Title: Equanimity
Author: LuvTheBeez
Written: October 2000
Spoilers: Everything through Season 7.
Category: MSR, Post-Colonization
Disclaimer: Mine - most definitely not, though there are a few original characters I'll claim. The others belong to 1013, Fox and Chris Carter.
Rating: NC-17, mostly for sexual situations.
Posting: Fine by me, but please let me know...

Summary: Mulder's sudden return coincides with the start of colonization. Was he sent home for a reason?

Author's Notes: This novel began as a tiny little 7K post-Requiem vignette called "A Safe Place". It was the first fanfic I'd written in a very long time, and I thought that the little exercise would be my proverbial swan song. I received feedback from some kind souls who asked if a sequel was planned. I hurriedly assured them that I certainly intended no such thing.

Then, reckless creature that I am, I started thinking.

7K's not much of a swan song. I wanted something big, with lots of juicy angst. And aliens. And if Skinner and Krycek were there too, so much the better.

I've always loved a good post-colonization adventure. I love those stories where Mulder and Scully are out in the wilderness, running from danger and fighting the elements.

So, I began to think about Mulder's return. If the aliens were collecting people who had been exposed to the black oil, why might they send him back?

I came up with a possible reason that I thought might make an interesting story, and I started to write. I wrote. And I wrote some more. And it kept growing until it became the ridiculously long work that you see before you.

The vignette that started the whole thing has been included here as a prologue. The rest of the story can stand on its own, but I think the prologue sets the tone, and it will only take you two minutes to read. The new story, Equanimity, starts as Chapter One.

I have taken many liberties with times and places. For purposes of this story, it is assumed that Mulder disappeared in early August. For my own devious purposes, I've made other assumptions that you're just going to have to live with. I have invented my own science, and I've made it work my way. Ah, the power.

I hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It was every bit as much fun as I thought it would be. And, please, I beg you, let me know what you think. It would really mean a lot.


Prologue: A Safe Place

Early October, 2000

It had been weeks since she'd jumped at the sound of a telephone.

Those first few days after Mulder's disappearance, she'd allowed herself the hope that a ringing phone - any ringing phone - was certain to bring the announcement of his return. She'd called from her hospital bed to check her home machine and office phone every 30 minutes. Upon her return home, she'd checked her cell phone constantly to be sure the battery was always fully charged. A simple knock on her front door one evening caused her heart to beat so fast that she thought she'd faint.

But the voice on the phone, the message on the answering machine, the person at the door - it was never him. And slowly, she'd forced herself to stop hoping. Because it was too hard. Because it hurt too much to bear.

The ringing stopped as she closed her front door. Dropping her keys on the table, she glanced at the machine. No message had been left. Probably her mother, inviting her for the weekend.

See? That was easy. Not even a passing thought that it might be Mulder. Or Skinner, calling to say that more lights had been sighted over the small Oregon town and that he was on his way to the airport to check it out. Or the Lone Gunmen with some news of him. Or the hospital calling to say that he'd been brought in and could she come right away because he was asking for her?

The weekends away had helped. Her mother knew enough to keep her ridiculously busy, filling every moment with activities and houseguests to keep the quiet away. Though she'd tried, she'd felt oddly detached from everything, as though she were watching the world through a mirror. Scully-Through-the- Looking-Glass. It was a safe place, but it was away from everyone else.

Maybe that was how the baby felt, safely wrapped in its cocoon, the sounds around it muffled and indistinct.

Gratefully, she unzipped her skirt as she moved into the bedroom. She couldn't hide things much longer, and her clothes were becoming too uncomfortable to tolerate. Pulling off her pantyhose, she stood shyly in front of the mirror. She was amazed at the difference in the last few weeks - the changes in her breasts, the disappearance of her waistline. She put her hand on her belly, imagining his hand there and how he would smile at the feel of the tiny bulge.

But she wouldn't think about that now. She'd think about it later when it wasn't so hard. She'd call her mother and invite her to shop for maternity clothes this weekend. Well, maybe not maternity clothes. Maybe just some less constricting things. She didn't want all those people at work, all those people without names, to know yet. Not before Mulder knew.

She put her hands up, covering her face. She had to stop this. She couldn't think about this all the time, couldn't be sad and miserable every second of every day. Couldn't miss him constantly. She had the baby to think about. That was the important thing. She'd take a bath. She'd make dinner and watch a movie. She'd get in bed and read a book until she fell asleep, and then it would be time to go back to work.

Resolution returned, she moved into the bathroom, opening the taps on the big bathtub. She turned on music and sat on the edge of the tub, holding her hand under the rushing water, closing her eyes at the blessed sounds filling up the emptiness.

The tub finally filled, she lowered herself into the wonderfully warm water and thought again of the baby. This is what it must really feel like, warm and floating inside her body. She caressed the little bump of her stomach. Even with the baby there, even thinking of it, imagining what it looked like, there was no losing the feeling that there was a big hole inside her. The missing of him was a physical thing, a void that needed more time than existed in the universe to fill. Dipping her washcloth in the warm water, she covered her face with it and allowed herself one last luxury. She allowed the tears to come.

Her bedside lamp was still on, her book still clutched in her hand when she woke. She felt horribly groggy and confused, and she glanced at the clock with disgust, knowing she wouldn't get back to sleep again for hours. Sleep had been a long time coming and had been filled with visions of things she didn't dare imagine while she was awake.

Pulling back the covers, her book hit the floor with a thud. And then another sound.

The phone ringing.

The floor nurse walked with her to his room. She told Scully he was fine, told her over and over again as if she could read the disbelief on Scully's pale face. Told her again and again that he'd been asking for her, been insistent that they call her before treating him.

Stopping in the doorway, she saw that he was sleeping.

The nurse left her then, and she stood watching him. He looked thinner, his hair longer, but he looked wonderful. Content. She smiled, watching him breathe.

A moment of panic hit her as she imagined that she might still be in her bed, asleep. But this was real. He was here. Surely no dream could be this cruel.

She moved quietly into the room, pulling a chair next to his bed and reaching for his hand, afraid again that she was fooling herself, that this was not real and that her touch would find him cold and lifeless. He was warm, though, and the doctor in her couldn't resist checking the strong beat of the pulse in his wrist.

He stirred at her touch, smiling before his eyes even opened. He turned to her, and when he finally looked at her she was sure he'd had reason to be afraid of dreams too.

"Scully," he whispered, his voice cracking as though it hadn't been used in a while.

"It's okay," she replied. "I'm here. Everything's okay."

He reached toward her, touching her hair and brushing the tears from her cheek.

"I missed you so much," he said. "You look so beautiful."

"Impossible," she laughed. "I fell asleep with wet hair. I look awful."

"I have so much to tell you, Scully." He smiled. "You'll never believe it."

She moved to sit next to him on the bed. Her hand trembled a bit as she brushed the long hair from his brow.

"Oh, Mulder," she said. "I will."


Chapter One

Georgetown General Hospital
October 9, 2000

He woke suddenly from one of his deep sleeps, turning his head to find her sitting next to his bed. Sitting as she'd been since he'd appeared two days before.

"Scully?" he croaked.

She took his hand. "I'm here. Everything's okay."

"Did you see it, Scully? There was a ship."

He was asleep again before she could respond.

His arrival at the hospital had been as mysterious as her sudden appearance after her own abduction. No staff seemed to remember him being checked in, no emergency service had any record of transporting him. He had slept nearly constantly since he'd returned, waking only occasionally, falling asleep again after assuring himself that she was still there. Sometimes, he'd reach for her hand, touch her hair or caress her cheek before falling back to sleep.

She was concerned about how exhausted he seemed, but the doctors assured her that he was fine - a little dehydrated and a bit too thin - and that his body needed the rest. After the last of the test results came back, he'd be released to go home.


In an effort to convince herself that she was confident of his return, she'd used some of her savings to pay his rent. His apartment was still intact, the sheets were clean and the newest of the replacement fish were still alive. And now, upon his release from the hospital, he'd return to his uncharacteristically tidy apartment.

And life could not possibly go on as it had before.

She longed for and dreaded the "talk" they needed to have. She was hopeful that he'd be delighted with the news of her pregnancy, and at the same time certain that he'd freak out. How could he not freak out? She was still freaked out and she'd had weeks to get used to the idea.

And what exactly was she supposed to say? 'Gee, Mulder, remember that one crazy night, the first time either of us had sex in so many years it's just downright embarrassing? You know, the night we've managed to ignore ever since? Well, gosh - who would've thought we'd need a condom?'.


She wasn't even sure herself that she wanted things to change. She knew without a doubt that he loved her as much as she loved him, and she'd grown comfortable with the way things were. But now things could be different. Maybe even better.

Or they could be ruined forever.

She stood up and stretched her aching back. She didn't dare count the number of hours she'd spent sitting in this chair, but she was terrified to let him out of her sight. Skinner had come by at some point during her long vigil, finally relieved of the burden of guilt he'd carried like the proverbial albatross. They'd grown closer while, in his own unobtrusive way, he'd watched over her in the last few weeks. His concern had been a comfort to her.

She moved quietly into the bathroom and stared hard at herself in the mirror. God, she looked like death warmed over. She needed some food. And some sleep. And somebody needed to invent a reliable substitute for caffeine.

When she walked back into the room he was watching her, looking really awake for the first time.

She smiled at him like everything was just fine. "Hey," she said. "How are you feeling?"

"Like Rip Van Winkle." His voice was still a little rough and she moved to pour him a glass of water. "How long have I been sleeping?"

"Much less than 20 years." She handed him the glass and he drank thirstily. "But most of the last 48 hours."

She sat down next to him on the bed and he stared hard at her for a long moment. "Are you okay, Scully?" he asked. "You don't look well."

Yep. Death warmed over.

"I'm fine," she smiled. "Just a little tired."

"You've been here all the time?"

"Most of it. I was beginning to think you'd never wake up." She took his hand. "Are you feeling all right?"

Nodding slowly, he leaned forward and wrapped her in his arms, holding her tightly. It was everything she could do not to burst into embarrassingly hysterical tears. She bit her lip and stroked his back soothingly.

"Scully," he whispered. "What happened to me?"

Four hours later, he was released from the hospital. When he'd first reappeared, it seemed that his memories of the abduction and the time after were intact, but those memories were now gone. His confusion and the memory loss worried her, but the extensive tests she'd insisted he be given had come back clean and they had no reason to keep him any longer. The doctor suggested that she bring him back to the hospital if he became more confused, but he felt strongly that the memory loss was temporary, probably brought about by some psychological trauma. The good news of his release energized Mulder, and they were packed up and on their way shortly after the doctor released him.

It hadn't taken much persuasion to convince him to stay with her for a few days. He'd actually looked relieved. Though the feeling remained unspoken, neither was willing to be away from the other for any length of time. As Scully stood in the middle of the kitchen, doing absolutely nothing but listening to the sound of the shower running, she realized that this was all going to take a little time.

She rubbed the small mound of her belly. There were a few things they were going to have to discuss sooner rather than later, however.

The sound of the shower stopped, and she opened the refrigerator door to look for something to prepare for dinner. Rarely hungry in the past few weeks, she was suddenly famished. She poured a jar of spaghetti sauce into a saucepan and turned on the burner. It looked delicious.

Still hyper-alert, she listened as Mulder moved around in the bedroom. They'd stopped at his apartment to pick up his things, and he'd gotten a little teary-eyed when he realized that she'd kept the place together for him. Naturally, that made her a little teary-eyed. They were excruciatingly shy with each other, she made some lame joke about him owing her big time, and they'd hurried back out to the car.

Pulling vegetables out to make a salad, she stopped for a moment as a wave of nausea washed over her. Good God, she was nervous. Not just a little nervous, either. Big time nervous. Nervous like when your best friend, the man you love, has been missing for eight weeks (abducted by aliens, no less), returns with no memory of where he's been and is changing clothes in your bedroom. Oh, and you have to figure out how to tell him that you're pregnant with his baby. When you're supposed to be barren, for Christ's sake.

Well, she wasn't barren. That was for sure. She could prove that by the fact that she was about to vomit all over the kitchen floor. She took a few deep breaths and felt better. She could do this. Everything would be fine.

"What can I do?"

She almost jumped out of her skin at the sound of his voice. Mulder, fresh and flushed a healthy glow from the shower, stood in the kitchen doorway. He looked good. Really good.

She smiled and pointed the celery at him. "You look better."

"That was the best shower I've ever had in my life," he said. "No other shower will ever compare."

He took the celery from her. Dear God, was she still pointing it at him?

"Shall I chop?" he asked.

"No." She managed to get hold of herself. "You should sit. Rest. I'll make dinner. It's nothing special, it'll just take a minute."

"I'm fine, Scully. Really." He smiled. "I want to chop. It's important to me."

"Well, far be it for me to keep you from your ultimate happiness," she said, and handed him the biggest, sharpest knife she could find. If he wanted to chop, she'd give him the tools. "Chop away."

This was good. This was okay. They could do this. Her pulse rate dropped back to somewhere close to normal.

Based on the food served, dinner was better than it deserved to be. They were both ravenous and there was a comfortable silence between them for the first few minutes. Smiling at her, Mulder reached over and wiped a little spaghetti sauce off her chin.

"This is really great, Scully," he said. "It feels good to be here with you. Sitting in your apartment and eating spaghetti with you."

She couldn't stop the tears that rushed to her eyes. Mortified, she looked down at her lap, hoping he wouldn't notice. "I'm glad, too," she said. "I missed you, Mulder."

He twisted the last of the spaghetti onto his fork. "This is the best spaghetti I've ever eaten. Ever. No spaghetti ever tasted this good."

Scully laughed. "Liar. It's just because you haven't been eating enough." She stood and reached for his plate. "I'll get you more. You should have more."

"Sit down, Scully," he said. "I can get it."

He returned after a moment, his plate filled with another huge serving of pasta. He started to dig in again, then frowned, lowering the fork to the plate.

"How did you stand it, Scully?" he asked. "How could you take not knowing what happened to you? Where you'd been all those months?"

Her appetite suddenly gone, she placed her fork gently on the table.

"I couldn't stand it at first. I was terrified all the time. Scared to death that they'd come back and take me again." She sighed. "I wanted to know what they'd done to me, what they'd done to make me so sick. But there was a bigger part of me that was even more afraid. Afraid to know the truth."

He reached across the table and took her hand. "You'd never talk to me about it then, Scully," he said. "I wanted so much for you to tell me how you were feeling. I could see that you were afraid. I wanted to do something to help, but I couldn't seem to get close enough for you to let me in."

"Are you afraid, Mulder?" She grasped his hand tighter. "Are you afraid of what they might have done to you?"

He shook his head. "I'm not. Not really. Deep down, I don't feel like anything bad happened. I'm not sick like you were. Except for the fatigue, I feel pretty great. Happy, even. It's just frustrating as hell that I can't remember any of it. Who knows - I might have seen amazing things. Gotten answers to all my questions. Found the meaning of life. And now it's all just gone."

"Maybe it's better," she said quietly. "Maybe it's better that you don't remember. Safer."

He nodded slowly as he looked hard at her. "Maybe," he admitted. "But I need to know, Scully."

"Of course you do." She smiled at him a little sadly. "I wouldn't have expected anything else."

"What about you? Have you been all right?" He ran his thumb over the back of her hand. "You look like you could use some sleep."

"I could definitely use some sleep," she said, smiling.

"Don't get me wrong," he said quickly. "I didn't mean that you don't look great, because you do."

"I've been fine, Mulder. Really fine." She looked down, suddenly incredibly uncomfortable. Standing up, she started to remove the plates. "I'll make coffee."

Mulder looked at her, concerned. "What is it, Scully?"

Oh, perfect. Things were going so well and here she was ready to throw up again. Mulder followed close behind her as she moved into the kitchen. Maybe he'd think she didn't hear the question. She turned on the hot water and drizzled the soap in. God, he was close. Way too close. She couldn't think.

She knew she was in big trouble when the world started to tilt a little strangely around her. She grasped the edge of the sink to steady herself and took some slow, deep breaths.

"Scully?" Mulder grasped her by the arms.

"I'm okay," she whispered. "Really. I just got up too fast."

She was a terrible liar. He turned her around to face him, but she couldn't bring herself to look at him. Tucking a finger under her chin, he forced her eyes to meet his. "Scully," he breathed. "You're scaring me. Tell me what's wrong."

He wiped her tears away with his thumbs. Was she crying? She was a complete and utter mess. She took a deep breath in a feeble attempt to pull herself together.

"Mulder," she said. "I have to tell you something." She swiped at the tears on her cheeks, frustrated by her lack of control. "I just don't know how to do it."

He leaned over and kissed her forehead. "You know that you can tell me anything. Whatever it is, Scully."

He pulled her toward him then, wrapping his arms around her and holding her tightly. She felt his hand comb through her hair, slow and soothing.

She took a deep breath and pulled back to look into his eyes.

"Mulder." She smiled at him. "I don't know how it can be. I never thought it was possible, never thought it would ever be possible." She took his hand. "I can't explain it."

Mulder had never been so confused. "Yeah, I'm getting that part, Scully." He looked at her thoughtfully. "Just blurt it out. You can do it."

She nodded, took a deep breath, and said it.

"I'm pregnant." She just knew she was going to throw up all over him if he didn't say something really quickly.

"Scully..." He smiled. "But how? I thought it was impossible..." He reached up to cup her cheek.

She smiled back at him. "I don't know. But they've given me every test in the book and everything seems perfectly normal."

Mulder was still staring at her, grinning. "How far..."

"A little over four months." She moved to unbutton her jacket. "All of a sudden, you can see it."

Opening her jacket, the little bump was revealed to him. He stared at her stomach, shaking his head in disbelief. She reached out to take his hand.

"Here," she said. "You can feel it."

He ran his fingers over the little bulge, then placed his whole hand over it. He could still cover it completely. "God, Scully."

"I know." She grabbed his hand. "Come here, Mulder." She sat him down on the couch and sat on the coffee table to face him.

"You can tell me the truth," she said. "You can be totally honest with me. This was a big surprise for both of us. If you're not ready for this, or if you don't want to get...quite this involved, I'll understand. I'll be okay."

"Scully," he said. "This is unbelievable news. This is something I never thought I'd have. That we'd ever have, because I can't imagine having a family with anyone but you. It's wonderful." Leaning back against the cushions, he shook his head. "My God. A baby."

"You're sure?" She closed her eyes, relieved. "You're really happy?"

"I'm really happy." He pulled her toward him, and she sat close beside him on the couch. Wrapping her in his arms, he kissed her.

Thinking back on it later, Scully was never sure which came first - the lightning or the knock on the door.

She woke groggily, still on the couch and wrapped comfortably around Mulder. She couldn't possibly have slept much, not nearly long enough to make up for all the lost sleep from the past few days. She was unbelievably exhausted.

Her disorientation increased when she turned to look at the clock on the mantle. Though they had fallen asleep with every light in the place blazing, the room was now immersed in complete darkness

Perfect. The electricity must have gone out.

Suddenly, a flash of lightning lit up the room with an eerie, stark brightness. The huge clap of thunder following it finally shocked her back to full consciousness.

Untangling herself from Mulder, she moved to the window. It was deep black outside, dark on the whole street as far as she could see. Lightning and thunder crashed again - nearly simultaneously this time. The storm must be really close. Strange that there was no rain yet.

She wrapped her arms around herself against a sudden chill and let the curtains fall closed.

It was then that she heard the knock on the door, a quick, insistent pounding as if someone had waited to be sure the sound would be audible between thunderclaps. She turned to look at Mulder, who was finally stirring.

"Who could that be?" he asked.

"I've no idea," she answered. "I don't know what time it is. The power's out all up and down the block."

"Maybe one of your neighbors."

As he opened the door, a surprised look passed over his face. "Sir?"

He stepped aside to allow Skinner, dressed in jeans and a dark shirt, to move quickly past him into the room. He was breathing hard, but Scully couldn't tell if it was from exertion or fear.

Mulder closed the door. "It's not that we're not happy to see you, sir, but what are you doing here in the middle of the night?"

"Get packed," he said. "Both of you. Only what you can carry in one bag."

Scully moved closer to the two men. "Sir?" She touched his arm. "What's wrong? What's going on?"

"It's all gone to hell," he said. "We've got no time. I'll tell you everything you want to know in the car, but we've got to go. Now."

Another huge flash of lightning lit up the room, revealing the panic in Skinner's eyes.

"It's a bad storm, sir," Scully said. "Maybe we should wait..."

"Scully." Skinner looked hard at her, a slight tremor in his voice. "It's not a storm."

October 10, 2000

Scully didn't realize how anxious she was until she started to throw what clean clothes she could find into a bag. She moved into the bathroom to pack her toiletries, and a flash of lightning lit the room long enough for her to see her own pale, frightened face staring back at her from the mirror. Her hands shook slightly as she hurriedly packed her things into the small makeup bag, then returned to the bedroom to place it in with her clothes.

Mulder, who had never even had time to unpack his own things, came into the room as she zipped up her small suitcase. He reached to take it from her.

"I tried to call my mother," she said. "I couldn't get through - the phone lines must be down. She was maybe going to visit with her sister in New York this weekend, but I don't know if she actually went or not."

"We'll try again when we get out of the city."

"It's them, isn't it?" she asked. "The aliens."

Mulder nodded. "I think so."

Picking her jacket up from the bed, she slipped it on, wrapping it tightly around her. She looked up at him, seeing the fear in his eyes.

"Colonization." She hated the way her voice shook. "It's really happening."

He moved to her then and wrapped his arms around her. "Let's go. Skinner's got a place for us." He pulled back and looked at her. "It'll be okay. I promise."

As they moved quickly to the car, they looked to the sky each time the air around them lit up. They knew now that this violent lightning and thunder was no winter storm, but a series of explosions coming closer as the Colonists moved over the city.

Skinner had packed the SUV tightly with food and camping supplies. Scully climbed into the back of the car, the two small suitcases piled next to her on the seat. Mulder barely had his seat belt fastened before Skinner pulled away from the curb, tires squealing.

They watched in shocked silence, driving past dozens of bewildered people who had started to come out of their houses, many of them standing on front lawns and sidewalks, meeting in small groups in an attempt to understand what was happening.

Numbly, Scully watched them. She was freezing and it had little to do with the temperature. She huddled deeper inside her wool jacket, pulling the long sleeves down to cover her hands. She looked through the back window as they pulled further away from her apartment building, and she wondered if she'd ever come home again.

If there'd be a home to come back to.

Skinner handed Mulder a folded map. "I've marked our destination," he said. "Look for some alternate routes in case the main roads are blocked."

"Where are we going?" Scully asked. "You said you'd tell us what was going on."

Skinner sighed. "Word came into the top FBI brass about four hours ago. Several large objects - spacecraft of unknown origin - had been spotted on radar, coming in fast from deep space. Interception was considered, but as time went by and the size and sheer number of objects they were tracking became apparent, it was determined that our current defense capabilities were hopeless against an attack of this size."

"These 'spacecraft of unknown origin'," Mulder said. "How many are we talking about here?"

"Hundreds," Skinner said. "At least twenty enormous ships, each heading for or already in the process of destroying a major world city. As of 30 minutes ago, there was one on each coast of the United States. Smaller ships are fanning out across the center of the country as we speak."

Outside the car, another huge explosion lit up the night sky. This one was close enough to feel, the ground beneath them rumbling with the force of it. Skinner held tightly to the steering wheel in an attempt to maintain control of the car. Traffic on the expressway was starting to pick up now, cars speeding past them as people began their panicked attempts to leave the city.

"They have to do something," Scully said. "I can't believe they're just going to let this happen. Why not try nuclear weapons, or..."

"They did try, Scully. Four nuclear missiles were fired at a ship hovering over Kansas City." Skinner swerved suddenly to miss a speeding car as it cut into his lane. "There was zero damage to the Colonist ship, but twelve pilots and hundreds of civilians on the ground below were killed in the resulting return of fire."

"My God, " said Scully. "What is it they want? To destroy everything? Wipe out everyone on this planet?"

"No," said Mulder. "Not everyone. They need us."

"Need us for what?" Scully asked. "What are you talking about?"

"You know, Scully." Mulder turned to face her. "We were there. Inside one of their ships. It almost happened to you."

No, she couldn't think about this right now. "But there were others," she whispered. "Another race of aliens fighting against these. Where are they?"

"We're on our way now to a safe house deep in the mountains," Skinner said. "We'll be joined there by others who will be able to explain how we'll fight against these things. Plans have been underway for some time now."

Mulder turned to him, amazed. "How long have you known about this?"

"Ever since you disappeared," he said. "What I saw that night made me believe. I knew then that everything Krycek had told us was true."

"Krycek?" Scully laughed. "Is he one of the people we're meeting up with?"

Skinner nodded. "I think he can be trusted. We're all on the same side."

"Nobody's on Krycek's side except Krycek," Scully frowned. "He killed Mulder's father and he murdered my sister in an attempt to kill me. I don't trust him. I won't."

Mulder turned to look at her again, but she was huddled in the corner of the back seat, staring out the window.

"I think Skinner's right, Scully."

She turned to him, aghast. "Mulder! How..."

He reached out and grabbed her hand. "He was right about the ship that took me, Scully. I think he wants the same thing we do."

"Mulder," she gasped. "I can't believe this. How do you know he didn't set you up? Your abduction might have been exactly what they wanted - "

"For what? There are certainly easier ways he could have gotten rid of me. He's had the opportunity to kill me a dozen times over."

She shook her head, horrified.

"Scully, listen to me," he implored. "I don't think it was the Colonists who abducted me. I think it was the rebels, and I think there's a reason I was brought back now. I'm here for a reason. To help stop this."

She pulled her hand away from him and tucked it back inside the sleeve of her jacket. She turned away, staring out the window into the blackness.

Skinner glanced at her in the rear view mirror. "Believe him, Scully. I think he's right."

She leaned her forehead against the cold glass and closed her eyes. "I don't know what to believe," she whispered.

On the Road, Somewhere in Vermont
October 10, 2000

It seemed hours before they got beyond the city, and Scully had finally succumbed to exhaustion, falling asleep with her head propped against the suitcases. Mulder turned and watched her for a moment, glad that she was finally getting some rest.

"She'll come around," Skinner said quietly. "She'll understand that this is something you have to do. That we all have to do."

Mulder faced his boss. "Maybe this isn't what I should be doing now. Things are...complicated. We've got responsibilities that we didn't have before."

Skinner studied him for a moment. "She told you?"

"Yeah. I wasn't sure you knew." Mulder smiled. "I still can't believe it. No matter what, no matter what else I have to do, she has to do know that she's the most important thing in my life. She and the baby."

"Maybe you need to tell her that," Skinner said.

Mulder nodded. "Yeah. Maybe I do."

"Why don't you try and get some sleep? We've got another few hours drive, and then a bit of a hike ahead of us."

Mulder folded the map and placed it on the seat between them. "This house we're going to," he said. "How do you know we'll be safe there?"

"I don't know that we'd be safe there forever," Skinner replied, "but for the time being, I think they'll concentrate on the big cities. Try to destroy systems and infrastructure to incite panic. It's a lot easier to get people to follow you when they're afraid."

Mulder nodded, turning again to see that Scully was still sleeping.

"We'll have to be careful with how we communicate with the outside world," Skinner continued. "No cell phones. Nothing with a signal they might be able to track."

Mulder leaned his head against the window. Despite the tension of the situation, he was having a hard time keeping his eyes open.

Skinner turned to look at him. "Sleep, Mulder."

"You sure you don't want me to take over the driving for awhile?"

"No," Skinner said. "I'm fine. I don't think I'll be able to sleep for a long time to come."

The Woods near Stowe, Vermont
October 11, 2000
10:30 a.m.

Neither Mulder nor Scully slept much after the car left the main road. The dirt track they'd turned onto was full of holes and bumps, and a light snow falling caused the SUV to skid crazily more than a few times.

Scully clutched tightly to the seat belt she was wearing, her eyes screwed tightly shut. She didn't know how much more of this she could take before she lost everything she'd eaten over the past month.


She unscrewed one eye to see Mulder's concerned face looking back at her.

"I'm okay," she assured him. "Just a little seasick."

"You want some water? Or to sit in the front? We can pull over..."

"Actually," Skinner interrupted. "We're here." He pulled the big car carefully into the trees, maneuvering into a small wooden carport that hadn't been visible from the road.

"Thank God," said Scully.

"Let's get the car unloaded," Skinner said. "The house is up the trail about a mile."

"Please," said Scully. "Tell me this place has indoor plumbing."

Skinner smiled. "All the comforts of home."

The "cabin" was no little weekend getaway. The large, rustic house was built into a hillside, and it looked as much a part of the forest as the huge tress that surrounded it.

They piled their things onto the big wooden porch, and Skinner pulled a key from his pocket. Entering the house, Scully was pleased to see that the place was clean and comfortable, with large sunny rooms and lots of overstuffed furniture. A huge fireplace filled one wall of the main room, and she could see the entry to a large gourmet kitchen.

"We've got our own generator for electricity," Skinner said as he began bringing in their provisions. "There's a small lake about a half mile further up the mountain. Not much else, though. We're pretty isolated. Cabins up here are separated by considerable distances."

"It's beautiful," Scully said. "Who owns this place?"

"I do, actually," Skinner replied. "It's been in my family for several generations."

Between the three of them, they managed to get the last of the food and supplies unpacked in fairly short order. Skinner picked up his own bags.

"There are three bedrooms and a small office." He moved to the closest doorway, placing the bags just inside. "This is my room."

He opened a door next to the bedroom. "This is the bathroom. Clean towels are in the linen cupboard behind the door."

Scully was relieved to see that there was indeed indoor plumbing, which included both a shower and an oversized bathtub. Things, she supposed, could have been worse.

Skinner moved to the next door, opening it to reveal a bright room, the early morning sun pouring in through the big windows. "You can have this room," he said, dropping their bags onto the big bed. "Why don't you get settled. I'm going out to bring in some firewood, then we'll have breakfast and talk some more." He left, closing the door behind him.

Scully sat down on the bed.

"I think that's our cue to talk," Mulder said as sat down beside her. "I can sleep next door if you'll be more comfortable."

"Mulder." She reached out and took his hand. "Those things I said in the car. I didn't mean them." She stood up and moved to the window. The view of the forest was breathtaking. She sighed, pulling her jacket tight around her, then turned back to face Mulder.

"Actually, I did mean them. I don't trust Krycek and I don't understand how you can, either. But I do trust you, Mulder. And I do want to be with you and fight against this however we can."

She moved back to the bed and sat close to him. "And no, I don't want to you sleep next door."

He smiled and wrapped an arm over her shoulder, pulling her close. "Thank God," he said. "I was going to be really depressed if I had to sleep next door."

"I want to be involved in this, Mulder," she said. "And I don't want to be treated like an invalid just because I'm pregnant. Things may get more difficult later, but right now I'm strong and healthy and I can keep up." She looked up at him. "And I don't want Krycek to know about the baby. Promise me."

Mulder nodded, leaning down to kiss the crown of her head. She settled against his shoulder.

"I promise," he said. "But I reserve the right to worry a little. I'm pretty sure that comes with the territory."

"Okay," she smiled. "You can worry a little."

"There's nothing more important to me, Scully. Nothing more important than you and the baby. As long as you're with me, I feel like everything will be okay."

"Mulder," Scully said quietly. "I feel the same way."

The Woods near Stowe, Vermont
October 12, 2000
4:45 p.m.

The day had begun casually enough - Mulder and Skinner treated themselves to a huge, hearty breakfast while Scully nibbled on some dry toast and tea. Mulder made a point of pretending not to notice that she might not be feeling her best. He was admirably restrained.

Krycek and several other members of what they optimistically called the 'resistance team' were expected sometime in the next couple of days. The first day was spent getting settled and trying to learn as much as they could about what was going on in the outside world. While Mulder and Skinner worked outside, Scully listened to Skinner's short-wave, using a map to mark locations of varying degrees of destruction. Rumors transmitted over the radio abounded, and it was difficult to sift through the terrified voices to determine truth from fiction and quickly developing urban legends.

From what she could ascertain, though, thousands of people had already been killed in the larger cities. Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco had been virtually decimated. Smaller, outlying cities suffered less damage, but hundreds of people were being rounded up and tested. Those who did not meet the qualifications required by the Colonists were killed. There were already hundreds of mass graves up and down the eastern seaboard.

Scully turned off the radio. She couldn't listen to this anymore.

Several hours earlier, she had attempted to call her mother from the cabin's phone. Mulder had insisted that the call be filtered through the Lone Gunmen (who had survived in a bomb shelter built beneath the magazine's offices) so that it could not be traced. She had been unsuccessful in reaching anyone, including her brother in San Diego. And now, with the stories she was hearing about the fate of the people in DC and New York and up and down the West Coast, she held out little hope that either of them could still be alive. She had no idea how to reach Charles - he'd been out at sea for weeks before any of this happened.

She needed some air.

Pulling on her jacket, she stepped out into the ice cold mountain air. She took a deep breath and looked up over the tops of the trees. The sky looked like it might snow again later. She started walking.

The forest was beautiful - so peaceful and quiet after the events of the previous night. The sun was getting low on the horizon, and it was dark and cold under the tall trees. She made her way up the dirt trail toward the lake.

Mulder closed the door behind him and pulled off the heavy work gloves. He and Skinner had collected enough wood to last them an eternity, and it was now neatly stacked out on the porch.

He'd never been so tired in all his life.

The house was quiet and he wondered if Scully had finally given in and taken a nap, but their room was empty, the bed undisturbed.

The office revealed some clue that she'd been there. A large map lay open on the floor, markings and statistics in Scully's neat handwriting written in several different colors of ink. He stared at it in disbelief. If these figures meant what he thought they did...


He moved back into the living room, finally looking into the small entry closet to note that her jacket was gone. Grabbing his own jacket and gloves, he went back outside.

He found her sitting on the ground by the frozen lake, her back supported by a toppled log.


She turned to see him moving toward her.

"Hey, Mulder."

Suddenly fearing he might be unwelcome, he stopped in his tracks. "I can leave you alone if you want," he offered.

She smiled up at him. "No, it's okay. I don't mind."

He sat down close beside her, and she leaned into him. Wrapping his arm around her, he tucked her closely against his side.

"It's so beautiful here," she said. "The sunset is going to be incredible."

"I wish it would give off a little heat on its way down. It's freezing out here, Scully."

They sat quietly for a moment, watching as the sun moved closer to the lake.

"I'm sorry you couldn't reach your mom."

"Why are things always so complicated for us, Mulder?"

He ran his hand up and down her arm. "I don't know. I wish it didn't have to be this way. Especially now."

"When you told me you were happy about the baby, I thought, just for a little while, that we might be able to start a whole new life. Live like everybody else. Fight over bills instead of whether or not Alex Krycek can be trusted."

Mulder sighed. "Well, our memoirs will be really interesting."

"At least now people won't think we were completely nuts. What'll we call them? 'Mulder and Scully Save the World'?"

"'Scully and Mulder Save the World'," he said. "I give you top billing."

"Gee, thanks."

"It's a pretty lofty ambition, Scully. Saving the world."

"Lofty ambitions sell books."

"Yeah, well, maybe if we can't save the world," he whispered, pulling her closer, "maybe we can just save each other."

The Woods near Stowe, Vermont
October 13, 2000
1:15 a.m.

Any nervousness Scully had felt about their first real night together in months vanished when Mulder fell asleep the moment his head hit the pillow. She was completely exhausted too, but so pent up she couldn't sleep. It seemed as though a million thoughts and questions were jammed into her brain, all fighting for resolution, and she was too tired to sort any of them out so they could be put to rest.

She watched him sleep for a while, studying his face, and was glad to see that the gauntness of a few days ago had already disappeared. His face was a little fuller and healthier since his appearance at the hospital. He was looking more like his old self again. She smiled at the lock of hair drooping down over his eye. He could still use a haircut. She thought maybe she'd offer to do the job tomorrow.

She turned over again in an attempt to find a comfortable position and tried to will her brain to quiet down. Sighing in frustration, she realized that this wishful thinking wasn't going to work and all the tossing and turning was going to wake Mulder. She needed a distraction. There was a big bookcase in the other room. She'd make some tea and stretch out on the couch with a nice distracting trashy novel.

There was plenty of tea to be had, but Skinner's book collection was a little lacking in the trashy novel department. Giving up, she sat down at the kitchen table with a two-day old newspaper, but was forced to abandon it quickly. It was too depressing in its normalcy. Who could have imagined that everything could change so quickly?

She was too exhausted and emotionally spent to stop the tears at that point, and she angrily pushed the newspaper onto the floor. Resting her head on her folded arms atop the table, she cried quietly.

It was only a few moments before she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Scully?" Mulder crouched down next to her and she raised her head to see him looking at her with concern. He reached over to tuck a stray lock of hair behind her ear.

"What is it, Scully?"

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I didn't mean to wake you. I'm okay."

"Wrong answer." He moved to sit in the chair next to her. "Tell me, Scully. Please."

"It's nothing, really." She shook herself in an attempt to gain back some control. "And it's everything. I'm so tired that I can't sleep. I keep thinking about my mom and my brothers and I'm scared that they're dead and I'll ever see them again. Or that they're still alive and being tortured somewhere. I'm scared for you and I'm scared for myself. I'm terrified that something will go wrong with the baby." She took a deep breath and smiled sadly at him. "I'll be okay. I'm just tired. Everything will be better when I've gotten some sleep."

Mulder reached out to brush away her tears, then took her hand, pulling her up out of the chair. "Come with me." Leading her into the bathroom, he closed the door quietly and turned the taps on the big bathtub.

"Mulder, we'll wake Skinner."

"Scully," he whispered as he opened and closed cupboards, pulling out towels. "I've sat on planes next to him. He's slept through takeoffs, landings, food service and severe turbulence. The sound of running water isn't going to wake him." He pulled out a small plastic bottle. "And he steals from hotels. Bubble bath."

Scully smiled, watching him as he poured the liquid under the running water.

Closing the lid on the toilet, he motioned for her to sit down. "Let me take care of everything. You are only required to relax and, hopefully, enjoy."

When the tub was completely filled and frothy with big bubbles, he turned off the overhead light. Reaching out for her, he pulled her to her feet, then reached down to the hem of the big t-shirt she'd worn to bed.

She closed her eyes as she felt her heart start to beat faster, hating that she was nervous. She raised her arms and let him pull the shirt up over her head. It made a soft sound as it landed on the floor near her feet.

"You're beautiful, Scully." He leaned toward her and kissed her gently on the lips. "Everything's okay."

Removing his own clothing, he helped her into the tub and climbed in behind her. Lying back against him, she took a deep breath and allowed herself to relax. His hands ran over the smooth skin of her neck to her shoulders, where he began kneading the sore and tired muscles. She leaned forward a little to allow him better access.

"That feels wonderful," she whispered.

"Shh..." He started working on the taut muscles in her neck, then moved slowly up to massage her scalp. "Don't think, Scully. Just feel."

She felt all the tension leaving her body then, concentrating on his strong hands and how wonderful they felt against her skin. The bathroom was humid with steam and she felt herself growing sleepy. She leaned back against him and he held her until the water started to turn cold.

Pushing her forward a little, he climbed out. She followed him and he wrapped her in one of the big, soft towels he'd pulled from the cupboard. She could barely keep her eyes open, and he dried her off gently, wrapping another towel around himself as he led her back to the bedroom.

Once they got into bed, she moved to him, pillowing her head on his shoulder, one leg thrown over his. "Thank you," she said, her voice barely a whisper.

He kissed her gently on the forehead. "Sleep, Scully. Everything's going to be okay."

And at that moment, safe in his arms, she believed him.

The Woods near Stowe, Vermont
October 13, 2000
7:45 p.m.

They were nearly done with the dinner dishes when the knock on the door came the following evening. They'd grown comfortable in the house and comfortable enough in their isolation that the first knock caused Mulder to drop the dish he was drying.

Scully jumped at the sound. Though she knew it was inevitable, she'd held out some small selfish hope that Alex Krycek would never arrive and that they could hole up in this safe place for a while. Now, she steeled herself for his arrival as Skinner moved to open the front door. When he did, the sight in front of her was nothing close to what she'd expected.

Marita was there in all her delicate blondeness, every hair on her head still neatly coifed, but she looked terrible. Her eyes were wild with fear, and it seemed to take every ounce of strength she had to support Krycek, who appeared to be heading somewhere toward the downside of consciousness.

Mulder rushed to help bring him inside, Marita nearly falling as the weight was lifted from her.

"What the hell happened?" Mulder asked, as he and Skinner carried Krycek to the couch.

Scully moved to examine him, peeling back the leather jacket to reveal a nasty gunshot wound to his left shoulder. She looked up at Mulder. "Help me lift him - I need to get his shirt off. I'll need towels and hot water."

Marita still stood in the doorway, breathless with the exertion of half-carrying the injured man up to the house. On his way to fetch the towels and hot water, Skinner stopped to close the front door and lead her to a chair at the kitchen table.

"We were followed trying to leave the city," she said, her breath still coming heavily. "They shot at us and Alex was hit. I didn't think his injury was serious at first - he managed to lose them before he passed out. We nearly went over the side of the mountain."

Skinner eyed her sharply. "You're sure you weren't followed here?"

"Positive," she answered. "I pulled us back into the woods where we couldn't be seen. We sat there for hours. Nobody followed us."

With Mulder's help, Scully managed to get Krycek's blood-soaked shirt off. He stirred a little as she began to clean the wound. "It looks like the bullet went clean through," she said. "He's lost a fair amount of blood, but he should be all right if we can keep the wound from becoming infected." She looked at Skinner. "Sir, I need something to clean the wound with, and bandages if you've got them. If you don't we'll need to make some."

Skinner nodded, moving toward the bathroom. "I should have everything you need."

Mulder sat down next to Marita. She was still trembling. "Are you all right?" he asked her.

"I'm fine," she said as she watched Scully work on Krycek. "We need to get him cleaned up and get out of here."

Scully looked up, startled. "What are you talking about?"

"The Colonists are moving in this direction much more quickly than originally estimated." She moved to sit on the coffee table near Krycek's head, leaning over to brush the hair back from his forehead. "There's a place near the Canadian border. It's underground. We'll be safe there."

"He really shouldn't be moved for several days," Scully protested. "If he starts bleeding again, or the wound becomes infected, there won't be much I can do to help him."

"Then we'll have to carry him."

Skinner returned with a roll of bandages and a huge bottle of penicillin. "Will these help?"

"Sir," Scully said, surprised at the bounty he laid before her. "Yes. This will be a great help. Unless, of course, he's allergic to penicillin." She looked at the blonde woman.

"Not a clue," Marita said. "We'll have to risk it."

"Marita," Skinner said, sitting next to her on the coffee table. "Why the change in the estimate of the Colonists' progress?"

"They're meeting with very little resistance at this point. Most of the large cities on the East Coast are already gone. They've successfully rounded up hundreds of survivors and have set up test facilities close to major highways. They're moving into less populated areas now, apparently trying to find anyone who may have left the cities."

"Who shot at you?" Mulder asked.

"I don't know. But they weren't Colonists, I can tell you that. They were very human." She looked at Skinner. "I could really use some food. We haven't eaten anything in nearly 36 hours."

Skinner nodded, moving to the kitchen to reheat the remains of their dinner.

Mulder took Skinner's place on the coffee table, lifting Krycek again so that Scully could work on bandaging his shoulder. "This place you mentioned, the underground facility. What is it exactly?"

"It used to be a secret military installation, deserted sometime after the Cold War ended. Now, it's a headquarters of sorts for the resistance effort."

Scully had finished bandaging Krycek's shoulder and motioned to Mulder to lay him back down. "Not much of an effort so far, is it?"

"Food's ready." Skinner set a plateful of food on the table.

Moving to sit at the table, Marita began eating hungrily. "The resistance can't begin until everything...and everyone...arrives."

Finally satisfied with Krycek's appearance, Scully stood and moved to sit next to her. "Who are they waiting for?" She glanced at Mulder, then back at Marita who continued to eat with a certain abandon. "They're waiting for us, aren't they?"

Marita put her fork down and stared hard at Scully. "You're not an idiot, Agent Scully. How do you suppose we're going to end this? Our defense systems are laughable against them. The only way to stop them is to make humans useless to them."

"The vaccine," Scully said quietly. "They need us to make the vaccine."

Marita nodded. "Except for Skinner, we've all been exposed to the virus and treated with the vaccine. Others like us will be making their way to the compound. We need to get there as soon as possible."

Scully looked at Mulder. "I suppose we could load him into the back of the SUV. It's not going to be very pleasant for him."

Having finished her dinner, Marita carried her dish into the kitchen and placed it in the sink. She looked up at Skinner. "You have any pain killers in that magic bag of yours?"

"Four different kinds," Skinner answered.

"We'll probably be safe here one more night. We'll let him rest until morning and we'll keep him on the antibiotics. With the pain pills, he'll be fine." She smiled. "He's a very determined man."

The Woods near Stowe, Vermont
October 14, 2000
1:00 a.m.

It was hours later before Scully finally climbed into bed. She'd managed to get both antibiotics and painkillers into Krycek before they'd moved him into the last bedroom to sleep. He'd actually looked a little better by the time they got him into bed, and Scully was reasonably sure he'd be fine if there was no fever in the next few hours.

She turned onto her side and looked out the window, watching as a few snowflakes drifted down. She'd barely closed her eyes and was already in that comfortable place between wakefulness and sleep when Mulder, fresh from the shower, lay down next to her.

She smiled sleepily. "You smell good."

"More of Skinner's stolen beauty products," he said as he reached over to turn off the lamp. "I still haven't figured out why a man with no hair has nineteen different varieties of shampoo."

"I noticed," Scully whispered. "And did you see that first aid kit? I could perform heart surgery on the kitchen table."

"Wow. Let's hope that's not necessary." He moved closer to her then, spooning up behind her, his arms wrapped comfortably around her waist.

"How are you?" he asked.

She smiled. "I'm good. I was hardly sick at all today."

His hand moved to cover the slightly swollen belly. "And how's the Bump?"

She placed her hand over his. "Very fine, I think. Growing by leaps and bounds." She moved back to tuck closer against him. "This is nice, Mulder. This is what I thought about while you were gone. You holding me like this."

"This is all that matters, Scully." He kissed her on the cheek.

She turned toward him then, moving close so that their faces were nearly touching. Reaching a hand up, she traced his features, fingers skimming gently over his soft eyelashes, his cheeks, his lips. "I was so afraid that you'd never come back." She touched his throat, hands moving down his shoulders and chest.

"I'm here, Scully." He leaned in closer, covering her lips with his.

She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around him, pulling him closer. His mouth left hers, moving slowly down to plant small kisses along the side of her neck. One hand moved underneath the hem of her shirt, reaching up to gently caress her breast. Her breath came more heavily as he touched the sensitive skin.

She kissed him hard, passionate with desire for him, desperate to be closer. She lifted the t-shirt over her head and lay next to him in nothing but her panties. He smiled at her uncharacteristic boldness, and then his mouth was on her again, working his way down until she felt him at her breasts, his tongue flicking across one nipple, then the other. His hand ran up her thigh, across her belly and then down again, gentle and comforting.

She could barely breathe.

She reached down between them, and he gasped a little when she touched him. His hands left her long enough to pull off his boxers, and she could feel the hardness of him against her thigh. Taking him in her hand, she began to run her fingers up and down his length, sometimes barely touching, sometimes grasping harder. She moved her hand up to cup his balls.

He was breathing hard now, and he leaned in to kiss her again. "Jesus, Scully," he panted.

His hand was on her belly again, moving slowly down until he was under her panties. She was unbelievably wet, and he moved two fingers inside her.

A low, animal sound came from her throat. She felt ready to explode - every cell of her body seemed hypersensitive to his touch. He teased her a little, moving his fingers around her clit, close but not touching.

She grasped his shoulders. She was so close, but she felt like she could last forever. "Mulder," she whispered, more sounds than words. "I want you inside me."

He was on top of her then, and she gasped with the staggering heat of him when they connected. He began to thrust, slowly at first, then faster, more desperately. She felt his fingers inside her again, and it was all she could do not to scream when she came, her muscles contracting around him. It was all he needed to send him over the edge, and he buried his head against her neck as he released inside her. She held him close, tears spilling down her cheeks.

He rolled away from her, propping himself up on one arm and reaching over to wipe the tears away. "Are you okay?" He brushed the damp hair from her forehead.

She laughed. "God yes, Mulder. I'm very okay."

Smiling, he lay down again, his head on her shoulder. Wrapping her arms around him, she kissed him lightly on the top of his head.

"I love you, Scully," he whispered. "I always have."

She held him closer then, and told him what she'd always known but had never dared say.

She loved him back.

Mulder was walking between a pair of railroad tracks when he first heard the sound of a train whistle off in the distance. He stopped for a moment, looking down at the hard-packed dirt under his feet, then across the tracks to the trees that ran thick along each side.

How in the hell did he get here?

He reached up to rub at the ache between his eyes, then lifted the cap up off his forehead - the thing was too damned tight. It was giving him a headache.

He stared at the offending piece of clothing, wondering how he came to be wearing a red baseball cap. He didn't own one. Puzzling, but it was effective for keeping the hot sun off his face. Sizing it a little larger, he put it back on his head.

A strange feeling went through him then, and he realized that he could feel the vibration of the oncoming train beneath his feet. Turning to look back down the tracks, he saw a wisp of smoke in the distance, and the sound of the piercing whistle seemed much closer. He started walking again, a bit further toward the bend in the tracks to see if he could get a better look at it.

That was when he saw it.

It was a tiny figure at first, too far away to be recognizable, walking toward him down the center of the tracks. Something wasn't quite right about the strange figure - it moved unnaturally slowly, its gait strange as if the person were horribly drunk.

He could see the train now too. It was still too far away to see its features in any detail, but close enough to see that it was on the same track as the small, lurching figure. Mulder stopped. Putting one hand to each side of his mouth, he shouted at the figure to move off the tracks. There was no response, but it was quite possible that he was still too far away to be heard clearly. He began walking more quickly, picking up his pace and gesturing at the person who continued to move slowly toward him.

Not surprisingly, the first thing he recognized was her hair.

"Scully!" He called to her, his voice shaking with fear. She seemed to hear him this time, nearly toppling over as she staggered to a stop. There was something horribly wrong, and he began to run, rushing toward her as he watched her place a pale hand to her head, pulling it back to stare at the blood there.

The train was much closer now, roaring down the tracks toward her, whistle screaming. She didn't seem to hear it at all, but it appeared that she was aware of him as he ran toward her. As he got closer he could see that her face was covered in blood, her hand moving up shakily to wipe the dripping mess out of her eyes

His heart leaped into his throat. "Scully!" he screamed. "The train! It's coming behind you!"

"Mulder," she cried weakly. "I need help. Please, help me..."

He wasn't going to make it to her in time. The train was bearing down on her faster than he could possibly get there.

"Scully!" he screamed. "Move off the track!"

She held one arm out to him now, reaching for him. "Mulder!"

The train was so loud now, coming so fast, and he felt a hand on his arm restraining him, keeping him from getting to her in time...


What were they doing? Why were they trying to stop him from reaching her? He fought uselessly against the invisible hands, pulling away from them and then, suddenly, he was falling, hurtling through empty space to a place where everything was dark and cold.

He was bathed in sweat, his heart beating hard in his chest. He realized with overwhelming relief that the hands on him were Scully's, and he was in his own bed, safe. With Scully safe, here next to him. Just a bad dream.

But why could he still hear the train bearing down on them?

"Mulder?" She was so close to him that he could feel her breath against his face. "Mulder, please wake up! Something's wrong!"

He reached over and touched her face. The sound - it was still there - unbelievably loud, but what was it? Not a train.

"Scully? What the hell's going on?"

He could tell then that she was scared, grasping at him in the darkness. "It's them, Mulder." She spoke close to his ear so he could hear her. "Oh, God. They're here."

The Woods near Stowe, Vermont
October 14, 2000
1:00 a.m.

Not knowing what else to do, they lay close together, waiting out their fate as the huge ship passed overhead. The sky lit up very briefly only once, and the location of the explosion seemed to indicate that the cars had been found and destroyed.

The ship moved away, circling away to the south, then back toward them again until it finally disappeared to the east. The quiet was nearly deafening, the only light coming from the full moon through the window.

"Jesus." Mulder cupped Scully's cheek. She was still trembling. "Are you okay?"

"Yes," she said. "We should check on the others."

Skinner came through the front door as they moved into the main room. "The generator's not working. There's no reason why it shouldn't be, but it's dead. And there's nothing left of the cars."

"Why do you think they didn't blow the house up too?" Scully asked. "The passed over it more than once."

"The house is made completely of wood." Krycek, fully dressed and supported by Marita, appeared at the door to his room. "Because it's built into the hillside and surrounded by trees, we were protected. But don't think they won't be back. They're smart enough to know that if there are cars, there are people close by. We've got to get the hell out of here. Now."

"Both cars were destroyed," Mulder said.

With a grimace, Krycek pulled his jacket on. "Then we walk. More reason to get started as soon as possible."

"Walk?" Skinner shook his head in amazement. "You want to walk to the Canadian border? Through the mountains? It's late fall - freezing at night. In this part of the country, winter comes early. We had snow flurries last night."

Krycek moved slowly to the couch where he sat down with a grunt. Even in the pale moonlight, the perspiration on his face was clearly visible.

Skinner gaped at him. "Look at you. You can barely make it five feet from the bedroom. You really think you're going to be able to walk 50 miles?"

"If we've got another option, I'm listening," Krycek said.

"He's right." Scully moved close to Skinner. "We've got no choice. It's too dangerous to stay here."

"I'll keep up," said Krycek. "If I don't, you leave me behind."

"All right," said Mulder. "But if we're going to do this, let's do it right. There are topographical maps in the study and we've got all the camping equipment we can possibly use. We'll plan the easiest route and stick to a schedule every day. If the weather holds, we should be able to make it in a week."

"A week." Marita looked hard at the group. "Let's hope we're not too late."

Somewhere in Vermont
October 14, 2000
5:30 p.m.

The weather held the first day, and they began to make camp as dusk fell. Scully could sense Skinner's frustration at the slow pace they were keeping. Though Krycek was keeping up remarkably well, he was still weak from the blood loss and his equilibrium was a bit off with his only good arm strapped against his chest. They found it necessary to rest quite often.

She hated to admit it, even to herself, but Scully had been grateful for the frequent rest stops that day. She was still short of sleep, and had not packed the proper clothes for hiking in the mountains. She wore boots that were more fashionable than they were practical, and she could feel the blisters being rubbed raw with every step. Mulder had kept to his word about not coddling her, but he stayed close by, his hand on her arm when they traversed difficult parts of the narrow trail.

Shortly after dusk, they had their campsite set up. Having drawn the short straw, Skinner had responsibility for meal preparations the first day, and Scully helped him to collect kindling for the fire. In a fit of confidence, he handed her a single match before he moved down to a nearby stream to collect fresh water. By the time he returned, the fire was burning nicely, and he graced her with a small smile as he set the pot of water on the fire to boil.

"Nice job, Agent Scully."

"Thank you, sir. I never say no to a challenge." She smiled at him, reaching into her backpack and pulling out the first aid kit. She paused for a moment, watching him. "May I ask you a question?"

"Sure." He poured a package of dry soup into the pot, stirring it as it began to heat.

She looked toward a small green tent situated about 50 feet away. She moved close to him, not wanting to be overheard. "Do you really think we can trust them?"

"Honestly, Scully?" He was thoughtful for a moment. "I wish I knew. In my gut, I don't trust Alex Krycek any further than I can throw him. But here, in my head, I don't think we have any other choice."

She looked disappointed, and he smiled at her. "Not very comforting, is it? I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry, sir," she said, standing up. "I was just afraid that I was the only one." Clutching the first aid kit to her chest, she moved toward the tent they'd been discussing.

There were quiet voices coming from inside and she stood quietly for a moment, listening. Regretful that she couldn't understand what was being discussed and proud of her lack of guilt at the attempted eavesdropping, she cleared her throat. The whispering stopped suddenly, and the tent flap was zipped open.

"Agent Scully?" Marita looked like at her like she was a gate crasher.

She indicated the first aid kit in her arms. "I wanted to check the wound, and the bandage should be changed."

The flap opened wider to allow her entrance to the tent, and Marita stepped outside. "I'll go see if I can help with dinner."

Scully turned to look at Krycek, comfortably propped against his backpack. She eyed him with a clinical detachment she didn't really feel. "How's the shoulder?"

He moved it gingerly, testing the range of motion. "Seems a bit better, actually." He grimaced a little as he started to remove his shirt, and she moved to help him. "Scully...I want to thank you for what you did for me last night."

She pulled the shirt down off his shoulder and began to unwrap the soiled bandage. There was a little blood, but not enough to worry about. "I'm a doctor. It's nothing personal, believe me. I'd just as soon see you bleed to death."

Krycek smiled ruefully. "Look, Scully, I know you have no good reason to believe me, but we're on the same side."

"You're right," she said as she cleaned the wound. "I have no good reason to believe you."

Taping large pieces of gauze over the entrance and exit wounds, she began to wrap his shoulder in clean bandages. A small gasp escaped his lips as she lifted the arm to maneuver around him.

"Mulder believes me."

"He may believe you now, but that doesn't mean that he trusts you. Trust has to be earned." She handed him his shirt. "The wound looks fine. Try to keep it clean."

He reached out to her, taking her hand in his. "I want to earn that trust, Scully. From both of you."

Scully glared at him for a long moment until he released her hand. "Don't forget to take the antibiotics."

Gathering up the first aid supplies, she lifted the tent flap and was gone. A tiny smile on his lips, Krycek pulled his shirt on.

She wasn't sure what woke her. There was a tiny amount of light from the fire outside, but it was nearly black inside the tent. Mulder, sleeping peacefully, was curled around her. The air was cold, but when she reached up to her forehead there was a thin layer of sweat there, and the nausea, which had been blissfully absent for the past couple of days, was back with a vengeance. She took a deep breath, willing it away.

Everything was too close - the tent was too small, Mulder was wrapped too tightly around her. She couldn't breathe. Though some small part of her believed that if she just stayed still the sickness would be kept at bay, another more desperate part insisted that she get out into the fresh air before she was violently ill.

Extricating herself from Mulder, she crawled slowly to the entrance of the tent and let herself out into the cold night air. The moment she stood upright, she realized that the instinct to stay still had been the right one. She barely made it out of the campsite and into the privacy of the trees before she lost Skinner's carefully prepared dinner.

When her stomach was empty, she stayed there on her knees for a moment, concentrating on the small forest sounds as she willed herself to stop shaking. Carefully, she stood, moving to sit on a small outcropping of rocks. Pulling her knees to her chest, she wrapped her arms around them and closed her eyes.

The flashlight beam heralded Mulder's concerned arrival. "Scully?"

She looked up at him as he sat down close beside her. He'd brought her jacket and draped it over her shoulders.

"Are you feeling sick again?" he asked, as he brushed a strand of hair behind her ear.

"Understatement of the year," she said. "It's just...so weird. I'll be fine, and then it just hits me..."

He rubbed her back gently. "Can I get you something? Some water, or maybe a piece of bread?"

"No," she said, leaning her head against his shoulder. "Maybe when it passes. I'll be fine, Mulder. You should go back and get some sleep. I'll come in a few minutes."

"Scully, I'm not going to leave you alone out here when you're feeling so sick." He brushed his fingers through her hair, pulling it gently away from her face. "Would it help if I said something really cliche, like 'it will all be worth it in the end'?"

She smiled. "I don't think so, but thanks for the attempt." She took another deep breath and lowered her feet to the ground.

"Any better?" Mulder asked.

She nodded cautiously. "I think so, but I've been fooled before." She stood up, pulling her arms through the sleeves of her jacket. Mulder looked at her questioningly, and she nodded again, more confidently this time. "Okay. Just don't make any sudden moves."

They had begun to move slowly back toward the camp when she stopped short, her hand moving to cover her stomach. Mulder looked at her sympathetically, not sure if he should offer comfort or jump quickly out of the way.

"Oh my God, Mulder." She smiled at him. Reaching for his hand, she placed it over her swollen abdomen. "It's so weird. I just felt it move."

He was quiet as he stood there with his hand on her belly, wanting nothing more than to feel his child move, but there was nothing. He started to feel a little silly.

Scully frowned, disappointed. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I think it stopped."

Wrapped up in the moment, they didn't notice the figure who moved away toward the campground.

Krycek woke suddenly as the tent flap was unzipped. Marita, her eyes wild, sat down on her sleeping bag, a smile on her face as she looked at him.

"Whose canary have you swallowed?" he asked her.

"You're never going to believe this," she said. "This may be the answer we've been hoping for. Dropped right into our laps."

Krycek looked at her in the dim light. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"It's Scully," she said. "She's pregnant."

Somewhere in Vermont
October 18, 2000
11:40 a.m.

The snow started in earnest several days later. They had awoken to dark skies and cold temperatures that had been dropping consistently since the first day.

They broke camp early, hoping to make as much progress as they could before the weather turned bad. Negotiating overgrown mountain trails had made their pace frustratingly slow. They were on a particularly steep part of the trail that day, and they were all tired and irritable. Krycek had recovered almost completely and was back to a normal energy level, but Scully was keeping a close eye on Skinner, who hadn't been feeling well since early yesterday.

The trail was narrow, forcing them to walk single file. Krycek, who carried the map, was leading the way, with Skinner bringing up the rear. After several hours without a break, they stopped for food and a brief rest. Skinner couldn't restrain a bout of coughing, and Scully sat next to him, her gloved hand rubbing his back through the many layers of clothing.

"How are you feeling, sir?" she asked. She wasn't happy with the pallor of his skin or the layer of perspiration coating his face. She placed her hand on his cheek. "You feel warm. I think you may have a slight fever."

He smiled at her. "It's just a cold, Scully. I'll be fine."

"I know," she said, patting his shoulder reassuringly. Pulling a large bottle from the first aid kit, she shook three pills into her hand. "I just want you to take some aspirin now, so we can make sure your temperature doesn't get any higher."

He took the pills from her, washing them down with a swig of water. "Thanks, Doctor."

Replacing the kit into her backpack, she stood up. "Stay here and rest for a few minutes. I'll go get us some food."

Though they cooked hot food at night, their lunches consisted of the ready-to-eat meals Skinner'd had in storage at the log house. Mulder was unpacking them and handed one to Scully as she approached him. He smiled at her expression as she eyed the small package. He had to admit to feeling bad for her - the meals were nowhere near appetizing, and with her sensitive stomach she'd barely been able to look at the things.

"It's not Spago, but at least we haven't resorted to eating bugs yet." He handed her a fork.

"Small consolation, actually," said Scully. "At this point, the prospect of eating a bug is no less appealing than eating this stuff." She crouched down next to him. "I'm worried about Skinner. He's got a fever."

Mulder glanced over at Skinner, who was sitting propped on his backpack, his eyes closed. He looked back at Scully, concerned. "What do you think it is?"

"It might be nothing, maybe just the flu. I gave him some aspirin to try to keep the fever down, but he should be resting."

"What about the antibiotics?" Mulder asked.

"They won't do any good if it's a virus." She reached out for another of the meals. "I'll take him some food."

Looking up at the sky, Mulder sighed. "Rest might not be a problem. When those clouds break, we're going to have to make camp. It looks like a bad storm."

Scully reached out to squeeze his hand before she returned to Skinner.

The storm began slowly, starting as a light drizzle of rain. Soon after, the wind began to pick up, dropping the temperature drastically. The light rain turned into painful pellets of ice which nearly blinded them as they tried to make their way up the trail.

The dirt trail itself had become treacherous as it became slick first with mud, then with a light coating of ice. Carrying the heavy backpacks, it was nearly impossible to stay upright. Krycek, still in the lead, was the first to lose his footing, pitching backward directly into a startled Marita.

Holding tightly to Alex, her scream was nearly lost in the wind as they both started to slide down the hill. Instinctively, she reached one hand up toward Mulder. He managed to grab onto it, holding tight to the slippery wet leather of her glove. Krycek held on tightly to Marita, grimacing in pain as his injured shoulder was pulled.

Mulder's face was contorted with the effort it took not to let them slip away. He could feel Marita's fingers begin to slide through his, and as he reached out for a better grip he knew he wasn't going to be able to hold on for long.

Suddenly, Skinner and Scully were there, both on their bellies as they reached out to grab Marita's arm. Together, the three of them managed to pull the pair back onto the trail. They were all quiet for a moment, breathing hard and horribly frightened by what had nearly happened. Krycek reached out for Marita and held her tightly.

"We've got to get the to the top of this ridge so we can find a place to make camp!" Mulder had to scream to be heard over the wind.

The others nodded, and he reached back to take Scully's hand. "Test your footing before you take a step. It's slippery."

Grasping his hand tightly, she let him lead her up the trail. They moved slowly and carefully. Scully turned occasionally to check on Skinner, but he seemed to be having no problem keeping up. She could see the determination in his eyes.

After what seemed like hours, they reached the top of the ridge and were fortunate enough to find a small clearing. A large outcropping of rocks acted as a natural wind barrier, and they were able to get a fire started and the tents set up without incident.

Around dusk, the snow stopped suddenly. The air was freezing cold, but the clouds above them had thinned enough so that the stars could be seen poking through the haze.

It was Mulder's night to cook, and he was busy at the fire. Scully had insisted that Skinner get some rest before dinner. His fever didn't appear any worse, but she'd had him take some more aspirin before she left him alone in his tent.

It was too cold to sit still, and she moved into the trees to see if she could find some dry wood. Nearly everything was soaked through, but she'd found a few small pieces of kindling and had even come across a bush still containing a handful of blueberries. Popping a few into her mouth, she stopped for a moment, surveying the area for more. It was freezing - she couldn't seem to stop shivering and her breath was foggy in the icy air. Deciding that Mulder's campfire sounded much more inviting than a further blueberry search, she turned to go back to camp.

It was then that she heard the voices.

It was Marita's quiet voice that she heard first, then Krycek's, harsher and more insistent. They were having an argument.

Clutching the wood to her chest, Scully moved closer, concealing herself behind a large tree. She peeked out to see them some 20 yards away.

Marita was still, standing with her arms wrapped around her, her head down. An angry Krycek paced up and down beside her, his left arm immobile against his side while the right made expansive gestures in the air.

"Damn it, Alex," Marita said. She spoke quietly, and Scully strained to hear the words. "It's not right. If I'd known how you'd react, I never would have told you."

Krycek moved to her then, grasping her by the arm. "You said it yourself! It's the answer to everything, dropped right into our laps. We can save the world, Marita."

"My God." Marita gaped at him, laughing. "You don't give a damn about saving the world, Alex. It's all about the money to you. Where exactly are you going to spend it? There won't be anything left!"

"We can do both, Marita. What's wrong with saving the world and making a profit at the same time? It's the American way!" He reached up, caressing her cheek. "Since when did you go all soft on me, anyway? It's not like she'd be able to keep it under the best of circumstances."

"Jesus Christ, Alex," Marita gasped. " I never meant that we should take it from her. It's her baby!"

Scully clutched the wood tighter to her chest, her heart beating so hard that she was afraid they'd be able to hear it.

"And it will be the only human being on the planet with a natural immunity to the alien virus." He looked hard at Marita for a moment, then sighed, pulling her into his arms. "With the money we get, we'll be free of them. Finally free."

She pulled back, pacing for a moment before turning to look at him. "So what do we do now?" she asked.

"Nothing. We go along just as we have been. We can't let them know we're even aware of the pregnancy."

Dropping the wood to the ground, Scully fled. The tears in her eyes were nearly blinding, but she managed to make it far enough away so that they couldn't hear her when she threw up.

She stayed in the woods for a long time, watching the camp as Krycek and Marita returned, knowing that she couldn't go back until she'd pulled herself together. She tried to think of what to do, whether even to tell Mulder of what she'd learned. She needed time to think.

She heard Mulder call out that the food was ready, and he looked toward their tent when he didn't see her. She heard him calling her name, and she rose to return to the camp. Mulder would be worried when he couldn't find her.

She'd barely taken a step before the sound assailed her ears. Covering them with her hands, she fell to her knees, looking frantically through the trees in an attempt to determine where the deafening noise was coming from. The sudden movement brought the nausea crashing back, and she was immediately dizzy and disoriented. She remembered trying to call out for Mulder, knowing that she couldn't possibly be heard over the din, and then everything went black as she crumpled to the ground.

Somewhere in Vermont
October 19, 2000
8:45 a.m.

She was so cold that it hurt.

She sat up gingerly. She had a splitting headache and she was so cold that she couldn't make her fingers work correctly. She tucked them into her pockets and squinted up at the early morning sun.

What the hell had happened? She remembered sitting here last night, then the sudden noise and the horrible vertigo. Judging by the light, she'd been out for at least 12 hours. Why hadn't Mulder come looking for her? She was so close to...

Suddenly frightened, she turned to look at the camp. It was eerily quiet, and she moved toward it slowly, not knowing what to expect. The fire was out, though there was a small pile of wood lying next to it. The canned chili Mulder had been preparing had boiled away, leaving a thick black mess burned to the bottom of the pot.

A cold, empty feeling settled into her stomach as she moved to check the tents. One-by-one, she found them empty, nothing inside disturbed. Skinner's sleeping bag was open, as though he had climbed out. And gone...where?

She began to circle the campground, moving around the perimeter and out into the trees, looking for any sign of them. There was nothing. She sat down on the cold ground and wrapped her arms tightly around herself. They wouldn't have just left - Mulder would never have abandoned her.

Unless he didn't have a choice.

She pushed away thoughts of the sound she'd heard the night before and what it might mean. The truth of it was there, in the back of her head, but she couldn't bear to think about it. Surely, Mulder and the others were somewhere nearby, probably out looking for her. She'd stay put and wait for them to come back.

Moving back into the small campground, she put the burned pot aside and started a new fire. She sat down and was still for a long time, holding her icy hands out to the flames as they slowly thawed.

When the sun was high in the sky, she got up and ate some food. She hated every second of it and felt horribly sick to her stomach afterwards, but she managed to keep it down. When the nausea passed, she went into the forest in search of more firewood, and she was heartbroken to find the camp still empty and silent when she returned. She moved her tent into the trees, feeling more protected there than in the open clearing of the camp

The first night was the hardest. She'd gotten used to sleeping with Mulder wrapped around her, keeping her warm and safe. She was scared and lonely and pushed away thoughts that Mulder might be feeling the same way. It was too sad. She wouldn't think about the possibility of him not being alive. She worried about Skinner, who'd been ill. She wondered what she would do if they didn't come back tomorrow or the next day.

She refused to give up hope, and the following few days were spent much as the first, gathering firewood, forcing herself to eat. She walked around the camp several times in ever-widening circles, but still found no sign of any of them.

On the tenth day, there was a surprising warmth in the air and she washed her clothes and bathed herself in the icy cold stream near the camp. She was startled by her naked reflection in the water, bewildered by her own body. She barely recognized it as her own. Her normally small breasts seemed huge, and her belly had changed shape seemingly overnight - any sign of a waistline had disappeared. There'd be no hiding it anymore.

It made her desperately sad that Mulder wasn't here. Soon, the baby would be big enough that he'd be able to feel it move.

She went back to the camp and retrieved his clothes, washing them too so that they'd be clean and ready for him when he returned. She hung all the wet clothes on tree branches and the sun dried them before it fell into the western sky, the cold air returning immediately as the sky went dark. She folded the clothes and packed them away where they belonged, then climbed into Mulder's sleeping bag. She breathed deeply of the smell of him and cried herself to sleep.

On the morning of the 12th day, he came back.

Somewhere in Vermont
October 31, 2000
7:15 a.m.

She hadn't slept well since the others disappeared, and after spending another sleepless night she was finally dozing lightly. She wasn't too worried when she heard the first sound, and she remained wrapped in the sleeping bags, listening but refusing to open her eyes. Many times, she had woken in stark terror at some random noise and had been forced from her warm sleeping bag, only to find some small animal looking for food. She was almost too tired to care at this point.

Then the noise stopped, and she was afraid. It was no animal.

"Scully?" His voice was weak.

She sat up with a start, fully awake now. Oh, God. Was she dreaming?


Her heart was pounding as she flew out of the tent, and they just stood there, stupidly staring at each other for a moment before she thought to move toward him. As she got closer, she could see that something was terribly wrong. He had a tired smile on his face, but his color was a deathly gray. He reached out for her, and she barely reached him before he collapsed.

Somewhere in Vermont
November 2, 2000

She'd gotten him up long enough to get him inside the tent. He had a horrible fever, and she brought pans full of cold water from the stream to bathe him. She examined him thoroughly, and though he was covered with bruises, he seemed physically unhurt. Except for the sickness.

She'd had a real fight on her hands trying to bring his fever down, and he'd spent a horrible day and a half delirious with hallucinations. He didn't know her much of the time, but called out for her in his sleep, a sad keening wail as if his heart would break.

He was weak and listless when his fever finally broke, but that was to be expected. He'd smiled at her and eaten some soup, and he'd reached out for her hand afterward, running his thumb along her palm as he drifted back to sleep. He'd slept all night and most of the next morning.

She was heating water at the fire when she heard movement and looked up to see him move gingerly out of the tent. He stretched slowly and smiled at her.

"Mulder," she said, moving toward him and taking his arm. "You should stay in bed and rest."

"I need to be upright for awhile. Just for a few minutes."

She led him to the fire, and he sat with his back propped against a rock.

"How do you feel?" She poured tea into a cup and handed it to him.

He nodded, sipping the hot liquid carefully. "Horrible, actually, but that's a step up from how I felt before." He rubbed at one temple. "I've got a hell of a headache. I thought some fresh air might help."

"I'll get you some aspirin." She started to rise, but he grabbed her hand and pulled her back down to sit close to him.

"It can wait, Scully." He looked hard at her and reached up to brush the hair off her forehead. "Are you all right?"

She smiled at him. "I'm fine."

His hand moved from her face and he placed it against the roundness of her stomach. He looked at her in amazement. "How long was I gone, Scully?"

She took a deep breath. "Twelve days."

"Christ." He stared at his hand on her belly, then leaned in to kiss her. "Thank you for taking care of me."

"I'm glad you're feeling better." She squeezed his hand. "I'll get you those aspirin."

When she returned with the tablets, he was rubbing his temples with both hands. She handed him the pills and he swallowed them with the tea

"You should go and lie down, Mulder. Try and get some more sleep."

He nodded, his eyes screwed tightly shut. Concerned that the fever had returned, she felt his forehead, but it was cool and dry.

"The headache's really bad, isn't it?" She had stronger pain medication, but was afraid to give it to him in case he had a head injury she hadn't detected.

"I think I'll take your advice," he said, slowly getting to his feet. He swayed a little and Scully reached out to steady him, then returned with him to the tent, settling him under the blankets.

She sat next to him, rubbing his back gently, listening as his breathing evened out. "You'll feel better after you've gotten some sleep."

He was asleep within seconds.

It was still dark when she woke up. Mulder had slept through the rest of the day and evening. She'd stayed close to him all the time, fearing that he would relapse into fever again. Finally succumbing to exhaustion somewhere close to midnight, she'd laid down beside him.

Yawning, she reached for him, but his sleeping bag was empty.

She found him by the fire. He was sitting curled up into a ball, his fists pressed to the sides of his head, his breathing heavy as he rocked back and forth.

Terrified, Scully crouched down next to him and put her hand on his back. "Mulder?"

With tears in his eyes, he turned to look at her. His face was bathed in sweat. "Scully," he whispered, barely able to get the words out. "It hurts. I can't stand it..."

She ran to her pack, hands shaking as she removed her small flashlight and the first-aid kit. She was barely able to get the damned childproof lid off the bottle of Percodan tablets, and pills exploded everywhere when the top finally flew off. She hurried back to him and he took the tablet from her with shaking hands, swallowing it dry. He immediately started rocking again, his hands rubbing hard at his forehead.

Gently, she placed her hands on either side of his face. "Mulder, listen to me. I know it hurts, but I need you to look at me. Let me see your eyes."

Even this small attempt to focus was difficult for him. He groaned when the light hit his eyes, but she was satisfied that his pupils were equal and reactive. Turning off the flashlight, she fought her own tears, despondent to have to watch him suffer such agony.

A bowl of water she had used to wash in earlier sat close by, and she reached for it, dipping a cloth into the nearly-frozen water. She moved to sit close to him, holding the icy cloth against his forehead. "The medication should take effect fairly quickly," she promised, wrapping her arm across his back.

Dropping his head to her shoulder, he let her hold him, his breathing fast and shallow. She stroked the damp hair from his forehead, and he lay down, wrapping his arms tightly around her and laying his head in her lap. He continued to clutch at the pain and she stroked his face with the cloth, dipping it again and again in the cold water.

Finally, after what seemed endless hours, he fell asleep. She sat there for several more hours with his head resting in her lap, afraid that moving him would reawaken the pain. She racked her brain, thinking of all the horrible explanations for the cause of such severe pain. Any number of possible diagnoses ran through her brain, from infection to a brain tumor, and God only knew what had happened to him since he'd disappeared from camp. He needed to be tested in a hospital. And that, clearly, was not going to happen in the near future.

Finally, just as the sun was rising, he woke. Turning his head so that he could look up into her face, he smiled sleepily.

"Hey," she said, smiling back. "You look like you're feeling better."

He didn't say anything for a moment, then rose gingerly to sit up next to her. "I do feel better. I feel good, actually. How long did I sleep?"

"A few hours." She stretched a little, grimacing at the feel of her cramped muscles.

"I'm sorry, Scully," he said, concerned. "I kept you up all night."

"It's all right," she said, reaching out to stroke his face. "It's worth it to see you looking so much better. How's your head?"

He moved it a little on his neck, testing. "It's fine. The headache's completely gone. You cured me."

"I don't know about that," she said. "I want you to take it easy today, Mulder. A headache that severe could be the sign of something serious."

"I'll make a deal with you," he said, standing. He reached out for her hand and helped her up. "I'll take it easy today if you'll go get some sleep."

"Mulder, I -"

He put a finger against her lips. "Please, Scully. You've gone a long time without enough sleep. I know you don't want me to fuss about it, but you need to take care of yourself."

She sighed, admitting to herself that he was right. "Come with me, then."

He nodded, taking her hand and leading her back to the tent. She climbed into her sleeping bag, and he lay next to her, pulling her close so that her head rested on his chest.

"What happened to you, Mulder? Where were you for all those days?"

Mulder sighed. "I remember the sound. I didn't know where you were, and I was frantic, calling for you, but it was so loud..." He embraced her more tightly. "There were bright lights. I remember seeing Skinner come out of his tent, and then...the next thing I remember, I was walking into the camp, calling for you. I was afraid you weren't here and I'd never find you."

"You were gone for so long, Mulder." She spoke softly, her voice shaking a little. He kissed the top of her head. "I kept looking for you. I looked every day, for hours sometimes, but I couldn't find any sign of what happened to you. Or to the others."

She was crying then, and he reached down to brush a tear from her cheek. "When I first walked into the camp, I thought I'd only blacked out for a few minutes, maybe an hour at the most. Then I saw your face, and I knew."

She looked up at him, a hand on his stubbled cheek. "Your beard hadn't grown. It's grown since you came back, but you were clean shaven." She tucked her head close under his chin and closed her eyes. "Why do you think the others didn't come back? Skinner was sick..."

"Shh," he whispered, rubbing her arm. "Sleep now, Scully. We'll find them. I promise."

Somewhere in Vermont
November 4, 2000
4:15 p.m.

It was late afternoon when she woke up and she panicked for a moment when she looked over to find Mulder gone. She smelled food cooking, though, and lay back down, listening for a few moments while he prepared food. A moment later, the tent flap opened, and she looked up to see him crouched there.

"Hey, sleepy head," he said, smiling. He sat next to her and held out a steaming cup of tea. "This is for you. I've got some warm water outside so you can wash, and dinner will be ready in about half an hour."

Sitting up, she took the cup from him. "Mulder, you shouldn't be doing so much - "

"It's okay," he said. "I feel really great. And it's about time I got to take care of you for a change."

She reached up, running a hand along his cheek. "You shaved," she said, smiling. Leaning forward, she kissed him, slow and gentle. It was the first kiss she could remember them sharing that was completely comfortable - without embarrassment or self- consciousness. It went on and on, and then they held each other for a long time.

It was Mulder who pulled back first, and he cupped her cheeks with his hands, looking deep into her eyes. "I love you, Scully," he said, and he smiled, a big smile she hadn't seen for a very long time.

Early the next morning, they began to pack. They'd talked about what to do while eating dinner the night before, and Mulder had been anxious for them to get moving. They'd been lucky with the weather - they'd only had one bad storm so far, but as the days passed and winter loomed closer it was unlikely that their luck would hold out for much longer.

They carried what they could and the rest was packed carefully away in the shelter of the rocks. If any of the others returned, they would have shelter and supplies.

Mulder's intention was to stick with the original plan and head for the compound. Scully hadn't told him yet of the conversation she'd overheard, and though she was fairly certain the real danger was the presence of Alex Krycek, the thought of going to the compound terrified her.

The hike seemed much more difficult than when they'd first started out several weeks before. Mulder was doing remarkably well after having been so ill, but they'd been inactive for some time and were moving uphill carrying heavy packs. By the time they reached the crest of an exceptionally brutal incline, Scully thought her back would break. They removed their packs long enough to eat and take a few moments rest, then started out again.

It was early November now and the days were getting shorter. By 3:00 there were tiny snowflakes floating around them, and the sky was a dusky gray. They began to look for a likely place to camp when they came across the small cabin.

Mulder whooped with joy at the sight of it, and a quick search revealed that the place had been empty for quite some time. It was dusty, but plastic sheets covered the few pieces of furniture and things were reasonably clean underneath. There was no electricity or running water, but there was a stream close by and an outhouse several hundred feet from the cabin.

They settled in quickly. Mulder found a large store of firewood and they soon had a roaring fire going in the fireplace. The room warmed up almost immediately and cast the room in a cozy, comfortable glow. Several trips to the stream had supplied the water that now heated in a large metal tub, and Scully was frying up two fish that she had managed to pull out of the water with a fishing pole they'd found in the closet. It had been a long time since they'd eaten anything that hadn't come from a can or package, and the smell was mouth-watering.

After dinner, they took turns bathing each other in the warm water, then pulled cushions off the old sofa, piling them on the floor so they could stretch out in front of the fire. Scully lay flat on her back, and Mulder watched her as she absently ran her hand back and forth across her swollen belly. She was very obviously pregnant now, and he quietly worried about the how difficult it might get for her before they reached their destination. At the rate they were going, it could be many more days before they reached the compound. If they found it at all.

She'd been quiet for a long time, staring into the flames.

"Scully?" Propped on one elbow, he reached over to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "What's wrong?"

"I've been thinking," she said, sitting up and turning to face him straight on. "I don't think we should go to the compound, Mulder."

He frowned at her, confused. "Why not?"

She just looked at him for a long moment, biting her bottom lip. "Because I'm afraid something terrible will happen if we go there."

The whole story came out then - the conversation between Krycek and Marita, the fear that the baby would be taken from her and sold to the highest bidder, the knowledge that the child's blood might be the key to winning the battle against the Colonists. She was dry- eyed but trembling when she finished talking, and Mulder pulled her into his arms.

"Jesus, Scully. Why didn't you tell me this before?"

"I don't know." She buried her head against his neck. "I didn't know what to do."

"Scully," he said, rubbing her back. "You can't keep things from me. When you're afraid, or hurt, or sick, you have to tell me. We have to help each other."

"I know. I'm sorry." She sighed deeply, relaxing into his arms. "What are we going to do?"

There was a long pause before he spoke. "We have no choice, Scully. We've got to go to the compound."

She sat up then, looking at him in horror. "Didn't you hear anything I just said? I -"

"Scully, listen," he said, grabbling at her hands. "Before we left Skinner's cabin, I was able to get word to the Gunmen. If they were able to get out of the city, they may already be there, waiting for us. We'll be careful. We won't go in until we find out exactly what's going on there."

"But how will we do that?"

"I don't know," he said solemnly, "but we'll figure it out when we get there. I promise you, Scully, I won't let anything happen to you or the baby. If it's too dangerous, we'll move on - find someplace else." He kissed her hand. "Trust me."

She closed her eyes and rubbed a hand across her face. Sighing, she opened them again and looked at him, nodding. "You know I do."

Somewhere in Vermont
November 5, 2000
12:20 a.m.

She hadn't been too concerned when he first got up to take the aspirin. He'd been feeling fine, they'd had a long hard day and a headache wasn't an unusual symptom considering the altitude. He'd taken the pills and then returned to lie beside her. Assuring her that he was fine, he wrapped himself around her and they'd fallen asleep in front of the fire.

She woke several hours later to the sound of his footsteps. He was just a shadow in the dim light of the fire, but she could see him walk over to the window and look out at the darkness. Hearing him sigh quietly, she watched as he put a hand to his head before moving to one of the hard-backed kitchen chairs. Propping his elbows on the table, he pressed his fists to his temples.

She came up quietly and put a hand on the back of his neck. "What is it, Mulder? Another headache?"

"God, Scully," he looked at her, the pain evident in his eyes. "I'm sorry. I didn't want to wake you."

"Did you take a Percodan?"

He nodded as he pressed the heel of his right hand to his forehead. "Half an hour ago. It's not helping."

"Where exactly is the pain, Mulder?" Feeling helpless, she ran her hands along his head, wondering if she could have missed something when she'd examined him previously.

"It's all over. It starts here, at my temples, and then spreads until my whole head feels like it's in a vice." He grimaced, sweat beading on his forehead. "Oh, Jesus..."

He rose from the chair and began pacing back and forth. Stopping suddenly, he leaned over, hands on his knees, twisting his head back and forth in an effort to relieve the terrible pain. Scully moved toward him, but he bolted past her, nearly knocking a chair over in his rush to get outside where he retched violently until there was nothing left in his stomach.

Guiding him back inside, Scully filled a glass with water and handed it to him. "Here, rinse your mouth out with this."

He barely managed it, the pain so intense now that it took every ounce of energy he could muster just to stand upright. She led him back to the kitchen chair, then dipped a small dishcloth in the cool water. She managed to pry his hands away from his forehead long enough to place the cloth there, and he grabbed onto it, pressing it hard into his skull.

"I can't take it, Scully." His voice came out in a grunt. "It hurts so much."

Moving to stand behind him, she dug her thumbs hard into the taut muscles of his neck, massaging in tiny circles from his shoulders up to the base of his skull. He groaned, but leaned back hard against her.

"Tell me if it's too hard," she said. "I don't want to hurt you."

"No," he whispered. "You won't hurt me."

He grabbed her hands then, guiding them until they were wrapped around the top of his head. She pressed her fingers in hard, moving them back and forth through his sweat-dampened hair. He moaned, moving his head a little to give her better access.

"Please, Scully," he groaned. "More. Press harder."

She rubbed hard in big circles over his forehead and at his temples, then back again across his scalp until her fingers ached. He laid his head down atop his folded arms, and she massaged his neck again, kneading the skin there until it was red, moving down to massage the tight muscles of his shoulders.

He was quieter now and his breathing had slowed a bit.

"Is it any better?" she asked.

"Yes," he whispered. "Thank you. It's getting better now." He raised his head from the table, picking up the cloth to wipe the sweat from his face.

Scully moved to stand next to him, brushing the damp hair from his forehead. He looked up at her, then put his arms around her, pulling her close and pressing his head against her belly.

"Thank you," he said quietly.

She ran her fingers through his hair. "Mulder, have you ever had headaches like this before? Migraines, maybe?"

He shook his head. "Nothing like this. Never anything this intense." He wrapped his arms more tightly around her. "Do you think they did something to me?"

"If they did, we'll find a way to fix it." She continued to run her fingers through his hair in an attempt to soothe him, stopping when she felt a tiny bump behind his left ear. "Mulder, what's this?" The spot was warmer than the skin surrounding it.

He reached up to feel it. "I don't know. Maybe something bit me."

"Does it itch?"

"No." He looked up at her then, concerned. "What do you think it is?"

"I don't know," she said, moving to pull the flashlight from her pack.

It was like she'd been punched in the stomach when she found the tiny scar, the skin around it slightly inflamed with the beginnings of infection. She stared at it a long time, horrified by what it might mean.

"What is it, Scully?"

"I'm not sure, Mulder. There's a very tiny scar. It looks like two very small stitches."

"My God," said Mulder, rubbing his finger across it. "It's an implant, isn't it?"

"I don't know..."

"I've never had stitches there, Scully." He stood up, walking the few feet to her pack to retrieve the first aid kit. Handing it to her, he sat back in the chair. "Take it out."

"Mulder - "

"Please, Scully," he begged, reaching for her hands. "I don't want to walk around with that thing in my head. I can't take another one of these headaches. Please."

"But Mulder," she said. "What if taking it out makes things worse? We both know what could happen..."

"I'll take my chances," he said, his eyes looking hard into hers. "I can't live like this."

She nodded, reaching up to caress his cheek. "Okay."

It took no more than a moment to remove the tiny implant from just under the surface of the skin. She wasn't equipped to do stitches, but closed the tiny wound with butterfly bandages, then covered it with a small piece of gauze.

"There was some infection. I put antiseptic on it, but I want you to start on some antibiotics tonight. We'll need to change the bandage in the morning." She moved to sit next to him.

He nodded. "Let me see it."

It was extremely small, no larger than the point of the tiny scalpel. Mulder stared at it for a long moment, then carried it over to the fireplace and tossed it into the flames. Scully joined him there, taking his hand as they both stared into the fire.

"Thank you." He looked horribly sad.

"Maybe it wasn't meant to do harm. It may have malfunctioned because of the infection..."

He didn't look up. "Maybe."

"We should try and get some sleep." Scully said, her voice gentle. "We've got a long day ahead of us tomorrow."

He nodded, still staring at the flames, and allowed her to pull him into the small bedroom.

Somewhere in Vermont
November 10, 2000

The next few days were spent in a frustrating attempt to cover as much ground as possible. The weather grew colder with each passing day, and they spent the nights huddled together against the chill. It had snowed twice - large, wet snowflakes that melted as they hit the ground but soaked their clothes, making it impossible to stay warm.

Though Scully watched him carefully for any sign of illness, Mulder's headaches hadn't returned. They were both exhausted, however, and Scully's fear increased as they drew closer to their destination.

The first sign of the compound came five days after they'd left the little cabin. It was the smell that reached them first - their view from the top of a rise revealed the smoke billowing high into the air. They were too far away to be able to tell if the whole area had been destroyed, but the fire appeared enormous.

It was another day before they reached it, with yet another wet snow falling that had nearly managed to put the fire out. It appeared that the entrance had been camouflaged with heavy brush, but it had been burned completely away. The snowflakes sizzled as they hit the still-smoking embers. The huge metal door stood open, and they dropped their packs and brandished their weapons before approaching it.

Mulder went first, his flashlight beam revealing a steep set of stairs leading underground. Light wisps of smoke rose up through the entrance.

He turned to look at Scully. "It's still pretty smoky. Maybe you should wait out here."

She shook her head. "I'm going with you. If it's too bad, we both come out."

Mulder nodded and turned, placing his foot on the first step.

The Compound
Vermont - near the Canadian Border
November 10, 2000
4:30 p.m.

Scully counted 150 steps down. It was pitch dark at the bottom, their flashlights able to do no more than send a small column of light so that they could find their way. They walked for a long time down an empty corridor, every step sending an echo that seemed to go for miles.

Doors began to appear on each side of the corridor, many of them standing open to reveal sleeping quarters that had been abandoned in great haste.

They continued along for what seemed like miles. The concrete walls were cracked in spots, and the floor was littered with debris. An endless series of corridors branched off from the main one, all of which contained what appeared to be more of the small bedrooms.

"You could accommodate the population of a small city down here," Scully said. "What do you think happened?"

Mulder shook his head. "I don't know. It looks like there might have been an explosion." He shone his light around the next corner, and the flashlight's reflection against a large pair of glass doors nearly scared him to death.

Most of the glass lay shattered on the ground in front of the doors, which stood slightly ajar. Their feet crunched noisily as they approached, and the remaining glass fell out with a huge crash as Mulder pulled one of the doors open.

"So much for stealth," he said.

The room they entered was enormous. Hundreds of computer terminals were lined up facing a gigantic video screen that had been smashed to bits. Computer equipment was scattered everywhere, and books and papers littered the floor. Jackets and sweaters hung from the backs of chairs and cups of coffee, now layered with dust, sat abandoned on desks. The remains of small glass-paneled offices sat at the back of the room, the desks inside strewn with broken glass and toppled computers.

They continued through the room, their footsteps the only sound in the huge empty space. Scully nearly tripped over a huge book that had apparently been torn from its shelf. She shoved it away with her foot.

"What do you think happened to them all?" she asked. A sudden chill ran down her spine and she shivered. "Do you think they were all taken?"

"Scully, look at this." Mulder motioned her over to one of the few computer consoles still standing upright. His flashlight shone on the small desk, and she could see a can of Coke lying on its side, the contents spilled across the keyboard.

She looked at him. "Okay, that's interesting, but I thought you were an ice-tea man, Mulder."

"Not that," he said, moving his flashlight back a little to reveal the chair pushed up tight against the desk. A piece of black fabric lay across the back of the chair and she reached to pick it up, gasping as she realized exactly what it was.

A Ramones t-shirt.

It was Scully who saw the tiny letters first, written in black ink on the big white letter "R":


"M/S?" She looked up at Mulder. "Mulder and Scully?"

"They knew we were on our way here." He began to move his flashlight across the floor. "And if we can find a map, I think we can figure out the rest of it."

"Wait a minute!" Hurrying over to the large book she'd nearly tripped over, she bent down to examine it more closely. It was a huge bound book of topographical maps, and it was opened to their current location. They lifted the heavy volume onto a nearby desk.

Mulder's fingers moved quickly across the page. "It's across the border in Canada, near Lake of the Woods. Looks to be about 30 miles from here."

Scully sighed. "I don't suppose they left a set of car keys lying around."

"No such luck." Mulder tore the page from the book and folded it up, placing it in his pocket. "I don't think it's safe to stay here much longer. Let's see if we can replenish our food supply and get some distance away from here before we find a place to make camp."

Canada - Near the Border
November 14, 2000
12:20 p.m.

Considering the difficult terrain they were traveling, they made good progress over the next few days. The weather changed for the better and they were met with two days of warmer temperatures. Stopping only for brief breaks and sleeping only during the darkest hours, they traversed nearly twenty miles in two days.

Though Scully would never admit it to Mulder, the pace they were keeping was taking its toll on her. She forced herself onward by dreaming up fantasies of the wonderful things that might be waiting for them at the end of their journey. She didn't dare hope for too many comforts, but a comfortable bed, a hot shower and clean clothes would be heaven. She wasn't really much of a meat-eater, but she thought a big, juicy steak kept popping into her head.

She blamed the meat thing on the pregnancy.

According to the topographical map they carried, the steep rise they were climbing would be the most difficult part of this last leg of their journey. They moved at a steady pace, one Scully was finding more and more difficult to maintain. She had convinced herself that she could keep up, but the heavy pack was agony on her back and her legs were aching with the constant uphill walk. By the time they stopped for lunch, she was exhausted and the nausea she had thought long since gone had returned with a vengeance.

They found a small clearing to stop in, and Mulder dropped his pack, opening it to search for something they could eat as a quick lunch.

Thinking about lunch, or food in general, was the last straw for Scully. Certain she was about to be sick if she moved too quickly, she paused for a moment, one hand flat against a tree to steady herself. She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths to try and stay the nausea.

"Scully?" Mulder moved quickly to her side, concerned. Her face was deathly pale and damp with perspiration. He unstrapped the pack from around her waist and lifted it off her shoulders. Already feeling unsteady, the loss of the pack threw her off balance, and she would have fallen if Mulder hadn't caught her around the waist.

"Come on, Scully," he said. "Let's sit down."

"Give me a second." Her voice was barely more than a whisper. She closed her eyes again and leaned against him as another wave of dizziness passed over her. "Damn it. I'm sorry. I really need to lie down."

"It's all right," he said, leading her slowly to a large rock, where he eased her slowly down. When he was sure she wouldn't topple over, he grabbed the sleeping bag from his pack and lay it flat on the ground. Taking her hands, he helped her lie atop the fabric. She immediately turned onto her side, drawing her legs up so that she was curled into a little ball.

Mulder sat down beside her and rubbed her back gently. "What can I do, Scully? Do you want some water?"

"No," she whispered, reaching out for his hand. "I'll be fine. I just need to rest for a few minutes."

"I'm sorry," he said. "I should have insisted that we take more breaks. This has been too hard on you."

She didn't open her eyes, but two small lines appeared between her eyebrows as she frowned. "No." Her voice was barely audible. "I can keep up."

She was asleep within minutes.

Feeling terribly guilty, Mulder watched her sleep for a little while. He was angry at himself, knowing that he should have paid more attention to how she was doing, should have noticed that she was having a hard time. She had never complained, convincing him that the pregnancy wouldn't slow her down, and he was ashamed for being so zealous in his daily desire to cover as much ground as possible.

Making a decision, he got up and began to set up their tent. They were going to take a little break. The loss of a half-day couldn't possibly mean much in the grand scheme of things.

Canada - Near the Border
November 14, 2000
5:05 p.m.

She slept for the better part of four hours, wrapped up safe and warm in their sleeping bags. The sun was already disappearing through the trees when she woke up, and though she still felt as if she could sleep for a month straight, the nausea and dizziness had passed.

She could smell the campfire burning and heard the crunch of dried leaves under Mulder's feet as he worked to prepare their dinner. She lay quietly and watched him for awhile, grateful beyond words that he was there with her.

"Something smells good," she said, her voice heavy with sleep.

He started at the sound of her voice, then smiled as he moved to sit beside her. "You look better. How are you feeling?"

"Better," she said. "Tired."

"Well, just stay where you are. I'll bring you dinner in bed. Not that the dinner or the bed are anything to write home about." He ran the back of his hand across her cheek. "Think you can stomach some soup? It's got all the vitamins a growing body needs."

Scully placed a hand on her swollen abdomen. "Growing body is right." She stared at the fire for a moment. "I'm sorry, Mulder. We lost most of a day."

"Don't be sorry. It was my fault. I was pushing too hard. We're just taking a little break today, and we'll take tomorrow off too if we feel like it." He looked at her, his expression serious. "We haven't got that much further to go now. We can take it slower and still be there before it gets too much colder."

"What happens if we can't find the Gunmen, Mulder? We can't keep going like this once winter comes." She shuddered, pulling the sleeping bag up over her shoulders.

"We'll worry about that when it happens." He stroked her face. "Don't worry, Scully. We're going to be okay. All three of us."

Canada - Near the Border
November 15, 2000
4:30 p.m.

Scully was feeling much better the next morning, and it was decided that they would proceed, albeit at a much slower pace. She had reluctantly agreed that she had no choice but to accommodate the changing needs of her body. Her own health, and the baby's, were more important than her deep-seeded need to prove that she could keep up the same pace as Mulder.

Before leaving that morning he had nearly emptied her backpack, stuffing as much of the contents as he could into his own pack. The lighter load helped considerably, and with the extra rest she'd gotten she felt stronger than she had in several days.

Though the sky was a bright blue, the air had turned crisp and cold reminding Scully of playing football in the park with her brothers and the exciting feeling that came when the holidays were about to start. It was hard to believe the horrible things that were going on beyond this beautiful, quiet place. She worried about the stories they would hear when they finally came across other people. She worried about her mother and her brothers, and about Skinner.

She wondered if Krycek was still alive.

Their first sight of Lake of the Woods came in the late afternoon. Surrounded by mountains, it lay nestled in a small valley a mile or so below them. The sun was in just the right spot to send a slight reflection off the water, and it sparkled in the late afternoon light. There was no obvious sign of people or structures, but they had decided earlier that they would do a little surveillance of the situation before making their presence known.

The lake was surrounded by a thick expanse of trees, and they stopped to conceal themselves behind an outcropping of rocks. Mulder pulled a pair of binoculars from his pack and examined the area carefully, searching back and forth several times. He shook his head as he passed the binoculars to Scully.

"I don't see any sign of life at all." He sounded disappointed as he reached into his pocket to pull out the crumpled map.

"You think we're in the wrong place?"

"No," he lied. She gave him a look that just dared him to continue with the coddling. "Okay, I'm possibly a little concerned that maybe we pulled the wrong map and this wasn't where Langly was trying to send us at all."

"I don't think so," Scully said, raising the glasses again to continue her perusal of the lake, watching for any sign of movement. "That map book was right there where we'd trip over it. And it was open to that page."

His forehead was creased in concentration as he examined the map, and she slid down to sit next to him.

"Look at it this way, Mulder. If this is the right place, it's well hidden. There's no obvious sign of anything." She placed a hand on his arm. "If this is the right place, we'll be safe here."

He smiled at her. "I'm impressed with your optimism, Scully. It's not like you."

"It's part of the new leaf I'm turning over. If I have to believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life, which would be a little tough to argue at this point, I may as well go all the way..."

"Only if I can join you, Agent Scully." The sound of the strange voice was so unexpected that they both went for their guns instinctively.

The small man who'd come up quietly behind them raised both hands in the air in mock horror. "That's no way to greet the welcome wagon. You'll get a bad reputation with the neighbors."

Smiling, Mulder lowered his gun. "Frohike, you're a sight for sore eyes."

Scully smiled and rose to give him a big hug. "I never thought I'd say this, Frohike, but I've never been so glad to see anybody in my entire life."

He blushed a deep crimson. "I never thought I'd say this to you, but thanks for not blowing my head off just now."

Scully patted him on the shoulder. "You're welcome."

Frohike reached down and lifted her pack up over one shoulder. "Let's go. Langly and Byers are going to freak when they see you."

"Now there's something I'm looking forward to seeing," Mulder said, smiling. "Lead on, Melvin."

Lake of the Woods
The Village
November 15, 2000

They were not disappointed with the enthusiastic welcome they received from the other two Gunmen. They had been concerned when they arrived at the compound, certain that Mulder and Scully would be there waiting for them. When they still hadn't arrived after several more days had passed, they expected the worst while hoping for the best.

There were far fewer people here than they expected, but they were amazed by the small community that had sprung up under the trees. The attack on the compound hadn't been unexpected, and though there had been hundreds of people living and working there, only a small portion moved on to their current location. The rest scattered in smaller groups to other locations across the country. Everything had been carefully planned ahead of time, locations like this one chosen because of their isolation and effective camouflage from objects flying overhead.

Lake of the Woods had been a small, fashionable resort in its day. From the current state of the buildings, however, it appeared to have seen better times, though it was quaint and cozy in its own way. There was a large wooden lodge, and several dozen small cabins were scattered among the huge pine trees.

The three men, who seemed reluctant to let them out of their sight for too long, led Mulder and Scully to one of these. The cabin wasn't large, but it was spotlessly clean. Frohike set to work lighting a fire in the large fireplace while Langly and Byers gave them a quick tour, opening doors to reveal a comfortable bedroom and bath, and a small study which contained a desk and a large bookcase lined with dozens of books. The kitchen was small, but a large window made it cheerful and sunny. On top of the small dining table sat a vase with a rather lopsided bouquet of fresh flowers. The sight of it brought tears to Scully's eyes.

Hearing muttered curses from the living room, Byers and Mulder moved to help Frohike, who was struggling with a stubborn fireplace flue. Langly watched Scully's tearful contemplation of the flowers for a moment, then stepped into the kitchen, opening the refrigerator to reveal that it was fully stocked with food.

"You should have everything you need for a few days," he said. "We thought you might like to rest tonight, and we'll take you to meet the others tomorrow."

Scully shook her head in amazement. "Langly, this place, and the flowers..." she brushed away a tear that had managed to escape. "It's beautiful. Thank you."

Langly was immediately embarrassed. "We're...I'm just glad you made it here all right. We were worried about you, with the baby and all..."

Scully smiled. "We made it, thanks to you." Remembering something, she moved toward her pack. "Which reminds me. I have something that belongs to you."

Returning to the kitchen, she handed him the Ramones t- shirt, the tiny handwritten message still visible on the front. Langly grinned, accepting the shirt from her.

"Thanks," he said, touched. He held the shirt at arm's length, staring at the tiny letters he had written there. "That was a hell of a concert."

Lake of the Woods
The Village
November 15, 2000
7:10 p.m.

Though she eyed the bathtub with longing, Scully felt too grubby to sit in a tub of water and opted for a more thorough removal of the grime by standing under the spray of a hot shower. Though she'd intended the shower to be short so that Mulder could take a turn, she couldn't seem to pull herself away and stood for a long time with her eyes closed, letting the hot water relax her tired muscles. When she finally stepped out, she could hear the comforting crackle of wood burning in the living room fireplace.

An occasional clanking of dishes told her that Mulder was working in the kitchen. He'd been like a kid in a candy shop as he looked through the refrigerator and the various cupboards. Scully was surprised at how much he enjoyed cooking - it was a talent he'd rarely displayed before. She was beginning to realize, though, that it was the small, everyday things that sometimes meant the most.

She rolled her eyes at the thought, imagining herself in one of those sappy greeting card commercials. Had to be the uncontrollable hormones raging through her body.

Pulling a towel off the rack, she began to rub her hair dry, stopping in mid-rub as she caught sight of herself in the mirror. She stared for a long moment, a small gasp of surprise escaping when she turned to see herself in profile. She was suddenly, undeniably, inarguably, hugely pregnant. For the first time, the inevitability of it hit her like a ton of bricks. She was going to give birth, probably here in the middle of nowhere, with no hospital for hundreds of miles. There was apparently some sort of a doctor here, but she didn't know anything about him. How could she trust anyone? How could they trust that the baby would be safe? What if the Colonists came and they had to leave this place?

What if something happened to Mulder?

"Scully?" There was a soft knock on the door and she realized that she'd been standing there for a long time. She was still soaking wet and shivering in the cool air. Quickly reaching for a towel, she wrapped it tightly around her body.

The bathroom door opened slightly. "Scully? Are you okay?"

"I'm okay," she said, opening the door wide. Giving Mulder an unconvincing smile, she clutched the towel tighter around herself, wishing for the big, comfortable white bathrobe that she'd left hanging on her bathroom door in Georgetown.

"I knocked several times," he said. "Is everything all right?"

"I'm sorry," she said. "I know I took too long. I don't think I used up all the hot water." Trying not to meet his eyes, she hurried past him into the bedroom.

Clearly something was wrong, and he stood there for a moment, not sure of what to do. Returning to the kitchen, he opened the refrigerator and stared into it for a moment, finally reaching for a glass and filling it with the frozen lemonade he'd prepared. Moving back into the hallway, he knocked lightly on the door before entering the bedroom.

Dressed in a sweater and jeans, Scully sat cross-legged at the foot of the bed, tears running down her cheeks. Embarrassed, she lowered her head as she brushed them away.

Placing the glass of lemonade on the dresser, Mulder moved quietly, crouching down in front of her in a futile attempt to see her face. "What's wrong, Scully? Are you sick?"

Angrily wiping tears away, she shook her head.

"What, then?" He sat down next to her. "Please tell me what's wrong."

"It's stupid." She made a lame attempt to smile at him while the tears continued to fall. "I don't know what's wrong with me. I just had a stupid little freak-out in the bathroom, and then..."

"What, Scully?" "I came in here to get dressed. I had one last pair of clean pants..." Standing, she reached down and lifted the hem of her oversized sweater.

The jeans fit perfectly up to a point. The trouble started with the zipper, which gaped open, her swollen belly now too large to squeeze into the slim-fitting pants.

Mulder stood, reaching for her. "But, Scully..."

She dropped the hem of her sweater, her hands covering her abdomen. "I'm huge, Mulder. I've got months to go and I'm already out of my clothes." She sat down on the bed again, shaking her head in disbelief. "How can I have a baby out here?"

He sat next to her, close but not quite touching.

"It's okay to be scared, Scully. Truth be told, I'm completely terrified by the whole thing." He put a hand on her belly. "And you're not huge. You're beautiful. You look just like you're supposed to."

With a groan, she lay back on the bed, arms stretched overhead. "God, this is so ridiculous. I'm just being stupid. I should be happy that I'm pregnant - and I am. Truly. I'm glad that the baby's growing like it should be and that I can feel it moving inside me. I mean it - it's amazing."

Stretching out next to her, Mulder supported his head on one hand, the other reaching to brush the tears from her face.

She sighed deeply. "But I don't understand how it could be. And I'm afraid to be happy."

"Oh, Scully," Mulder said, his hand cupping her cheek. "Maybe we'll never understand. Maybe it truly is just a miracle. But it's our miracle, Scully. Yours and mine. This baby growing inside you is our child, and I'll die before I let anything happen to him. Or to you."

Scully smiled a little then, and rolled on her side to face him. "You said him. It could be a girl, you know."

Mulder grinned. "I could live with that. Yeah, a girl would be very cool."

Scully's face grew serious again. "But what kind of a life will she have? What if we can never go home?"

"She'll have a wonderful life, with two parents who love her more than anything in the world." He ran his hand through the damp strands of her hair, tucking it behind her ear. "We'll make a home for her, and for ourselves. It doesn't matter where it is, as long as we're together."

"So everything really could turn out just fine, couldn't it?" she asked, some glimmer of her old determination returning to her face.

"Everything really will be fine, Scully," he said, reaching out to rub his hand gently over her belly. "You just worry about this. I'll take care of worrying about everything else, okay?"

Nodding, she placed her hand over his. "Okay."

"In fact," Mulder said, rising from the bed and moving to open one of the dresser drawers. Pulling out a clean pair of dark blue sweatpants, he handed them to her. "You can borrow these until we find you some new clothes."

Scully stood and held the sweatpants up against her body. The waistband hit her just below the shoulders. She looked at Mulder questioningly.

"See? A perfect fit," he said, moving toward the door. Just before leaving the room, he turned back to face her. "Oh, and Scully - try not to get them too stretched out, okay?"

The pillow she threw at him missed him by mere inches.

They'd eaten and slept well the night before, finally allowing themselves to feel safe for the first time in over a month. The Gunmen called for them early to take them on a tour of what they called the "Village".

They walked slowly around the perimeter first and were introduced to several heavily armed men and women who were performing sentry duty.

"We all take turns on guard duty," said Byers, leading them back toward the lake. "You'll be expected to take a regular shift as well, Mulder. I expect they'll have Agent Scully busy elsewhere."

The large hunting lodge stood at the north end of the lake. They climbed the stairs, stopping for a moment on the huge wooden porch that wrapped all the way around the building. Scully walked over and stood close against the balcony, looking out at the lake. She wondered about the people who had been here just the previous summer, leaving their little vacation cabins to swim in the lake or hike in the mountains. People who never knew that just a few months later things would never be the same.

Mulder stood watching her for a moment, still a little concerned. She'd seemed better this morning, but was still unnaturally thoughtful and quiet. "You coming, Scully?" he asked, motioning toward the big front door.

She turned to see that the others had already gone in, and she moved to join him. He squeezed her shoulder reassuringly as they walked inside.

The interior of the lodge was impressive. Though the outside reflected the years of inclement weather it had survived, the inside of the building had been lovingly cared for. Vaulted ceilings supported by huge exposed wooden beams rose high above the entry hall, and large windows framed the forest outside.

An enormous wooden staircase rose in front of them, splitting off in the middle to rise to both sides of the second floor. The place was filled with people - busy people - who moved quickly up and down the stairs.

"They've set up the control center and main offices up on the second floor," said Langly. "We had some warning of the Colonist attack and were able to get quite a bit of equipment out."

"How did you do that?" asked Scully. "How did you get everything here? I didn't see any vehicles."

"The Colonists seem to easily locate cars and trucks," said Byers. "After we unloaded everything here, the trucks were taken some distance away and hidden in the forest."

"And they were blown to smithereens that first night," said Frohike. "Everyone here was pretty panicked, but the Village wasn't attacked."

"The same thing happened at Skinner's cabin," said Mulder, shaking his head. "They destroyed all our cars and left the house alone."

They turned at the sound of footsteps to see a tall blond man walking toward them. "They seem to be going for the obvious stuff first," he said. "Structures like this one, built from natural materials that blend well into their surroundings seem to be harder for them to locate. Not to say that they won't figure it out eventually." He held a hand out to Mulder. "You must be Agents Mulder and Scully."

"This is Andrew Wheaton," said Byers by way of introduction. "He's in charge of things here."

"I'm very glad to meet you," Wheaton said, reaching to shake Scully's hand. "I've heard a lot about you both." He indicated a grouping of sofas and chairs that were arranged in front of a huge fireplace. "Why don't we sit down so we can talk for a moment?"

Mulder sat next to Scully on one of the sofas, while the others sat in the chairs that surrounded a big wooden coffee table.

"So, Mr. Wheaton," said Mulder. "What exactly are you in charge of?"

Wheaton nodded. "I don't know how much you've already been told, but when the compound was destroyed the members of the team were split up and sent to various parts of the country. This place, like the others, was chosen carefully as a likely spot for one of the Villages. There are hundreds of these small villages across the world, all with their own area of specialty. Some are involved in the planning of military actions to be taken against the Colonists, some are in charge of developing future strategies for the continuing survival of the human race. Here, at Lake of the Woods, our job is to work on the development of a vaccine."

"What progress have you made?" asked Scully.

"It's slow going," said Wheaton, his expressive face clearly revealing his frustration. "We're moving ahead, but it's taking more time than we'd hoped. We will succeed, though, and when we do the vaccine will be manufactured across the country. Plans are already in place to immunize as many people as we can get to, or who can get to us. When the human race becomes useless to the Colonists, we're hoping they'll go home."

Scully sighed. "And if the vaccine doesn't work?"

Wheaton ran a hand through his hair. "If our efforts fail, this may be one of the only safe places left. There may not be anywhere else to go."

"Unless, of course, the Colonists find this place too," Scully said quietly. Mulder reached over to squeeze her hand.

"We're going to make every effort not to fail, Dr. Scully. That's why we're glad you're here. You'll be a great help to us."

Mulder sat forward on the couch, elbows on his knees. "What exactly is your background, Mr. Wheaton?"

"Please, call me Andy," he said, smiling. "I was DOD, actually. Part of a special task force planning for this sort of circumstance."

"So the government knew this was going to happen?" Scully's voice was quiet.

Wheaton nodded. "We knew it would happen. We just had no way of knowing when. Things happened much more quickly than we expected."

Scully was angry now. "You should have warned people."

"So that they could do what, Dr. Scully? There would have been mass panic."

Scully shook her head. "They could have come to places like this. Places that were safe."

"We were only prepared to accommodate a small number of people here and at the other Villages. If people do turn up, they're being welcomed. Just as you have been." Wheaton sat back in his chair and sighed. "There was no time to do anything more."

"What's the latest you've heard?" asked Mulder. "What's happening out there?"

"It's not good news. The largest cities around the world have been wiped out. Millions have died or have disappeared - we still don't know how many have been taken to be used by the Colonists as breeders."

A young woman appeared behind Mulder and Scully, motioning toward Wheaton. He rose from his chair.

"I've got to go. Why don't you come upstairs after you've seen the hospital and we'll show you around up there." He started to walk away, then turned back to face them. "I am grateful that you're here." Turning away, he disappeared quickly up the stairs.

Mulder looked hard at the Gunmen. "Do you think he can be trusted?" he whispered.

"As far as we can trust anyone from the government," Byers said, shrugging. "He seems sincere about wanting to find a way to end this."

"It seems that we don't have a lot of options." Scully was solemn as she rose from the couch. "I'd like to see the hospital next."

At first glance, the number of sick and injured people being treated here horrified Scully. Half of the first floor of the lodge had been converted into a small hospital, and a single doctor and two medical technicians seemed to be the only professionals assigned to care for the dozens of ill and injured people.

The room was quiet, though, and things seemed surprisingly under control. A young woman in scrubs rose from the bedside of one of the patients and began writing notes in his chart. Noticing the small group enter the room, she moved toward them, smiling.

She took Scully's hand. "Dr. Scully, I presume? I'm Carol Livingston."

Scully smiled, surprised at herself for assuming that the doctor would be a man. "It's nice to meet you," she said. "This is Fox Mulder."

"We're all very glad you're here," she said, shaking his hand. "We can surely use your help."

"I'll be glad to help however I can," said Scully. "What types of injuries are you dealing with here?"

They began to walk slowly through the hospital, past the rows of beds. "Most of the people in this main room are suffering from injuries received in the attack on the compound. Mostly broken bones, but we've got some burns and a couple of people with severe head injuries. Lots of people suffering from exposure and other injuries they sustained while trying to make their way here." She stopped and turned to look at Mulder and Scully. "You two seem to have survived all right."

"We've had our moments," said Mulder, smiling.

Carol pointed to a small door in the back of the room. "The most serious patients are in the isolation room. They've all been exposed to the virus."

Mulder frowned. "How many are there?"

"There were fourteen. We've lost six since we got here. One died just this morning."

They stopped outside the door. "I've been told that you've both been exposed to the virus?"

Mulder nodded.

"I'll need to draw blood from each of you," she said, sounding a little apologetic. "You may be our best hope for finding a cure for this thing."

"We'll do whatever we can to help," Scully said. "I'd also like to help with the patients if you can use me."

"We can definitely use you. We're really short-handed." Carol placed a hand against Scully's belly. "How far along are you?"

"A little over five months," she answered. "I've suddenly gotten enormous."

"Looks like you're right on schedule," Carol said, smiling. "If you'd like, I can examine you this afternoon, just to make sure everything's okay."

"That would be great," Scully said, relief clear in her voice. "Thank you."

They agreed that the Gunmen would show Mulder around upstairs while Scully was given an in-depth tour of the hospital facilities. Mulder squeezed her hand as he walked away, and she had to swallow a momentary spark of fear - it was the first time they'd been more than a few feet apart in a long time.

After the short tour, Scully had to admit that she was impressed with what they'd managed to put together in such a short time. The small hospital was impressively organized and equipped with the latest in medical technology. She liked Carol, too. She seemed to genuinely care about her patients and was willing to do whatever it took to find a cure for the virus.

When the tour was over, Scully was given a gown and shown into a small examining room. The usual vital signs were taken, blood was drawn and urine collected. Much to her surprise, the size of her belly was deemed perfectly average for the term of her pregnancy.

Carol laughed when she saw the disbelief on Scully's face. "You're not a large person, Dana. You're going to look bigger than a larger woman would."

"I'm horrified imagining how I'm going to look four months from now," Scully said.

"I'm not saying you're going to be comfortable, but I think we can manage to keep you healthy." Pulling Scully's gown back to cover her stomach, she made a few notes in the file. "I know you had a pretty rough time getting here. In general, how are you feeling now?"

"I'm tired," Scully admitted. "I was really sick at first, but that seems to have gotten a lot better. I wasn't well a few days ago, but I think that was more from overexertion and fatigue than anything else."

"Any pain, or bleeding?"

Scully shook her head. "No. Nothing like that."

Carol stood, closing the file. "Well, everything looks perfectly normal. I want to get you on some vitamins, and I'd like you to take it slow for a couple of days, at least until you get caught up on your sleep."

There was a quiet knock on the door.

Carol stood. "That's probably the ultrasound equipment. I thought you might like to see the baby."

The door was opened to reveal Mulder standing there. "I came to give blood, and they told me I should come in here." Carol opened the door wider and he saw Scully lying on the examining table. "Is everything okay?"

"Everything's great," Carol said, allowing him in, then opening the door even wider to admit the technician with the ultrasound machine. "Everybody's perfectly healthy. And you're just in time for the first picture for the baby book."

Scully reached for his hand and he stood close beside her, watching as Carol lifted Scully's gown and slathered her belly with gel.

Scully squeezed Mulder's hand tightly as the wand was placed against her belly. Instead of being excited about seeing the baby for the first time, she felt terribly frightened. There was still some small part of her that was afraid of letting her guard down, of letting herself be too happy. Too afraid to look at the screen, she looked up at Mulder instead, who was watching the sonogram eagerly.

Sensing her gaze, he smiled down at her and squeezed her hand. "Look, Scully," he said, gesturing at the machine.

It was the tiny beating heart that she focused on first. The picture was fuzzy, but her eyes grew wide as Carol pointed out the tiny arms and legs. The little figure kicked then, hard, and Scully felt it at the same moment she saw the movement on the screen.

"Did you see that? It just kicked me," she said, laughing. She looked up at Mulder, whose eyes were bright with unshed tears. "Oh my God, Mulder. Look at it."

Carol smiled at them. "Everything looks perfect. Do you want to know the sex, or would you like it to be a surprise?"

Mulder looked down at Scully. "I don't know about you, but I've had enough surprises to last me for a good long time."

Scully smiled. "I agree." She took another long look at the screen, then looked up at Carol. "Go ahead and tell us."

"Well, this is not a 100% guarantee, mind you, but it looks to me like you're going to have a daughter." Pressing a button, she printed a small photo off the sonogram and handed it to Mulder. "Her first baby picture."

Mulder sat down in the chair next to the examining table. Elbows on his knees, he stared hard at the picture.

Using a damp cloth, Carol wiped the gel from Scully's stomach. Helping Scully rise to a sitting position, she smiled at her, then indicated Mulder with a nod of her head. Raising one eyebrow in amusement, she left them alone in the room. Scully sat quietly for a moment, watching Mulder as he stared at the tiny photograph.

"Are you okay?" she asked, a little frightened by his silence.

As if suddenly noticing he was not alone, he smiled at her. Rising from the chair, he moved to sit close to her on the exam table and handed her the picture. "I can't believe it, Scully," he whispered, his finger tracing the outline of the small, blurry form. "It's our daughter. I can't believe it." He smiled at her, and there were tears on his cheeks.

They were both crying then, and she reached up to pull him close against her. He buried his face against her neck, and she could feel his warm tears on her skin.

Lake of the Woods
The Village
December, 2000

The weeks passed slowly, and the inevitable winter finally arrived, making them feel even more isolated from the outside world.

They were surprisingly happy here. The little community had welcomed them without question. Most of the Village members were part of the original project and had been carefully picked to include specialists from every walk of life. There were craftsmen of every kind, scientists and astronomers, single people and families. A teacher from New York City had set up a small school in corner of the lodge, and several children attended daily classes.

As they learned more about the project, they were impressed by its thoroughness. Food was plentiful, there was easily enough to last them through the next year, though some hunting was done to supplement the supply of fresh meat. There were seeds to plant vegetables when spring came.

Weekly meetings were held and everyone was encouraged to participate in the life of the village. Mulder had taken on the responsibility of a sort of "village spokesman", and it was his job to begin the meetings with an update on the progress of the vaccine. This was always followed by a report on the state of the world outside their village - news based on information gleaned from short-wave radio broadcasts and messengers who traveled back and forth between villages. The news he was forced to impart was rarely good, but people came to appreciate his honesty and humor.

There were happy times too - birthday and anniversary parties, baby and wedding showers. One wedding had already been held and another was in the planning stages. Two babies had been born and Scully had attended at each birth, both excited and terrified that her turn was coming.

Scully had grown extremely close to Carol, and it made her realize how long it had been since she'd had a close female friend.

Despite their initial reservations, they had grown to like and respect Andrew Wheaton. Stationed on the second floor of the Lodge (called "the Office" by the villagers), he ran the village with a firm but gentle hand. Mulder spent a lot of time in the Office, working with the Gunmen to track the progress of the Colonists as they laid waste to the planet.

As time went on, each day brought more devastating news. Some days, it was so bad that Mulder grew hopeless, wondering if he and Scully wouldn't have been better off staying in Washington. Everything would have been over long ago, and there wouldn't be this constant waiting for the inevitable - discovery and annihilation, or something even worse than death. During times like these, his dreams were filled with memories of Antarctica and the horrible sight of Scully with the alien tube down her throat.

When he grew so depressed that he was certain he couldn't take anymore, he'd go downstairs to Scully, watching her as she moved among the patients, or joining her in the lab as she worked to perfect a vaccine. Just being close to her, touching her, just looking at her reaffirmed the fact that he wouldn't give up. Not while she was here with him.

Scully had her own share of pressures. There were no survivors among the first victims of the virus. They had died, one by one, as she stood helplessly by. In addition to helping treat the hospital patients, she'd spent countless hours working with Carol and the other scientists in their attempt to perfect a vaccine.

The initial hope that their blood would hold an answer did not come to fruition, and it was slow, frustrating work. Mulder had come home more than once to find her in tears, exhausted and certain that they would never find the answer. Though there was some reluctance to mention it specifically, they were both well aware of the hope that the baby would be born with a natural immunity, providing all the answers they needed.

She had grown to trust these people, but it was hard for her to forget the conversation she'd overheard in the forest so many months before.

Lake of the Woods
The Village
January 18, 2000
2:34 a.m.

The room was black as pitch when Mulder woke up. His heart was racing, and he could feel the sweat beading on his upper lip. He lay very still, listening in an attempt to determine what had woken him so suddenly. The raised hairs on the back of his neck told him something was there, and his eyes were wide as he scanned the room's darkness.

All was quiet except for the soft sound of Scully's breathing as she slept peacefully beside him. She was a light sleeper, and he allowed himself to relax a little, knowing that she would have awakened if there'd been any unusual noise. Another nightmare, most likely. He lay back against his pillow, taking a deep breath to try and calm his racing heart.

Even after eight weeks in this place, he still wasn't use to the unrelenting darkness of the long winter nights. The Village stayed blacked out as soon as the sun went down, no one wanting to take the chance that they might be detected. Candles were allowed inside the cabins if the curtains were drawn, but Mulder had enough of a phobia about open flames that he used them as little as possible, and never while they were sleeping. Even the sentries, standing guard 24 hours a day, relied only on moonlight as they carefully made their rounds each night.

In addition to his other responsibilities, Mulder had spent his share of time on sentry duty, and he hated the shifts that kept him out all night. It was some consolation that he could keep an eye on their little cabin, but he hated leaving Scully alone in the dark.

She knew he worried about leaving him alone at night, but she assured him that he had no reason to be concerned. She had acclimated far better than he had and moved gracefully through the darkness on her occasional nighttime trips to the bathroom or kitchen. He tried to convince her that her pre-natal vitamins were providing her with some sort of super-pregnancy vision, and she nodded politely at his theory, hoping that it made him feel better about his clumsiness. His nocturnal wanderings never failed to result in a stubbed toe or a jammed finger as he stumbled from room to room.

His life as an insomniac had begun long ago, and though he'd slept better since he'd begun wrapping himself around Scully each night, he still suffered with occasional bouts of sleeplessness. Back in his old apartment, he could read or watch old movies on cable to pass the time, but without the luxury of nighttime electricity he often spent the time sitting on the living room sofa, staring out the window at the moon's reflection on the lake.

Sometimes Scully would hear him and would come out to sit with him on the couch. He'd entertain her by making up scandalous stories about their neighbors, and she'd pretend to be appalled by his wild imagination. On the really bad nights when he'd woken suddenly from a nightmare, she would lead him back to bed and rub his back until he fell asleep. Though she invited it, he never shared his disturbing dreams with her.

Often, they would make love, and on those nights all of his worries were forgotten - there was only Scully then, and the satisfaction of knowing that she loved him.

His heartrate finally began to slow. He was well aware that he wouldn't get back to sleep until he'd checked for intruders, and he managed to make his way through the cabin without injury. In the living room he stood and eyed the sofa for a moment, but couldn't stomach the thought of sitting here alone in the dark. It was much too depressing. He returned to climb quietly into bed. He lay there for a long time, looking at Scully's face in the dimness.

She smiled without opening her eyes. "I can feel you looking at me," she said groggily, finally opening her eyes to little slits. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Something woke me up, but I think it might have been my wild imagination."

He kissed her on the forehead, and she snuggled closer, tucking her head under his chin. "I'm sorry I woke you," he said. "Go back to sleep."

"Do you want to talk?"

She'd let her hair grow long, nearly to her shoulders now, and he ran his fingers through the soft strands. "No," he said quietly. "I just want you to go to sleep."

She reached for his hand, placing it on the mound of her belly. "The baby's got some sort of issues tonight," she said sleepily. "She's either struggling to get out or she's going to take on your sleeping habits."

He smiled as he felt the strange little flutters as the baby moved and kicked. "I don't know how you can sleep at all with all that going on," he said.

"It's nice, in a way." She turned over on her back and rubbed a hand over her stomach. "I'm so used to it now that it feels strange when she's still."

They were both nearly back to sleep when the sound began. It was too quiet to be close, but as they lay there listening, the low droning of the Colonist craft began to slowly get louder. They huddled together under the covers, barely daring to breathe, as though their quiet would keep them from being discovered.

"Mulder..." Scully whispered, grasping at his hand.

He squeezed her hand, wrapping himself more tightly around her. "It's okay."

The sound grew louder, the strange humming more intense as it approached the Village. Scully imagined all the other cottages, all the other members of their small community as they lay in their beds, hearts pounding as they listened to the ship bearing down on them. She thought about the children, and how afraid they must be.

The ship was directly overhead when the sound suddenly changed, turning from a low humming noise to a higher, ear-piercing whine. Scully moved her hands up to cover her ears, wincing as the horrible noise pierced her skull. The ship was low, the sound so close now that she felt as if she could reach up and touch the metallic object it as it passed overhead.

Mulder moved then, grabbing her hand and pulling her from the bed. "Get dressed," he shouted over the din. "Hurry, Scully!" He was at the closet, pulling clothes from their hangers and tossing them to her.

"Where are we going?" she shouted, breathless with fear, her hands shaking as she quickly pulled on her clothes.

"We can't stay in here," he said, pulling on his jacket. "We'll go into the woods . We're sitting ducks here."

She could barely manage the shoelaces on her boots and settled for tucking them inside the tops. Mulder wrapped her in her heavy winter coat and they moved quickly through the small house to the front door, pausing for a moment to look out into the night. Opening the door, they stepped out into the icy night air.

Clutching Scully's hand tightly, Mulder rushed from the cottage into the cover of the trees. Heading for the protection of a large outcropping of rocks, they nearly ran headlong into David Aldridge, the Village's teacher. He had apparently pulled sentry duty tonight and was currently crouched behind a large rock, his useless weapon aimed up at the ship which hovered directly overhead. Mulder and Scully sat next to him on the cold ground, staring up at the strange object. It held its location, hovering over the Village, then began to wobble from side to side.

Aldridge pointed up at the ship. "There's something wrong! The sound, and - look!"

The ship tilted at a strange angle then, the sound of the engines whining at an even higher pitch. The lights on the bottom of the round object pulsated more slowly, then faster as the whine became louder. The object sank closer to the ground, then rose again, quickly, tilting even more crazily.

"It's going to crash right into the Village!" Scully shouted, horrified at the sight.

"We're too close!" Mulder shouted, grabbing Scully's hand. "We've got to mover further away!"

Before they could even get to their feet, the ship lurched crazily to one side, picking up a sudden burst of speed as it moved away from them over the trees. Out of control, it clipped the tops of huge pine trees as it thundered another mile through the air before finally crashing to the ground. The explosion was huge, lighting up the night sky for miles around, the black plume of smoke billowing into the air.

The could see other Villagers leaving their homes now, many of them pulling on coats and shoes as they headed for the crash site. Aldridge stood, reaching a hand out to pull Scully to her feet, the three of them moving to follow the others.

"That hopefully killed a good bunch of the little bastards," said Aldridge, draping the gun across his shoulder. He smiled grandly at them. "I can't wait to see the inside of one of those things."

Apologetically, he moved away from them, running at full speed toward the crash site.

Scully looked at Mulder excitedly. "If we can find one of the alien bodies intact, it may be the answer we need to finish the vaccine."

They had reached their cabin and Mulder stopped short, grabbing Scully by the arm. "You stay here. I'll go."

She shook her head adamantly. "No way. I'm going with you. Just let me get my bag!"

"Scully," he insisted, shaking his head. "It's at least a mile's hike through the snow. It's too far."

"Listen to me," she said, her eyes burning with determination. "I've been walking at least that far every day just for the exercise. I'll be fine. I'm going with you."

Pulling away from his grasp, she hurried into the house to get her bag. He waited for her reluctantly, knowing that going on without her wouldn't stop her from walking to the site alone.

When she returned, she allowed him the small concession of carrying her medical bag. Shaking his head, he took her hand and they headed out into the forest.

The snow was deep among the trees and their pace was slow, more due to Mulder's concern than Scully's inability to keep up. Flashlight beams bounced all around them as dozens of people ran past.

By the time they reached the scene, there were many people already hard at work fighting the small fires that had erupted in the brush surrounding the crash site. The ship itself appeared remarkably intact, and though smoke wafted from its underside, there was no fire coming from the object. Equipment was being set up around the ship, and technicians circled the craft, instruments raised as they took readings.

It wasn't the largest ship they'd seen, but it easily could have covered a good portion of a football field. Scully felt a hand on her arm and turned to see the Gunmen beside them, all three breathing heavily from their sprint through the woods.

"We were worried when we didn't find you at the cabin," said Frohike. "What the hell happened?"

"I don't know," answered Mulder, "but we're going to have to be careful when we open that thing up. It's well enough intact that there could easily be surviving Colonists aboard."

It was less than thirty minutes before the small fires had been extinguished, and Andrew Wheaton motioned everyone to come together in the center of the clearing. Voices quieted as everyone gathered in a circle around him.

"This is the situation," he said. "From what we can tell, there's no sign of movement coming from inside the ship. The main hatch was exposed in the impact. A small group will enter the ship to search for survivors. If everything's clear, we'll let those who need to be there follow the first group in."

The crowd muttered silently, all curious but many reluctant to be among the first group to enter. In the end, it was decided that Mulder's past experience, having actually been inside one of the Colonist's ships before, made him a perfect candidate to be among those in the first group. Several others were chosen to join them, including Carol Livingston.

Mulder turned to Scully. He could feel the disappointment radiating from her. He placed both hands on her shoulders, leaning down to look into her eyes.

"I want you to stay back when we open that thing up," he said insistently, pointing off at the tree line. "Move back out of sight and stay there until we give the all- clear. Promise me, Scully."

"I should be going with you," she said, her eyes bright.

"No, you shouldn't," he said quietly. "Please, Scully, just this once, do as I ask. Stay here with the guys until I come to get you."

She nodded reluctantly, moving close to embrace him tightly. "It won't be easy watching you walk into that ship," she said. "Please promise me you'll be careful."

"I promise," he said, leaning down to plant a kiss on the top of her head.

She pulled away from him then, and reached up onto her toes to give him a proper, passionate kiss on the lips. It was long and slow, and when it was over, Mulder smiled contentedly at her.

"May I have another when I come back?" he asked, a little breathless.

She raised one eyebrow and smiled. "You can have more than that if it inspires you to come back safely."

Mulder laughed quietly. "Why, Miss Scully. I'm shocked by your forwardness. And in your condition, too." He moved to brush a strand of hair behind her ear. "I'll be back out before you even have time to miss me."

"Not even remotely possible," she whispered.

Andrew Wheaton came up then, handing a small backpack to Mulder. "There's a radio here, and you'll be responsible for radiation readings once we get the door open," he said, checking his watch. "Five minutes." Turning to Scully, he gave her a small smile. "Try not to worry. And yes, you'll be in the second group." Giving her a small pat on the arm, he moved away.

"I think he likes you," Mulder whispered. "He never smiles at me like that."

"Very insightful of you," she said. "We've been having a passionate affair ever since we arrived. I've been meaning to tell you."

"Where do you find the time, Agent Scully?"

"Oh, I make time for the important things," she smiled.

Scully turned to look around the small clearing, finally finding Carol Livingston who was still packing her equipment. "I'm going to talk to Carol for a minute. Don't go anywhere just yet, okay?"

Mulder nodded, threading his arms through the straps of the backpack as he walked to where the Gunmen stood. "Make sure everyone moves back into the trees before we go inside," he instructed. He motioned to Scully, who still stood talking to Carol "And take care of Scully. If anything happens to her, I'll kill all three of you. Slowly."

"Oh, we know that," said Frohike. "We wouldn't let anything happen to her, Mulder." Frohike patted him on the arm. "Just be careful in there."

Mulder nodded. "I will."

A ladder had been brought in to allow access to what appeared to be the main hatch door, which stood approximately fifteen feet above ground level. The small group climbed up, stopping to stand on a small landing.

They had hoped for the best but expected the worst by assuming that they would find cutting through the unknown metal extremely difficult. A few moments with a blowtorch had popped the door open as easily as opening a can with an electric can opener.

Mulder had a very bad feeling about this.

Wheaton reached over and pulled the door open with a great creaking groan. There was nothing but darkness inside the ship, and all four of them turned on their flashlights as they readied themselves to enter. Mulder looked out into the forest, but except for a few armed men standing within a few feet, he could see no one, everyone else having moved into the safety of the trees. He could almost feel Scully's presence out there, and knew that she was watching him. With a small wave and a deep breath, he followed the others into the ship.

Scully checked her watch for what had to be the fifteenth time. Mulder and the others had been inside for nearly 30 minutes now, and there was no sign of any of them. Their radios had stopped transmitting as soon as they got a few feet from the door, the metal shell of the ship apparently acting as a barrier to the signal.

Sitting on the hard ground was incredibly uncomfortable and her legs were beginning to cramp. Scully struggled to her feet, Langly lending a hand to pull her up. He watched as she began to pace, her eyes never leaving the metallic object.

"We should have heard something from them by now," she said. She wrapped her arms around herself. "Something's wrong."

"It hasn't been that long yet," said Byers, reaching out to touch her arm. "I'm sure they're fine."

"If they're not out in five minutes," she said, looking hard at Byers, "I'm going in."

"Agent Scully..." Byers stopped, his words interrupted by the sudden murmur of the crowd.

A beam of light appeared at the doorway to the ship, shining out into the trees, blinding them so that they couldn't see its source.

"Doctor Scully!"

It was Andrew Wheaton's voice shouting, the beam from his flashlight moving across the crowd of people as they left the cover of the trees and entered the clearing.

Grabbing her medical bag from the ground, Scully moved quickly toward Wheaton's voice. "I'm here," she called, moving to meet him at the bottom of the ladder. "What's wrong?"

Wheaton looked frightened, sweat covering his face and his breathing coming rapidly. "Mulder asked me to bring you inside," he said, his voice shaking. "It's bad, Dana."

Scully felt her heartrate quicken. "What's happened? Is he hurt?"

"No," he said quickly. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean...he's fine. I'll take you in, you can see for yourself." He took the bag from her hand and led the way up the ladder.

It didn't take more than one step for her to wonder if this was a good idea. Her balance was thrown off by her pregnancy, and she had a sudden, nearly paralyzing fear that she was about to plunge to the ground in a less than graceful heap. Sensing her distress, Wheaton held tightly to the top of the ladder and the Gunmen held the bottom, fear in their eyes. She knew that they'd catch her before they'd risk Mulder's wrath at any injury she might sustain, and she took a deep breath. She pitched her body slightly sideways and started climbing. By the time she reached the halfway point she was feeling more confident and made the rest of the climb with little effort.

Once she was safely at the top, Wheaton called down to the Gunmen, instructing them to gather more of the equipment and biohazard suits and follow them inside. Reaching out a hand, he helped Scully onto the small landing and shone his flashlight through the hatchway into the interior of the ship. Pulling her own light from her bag, she turned it on and aimed it into the gloomy darkness.

"It's hard to see much in there - we're trying to locate the power source to get some interior lights working without turning the damned thing into a beacon." He took her arm, leading her into the darkness. "Stay close to me."

As they stepped into the ship, it was the smell that she noticed first, a smell that instantly caused a memory to crash through her. Fear - horrible, paralyzing fear, and freezing cold. She shivered involuntarily, her breath coming in little shallow bursts as she started to panic.

Wheaton stopped and turned to look at her. "Are you all right?"

She nodded, struggling to get her breathing back to normal. "What's that smell?" she asked, her voice shaky.

"It's a solution of some kind. You'll see when we reach the others," he said, stepping closer to get a better look at her face, apparently not liking what he saw there. "Are you sure you're all right? Maybe we should go back outside..."

"No, I'm fine." Scully shook her head, determined to get herself under control. "Let's go on."

It was impossible to see much outside the narrow beam of the flashlights, but Wheaton seemed confident of the way as he moved through the long corridors. In the distance she could hear the comforting sound of Mulder's voice.

Wheaton made a sharp right turn and she followed close behind as they moved down another of the seemingly endless corridors. Finally, she was able to see figures in the dimness. Mulder and Carol stood in front of a large metal door, apparently embroiled in a heated discussion.

Hearing their approach, Mulder moved quickly to meet them halfway. He grabbed Scully's arm, turning to look at Wheaton. "Nobody's going in there until we've got hazard suits," he said. "It's too dangerous."

Wheaton nodded. "I agree, Mulder. The suits are coming."

"What's going on?" asked Scully. "What have you found?"

Carol moved forward to stand with the small group. "We've got lots of human casualties, but we've also got survivors. They're in pretty bad shape."

"It's the black oil, Scully," Mulder said. He pointed toward the metal door at the end of the corridor. "There are hundreds of people behind that door, all infected."

There was a click then, and a low hum of electricity as the interior lights came on. The ship's illumination wasn't much better than the flashlights, and it managed to tint everything with a sickly greenish hue.

Wheaton handed Scully her medical bag, then turned to move back down the corridor. "I'm going to help with the equipment." He hurried off, disappearing quickly around the corner.

"What's the plan?" Scully asked. "We can't remove anyone from this ship without risking exposure to everyone. We're going to have to set up a quarantine."

Carol sat down on the floor, frustrated. "Without a vaccine, we've got nothing to treat them with anyway."

Scully turned to Mulder. "Did you find Colonists on board?"

He nodded. "All apparently killed in the crash."

"Then we can find an answer," said Scully, sliding down to sit next to Carol. "We'll harvest the DNA and find the answer to make the vaccine."

Carol didn't respond and Scully placed a hand on her friend's arm. "What is it?"

"There are so many of them in there, Dana," she said, sighing deeply. "Even if we came up with a vaccine tomorrow, I don't know if there's time to save them all."

The sound of hurried footsteps heralded the arrival of Byers and Langly, each carrying several of the biohazard suits. Wheaton and Frohike followed soon after with the rest of the equipment.

Carol and Scully both grabbed suits and started to put them on. Scully resisted the urge to look at Mulder, knowing that he wouldn't approve of her going inside. Wouldn't approve of her taking the risk. She knew that he understood well enough not to say anything to her about it, but he felt strangely responsible for their situation here, and she couldn't stand the thought of seeing the guilt in his eyes.

There were four suits total, and Mulder and Wheaton climbed into the other two. Mulder finally got Scully's attention as he moved to make sure all the seals on her suit were closed. The slick fabric was tight over her belly, and he couldn't resist putting his hand there.

"I guess they don't them in maternity sizes." She took his hand, looking into his eyes. "I'll be careful," she whispered, and he ran his finger over the plastic shield covering her face.

He smiled a little sadly at her as they moved toward the metal door.

The room was enormous and was filled with row upon row of beds. They were stacked like bunk beds five layers high, small metal ladders running alongside each set. Appreciating the overwhelming task ahead of them and the vast numbers of victims, Wheaton sent for reinforcements, requesting additional suits and more hands.

They split up into pairs, moving as quickly as they could from bed to bed as they searched for anyone who might still be alive. Scully checked the lower bunks, Mulder the higher ones, more often than not finding that they had arrived too late. They marked the beds of those who hadn't survived with a colored marker, and dozens of beds were marked in this way before they found a single survivor.

More help finally arrived, and a triage was set up. Dead bodies were carefully wrapped for removal from the ship. Cremation to dispose of bodies would have been preferable, but there was too much risk involved in starting a fire large and hot enough to accomplish the job. Once tests were run to confirm that the virus had not survived, they would be buried in the forest.

The few survivors were moved to a corner of the large room that had been set up as a small hospital ward. Scully worked here, moving from bed to bed, horrified at the sight of the wriggling strands of black oil moving under the victim's skin, the viscous black clouds floating in their eyes. The strange eyes made them look less than human. She thought of Mulder, lying like this in a Russian prison, and she wanted to cry.

Everyone still alive was infected in this way, and Scully was frustrated by her inability to help them. The Colonist's bodies had already been removed to the lab, and she knew that the doctors were already working to extract the necessary materials to obtain the needed DNA. With the work they'd already completed it was only a matter of time before they would successfully manufacture a vaccine. She hoped there would still be someone left to benefit from it.

She'd lost count of how many patients she'd looked at when she found him. Suddenly unable to breathe, she sat beside him on the small bed, her shaking fingers grasping at his wrist in an effort to find a pulse. Relief washed over her as she felt the strong heartbeat. Then, without warning, she was crying, her sobs strangely hollow inside the plastic facemask.

Carol was there suddenly, kneeling beside her, clutching at her arm in concern. "Dana?"

"Get Mulder," she choked, and Carol stood, rushing away to find him.

It was only seconds later that he was there, crouching down with his hands on her knees. "Scully, let's go. I'm taking you out of here."

"No," she said, shaking her head. "I'm fine. I just..." She turned her head to indicate the man whose hand she still clutched in hers. "It's just that...I found Skinner."

Lake of the Woods
The Village
January 22, 2001

When the search was finally complete, twenty-three critically ill survivors were found. Over two hundred men, women and children's bodies were removed from the ship and buried in a mass grave.

The villagers were despondent.

There was great concern that more Colonists would arrive, an alien reconnaissance mission sent to find the downed ship. Teams were organized and people worked around the clock to cover the craft with foliage in hopes of disguising it from anything flying overhead. Everyone involved was still reluctant to move the survivors out of the ship, but it was finally agreed that working there was too dangerous, and they were moved to the isolation ward in the main hospital.

Despite their best efforts, several of them were lost each day. Work on the vaccine continued 24 hours a day, but it seemed that for every small victory they experienced, another setback would quickly follow.

Scully continued to help care for the survivors, keeping a special watch over Skinner, who at first had drifted in and out of consciousness. He had seemed to recognize her once, smiling at her and reaching for her hand as she bathed his face with a cool cloth.

They all suffered from fever, and it was all they could do to keep them cool. The doors were left open several hours a day to let the frigid air in. It seemed to help the patients, but it was horrible for those working in the hospital. Scully bundled up in layer upon layer of clothing, but the chill was in her bones, and it was hard to rid herself of it.

The sound of a monitor alarm jolted her from her thoughts, and she turned to see Carol rush to the side of a young woman who'd already had several crises that day.

She was no older than Scully herself, and her barely- swollen belly revealed the beginnings of pregnancy. Scully had often wondered about her, wondering if her husband was among those who had survived or if he had been buried unceremoniously out in the forest. She and Carol had done an ultrasound that first day. The black oil floated in the woman's uterus, seeping into the amniotic sac to surround the tiny baby. It was a horrifying sight, and it was the first time since she'd arrived that she'd seen Carol break down.

The monitor blared with the news that the young woman's heart had stopped. For forty minutes they tried everything at their disposal to save her, finally giving in to the inevitable.

Exhausted and disheartened by the failed attempt, Scully stood frozen to the spot for what seemed an eternity. She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder.

Carol smiled sadly at her. "You've been here all night. Go get some food and some sleep. Not necessarily in that order."

"I'm okay," Scully said, sitting down to complete her notes in the dead woman's chart. "I need to finish up."

Carol took the chart from her. "I'll do this. You go." She reached for Scully's hand, pulling her up from the chair. "That's an order."

Scully nodded tiredly and moved toward the door. "I'll be back."

"Not until tomorrow morning," Carol said. "Don't make me throw you out of here."

There was a small annex outside the isolation room, and she removed the protective suit she wore over the layers of her own clothing. She threw it into a large plastic trash bin, then moved slowly through the outer door. She stood there for a long time, staring out at the nearly empty main room of the hospital. The walk home seemed a million miles. Leaning up against the cold wooden wall, she slid down until she was sitting on the floor. She stretched her aching legs out in front of her and stared at her swollen feet. Shaking her head in disgust, she closed her eyes.

When Mulder sat down next to her, she leaned her head on his shoulder without even looking up.

"You didn't make it very far," he said.

"I know," she said, finally opening her eyes to look up at him. "Right now it feels like home is a thousand miles from here."

"Not so far, after all, since I've come to rescue you," he said. "You can lean on me the whole way. And, to add inspiration, I've got a fire burning in the fireplace and dinner on the stove."

She smiled tiredly at him. "Okay, you win. You really are the best person I know."

He nodded in agreement. "I knew that." He reached an arm across her shoulders and pulled her closer. "Do you want to tell me what happened? Is it Skinner?"

"No, he's doing okay," she said. "The young pregnant woman, you remember her?"


"She died just now. We almost lost her several times today, but she kept fighting so hard." A small tear ran down her cheek and Mulder reached over to brush it away. "What's the point of trying? Without a vaccine there's nothing we can do for any of them."

"Scully, you can't give up now. All your hard work has kept those people alive, probably long enough to benefit from the vaccine." He kissed her forehead. "I heard that things are going well. There should be good news soon, I think."

"I hope so," she said. "I'm so damned tired. And look at my feet."

"Ouch," he said, grimacing. He stood and reached for her hand. "Let's go home so you can put them up."

The only light in the room came from the fireplace and Scully could barely see the flakes of snow as they drifted lazily past the window.

She felt wonderfully pampered - Mulder had drawn a hot bath for her, rousing her from the cooling water in time to serve her an impressive dinner. She had not been allowed to help with the clean-up, and she had not insisted. Instead, she sat on the sofa with her enormously puffy feet propped up on pillows. Eyes squinted into little slits, she stared at them angrily, willing the swelling to go down.

They disappeared suddenly behind a steaming mug. "Hot chocolate," Mulder announced, handing her the cup. "With the last of the marshmallows."

"Mulder," she purred, taking a sip of the fragrant liquid. "You're spoiling me with chocolate. You're the best."

"You deserve a little spoiling," he said. Plopping down on the couch, he moved her feet to his lap and began massaging them. "I won't pretend I'm not worried about you, Scully. You're working too hard."


"I know what you're going to say, and I know you're not going to listen to me, but I insist upon being allowed to worry."

She groaned with pleasure as he dug his thumbs into her instep. "Actually, I like that you worry about me. It's nice. But I'm really okay. Swollen feet aren't unusual at this stage of the game, and I'm not going to do anything that would risk the baby. Besides, if what you say about the vaccine is true, maybe this will all be over soon."

"I hope so." Dropping her foot, he stretched out, moving to lay behind her and tucking her tightly against him, one hand rubbing slowly back and forth over her swollen belly. "Look at you, Scully."

"I'm horrifying," she sighed. "I can barely get the isolation suit zipped up. And try wearing that thing when you have to pee every five minutes."

"It won't be long before the baby comes, and you'll have your girlish figure back." He ran his hand over her breasts, smiling at the sounds she made as he ran his thumb over the sensitive nipples. "Though I admit I'm going to miss these."

"Me too," she sighed, moving her hips back into his lap and grinding against him, feeling the hardness that was already there. "I think you'd better make love to me, Mulder."

His hand still on her breast, he pressed kisses against the back of her neck. "Are you sure?" he asked, his voice barely a whisper. "I thought you wanted to go to sleep."

Scully smiled, gasping as his hand moved down under the curve of her belly to lift the waist of her sweatpants. "I'm getting my second wind." She already felt ready to explode - every part of her body so sensitive that his touch was like fire on her skin. She'd reached that immensely hormonal stage of late pregnancy where she wanted him all the time. She fantasized constantly about making love to him.

And he was more than happy to oblige.

His hand moved in slow circles, down into the wet curls, back up to the caress the lower curve of her belly.

She moaned, biting her bottom lip as continued to tease her. "Mulder..."

"What, Scully?" he whispered, his own arousal increasing at her reaction to his touch. Scully in the throes of sexual passion was a beautiful thing. "Tell me what you want me to do," he whispered, moving his fingers down again, dipping them into her wetness, then pulling away. She gasped, pressing her pelvis against his fingers, making small moaning sounds that almost sent him over the edge.

"Tell me," he whispered, licking her ear.

Her breath was coming fast now, and she thrust up to meet his fingers as they caressed her again. "Touch me, Mulder. Please." She grabbed his hand then, directing it upward, letting go as he finally took pity on her and pressed down on her swollen clit.

"Oh, yeah, there," she groaned, and they were moving together then, his fingers moving in circles around the tiny swelling, still not touching it, finally using two fingers to press just where she liked it, a move that made her whimper and crush hard against him. As the spasms of her orgasm began, she murmured his name, and the sound of her voice and the blissful look on her face made him feel ridiculously happy.

He was quiet for a moment, watching her as her breathing slowly returned to normal. Finally, she focused on him, and the smile she offered was worth waiting for.

"I never want you to tell me where you learned how to do that," she said.

He nodded. "Deal." He pulled the afghan from the back of the couch and covered them both.

Scully turned in his arms, her face close to his. "We're not done, are we?"

"Agent Scully," he scolded. "I'm shocked. You're incorrigible."

Blushing a little, she smiled as she pulled the afghan from them, letting it pool on the floor. "Come with me," she said, grabbing his hand to pull him from the couch. "I've grown too large for the sofa."

"Just what do you have in mind that you need space for, Doctor?"

She wiggled her eyebrows at him as she pulled him toward the bedroom. "You'll see..."

Their thoughts were a million miles away from the outside world, and they both jumped at the sudden loud pounding on their front door. Scully stopped and turned to look up at him and he was saddened by the quick change from her happy, playful expression to one of apprehension and fear. He squeezed her hand and moved to the door.

Langly stood on the front step, so out of breath that he was barely able to speak. "It's Skinner," he gasped. "They're losing him."

Lake of the Woods
The Village
Six Hours later

Never taking her eyes off Skinner's face, Scully stood and stretched her aching back. He was pale and on a respirator, but he was alive and if she had anything to say about it he'd stay that way. It had been a long night, and she'd been certain on more than one occasion that he was not going to make it. It was still touch and go, and without a vaccine there was no hope of a cure, but she forced herself to get over the notion that it was her presence that was keeping him alive. With one last squeeze of his hand she allowed herself to give in to her body's insistent need for a bathroom break.

There'd been some murmuring in the small hospital about progress on the vaccine, and Mulder had run off to the lab to see what the real story was. He'd been gone for hours, and she prayed that his long absence was good news - surely there was no need for him to wait if the news was bad.

She wanted to get back to the hospital as soon as possible, but after relieving herself she took a moment to splash cold water on her face - a futile attempt to shock a little energy back into her body. She stared hard at her reflection in the mirror, watching as the droplets of water slid down her pale face.

She looked like shit. She had gotten used to not wearing makeup, but that actually made her look younger. No big problem with that. The pallor of her skin and the dark circles under her eyes, however, were a clear indication of her desperate need for rest. She understood why Mulder's expression was always one of concern when he looked at her.

Intellectually, she knew that the end stages of pregnancy were difficult and uncomfortable, but the lack of sleep and constant tension of life here was taking its toll. Her feet hurt, her back hurt, and she had a pounding headache she was certain was caused by lack of sleep. There was so much work still to be done, but she was near the point of serious exhaustion.

Something was going to have to give.

The baby interrupted her contemplation with a swift kick to the spine. She leaned over the sink to stretch her aching back. She was not built for carrying large babies, and looking down at her protruding stomach she imagined her daughter curled up tightly inside her, limbs flailing in an attempt to find more room. Placing a hand on her belly, the baby kicked again, and she felt the movement against her fingers. She smiled, knowing as sure as anything she'd every known before that this was what it was really all about - this child growing inside her would make all the misery and fear worthwhile.

The bathroom door flew open and she reached for a paper towel to dry off her still-dripping face. Peeking out from behind the towel, she saw Mulder, relief spreading across his face as he saw her.

"I've been looking everywhere for you," he said, grinning. He moved quickly to her, pulling her into his arms.

"Mulder, you do realize that you're in the ladies room, right?"

"Scully," he said, taking a step back so he could look into her face. "We've got a vaccine."

They stood by Skinner's bedside, doctors, scientists and technicians all watching quietly as the vaccine was slowly introduced into his I.V. Currently the most critical of the patients, he had been chosen as the appropriate subject for the initial dose. There had been no time for the normal protocol of trials and tests. Instead, there had been a short discussion wherein everyone agreed that there was no choice but to try what they believed to be the optimum dosage. Then, they would stand back and hope for the best. Not the ideal way to practice medicine, but necessary under the circumstances.

Scully reached up to rub at her aching forehead as it pounded along with the too-fast beat of her heart. She watched as Carol emptied the last of the vial into the I.V., then stepped back with a heavy sigh. There was nothing to do now but wait.

The minutes ticked slowly by. Unable to stand it any longer, Scully reached out a gloved finger to lift Skinner's eyelid. There appeared to be no change - the black clouds of oil were still visible. She looked at the others, concerned that there was still no reaction.

"Maybe we should increase the -"

When Skinner grabbed her wrist, it was with such force that she could feel the bones grinding together, and she waited for the sound they would make as they cracked into pieces. She gasped in pain and surprise - Skinner increasing his death grip on her as his body began to convulse violently.

Frantic, Mulder reached for her, his fingers scratching at her skin as he attempted to pry Skinner's strong hand away from her wrist. Even unconscious, his strength was considerable, and Mulder could see the bruises already forming on Scully's pale skin. Her face was an unnatural shade of gray, and her knees were beginning to buckle as she struggled to pull away.

Finally, there were other hands there to restrain Skinner, and they were able to loosen his grip long enough for Mulder to pull Scully away from him. The sudden release caused both of them to fall backwards, and they landed in a heap on the floor. Scully immediately curled up into a ball, clutching her injured arm tight against her.

Carol threw herself across Skinner's body, holding him down while shouting for restraints. The quiet room that had existed only a few moments before was now chaotic as the others tried frantically to restrain him. It was taking six of them just to keep him on the table as he flailed and fought.

Mulder had managed to cushion Scully's fall, the back of her head smacking into his forehead as they hit the ground. Confused, he lay watching pretty colors that danced across his field of vision for a moment, then reached up to wipe away a trickle of blood as it dripped into his eye.

Finally able to focus again, he reached out for Scully, crawling over to crouch next to her. He spoke in a low voice, one hand on her shoulder. "Don't move, Scully," he said. "Stay still." He looked around the room, searching for Carol.

With Skinner finally restrained, she was beside him in an instant. She brushed the hair from Scully's face. "Dana, where are you hurt?"

Scully shook her head. "I'm okay. I just got the wind knocked out of me." She rolled slowly onto her back, Carol moving to support her shoulders as she turned. "I'm fine now. How's Skinner?" Her attempt to sit up was met with Carol's hands on her shoulders, pushing her back down.

"No, not so fast. Skinner's fine for the moment. You stay there for a minute while I get my bag." With a meaningful glance at Mulder, she hurried away.

Mulder reached over to brush the hair back from her forehead.

"Mulder, your eye!" she cried, grimacing in sympathy. She could practically see the lump sprouting as she looked at him.

"You have a very hard head, Scully," he said, fingering the tender wound. "How's the rest of you?"

"Fine, I think," she said, looking at him thoughtfully. "Would it be really pathetic if I admitted that I'm enjoying the chance to lie down for a few minutes?"

Mulder made a pitiful face. "I do find it a little sad, Scully." He brushed another drop of blood out of his eye.

"You should get some ice for that," Scully said. "Your whole eye's going to swell shut."

"Great minds think alike," announced Carol, handing Mulder a plastic bag full of ice as she knelt down next to Scully. She looked up at Mulder as he put the ice gingerly against his forehead. "I'll get you cleaned up in just a minute."

Pulling the fetal heart monitor from her bag, she placed it against Scully's belly. She found the baby's heartbeat immediately, and it was fast and strong. All three let out a collective sigh of relief.

"No cramping, no back or neck pain?"

Scully shook her head. "No," she said. "My arm's a little sore, but otherwise I feel fine."

She gently lifted Scully's injured arm, carefully checking it for fractures. Scully hissed as she slowly manipulated the wrist.

"I don't think anything's broken," Carol pronounced. "We should do an x-ray to be sure. You want to try and sit up?"

Scully nodded, and with a little help she managed to get into a sitting position. Mulder crouched close to her, his eyes intent on her face.

"Okay?" he asked.

She nodded as Carol moved behind her, checking the back of her head.

"You slammed into Mulder pretty nicely. I don't see any bleeding, and there's no lump here. I think you're fine."

"I told you," said Mulder. "She's got a head like a bowling ball."

Carol laughed. "Okay, you're next. Let's get you up on the bed and I'll see if you need stitches."

Scully stood close, holding his hand guiltily as he was examined. No stitches were deemed necessary, and the wound was closed with a couple of tiny butterfly bandages.

When she was done, Carol moved back to check on Skinner. He was quiet now, and Andrew Wheaton was there with dozens of people who surrounded his bed. They all seemed to be talking at once, but their voices were low.

With a sigh, Scully moved to stand between Mulder's knees. She picked the icepack off the bed and placed it gently against his bandaged forehead.

"I'm sorry," she said, frowning sadly at him. "I'm sorry I have a head like a bowling ball."

Mulder reached out and pulled her close, his head against her breasts. "Let's just hope the baby doesn't take after you."

Grimacing at the thought, Scully turned her attention across the room. She pulled away from Mulder and sat next to him on the bed. "His vitals look better," she said, pointing at the monitors. "His heart rate is good, and his blood pressure's close to normal."

Carol turned to them then, and her smile confirmed Scully's observations. "There's no sign of the black oil," she said. "And he seems to be waking up."

Climbing down from the bed, Scully went to Skinner's bedside, everyone moving aside to make room for her. She took his hand in hers and his eyes fluttered open, then closed again.

"Sir?" she said quietly. "It's Scully. Open your eyes, sir."

His eyelids fluttered again, then stayed open to reveal brown eyes which were now clear of the black clouds. "Scully?" His voice was like gravel, barely audible over the sounds of the monitors.

"You're going to be okay," she said, squeezing his hand.

He nodded, opening his eyes again to see Mulder standing close behind her. "I knew you'd find me," he whispered, and he was asleep again before they could react.

Scully leaned back against Mulder, a tear rolling down her cheek. "I think it worked," she said, her voice quiet. "I think he's really going to be okay."

Andrew Wheaton smiled happily at the group. "Congratulations, everyone." He had to pause for a moment, his voice choked with emotion. "You may well be responsible for saving the human race."

On doctor's orders, Scully had gone to bed and slept for fourteen straight hours after Skinner's recovery, returning the following day to find him sitting up and looking tired but remarkably healthy. No one had told him how long he'd been missing, and seeing her advanced stage of pregnancy had been his first indication that he'd been gone for a considerable amount of time.

His recovery was quick after that - after a few days of regular meals and lots of sleep he'd regained almost all of his strength and was anxious to get out of bed and find a place in the community. Like the other survivors, he had little memory of where he'd been or what had happened to him, and he seemed frustrated at his inability to provide answers.

Reports of other crashes were coming in from across the world, and news of the discovery of a working vaccine renewed the hope and determination of everyone who continued to fight. Couriers had been designated to move across the country, delivering samples of the vaccine to scientists so that mass production could begin. The Gunmen had been among those to volunteer for this duty, and they had been gone for several days but promised to return in time for the baby's birth.

There was a new sense of happiness that permeated the little village. Only a few people remained in the hospital now, everyone suffering from the virus had responded well to the vaccine, and except for the occasional injury or common illness, things were fairly quiet.

Scully began to allow herself to contemplate a life here with these people. The Village was a tiny spot of tranquility in a shattered world. Though she still held out hope that her family had somehow survived, she didn't know if she could bear to see the destruction of the world outside this place. In some deep psychological place where she liked to torture herself this made her feel guilty, but she brushed the feelings away, allowing herself to be content in this little world. She had her little home, she had Mulder, and the baby would come soon.

She was a walking cliche, and she was just fine about it.

Lake of the Woods
The Village
February 28, 2001

Scully's labor began rather uneventfully. Though they were still deep in winter, the day was an unusually warm one and she had decided to take a walk around the lake. The crisp, clean air felt wonderful and she breathed deeply of it.

The first contraction started out like a little stitch in her side, and she attempted to rub it away, a little startled when the pain intensified, moving across her belly and back like a belt that was wrapped too tightly. Though she'd had little contractions for several weeks and the pain of this one was fairly mild, it was definitely different. Already more than halfway around the lake, she continued on her way and returned to the cabin.

Her water broke while she was in the shower, and the contraction that followed was a little more intense, a bit longer, but still manageable. She'd been secretly worried about her water breaking somewhere public and horribly embarrassing, and she applauded herself for being so efficient, allowing the water to course over her until everything was washed away. She felt the need to give the shower a good scrubbing when she got out, which sent her on a two-hour cleaning frenzy around the cabin. The place was immaculate when she was finished, and she stepped outside to gather fresh pine boughs to cover the small mantelpiece - a Martha Stewart attempt to temper the smells of the cleaning fluids.

Mulder arrived home soon after dark, walking in to find Scully in the kitchen, preparing dinner by candlelight. He came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her belly and nuzzling her neck. "A pregnant woman and dinner on the table," he growled. "What more could a red-blooded American man ask for?"

"Don't get used to it," Scully smiled, twisting away from him. "Let's eat. I'm starving."

Dinner was delicious, though Mulder noticed that Scully didn't seem to be eating much. She was up and down constantly, getting things from the kitchen, refilling his water glass, refilling her water glass, clearing the dirty dishes from the table the moment he was finished.

Brow furrowed, he stopped eating and looked hard at her as she sat down after what had to be her four millionth trip to the kitchen. "What's the matter with you, Scully? I thought you said you were starving."

She smiled at him, one hand rubbing at her belly. "I guess I'm just a little keyed-up," she said, taking a long sip of water.

"Well," he said, "we'll make an early night of it. We can both use the extra sleep."

"I don't think I'll be doing much sleeping tonight, Mulder," she said. A strange look passed over her face, and she stood suddenly, pushing her chair in. She clutched at the top of it, the severity of this contraction taking her by surprise. "Oh, God..."

Mulder was at her side instantly. "Scully, why didn't you tell me?"

She grimaced, breathing heavily as the contraction reached its peak, then began to ease. "I wanted us to have a nice dinner - it's the last time we'll be alone, Mulder."

He shook his head. "You're insane. Do you want me to get Carol?"

"No," she said, reaching to clear the rest of the dishes from the table. "That one wasn't very fun, but we've got a long time to go yet. I'd like to wait until they're closer together."

"Yeah, okay," Mulder said, hoping he could keep from throwing up. "We'll wait until they're closer together. Or I have a heart attack. Whichever comes first."

The next few hours went unbearably slowly. Scully was handling the increasing intensity of the contractions well, and Mulder was her hapless companion. He'd felt useful at the beginning - she'd directed him to the spot on her lower back where his massage helped to alleviate the pain. As her discomfort increased, she was less willing to be touched during the contractions, and he was left to stand vainly by and watch her suffer.

Both the cabin and Mulder's well-intentioned hovering started to become stifling, and Scully insisted on moving outside for air. Mulder refrained from reminding her how many degrees below zero it was outside, settling for wrapping her in layers of sweaters and coats. They moved to sit on the porch steps where the air was freezing and snowflakes were beginning to fall lightly. Scully smiled at him as she took deep breaths of the frigid air. He moved closer, wrapping an arm across her back, and she snuggled close to him.

"I wish I could do more to help," he said. "Seeing you hurting, and not being able to do anything..."

"Mulder," she said, placing a hand on his arm as she looked up at him. "I just need you to be here with me. That's more than enough."

"Are you sure you don't want to go the clinic, Scully? They can give you something for the pain."

"No," she insisted, shaking her head. "I want the baby to be born here, in our house. And I don't need anything. I can get through this. No matter how bad it gets, it'll all be worth it when she's in my arms."

She grasped at him then, eyes closing in concentration as another contraction washed over her. "Let's walk," she groaned, and he pulled her up from the step. Wrapping an arm around her waist, he helped her slowly down the steps, her breathing punctuated by little moans.

"It's too dark to go walking, Scully," Mulder said.

"I don't want to go anywhere, Mulder," she whispered, barely able to speak as the pain intensified. "God, this one's really nasty. Pacing back and forth is all that I'm up to at this point."

When the contraction ended, she moved into his arms and he held her tightly. "I think it's time for Carol," she said. "Hurry."

The baby was already crowning when Mulder came back with Carol, and she turned to give him an accusing look.

Mulder shook his head and pointed at Scully. "She's the one. If she'd let me, I would have gone for you when I first found out she was in labor. She's very determined, if you haven't noticed."

Carol laughed. "Oh, I've noticed."

Scully groaned. "I can hear you, you know. Please, Carol, please tell me I can push with the next contraction."

"Go for it, Dana," she said, quickly pulling on her gloves and reaching for the clean towels that were ready at the bedside.

"Mulder," said Scully, reaching for him. "I need you now."

He climbed into the bed behind her, legs on either side as she leaned back to relax against him. "I don't know if I can do this," she whispered, and he reached up to brush the hair from her face.

"You can definitely do this, Scully. It won't be much longer." He traced slow, gentle circles on her belly, still amazed at how the roundness of it hardened as another contraction began.

Scully had long since lost any sense of wonder at the uncontrollable workings of her body. She was getting tired of the whole damned thing, and wanted it over. She cried out, grabbed her knees, and pushed like a woman possessed.

It was a little over an hour before the baby was born, a squealing little bundle of sliminess who was already reaching out for Scully as she was laid on the deflated belly. After a moment to allow the new parents to stare in fear and wonder at this small helpless creature, Carol took her for a quick exam, pronounced her abundantly healthy and wrapped her up snugly before returning her to her parents.

They were still staring at her when Carol packed up to leave several hours later, and she stood in the bedroom doorway for a moment, smiling indulgently at them. She'd grown close to these two and was happy that things had gone well and that their daughter had arrived safely.

She moved into the room and stood at the foot of the bed. "You," she said, pointing at Mulder. "Don't let her do too much. And you, Dana. I want you to rest as much as you can."

They both nodded obediently, and Carol smiled as she latched her bag. "Congratulations, guys. Take good care of her."

"Thanks, Carol," Scully said. "Thanks for everything."

Lake of the Woods
The Village
March 13, 2001

The Gunmen returned in time for what Scully was calling a baptism and Mulder was calling a christening, which in truth was just an excuse for a party. There was no church in the small village, and the only one with any religious education was a man named Arthur who had spent two years during college in a monastery in Nepal. It was quite the interdenominational event, and the whole village was there to celebrate the second happy occasion to befall them in the past month.

The baby had been named Meg, after Scully's mother, and she was beautiful, with Mulder's dark hair and long slender limbs and Scully's bright blue eyes. She was good as gold, rarely cried, and had taken to breastfeeding like a champ. Scully had insisted that she be tested for anything and everything, still not believing that there wasn't some deeper reason for her sudden ability to conceive. She knew the baby was Mulder's, one look at her would convince anyone of that, but she wanted the comfort that only science could give her.

They'd been to the clinic that morning, and Meg was a trooper as she was examined and tested, crying out only once when the tiny needle was inserted to draw blood. Scully cried with guilt then, certain that she was a terrible mother to put her child through this. The baby had appeared to forgive her, however, her cries ceasing the instant Scully picked her up.

Mulder watched quietly, amazed at the instant bond that Scully and the baby had formed, at Scully's ability to quiet the baby immediately with a simple touch or the sound of her voice. Even now, outside her womb, she still needed her for sustenance and comfort.

It was hard not to be blindingly jealous, but he loved them both so fiercely that it almost hurt to think about it.

A robustly healthy Skinner, one of the baby's four godfathers (it had been impossible to choose between him and the Gunmen) cradled the baby gently in his arms, making ridiculous cooing noises at her as she looked at him thoughtfully. Mulder risked a glance at Scully, and they worked hard to contain their laughter.

She moved over to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. "You okay?" she asked.

"I'm very okay," he said.

"Are you mad at me? About the tests?" She looked at him worriedly.

"No, of course not, Scully." He held her more tightly, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "I understand why you want to be sure. When everything comes back all right, we'll both be able to relax."

Scully smiled, watching her daughter as she was passed from one doting godfather to another. "We're parents now, Mulder," she said, sighing. "I don't think we'll ever be relaxed again."

Lake of the Woods
The Village
March 18, 2001
8:18 p.m.

It had taken forever, but Scully had finally gotten Meg to sleep when there was a knock at the door. She sprinted toward it, praying that the sound wouldn't wake the baby. She opened the door to reveal the solemn faces of Carol and Skinner and her happy greeting was cut short.

Carol held a large envelope in her hand.

"You have the results?" Scully asked, her voice shaky.

Carol nodded. "She's fine, Dana. She's perfectly healthy. But...there is something I need to show you."

They moved into the dining room and sat down at the small table. Scully felt as if her head was about to burst, and she watched wide-eyed as Carol pulled the test results from the envelope.

Skinner remained standing, his eyes moving around the room. "Where's Mulder?"

"He's up at the lodge," Scully said. "They're gathering statistics tonight - status reports to gauge the success of the vaccine."

"Maybe we should wait for him to get back," he said. "So we can talk to both of you."

"Jesus Christ." Scully nearly shouted, realizing that she was skating close to the edge of hysteria. "Tell me what's wrong with Meg."

Carol reached out and grasped Scully's hand. "I told you, she's fine. It's just the DNA results that I wanted to discuss with you."

She handed Scully the reports, watching quietly as Scully scanned them. She read them several times, her face going pale.

"My God..." she said, her hand reaching up to rub at the sudden ache that sat between her eyes. "It's the virus..."

"Dana," said Carol, a note of surprise in her voice. "The baby's not infected with the virus, but it's there. In her DNA."

"I told Carol that we've seen this before," said Skinner, his voice quiet.

"Yes, we've seen it before." She stood, hands tight around her waist as she looked at Carol. "In a young boy who disappeared a long time ago. A boy named Gibson Praise."

Scully lay curled on the bed, one hand touching the tiny cradle as she watched her daughter sleep peacefully. She was exhausted - physically, emotionally and spiritually. She'd allowed herself to be happy and life had come back and bitten her hard in the ass.

She'd heard Mulder come in half an hour before, and he, Skinner and Carol still talked in quiet voices in the other room. A few minutes later, the front door opened and closed, and then Mulder was in the bedroom doorway.


"They'll come for her, Mulder," she said, not looking up. "They'll come for her just like they did for Gibson."

She felt the dip of the mattress as he lay behind her, wrapping his arms around her so that her back was tight against his chest.

"You can't know that, Scully. We don't even know that any of them are still alive."

She sighed. "Of course they're alive. They're just like cockroaches. They always survive."

"Scully, when I first came back, I told you that I thought I'd been brought back for a reason. To fight the Colonists. After we'd been here for a time, I realized that I wasn't contributing anything special, wasn't doing anything that any other person could have done. They didn't need me to help with the fight, or to make the vaccine."

"But, Mulder -"

"It wasn't until just now, when I was talking to Carol and Skinner, that I realized that I was right all along. I really was returned for a reason."

Scully turned in his arms to face him, and he put his forehead against hers.

"I'm here for her," he said. "For Meg. To make sure you were safe, so that she could be born. To make sure that she stays safe, because the answer to the salvation of the human race is inside her, Scully. It's in her DNA."

"But why, Mulder?" Scully was crying now, and she moved to tuck her head against his shoulder. "Why is it inside her? Did they do this to her?"

"I don't think so," he said. "I don't think it's anything more than being a result of what happened to us. My being exposed to the black oil and your abduction - when you came back you had remnants of junk DNA in your blood, but it was inactive. She has it too, but it's turned on. Just like Gibson. It's a one in a million chance, Scully. They had no way of knowing that this would happen."

"Krycek knew," she said, pulling away from him and sitting up. "When we managed to make the vaccine synthetically, I thought she was safe. I thought he was interested in her because of her blood - that they wanted to use her to make the vaccine. But he knew all along what she really was."

She was gone then, disappearing into the living room, and a startled Mulder followed her, standing in the doorway as he watched her grab the envelope of test results and throw them into the fireplace. She fell to her knees, watching as they curled up and caught fire.

Mulder sat down on the couch, staring at the flames.

"I just wanted her to be happy," whispered Scully. "I just wanted us to have a normal life. I didn't want to have to be afraid all the time."

Mulder sat on the floor next to her, taking her hand. "This won't stop us from giving her a happy life, Scully. She's got lots of people here who will love her and protect her."

"I don't ever want to leave here, Mulder."

She leaned against him, and he wrapped her in his arms, safe and warm. "We don't have to. This is our home now. This is where our family lives."

They watched as the papers continued to burn, finally disappearing up the chimney in a shower of sparks.


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