  Sandy went to one of his services one week and was instantly hooked."  Gilbert's eyes traced restlessly around the room, never settling on any one object for very long.  "She talked about the Reverend all week, incessantly. Finally, I agreed to go with her to his service the next week."

He picked at the sheet draped over his legs and looked at Scully. "He was mesmerizing.  He said things that made such sense to me on a base level, you know?"  His voice was pleading.  "I had a very strict, religious upbringing.  My parents had a very literal interpretation of the Bible and growing up in their household was a living nightmare.  As soon as I was old enough, I left home.  I floundered for years trying to find a church where I felt comfortable.  I found that at Eden's Promise."

He sighed and rolled his head against the pillows, once again staring out of the window.  "Jason Martin told us that Heaven was attainable, here on earth.  He said that God never intended for us to have to die to find rapture.  He said that we had to sacrifice our worldly goods and follow him and only then would we attain paradise; that we would enter Heaven's gate in this world and follow it into the next."

Mulder stepped closer to the bed.  "Mr. Gilbert... did Jason Martin speak often of the need to bring about your own deaths in order to achieve Nirvana?"

"No!" Dennis Gilbert swung his head toward Mulder and then turned to look at Scully.  "No," he said again, softer this time.  "He spoke of a simple life. He said that paradise could be found working with the land, living in a community of like- thinkers, away from the distractions of modern society."  His eyes brightened with unshed tears as he tried to explain the seductive pull of the fallen cult leader.  "But then something changed.  Reverend Martin became reclusive and withdrawn.  We wouldn't see him for days on end and then suddenly he would be walking across the compound, muttering to himself and tearing at his hair.  Then at dinner last night, he told us all to gather in the meeting hall before breakfast this morning."

Gilbert took a deep breath and scrubbed trembling fingers over his face.  "When we gathered in the hall this morning, Reverend Martin was dressed in his ceremonial robes.  He told us that he had experienced a vision, that enemies to this world were upon us.  He said that our time was fast coming to an end and that creatures of the dark would destroy us and we would be unable to enter Heaven if we did not find some way of stopping it.  He ranted and cajoled; his voice was thunderous -booming throughout the hall.  I looked around the room and could see the people were enthralled, hypnotized by his words.  He painted a picture of destruction and carnage, where people's bodies would be torn asunder and the earth would be consumed by fire and blight."

He shook his head.  "And then... then his voice grew soft and compelling.  He told us there was a way out, a way to save ourselves and to enter paradise together.  The side doors opened and several members of our society wheeled in huge metal urns.  They began pouring and distributing paper cups filled with orange juice.  The Reverend told us that we would share this last drink and be together forever."

Dennis Gilbert's head dropped forward, his chin pressed into his chest.  "I looked around the room and everyone was looking at the cups in their hands.  They looked scared but determined.  Sandy was standing next to me, nodding."  His voice dropped to a whisper. "Reverend Martin lifted his cup and said 'Drink, my friends.  Drink and we'll find Eden's Promise together.'  Then he began to walk around the room, urging people to drink."

His voice broke on a sob.  "People began to drink and within minutes, they were falling to the floor around me.  Sandy wrapped her arm around my neck and kissed me and she pushed my cup toward me." Tears were streaming down his face.  "I didn't want to do it... didn't want to die... but I didn't want to be without Sandy and all of these people who had become my family.  In the end, I was a coward.  I took a small drink, but it was enough to knock me on my ass.  I collapsed to the floor next to Sandy and pulled her into my arms.  I could feel myself losing consciousness and I looked up.  I saw Reverend Martin standing nearby.  His eyes... God, his eyes..." His voice trailed off.

Scully stepped forward and laid a comforting hand on his arm. Gilbert lifted a tear-streaked face to hers and she nodded encouragingly.  "His eyes... his eyes had always been this startling blue, but this morning, they were black and so evil.  I was so scared and I wondered whether we had followed him into heaven or into hell. He stopped next to me and looked down and for a moment I could see the clear blue of his eyes peer through the darkness and there was such a look of utter sadness and despair in his gaze. But then the blackness was back and he lifted his cup to his mouth... I guess I passed out because the next thing I knew, I was waking up here."

They spent a few more moments, soothing the distraught man.  When his sobs had subsided, Mulder called for the nurse and spoke to her quietly.  She returned a few minutes later with a sedative.  Scully leaned down and spoke softly to the grief- stricken man.

"Thank you, Mr. Gilbert," she said.  "I promise, we'll be in touch again."  He nodded and clasped her hand in his briefly before sliding into the sleep provided by the medication.

They stepped into the hall.  "I'm going to hang around here, see if any of the other survivors wake up," Mulder told her.

Scully nodded her head.  "Okay, I'll go to the coroner's office - do the autopsy."  Mulder stayed her with a hand on her arm when she would have turned away.  She looked back at him, noting his worried eyes.

"I don't want you in the autopsy bay alone with that... person. I'll stay with you while you work - or else find someone to go in there with you."  Scully shook her head at his fretting, thinking he worried too much - then she recalled some very unwelcome memories so recently dredged from her ordeal in Antarctica... and thought maybe another human in the room might not be a bad idea.  She smiled reassuringly at her partner.

"I'll find someone - I promise, Mulder.  Please don't worry - and go do what you need to do."

Mulder nodded, clearly relieved, and pulled the car keys from his pocket.  "Be careful," he warned.

"Always," she promised, pressing a small and warm palm against his cheek briefly, before she tuned to go.

Scully was slumped on a bench in the hallway of the coroner's office.  She rubbed the back of her neck with her hand and rolled her head against the wall.


She opened her eyes to see Mulder standing at the end of the hall. She watched him walk toward her, fatigue evident in every step.

"How did you get here?" she asked.

"Agent Dannon stopped by the hospital and had one of his men give me a lift," he told her, dropping down onto the bench next to her.  "You look tired," he said, studying her face.

"They're swamped here," she said nodding toward the autopsy bay doors.  "After I finished with Martin, I gave them a hand."

Mulder nodded knowingly.  "You ready to go?" he asked.

"I have to get changed," she said picking at the scrubs she was wearing.

"Come on," he said, standing and holding out a hand.  "You can get a shower at the motel."  Scully nodded and stood wearily. 

They made the trip to the motel in silence; each lost in their own thoughts. When they arrived at the motel, Scully headed directly to the shower and Mulder picked up the phone to check his messages.  He was standing by the window when Scully stepped out of the bathroom, wrapped in her robe.

"Finished," she told him, toweling her hair dry.  She walked across the room and laid a gentle hand on his back.  "Mulder?"

He turned and nodded absently, slipping around her to go into the bathroom.  Fifteen minutes later, the bathroom door opened and steam billowed out into the bedroom.  Scully was lying in one of the beds, wrapped in a pale blue nightshirt.  Mulder glanced across the room to the other bed where she had piled both of their suitcases and then back at her.  Scully lifted the covers and tilted her head toward the pillow next to hers.

Mulder turned off the lights and reached for a pair of pajama bottoms from his suitcase.  Scully watched in the dim light as he dropped the towel wrapped around his waist; a sliver of moonlight slanting in through the half-closed draperies illuminated his nudity, causing a brief flare of longing which she firmly tamped down.  Now was not the right time... they were both exhausted.  Turning away from her Mulder picked up a pair of soft cotton pants and stepped into them.  He slid under the covers and pulled her into his arms.

Scully rested her cheek on his shoulder and played with the sparse hairs on his chest.  He turned his head, burying his nose in her hair, inhaling the floral scent of the shampoo she had used and running his hand down her back.

"I was able to speak briefly with two of the other victims," he said, his voice a rumble under her ear.

"And?" she asked.

"They both supported Dennis Gilbert's story that Martin had begun acting strangely lately, and one of them mentioned an odd darkness in his eyes while they were gathered in the meeting hall," he told her.

Scully's hand swept down his side, her fingers tracing patterns over his ribs.  She closed her eyes.  "It was there," she sighed against his chest.  "I found traces of it in the ocular and nasal cavities, as well as in the canal of the ear.  I had it packaged as a biohazard and shipped back to D.C. for analysis."

"What about the body?" he asked.

She shrugged.  "His parents are dead.  If his siblings don't object, we'll arrange to have it cremated.  It's the safest way."  She felt his chest rise and fall in a heavy sigh.

"What are you thinking, Mulder?"

He smoothed a hand over her hair.  "I think it's starting," he said heavily.

She drew in a shaky breath.  "Mulder?"

"Yeah, Scully?"

She lifted herself up on her elbow and placed a small hand on his chest.  "What if..." she bit her lip.  "What if it's been going on for a while already?"

~ Chapter Three ~

Georgetown University Library had barely opened its doors when they parked in the visitor's lot and hurried inside the old building.  Not entirely sure what to look for but knowing they had to start somewhere, they had decided to feed key words and terms into the Library's massive Netlink information system and see what might pop up. 

As the lobby elevator doors closed behind them, Mulder leaned back against the brass railing and regarded Scully with concerned eyes; she looked so tired.  Neither of them had gotten any sort of decent sleep after she'd raised the unwelcome question about the possibility of long-term colonization.  The thought of it happening far earlier than Roswell was too frightening to contemplate - and if true, it changed everything. 

They'd flown home on an early flight, the trip long and tense with the worry each of them carried inside.  They'd spoken softly to one another, holding hands and trying to pretend it was just a regular trip back to DC - but they couldn't fool themselves.  And Mulder knew as soon as they hit town they'd be spending a great deal of time digging for anything they could.  They made it to Scully's apartment and scrounged enough odd food combinations from her cupboards and fridge to give them both indigestion, and fell into bed with upset stomachs, holding hands all through the night.  In the morning they dressed silently and made their way to Georgetown U.

On the third floor of the huge library the main Netlink databank fed out and retrieved information not only to all the library systems in the DC area, both public and private, but also to key library databanks around the world.  What couldn't be found on the main link would most likely be available on microfiche.  Scully sat down at the first microfiche she found as Mulder began digging through Netlink. Looking up briefly from the screen, she murmured quietly, "Okay. What do we search for?  Oil?  Unexplained viruses?" 

Mulder thought for a moment while he waited to log in.   "Well, I doubt we'd get anything worthwhile if we only searched on 'oil'.  And unexplained viruses may get us too far off track.  I don't want to waste any time; I've got a feeling from now on time will be at a premium for us..." He rubbed at his eyes with one hand and pushed the mouse around with the other, thinking.  "It would seem that a search on a repeated phrase might work - didn't everyone mention a film over the eyes?  Maybe we should start with that."

Scully nodded and got down to serious business, flipping through the catalog.  "I'll try it - 'black film'; maybe I should just do that first.  If I find anything I'll yell - quietly, of course - respect for where we are and all that."  She sent a weary grin Mulder's way and he echoed it briefly before settling in with the mouse.

It took two and a half hours before she found anything viable, and her exclamation was quietly issued as promised - but Mulder heard it just as his twenty-seventh full- scale search came up with squat.

"Mulder, you have to look at this.  I think I hit the mother-lode." Mulder left his chair, stretching stiffly as he walked behind her chair and looked over her shoulder at the screen.  Scully traced the text with her fingers as she read.  "Jesus, listen to this... I can't believe what I'm seeing..."

  The man entered the theater and made his way towards the staircase. Dressed in black, his new spurs jingled quietly as he climbed the stairs and slipped through a doorway. Raising his hand, he aimed his derringer and fired. John Wilkes Booth had fatally wounded Abraham Lincoln.

An officer seated near the fallen President leapt to his feet in a belated attempt to protect his commander-in-chief. Recoiling in horror at what he saw in the assassin's eyes, he hesitated and Booth lunged forward, stabbing him with a concealed knife before climbing over the edge of the President's box and leaping toward the stage. His spur caught in the red, white and blue bunting decorating the box and he fell heavily to the stage floor. Shaking off the pain, he raced from the theater amid the screams of the panicked crowd.

He raced through the night stopping for ammunition and a whiskey to dull the pain of his broken leg. Fleeing his pursuers and unable to bear the pain any longer, he stopped to have his leg set. The next day, holed up in a barn, surrounded by soldiers, he was shot in the neck and captured.

Booth lived for three hours. A young soldier tending to the injured prisoner tried to give him some medication.

"It's useless," Booth rasped painfully.

The soldier knelt and lowered his canteen to the wounded man's lips. He sprang back in fear as a film of dark hatred clouded Booth's eyes. Blood, so dark and oily it appeared black, trickled from his nose, seeping into the dusty earth beneath him.

"Oh my God," Scully breathed, turning fearful eyes away from the screen and up to where Mulder hovered over her shoulder. "How long has this been going on?"  Her worried eyes met his, equally concerned, and he shook his head in amazement.

"How did you find this, Scully?  Just by popping in 'black film'?" She nodded, and printed out the text before backing up the roll.

"Not quite.  I had to wade through a lot of useless garbage before I found it.  One article led to another, and then into actual events, then jumped into eyewitness accounts.  Testimonies and gossip, some of it too far-fetched to be of possible use.  I hit and missed a lot until I started looking for accounts of black film coinciding with abhorrent or deviant behavior.  Once I found that roll, all sorts of fun things began to float to the top.  This was only the first. I don't know if I want to find out anymore..." 

She rose from the chair, shaky and stiff; Mulder folded her into his arms and held her very close, rocking her a little as she clutched at him.  He threaded a hand through her soft hair and pressed her cheek into his neck so she could feel the vibration of his reply.

"We have to.  We've traced it back to the mid-nineteenth century, and it's only taken us less than three hours.  If there's more we have to see it.  I think continuing to search for this on the Internet will prove useless; judging by the look of some of these rolls, they've been around for a long time.  I wouldn't be surprised to see this suppressed like crazy out on the Web."  Mulder gave her a gentle squeeze that she returned, then let her go; Scully sat back down again and gazed at the screen as he continued. 

"What I can't understand is how easy it was to find these old rolls of microfiche, when almost everything else has been transferred to sheets, and more lately the Internet.  And even microfiche sheets are about obsolete.  I assume this story is from a newspaper - which one?"  He bent over Scully's shoulder again as she flipped back through the faded text.

"The Pardee Examiner... small, local paper, I'd bet.  An anonymous article, from the looks of it - probably one of many stories circulating at the time, concerning the Lincoln assassination.  It's hard to say if anyone believed what they read, all those years ago." Mulder retrieved the printed copy of the article and skimmed it, then looked down at Scully.

"Well, somebody believed it... and they went to some lengths to bury it in an old roll of film, and keep it off the Internet Highway.  Now I have to wonder why it was so relatively easy for you to find these rolls..." Scully frowned at the screen, then raised one inquiring eyebrow at Mulder as he worked at the puzzle.

"Well, yes - I guess I'd wonder the same thing.  After all, three hours or so of searching shouldn't dig up something like this.  Makes me wonder what else we could discover.  Do we really want to?"   His nod was firm and immediate as he repeated what he'd said only minutes before.

"Scully, we have to."

The library kept long hours, which meant time, was relatively on their side.  Once they knew where to look and what to ask for the rest of the rolls surfaced with alarming ease.  Not that there were that many - but what they contained was explosive.  Mulder couldn't help but believe that somehow they'd been conveniently left behind for somebody to find... somebody who would understand the significance of what this little foray into history meant for the rest of the world.

Later that evening they would re-read the printed sheets they'd made, and the intensity and import of those pages made them shudder. The worst moment for them both came when they discovered evidence of the virus at Auschwitz.  Sitting in the silent library with the only sound the whirring of the rolls, Scully read the account aloud, of witnesses who claimed to have seen "blackest evil" in the eyes of not only Hitler but the more sadistic of the camp guards as well.  Her voice shook as she read, finally breaking when the recorded account revealed it had been offered by a fourteen year old camp survivor by the name of Gerda who had died mysteriously shortly after her interview. 

Now she shuddered anew and Mulder held her close to his side as they huddled together on the edge of her bed.  He turned his head from the pages held loosely in Scully's cold hands and pressed a kiss to the side of her head, whispering into her temple.

"We've got to find out who left those rolls of film for us to discover, Scully.  I really believe something like this would have stayed buried forever, quite nicely - in fact, it should have stayed hidden.  Somebody wants us to read it - and know the real truth behind the colonization." 

Scully turned in his arms and molded herself closer; she was now shivering.  As if she couldn't get warm - and Mulder knew how she was feeling.  He'd been cold all day long.  He lifted her into his lap and held her like a child.  They sat that way for the longest time, neither one speaking - easing each other's fears as best as they could.  Finally Scully pressed her mouth into his neck and gave him a kiss meant to reassure him as much as it did her.  She raised tired eyes to his and her voice was hoarse when she spoke.

"Stay... I don't want to be alone, ever again.  I feel as though the world is crashing all around us and we're the only ones who really know what's about to happen."  Mulder nodded and kissed her soft cheek, trailed his lips over to the corner of her mouth and kissed her there as well, before he covered her mouth more fully and kissed her again.  Not a comfort kiss... not a desperate end-of-the-world kiss.  Just the kiss of a man who had the woman he loved in his arms and wanted her to know she was cherished.  He spoke against her cheek.

"I'll stay tonight - then I want you to move in with me for a while, Scully.  You'll feel safer there and I'll feel better just having you with me.  We can do it tomorrow - and we'll make an easy day of it and take some time to think this out and decide what we want to do. Okay?"  He felt her take a deep breath before she answered him. 

"Okay.  I'll put some things together tomorrow.  Right now let's just go to bed.  I'm so tired..." Mulder helped her to stand and then came up beside her, hugging her one last time.

Unfair, he thought... so unfair.  Just as they were finally beginning to find their way as more than friends; almost ready to take that final step and solidify a love that had been growing steadily for seven years... this had to happen.  They hadn't been in a hurry; content to date and get to know each other as future lovers, not needing to rush a thing - and now he was in a panic... now they were scared.  He murmured against her temple and this time his voice broke on the endearment he sent into her heart.

"I know you're tired and scared, baby... so am I."

It would be days later before he realized that he'd called her 'baby'.

  ~ Chapter Four ~

Scully watched through half-closed eyes as Mulder climbed out of bed the next morning.  When the bathroom door closed behind him, she sat up and reached for her robe, slid out of bed and headed toward the kitchen to start the coffee.  She was pulling the orange juice from the refrigerator when he entered the room.

"Morning," he rumbled from behind her as his hands settled on her hips, pulling her back against him.  Scully turned in his arms and rested her cheek against his chest.

"Good morning," she whispered into the white cotton of his T-shirt. "Did you sleep well?" she asked, knowing that sheer exhaustion had forced her mind to shut down long enough to allow her body the sleep it so desperately required.

"Hmmm," he murmured into her hair.

"The coffee is almost ready," she told him, "and there are bagels in the bag on the counter.  I'm going to take a quick shower."  He nodded and was already digging through the bag of bagels as she left the room.

When she returned to the kitchen a short while later, she saw that he had laid out plates and knives and had poured the orange juice. She laughed lightly when he pulled her cinnamon-raisin bagel from the toaster oven, cursing softly as he burned his fingers on the hot bread.  Dropping the bagel onto a plate, he set it down on the table, glaring at her amusement and shaking his hand.

Scully reached out and caught his arm, turning his wrist so that his hand lay palm up in hers.  "Poor baby," she whispered, examining his fingers for injury.  Clucking softly over the pink tips of his thumb and two of his fingers, she lowered her head, brushing her lips lightly over the injured digits, her tongue darting out to soothe the sting.  Mulder let out a quick gasp, his fingers curling involuntarily in the wake of her caress.

Still holding his hand in both of hers, Scully peered up at him. "All better?" she asked, wide-eyed and innocent.  She suppressed a smile as he sucked in a deep breath and fumbled a reply.

"Umm... yeah - it's good... uh, thanks," Mulder said before turning back to the counter.  He lifted his mug with trembling fingers and coffee threatened to spill all over the floor before he used both hands to steady the mug.  He took a bracing sip of the hot liquid and Scully watched the play of his shoulder muscles beneath his T-shirt as he shifted uncomfortably for a minute or two before joining her at the table.

"So what's the plan for today?" she asked, deciding to have mercy on him.

Mulder leaned across the table and stole one-half of her cream cheese laden bagel.  He took a gigantic bite and dropped the rest of the bagel back onto her plate, deftly avoiding her slapping fingers. Chewing quickly, he mumbled, "As I said last night, I'd like to pack up some of your stuff to take back to my place."  He sucked cream cheese from his thumb. "Does that sound all right to you?"

Scully found herself too preoccupied by the sight of Mulder, licking his sticky fingers while he waited for her reply.

"Scully?" he prompted softly.

"Huh?" she blinked as she stared at him from across the table.  "Uh, yeah.  Sounds good.  Let me just clean up this mess first," she said, standing and carrying her plate and juice glass over to the sink. She busied herself with cleaning up the kitchen, wondering how Mulder could so easily distract her when the whole world was turning upside down.

Leaving the dishes to drain in the dishrack, she joined him in the living room.  "Well," she said as she looked around the room, "I should take my laptop."

Mulder nodded and began to disconnect the computer.  Scully disappeared into the bedroom and returned a moment later with her briefcase.  She stuffed all of their notes into the leather bag and set it down on the desk next to her laptop.  She glanced around the room again.

"I guess I really just need to pack clothes..." She led Mulder into the bedroom and pulled her luggage from the closet.  "Did we bring my overnight bag up from the car the other night?" she asked distractedly.

Mulder jerked his head toward the door.  "It's in the other room," he told her.  Scully nodded and left to fetch the bag in question. She went into the bathroom and began to gather up supplies.  Opening up the linen closet she stuffed new bottles of shampoo, shaving gel, shower gel and a fresh razor into a small bag.  Tossing a box of tampons and some aspirin in the bag, she could hear Mulder moving about the bedroom.  Curious to know what he was doing, she poked her head out of the door.

Mulder had been busy pulling her clothes out of the closet and her bureau.  The bed was piled high with jeans, T-shirts and blouses and a good number of her business suits were draped over a chair.

"Mulder?" she asked stepping through the doorway. 

Mulder was kneeling on the floor in front of her bureau and his head jerked up at the sound of her voice.

"How long are you expecting me to stay with you?" she asked, inclining her head toward the mountain of clothing piled up on her bed.  She inhaled sharply when he looked up at her with eyes that said 'forever'. He stood and his fingers clenched around the silky fabric of the pajamas he clutched in one hand.

"As long as you need," he said.  He lowered his gaze to the carpet beneath his feet and then looked up again.  "As long as you'd like."

Scully worried the soft flesh of her lower lip between her teeth and her eyes tracked over the piles of clothing before settling on the warm sunlight spilling through the budding trees outside of the window.

"I keep my sweaters in there," she said pointing toward the armoire. His smile was brilliant as she retreated to the bathroom to finish her packing.  She stared at her reflection in the mirrored medicine cabinet, then resolutely she swung open the door and carefully tucked her favorite scented lotions and perfumes into the bag.

It took several trips up and down the elevator of Mulder's apartment building to drag in everything they had packed.  He immediately went into his bedroom to empty several drawers in his bureau and pushed aside the expensive suits lined up in his closet in order to make room for hers.  While Scully carefully placed her pajamas and lingerie into the empty drawers, Mulder settled on the floor in front of the closet, quickly bringing some order to the jumble of shoes and sneakers piled there.  Within a few hours, they had put everything away.

"Do you want to go out to dinner?" he asked as they slumped together on the sofa, weary from the hurried unpacking.  She shook her head and yawned.

"I don't feel like dealing with a crowd tonight," she told him.

"We could order out," he said as he reached into the drawer of the table near the sofa for his collection of takeout menus.  Scully reached out and placed her hand over the phone when he would have picked it up.  "Let's just make something here," she said softly.

"I don't think there's anything edible in the kitchen," he groaned.

Scully stood and reached out for his hands, pulling him to his feet. "Then we should get to the supermarket," she said.  Mulder nodded, yawning; stuffed his wallet into his back pocket and grabbed his keys, following her out of the door.

Later, with the dinner dishes washed, dried and put away, Scully went into the bedroom intent on changing into her pajamas.  The day had been pleasant as they ruthlessly steered clear of the subject at hand, but she knew they couldn't avoid it forever.  She wanted to be comfortable when they got back into it.

She hit the light switch on the wall, sending a flood of soft, golden light spilling into the room.  She pulled a pair of pale blue cotton pajama bottoms and a white ribbed tank top from the drawer. Toeing off her shoes and socks, she tugged her T-shirt over her head, unsnapping her jeans and pulling down the zipper.  Turning, she threw the T-shirt onto the bed and stopped suddenly, staring at the linens covering his mattress.

"Mulder!" she called, her voice quivering. She could hear his feet hit the floor and thud hurriedly across the apartment.  He stopped, his hands braced on the doorjamb as his eyes scanned the room, looking for the source of the commotion.

"What?" he asked.  "Scully, what?" His voice was urgent.  Wide-eyed, she pointed toward the bed.  He crept closer to the bed, inspecting it closely and looked at her in confusion.  "What?" he asked again.

Scully eased over to the bed and lifted the edge of the quilt which was neatly turned back at the foot of the bed, rubbing it between her fingers.  She eyed the muted colors of the floral print and then looked back at him with a question in her eyes.

"Your quilt?" he asked, blowing out a relieved breath.  "I packed it and a couple sets of your sheets before we left your apartment."  He smoothed a hand over the soft cotton covering one of the pillows.  "I wanted you to feel at home," he shrugged.

Scully sniffed once.  "Thank you," she murmured, knuckling tears away from the corners of her eyes.  "I think that's the nicest thing you've ever done for me, Mulder."

She smiled fondly as he shrugged again and dropped his gaze to the carpeting.  His eyes traveled over her bare feet, taking in the pink polished toes; slowly his gaze swept up her body.  Her smile faded when she saw his breathing quicken as he eyed the pale blue fabric of her panties peeking out from between the metal teeth of the open zipper of her jeans.  She heard his harsh swallow as his gaze settled on the fullness of her breasts encased in a matching bra.  He stepped closer and wrapped one arm around her waist, yanking her against him; Scully's breath left her in a whoosh as she collided with his chest.

"Mul..." she managed, as he lifted his free hand, tracing the swell of her breast as it rose out of the cup of her bra.  He slipped one finger under the lace edging of the bra and swept it slowly, hypnotically over the soft flesh he found there.  Scully's head fell back as he moved again, cupping her breast in his hand and opening his mouth over the silky fabric covering her nipple.  His breath was hot and moist as it feathered over her and she clutched his shoulders with both hands. 

She gasped as he slid his arm under her legs, sweeping her off her feet and cradling her against his chest.  She flung her arms around his neck to keep her world from spinning out of control.

"I... I... I thought we were... were going to - Oh God!" she panted, as his lips found the erratic jumping of her pulse along her neck and settled there to nuzzle.  She swallowed hard.  "We were going to go... go over our notes..." she stuttered.

"Not tonight," he said against her skin, as he lowered her onto the crisp sheets and followed her down.  He grasped the open waistband of her jeans and tugged them down her legs, settling between her thighs as naturally as if he had done so every day of his adult life.

"But I..." She moaned as Mulder's mouth closed over hers in a kiss unlike any they had ever shared before.  Although they had spent several nights wrapped in each other's arms, their previous kisses had been sweet and romantic.  Full of love and hope for the future, they had been restrained and at times hesitant, not quite ready yet to allow passions or emotions to overflow.  But this kiss, she thought hazily... this was all about unbridled passion and desire. Hot and needy, their mouths moved greedily and their hands swept over each other's bodies.  Scully's mind was swirling madly as her brain urged her to slow things down and her body cried out for more.  She moaned and arched her back as Mulder flicked open the clasp of her bra and slid the straps down her arms, his mouth latching onto her nipple hungrily.

Oh God, she thought as the pleasure center of her brain began to shut down all other thought processes and she melted into the sheets beneath her.  Fingers fumbling for the snap of his jeans, she tugged until Mulder lifted his hips from hers and gave her some room to work.  They both froze when the phone rang.

"Ignore it," he muttered against the fragrant flesh of her throat. Scully twined her fingers into the hair on the back of his head and tugged gently as the phone continued to ring insistently.

"Mulder," she said quietly.  She soothed her hands up and down his spine as he settled his weight back onto her.  Struggling to control his breathing, he reached for the phone, keeping her trapped beneath him.

"Mulder," he said harshly.  He listened, then murmured, "Huh?  Yes. Yes, of course, Sir."  Scully slid out from under him and slipped into her pajama bottoms, tugging the tank top over her head. Turning, she listened to him wrap up his conversation with their boss.

"Yes.  Tomorrow morning.  9:30?  We'll see you then, Sir.  Yes, I'll tell her."  He disconnected the call and sighed, hanging his head for a moment before looking up at her.  She recognized the disappointment glinting in his eyes - she was sure it matched her own - as he took in her now- clothed form.  She rubbed the sole of one foot over the top of the other, suddenly nervous and a little uncomfortable around him.

He sighed again and placed the handset of the phone into the cradle, sliding to the edge of the bed to place his feet on the floor.  "I guess it's just not our time yet, huh?" he asked wryly. She swallowed convulsively as she watched him brace his elbows on his knees and pinch his nose between his thumb and forefinger.  Her fingers twisted together nervously and her voice was agitated when she began to speak.

"Mulder, I..." She stopped, unsure of how to explain that part of her was glad they were interrupted.  Mulder looked up and held out a hand to her. She stepped closer and he buried his face against her stomach.  She stroked his hair with one hand. 

"Mulder, you know I want to..." she stopped, at a loss to put her thoughts into words.  "But maybe now isn't the right time," she finished lamely.

He nodded against her belly and she could feel the heat of his breath through her tank top as he spoke.  "I've wanted you in my bed, wanted to make love to you for so long now, but..." He rolled his head back and forth, rubbing his forehead against her.  "I'd like to be able to concentrate on you fully and I don't want anything else to be on your mind when we finally do make love." 

He hooked a strong forearm around her waist and tumbled her onto the mattress again.  Looming above her, he stroked a hand over her tousled hair and brushed his lips chastely over hers.  "Having you in my bed is enough for now."

She smiled.

The elevator bell pinged softly and Scully stepped through the doors as Mulder held them open.  They had spent several hours discussing their next course of action before falling asleep the night before. 

"I think we should hold off on tendering our resignations," she had whispered in the darkened bedroom as she stroked gentle fingers through his hair.  She felt him tense and he lifted his head from where it had been